May is usually not a very pleasant time to do things outside here in rural Ontario, even when it is sunny. Large numbers of blackflies early on and mosquitoes a little latter necessitate the wearing of bug jackets, which cut down on visibility and are actually warm themselves unless there is a good breeze, in which case the bugs aren't so bad either. We (Paul and Kitty Antonik Wakfer) were very surprised - and definitely pleased - to find the blackflies waning by the middle of the month. It appears that because there were a couple of weeks of unseasonal warm weather in April before we arrived back, the black flies got an early start. Then the dragon flies that typically come round in early June and begin eating the black flies and mosquitoes got an early start too. The results are that the blackfly population is almost nil and the mosquitoes are being kept at bay by a much larger number of dragon flies than we have seen in the past. Go dragon flies!!
The great weather - mild temperatures and virtually no bugs - has made our aerobic exercising a really pleasant morning activity. (Rain also has been less often than the last two Mays enabling us to get this exercise almost every day.) We incorporated steps into our daily routine while in Arizona Nov 2009 - April 2010 using the full set that go down to the basement there (a 9 foot height). Here at the cottage the outdoor steps down to the dock are natural steps dug into the rather steep hill and the height all the way to the porch deck is about 20 feet. While all the steps in Arizona were done as doubles on the way up by Kitty - Paul, wearing 30 pounds at the time, did them singly - only some of these here can be done double.
Paul includes additional walking at the top and bottom: At the top, around the wood chopping area and around the house via the steps up one side and down the other from the porch deck; at the bottom he goes always goes out to the end of the dock, and alternates between returning directly up the steps and going around our storage cabin and up the hill rejoining the steps half way up.
These pics of Kitty show how some of the steps are taken double - there are 3 of these at the top. She does 8 round trips incorporating some additional walking at the top and the bottom like Paul.
After 6 round trips of our steps, Paul does the same number on own neighbor Susan's steps, some of which are steeper with a height of about 25 feet right to her cottage deck. All of the wooden steps are taken 2 at-a-time upwards. Kitty does likewise, but only 4 sets. When Susan or her family are at the cottage, we just increase the numbers we do on our own steps.
Removing the pieces of downed birch on the north side of Susan's yard has given Paul a fair amount of upper body work. (The trees were felled about 4 years ago in conjunction with an addition on the cottage and Susan said we could have all we want since she has no fireplace or wood burning stove.) He generally does one a day after completing his flights of her steps. He has been working up in size/weight as he goes along, but if he cannot manage the heaviest ones, then he'll cut them before carrying them to our yard for splitting.
This one is just a bit too long to carry with arms stretched to the ends, as he has with all the others, so an alternative manner was used.
Lugging it around the front of Susan's cottage was not easy, but going to the back would have been even more difficult. Even so Paul got it over to our woodpile without incident.Paul was very pleased at this load and the others behind him, some of which have already been cut short enough to fit our wood burning stove (18" max) and split.
On May 22 - Saturday of Canada's Victoria Day Weekend - we circumnavigated Big Straggle Lake on foot, mostly along the road. The portion that we did through the woods is because there is no road there at all - the terrain not lending itself easily to the making of a road. Paul was surprised to find that 2 cottages could only be reached down a very long side road, not something he'd realized from his previous excursions years ago. The following Tuesday we canoed across the lake to look at the shoreline in that area. Since both on the way and on return we paddled right past the large island, and Kitty noted that she had not yet gotten to even step out on one of the several inviting spots, we took a short stop at a location that looked interesting. Kitty fortuitously had on her water shoes and was able to even step into the water, declaring it very inviting. The next day we took advantage of the warm spell we were having (temperatures in the high 80s) and organized ourselves for a wade/swim at this very same spot.
Paddling through "the narrows" gets us from Little Straggle to Big Straggle. (Care has to be taken for motor boats to make the same trip, especially when the water is lower than it is at this time.)
Our destination was on the southwest point of the island. We paddled between the small most westward island on the far right and the one a bit larger to the east of it. (We'd gone through next to the big island on earlier occasions.)
The point we planned for our outing is the one in the middle of this photo. The nearer point is actually on a small island easily reached by wading across from the large island, which we did later but not with the camera - another time...
Kitty took this photo as we approached the point on the island that we had selected and checked out the previous day. It got our attention because of the shallows, some large (including flat) rocks and partial clear entrance to the interior.
Paul expertly maneuvered our 40+year old canoe into place and stayed seated for Kitty to take a photo from the rocks along the shore.
We didn't lose any time getting into the water. Paul dove right in while Kitty ambled around the shallows, taking a few photos and then getting herself wet too. It was too cold in the deeper water for her tastes but sitting in the shallows was "just right".
Having our water shoes on made it much easier to maneuver on the rocks, although the collected algae on them, which creates a slippery surface, was much less than is seen on the rocks off our own dock. Kitty easily walked out to the large rocks partially out of the water and Paul took the opportunity to try his hand using the camera. Then it was Paul's turn. Soon after this we also wadded across the narrows to the small island to north of this point. Although mostly rock it houses some trees and plants, including one with small white star-shaped flowers that we had not noticed elsewhere in our walks in Harcourt Park (but since have).
Since the bugs were so few, it seemed like a great opportunity to explore a bit of the island interior. We had read a couple seasons back in the Harcourt Park Holler (newsletter) that some residents had completed clearing and marking off some trails on this island so we wanted to take a look.
The point we landed at is not directly on the path but we easily found it and then headed mostly northward. It seemed amazing that we could walk in the woods in late May wearing just bathing suits and not be immediately attacked by swarms of black flies - that it was warm enough to be so scantily clad and also be in a bug free woods.
We were somewhat surprised to find hills on the island which is not apparent from the water. In both shots here Paul is going uphill, but there was a downhill portion in between. The pathfinders had to cut an already downed tree beside a large boulder.
About half-way in our trek in another low area, we crossed the center from west to east and met the point where two loops of the trail cross - we had been on the south loop and decided to continue on it back to our starting point for this outing. From here we headed southeast and into a definitely more moist area. Mosquitoes were present and having lots of skin exposed, we didn't pause long. Only at a spot where some interesting white flowers were growing did Kitty stop long enough to take pictures. These flowers were different than the star-shaped ones on the little island that we'd waded to earlier before this 'inland' hike.
The return portion of the south loop took us to a rather large area of bare rock where Paul is standing. It is a prominence on the southern side of the island; the point where we've 'docked' our canoe is beyond and to the left of Paul.
Another swim was in order after that ~35 minute hike, especially with the mosquitoes that found us at the last of it.
Paul really enjoyed relaxing on the submerged rock ledge. He had to hold on because his water slippers kept buoying up his feet :) There are 4 small black marks against the light blue sky above Paul's head; 3 have been enlarged separately to full size in the last photo. They are not planes in the distance or specks on the camera's lens - just 4 of the many dragon flies that were in the air at this time. Why they were not in the woods where we met up with the mosquitoes is a mystery. But at least they have eliminated the black flies early and keep the mosquitoes to a small number compared to other years. Their "flight paths" over the water reminded us both of movies depicting WWI open cockpit planes with their pilots "dueling it out". It's a pleasure to see these particular flying insects around.
We really enjoyed this outing and look forward to a repeat in the future on another weekday when the number of cottagers and boaters are less than on weekends during the height of "the season" in July and August. On the agenda are also canoe excursions to at least the 2 non-cottaged lakes that feed into Big Straggle, something we've not done yet in our 5 years fulltime residence or the 5 before that of visits while living in Toronto 6 months of the year.