Summer Summary

Questions, Questions…

In the absense of anything meaningful from me, I turn to you, the passengers along for the ride on this ship bound for wherever.

I have some questions, which you can answer in the comments…

  • Do you think summer is really over?
  • How do you normally spend your summers?
  • Was there anything exceptional about this summer? Did you do something special?

The Passing of My Excellent Euchre Partner


Her name was Myrtle.

When Mrs. J and I started getting more serious (before she was Mrs. J, and was simply Miss T), we started doing the required rounds, visiting the relatives. This, of course, included grandparents. As I had lost my grandparents already, it was a pleasure to meet some new ones.

I was happily welcomed with open arms by each and every one of them. Myrtle was no exception.

Right from the get go she made me feel like a member of the family. Abiding by my silly ways and youthful impertinence with nods and smiles, giving me cookies and great chats.

In her demeanour and dress she was very traditional. Very prim and proper. She would always be done up when we would visit, things always in their place. Her clothing and surroundings were always constant. A comfort in an ever-changing world.

For all of the formality, though, there was also mischeviousness and fun.

Es Tu?

She was outspoken. She was quick. A razor-sharp wit hidden beneath the pleasant, wrinkled exterior of a sweet old lady. Commentary on current events (sometimes in the room) could easily be missed if you weren’t paying attention.

It was one of my guilty pleasures to watch Grandma in action, revelling in the subtleties of her honest sense of humour.

As wonderfully funny as she could be, she could also make the sun shine like a beacon through the gloom of your bad days in ways that only a grandmother could.

The Best Way to a Man’s Heart…

Who could forget the warm, comforting feeling of biting into one of Grandma’s home-made butter tarts with raspberry filling. Arguably the greatest butter tart of them all.

She would always have a batch baked for us when we visited.

Sometimes the path to getting some was convuloted, as she would make us work for it by teasing us with the promise of their sweet goodness and then sighing and saying that maybe we didn’t really need them for some reason or another.

Pick It Up. I’m Going Alone

What goes better with home-made butter tarts than a rousing game of euchre?

When we visited them at the unit in which they lived, we would see a euchre standings chart in the lobby by the elevators. Grandma’s name was always near the top of the list (usually following Duncan, her husband and euchre partner).

Mrs. J would be Grandpa’s partner, and Grandma and I would usually deliver unholy punishment unto them.

Grandma was a top-notch card-player. She’d spend most of her time disguising her strategies by taking pot-shots at her opponents, intimidating them by tapping the cards on the table and telling them to hurry up.


Unfortunately, like all good things, Grandma was starting to fade, physically.

While her wit was still sharp and her outlook stoic, she began to show signs of deterioration.

She stopped baking tarts. Her card shuffles were starting to get a bit slower and clumsier. She was tired all the time.

But even with all that, she always managed a smile and a hug. She was always ready to show you her love in her own, quiet way.

My Favourite Memories

I like to remember people by the good they did. Everyone, good and bad, touches your life in a way that leaves positive impressions somewhere, if you care to look. Here are some of my favourite memories…

  • How she would be Grandpa’s navigator in the car. When we’d reach a stop sign, he’d look left, and she’d look right. When it was safe to go (usually) they would proceed. They drove as a single unit.
  • The smile on her face when Mrs. J tried her hand at knitting a sweater. Grandma was so proud that someone had taken up the challenge of what is still a mystery to me.
  • Heard from Grandma during more than one game of euchre: It doesn’t matter what card you throw down, because it’s not going to do you any good…
  • Before Mrs. J and I got married, I wasn’t sure what to call Grandma. She was introduced as Myrtle, but for all intents and purposes she was like a grandma to me. At our wedding, I looked at her and said, I suppose that I can finally call you grandma now, to which she replied, That would be just fine, dear. Just fine.
  • During a birthday picnic in her honour (held on some land that they owned), she took us into the shed and secretly gave us a heaping helping of butter tarts that she had baked. Our very own horde that probably would not have survived the journey home if we weren’t so full from birthday foodstuffs.
  • The time she looked me right in the eye and told me she loved me. That she loved both of us very much.

Grandma, you will be missed. You will always be in our hearts.


PS: Don’t think you’re out of the woods, as I’ll be counting on you for help when next I need a winning lone hand.

Have a Good ‘Un

As if interior camping was not enough, Mrs. J and I are going on another, more leisurely camping trip.

Again, it will be to Algonquin Park, but it will be much more relaxed. Some nice dinners at various places (including a wicked-cool resort) have been planned, as well as some nice hikes.

A special shout out to my Nemesis for looking after the furry kids while we’re on our trip.

See you all soon!

The Phungtastic Adventures of the Algonquin Trippers – Parkside Bay

Please be patient with this one. It’s a bit long and image intensive. Hopefully it’s worth it…

Base Camp

The first evening was pretty uneventful. Dennis and Lorraine were pretty knackered and had to take care of Farley the dog (who had the trots earlier on because of excitement), so they opted to stay at their site across the water (about a ten minute paddle away).

We got our fire going, and Natlie prepared our steaks (which Tien and I picked up from St. Lawrence Market earlier that week). It was a nice dinner, which was accompanied by various forms of mixers.

Click to enlarge…

The Drink of Champions

Camping in the interior is a tricky affair when it comes to alcohol. You are not allowed to bring cans or glass bottles with you, so you have to be creative.

Usually we bring rum or vodka** in Nalgene bottles. We’ll mix this alcohol with some drink crystals and lake water to make coolers.

It sounds pretty lightweight, but considering that the ratio of alcohol to everything else increases as the night goes on, it is pretty effective.

Click to enlarge…

Cue Music, Maestro

As the evening progressed, we broke out the guitar. Yes, we brought a guitar. Last year in a canoeing magazine, I found an ad for a guitar made my Martin specifically designed for backpacking. It has a full-length neck, but the body size is greatly reduced. This obviously takes away from the full-bodied sound of a normal acoustic guitar, but it increases the structural integrity and reduces the weight.

I managed to find a knock-off for about one tenth the price and bought that one. It sounded pretty good in the wilderness, I must say. Before the trip, Dave and I talked about learning a whole bunch of songs to play around the campfire.

Of course, this never happened.

Instead, we fumbled our way through whatever we decided to play, our powerful vocals trailing off after the second or third line, only to be replaced with sloppy chord work and mumbled lyrics.

The night before, on Tea Lake, Isha made a comment involving the Juicy Fruit song. Dave was kind enough to play his version of that, and it became the song of the weekend.

God have mercy on our souls.

Artsy Dave rockin’ out.
Click to enlarge….

In the Forest the Lion Sleeps Tonight

Brad’s voice crackled over the walkie-talkie informing us that he and Phung were around the corner.

True to his word, they arrived shortly after and went over to the other site to set up their tent before coming back to spend some time with us.

It was a quiet evening, filled with music, drinking and laughs. Brad and Phung left for their site, paddling back under a beautiful moonlit sky.

The rest of us hit the hay at midnight or so.

And for the record, everyone snored at some point. Not just me..

This is what you could see at night****.
Click to enlarge….

A New Day Dawns

Remember how I mentioned that I tend to wake up before everyone else?

I do that so I can have the morning all to myself…

For more information about the photographs, check out Figtography.
Click to enlarge….

The Sting of Defeat…er…The Heat?

Mrs. J and Dave had some problems that started the day before with a hap-hazard application of sunscreen.

Mrs. J had a painful burn just below her collarbone, while Dave’s leg was doing an impression of Two Face from Batman.

While it was apparent on the day it happened (Friday), it was much more obvious the next day. Glaringly obvious.

Here are some images that started out as a demonstration of Dave’s burn, but turned into the worst album cover of all time…

This started as a way to show
how red Dave’s leg was****.
I don’t know what happened****.
Click to enlarge….

Things to Do…

When you’re camping in the middle of nowhere, you have to make your own fun. Here is a list of things to do in picture format. It allows me to be lazy by glossing over the weekend with a photo montage. Click any photo if you would like to see a bigger version…

Get Comfy****


Sing KISS Songs to Your Friend****


Pee When No One is Looking****


Admire Plastic Bottles****

Put On a Boaring Play****


Teach a Dog Euchre****

Admit Your True Feelings****

Prove Your Courage****

Catch Dinner******

Eat Nutella****

Enjoy Refreshment****

MTV’S Becoming Jebus****

Watch Dave Crack Tailbone****



Realize You Drank Too Much****

Things I Learned This Year

Every year I learn a few new things when I go camping. This year was no exception…

  • I thought I could sweeten some Nescafe instant coffee (that Dave brought along) with some Apple Rum. No go. It tasted disgusting. My face registered as much, even though I was trying to look like I was enjoying it. Dave named the drink Bull Sack.
  • If you ever wondered who would win in a fight between a Great Blue Heron and a Snapping Turtle…

    Click to enlarge…

  • Dave created what he thought was a new drink, called Vodka Water. Guess what it’s made out of? Dave insists it is the best thing ever. You know what? It’s not.
  • Euchre is tiring.
  • Bacon is the food of the gods…

    Myself* and Phung**** getting our Bacon Mojo on.
    Click to enlarge…

  • Throwing knives at logs (not trees) is stupid when the knives are black and the dirt under the leaves on the ground is also pretty dark. It’s a good thing Dave lost his own knives. I would have felt guilty if I lost them. Maybe.
  • Inukshuk construction in the Park is still wrong********

    Nat. Bane of Inukshuks in 2006*******.
    Click to enlarge…


It was a great trip.

With the exception of needing two sites and the hellish paddle back, everything went really well. We all had a great time and it left us looking forward to next year’s trip.

I had a really good run of photos, some of which will make it into the photo blog. The strangest one by far was this one…

I was a little but tipsy when I did this.
However, it turned out as expected.
And no, that’s not actually Dave, it’s me.
Click to enlarge…

There were so many great pictures and memories.

That’s what happens when you have great friends. You can rest assured that no matter what the weather is, you will always be in the company of wonderful people…

Our motley crew.
Click to enlarge…

For more camping goodness, you can check out Dave’s Version.

* – Photo courtesy of Isha.
** – Of course Jägermeister is always a staple as well. We just don’t need to mix it with anything.
*** – Just so you know, other than the flask, everything is plastic. Please don’t bring glass or cans into the interior.
**** – Photo courtesy of Dennis.
***** – Photo courtesy of Mrs. Jorge.
****** – Photo courtesy of Lorraine.
******* – Photo courtesy of Brad.
******** – Inukshuks are not part of the natural landscape of Algonquin. The local native population has never used them. They are used elsewhere, though (up North). In Algonquin Park they are the equivalent of gaudy billboards. They are also quite hazardous when precariously perched on rock formations adjacent to Highway 60. For these two reasons they should be destroyed, and the rocks that they were built with should be spread about to make it inconvenient to attempt another Inukshuk…

The Phungtastic Adventures of the Algonquin Trippers – On the Move


I was up before everyone, which is what usually happens when we go camping. Something about being away from the city and all of the demands of every day life really allows me to sleep better, and I enjoy my solitude in the mornings.

Once everyone was up and had breakfast, we mobilized pretty quickly. I took care of the permits and everyone else set up their packs at the launch site.

The canoes arrived shortly after, and we loaded them up with our gear and headed down Smoke Lake. Eight of us departed, as Brad and Phung had to work and would be joining us in the evening…

Packing up for Smoke Lake*.
Click to enlarge…

Smoke Lake is relatively large lake to cross. From the launch point to the portage landing it’s almost a six kilometer paddle**. Someone had the idea of actually using one of our tarps to create a sail, to aid our crossing…

The sail of the century*.
Click to enlarge…

After about a half hour we finally got the sail up and ready to go. Of course, as luck would have it, the wind died, leaving us with a big blue banner.

The wind being nonexistent made life easy in terms of paddling, though. It’s a lot less effort when there is no head wind to worry about.

We reached the portage point and made quick work of the land crossing.

The mighty legs of Tien aided us in our quick portage*.
Click to enlarge…

The second leg of the journey involved traversing south for a little while and then curving back up north. Of course, once we rounded the corner to head north again the wind decided to spring up, uninvited. This made the last leg of our journey very tiring.

Not only was the wind in our faces, but all of the sites that we originally wanted were taken. Add the fact that we had to find two sites*** instead of just one (that were relatively close to each other), and you’ll have added a good chunk of time. Needless to say when all was said and done we earned our dinners and our delicious bevvies.

For more camping goodness, you can check out Dave’s Version.

* – Photo courtesy of Isha.
** – That’s almost 4 miles for you American Bloggers.
*** – Interior campsites have a maximum allowance of 9 people.