One Year Later: A Short-Lived Adventure on Franklin Island

Ear­li­er in the year, Lily and I start­ed flirt­ing with the idea of a major road trip lead­ing up to our fif­teenth anniver­sary. We bought a new car in Jan­u­ary, and the time seemed right to stretch its legs while relax­ing ours. My ini­tial sug­ges­tion was to dri­ve west across Cana­da, then head up through the Yukon and into Alas­ka to vis­it Prud­hoe Bay and take a dip in the Arc­tic Ocean. The idea for that ambi­tious jour­ney quick­ly fell apart after cal­cu­lat­ing the itin­er­ary and real­iz­ing it would require a 75-hour dri­ve span­ning 7100 km, one way. The trip would cost about $1100 in gas and take approx­i­mate­ly six days if dri­ving 12 hours dai­ly. Time is mon­ey, but mon­ey is mon­ey, too. The math behind cal­cu­lat­ing whether it’s worth it had stopped mak­ing sense, and that’s before fac­tor­ing in the cost of lodg­ing or mul­ti­ply­ing by two for the return trip. Instead, we set­tled on a cheap and cheer­ful camp­ing trip to our favourite spot from last year: a small, rocky island near Franklin Island in Geor­gian Bay.

We arrived at Dil­lon Cove Mari­na mid-after­noon on Wednes­day. While mov­ing gear from the car to the canoe, we were approached by a man who had been unload­ing sod from his pick­up truck. He inquired about Porthos’ breed, guess­ing cor­rect­ly that he’s a Por­tuguese Water Dog, and told us about his PWDs: a black male who lived to twelve and a brown female who lived to a ripe fif­teen years. Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, he men­tioned he resides in B.C., owns a home on one of the many pri­vate islands dot­ting that por­tion of Geor­gian Bay, and this was the 65th time he’d dri­ven from Van­cou­ver to Ontario. After our con­ver­sa­tion, and just before we had cast off, he gift­ed us a bot­tle of red wine from Por­tu­gal. On its label is a pho­to of a Por­tuguese Water Dog!

The 90-minute pad­dle to our secret des­ti­na­tion was straight­for­ward and less stress­ful than last year when we did­n’t know which among the many islands had ter­rain suit­able for camp­ing. The after­noon weath­er was warm, bor­der­ing on mild. It was cloudy, but they were dynam­ic and full of con­trast and vari­a­tions in colour, not the over­whelm­ing grey of typ­i­cal over­cast days. A dis­tant and broad­en­ing band of blue sky gave me hope that we’d see sun­shine lat­er in the day. 

In the last few min­utes before land­ing, I secret­ly start­ed to regret our deci­sion to round the island from its west­ern side, which faces the open waters of Geor­gian Bay. It was get­ting windi­er, and the water was devel­op­ing a severe chop, espe­cial­ly over the large boul­ders sub­merged near the island’s sur­face. We made sev­er­al unsuc­cess­ful attempts to land on the rocky shore­line clos­est to our old camp­site but even­tu­al­ly gave up and pad­dled to a small shel­tered bay a lit­tle fur­ther out. 

The sun emerged short­ly after we had car­ried our gear to the rocky plat­form where we set up camp last year. Over the years, Lily and I have become quite adept at quick­ly set­ting up the tent and its inte­ri­or accou­trements, so that was han­dled with lit­tle fuss. But our new sun­shade tarp gave us some trou­ble. There were few trees to anchor the guy­lines, and the rocky sur­face meant stak­ing the lines was a non-starter. We had even­tu­al­ly rigged it to a small tree, a thick bush branch, and sev­er­al rocks. 

After com­plete­ly set­ting up our camp, I made us drink water using our old hol­low fibre mem­brane fil­ter, and we ate a small din­ner. The menu con­sist­ed of Beyond Burg­er pat­ties on sour­dough bread, which I baked the day before. We bathed in the cool water to wash off the day’s sweat and grime and changed into warmer (and more mos­qui­to-resis­tant) cloth­ing. The wind was grow­ing cool­er and more steady, and the night was fore­cast to be a chilly 12°C.

The Sun was approach­ing the hori­zon, and we were well into gold­en hour, so I unpacked my cam­era and went off to find pic­tures. Porthos inevitably fol­lowed, scam­per­ing between rocks and bush­es, con­stant­ly try­ing to guess my intend­ed path and get ahead of me. I first took pho­tos using my long-focus zoom—the Fuji­non XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR. Although it’s a decent lens, the shots weren’t speak­ing to me, and the sub­ject mat­ter need­ed a broad­er angle of view. 

I recent­ly pur­chased two ultra-wide angle lenses—the Fuji­non XF10-24mm­F4 R OIS WR and the XF8mmF3.5 R WR—and want­ed to com­pare them. I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the lat­ter because I’ve nev­er used such a wide-angle lens. I’ve owned oth­er wide-angle lenses—notably the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the for­mer lens, the Fuji­non XF10-24mm­F4 R OIS, and the Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L II USM lens—but noth­ing this wide. An 8mm lens on the APS‑C sen­sor of my Fuji­film X‑H2s cam­era pro­duces an angle of view equiv­a­lent to a 12mm lens on a full-frame cam­era. First-par­ty rec­ti­lin­ear wide-angle lens­es don’t get much wider than this except for the Canon RF10-20mm F4 L IS STM and its SLR cousin, the EF 11–24mm F/4L USM. Par­don my nerdi­ness, but I was enthu­si­as­tic to give a spin on a beau­ti­ful island dur­ing sun­set. 

The wind was steady through the last bit of gold­en hour. It was brisk, but it kept the mos­qui­tos at bay. Lily even­tu­al­ly left Porthos and I alone. I wan­dered the island, tak­ing pic­tures through sun­set and into the ear­ly twi­light. As the sky grew bluer and dark­er, Porthos became unset­tled and ner­vous. He does­n’t enjoy being out after dark dur­ing sum­mer. My work­ing the­o­ry is he asso­ciates night­fall with the onslaught of ran­dom fusil­lades of fire­works lead­ing up to and between Vic­to­ria Day, Cana­da Day, and (odd­ly and annoy­ing­ly) “Civic Hol­i­day” and Labour Day. (I blame COVID for the esca­lat­ing use of per­son­al fire­works dur­ing the lat­ter two hol­i­days. I don’t recall hear­ing burs­es of fire­works on Labour Day before the pan­dem­ic.) So, with the dog ner­vous and itch­ing to return to camp, I strapped on my back­pack, fold­ed my tri­pod with the cam­era still attached, and made my way back. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is where I made an inno­cent deci­sion that cas­cad­ed into pain, suf­fer­ing, and cut­ting our trip short.

The Accident

The island we vis­it­ed has a small for­est in its cen­tre. Walk­ing the length of the island requires pass­ing through the for­est. Specif­i­cal­ly, there are two semi-estab­lished paths, a short one and a long one. The long path is more scenic and less tricky to nav­i­gate because there’s less over­growth. I chose the short­cut. 

Porthos was run­ning ahead of me as I emerged from the for­est. A few moments lat­er, I hear Lily’s voice, fol­lowed by the loud­est and longest scream my dog has ever unleashed. I ran over the rocky to dis­cov­er Lily kneel­ing next to him, cradling his raised right paw, as he con­tin­ued to wail. I set down my gear and ran to them, hug­ging Porthos. He’s far more attached to me than Lily and runs to me in times of stress, fear, or dis­com­fort. Once we had calmed him, I car­ried him to the camp and set­tled him on the extra thick yoga mat Lily had brought so he would not be loung­ing on gran­ite. 

Lily told me she saw him run­ning towards her, but he stu­pid­ly jumped off a chest-height plat­form at full speed instead of tak­ing his usu­al path down the stepped rocks. His right fore­leg slipped off to the side after land­ing, and he smacked his muz­zle into the ground. My ini­tial fear was that he’d frac­tured some bone in his fore­leg. I gen­tly pal­pat­ed his fore­leg from the elbow to the dig­its, light­ly flex­ing the joints. There was no reac­tion (this con­tin­ues to be the case four days hence, at the time of writ­ing). Although I was rea­son­ably sure it was­n’t a frac­ture in any major bones, I also knew it was­n’t a minor sprain, the type dogs often get at the park. We decid­ed to bring him into the tent and sleep on it. The night was fast approach­ing, and pack­ing up and return­ing in the dark was­n’t an option. 

I slept very poor­ly that night. Lily had want­ed us to put up the rain­fly to keep the tent warm, but I was wor­ried about con­den­sa­tion and want­ed to see the stars, so I suf­fered for it. The blan­ket kept us warm, but I wor­ried for the dog and cov­ered him in my light down jack­et. The jack­et would fall from him every time he shift­ed, so I’d place it back. This pat­tern con­tin­ued through­out the night. On sev­er­al occa­sions, I con­fused his nor­mal sleep zoomies for trem­bling, which cas­cad­ed into fur­ther wor­ries. At one point, dur­ing a hyp­n­a­gog­ic state—that strange peri­od between sleep and wakefulness—I had a night­mare about a rean­i­mat­ed corpse crawl­ing out from the island’s thun­der­box in search of me. (I have many zom­bie dreams.) At oth­er points, I’d lay wide awake, star­ing at the sky and watch­ing points of light cross the star field. Some were planes, with their famil­iar blink­ing. Oth­ers were shoot­ing stars. The rest must’ve been satel­lites. 

Dawn came at around 5:30 a.m. I felt Porthos’ paw and found it was pret­ty swollen from the wrist joint down into the dig­its. We took an ice pack from the cool­er and wrapped it around his wrist. We decid­ed we’d pack it in and leave after break­fast. I was men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly exhaust­ed, so it took me longer to pack things up. I vis­it­ed the thun­der­box from my night­mare. When I lift­ed the cov­er, I wit­nessed the scat­ter­ing of cock­roach­es and a fren­zy of ants round­ing up hun­dreds of bright yel­low eggs. This was the real night­mare! 

The pad­dle back to Dillon’s Cove was drain­ing. We faced a con­stant head­wind for two-thirds of the jour­ney until we round­ed the north­ern tip of Franklin Island. The change in course beyond that point put the wind on our backs and helped to pro­pel us for­ward at a good pace, but it didn’t under the ear­li­er exer­tions. 

Though our trip was cut short, it served as a stark reminder of the unpre­dictabil­i­ty and beau­ty of adven­ture. I did­n’t get to take as many pho­tos with my new lens­es, but the ones I cap­tured were stel­lar. I don’t regret the trip or its brevi­ty, but I regret that my dog is hurt and will have to recov­er before our next adven­ture. Here’s to Porthos’ swift recov­ery so we can explore again soon, hope­ful­ly with greater care.

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