Thursday, August 7, 2008

Of Loons and Laughter...

Whiteshell Lake, Manitoba. Aug 6-7 (~1,700 miles traveled) . In my last post I mentioned that I believed I was getting the hang of all this. I am at this moment sitting at a picnic table in a campground a few miles from the Ford Dealership in Winnipeg. You may be wondering why I would chose to locate myself near a Ford dealership when I have the great outdoors at my disposal. Well, it seems it was my turn to be given a lesson ..or two. While the beginning of this story doesn’t start off all too well…it certainly ends on a positive note…so read on.

I arrived yesterday (Wednesday) in the early evening at the Whiteshell Lake Provincial Park in Manitoba. The weather was fantastic, about 78 degrees, sunny with a light breeze. The park attendant had already left for the
day by the time I got to the park. My name with a campsite designation was pinned to the door. I should add that this a very large park, encompassing several miles, and quite a few lakes, etc. As there were no campground maps to be had, I got back in my car and started driving around looking for my site. Thus began “a series of unfortunate events”. I soon discovered that this particular park has a number of dead-end roads throughout. After a few rounds of having to back up a 23 foot trailer in a small space populated with kids, dogs, boats, cars and other campers, I’d had enough and parked on a hillside corner site that was vacant. I got out and started walking the campground in search of my site. I vowed to always walk the campground instead of driving aimlessly, kicking up dust and disturbing the other folks. I eventually found my site, and walked back to my car and trailer. As I approached the trailer, it became clear to me that I had picked a poor place to park it. I was going to have a difficult time backing down the hill, making a sharp turn and avoiding the trees, picnic tables, fire pits and other campground amenities (which I now was beginning to view as obstacles). I vowed never to park in such a place again. To make a long story short, I soon became frustrated with the backing up, moving forward routine and only gaining a couple of feet of movement in the right direction…at some point the trailer was at a 90 degree angle to my truck (never a good thing) and I decided to just push back a little more and, well you guessed it, disaster struck. The trailer jack-knifed; the edge of it hit and shattered a rear-window on my truck. The sound of glass breaking does have a way of disturbing the tranquility of a campground. After some colorful language and another vow or two of things I would absolutely never do again,
went slinking into my designated campsite leaving a breadcrumb
trail of glass shards.
Pelican Island

Back at the campsite I began to contemplate the impact of this little accident on my future travel plans as well taking a closer look at the “damage”. Every time I got near the broken window, more glass shards would fall…it was as if the truck was continually berating me for the incident. Disgusted, I went back in the trailer to make dinner and ponder my options.. After about 30 minutes there was a knock on my door. I opened the door to find women from

John Lopes
(car fixing, joke telling loon spotting phenomenon)

a nearby campsite who had come to invite me to join her family and friends around their campfire. This was the first social invitation of my trip, and I must admit that I was a little taken aback and could only
respond with “oh, thank you, but I couldn’t possibly. You see I had a little accident and I have to attend to a window that’s been broken”. She asked to see it, so I brought her over to the truck and started explaining what happened. When I next looked up, several more people had come to look at the window, including her husband, John. What happened next is truly a great chapter in the kindness of humanity. Within moments, all these people started to go to work on truck. Removing all the broken glass, sweeping up the shards that had fallen to the ground, vacuuming the inside of my truck, and taping plastic on window frame, etc. When it was all done, I joined them around their campfire. I must say it was an eclectic group of people. There were people from Poland, Ukraine, Portugal, the Philippines (?) and me. The fire was ablaze in the center, casting a warm glow around everyone. John was a non-stop joke machine. When he wasn’t delivering a perfectly timed punch line, he was regaling us with stories about others mishaps at the lake…my own becoming merely another funny footnote in this summers chapter. Between the warmth of the fire and the camaraderie of my new found friends…my troubles seemed to just slip away. At some point during the evening I heard, what I thought was the haunting sound of a loon. I asked others if they heard it…they had, and indeed it was a loon. There are many of them at this lake I was told. I’ve never seen one and asked when the best time would be to catch a glimpse…I was told dusk is probably best, but that they are visible throughout the day. Excellent I thought…I’ll be sure to try to get a look before I leave in the morning. It was after midnight before I made my way back to my trailer, my footsteps considerably lighter than a few hours earlier.

Next morning
I went down to the lake at 5:30, camera and binoculars in hand, with my constant companion Maya, trotting along. I waited and watched for an hour or so, sipping coffee and watching the morning mist lift from the lake and slowly disappear. I could hear loons, but I could not see them. It was getting late, and I needed to make the drive to Winnipeg to have the truck fixed. I went back to my campsite and started packing up to leave. John strolled by on his way to the lake and asked if I needed any help, or if I’d be interested in a morning boat ride around the lake. I passed on the boat ride (duty calls) and thanked John for the memorable evening. Just as I was about to take off, John came back and said…you sure you don’t want to take a boat ride…I spotted a couple of loons. Perfect. I grabbed my camera bag, and walked

The Elusive Loon

down to the dock and hopped in the boat. In seconds we were skimming across a lake as smooth as glass. John pointed out the loons…a mother with her two of whom I was told she adopted. I had the opportunity to watch them for quite a while. We also drove around the lake and I was shown various landmarks, including Pelican Island (the locals call it something else..has to do with all the droppings…I’ll spare you) and another pair of loons. John dropped me at the dock and invited the Gibson clan to visit them at their home in Manitoba anytime. A fantastic morning by any definition.

I vowed never to turn down on offer to share a campfire again.

Water beetle in the morning light.


Steve said...

I hope the truck doesn't cost too much to fix! Does insurance cover that sort of thing?! I expect nothing more than for you to back up the rig at 10 miles an hour between two trees with 6 inches of clearance on each side all while talking on your cell phone by the time this is over!

Kathy said...

Steve...I'm working on it. Truck is fixed without too much of a dent in my wallet!