Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gordon Island!!!

There is a word that gets thrown around a lot for events that were pretty awesome. It is often misused, over used and abused. It can be defined as “impressive in quality”, “celebrating the feats of a legendary or traditional hero” or simply “majestic”. This word should only be used to describe stories of such grandeur that they should be orally passed from generation to generations. Stories like “The Odyssey”, “Metamorphoses”, “Beowulf” and “Paradise Lost” are all lumped into the category that this word describes.

This word, my friends, is – EPIC.

This past weekend I took a trip that borders on being classed as an “epic”. Some may disagree with me, but I would class it as a “mini-epic”. Not that anything heroic occurred or anything. It was just a great weekend that was full of the spirit of adventure.

Getting down to it.

My friends and I have been trying to plan a camping trip all summer. Our schedules have made this impossible - until this past weekend.

On Friday, this past week, I tried desperately to get my friends together to plan a camping trip. We had talked about it so much, but no one wanted to plan it. So, I tried. I failed. No one wanted to do it. Some of them wanted to go to Stratford instead. So, I went out Friday night and talked it up a bit, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen.

Saturday afternoon, the texts started flying - Stratford was out, camping was in. Sam, Nicola and I had Saturday and Sunday off, Danielle had to work until 3 on Saturday and at noon on Sunday. We had a small window of opportunity, and we were going take full advantage of it. I got the text from Nicola saying that the trip was happening, at around 1:30. I replied and said that I would grab my gear and meet at her place. So, I rushed home, packed and headed off. As I walked up, Danielle was at the door. Surprising, since it was 2:30 and she had work until 3. Apparently, she had managed to leave early. We met up with Nicola, grabbed her gear and hopped in Danielle’s car to pick up Sam and the boats. We got Sam and headed to Trailhead to get our canoe and kayak. It took some rigging, but we managed to strap them both to the roof of the Ford Focus. We drove to Gananoque to pick up supplies. So, we hit No Frills and The Beerstore (we went with Lakeport Honey for the true “Camping in Canada” feel). Once supplied, we headed further East to Danielle’s parent’s house, where we would put the boats in. After a tour of the house, which Danielle’s dad is currently building and a quick pack job, we headed off with the boats.

Figure 1: Saddling up at Trailhead.

Figure 2: Group shot while buying supplies at No Frills.

We were finally in the water and it felt great. I hadn’t canoed in years and wonder, now, why I don’t do it more often. About one minute in, we cracked a beer each. Nicola missed out because she was in the kayak, but Danielle, Sam and I enjoyed our luxurious paddle towards Gordon Island. We put in at the Eastern end of the island and explored, looking for a good camp site. We noticed a sign by the outhouse that read “Caution: Aggressive Racoons on the Island”, intrigued, we kept exploring. Once we settled on a site, we went back for the boats and paddled around to the other end of the island. Upon setting up camp, we realised that we only had 24 beers. Clearly, this would not be enough. So, we paddled back, hit the beer store, purchased more beer, and a “Penthouse” magazine, for good measure, and returned to the island. Now properly equipped, we began cooking dinner.

Figure 3: Drinking and paddling - a deadly combination!

Figure 4: An omen we should have paid heed to - "Agressive Racoons on Island".

Figure 5: Setting up camp/building a fire.

Figure 6: Cooking dinner - STEAKS!

Dinner was excellent, if I do say so myself. We cooked steaks on the coals of the fire, while keeping it burning on the outside, for later, and boiled some corn, on the stove. No one believed me that cooking the steaks on the coals would work, but they seemed to like it. We followed dinner with some Jiffy Pop, which I hadn’t had in a long time. I think we will need to bring it along with us from now on.

Figure 7: Jiffy Pop!

After dinner, we went exploring. The island was actually pretty big, so we hiked around and came upon a guy and his dog. We chatted for awhile and carried on. A few moments later, we came across the rest of his contingent and talked for awhile, again. They were Americans visiting from Washington state. They were here with people they had met on a cruise the year before. They were interesting people and could actually appreciate Sam’s antics … we think.

Figure 8: Exploration group shot.

Continuing our exploration of the island was pretty uneventful, so we headed back for the campsite. Upon arrival, we kept drinking our beer, gathered wood for the fire, read aloud from our “Penthouse”, all the usual things you do when camping. We soon decided to hang out on the rocky shore. We quickly decided that it would be a good idea to go swimming. So, I dove in, soon followed by Nicola and Danielle. Sam was more tentative about swimming, but we eventually convinced him. Unfortunately, the rest of the swimming story will go unblogged, if you care to ask me to tell it in person, I might, but we will see.

Figure 9: Swimming adventure.

Once we returned to land, we basically just hung around the campfire, which somehow didn’t burn out while we were swimming, luckily. At one point, the “Aggressive” racoons circled our campsite, so Sam threw beer bottles at them until they left. It was really fun, to just hang out in the forest, around a fire, with great people. Soon, we got tired and decided to go to bed. This was an adventure in itself. We were sleeping in a three person tent, and if you remember correctly, there were four of us. We tried several arrangements and finally settled on the most comfortable one. It would have been ok, if no one had moved through the night. Unfortunately, Sam is a very active sleeper, somehow managing to wake up inside my sleeping bag the next morning – weird.

Figure 10: Happy to see the fire still blazing.

I woke up early the next morning, to try and see the sunrise. It was too cloudy, so I ended up just exploring the island some more, making tea, fishing and just hanging out. Later, the others woke up. After a slow start, we finally got Sam in shape enough to move (he is not a morning person, in the slightest) and took off in the boats. We put in near Danielle’s parent’s house, loaded up the car and headed to Gananoque. We stopped at “Bravo” for breakfast, where I had the “Hungry Man”, which was delicious. Then we made the move back to Kingston, dropped off Sam, unloaded and returned the boats. I left Trailhead, went home and was able to hang out with my parents for the couple of days they were visiting Kingston.

Figure 11: Breakfast at Bravo

All in all, a truly wonderful weekend trip. Soon to be repeated, we hope.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm on a boat / windmilling around

Today was an adventure filled day.

Most of you have probably seen the SNL “I’m on a Boat” short. Well, today, I spent a lot of time on boats.

Figure 1?: The "I'm On a Boat" short

I went to work this morning, got some things done, but had to leave for a one o’clock doctor’s appointment. The appointment went well, but I didn’t really want to go back to work. So, I called my friend Nicola. I went over to her place and we brainstormed an afternoon adventure. We decided to head for Wolfe Island, see some windmills and meet up with some friends.

So, we headed for the ferry. We got there, but it hadn’t arrived yet. So, we went to the Fort Frontenac patio to hang out until it arrived, which was very quickly. As we were leaving The Fort, we were harassed by a Commissionaire. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to walk through the back gate – Ridiculous! Anyhoo, we eventually made it to the ferry and boarded. We got a spot at the front, so we would of course get soaked by the waves, which was actually a lot of fun.

Once we arrived on the island, we set off in search of windmills. We spotted what we thought would be the closest one. This is where the adventure began. First, we had to hop a schoolyard fence, which happened to be the same place I came for “Outdoor Education” in grade 4. Then, we crossed a fence via bridge from the playground to a farmer’s field. Our next obstacle was - you guessed it, a fence. This one, we crawled under. Now, this put us in a field with a lone cow. We couldn’t tell if it was a bull or not, so we stuck to the treeline and came up with a contingency plan in case it charged. The plan involved a lot of running away and jumping of fences. Soon, we came to our greatest challenge – an electric fence! Now, according to Nicola, the electric fences used to keep horses in are pretty low voltage. I can only assume that it is a higher voltage for cattle. So, we had a choice to make. Do we crawl under? Or jump over? Neither seemed very appealing, so we used the gate. Only after about 7 minutes of trying to decide what to do did we notice the gate – oops. The Holy Grail was near. We just had a short distance between us and the windmill. It loomed in the distance, casting a massive shadow over us. It was actually pretty beautiful. It was silent, spinning quickly and gigantic. After some pictures, we headed back to town.

Figure 2: The windmill, in all it's glory

Figure 3: If you can see us, we are in front of the windmill, striking "adventure" poses

We met up with Zak and Krista (I think that is her name, I can’t remember. Can someone correct me?) at the Island Grill. The food was great and surprisingly cheap. We ate and headed off in Zak’s boat. We planned on going to his place and tubing. The trip, which normally takes about 30 minutes, took close to an hour because of the chop. The waves were huge. We were all soaked by the time we got to Zak’s and we all had sore tail bones. Once there, we changed and built a fire. We were waiting for Zak’s parents to get back from catamaraning, so we could all tube together. Upon their arrival, they noticed that all the fibreglass from the side of the boat had sheared off. We don’t know when/how it happened, but tubing was out. So, we made smores, chatted and eventually headed home.

Figure 4: Nicola and I on Zak's boat

Figure 5: Waves crashing over us

I think I need more days like this. It was so relaxing to be out on the water, in the sun, enjoying myself. Hopefully I can find some more time for this kind of life, before the summer is over. We shall see, as I always say.

Here Comes The Sun

So, this past weekend, I was planning on heading to the Adirondacks. The weather, unfortunately, did not cooperate. Eric, Grand, Nick and I set off in the car Friday night, after a last minute change of destination. I was heading for Montagne D’Argent – again.

We arrived at the campsite that evening and set up. We were the only ones there, so we took the primo spot – under the tarp, by the picnic tables, SCHWING! We quickly hit the nearby IGA for some cheap Quebecois beer. While at the IGA, we found a GINORMOUS wheel of cheese, that we could have purchased for the low-low price of $99.98 for half the wheel. We declined, but gladly had our picture taken with it. Returning to the camp, we drank some beer and turned in.

Figure 1: Grand and his expensive cheese

Saturday morning, we awoke to beautiful weather. After a quick breakfast, we headed out for the M&M area, which happened to be about 30 seconds from our tent. This area has a beautiful grey granite stone that is chock full of cracks. It was great. We started on “M&M” (5.8), of course. Grand lead it, I seconded. Then we moved over to “Krakabra” (5.7+), which I lead, very sketchily because it was soaked to the gills. From the ground, it looked as if only the sidewall was wet, but I soon discovered that the entire crack was seeping and slippery. Plus, I didn’t have enough #2s. So, I had to walk gear up the whole way. Basically, it was tricky, slippery, but successful. Grand decided against seconding it. Then we moved to “Lezadomachos” (5.9+), which was a technically difficult climb, with a swing in the middle. It was fun, but hard. Once we had exhausted the cracks at M&M, we moved to “Le Fou” area, so we could hop on some multi pitch climbing. Grand and Eric did “Maudit Fou” (5.10b), while Nick and I did “Le Centenaire” (5.8). It was fun; the climbs shared anchors, so we saw a lot of each other. Plus, the last pitch was the same for both. Once down, we moved to La Petite Folie area, where Nick lead his first trad line – “Encore! Mon Lapin” (5.4+) – way to go Nick. Grand and I climbed “Colonel Kirtz” (5.10a), a disgustingly dirty hand crack. Soon, we moved to the amphitheatre, where Grand, Eric and Nick climbed “Meo Penche” (5.10c). When they were done, we called it.

Figure 2: Me rappelling off M&M

Figure 3: Me at the top of Le Centenaire

Figure 4: Eric on Colonel Kirtz

We quickly went back to the tents, got ready and headed for the river. We brought some beer, to cool in the river, but the water was too warm, so they just got slightly less hot. We swam around a bit and headed back to camp. Our night in camp was pretty uneventful. We made dinner, ate, drank beer and went to bed early. The next morning, we awoke to pouring rain. So, we ate breakfast, packed up and headed for home. We stopped in Ottawa, had lunch and shopped at MEC. It was a pretty good day, even though it rained. Of course, once we arrived back in Kingston, the weather was beautiful.

Figure 5: The swimming hole/river

It was a pretty good weekend, all tolled. We got a bunch of awesome climbing in, so that was good. It was just a little too much Montagne D’Argent in two weeks for me. I need to go somewhere new! It looks like I will be soon, though, so that is good.

Figure 6: Us unhappily eating breakfast in the rain

Figure 7: Us happily eating lunch in Ottawa

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beerville, ON

The past few days have been excellent. Here is the story of my last Thursday.

I had Thursday off, so I met up with my friend Sam around 1PM at Tir na Nog. We had a beer and then took off to downtown for an adventure. The first sign we saw said “Tour Guide on Duty – Free”. Naturally, we went in. Our tour of City Hall could not have been better. Our tour guide took us through the building, told us all about the history of Kingston, showed us the mayoral portraits, etc. We went into the legislative hall, saw the old prison in the basement and got our picture taken in front of City Hall. It was a ton of fun.

Figure 1: Sam and I in front of the Tour Guide sign

Figure 2: Sam and I behind the Mayor's desk

Figure 3: Sam and I in front of City Hall

Once we finished our epic tour of City Hall, we went to Trailhead. Sam had broken his sunglasses and needed a new pair. There, we linked up with Nicola. We were going to go to Fort Henry, but she had a doctor’s appointment. So, we went to The Gap to find Danielle. She had to work, but on the way there, we ran into Tom. Tom, Sam and I headed to Coronaville and began our afternoon in luxury. We sat on the waterfront patio, drinking beer and eating wings for several hours, building up an excellent burn around my neck. From Coronaville, I went to my friend Leif’s place for a barbecue. I hung out with a bunch of friends, had GREAT food, chatted and eventually worked my way back downtown.

Figure 4: Sam, Nicola and I trying on sunglasses at Trailhead

Figure 5: Sam, Tom and I at Coronaville

Once downtown, I went to the climbing gym to meet up with some people for the evening. They didn’t make it, but I did meet up with my friend Josuel. He was buying a t-shirt for our friend Arnaud as a going away present. Apparently, there was a “going away” dinner for him that night (he is returning to France after 2 years in Kingston). So, I sold him the shirt and headed to the dinner at Lonestar, or more accurately – Margaritaville. Which means, I spent most of my day at both Coronaville and Margaritaville. We arrived at Lonestar, everyone was already there, except Arnaud. Of course, in his usual style, he showed up an hour later. He enjoyed the t-shirt, especially because it was in a bag that looked like a sunflower. We had dinner and dispersed.

Figure 6: Arnaud's "going away" dinner at Margaritaville

Nicola, Andrew and I headed out to the Merchant for some cheap wings and beer. This didn’t last very long. The wings were very filling and we had too many, the music was too loud and the beer was expensive. We migrated out to the patio, so we could at least hear each other. Soon, we moved on to the Brass. By this point, I had run out of money and energy. Contrary to my usual style, I bailed early and went home to sleep. All in all, though, it was a great day.