So life in the wilderness is slowly moving forward. Emphasis on slowly, time has a different trajectory up here. Time does not seem to move forward at times but sideways. We’ve been experiencing a extra cold snap up here with temperatures dipping close to -50 at a few points. It has really shown me how soft I am, the cold is getting to me. I’m bundled up in multiple layers while the locals seem to be wearing an extra fleece sweater and are scooping ice out of fishing holes with bare hands. So when I agreed to go out for a 10 hour day of ice fishing on one of the coldest days here, I should have known I was in for some real fun.
I’ve been ice fishing twice in my life before, but always in a warm hut with the creature comforts most people from southern Ontario like to enjoy when roughing it on the ice. This time around, ice fishing was a whole different animal. After layering up to the max, we got on our snowmobiles (my 1st time riding and driving) and headed out of town into the abyss of hinterlands that engulf this small outpost of humanity in the ever unforgiving landscape. We drove for close to two hours, first traveling on an ice road until we hit a trail and went over a portage. We just kept on driving, and driving, covering what must have been close to 40km to reach what I was told is called beaver lake. The deep freeze was unforgiving and relentless, even with layers upon layers the fingers and toes go numb. Tying hooks and setting lines was a challenge no one wanted to tackle. Also no fancy equipment was needed, no fishing rods, just 6-7 feet of line, hook and a stick broken off from a bush.
This was possibly the coldest experience of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever been as cold and for as long as I was out on this trip. This fishing was amazing, the fish bit and were pulled out to freeze in the open air in a matter of less then a minute. The fish froze solid after a few flops, I can’t stress that part enough. They froze into motionless figurines in less time then it took to put on a new minnow. The wind had a spiteful tone to it as we broke off for a shore lunch. Cooking sausages on a open fire was a nice touch, plus the heat was a welcome reprieve for frozen fingers and toes. We followed that up with more fishing, and even more cold, until the sun began to set. As the dying light was leaving us, we geared up on the snowmobiles and begun our long journey home. This was the least pleasant part of our day, the journey was long and the extremities were aching. Our snowmobile did not have a working headlight (a common occurrence it seems) and we used the light from a headlamp and the other machine to guide us out through the thick of darkness. There are a few moments in life that I’ve felt true loneliness and desolation. This ride currently tops that list. There was no noise, no life, and no light out in this wilderness. We travel in pitch darkness with nothing but the shimmering stars above us to give hint to our whereabouts. The only noise that can be heard is that of the snowmobiles themselves, when the engines cutout, there is nothing. No dull hum off in the distance, no crackling of shifting ice, no rustling of trees. Just deafening silence, occasionally broken by a racing heartbeat. As my toes and fingers got numb and the cold crept up into the body, the dept of silence and lightlessness begins to frighten. The mind wonders aimlessly through the lurid night. We had driven for what seemed like hours and gotten no where, each turn is the same as the last in the dark. Hope seemed fleeting, our frigid fate undeniable. Then out in the distance, a shining amber orb flashed, the sign of civilization. The navigation light on top of communication tower, seemed as bright as the sun at high noon. Only in the dept of darkness those a place as small as this feel like the biggest of metropolis. I’ve never been so glad to be warm in my life. More photo’s on my flikr.