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  • Monday August 2, 1999 - SIMCOE DAY

    A singular Simcoe Day

    Peter Brewster writes:

    ON THE WINISK RIVER: I was playing a fat pickerel this morning when a flock of sandhill cranes flew lazily over the chunk of Canadian Shield I was standing on.

    How was your Simcoe Day? (** see below).

    Wherever you were and whatever you did, I doubt that you felt so powerfully a part of Ontario as we surely did.

    It was a day that started clear and bright and cool, a wonderful change after the greyness of Sunday.
    Tom swam after breakfast, which set the tone for a full day of river-running, fishing, eagle-watching and spectacular scenery. We thought of Ontarians further south, lazing on beaches, barbecuing up a storm on the home deck or at the cottage or taking part in various stat holiday pageants and festivities. [ or putting up photo galleries and trip journals at CANOE - ed.]

    Simcoe Day dinner ('supper' in the vernacular of John Graves Simcoe's day) is netted. -- Michael Peake photo --> to photo gallery

    And other than the odd cold beer I'd guess was consumed elsewhere, which would have gone nicely with tonight's feed of fish and mashed potatoes, I know where we'd rather be.

    Shortly after breakfast the clear sky gave way to some clouds, but rain did not become a threat until about 3 o'clock, when we had a stinging, sudden downpour as we were in the middle of a long set of rapids. The river scoots along through alternating narrows and lake-like flats, reprising yesterday's views while adding the spice of bigger water and bigger chutes on the rapids. Taking a break on a rocky outcrop, I took two decent pickerel on the first two casts. Round the corner in a back eddy, where the reeds sprinkled out into the shallow water, small pike grabbed greedily at the lure.

    It's warmer than Sunday, topping out at about 22C with strong sunlight until that mid-afternoon cloudburst. The water was still refreshing when I swam at lunch,

    Later, when the clouds took over, we could see the rain coming down the river, a cold grey line that gradually took form in dancing pellets of water that were five to eight degrees colder than the air. At that moment, paddling down a narrows between tree-shrouded banks with a large swift behinds us and a substantial rapid ahead, the rain bouncing all around, I would not have traded places with anyone. That kind of instant bonding with nature is not new - it happens at least once every trip and remains in the memory like a sip of great Scotch or 10 minutes behind the wheel of a truly fast car - but it is central to why I come up here.

    The rain feels raw. The rocks seem harder and more defined. The world feels more vibrant. I feel more alive. Tonight's camp is superb, a little island of rock and spruce that has strong echoes of Quetico, except for the size of the river rushing by.

    It's wide and powerful on one side and a pretty channel at our backs.

    Sky is clearing again, there is no need for our Woods bug jackets, and as I write there's the usual five-sided debate going on around the kitchen. Tonight's topic is largely anecdotal, Geoff sitting cross-legged, Peter Scott's booming voice rising and falling as he butts in. The subject seems to be schooldays, which they shared.

    Listen for a moment, though, and the gentle hissss of the river will drown out the chatter.

    That's another thing I like about canoe trips.

    (** Note for non-Canadian readers: Simcoe Day is Ontario's August statutory holiday. It is named for John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutentant-governor of Upper Canada.)

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