Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ice Cream and Whiskey

It happens every year, after a few weeks in the Canadian bush you start to crave something you cannot get up here. Usually it is food related; ordering a pizza, Chinese food or even something as simple as your favorite salad dressing. But this year? Yup, you guessed it ice cream and whiskey. You see, earlier this year Barb switched from rum to whiskey, I will reveal why later in this post. And ice cream? Well, it is ice cream! She had brought up some whiskey but evidently it was not enough as one day I found Barb at the dinette crying. This is not all together that unusual as just living with me will bring a tear to your eye but when I heard her mumbling I started to get concerned. As I leaned in closer I heard her say “It’s all gone, all of it” It was then that I noticed that she was cradling the empty whiskey bottle in her arms like a new born baby. It was indeed all gone. I think the air up here makes alcohol evaporate at a higher rate. I recalled thinking "Oh oh, this is not good”. That night, like me the week before, she was wandering from cabin to cabin looking for anyone who had whiskey to spare.

Chad and Michelle must have felt really bad (or were in fear of losing good customers) as they rolled into camp the next day with not only one but two bottles of her favorite whiskey. And we are not talking the puny 750ml bottles, they went all out and got two 1.75’s! With only 4 days left until we return to “The States” we hope that these will tide us over, if not, it is going to be a long couple of days!
One happy girl!
There are other things we crave as well. Just the other day Barb said “I want some ice cream”. Which is unusual for her as her “diet” does not allow her to have ice cream. She is on this low carb, no sugar diet (which is why she switched from rum to whiskey). Personally I think it has nothing to do with low carbs or no sugar. I would call it “the build your own house diet”. Works wonders on the body, hell on the marriage. (just kidding, it is going amazingly well)  At any rate, whatever you call it must be working because the other day she exclaimed “I fit into my skinny jeans!” Skinny jeans? What are those I asked. I come to find out that she has “normal jeans” “fat jeans” and the aforementioned “skinny jeans”. Interesting. I am not sure if this is something all women do or if it is just Barb, but now I am curious. I think I will start asking women I meet if they are wearing their fat jeans or skinny jeans. I will report back later and let you know how this works out.

Barb is not like a lot of women when they are on a diet. Meaning that when the momma is on a diet, everyone is on a diet and suffers just like she is. If she has to eat kale of her diet, everyone eats kale. You get my drift. Barb is just the opposite. I think she likes to eat vicariously through me. She can’t eat carbs? Jim get carbs. She can’t eat pancakes, Jim get pancakes. Just recently it was likewise with waffles and a blueberry pie. I think she likes to see me eating the stuff she cannot. Just the other day she was craving spaghetti so what did we have for dinner? Spaghetti. Oh she did not have any but she kept spooning it onto my plate telling me to eat more and asking me over and over again “Is it good?” Not that I am complaining mind you!

With just a couple days left here the camp if in full bear hunt mode. After 7 days all 8 bear hunters in camp connected. Two of the hunters have been coming up here for years while 6 others were from Texas and were not used to the Canadian bush or the cooler weather. You know how to get 6 Texans running in the bush. Yell "He still alive and headed our way!" They will scatter like crazy! I thought it was funny, they....not so much.

“Hutch”, who has been coming up for years got the first and biggest bear for the week at just over 300#’s. Barb and I took him and his wife Mary out fishing on Onaman one day. This was the one and only time Barb got out on Onaman this trip so we were not able to make a video this year. Barb caught her personal best for both a walleye and a northern for that lake. A 29” walleye which I think would have measured over 30 had she taken the sag out the belly and a 37” northern. Neither were her overall personal best but they were for that lake.
29" Walleye

Nice 37" pike

Me with a puny 22"'er
So with our Pasha time behind us it is time to move on. We are headed to Wisconsin for a few days to visit family and friends. It has been over 2 years since we have been there and are looking forward to seeing my brothers and sisters. I cannot wait to ask my friend’s wife if she is wearing her fat jeans or skinny jeans!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

As The Old Proverb Goes......

There’s an old proverb; Give a woman a fish and it will feed her for one night, teach a woman to fish and she will make you look bad the rest of your life. That right there is the story of my week, or should I say the story of my life. Truth be told, I probably cannot even take credit for teaching her how to fish either. That credit would go to her dad. With Barb back the world is whole again and life is good. She is the love of my life and I never want to go three weeks without her again.

When we met in the fall of ’85 there were a lot of things that attracted me to her. But one thing above all else was the hook. Was it her beautiful hazel eyes? Her infectious smile? Her long flowing dark hair? Her glowing personality? Or her perhaps it was the fact that she owned a fishing boat. Only I will know the true answer to that question. One clue was that we met in November and were married in February well before fishing opener. This was one catch I was not going to let get away and there is no one else I would rather fish with.

From day one I have always treated her like one of my fishing buddies. I don’t tie her jig on the line, I don’t bait her hook, nor do I take the fish off. In fact it is funny when another male fisherman joins us in the boat and tries to do all those things. Sometimes she will give me a wry smile and let them do it while other times she politely refuses their help just saying “I can do it”.

Oh it has its drawbacks. For one I cannot come home from a long day on the water and spin yarn after yarn about how many fish I caught and the one that got away. She refuses to “go” over the side of the boat like all my other fishing buddies so we have to stop by an island once in a while. And of course there is always the “she out fished me again” issue.   

But it is all worth it. She was itching to get on the water when she got back so bright and early Monday morning we hit the road and headed to Northwind where she proved she has not lost her touch landing walleye after walleye. It was good to be on the water with her again.
I also had the opportunity to take another group out this week. Ralph, his son Ralph and his son’s friend Jay flew in from Baltimore to spend the week up here. Ralph Sr. had never fished in his life and I mean never….. Ralph Jr. and his friend both 16 had some fishing experience but had never been to Canada fishing so I offered to take them out.

During our outing, Sr. caught not only the first, the most but also the biggest fish with a 26 ½“ walleye! It was fun to see father and son rib each other as they caught fish but Jr’s mood definitely changed when his dad reeled in that monster. I have a feeling that dad will be teasing his son about that for years to come….”Hey, remember that one time I went fishing and totally out-fished you?” If I were Sr. I would just hang up the fishing pole and rest on that the rest of my life!
Ralph with his 26 1/2
We have also been busy wandering the bush looking for bear sign as bear season opens in less than a week! I have yet to see a bear but thereis plenty of sign in both tracks and scat and based on the size of some of them, there are some monsters out here!
It takes a big bear to make a pile that big!!
They have 9 hunters coming in for the first week of the season and I can honestly say this year as the most bear sign that I have ever seen up here. I put on over 600 miles on the ATV looking for just the right spots and I think it is going to be a great season!
Nice, but not huge
I was reading a magazine article the other day (yes Dino, I can read, not just look at the pictures) and it talked about how important bear hunting is to the Ontario economy. According to the Ministry of National Resources a 2017 study showed that bear hunting brought in over 15.6 million dollars into the economy. If the other resorts in Ontario are anything like Pasha, they as well as many of the local businesses depend on this aspect of their business as much as the fishing to make ends meet.

Our last fishing trip this week involved a small remote lake 9 miles back on logging roads. You can get your vehicle to within ¼ mile of the lake but then you have to carry everything in from there. Motor, gas, poles, bait. The boat is stashed on the lake so basically everything but the boat. I bet this lake sees less than a dozen fisherman a year. Since I was scouting bears in the area Barb met me at the lake when I was done. We did not have a lot of time but within 3 hours we had our limit of 8 fish and had fresh walleye again for dinner. I know, it is a burden but someone has to do it!
Ready to hit the remote lake with a motor and gas!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Missing Barb

18 days, 5 hours and 12 minutes. That is how long is has been since I dropped Barb off at the airport in Rapid City South Dakota on July 17th. Man, I miss her! 13 hours 38 minutes, that is how long it is until I pick up her at the airport in Thunder Bay Ontario!
Sunrise at Pasha

Our Pasha Lake home
Week one I kept myself busy fishing with my friend Bob and his crew, week 2 has been a lot slower. It is just not the same up here without her. While Bob was here I ate well, breakfast, lunch and dinner. But when he left I found myself wandering the camp aimlessly with the dogs and a plate going from cabin to cabin begging for food; “Please sir do you have any food to spare?” At first they were more than happy, I got enough food to feed not only myself but the dogs as well. But as the week went on fewer and fewer doors opened as I walked by. I would knock and could hear hushed whispers inside but most would not answer. There were a few that must have felt sorry for the dogs and opened their doors but even they gave out after a few days.

By the end of the week I was walking around with my plate, cold and hungry. My hair was disheveled, my shirt was on inside out and backwards and I only had one sock remaining which was flopping around only half way on. Thinking back, maybe my fly was down, but then again I was so despondent, I don’t remember if I even put pants on at all half of the days.  

Even the diehards who had fed us all week long had stopped opening their doors. Instead they would throw stale buns and other scraps at us as we walked by. Between me and the dogs there was a mad scramble for the scraps. Dakota, being so timid was easy to scare off. But Daisy was another story. She and I got in a stare down more than once after a stale piece of bread was thrown on the ground between us. Growling with teeth gnarled I was able to scare her off most of the time but twice the look in her eyes had me backing down for my own safety. Man, I miss Barb!

I went out fishing once with a couple we met up here 4 years ago. Mark and Deb hail from Winsor Ontario and have been come up here 4 of the last 5 years with their two boys. Now 21 and 19, the boys have jobs and other commitments and could not come up this year so Mark and Deb decided to book two weeks up here instead of one! We had touched base throughout the year and were looking forward to fishing with them. Unfortunately Barb did not make it back in time to see them. We went to Northwind, another one of our favorite lakes. 11 miles long, about a mile and a half wide in its widest spot. And deep, we are talking over 100’ deep in some spots where trophy walleye, northern and lake trout lurk in the depths.
That is one long lake!
It was dark and overcast but the rain held off. We were targeting walleyes that day and started out at a spot called “The Tourist Trap” and for good reason…… everybody fishes there. But it was changeover day at the resorts in the area. Outgoing guests leaving, incoming guests have not arrived yet so we had the entire lake to ourselves all day!
Mark piloting the boat to the hot spots!
We caught lots of fish, if I was to guess… probably 30ish each with the biggest one being Mark’s 25”’er.
Mark and Deb waiting for a lunker
Mark with his 25
We enjoyed a shore lunch on one of the islands and called it a day after 6 hours as I needed to get back and let the dogs out. All in all a great day and for once I could fish without worrying about Barb out fishing me!
They even fed me shore lunch!
A loon looking for a meal
The rest of the week I just not feel like going out fishing. Just not the same without Barb. Man, I miss her.

Instead I read books, played with the dogs in the water and went out in the bush and played with Chad’s new Kubota clearing trails to the bear stands. I love being out in the woods!
Daisy and Dakota on one of out ATV rides

The girls, enjoying a day at the beach

The brush clearing machine!
This grouse refused to give up the road
Tuesday night is Fish Fry night here at the resort. Yet another opportunity for a meal! Everyone brings fish and a dish to pass (I brought a beer but did not pass it). Chad and Michelle fry up the fish and french fries. It is our favorite day of the week here!
Chad frying up some fresh walleye!

What an awesome team!

Fish, fries, cupcakes and beer, what else does one need?!

Mark and Deb eating some Northwind walleye!

Solving world problems around the fire

Michelle finally gets to sit down and eat
"Please sir, may I have a scrap? I will even eat watermelon!"
I of course called Barb everyday but she was so busy that the only time she could talk was at night and with the 3 hour time difference I had to call her at 10 or 11pm to get any quality time with her. Man, I miss her. She has had a very hard couple of weeks. Besides the emotions of losing a loved one she was executor of her stepmothers estate. Taking care of all the financial obligations, arranging the service, listing the house as well as selling a vehicle and remaining assets. Barb being Barb got it all done but not without overwhelming hardship. The hardest thing was telling her stepsister and kids that they had to sell the house. Apparently they had been told that they would be able to keep it and live there once the estate is settled. Unfortunately the bank had another opinion. One of the grandsons had been living in the house the past several years and he needed to find a new place to live. I cannot even imagine how difficult those 18 days were. We both learned a lot about setting up estates and making sure we have everything laid out as efficiently as possible. On her last day there Forrest drove down from Klamath Falls, helped her pack up a Uhaul with some of her dads possessions she wanted to keep and drove them back to Forrest's where he will store them for us. Today she hops on a flight that will take her from Medford Oregon to San Francisco to Toronto and finally to Thunder Bay. 13 hours, 7 minutes if everything goes smoothly.....fingers crossed, she has not had a lot of luck with the airlines recently.

Well, I better post this blog and get to cleaning the camper, only 11 hours and 53 minutes until I pick her up! Did I mention I miss her?!?!?!?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Fish On!

Thousands of bodies lay upon the battlefield, bloody from the weeklong massacre. It was not pretty but it was necessary.

This is the scene within our truck camper after one week alone in the Canadian bush. The battle was mainly against me and the mosquitoes. They were no match for our electronic tennis racket as I swung it through the camper getting a little joy each time I heard the “pop” and watched their little bodies flutter to the floor (or table, or counter and wherever they happened to land). I was winning the war against these nasty little buggers. I am however, losing the war against the laundry and dishes that, along with my fried little nemesis are littering every nook and cranny of the camper. There will be no photographic evidence of this battlefield as if I have any hope of Barb returning to me I need her to think this is all a fictional scene……..

After dropping Barb, Forrest and Lily off at the Rapid City airport I started my 8 hour trek to "The Farm" in Douglas North Dakota. I was not sure if I was going to drive it all the way through or stop somewhere along the way. A couple hours into my trip I received a text from Barb with just two words “Flight delayed”. Bummer, I sure hope it is not delayed too long as I am hours away headed the wrong direction and they don’t have any way to get back home should the flight get canceled.

A couple hours later I received another text from Barb “Flight canceled, trying to get another flight into Denver tonight”. Long story short they did get into Denver that night, got a room at 1:00am for $313 and were back at the airport again at noon the next day trying to get on a 7pm flight into Medford Oregon. They were able to get tickets for that flight but guess what? It was delayed as well. They eventually made it to Medford over a day late and very, very exhausted.

I on the other hand motored through 8+ hours and got to the farm at about 10:30pm where I just climbed in back and went to sleep. I spent the next day hanging with the Finken/Sobieck gang. There have been lots of changes since we were last up here in the fall of ’18. The most significant being the birth of Calvin, the third boy of the Chris and Holly clan. Looks like they are setting up the farm for the next generation! In addition they acquired several hundred new acres of property, a new sprayer, a new farm truck and several new and HUGE grain bins. Farmer Bob sent me this picture shortly after one of them was installed. These bins are 48’ in diameter and will hold 50,000 bushels!  
Most of all it was just great seeing everyone, I just wished Barb was there with me…… Early the next morning I was gone before anyone was up and hit the road. According to Google Maps, the drive to Pasha Lake Ontario was 16 hours; across North Dakota, into Minnesota, crossing into Ontario and then east to Thunder Bay and eventually Pasha. Again, I did not know how far I was going to drive, depended on how tired I got......820 miles and 18 hours later I pulled into Pasha at 2:00am exhausted but I was there!

That day I did not do a whole lot, mainly just got set up and waited for my friend Bob to show up with his group. For 5 years in a row he was bring a group of 6 guests up for a company retreat. Some of them are experienced fisherman while for others it may be their first time. So I try and help out where I can. The next day we went to Onaman Lake. For those of you have not read about Onaman in the past it is known for it’s walleyes, both in numbers and size. It is also a little over a mile hike back to the lake with poles, bait, gas and gear so you get a workout to boot!
Joe, Mark and I headed out to the hotspot!

Bob and Kurt in search of the mighty walleye!
I of course have my GPS hummingbird fish finder along which has many of the hotspots marked on it from years past and it was not long before someone was shouting "Fish on!"
Mark and I with a couple of nice Onaman 'eyes

Joe fell in love over and over again!

Bob with one of many 22"'ers
One thing I like to do when fishing a spot is drop a marker buoy when we catch our first fish. Since walleye are school fish this provides us with a good reference as to where the school was at that given time. We will then fish around that buoy until the fish move on. Invariably I have to tell my boat companions the story of when my sister was fishing up here with her husband. I won’t mention her name to protect her identity but it starts with a J and ends with a Y. Anyway, we were fishing a particularly rugged area and I had dropped a buoy right where the fish were. If you right next to the buoy you were catching fish, 10 yards off and you weren’t. They would fish next to the buoy and catch a fish or two then drift off and stop catching them. I would then tell them “You need to fish next to the buoy”. They would move back over and eventually drift off again and I would repeat “You need to fish next to the buoy!” After about 5 or 6 times of this my sister turns to me and says “Why do the fish like the buoy so much?” I remember it like it was yesterday, I laughed so hard I was crying and once she realized what she said she was as well.
Pink attracts some of the larger female fish!

After telling that story to the guys in the boat they would make comments every time we dropped a buoy at a new spot; “Oh good, they will now come and hang out by the buoy” “Do you find they like one color buoy over another?”. Or my favorite “Maybe we should drop a buoy so we can start catching fish”. My sister does not know it (until now) but years later she is still providing laughs to countless guys I get to fish with. I am sure that as she reads this she will have a smile on her face and want to punch me at the same time. But hey, I am hundreds of miles away and what is she going to do?!?!?

For lunch we stopped by one of the islands and had us a nice walleye snack!
Greg filleting some fish for shore lunch

Bob cooking up some fish
Does not get any fresher than that!

Steve and Mark listening to Joe pass along words of wisdom

We actually fished Onaman several times this week with equal success. Each boat landed between 100 and 200 walleyes a day averaging between 20 and 22 inches. The biggest walleye for the week was just over 30”’s and the biggest northern almost 38"'s
Joe with a nice 24

Looks like I got caught napping again!
With their week done, Bob and his crew have left with lots of fish, some great memories and some stories to tell. Me? I am thinking about doing the dishing and a little laundry while waiting for Barb to return from California. In the meantime I have all 4 different colors of my marker buoys ready for my next trip so I can really see, which color does attract the most fish!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Forrest and Lily Come to Visit!

This week we had another example on how much life can change in a blink of the eye. Less than 2 weeks ago Barb’s stepmother went into the hospital with pneumonia and was diagnosed with stage 4 lung and pancreatic cancer. They gave her 3 months to live so Barb immediately started to make plans to go out to California after our son Forrest left. Two days later that diagnosis was changed to 3 weeks. Paula, 74, was very active, still working fulltime at an insurance agency was a loving wife to Barb’s dad for many years and took care of him during his battle with cancer before he passed away in 2012. Life can change in an instant…….

Forrest and our granddaughter Lily arrived on Wednesday the 10th for a weeklong visit. Well, to be honest it is a visit/work vacation as Forrest is going to wire all the electrical in our house!
Forrest and Lily arriving at the airport!
That same day we received another phone call saying that Paula had 24 hours. Within a matter of days the diagnosis went from 3 months to 3 weeks to 24 hours. She passed away during the early morning of July 12th in her sleep.

Our hearts go out to Paula’s family but are happy with the thought that she is now at peace with Barb’s dad.
Paula with Barb's dad
Forrest and I have been busy getting the house wired up. As a licensed electrician he has wired many a house so his knowledge and experience was invaluable. Day one found us walking through each of the rooms with Barb, detailing locations of lights, outlets and switches. Then we started installing said outlets, switches and lights.
Lots of boxes in the kitchen alone!
While we were doing that we received a text from Rudee and Phil asking if we wanted to meet them at the Pringle bar for dinner. Of course we did! So along with Jim and Brenda we all went there for a nice dinner.
The next day, while Barb watched Lily, we started wiring…… for the next three days we wired, wired and wired…..1500 feet of 12/2, 1000 feet of 14/2, 250 feet of 14/3, 100 feet of 6/3, 27 can lights, 73 outlets and 4 fans later we were done! Whew!
Forrest working in the bathroom

Lily even got in on the action!

That is a mess of wires!
All cleaned up and ready for inspection!
Forrest did great work hooking everything up and tying it together, now we just need to get it inspected and flip the switches. This is another big step in our build and are glad to have it done.
Lily meanwhile was decorating the floor in our bedroom. We will now forever have part of Lily under our flooring when the house is done.

This is a picture of Dakota
Speaking of big steps we got the all the exterior doors installed plus….
Front door is also in!
The garage doors installed! We are all buttoned up and ready to head north!
With the house work all done it was time for some play! Barb had taken Lily to Evans Plunge, a combination hot springs/waterslide in Hot Springs. We had never been there before and although Barb said it was a little crowded she said she would go back there again. She had also taken Lily to Wind Cave National Park to complete the Jr. Ranger program where she got another badge for her vest!

The four of us went for several jeep rides, with the weather being so nice we were able to remove the top and enjoy the fresh air. We visited The National Forest Office, Mt. Rushmore, drove the Needles Highway, the wildlife loops in Custer State Park and oh ya, the Purple Pie Place!
Lily with the Purple Pig

Did you know Smokey turned 75 this year!?!?
We ran into a "buffalo jam" in one section of the road where the beasts had both sides of the road blocked for about 20 minutes. They eventually wandered right past us and we were able to carry on.

Dance Party!

The next day Forrest and I snuck out for a quick fishing trip to Ditch Creek. Forrest started out the action by landing this beautiful rainbow.
Not to be outdone, I landed this one a few minutes later. My biggest non-Alaska rainbow to date!
One day when Jim Jordan and I ran over to Kevin's for some tools we ran across two snapping turtles on the road, one was just wandering aimlessly and the other one was laying eggs.

Our week together went way too fast and before we knew it it was time to drive them back to the airport except they had one unexpected passenger on that flight as well. Barb had booked a ticket to fly west with them to Medford Oregon where she will be renting a car and driving down to Redding California where she is assisting with the settlement of Paula’s estate. She only booked a one-way ticket as she does not know how long it will take. I, in the meantime, am headed to Ontario with Daisy and Dakota. Barb is planning on flying into Thunder Bay in a couple weeks when the time is right.

So although I am headed to one of my “Happy Places” it is bittersweet with the death of Paula and going without Barb. Just another reminder of how fragile life is and how it can change in a minute.