Canoe Trip To Doctor’s Island

The Ladies of Recollet Cabin

We call ourselves The Ladies of Recollet Cabin – four like-minded friends come to Pine Cove Lodge in search of a canoe adventure:  Lucy, Geraldine, Joan, and Gillian.  The staff at the lodge kindly map out directions for us.  Look out for sign posts that include a red boat house, and a yellow cottage, and always keep to the right, they tell us.

It takes 40 minutes to paddle to Doctor’s Island where we can stop for a picnic lunch and enjoy a swim in the prehistoric waters. But first we must navigate the many islands carved out of glacial migrations millions of years ago.

We haul our picnic, life jackets, and paddles to the beach and divide our gear between two canoes before we are ready to set off.   I love the pull of the paddle in the water.  The constant rhythm of dipping and pulling has a meditative effect on me as we move forward in the translucent waters of Wolseley Bay.

The day is warm and the heat from the sun beats down on the river and reflects back up at us.  I pull out the map and check the sign posts.  Up ahead is what looks like a red boat house.  We seem to be going in the right direction.  Keep to the right ladies; always to the right. As we make the turn I marvel at the fact that in the early 1600s Voyageurs had to navigate their way west through these waters without the sign posts we use.  There are so many pine trees; so many islands.  They all look the same to me.

Up ahead I alert the ladies to the yellow cottage.  So far so good.  We find what we believe to be Doctor’s Island. It stands apart from a larger island much like England stands apart from Europe, with a body of water in between.  We decide to skirt the larger island in search of a place with lots of shade.  It’s not what we’re looking for but we do stop for a swim before venturing on to Little Pine Rapids, another location on the map.

Sliding in to Doctor’s Island

We can hear the rapids as we approach.  Best to pull the canoe over to investigate before going any further.  Hauling the canoe onto land, we walk across the rocky terrain following the sound of the rapids while the sun presses down on our backs.  We discover huge expanses of white rock, with very little shade.  Though the rapids are small we have been warned not to body surf due to the uncertainty of rocks beneath.

Geraldine is feeling the combined effects of sun and exercise and needs to rest.  We find out that she has recently started using a puffer for asthma, but neglected to bring it on this trip.  To return to camp in this heat is out of the question.  She needs to cool down and rest.  We each find a rock in the water to perch on while dipping our tails in the cool water like mermaids.  We are all worried for Geraldine.  There is no cell service, and no-one to call upon for help.  We are on our own.

Fortunately, Geraldine begins to feel a little better as the cool water works its magic. If we take our time, she feels that she can make it back to Doctor’s Island.  It’s not too far, so we all agree.  Once we arrive at the little island, we find a lovely spot to have our picnic beneath some shady pine trees.

While Geraldine rests, the rest of us lounge around in the water in our floaty devices.  I am fascinated with the high rocks on the other side of the island.  Using my hands I paddle around the small island and let the breeze push me along while I gaze up at the rock formations above my head.   I close my eyes and enjoy the combined effect of the gentle breeze across my face and the undulations of the water.  When I open my eyes, I am staring at a different island.  A moment of panic ensues as I look around, only to realize that I haven’t drifted very far.  I turn my floaty around and head back to shore.  Lucy and Joan are reading, while Geraldine sleeps.  But I don’t feel like doing either so I sit with Lucy overlooking the North Channel.

Lucy relaxing on her floaty

By mid-afternoon the wind is coming up and we are afraid that a storm is coming our way, so we decide it’s time to leave.  After some debate on the correct route back to the lodge, we finally come to an agreement that if we head to the right of the North Channel we will be able to see the first sign post:  The yellow cottage.  Sure enough, there it is.

The wind turns out to be a blessing in disguise.  Though we have to dig deep into the water to propel the canoe forward, the wind helps to keep Geraldine cool.  We try to stay close to land in order to cut the wind, but it is no use.  The wind is in our face.  I feel my muscles contract and relax as we push into the wind.  There’s the Red Boat House.  Not much further now.

Thumbs up for a safe arrival.

Turning to the left now we dig in a little deeper knowing that our destination is close.    As we paddle Joan and I look back to make sure Lucy and Geraldine are close behind.  Sure enough, they are right there with us.  Geraldine is holding up well.  Keep it up ladies.  It won’t be long now.

Up ahead I see a familiar house hidden behind the trees.  I have seen it every morning from my veranda since my stay at Pine Cove Lodge.  We are almost there.  Around the next bend the lodge comes into view and we are soon sliding our canoes onto the beach.  Thumbs up for a safe return home.

Categories: Memoir

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