My Back Yard

If you look at a typical map of Ontario, you’ll see a lot of white areas, or blank spots.

Until recently, I used to think there was nothing much there, except trees.

Little did I realize how wrong I was.

You see, there’s a reason nothing’s. there.

It’s because Ontario’s such a damned big province, they had to draw the map on a such a large scale to make it all fit on one sheet.   And lot of details can’t be shown.

But if you look at a smaller-scale map, you’ll discover these blank spots are riddled with lakes, rivers, canoe routes and fishing spots.    It’s a veritable outdoors-man’s paradise.

This is where I live.   This is my back yard.

It’s all Crown Land, consisting mainly of trees, water, logging roads, and the odd deer camp.   Where you can pretty much do what you want, and camp where you want, as long as you follow the hunting and fishing regs.

And even then, it’s unlikely that anyone’s gonna check up on you.

I love exploring this area.   My canoe stays on top of my SUV pretty much the whole summer.    Because I never know when I might feel like taking a ride and seeing what I can find.

Where I go depends on the mood I’m in.

It might be a quick exploration trip after work, to re-con future fishing spots.

Or I might go to an established fishing lake and just plop the canoe in the water.

Or it might be a day-long adventure, where I pick a spot on the map and see if I can get there.

Despite the detailed maps, though, you never know what condition the back-roads will be in.

Sometimes, the road’s a main logging route, and could be easily drivable with a Honda Civic.

In other cases, the road aint’ so good.

The all-wheel drive starts slipping.  I start bottoming out on rocks, and the branches start scraping against my fenders.  Combine this with the fact that I haven’t seen a soul for miles, I start to get nervous.   I usually head back at this point.

Other times I’ll follow a semi-maintained road for 15 kilometers, dodging boulders and rain-filled potholes .

I’ll be almost within spitting distance of my destination, only to find one of the large puddles has turned into an established pond with cattails and frogs and minnows literally swimming around my tires.  Which means of course, turning back and doing the same boring route in reverse.

Of course, these are just for the lakes that are accessible by vehicle.

To get even further into the bush, I park my SUV, take off the canoe, and start paddling and portaging.   My rule of thumb is that each portage eliminates 90% of anyone who’d otherwise want to come there.

Some of the canoe routes are well-established and maintained.

Other times, I’ll play Lewis and Clark, and drag my canoe across beaver dam after beaver dam,  through trail-less dense brush, till I’ve reached the point of exhaustion and need to turn back, defeated.

And I’ll swear that I was probably the first person to see this area in months.  Maybe years.

And why do I do all this, you ask?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the fish.

If you’re a fisherman, you’ll understand.

And if you’re not a fisherman, believe me…it’s SO worth it.

If you put in the time and effort to find a good fishing spot, it will eventually pay off.     And it has, for me.

So far, I have a repertoire of 4-5 “secret” lakes that are guaranteed to produce some decent bass and northern pike.  Friar’s Mom knows of at least a few of these spots.

If I’m lucky, I’ll occasionally find the Holy Grail, and land a pickerel.   Or even better yet, some nice speckled trout.

But it’s not just about the fishing.  It’s about getting out there in the fresh air, where I can just turn off my brain, paddle, and take in the water, the sun, the loons, and the Canadian Shield.

Not to mention,  the thrill of finding those “Secret Spots”, that so very few people know about.

Beautiful river banks. Unspoiled stands of old-growth forest. Natural amphitheaters of granite cliffs with cascading waterfalls.    Swimming holes so refreshing you shiver with delight.   Or the mother-lode of all blueberries.

Yes, my back yard.

Which I’ve been exploring for the past 5 years, and haven’t’ even begun to cover even a fraction of, yet.

But I can’t wait to go out again, and see what else is out there.

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9 Comments on “My Back Yard”

  1. Friar's Mom Says:

    Just wondering when and how Natural Resources Canada produced the Crown Land maps. Was anything surveyed prior to airplanes and satellites?

    Wondering who in the government approved Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Roo as names for lakes. Obviously someone had a sense of humour.

    Wondering who in their right mind would portage a canoe through this mosquito/black fly infested wilderness? Never mind the danger of bears.

    And who maintains those portage trails?

  2. Brett Legree Says:

    The only thing in my back yard is a big, dumb yellow lab. Currently chewing up a soccer ball.
    :)

    It is quite nice out there, I agree.

    Sadly the way things are going in Canada, with 95 percent of people living within 50 km of the 49th (per the last Census), I think the government (certainly the current one) will stop funding maintenance of those trails and so forth. I guess it will then be up to those who use them.

    (Continuing the government/society rant…)

    Because so many employers cannot – *will not* – get out of the “Frederick Winslow Taylor” mentality that people must be chained to their desks for 8.0 hours a day, in spite of the fact that we could and should be living out in the country and working remotely, this 95%/50km stat is likely to mean fewer and fewer people will ever get to enjoy a back yard like Friar’s.

    I’ll tell you what your back yard looks like in Mississauga – 20 feet of shitty crab grass, a wooden fence, another 20 feet of shitty crab grass, and a house.

    (That’s why I don’t live in Mississauga.)

  3. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    The loggers were the first to “open up” this area in the 1850’s to harvest all the virgin white pine. They keeped heading west to cut down more trees, till they logged out past Lake Superior in the 1940’s.

    Government surveyors mapped out would have mapped out the main rivers and lakes a long time ago. But detailed maps probably didn’t come out until the 1930, when planes could fly over and take photos.

    Ontario’s a young country…some of these areas were quite quite remote, not that long ago.

    As for who maintains these portage trails? I guess the answer is…whoever WANTS TO.

    It’s not a Provincial Park. There’s no park rangers building wheel-chair access canoe ramps, or pressure-treated-wood boardwalks crossing swampy areas.

    Some well-used areas will have trail markings on the trees, and maybe some logs might by thrown across some mud. But those seem to be done on an individual voluntary basis. In other areas, to portages are hardly used, and grown in…and difficult to access.

    In a way, I kind of like this…it’s more “natural”, an indication of what the true wilderness is, outside the Government-run Provincial Parks.

    @Brett

    Heh heh. You mean like some employers, who have miserable parking facilities. Who continuously lecture you about the benefits of carpooling and cycling to work, and reducing emissions?

    Yet they cannot (or WILL not) give their staff lap-top computers to allow them to work from home. Because they think the staff “cannot be trusted” to work unsupervised and meet their deadlines.

    As for Mississauga, you’ll only get 20 feet of shitty crab grass if you pay $400,000 for your house. Anything less, and you’ll be lucky to have a lawn at all.

    And don’t’ forget the Big-Box Stores and Strip Malls every kilometer.


  4. Your post reminds me of some great 4-wheel drive exploring Pete and I have done in Cook County, Minnesota along the National Forest Service “roads,” alongside and within the Boundary Waters. We looked at Canada many times from close and more afar. “Wow, I can see Canada from my house!” LOL

    One trip in particular was made just so we could stand and gaze from several different helipads that are kept to stage fire-fighting efforts when necessary. It felt like we were on top of the world. I love that big country and I really enjoyed this post, too.

  5. Friar Says:

    @Betsy
    Yeah…up there Northern Ontario and Northern Minnesota are pretty much one and the same.

    There’s something about the place that gets to you. I’ve been vacationing in Shield Country one form or another, for the past 20 years.

  6. XUP Says:

    You’re a lucky man to have all that in your backyard. Whatever you’re trading off to be able to live there (e.g.: widget factory, hick town) I think in the end it must be totally worth it. I hope it stays just like it is an no crazy government decides to sell it off to Walmart for tons of cash to help get tough on all that crime that doesn’t even exist.

  7. Friar Says:

    @XUP
    Yet…for the past two years, I’ve been struggling with whether I should stay or leave.

    And you know how much I love the outdoors….so that gives you an idea of what it’s like to work at the Widget Factory.

    But if they do decide to sell it off to Walmart, the decision might be made for me, whether I like it or not.

  8. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Only one comment,

    TAKE ME WITH YOU!

  9. Friar Says:

    @Eyeteaguy!

    Goody!

    With two people sharing the canoe portages, now I can go even further into the bush!


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