The Black Feather group gathers at Key River Marina. Our colourful kayaks are surrounded by a myriad of ‘drybags’ containing our gear and provisions. We’re heading out onto Georgian Bay, to weave through the “30,000 Islands”.
In 1610, Champlain described Georgian Bay as a “sweet water sea “. It’s the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. In the next days, we’ll explore a mosaic of open waters, sheltered bays, exposed bedrock shores and sand beaches.
It’s a puzzle to fit everything into the kayaks’ hatches, but after intricate packing all is stowed. Checking our maps and GPS, we paddle out. The day is beautiful … we enjoy a northwest breeze the sun dances off the crests of the waves.
We find a sheltered cove for lunch. The smooth rock, typical of eastern Georgian Bay, is some of the oldest on earth. There are two types: igneous rock which is pink and red, and sedimentary rock in bands of pink and grey. The ‘ice age’ glaciers scoured these rocks, exposing, smoothing and carving. Today, warmed by the sun, basking on the rocks with the gentle sound of the wind and waves feels like we’re at a spa.
We paddle past ‘Dead Island’. Traditionally, the Ojibway would bring their shrouded dead and place them up in trees or under heavy piles of rock. In the 1800’s this burial ground was robbed of its artifacts, and shipped to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Exposition. We paddle by quietly, honouring the spirits of these past inhabitants.
We camp on a beautiful west-facing point. Most campsites are rustic, with minimal facilities. Some sites have ‘thunder boxes’. We set up tents and kitchen. We notice a dark shape swimming between two rocky islands. A bear! It wades out, shaking its silky coat. It ambles into the thicket in search of berries and grubs. Its a good reminder … we share this wilderness with many others: bear, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, muskrat, beaver and rattlesnakes!
Later that evening, we relax by the shore, enjoying the last rays of sun setting in the west. The sky is multihued … the first star starts to twinkle. A loon’s haunting call is answered by its mate. Peace surrounds us, makes us whole, and we look forward to the rest of our adventure.
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