The spring fishing trip to Canada has become a ritual of sorts. We usually head north in the middle to late June. This year, we planned the trip for May 31 through June 9. I had my gear ready and the car packed and drove to my brother Bill’s house arriving promptly at 6:30am Saturday morning. The problem was…I was supposed to be there at 6:00am. So, we started a half hour late. Jim Teusch was the next stop and then it was out to Pine Valley to pick up Boyd Tarney.
There had been much discussion as to what the weather would be in early June. The deep Canadian lakes are sometimes slow to warm up, and like us, they had experienced a colder than normal spring.
The drive to the border is about ten hours and we presented our drivers license to get from our country to theirs. We made it to our motel in Espanola before dark. The next morning we hired a water taxi at Lang Lake to get two of us, and half our gear to the cabin. Bill took Jimmy and the other half of the gear and met us for our first day of our spring vacation.
Bear Lake lies adjacent to Killarney Park which is considered one of Ontario Parks’ crown jewels; Killarney Provincial Park is a majestic, mountainous wilderness of sapphire lakes and jack pine ridges that protects some of Ontario’s outstanding landscapes. Its spectacular elevations, white quartzite hills and clear deep lakes offer an unparalleled environment at the foot of the La Cloche Mountains.
Boyd and I had climbed those mountains about ten years ago and he had mentioned that he wanted to have another go at them. I had flat out said no. I have had some experiences in the last few trips that I had not written about and I didn’t especially want another non-writing adventure.
One incident happened four years ago. My brother Dan, his two sons Dan and Ben, and I had set out to go to a lake on the other side of the La Cloche Mountains. On our third portage we had experienced motor problems and since we had no way to get across Howery Lake we decided to bushwhack our way around the lake to a hiking trail at the other end of Howery. The day was hot, and the journey was extreme to the point where I was unable to continue. It was one of those embarrassing situations where I had to admit defeat. I also had to cancel the hike for them as they had to get me back to the cabin. Then two years ago, when Boyd had his son Joe with him, I snapped my bicep tendon lifting a propane tank. I had to quit camp early and come back to the States for surgery.
This year the week was going great. The cold Canadian lakes were just warming up and the fish were becoming active. Everyone in camp was catching fish. I picked up a couple of nice Northern and a lake trout, Bill picked up a quality Walleye at a place called Alligator Bay and Jim and Boyd had both caught nice fish. We had hiked back to Bassoon and the fishing on the back lake was great.
Before we knew it, it was Sunday and we would be boating out on Monday. Boyd again requested that we do the mountain. “If we don’t do it this trip, we may never do it,” he said, and I knew he was probably right.
We packed a backpack with gear and sandwiches and readied the 2.5-horse Mercury to fit a backpack frame. I agreed to carry the motor, and Boyd got the rest. We weren’t sure if there was a boat on Howery which is our last lake to cross before getting to the mountain. It was a great hike. We boated across Big Bear, portaged to Van Winkle, portaged, boated across Cat, portaged, found the square back canoe, canoed across Howery and finally made it to the base of the La Cloche Mountains. Then it was straight up the side. No trails or markers. The direction is up and that’s all we needed to know. Up is right, down is wrong; hand holds, toe holds, free climbing, crawling, over moss, around slippery plants, over moose s___, and only take a break when you feel like your heart is going to pound out of your chest. And all of a sudden, we are standing on the top.
We shared a beer and Boyd enjoyed a cigar…There was time for a few pictures, a chance to enjoy the breeze and the magnificent view and then it was back down. We walked, sat on our butts and slid down over moss covered faces that were too steep to hike. We zigged, zagged, cut back and bushwhacked…and for what? I’m not sure, but it was a great hike.
When we finally made it back to the cabin, Jim and Bill had almost everything ship shape and ready to go.
Coming back across the border the American customs wanted both a driver’s license and a birth certificate. We all had them ready except for Bill and they let him back into this country anyway.
The Legend of the La Cloche Mountains
The legend of the La Cloche Mountains says that these rocks were Aboriginal tocsins (warning bells) used for signaling. The “Bell Rocks” when struck could be heard for a considerable distance. Hence, the area was named with the French word for “bell” — La Cloche.
Once higher than the Rocky Mountains, La Cloche’s white quartzite cliffs gleam like snowy peaks from afar. Where paddlers, hikers, skiers and snowshoers now journey through this craggy, imposing landscape, there is evidence that others passed thousands of years before.
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