“I just want to get out for a while,” said Olga. Olga is my better half.
“How about the Sturgeon River,” I said.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I need to get out somewhere.”
It was too late to go to town. We’d have to dress up, anyway. Can’t mingle with people in our grubbies. So we jumped into the Kia Magentis, along with our little dog, Miko, and drove a mile to the highway and turned west.
The scenery was not exactly spectacular. The boreal forest was coming out of winter: the hardwoods were still leafless, the ground cover in the highway corridor a dull straw colour, thoroughly ravaged. In less than ten minutes we reached the bridge over the Sturgeon.
The Sturgeon was in full flood. The Sturgeon rises in a roadless area between the highway and Lake Superior, which itself is perhaps seventy miles south of us. It flows north to the highway, then turns west and flows for miles and miles till it reaches Lake Nipigon.
I parked on the Gathering Lake Road and walked Miko on a leash right up to the rapids. The standing waves threatened to reach up and fling us into the maelstrom. However, from the bridge one has a good view of rapids. Olga chose to walk Miko while I challenged the highway traffic in order to take pictures from the bridge.
It seems that all the rivers and creeks in this North country are in a party mood. What I have remarked lately, and remarked again today, is that the roadside ditches are relatively dry. Occasionally one spots standing water, or a running stream, but at this season, the ditches should be full, brimming, slopping over. The soil and ground cover is tinder dry.
This portends a bad forest fire season.Further north — and I mean hundreds of miles north — the mighty rivers that normally flow gently through the James Bay Lowlands, rivers like the Albany and the Attawapiskat and the Winisk, these rivers are our Sturgeon River magnified. Two aboriginal communities at the mouth of the Albany, which dumps into James Bay, are being evacuated. Already the Canadian military has overseen the evacuation of 900 people from Kashechewan and 300 from Fort Albany, those who are the young, the elderly, or the medically unstable. The two communities have a combined population of 1,900. Some of the evacuees are being airlifted to Greenstone, where we live.
On the way home, we stopped at Creelman Creek, at the entrance to our road. Not an ice floe in sight. The creek pounded through the culverts and raced down to our lake, Wildgoose Lake. I couldn’t get near enough to check for spawning fish.
At home again, I checked out the lake. Still frozen. Yesterday we saw black patches appearing for the first time. The patches covered most of the lake today. The ice is pulling away from the shore.
However, it will take more rain, more sun, and a good wind to break up Wildgoose Lake in time for the Victoria Day weekend — next weekend — when the walleye fishing season opens.
Thousands — tens of thousands — of residents and tourists are looking at a very disappointing opener.
We saw a flock of purple finches at the feeders today. They cheeped that the weather can only improve. We’ll take them at their cheep.