As a young freshman in High School I received a pamphlet towards the end of the year for a Canoe trip to Canada at the Quetico Provincial Park. How fantastic and wonderful this sounded. You see, I could canoe. Up in Waupaca Wisconsin there was the Crystal River canoe trip, 3 miles of Canoeing that was supposed to take 1 hour to go through I could do with a partner in 30 minutes. I was an expert at Canoeing.
I had never been to Canada yet, never been anywhere really. So I asked my dad if I could go. I believe the price was around $700 and he let me go for it. I remember packing and looking at the brochure – natural lakes, no boats, pristine nature preserver. So very sexy in a Davy Crockett way.
I remember boarding the bus. Kids from school were there but so was Tony from Ludwig. I will never forget Tony, because he almost got me addicted to dip and killed me on 2 occasions. Canada! How exciting it all was going to be.
On the bus ride up there a very large Minnesota man drove us on a 24 hour bus ride. He drove the whole freaking way without a stop, I am not sure if this was legal or not, but I remember halfway through the trip he said “If you look out the right side of the bus you will see an Iron Ore refinery.” I shouted back – “Iron or what?!” Yes, I was even funny back then, dry wit and all.
We arrived at the Camp ground where I believe I met some real live Canadians for the first time. The leader of the camp was a grand poobah type of a grisly man. Kinda like the kool aid man crossed with Santa. He has his family there and we were told we were going to eat tonight and commune with nature and it’s “spirits”, and tomorrow we would be divided up and given our guides for our wilderness adventure.
You know that feeling of remorse….the one that says oh crap we shouldn’t have come here…? Yeah – that was starting to set in.
The put us up in an A-frame structure that was missing 1 wall, which was enclosed by window screen type material. When you sleep outside – it is an awesome experience. I say awesome because I feel bad using the word sucks. There is nothing as awesome as being cold, sleeping on a wooden floor with no pillow.
When I woke up, the sun was coming over the trees and I saw for the first time the water, lit ablaze by the morning light. I will never forget that.
We were assigned our guides. My group of adolescent high school boys was assigned tour guide Crystal. I found out early – Crystal and I were not going to get along. Why? I am not sure. I am a fun loving individual with a natural hatred for all things Canadian. I am not sure what the problem was.
We set out on our adventure with us boys from High School, and Tony from Ludwig.
Ahhhh, Canoeing. Easy stuff. No worries, but something they talked about WAS new to me. It was called portaging. Portaging is a Canadian ritual were you decide to get out of the perfectly good canoe and place it on top of your shoulders to carry it over land. You do this instead of paddling around islands for the simple fact that Canadians are stupid and must at certain points in time feel the need to pick up the boat that they are in to work on their hernias.
Along the weeks time out in God’s country, or what I would consider next door to God’s country since he would never live so close to the French, our diets consisted of Velveeta cheese and lake water. You see – you can’t cook anything when it rains everyday and your guide hates you so much she feels the need to ration the Coleman stove fuel for say…popcorn.
Two things about drinking lake water that is all natural. One – it tastes great, and two, you poop funny. Yeah.
Moving along, I got to know the guys in my group so well. We even saw a baby bear on our Canoe trip. Yup, funny thing about Crystal, she would go from ultra crab butt to shriek out fear terror hag in only a few seconds. You see, Crystal understood that where a baby bear was, a mama bear must be close by. So when she started screaming, we decided to ditch our plans of a Canadian petting zoo.
If you crave excitement, paddling aluminum canoes in a lightning storm is highly recommended. Jason, who was in the Canoe with Crystal, had hair that started to rise up, like at Wisconsin Dells and that static ball, you know the one I mean? Yeah – it appears that a good sign of a lighting strike is the victim’s hair sprouts up. This small mishap sent us paddling to the nearest island, where we setup camp and huddled together to stay out of the rain.
That night, crystal left us and went to an adjacent camp off our island and to the next campsite over. Did I mention she hated us? This left everyone in their tents and me with Tony from Ludwig.
Tony and I were cold. Tony and I were sad and Tony and I wanted to get a fire started. As two young men together we decided to start a campfire with wet logs, Coleman stove ethanol fuel and some of our toilet paper that we had left from pooping out lake water.
We setup the logs and placed the toilet paper. I lit the toilet paper as Tony from Ludwig poured some fuel on the fire. It would burn for a few seconds, but then the fire would go out. The logs were very wet. So it made sense if we poured more fuel on the logs – then the fire that came would dry out the logs so they would then burn. Made perfect sense.
What happened next was fricking awesome.
Tony from Ludwig miscalculated his pouring angle and the already burning fire of toilet paper. I saw flames climb up from the logs and head straight into the can of ethanol fuel. Tony freaked like a meth addict seeing imaginary spiders. Except the imaginary spiders was really an awesome blue flame. Tony from Ludwig started screaming “Put it out Put it out!” But as I stood there I rationalized in my head – “it’s gas, you can’t put it out. Boy I am glad I am not him.” Tony from Ludwig started pouring the ethanol all over the campsite, on the packs, the trees, the tents. He then proceeded to make a break for the lake. You know, the pristine never had a boat in it all natural drink from it poop funny lake? Yeah, with what looked like tire tracks from a DeLorean hitting 88 MPH all the way down the path to the lake, Tony from Ludwig did the only thing possible, he chucked the canister of ethanol into the all natural lake. Since ethanol floats on water the entire shore was a blaze. We were burning down Canada.
But at least I was warm.