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#getoutside2019 Blog Series- David Bain

Okay it’s Friday which means we have our #getoutside2019 blog coming at you. This time we have a piece by our friend David Bain . Oh thank name sounds familiar , of course it does. David is the driving force behind the Ontario Backcountry Canoe Symposium and the Ontario Winter Camping Symposium. Enough from me though here’s David.

The Monarch of Muriel Lake

They say that some stories grow in the telling. This is not one of those. 

This is one of the others… the ones that fade with each repetition, until like oft-read letters, they crumble to the touch. This one has already faded much over the years, and so I’ll tell it now for the last time, keeping what then remains in that special part of the mind where memories are stored that feed the soul on the long winter nights of our lives…

The clear waters of Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario are a tragic blessing… a welcome (to some) by-product of acid rain that we embrace since its affront to nature is as easily ignored as the benefits are obvious. These “Windex Lakes” are beautiful, clear… and almost dead. Their beauty masks a dark reality. To a neophyte camper and canoeist however, the opportunity to swim in the crystalline blue was to be savoured.

On this particular August trip, the three of us had even brought masks and flippers, and were busy exploring a small cove next to our campsite. Images of sunken Birchbark canoes rapidly died in the reality of the featureless rocky bottom. Disappointed, I had returned to the surface for air, when Dave, a little ahead of me, got my attention with a cautious, fierce whisper. “A Loon!”

There, no more than two meters ahead of us, surfaced a loon. Living. Breathing. Curious, perhaps, at the unexpected aquatic visitors to its blue room. Now, a loon seen from water level is a VERY LARGE BIRD… with a long beak. And beautiful. The bird that launched a thousand Northland dreams.

I swam past my human companion, and slowly glided towards this Monarch of Muriel Lake. I was close enough to see every detail of black feather, and red eye. Its head swivelled side to side, taking in, I’m sure, the reality of this unexpected intruder. Then, with an almost serpentine movement of grace, it dove.

I dove with it.

Tiny colourless air bubbles escaped the feathers and rose towards the surface. Wing and webbed foot were tucked away, and this natural torpedo headed towards the bottom. I reached out, and with my hand, stroked the broad, living back of this wonderful, regal creature.

I then ran out of breath.

Turning for the surface, I was somehow not surprised to see this Master of both water and sky turn with me. We broke the surface together, then dove again. I watched it accelerate into the blue twilight of the lake … and it was gone.

Each morning, for the remainder of our stay, I heard the loon fly over our campsite, its wings singing their distinctive theme, and I would watch from shore as it fished the lake’s unknown depths. Too soon, my human companions and I packed and paddled for home and loved ones.

Some stories fade with the telling. Tonight, however, as I type these lines, and watch the drifting feathers of snow silently gather in my back yard, in my memory I can still reach out, and stroke the feathered robe of the Monarch of Muriel Lake.   

-David Bain

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Don’t Just Go Outside …… Revel In It

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