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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

From Lake to Plate - The Boyz Go Ice Fishing!

From Lake to Plate - The Boyz Go Ice Fishing

It's magnificent when you get to cross something off the bucket list. This time last year, we were tapping sugar maple trees in Vermont. This year, CJ and Art invited us to go ice fishing - and we jumped at the chance.  

Putting on layers of clothing to ensure comfortable isolation from the cold wind-chill that can sometimes be biting, we set off and Art found a place to park their truck beside Marsh Lake on Dunlop Shores Road - just 15 minutes north of where we live. Our destination was Summers Lake, a 25 minute trek beyond Marsh Lake. The equipment was unpacked and placed on a sled ready for the trek across the lake, through a portage trail and on to Summers. 

Walking on Water!

We followed the snowmobile/4 wheeler tracks and avoided the spots where there was open water. Once they found a suitable spot on the lake, Art & CJ proceeded to unpack the kit and kaboodle and showed us how to drill holes in the ice. When he pointed to the spot on the auger that we would have to reach before hitting the water below, we were amazed at the thickness of the ice on the frozen lake. It must have been at least 3 feet so we felt totally safe - in spite of the occasional 'cracking' sounds as the ice shifted underneath and around us. 

Art attaches a minnow to the line
A really good teacher, Art explained every step involved in setting up a couple of 'station's where the fishing rod could stand independently, supported by a mound of ice just one foot away from the ice hole. These rods were fit with live minnows as bait, and a bell attached to the top would alert us to a successful bite, giving us time to get to the location and haul in the fish. 

He then proceeded to set us up with rods using lures and taught us to keep it moving so that unsuspecting fish would think it was something to eat, instead of just a piece of metal. Stools were provided or we could just stand. 

The weather was perfect - another clear blue sky with the sun constantly shining and sharing its warmth. There was no wind on the lake and the stillness and peacefulness was mesmerizing. What a wonderful way to pass time - surrounded by awesome scenery while waiting for the fish to bite. The occasional cool breeze was welcome and invigorating. 

Very soon, after getting set up, we started to shuck our outer clothes as it was unbelievably warm - even reaching 9 degrees which, for March in Northern Ontario, is a real blessing.

It wasn't long before I felt a tug on the line and pulled out my very first ice-fishing catch! The thrill of that moment will stay with me for a very long time. A few minutes later, Mark heard the tinkling of a bell and rushed over to one of the stations. Sure enough, there was another bite, and Mark used the hand-over-hand method that Art had taught us to bring in the second fish. 

In all, we caught 4 lake trout between us, within a the first couple of hours. 

There were a few other people out fishing - including some people that were known to our friends. Coming from the U.K., I am still fascinated by seeing vehicles on the frozen lakes - even though I've lived here, in Canada, since 1989. There were snowmobiles and 4-wheelers to be seen, which occasionally provided a contrast from the silence of the lake. (Though, our frequent chatter and banter also had the same effect!!)

4-wheelers in a huddle!

Art started a fire near the edge of the lake and CJ unpacked the Debrazini sausages ready for roasting. Just like when camping - there's something about being outside that stimulates the appetite; and there's nothing quite like the taste of food that has been grilled over an open fire. 

Cooking the Debrazini Wieners

The propane kettle was brought out and we washed down our wiener wraps with some nice warm herbal tea. CJ and Art are so well-prepared that it would never surprise us if they served up a 3-course meal on the frozen lake!!!

Anyone for a nice cuppa?

We continued to fish for another hour or so before we acknowledged that the feeding frenzy was probably over and that we wouldn't be catching any more. It was time to pack up and begin the trek back to the truck. 

Reaching their home, we enjoyed a beer/pop on the back deck, still enjoying the pleasant temperature before we congregated in the kitchen to watch the fish being gutted, cleaned, and prepared for cooking. 

Admiring the skill of these two professionals, we stood in awe as the fish were filleted, coated with spiced breadcrumbs, and placed into a pan alongside a second pan containing mixed veggies. 

By this time, appetites were well and truly whetted, and a glass of wine was in order. 

At last, the meal was ready, the table laid, and four happy campers sat down to enjoy the fruits of their labours. 

I asked for mine to be charred

Yummy in my Tummy!

I tell you, this Northern Ontario lifestyle suits us to the tee - especially when we are lucky enough to have good friends who are willing to share the thrills of being outdoors on such a fine, winter's day!

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Day of Fun, Laughter, and an Outdoor Tea Party!

A Day of Fun, Laughter, and an Outdoor Tea Party!

We can always count on fun and laughter whenever we spend time with our friends, CJ and Art! 
An invitation to join them for brunch at Gilbertson's Maple Products, on St. Joseph's Island, was guaranteed to meet with an enthusiastic 'yes' - especially when it was going to be followed by a trip around the Deer Trail afterwards. 

Piling into the back of their truck, we set off to enjoy clear blue skies, with the warmth of the sun coaxing us to endure the cold of this -13 degree Celsius day. 

Conversation is never lacking, and the humour punctuated our attempts to set the world aright! 

Crossing over the bridge onto the island, we were struck, once again, by the pure beauty and majesty of the Northern Ontario winter scenery. The northwest end of Lake Huron, still mostly frozen, showed some open water and the contrast between the darkness of the water with the bright, whiteness of the surrounding ice and snow was striking. 

On our first visit to Gilberston's, nearly 4 years ago, I ordered two pancakes, thinking that they would be the normal size of a North American pancake. WRONG! When my order was brought to the table, I couldn't believe it!  Two fluffy, thick pancakes, the size of the large dinner plate awaited my attention. On subsequent visits, my choices have been more sensible. 

This time, we ordered one pancake, with a piece of peameal bacon, and a side order of maple baked beans. It was more than enough! The fresh maple syrup oozed through the pancake and every mouthful was exquisite! 

Gilbertson's lives up to its boast of being Ontario's largest producer of maple syrup. It is open during the maple syrup season (when the temperatures are below zero at night, and above zero during the day). After a visit to the gift shop - where all sorts of maple products, and other Canadiana, are to be found, we went through into the boiling area. Alas, nothing was happening as it had been too cold for the sap to run. However, we did stop to chat with one of the operators, and to appreciate an artistic impression of an old sugar camp. 

It's amazing to think that this time last year, we were actually helping to tap the trees and collect the sap for maple syruping while pet/house sitting in Vermont for our friends, Dick & Eileen. We have many 'sweet' memories of Ron, June, Rick, & Angel (with their two children), who helped us fulfil a long-time dream. They were all so welcoming and incredibly generous! How time flies by!(For an account of our time, tapping the trees, check out the blog here!

Of course, we couldn't leave Gilbertson's without leaving our mark!

On the way to the Deer Trail, we stopped off at a small hamlet called, Little Rapids. Apart from the Heritage Park Museum - a small collection of buildings from pioneer times - we were attracted to the General Store, which has been in existence since 1890. 

The proprietor, Merv, invited us to take pictures of the inside of the store, with it's quaint offerings reminiscent of scenes from 'Anne of Green Gables'. He was kind enough to allow us to get behind the counter so that we could see the old cheese cutter and the old cash register drawer. (I can't help wondering if he would have been so trusting if he had been aware of my past history as a thief!  - Check this out, in case you didn't know about it. 

Old Cheese Cutter

Weighing Scales - still used today

Cash Register Drawer - from days gone by

An old wireless radio

The old  Post/Mail station

We loved the display of wellington boots on the top shelf, above the grocery supplies. It really brought home the reason why it was called a 'General' Store.

Merv took a photo of our motley crew, and suggested a visit to the Forestland Clothing and Gift Store in the nearby town of Thessalon

So, we double back to Thessalon so we could drop in and enjoy the array of interesting wares that were on display. 

Would love this for our bathroom!

CJ issues a warning!

Mark, showing his mischievous side!

Beware... Art is a very good shot!
I really must get my hearing aids fixed!

Kim, who is Merv's wife, was very welcoming, and I had a great conversation with her, discovering that Thessalon was frequently visited by tourists on their way out to Western Canada. It certainly is a beautiful town, nestled on the north shore of Lake Huron. The store is found on the main street in the town, and is well worth a visit. 

Resuming our journey back home, we made our way to the Deer Trail and followed its contours until it joined the Little White River

Deer Trail Touring Map

Once again, we were in awe of the patterns formed in the ice that clung to the banks of the fast-flowing river. Although it was a cold day, we left the warmth of the truck to take pictures and drink in the beauty of the moment. 

The fast flowing river gushed over the pebbles and under the remaining ice. Wonderful sound!

CJ and Art - always prepared - announced that it was time for a nice mug of herbal tea, and promptly brought out their propane kettle, setting it down on the roadside. While waiting for it to boil, mugs were brought out and placed on the tailboard. 

Mark and I went to look at some tracks in the snow on the other side of the road and we're sure that, by the size of them, they belonged to a moose. We rarely see these creatures, but the evidence of their presence is very clear. 

The final leg of our journey home, took us along the familiar road to Elliot Lake where our generous hosts invited us in for a delicious, healthy meal. 

It was a fine ending to another fine day. 
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