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Return Trip: Days 7 and 8

Yesterday morning’s sunrise over Lake Superior was almost idyllic (the Trans Canada traffic noise knocked one star off the rating), complete with crisp fall air, a loon calling, and a cup of coffee on the rocks while watching my fellow camper Adam fish.

After Pai posed for a few more photo shoots by her camera-toting fans, we hit the road towards Wabigoon, a stone’s throw from Dryden, where Terry Merkel, the cousin of Paul who owns the farm where Pai lives, has a camp.

Merkel’s Camp is on a gorgeous point on Lake Wabigoon. A horse is so not an exciting camp resident – the camp once hosted a circus for a few days, complete with tigers and elephants.

Once Pai was set up in a grassy electric-fence corral, I took Merrill up on her suggestion and headed out on the lake in one of the kayak for a leisurely paddle (with Scooty sighing and yearning in the cockpit with me), and then had a swim in water that was “cold” at 65 F (which is something like 18 C) – by all accounts, the water was over 80 F a couple of weeks ago.

My experience with freshwater fish is limited: trout and Lancaster perch are pretty much it, plus the one pickerel I cooked up in Thunder Bay on my west-east trip. (Is Dolly Varden a lake/river fish? I don’t know. I’ve had that too). Terry and Merrill went out for a late afternoon fish just after I arrived, and very generously promised me a walleye should they catch one. They totally delivered – I had not only a cleaned and filleted walleye out of the lake and into my frying pan, but a crappie as well, and they were both delicious.

After a beautiful sunset, a  bonfire was in the offing. Now, given my trademark ditziness, it’s not really all that surprising that despite looking at the camp website and even popping by for a quick reconnaissance mission on my west-to-east trip, I still didn’t clue in that this wasn’t a campground campground, but was a camp. As in, a hunting and fishing camp. As in, a place where you go to kill things.

It’s not like I think that if Bambi’s dad hadn’t been shot by hunters, he would have died peacefully in a bower of flowers surrounded by his deer friends. I am fully apprised that if you are an animal in the wild, completely unmolested by humans, chances are, you will either die by violence or die by starvation. Nature is indeed red in tooth and claw. The thing is, that the people I hang with are the kind of people who, were they to see a white wolf, would fall over senseless in ecstasy. Their first thought would not be, “I could shoot that.” To hang with people whose fist thought upon meeting a wild animal is “I could shoot that” is totally foreign to me.

However, while I couldn’t really share a whole lot of stories around the campfire that were in the same vein, I did meet some great people with who had some hilarious tales to tell. Turns out that the thing I’d read about but never actually come across – the American hunter who comes up to Canada to shoot things – really does exist. Americans come up in droves to this neck of the woods to fish and hunt. I met a  group of truckers who have been coming up to the camp for sixteen years, two guys from Tennessee who were up for some fishing,  and a couple from Iowa. A truck and trailer from Minnesota pulled in late that night. Half of the guys there were pilots – which made for more great stories.

On my drive yesterday from Merkel’s Camp here to Riding Mountain National Park, through the rocky hilly land of Ontario lakes and into the flat prairie, I saw countless hawks, an eagle, and a falcon. Every time I saw one, I’d say, “I could shoot that”. I still can’t wrap my head around it.

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