Oh I am The Cook of the Pizza Oven…

and fisherman bold,

and septic drudge of Sportsmen’s Camp,

an electrician bright and water system mite,

and carpenter with a plumbers gig.

First of all let me apologize up front for paraphrasing and butchering one of my favorite poems – The Yarn Of The Nancy Bell. Check it out you’ll love it! By and large I am disgusted by the bullshit romanticism exhibited by poetry but this one doesn’t go there and is a gem.

Fall is here and the invasive red maples are painting the boreal forest scarlet. Along with the colors the camp has a lull and I can attack some projects that require more than my cursory attention. This year’s project is the dreaded rip out the rotten floor and foundation, jack up the walls and rebuild the – wait for it – lodge kitchen! Ye Gads! What fun! Last year I had to lay a piece of plywood in front of the kitchen sink to prevent a mishap. The nice thing about that was that when ever you were working in the kitchen you had a nice bounce to your step! Yeah it was time. The back wall had dropped about and inch in the last year. Yes it was time. All the appliances were moved out and plugged in or piped in elsewhere. All the furniture and cupboards as well as cabinets were also removed. Next on the agenda – remove the floor as well as all it rotted substructure. I ended up with something like this –

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There it is in all its glory two walls mysteriously suspended in air and several floor joists having given up the ghost. The good news is that the wall sill plates were all intact and in good shape. It worked sort of like the sacrificial anode on your outboard motor lower unit. The “foundation” timbers rotted away and air circulation was facilitated as the rotted wood collapsed. The walls having tough sheathing of plywood maintained rather rigid dimensions with miraculously little sag. This made warming the lodge last fall a little difficult as a north wind would blow into the under sink cupboards and nearly blow the doors open. The floor was hella cold! So I got my pin jack and bottle jacks and raised the walls until they groaned their discomfort. I then raised them about a 1/4 inch more. Treated timbers were then put under the walls and the missing joists replaced by same. I also notched in cross bracing to prevent any twisting of the new timbers.

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That’s a pic before the cross bracing installation. The red cords are the safety fencing tp prevent Bart (blind) falling into the hole in the night. Minimalist yet completely effective! Everything was leveled to existing raises within reason and flooring was applied. As I was fastening the floor panels in place a local ground hog popped up and expressed his dissatisfaction with my workmanship! I told him to mind his business or he might have some future problems with lead poisoning.

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The appliances were then moved back in. Of course as with all rebuilds changes are made to reflect the needs of the occupants – The Evil One dictates. She also decided to do away with the yellow color scheme! Actually The Evil one is very easily satisfied with things of this sort. Her overweening specification is that – it works. LOL Its a good thing too as we’ve lived with the yellow in the kitchen for more than 30 years. But hey I thought it was time to spoil her – she picked a nice light green for the new kitchen trim. she painted the window frame before I started on the counter and new sink installation. Here’s a pic of the present state of the kitchen.

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Things are coming together nicely. I’ve reconstructed the drawer trunks as an integral box that should prevent mouse incursions completely (as long as the drawer is closed). Prior to the rebuild The Evil One selected one of the cavalcade of kitchen sinks procured from the dump. She wisely selected a nice high quality two basin stainless steel unit. New fixtures and salvaged plumbing connections then facilitated the installation. Get this! You know you’re a master plumber when your last three installations were leak free on the initial trial! Now I just have to spend a little more time on my baiting skills.

Ahead there are a few major obstacles to the project’s completion. The weather is turning warm (just as Chris Murphy warned us in an email – he runs the weather channel yaknow. He wanted to make sure we had enough liquor for evening happy hours on the beach.) and Mike and friends will be coming up for the fall fishing extravaganza. As you may have guessed this also entails some late nights and imbibage. We’ll see how things go but I think I should have the kitchen sort of like the state of the death star in the first Star Wars movie – that is (as the evil Emperor would say) “Fully operational.”

Before I go, here are some shots from recent fishing (dinner was delicious), Janet abusing Kevin, a really picturesque shot of gull rock and Bart lounging.

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When it comes to producing a successful blog always end up with a picture of a happy boy enjoying doggies out all day, day.

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Of Fireweed fluff, Spit on Shillings…

Day lilies, palms on Firth, warm west winds, ripening tomatoes and burgeoning bonsai.

Lately I’ve been confronted by the ugly end of summer and my mind wanders as me and Kevin amble over to start the generator in the morning. But there is undeniable beauty everywhere and I can’t stay down. The fluff from the fireweed is giving  evidence to every puff of wind that buffets Sportsmen’s Camp. It is absolutely fascinating to observe all the minor currents and eddies that convey the little fluffies all over. As we walk to the diesel house in my flips I occasionally inadvertently kick a small pebble forward and I am reminded of a anecdote told to me as a child by my Grandmother Iva – She was in Kenya Africa I believe visiting Masai Mara and she regaled me with the spitting prowess of the Masai women. As a demonstration, shillings would be tossed on the ground and the Masai women would claim the alms by expectorating onto the coins at great distance. She was much impressed by this ability. Apparently this ability was fostered earlier by the women spitting juice chewed from certain herbs onto small lizards that would momentarily disable them for the women to collect them.  Also it was explained to me by Grandmother that the Masai being a very proud yet poor people declined to accept freely given alms but would accept “prizes” collected by skill. This made for fun spirited competitions between the women when the safari would encounter them on one of their foraging forays.

As the diesel is warming to operating conditions I have a set number of tasks to complete, I water and admire my vegetable garden and bonsai collection and perform minor pruning and branch adjustment which I find absolutely captivating (I could do this for hours). Then I admire my three ripening tomatoes. There’s lots of green ones but I may get ripe tomatoes this year! Then I review the latest blooms purveyed by my fabulous collection of Waskowiak hybrids. Then I engage in what I like to refer to as “biological artistry”. I get my collection of sterilized fine paint brushes and cross my favorite blossoms with other blossoms that exhibit the qualities I would like to foster and mingle in the next generation. I am not a true hybridizer though as I do my decisions on the fly and never record the crosses – I don’t like paperwork. My first set of hybrids are beginning to bloom this year – jack’s F1 from three years ago. Only two of the nearly dozen plants will be blooming this year but it is exciting nonetheless. I am now seeing the fruits of my labor – its things like this that make a person want to live forever.

After the diesel is warm and the power is on I walk down to the beach to bring the water system online. I fire up the pump and observe the pressure bubble controller to be sure that the system is pressurized and then walk the beach with my friend and assistant Kevin. Kevin checks the lake out for water temperature and taste as well as wind direction. I am often accosted by guests at this time but I am rarely in a mood for any lengthy conversation other than confidences exchanged between me and my friend Kevin. This morning it was glorious! No one could possibly be down with the impending end of summer witnessing what I saw.

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The Canadian Flag stretching on its pole at the behest of a westerly zephyr.

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A warm and fragrant wind redolent with cedar and spruce like a gaseous gin and tonic gusting from the weed bed bay.

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Kevin after the obligatory lake water tests confirming that all is well with the world as he surveys the surroundings for possible barking targets.

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I close with a shot of an Abomination serving as an erstwhile Desert Island for a regal palm tree. It’s odd but it is a boating regulation in Ontario that for safety’s sake all abominations must have a palm tree aboard!

Is this Heaven? — Yeah I think it is.

The Vault is Opened

In addition to my busy schedule I am the curator/librarian of the north’s greatest collection of single malt whiskeys. After a long day of reconfiguring the camp’s water system involving some swimming and lots of plumbing and wiring I was exhausted to the point of having several vodka tonics and some wine with Pat and Carol and good friends that I consider my family. It was a long day but after supping on perhaps the finest meal on earth (Janet’s meatloaf and baked potatoes) I still had much to do – I promised an inventory of the Scotch (whiskey) Library. So Now in my exhausted state I sit down at the keyboard after the unsealing of the vault and inventory and realize I don’t have the capacity to alphabetize the list! (its the wine I posit) So dear reader here it is in its unvarnished state. It may also be the fact that the vault’s low oxygen atmosphere got the best of me.

Laphroaig 1/4 cask 100%

Laphroaig 10 yr 25%

Glenlivet 75% and 50% (2 bottles)

Aberlour 12 yrs 100% and 25% (2 bottles)

Aberfeldy 12 yr 50%

Bowmore 12 yr 50% and 50% (2 bottles)

Glen Farclas 16 yr the royal dram (veddy special)

Jura superstition 75%

Haig Club 50%

Glen Breton Canadian single malt 10 yr 50%

Caol Ila 12 yr 75%

Speyburn 10 yr 60%

Dun Bheagan 20%

Talisker 10 yr 75%

Singleton 12 yr 90%

McClellands 12 yr 80%

Dalwhinnie 15 yr 70% (not to be confused with Melony’s sweet doggy)

Dewar’s 15 yr 90%

Yamazaki 12 yr Yummy oops 2 bottles 60% and 20%

Glenkinchie 12 yr 75%

Macallan 12yr 20% (the mfing Queen of scotches – in dire straights of being eliminated)

Balvenie 14yr 80% and 12 yr 90%  (2 bottles)

Ardbeg 14 yr 10% a truly horrid iodiney  scotch loved by some (not me) in dire straights of elimination. But we have to maintain it as a low end bench mark!!!!

Edradour 10 yr 40% (no one has any chance of obtaining this unicorn of scotches) But it is rough as a tarry kerosene with a really ghastly after taste so why would they!

Glenmorangie 12yr 40% and Quinta Ruban 70% (2 bottles)

Tomatin 12 yr 90% and 90% a truly pedestrian scotch but what the Hell its better than bourbon.

Scapa 16yr 10% this is a great scotch that need to be replenished as when ever the Library is inventoried It magically loses volume!!???

Highland Park 18 yr YUM 90% But one can never have enough Highland Park YUM

Highland Park Dark Origins (Luke I am your Father) great but its darkside and this is not the scotch you are seeking.

Auchentoshan 12 yr 75%

Glen Morag 12 yr 80%

Glen Rothles 60%

That’s what I moved about and inventoried before I became insensate.

Janet once remarked “What the hell are you going to do with all that CRAP liquor?? You’re gonna die and it’ll all go to the dump! Nobody wants to drink that crap that’s why it just builds up here like so much flotsam building up in a logjam!” Keeping that in mind and not wanting to burden her in the advent of my demise – we don’t need more scotches. (Unless they’re really cool – she’s making me say this) I am sort of looking at it like this, I expect that the Library will be on the table at my wake and I expect all the attendees will do their very best to make sure that Janet doesn’t have to cart any of this “CRAP” home. And everyone will take a cab home. But I will as a ghost have nothing against anyone not drinking the Ardberg – unless Mike shows up.

In any case if anyone shows up at the lodge with a mind to sample the collection I will be very happy to direct you to the location of the bottles in the vault and be happy to watch them cart the bottles out to the table AND TAKE THEM BACK after a tasting.

Ok That chore is done – We went out on the Abomination last eve for an evening cruise with Joan and Janet fishing occasionally. It was a little slow but several fish were caught for a fish dinner for several people. We are now laboring in the “mayfly” hatch time with the green drakes last night and the slates are still holding back. That’s bad because we want the mayflies to hatch as one to minimize their negative impact on fishing. But alas our wants are not always reality and this paradigm allows more of the fly biomass to be assimilated by the fish in the lake to their long term benefit. Its a good thing when we can step back and say this is for the long term good even though it has a negative impact on our immediate desires – isn’t lovely to be an adult?

I know there are no pictures in this blog its because I am too drunk to pull the card from the magic picture box and do the requisite incantations necessary to post them! Hey I wrote a MFing blog give me a break, it was a long day. But wait – is this heaven? No it’s Sportsmen’s Cam—–Nooo its heaven. Yeah really HEAVEN.

Summer Is Definitely Here…

But there are certain provisos.

The Black flies and mosquitos are in such abundance that the dragonflies are not winnowing them down as quickly as in past years. We have a nasty intersection of all the bad bugs still in evidence – blackflies, mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies, no-see-ums and the dreaded ankle biters! Singly any one of the group are not too too bad but all of them together……..eeeuwww! During the day its fine but dare not to traverse the bush! The mosquitos are hanging out like revelers at Obama’s inauguration! (I wish they were more like the idiots at the Criminal’s one – The dragon flies would eat them up in a couple hours!)  The days have been warm to hot and the sun is glorious. The lake temp reached 78F today so the swimming is fantastic. I generally check the lake temperature whilst the diesel is warming up for its day of powering the camp. So Kevin and I walk down to the beach – “burp” the water pump so that it runs well and walk over to the East (right) dock go out to the end pull up the thermometer to read the temp at about noon. Yesterday was gorgeous, about 75F clear as crystal with a very slight breeze. The nesting tree swallows were busily swimming through the air nabbing insects for their brood and the bass were working the shoreline shadows for bugs falling from the trees. Normal stuff. But this time was a little different. I lift the thermometer out of the lake pretty quickly as I find it easier to rise from a crouch that way and as the 7″ long thermometer rose out of the water a pike about 30″ long lunged from under the dock beneath my feet trying to devour it! Well I just about shit my shorts! LOL I was visibly shaken – but after reading the temp I dangled the bait without any follow-up.  He must have caught sight of my gaping surprised mouth as he resubmerged (probably enough to scare anyone).

The big news in camp today is that Lyle and Ruthann saw a mother mink and her 4 kits walking up and down the beach as they enjoyed the afternoon! Kevin was with us on the dump run so there was no interference. The red squirrel and mouse population is very low in camp this summer. So it maybe as a result of Mama Mink diligently feeding and teaching her pack of ravening minky adolescents the ways of the hunt. Joan has also caught several glimpses of a Fisher too. They really work on red squirrels.

The Canada celebrations were lots of fun this year! We had a great fireworks display and picnic on the beach the day before Canada day and planned to attend the dinner at the curling club the next day. We were going with Mike and Melissa. When we got to their cottage on the way to the dinner we realized how blisteringly hot the day was shaping up to be! After a short discussion of how hot the sheet metal curling club was going to be (there would be no need for sterno under the chafing dishes!) we decided that it would be more fun to sit in the lake with a cold gin and tonic and have burgers, dogs, and Kraft Dinner! We have just the venue for that too.

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The lake was the perfect place to hangout! Also in attendance were Cubby, Riley, Bart, Griffin and Kevin. Griffin did a lot of swimming. The Cub was running around like a young dog! The only problem was that he is deaf and blind – Mike got a great deal of exercise heading Cub off from the “Cliff of Death” and the “Surf of Doom”. It kept us all in stitches and the Cub seeming to be having a great time. I thought the “Dog Days” were in August. We soaked in the lake all afternoon and again altered our plans to cook on a beach fire in favor of hightailing up to the lodge. As I said earlier the mosquitos are as bad or the worst I have seen them in years! (word to the wise to guests arriving later – bring repellant, thermo-cells, and mosquito coils!) It was a great decision and we enjoyed a sumptuous repast!

The July holidays are over and the and the weather is gorgeous the weeds are growing nicely in the lake but the minnows don’t seem to have schooled up in them yet. So we are having a fishing transition. My garden is doing very well – even with the miserable May. It seems like the extremely heavy snow pack last winter has protected my bonsai and the daylilies and roses are doing great this year too! Mountain laurel and Sheep’s laurel are notoriously difficult to transplant. Its a fact but after about 15 years of soil amendment, mulching, very judicious pruning and several lectures about the finality of death my Sheep’s laurel has responded! I think it was the psychotherapy.

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Check out those abundant clusters of blossoms! I don’t think he’s despondent anymore.

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Here’s one of my favorite bonsai – a white cedar I’ve been working with for a few years. Its starting to get it mature crenulated bark making it look ancient.

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Here is one of my older tamaracks – the exposed roots are getting really prominent and the needles are beginning to miniaturize. Very cool!

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Here is a crowd favorite – the Spruce Grove – I look at it and just say “MEH”.

Ok here’s the part of the blog that all of you have suffered through the above drivel for – The fishing on Firth has been slow for the last few days as the water temps quickly rose. Things are stabilizing and I expect great things in the next couple days. As I was taking the fish guts out of Phish Phry’s Philet place I noticed a school of about 2 dozen 12″ bass dabbling about in the shadows near shore. They were spooked and took off a couple feet before they settled back down to grabbing bugs off the surface. I assume they aren’t hanging out under the docks for good reason!

 

All good things…

Come to an end. True Yes, but its true of bad things too.

And so it goes with the most horrendous season of blackflies in about 20 years! I called the dragonfly hatch on the 19th. We’ve been having such horrid weather – cold and rainy for so long that the dragon flies had a hard time finding an optimum day to hatch. An optimum day for the hatch should be warm and not very windy with lots of sun. Its all so that the nymphs coming out of the lake emerge from the nymph case, pump up their wings and then harden in the sun quickly. They need to minimize their time hatching on the shore to avoid ground predators. Its also imperative that they are warm enough to bring their massive wing muscles to operating temperature so they can fly quickly and acrobatically to avoid midair predators and most of all begin ravenously eating. The day met all the criteria save for the optimum temperature – so the hatch rate was slow but still significant. As we got a string of nice days the hatch built and gained momentum. It wasn’t a classic “mass hatch” event. They probably lost a higher percentage of individuals during the hatch as a result – but there is still a shit load of the wonderous eating machines on the wing now. It is now possible to wear shorts and a tee shirt from morning to about 2:00. At the rate the dragonflies are working they should mop up the black fly population in a few more nice days. Cue the “Happy days are here again” music!!

On a more zany note I was in the dollar store in New Liskeard and saw one of those battery operated tennis racket bug zappers…it occurred to me – stop complaining about the fucking mosquitos and make them entertaining! What an absolute delight! When I got it home I put the batteries in it and pressed the energizing button – wwwzzhhhhh (think turning on a light saber). What an utter feeling of power! I was immediately transformed from a mosquito food source to Darth Jackus the darkside scourge of the winged gallinippers! Vszhhhhhh – vszhhhhh — the sweet scent of ozone and burnt mosquito carcasses – It smelled more like victory than “Napalm in the morning”! Unfortunately they don’t come with a belt scabbard so I had Janet get me a couple more on her next run to town. I now have quick access to a light saber almost anywhere in the lodge. But I was foolhardy – drunk on the unlimited power of a new powerful darksider – I put myself in a tenuous position. When I went into the interior bush of the camp to turn some valves I was waylaid by millions of the buggers intent on one goal – draining all of my middichlorine essence!!! I was safe as long as I was en garde with my light saber slicing through hoards of my victims. But I saw the handwriting on the wall – even as I killed them by the hundreds more were arriving and they were building for an onslaught that would overwhelm me! In near panic I resolved that I would quickly close the valve and back out of the bush with two hands on the hilt of my saber dispatching hundreds more as I retreat. My plan was successful but it was a pyrrhic maneuver as I was down about a liter when I got back to safety! Cowed but not broken, after a days recovery Darth Jackus was back at full power!

The docks are set and like an unfinished death star -“Fully operational!” Abomination is presently on the right dock and is also like an unfinished death star!

Yesterday we took Abomination out on its maiden voyage on Firth.

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Here we are paused for some fishing North of Elephant rock. Abomination’s open deck format makes for flexible comfortable fishing as well as cruising. The 30 Hp 4 cycle engine runs smooth as silk and really makes it step out.

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Abomination also achieved the coveted Kevin seal of approval!

A pattern is emerging of the mix of fish species being caught on Firth. We caught several walleye and only a couple of bass. Granted the summer is yet young and the bass are still bedding but I’ve never caught so many walleye this early.

I was swimming in Firth today for about 40 mins and it was delightful. The lake temperature is hovering around 70F. I was delighted to go swimming to nail in the piling cross pieces. I was comfortable and didn’t wrench my back trying to  hammer in the nails from “topside”. The docks are set early as a direct result of the great help that I got from Mike last week – my eternal thanks are transmitted and declared here.

The Becketts rolled in late last night and Ruthann beat us all to be the first one swimming in the lake this season – sooooo — SUMMER HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN.

Here We Go Again!

Yes dear reader I am back. (why I am posting a blog rather than just emailing it to my single reader I don’t know) I’ll try to post on a regular basis about camp and summer goings on as well as wrapping up the lurid and fantastic tale of Bob and Jack’s second trip to India. Stay tuned for great news and hijinks!

We came north to open the camp (as always) around the 10th of May. But that was just what the calendar said not the climatic reality! As for as the progression of the seasons it was still late winter. On the drive into camp we notice several barns and buildings that that have been standing for years and being kept in good repair squashed like a squirrel drunk on fermented mulberries jay walking on the QEW! Not pretty! And extremely worrisome for the owner of a camp with seven poorly constructed 50 year old cabins smack dab in the middle of the densest snow pack region in all of Ontario (according the  Weather Network that our friend Chris Murphy runs). Worrisome indeed with each additional pancaked structure noted on the way in. I keep banking on my cockamamie vinyl roofs shedding the snow before the burden becomes to onerous. That is to say I am somewhat anxious as I pull into camp. But my fears were not realized – the camp has survived the winter intact. But there is more snow pack on the ground all through camp than I have ever seen before and the ground is still completely frozen. The snow shed by the north facing slope of the lodge roof is higher than I have ever seen it. Due to the impermiable nature of frozen soil there is water ponding everywhere! The satellite dish for the TV has also been ripped off the front slope of the roof! Just like someone attached a chain to it and used their truck to yank it off the roof! The saving grace here is that the Penguins have already been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs so Janet isn’t panicked.

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After unloading and investigating possible damage – which was minimal – I boot down to the Wapus landing to see how high the water is. Its very high and was higher before we got here. The dam at Duncan is entirely covered and the landing parking lot and ramp are flooded.

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Kevin gazes quizzically at the flooded picnic table at the landing.

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The dam is a mere ripple.

After that our time at camp is occupied with all the necessary work to open the camp. I also have a frenzy of list making for all the tasks I’d like to complete and working out the staging for said projects. But alas these things must wait for a quick foray onto the river to see if any monster pike may be nabbed as they bask in the small flooded pools of the Wapus/Montreal river flood plain. No giant pike were in evidence but a few bass were caught unawares. I think the water was still a bit cold at the upper 50’s F.

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Kevin is only slightly impressed with the bass.

After the short interval of nice weather (and no blackflies or small mosquitos) the weather turns foul for a couple weeks. It typically rains and drizzles all day and night with highs in the low 50’s daytime and mid 30’s at night! Nasty nasty nasty. But we move forward albeit at a slower pace than normal. We hope for warm weather so that the water system will function and the holy grail of a hot shower is more than the fleeting glimpse of a walleye follow up on a mepps. This wish is tempered by the fact that accompanying this wish comes the downside of black flies and the swarms of mosquitoes.

Our wish comes true and we get about a week and a half of high temps and the water system breaks through to even the lodge! I think the ponded water transmitted the heat to the ground pretty efficiently after the hot sun warmed everything up. I did however get the water to within 20 feet of the shower house the second week we were in residence. I was really disgusted (and dirty) so I did what any worker would do to remedy an untenable situation – I went back to the lodge and had a couple stiff gin and tonics! When I went back down to the shower house the hot water tank was flushing out and clear! Next step, let it fill and light the beast up! So we did get showers relatively quickly after arrival. Some would say not quick enough.

At this writing we’ve had guests in and I brought the docks over to position for setting up and Janet has had to cut the grass. The leaves are out on most of the trees and everything is in bloom and beautiful.  The fishing has been good and Janet has been out on Firth to catch the first bass of the season. How she does it I have no idea. The day of fishing was good but odd in that only the one bass was caught all the other fish were walleye with mostly larger ones – say 20″ or so, and some small pike.

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The proud winner of the first bass from Firth contest with Gull rock over her shoulder.

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Joan and Kevin (suited up for the blackflies) survey the position of the newly placed dock as they wish for the dragonfly hatch!

I hope to get the docks set this weekend with the generous help of my friend Mike.

Now for the big news —- The Camp has made an acquisition of major import. Wait for it…. notice the tension building —– We now have a 24′ pontoon boat! The boat was crowd funded by several friends of the camp as well as camp funds so its availability for rental will be predicated on availability outside of times when part owners are not using it. I will note that most of the owners are late risers and not fishermen so we will be as flexible as possible. The cool thing about this boat is that it is an open format boat without built in seats facing inward. We have ample chairs and seats that can be used for lounging and easy placement for people wishing to be seated whilst fishing. I will be constructing a lounge type seat for the stern area that will double for stowage. The other cool thing about it is that it has a pretty new 4 stroke 30 hp Mercury on it that purrs like a kitten and trolls like a Russian hacker pushing the Trump presidency!

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There it is sitting in all its abominable splendor in front of the lodge. I will be making a few adjustments to its configuration but over all it a fine boat for our needs here at camp. The name will necessarily be “ABOMINATION”. A reference to my earlier dislike of these boats as not being worthy of plying the pristine waters of the North. I am catching a bit of grief from long time friends about this already and assume I will be given the gears about this all summer.

A bit of bad news is that we’ve had a bear incursion – a young bear wanted to visit Joan but was rebuffed as he was on the steps of her porch (she’s not the most welcoming sort yaknow) then he walked in front of the lodge. I had to speak with him about unregistered guests. He had several colored ear tags so I am assuming that he is a problem bear that was relocated to the “wilderness” from some “hoity toity” location. I hope he takes the hint and doesn’t make a habit of visiting. We’ve also had another incursion of sorts. I placed a couple of downed 20′ poplar sapling on the fire pile at the beach that apparently were too great an enticement to Mr. Beaver. He ambled up onto the pile and chewed off the tree tops for a little snack while sitting on the left dock.

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He walked right up on top of the pile to lop off a tasty snack!

The Dragon fly hatch pool has started : Chris Murphy has June 17th (he might run the Weather Network but is clueless with this guess), Janet (with foolhardy optimism) has the 15th. I am in for the 22nd. Its not price is right rules but is just the closest to the hatch date. Sometimes poor weather protracts the hatch in which case I will make the call based on when I se a cloud of the delightful beasties swarming over the camp. I can’t remember numbers so my decision will be entirely detached from any opportunity for me to cash in on the fabulous prizes.

That about wraps it up to date. Its another miserable day here in a string of about 4 days of rain and cold (50’s to 60F) so I got the blog back up and running.

 

Great Things and a Great Ordeal

(sorry for the hiatus – several things in flux here)

Its our last day in Calcutta – so we head out early. Bob wakes without ill effects from the window pane and tranc dart. Ellen told me that it was the same brand of darts she uses at home and Bob’s system is accustomed to them. Yet I can tell that Bob is weakening even though he is putting on a brave face. Refusing to give in we plan a good half day of activities before we jet out of Calcutta to Bagdogbra for points North – the amazing past kingdom/present state of India — Sikkim.

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As I was perusing the city map I noticed that Calcutta has a huge botanical garden/green space across the river. The major domo calls us a cab and we are on our way. The small yellow Tata cab plows headlong into the sea of mobile flesh and metal that is the living blood of the great city. The blood ebbs and flows never seeming to hurry yet never completely stopping, inexorably moving the living city. We flow with traffic crossing the river and never see a let up to the congestion. People everywhere moving like flocks of birds with seeming telepathic coordination – how thousands of people are not killed in traffic daily at just this city is beyond me! But against all odds we arrive at the gates to the botanic gardens. The city and its endemic congestion is such an extreme contrast to the serene wilderness of the botanic gardens that the gateway to the gardens appears no less to be a teleportation gateway! This illusion is pulled off by the ingenious design of the gardens, the mature trees as well as the large size of the gardens. I estimate the garden is roughly 1.5 miles by 1/2 mile – so it is big. It allows fabulous grand wild scenic vistas. We pay our pittance for admittance and we’re teleported to the Indian Jungle wilderness. From shoulder to shoulder, toe to toe congestion to the nearly deserted wilderness in one step! Even the air changed! Cooler and fragrant with exotic floral scents. We start our walk checking the map and walk along the river toward the giant banyan tree at the other end of the garden. There it is ahead – the greatest of all water lilies Victoria regia with pads 6+ feet across.

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That Victoria person keeps cropping up! There are other tropical lilies too with beautiful fragrant blooms.

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The place appears as a wilderness but the studied eye of an astute plant person such as I see that it is a garden. As we walk along seeing hundreds of birds I posit that the place must surely also house leopards!

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We got to see the langur monkey above cavorting with such great élan and joi de vive that I couldn’t help but think of Kevin as he runs on the beach at camp! Then he stopped and lounged in his favorite tree. I can’t help but think that I had just seen the happiest monkey in all of India! The next vista I got to see brought a great joy to me as well.

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This view of a tropic jungle backwater of a river is within the boundaries of Calcutta! This is a garden unlike any I have seen before and I wager that I’ll ever see again. Absolutely fabulous! As I was reveling in my botanical overdose I didn’t notice how much Bob was struggling on our walk on level ground. This is most strange as Bob’s long legs gobble up the distance and he has preternatural stamina normally. Not today though. But he was enjoying the garden as well and he was trying to push through it. We checked the time and hoofed it back to the entrance of the gardens to hail a taxi back to the Kempton to collect our bags and head to the airport and thence to Bagdogbra and beyond. It is to be a long arduous travel day!

We get to the airport with plenty of time and then we read the departure tote board to see that we’ll be delayed and it turns out that we’ll be delayed a few more times too. The up shot – Bob is stressed and there is Airport food in his stomach and we don’t get going for about 6 hours. The pleasures of domestic Indian air travel. This has manifold adverse effects down the road as when we land in Bagdogbra we’ll have a ~6 hour taxi ride yet to Gangtok. So we’ll be on the road all night! Even though Bob is keeping a stiff upper lip I know he is running on empty and I am very anxious that the window pane LSD might flash back on him any moment.

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That’s our jet in the background and it would soon take us north to the small airport. After boarding and air-born Bob was able to get some much needed rest. We land to much engine roaring and braking at the Bagdogbra airport’s short runway. We disembark after the landing and settle into our developing travel habits – I gather and shepherd the luggage as Bob secures a taxi ride to our next destination at the state controlled prepay station. His job often time is the more arduous one!

Much to my surprise our next destination wasn’t a local hotel but our lodgings in Gangtok approximately 6+ hours of cab ride away! I felt like the Blues Brothers – “its 11:30 at night, we have a quarter of a tank of gas and we’re wearing sunglasses – our lady of blessed acceleration don’t fail us now..” And so we were off into the night in a nice large Mahindra SUV to Gangtok.

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This was serious stuff. We weren’t more than 2 hours into the trip and we stopped to get soft drinks in hopes of quenching my thirst and settling Bob’s rebelling stomach. But it was to no avail, another hour on we stopped to allow bob to evacuate his stomach. I got out of the car and kept my hand on his back and handed him bottled water and napkins with my other. Later Bob was to exclaim that he had no idea how empathetic I was. I told him I was just holding onto his shirt to prevent him from dizzily listing as he retched perhaps going over the bank and down to the ditch some 15 feet below because he had our itinerary and contact list! I don’t think I convinced him. He got through the up-chucking and settled back into the SUV and I think he was able to doze as we bumped our way northward. It was a rough ride, but a rougher ride for Bob..

We arrive in due course at the boarder of Sikkim. This border is not like other Indian provincial borders it is more of a national border. But we came armed with “Line Passes” for Sikkim – the equivalent to a visa. But there are a couple of problems! The border control station that accepts and stamps Line Passes is closed! But Bob and I rouse ourselves from our torpor and unknowingly approach the border offices. After some loud questions that we didn’t understand Bob even in his diminished state kicked into wizard mode. He fixed the official with a stage 7 (remarkably yes, a stage 7) Innocent Unknowing Deer-in-the-Headlights Stupid Harmless American Tourist with Money look. I also sensed exhausted and sick mixed with the stare too. The border official sighed frowned turned on the single 20 watt light bulb (no wonder they close the boarder after the sun goes down) and peers at our papers. I remove my small flashlight from my pocket and shed some light on the subject. Then the second problem – we have no little passport photos on our line passes!!! At this turn of events Bob dials up “the Look” to an 8 and the official totally caves! He is trembling as he shakes his head whilst stamping our line passes. He knows he has encountered a true force to be reckoned with and that he never really had a chance! Bob and I settle back into our ride and off we go on the last 2.5 hours of our traverse.

The last 2 hours in many ways was the worst. There was no traffic at this time of night but the narrow two lane road wound its way through the foot mountains of the greatest mountain range on earth. It traversed the distance with minimal bridges by not spanning any ravines instead turning into the ravine, staying level along the steep slope to the end of the ravine then turning back to the original course at mouth of the ravine. This routine was repeated countless times as well as many places with potholes being fixed. This road had more bumps and grinds than Lili Von Shtupp the Teutonic Titwillow!

But our talented and persevering driver kept us on the right track. We arrive in Gangtok and proceed with a couple small hiccups to our lodgings at the Orchid Glade guest house. Bob is completely out of it and shaking with chills and slight nausea. I exit the cab and grab some of our luggage the remains handled by our diligent driver and go up the ramp to our guesthouse. As with all the cities built on the edge of the Himalayas, they are strung out along the ridge and much of the city is often not occupying the coveted top of the ridge. Such is the case with our lodgings and its neighborhood built on a steep slope. The ramp up to the guesthouse rises approximately 40 feet from the road. Bob has stirred and is stagger shambling slowly up the ramp clutching the railing desperately. I judge that he is managing it ok so continue up the ramp with my load. Even though it is the wee hours of the morn the hotel owners/staff detect our presence before we get to the ramp top and our bags are grabbed and transported for us. I go back to Bob and see that he is flagging badly and is ashen and is trembling when I put my arm around him to help he feels like a limp noodle – I am deeply concerned, I have to get him settled in and resting ASAP. Roshan the hotel Major Domo/facilitator greeted us. I lapse into emergency direct bareknuckle Newton mode and state that Mr. Bob is sick and must get to bed immediately with extra blankets and a pot of hot tea with lots of cream and sugar. Roshan responded to my direct matter of fact demands with a strange head waggle that I later found to be ubiquitous amongst the peoples of the high Himalayan countries. The waggle is neither a western “yes” nod nor “no” head shake. The head is waggled about a point about where the nose is – with the top of the head going to the left and the chin going to the right. In “Newton Mode”  hemming hawing or equivocation is NOT brooked — there are bigger issues afoot and the Newton’s demands must be met or there will definitely be repercussions. I am tired so it makes it even worse, I grab Roshan by the arm and premptively apologize. “I am sorry I have no idea what you head shaking means – do you understand my needs and will they be met quickly?” Roshan tells me that it means agreement and compliance. I say “excellent!” and away we go. Bob is soon dressed in his warm night clothes with a sweatshirt and I have him tucked in and sipping on hot sweet milky tea. He is soon off to sleep…..

Morning comes and Bob has stepped back from the precipice of disaster yet is still weak and shaky. But just as an ailing peacock will strut and preen with the best of them even if he is in bad shape Bob awakes seemingly bright eyed and bushy tailed!

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Here Bob is in our sunroom enjoying late morning tea and a hearty repast of medications. I will close with this picture – its one of my favorites of Bob – lounging and smiling gamely. It pretty much sums up Bob. Game for anything in any condition and making it look easy in a nonchalant way.