Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gull Fest

So this summer passed, I had an opportunity to go out to the Gull River Festival in Minden, ON. Located only a couple hours north of Toronto is the small town in Haliburton County. Every year they put on their annual white water kayaking competition.

After a short, and pleasant journey through the country, myself and my friend Kel arrived in Minden. Before going to find the camp grounds we stopped in town for lunch and beers. Kel ordered a plate of chicken fingers, they came out nice crisp and tender, not a hard order to fuck up, but always nice when done right. I ordered the poutine. It was good, lots of chips, lots of gravy, and lots of curds, my complaints - gravy was too mild in flavour, and the curds were far from fresh. Kel's brother Kirk whom we were to meet at the camp sight headed over and joined us for some beers. He also had the chicken fingers. Sorry no photo's, I didn't have my camera with me. I also cannot remember the name of the bar (the legendary something).

After lunch we made our way to the camp grounds to set up camp. We made it with tons of time to spare so after setting up camp, and getting the 24 onto ice, we got a fire going and sat around enjoying the leisure. Kirk was kind enough to offer out his already cold beer whilst ours chilled.
After having 4 or 5 we decided to make it down to the water for a little impromptu kayak lesson. Now I'm no stranger to the water - but I sure as hell ain't well versed with it either. That being said, as soon as we made waters edge (at the end of the rapid's being used for the white water competition) Kirk edged me on to go up onto the last drop off of the rapids and jump in with him. Now I'm no strong swimmer here, so jumping off a rock into rapids isn't something that grabs me as a bright idea. So I'm not sure if it was the alcohol, or the manly bravado running through my system, but I certainly manned up to the challenge.

Kirk was good enough to lend me his helmet. And with life jacket on off I went. It was an incredible rush. It was an even bigger rush when 30 seconds later I realized I should have already started swimming to shore and was being pushed out into the lake. So with all my might - and poor swimming ability, I struggled my way to shore, and I only ingested maybe 1/4 of the lake.
But my oh my, what an experience.

So after reaching shore, catching my breath, and calming the fuck down, it was off to our next activity. Kayaking. I've previously done my share of canoeing, so I figured how different could it be? Think again. A completely different thing entirely. From how you sit in it, to the difference in controlling it. Also, the bottom of a white water course, probably isn't the greatest place to learn how to sea kayak (flat water).
For a while there I had the hang of it, and was out there enjoying myself. Seemingly inevitably though, I finally tipped and went under. Whether I cut a wave the wrong way, or mearly made some unbenounced mistake, I cannot be sure as it was a brief flash and I was under. Believe you me, I only wish getting back to surface had been as easy as going under.
Whilst kayaking, you wear what is known as a skirt, its a large rubber article of clothing that sits around your waist and stretches over the side of the kayak. The purpose is to keep out water and keep you dry. Unfortunately I couldn't seem to grab the handle to pull it off, its no easy feet being suddenly put into water upside down and expected to grab a handle in some vague direction in front of you. Fortunately I managed to find it, rip it off, and get out with only a slight bump to the head from hitting the kayak. I got back in went back to shore and shortly there after we called it a day. I had seen enough of the water for that day.

We arrived back at camp, and to my relief, our beer was now cold. We cracked some open, and drank to the moment. A few hours later, and several dead tin soldiers, our last 2 compatriots arrived. The aptly named couple, Jack and Jill. It wasn't long into their arrival that they learned some valuable lessons. Like, don't arrive to a camp ground in the pitch black with little idea how to set up your tent. Also, don't try and blow up a king size mattress with a bicycle pump.
The bicycle pump was quickly abandoned for the marginally more successful manual, self filled technique.

After Jack and Jill settled in, we started to get some dinner together. I had some beef ribs marinated from the night before, some in a sweet soy-asian pear combination, and others in a spicier Korean chili paste.
The ribs were all tasty, although the hazard of cooking over a camp fire, some got a little over charred.
After the ribs we enjoyed some grilled corn, and grilled slabs of Menonite sausage.

We awoke next morning to the booming voice of an announcer. The White Water Competition was off to what sounded like a cracking start. After a little coaxing I managed to get myself up. A bit of juice, and some morning snacks and it was off to see the boaters.
Some truly impressive people, doing some things that were quite incredible to watch.
These poor bastards took a bit of a spill however.
But they went right back at it.

We stuck around and watched the competition for a bit. We then went back into town for a few more odd and end supplies.

Upon returning we got another fire going in preparation for lunch.
I had brought some home made burgers, stuff with chili-infused margarine, we topped them with pepper jack cheese, bacon, and homemade guacamole and chipotle mayonnaise.
After lunch we were ready to get back to the water.
This time Jack was getting the Kayak lesson, and I took out the snorkel set.
I had never previously been snorkeling so it was a brand new experience. I quite enjoyed myself. Whilst searching the bottom of the lake I found myself a set of deer antlers. I also spotted a few large fish, but they were too quick to catch.
We cut our lake visit short this time, and went back to camp for alcohol hour. We grabbed some beers, had a few bourbons, and decided it was time to give the Frisbee a whirl.
Whilst good fun, one can only kick over so many drinks before changing the activity. We again made way to camp, and got the liquor flowing. It was a very amusing night. But like all nights with an abundance of alcohol, one cannot help but ending up looking something like this.
Now with one final day left, we made our way back to town to rent a canoe, as Jill had never been canoeing before. An uneventful journey, to the boat shop and back again. On the way back we stopped by a farm with some horses near the gate. We all grabbed some near by shrubbery and gave the horsies a treat.

Kel took the sea kayak, kirk his white water kayak, Jack and Jill in the canoe, and myself back with the snorkel set. This day I took to swimming as close as I could to the rapids and then swimming into them with the snorkel set on. Good fun. After a while I joined Jack and Jill in the canoe, and we paddled the lake with Kel along side in the kayak.

We only stopped once, so I could climb a hill (had reservations as well as regrets about doing it in bare feet) to see the view from the peak.
Sometime later the day wrapped up, the next morning we had a farewell breakfast, and we all packed up and got ready to come back to Toronto. On our way back, Kel, Kirk, and I stopped in at a Kawartha dairy location for some of their famous ice cream. It was quite good. All in all a good weekend away. I recommend this fest to anyone in or passing through Ontario in August. Its a small fest, and from what I'm to gather not well known about.

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