Nature Nut: Silent comes the call of the wild
Months ago, six of us had booked a trip to go fishing in Ontario. With almost nothing but trees and lakes found in much of this Canadian wilderness, we would need to fly in to reach our final destination.
So, on a recent May morning, after crossing the border into Ft. Francis from International Falls, we arrived at our outfitter's, located on the shore of the Rainy River. Loading our gear into the six-passenger Cessna floatplane, we headed north at about 150 miles an hour.
I saw a few roads and railroad tracks below for the first half of the 80-minute flight. But I had trouble seeing how they were all connected as the small bridges going over waterways were hardly visible. However, the view for the last half of the flight was just lakes and trees, most of them probably spruce out of reach of loggers.
Flying this far into the Canadian wilderness means leaving behind some of the comforts we normally take for granted. By wilderness standards, our cabin was quite modern, with running water, a couple fridges, a hot shower, and a compact fluorescent light hanging from the ceiling in each room. Although the bathroom looked like it at one time had had a stool, we now got to use an outhouse, probably due to tighter pollution restrictions.
Without any connection to the grid, cabin electricity was provided by three solar panels, with the largest on the roof about three by four feet in size. A smaller one ran the pump near the shore to provide our running water.
A propane tank provided for our cooking needs, as well as powering the two fridges in ways that seem counter-intuitive, using a heat source to cool. And another tank with gasoline provided the power for the 9.9-horsepower outboards that would get us around the miles of lake.
While fishing was the main reason for the trip, we did not spend every waking moment on the water, as one can only eat so many walleyes. And we probably released as many fish as we caught, since we had all bought conservation licenses that required releasing all fish not eaten.
In addition to walleyes, we caught quite a few northerns, including one by hand. It had latched on to one of the walleyes hanging from our boat stringer and required my brother reaching over the boat edge and picking up the five-pound eating machine before it would release its grip on the walleye.
While there seemed to be fish throughout the many-thousand-acres lake, we found most concentrations near a waterfall dropping into the lake from another one nearby. Had I brought my SCUBA gear, I imagined I would see hundreds of fish taking advantage of the high oxygen level the falls provided, as well as the variety of food sources found there.
Though fishing for walleyes and northern, along with card playing, dominated much of the trip, I was intrigued by how each member adapted to being unhooked from computers, TV, and cell phones. One spent much spare time reading a thick book about Benjamin Franklin, another reading from a Kindle, and one playing crosswords on his smartphone. I only missed the technology when a question would come up and we couldn't go a Google search for an immediate answer.
I enjoyed hearing loons and watching the large gulls feeding on our fish guts, along with the sunsets, moonsets, and yodeling loons. But I found most inspiring the occasional mirrored surface of the lake, or times in the boat when there was absolute silence. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but think about all the future young people who would never experience being "unhooked."