TESSI’S FISHING GETAWAY (Haliburton Area)

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Whenever Tessi wasn’t busy with other activities, she stationed herself over the water, her paws splayed out to keep a grip on the rocks below. Her attentive eyes attached themselves to the movements of the small goldfish. Sometimes she extended her head so far out, I figured she’d fall in. She eventually would - twice. Our plans for the weekend included the usual hiking and exploring. I hadn’t really envisioned a fishing adventure for Tessi. Helen and I, along with the girls - Tessi and Missy - had been invited to visit the country home of Patty and Doug, who rent rooms during the summer months to students of the Haliburton School of the Arts. We met the couple, and Oliver, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, at PawsWay in Toronto a couple of years ago. Exploring and Visiting Our first outing upon arrival started off in the woods surrounding their house. Doug and his neighbours keep trails cleared and identified by coloured blazes. The dogs enjoyed freedom away from their leashes and I enjoyed the fresh northern air. The overcast sky offered a quiet, peaceful feeling disturbed only by black flies, which didn’t bother my repellent-protected skin. After stretching our legs, we followed the neighbouring easement to the couple’s dock on Kashagawigamog Lake, where we waited for Patty, who was out kayaking. Having driven the whole trip, I felt entitled to happily plunk myself on the single lounging chair available. (For the record, Helen is always willing to take her turn at the wheel, which sometimes she does when I need a break. Generally, I don’t mind driving.) Oliver hopped up to lie beside me. Soon Missy made a place for herself on my lap. Tessi ignored us as she investigated the gaps in the dock and over its edge. The lake displayed the typical traits of its kind strewn across this northern region. I observed a shoreline of trees, sporadically dotted with homes and cottages, docks and boats. Helen, who relaxed in a lawn chair beside me, and Doug, who was at home in his motorboat floating by the dock, were deep in conversation. I caught only a few words as I lost myself in the serenity of the encircling view. We spent a quiet evening enjoying the pleasant weather in the couple’s backyard beside the garden and pond, where water gurgled into a mini-waterfall and surged straight up from a couple of spouts. We watched Tessi move around its rocky edge. She’d stop occasionally and balance precariously, intent on her mission. While listening to the conversation of my evening companions, I glimpsed Tessi falling in. Though a little stunned, she pulled herself back onto the rocks and resumed her quest. Haliburton The next afternoon found us back in the car following Patty into Haliburton. She led us to an old caboose, which housed the visitor’s center, where we stocked up on travel brochures. I asked the woman working if dogs are allowed inside, but because of the small space I wasn’t surprised when she said no. Skyline Lookout Patty wanted to show us the panorama from the Skyline Lookout before leaving us to run her errands. As we gazed down at the town of Haliburton and the vast forested hills surrounding it, we ended up chatting dog talk with other visitors, who were also in the company of their four-legged friends. Our hosts had mentioned Buttermilk Falls when I asked if there are any waterfalls in the vicinity. When we were ready to leave the lookout, Patty sent us on our way in the direction we needed to go to find the falls. We were left on our own to untangle the curvy, hilly roads of Haliburton County and area. Buttermilk Falls We found the sign for Buttermilk Falls on Highway 35, between Minden and Dorset. Not seeing much of interest from the road, we parked in the accessible lot and went in search of a trail in hopes of a compelling discovery. A side trail revealed a concrete retaining wall guiding a rush of water from Hall’s Lake down a gentle slope. The barrier soon ended, freeing up an open view. We could walk on the flat bedrock right up to the fast flowing rapids. This is a place where you might want to be cautious in unleashing a dog since the surge of water would likely be powerful enough to whisk a smaller animal away. Hawk Lake Log Chute Doug had recommended we check out Hawk Lake Log Chute, which is near Buttermilk Falls. The log chute is the last of its kind in Ontario. We had to maneuver on some back roads to find it. No logs barreled down the chute, just water once ridden on. The beauty of the forest beyond the bridge traversing the chute urged me forward. Once there, finding a trail on the somewhat steep rocky hill we faced was tricky. Leaves and other natural paraphernalia littered the ground where roots protruded. It was nature’s painting - all in greens, browns and reddish tones. Like the bear in the children’s song, I wanted to climb to see what I could see. (I found myself humming the tune as we ascended.) Soon, we spotted a few blue blazes decorating some tree trunks. Following the blazes proved a challenge. I wondered if someone placed them there as a joke, since the trail listing stated “easy to moderate” on the map. We inched ourselves up by clutching the rocks and tree roots. Once the land flattened, its scenery changed to a monotonous pattern of trees. I saw what I could see, so we turned back. We were unprepared for a long hike anyway. As we climbed back down the hill, I experienced a bit of an accident. No, Tessi didn’t wrench me down. Nor did I trip and fall. When Tessi suddenly tugged, the skin near the palm of my hand was pinched when it got caught under the button on the handle of the extendable leash. A tiny blood blister decorated my hand for a week or so. Writing by hand proved difficult for a few days. Food Back on the highway, we came across a restaurant housed in a compact building called the Chip Shop, which features gluttonous offerings of takeout fish and chips. Yummy! Helen and I decided to split a halibut and fries meal. Upon entering the building, I fit myself into the crowd. Fortunately, most of the people had ordered and the servers were speedy. We were soon eating in the car while enjoying the wooded surroundings. The dogs sitting eagerly in the backseat were intoxicated by the smell. We fell for the hope in their eyes with offers of tidbits. We all agreed the meal was delicious. Resume Fishing As the evening made its appearance, Tessi resumed her station at the pond. Even though we could easily see it from the kitchen, we were careful to make sure someone stayed out there in case any bears appeared, but somehow we all ended up inside. I realized this when I returned to the pond to find Tessi alone and wet. She must have fallen in again; yet, nobody had seen it. At one point, I noticed her grabbing a fish and then dropping it. I knew it was dead as I watched it float below her. I told Helen I would likely owe Doug a bag of goldfish at the end of our stay. He seemed unconcerned, however, when I confessed. He reasoned that at night blue herons stab their beaks into his fish anyway. Stormy Night After a sleepless night due to Tessi whining and pacing because of a raging thunderstorm, calm returned to her and the sky. She fell into a peaceful sleep - storm forgotten. By this time, the pleasant sunlit morning successfully tempted me out of bed to greet it. In the garden, we relaxed and Tessi fished for the first part of the morning. Later, Helen and I took the three dogs for a final walk through the woods, while Patty and Doug organized their day. A Short Kayaking Adventure I decided to take Patty up on her offer to let me try kayaking - something I had never attempted. Once we reached the dock, the sky darkened again and the wind picked up. I knew this adventure would be brief regardless of the weather; I wanted to be heading home by noon. Doug offered a shoulder for me to lean on while I carefully climbed into his kayak - a challenge as I quickly realized how unstable an empty one is. Patty had already set off in hers. I left a forlorn Tessi in Helen’s care. (She would later show me the video she took of Tessi loudly whining as I paddled away.) They and the rest of the crew piled into the motorboat to follow us. I love kayaking! Even with the added resistance of small waves and wind, I still found it very easy. I’d like to find my own kayak that includes extra space for Tessi. We didn’t paddle far though before thunder erupted again. We quickly made our way back to the dock, where Tessi excitedly welcomed me. Her boat riding experience is minimal; yet, Helen said she stayed put after I left. By the time we returned to the house, we were due to leave. In the end, Tessi had just caught the one fish - I think. She sure enjoyed herself. If she were able, she would probably tell me that this trip ranked high on her list of favourites. For More Info

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2012

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