I was reading a fellow blogger's blog this morning and her debate about muffins and cupcakes inspired me to write about my experience growing up in Northern Ontario. I told her about smore cupcakes that I ate the other night and that reminded me of camping as a kid. My parents were also out camping this past weekend-at a spot that we always went to when I was growing up, so I guess it's appropriate that I write about that specific area. (It is impossible to write about every camping spot we ever used, but this particular one is a sentimental spot for me).
Every spring the rainbow trout run up this particular waterfalls to spawn. During this time it's legal to fish them and so my family has been going up there to fish these trout for as long as I can remember. We usually go up for a few weekends in a row-hooking up the trailer or the overhead onto the truck and drive the 2 hours out into the midddle of nowhere. We set up camp by the river that feeds the falls and usually cook supper using the combination of the stove in the camper and the fire. The weekend consists of early mornings, where it's still cool enough to see your breath. The dew usually hangs in thick wet strands and it washes your face when you walk through the thick underbrush to the falls. We cross a few creeks and squish through a few mud holes. The mud is clay, so it is thick and sticks to your rubber boots. When I was little, I often got stuck because I was not strong enough to loosen the grip the mud had on my bright red rain boots. You can hear the falls in the distance-kind of a soft rushing sound, but as you get closer the roar becomes so loud that you have to shout to each other. The water is usually high at this time of year because of the run-off the snow has provided and thus it is very cold. You can feel the temperature change as you get closer. There's this crooked, scary as hell bridge that you walk across. It spans a little canyon and has no railings. It's just wide enough for one person and I used to think that it would give out and i would go plummetting to the tree scattered, rock jumbled ground below. The smells are phenomenal. They are so clear here with no interference from city life. You can smell the cool water, cedar and pine trees, damp earth and mosses-it's heavenly. I usually planted myself on a little ridge above the rushing water, where I would sit and enjoy the sounds of the people and birds around me. Around lunch time I would clamber down the rocks to where my parents and the other dults were fishing and sit on a rock eating my lunch, soaking in the sun. By noon, the chill would be out of the air and you would have to start peeling your layers of clothes off because it was too hot. At that time, I had a giant yellow lab and he and I would play fetch for hours, while my parents fished. Tenie, who was just as small as me back then, would often come along and we'd break out our Barbies or go trudging through the bush-trying to find as many different kinds of plants as possible, or cool new hiding places. One year we made a fallen log covered in mosses our spot for the weekend.
At night, we'd sit by the campfire, listening to it crackle and the river gurgle by. You could hear owls, crickets, a moose tramping through the underbrush and once we heard a wolf howling. It was beautiful and erie all at the same time. We'd roast marsh mellows or hot dogs. We'd cut little slits into the ends of the hot dog, perch it perfectly balanced on a stick and cook it until the slits curled up-making spiders' legs. We'd smash the warm sticky marsh mellow in the middle of graham crakcers with chocolate chips. The chocolate would melt and we'd have smores. We'd help tie spawn bags (thin mesh tied into a little package of fish eggs), dig in mud holes, fish in the river with nets pretending we were great anglers, drag dead branches back for the fire as if it were gold and we had just saved us from being cold all night, and whatever else our imaginations could come up with.
There was a group of men who came up fishing every year from West Virginia and we'd have fish fries with them and spend the night playing in their rented cabin while my parents and grandpa drank and bullshitted. They'd play cards, we'd climb trees, they cleaned fish, we found pretty rocks by the river to collect, they fished, we explored they collected campfire wood, we begged for more and longer four-wheeler rides-it wasn't glamourous by no means. We'd wear sweat pants, flannel jackets for warmth at night, rubber boots and tons of bug spray and sunscreen. :) But it was one of the happiest times of the year for me- blackflies, stinky fish treacherous bridge, giant hill that even the dog took a break at the top of, included.