Last night was probably my final night for this blessedly long season on the Big Lake. I was there in a monitoring capacity; my contract with the Nature Conservancy of Canada brings me out each field season (since 2012), to assess visitor disturbance and overall traffic, as well as to check for invasive species. The days are quite long, but any day on Lake Superior will always supersede any day, in any office. Reflecting upon the season I think of how the numbers of fellow lake visitors there were this past year: not many kayayers, canoeists, campers and boaters. I love monitoring Wilson Island, its surrounding islands along with the Powder Islands.
A camping pot sits on red-hot embers as I patiently wait for the water to boil. Only then can I make my fresh French press coffee that will give me that morning boost. The scent of coffee will fill the air, mingling with the cool, crisp scent of morning and the smell of a smoky campfire. A dampness from the light frost can be seen dripping off the white-dusted trees, waves slightly caressing the small-pebbled shores, creating a rhythmic song of tiny dancing stones.
Last night was my last night of sleeping on the boat, under the stars and not waking up to a pesky whiskey jack chirping and breaking off tiny sticks and twigs (the bird’s equivalent to a giant log, no doubt) to throw at my head. Not far off, I check on an eagle's nest to see if she's still there, keeping me in check…She is. “Boozhoo, kookum migiizii” — Hello, Grandmother Eagle.
I gather more wood for the fire, as I should get breakfast started soon. There's nothing like breakfast on an open fire. I strip off the thick layer that kept me a little warmer than previous slumbers under the night sky: things you adapt to, and remember from colder nights before. It's funny how now I am seasoned to the small (and even large) necessary preparations (dry wool socks, plastic Ziplocks, extra lighter or matches, FOOD), on possibly my last day on the big lake for this season.
The sky is dark and grey; typical for a November morning on Gitchigumee. I open my cooler to grab the fixings for my coffee and I immediately smell the freshly cooked fish from last night: a snack for later, probably for the ride homeward.
I think of how I hardly feel the waves anymore and how those who may have never been on the big lake, or haven't been for some years, of how they can “still feel the waves” sometime after coming off Lake Superior. I also think that I should always take more pictures or videos, as there are so many people that don't get to appreciate what I get to do every day.
My coffee is ready. There's nothing like morning coffee on the big lake.
I take off my wet shoes and slowly curl my feet onto the heated stones surrounding the firepit. I hear voices in the morning mist, most likely kayakers. I'll wait until they continue on their way, as I just want to make sure they're safe. Slowing down, not swamping people in a huge wake is, what I hope is, common courtesy. I surely don't want to hear of anyone missing, hurt or any sort of bad news on the waters.
I'll slowly pass them and give them that wave. For the past couple of years there haven't been too many kayakers, or other boats for that matter.
I set down my coffee and head to the boat to check on things. I gather up my bed (life jackets), put them in their designated spots. I check the prop and assess the damage from when the geologists asked to land on the rockiest shores; yep, we're going to have to change to the new one next year. Rocks always win.
Battery is good, GPS/fish finder is bright and reading, accurately, less than half a tank…Plenty to get me home, and then some. I wonder if I can find that yellow book I stumbled upon (a book someone had lost: one of those waterproof, easy to spot, but obviously not, books) next spring. I'll spend as much time as I can out here, do some spot checks, probably snap a few pics.
There's nothing like being on the big lake. It can be quite tiring. The fresh air doesn't get to me like it used to; it doesn't wear me out as much as those I take out. During the community Fish Derby, a 16-hour day is quite common.
I look out on the waters and see that they are pure lake water, green and blue. I can recall taking out youth from our multicultural centre and how they were completely amazed by the colours of Lake Superior: the shores, the huge waves, the shock from diving in. I forget what it's like to see all this beauty for the first time.
That is why this final tour of the season is just for me.
There's nothing like my life.
Click to enlarge the photos in the slideshow.
"Spray" - Wilson Island north shore (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
"Sunset" returning home from Wilson Island (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
Large rock on the Wilson Island shoreline (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
Barr Island south shore (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
Wilson Island north shore - water view (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
Scenic photo from the south shore of Barr Island (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
"Stillness" - channel between Wilson & Barr Island (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
Sunrise over the lake coming out of Wilson Harbour (Photo by Gary Bouchard)
"Sunset" - returning home from the Powder Islands (Photo by Gary Bouchard)