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Mather: Georgian Bay memories and a letter to my daughter

A recent paddle around Georgian Bay inspired columnist Viki Mather to recall a special trip, and a special memory, from years gone by
“In the morning, we ambled around the island; through patches of pine and oak forests, over smooth pink bedrock, and along sections of broken boulders and lichen encrusted rocks. We ate blueberries.” (Viki Mather)

We had another wonderful canoe trip to Phillip Edward Island last week. Three nights out, though we did not go far. The route was much like the first trip we did … how many years ago? 

Do you remember how old you were that first time? Maybe five?

It was the first or second week of September. The weather was lovely. Someone had told us to go to West Desjardins Bay. We had maps, but you may recall it is challenging to keep perspective with all those little islands everywhere.

We kept near the south shore of Phillip Edward, sheltered from any wind that may have been blowing on Georgian Bay. We had many views of the big waters between all those beautiful islands. The maze of water and land entranced us.

Our first night out, we just got to the northwest edge of LeHayes Island as the sun sunk low in the sky. It was a very nice campsite, the tent placed high on the bedrock, with a view over toward Killarney and the LaCloche mountains.

In the morning, we ambled around the island; through patches of pine and oak forests, over smooth pink bedrock, and along sections of broken boulders and lichen encrusted rocks. We ate blueberries.

That afternoon, we continued eastward, looking for the passage behind the big island into Desjardins Bay. Reeds were everywhere. Paddling into them, we could just see the tops of the islands to help us navigate to the channel. We weren’t sure if there would be a way to get through the reeds, as the water got shallower. Still, we pushed our way through until the reeds thinned, and indeed, we entered West Desjardins Bay.

Incredible! Countless islands stretched across the bay. Many just an emergence of polished bedrock a few meters across, just barely breaking the surface of the water. You wanted to get out on every one to run across to the other side. 

As we paddled through last week, I thought of you and your joy. (Does this mean I’m already starting to re-live the past?)  There were lots of warm memories.

The campsite we found on the tip of Badgely Point was incredible. Huge expanses of glacier-polished rock, rounded boulders at the shore, and long, smooth curving channels in the rock …  scoured by melting glacial waters. We brought buckets of water up to pour on the rock and watched these little rivers flow round and about back to the lake.

We traced the lines of chatter marks on the bedrock, amazed at the thought of ice so thick, so heavy, that it would chip away the underlying granite. The lines running north to south, a lesson in geology without even trying.

We picked baskets of blueberries as we wound our way through the islands on our way back a few days later. And cranberries!  

The west wind came up in the afternoon, but we were well protected, tucked into the myriad of islands as we headed toward home. Mostly protected. The wind was fierce by the time we neared South Point. Our little canoe would have trouble in the big waves there.  

So we looked for the channel the map showed as a shortcut to Collins Inlet. We found the channel, but it did not have enough water to paddle. We got out and dragged the canoe through. It was tough, but a safer alternative than paddling into the wind and waves.

We still had to beat against that wind for about a kilometre within Collins Inlet. We wind-ferried across to the mainland. We pushed hard against the wind, and tucked into every little bay and shelter we could find to take a rest.

At last we made it back to the car, packed up and drove to Killarney to try the famous fish and chips. Except there was no fish that day. 

They said it was too rough for the fishing boat to go out. Really?

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984. Got a question or idea for Viki? Send an email to


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