Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Restoule River (In Remembrance Of A Friend)

Restoule River
(In Remembrance of a Friend)
“Death ends life, not a relationship”
Robert Benchley

"Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one."
Tom Thompson
Neither the ten miles paddled, nor the single evening camped along the banks of the Restoule were sufficient to now offer insightful observation or meaningful comment on the river’s characteristics. No humorous events occurred that I could now share, no anecdotes that I might impart. Yet the weekend spent at Restoule Provincial Park remains a most precious memory.

It was to be a short getaway on a long weekend, shared with Guy Addison, the closest of my few childhood friends. With London’s winter snows melting into springtime run-offs, the cool fresh breeze and sound of running water extended their invitation to head north and properly welcome this new season.

I first met Guy when, at nine years of age, he traipsed across neighbouring fields and boldly introduced himself to this new kid on the rural block. Guy’s gregarious nature, sense of humour and infectious laugh were instantly captivating so quickly we found ourselves best of friends.

The forested lots surrounding our bucolic homes were the first to beckon, offering ample opportunity for exploration. Bicycle excursions extended the range of our adventures to countryside brooks & streams. When not fishing, chasing tadpoles or building tree forts, endless hours were spent frolicking in the Addison’s backyard swimming pool. Guy’s dad, an avid outdoorsman as well as licensed float plane pilot would often allow us to accompany him on excursions to Ontario’s sparkling interior lakes. Consequently, the appreciation of nature, love of wilderness and passion for water, became ingrained in our childhood psyches.

As daylight hours alone proved insufficient for teenage activities, we commandeered a loft above a large garage on Guy’s property which became known as ‘The Shack’. A couple of cots and dressers were all the comforts required. Shapely pin-ups and posters of hero musicians broke up the monotony of the drab sloped walls. A portable record player was our only essential as the explosive music scene of the 1960’s became yet another passion. Endless hours of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and of course, The Beatles became the soundtrack of our adolescent years. Our passion so fuelled that we formed our own band ‘AXE’ featuring Guy on drums, our talented friend Chris on bass and virtuoso John on guitar. An opportunity to earn a few bucks, make new friends and impress the girls.

Waking on frosty fall mornings, Guy and I would trudge back to our respective homes in preparation of the upcoming school day only to rush back to our bachelor pad each evening where we’d attempt to push autumn as far into winter as possible. Spring melts once again allowed us to return to The Shack where we would resume jamming with the band, spinning vinyl or planning camping trips. More often than not, planning fell victim to impulse as we hopped into Guy’s van for a spur-of-the-moment midnight run to some undetermined northern destination.
Total darkness enveloped us as we coasted to a quiet stop under a CF-100 jet perched on a pedestal in North Bay’s Lee park. There in the early morning hours Guy and I stifled giggles as we devoured our bucket of KFC ‘whilst’ mangling Shakespearian soliloquies. Waking from a contorted sleep we scraped our frosty breath from the car’s windows, surprised that the police had not found and evicted us.

About to depart on another night ride, we decided appease the growls emanating from our stomachs by pulling into an A & W drive-in for burgers & coffee. Spying an available parking space, Guy cranked the wheel as he gunned the gas. With a tremendous crash, our world suddenly went dark. As the dust settled, nearby diners roared hysterically as they let loose with mocking comments. - It wasn’t anatomically possible to have our heads up that orifice! Stepping outside, each footstep crackled under phosphor coated glass as we surveyed the damage. Having forgotten about the canoe lashed to the Fargo van’s roof, the keel managed to tear out several eight foot fluorescent light fixtures from the overhanging roof.

In the midst of summer vacation, several us hitch-hiked from Hamilton to North Bay to meet up with Guy, who had secured seasonal employment in town. Greeted by a rapidly advancing storm front, Lake Nipissing’s winds raced under darkened skies, taunting us with monstrous crashing waves. Teenage bravado demanded we accept their challenge and purchase air mattresses with which to surf those undulating breakers. Driving to Nipissing plaza, we erupted in laughter finding the first two letters of the neon sign burnt out which now announced the location as ‘pissing plaza’. Back at our beach we surfed for hours, repeatedly riding each bucking wave to shore. Guy, having forgotten to remove his wallet from his ‘cut-offs’ was devastated with the realization that the stormy lake had taken his billfold and refused to offer a refund. A subdued vacation continued until, days later and against all odds, Guy dove into the water and discovered his wallet, contents intact.

On another memorable evening during that same trip, our two companions had retired for the night. Guy and I stretched out along the rocky shoreline with only our campfire and a ‘two-four’ of ‘Labatt‘s 50’ for company. The setting sun’s fiery glow cast our shadows before us until extinguished by the lake. Sitting by the glowing embers, we chatted the night away until the sun rose behind our backs to once more cast our shadows on the rocky shore. …yet there was always more to talk about…

Still another trip had taken us to Detroit Michigan where, with time to kill, we conducted our own tour of a darkened ‘Motor City‘. Deciding to sample some American ‘Bud’, we pulled into a small variety store, seemingly lost under a lone streetlight hidden down a secluded side street. Six pack in hand, we paid the hesitant, wide eyed clerk. Turning to leave we came face to face with a number of silent stares. A queasy feeling wrenched our stomachs with the sudden realization that the store’s customers were blacks, and we, of course, stood out like white lines on an asphalt highway. Evidently we had strayed into the wrong neighbourhood on the wrong side of town. Perhaps we escaped with our lives only because the locals determined we were too stupid or had too much “balls” to be bothered with. The former was obviously the truth….

“Black day in July
In the streets of Motor City there's a deadly silent sound
And the body of a dead youth lies stretched upon the ground
Upon the filthy pavement, no reason can be found
Black day in July” (1)

At Sauble Beach we found ourselves inadvertently bloodied by an overzealous OPP(2) riot squad called upon to evict a few rowdy troublemakers. Storming through the campgrounds in full riot gear, chaos ensued as batons swung indiscriminately. Innocent stragglers were battered and personal property scattered as police chased tipsy campers onto darkened highways. Under morning skies all that remained resembled a smoking war zone.

Over the years Guy & I had snow shoed the fields around our Ancaster homes. We scuba dived at Spring Lake and beneath the massive granite cliffs towering above Lake Mazinaw. Towed behind a motorboat, we body surfed Georgian Bay’s shallows at Oliphant and water skied North Bay’s Trout Lake. We hiked wooded paths near Tobermory and explored moonlit snowmobile trails along the icy shores of Lake Nipissing. Together we had enjoyed childhood, survived our tumultuous teens, and grown to adulthood sharing innumerable adventures in virtually every corner of our province.

With adulthood, our lives began following increasing divergent paths. Having moved to London to attend The University of Western Ontario, Guy somehow tagged along, coincidently having been offered employment in that same college town. There he met his future wife and honoured me with a request to stand as his best man, then later as godfather to his firstborn son. As Graduation neared I found myself in pursuit of a career while Guy’s devotion to family had become his priority.

We now welcomed any adventure which could be stolen from life’s increasingly monotonous routine, even if only a few days in the relatively tame setting of a government campground. Borrowing a rather moribund fibreglass canoe with an equally lethal history, we now set off for Restoule provincial park. Guy’s brother-in-law had met his demise paddling this rickety craft, yet it would suit our limited needs on this short trip. This early in the season the park had yet to officially open and we found ourselves sole occupants of the entire campgrounds. Still, a roving park ranger found it necessary to wield his authority, admonishing us for playing music loudly. As he pulled away Guy and I cast a puzzled looked around the barren park wondering which annoyed species of wildlife had filed the complaint.

By wilderness standards we erected a rather lavish base camp, spending the remainder of the day incinerating sausages, studying our top map and hoisting a few rounds to the traumatized the wildlife.

Guy, Loading our 'Death Canoe' on the Restoule River

A cool morning breeze along Stormy Lake greeted us as we threw our packs into our putrid yellow craft. Stepping aboard, the canoe squeaked and groaned in misery as the loose thwarts and cracked fibreglass protested yet another excursion. A relaxed paddle along the shoreline followed as we approached the Restoule river proper. Deciduous trees were just beginning to awaken from their winter dormancy, slowly coaxed back to life under the warmth of the afternoon sun. As we had no deadlines to meet or agenda to fulfill, we put to shore after only some 10 miles of river travel.

Pitching a small tent, we prepared supper while settling in. Reverting to our childhood silliness it was decided to discard our plastic plates and ‘rough it’ by eating off of nearby slabs of rock. Trying not to choke from laughter, we cut our steaks on the wobbly granite surface precariously balanced on our laps, dulling our knives in the process. One slip and we might have put Lorena Bobbitt to shame.

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them"
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The topic of that night’s fireside conversation has long since been forgotten, however we no doubt talked for hours as the glowing embers died. Never short of subject matter, our conversations would often pick up where last left off, regardless of the time elapsed. Regretfully we called it a day, retreating to our tent when our spoken words began fogging the frigid night air.

The nylon fly was stiff with frost as we crawled out to greet the new day. Downing a quick coffee, we warmed up by chipping ice from the floor of our canoe. A brisk paddle upstream brought us back to base camp where we whiled away the remainder of our weekend under the warmth of the spring day sun. Such was the extent our Restoule river trip…

In time our paths crossed even less frequently as I pursued my career in the heart of Toronto while Guy moved his family to a small southern Ontario town. Life was too rushed, with too many responsibilities, there were too many obligations, too many problems requiring too much attention, there were,………too many excuses.

We had gone our separate ways…..

Still, it came as a shock when the trembling voice on the other end of that late night phone call informed me that Guy had died of a massive heart attack. I was laid up at home recovering from my own close encounter with death when this news once again attempted to drain my life away. Grieving my best friend’s demise while facing my own mortality forced me to view life with a different perspective. Like bobbing down some uncharted rapids, life’s ups and downs gain speed closer to the end, occasionally offering a sobering cold splash of reality. Sadly, some rivers are shorter than others. Sadly, every journey must end…

Guy was a year younger than myself....

Our last meeting was in the fall of 2005 when Guy’s job brought him into town. Older and greyer yet ours spirits endured. An evening of music and laughter followed as we reminisced past adventures. Distance had separated what time could not.

When you robotically rhyme off “goodbye“, or “see you later“ as the screen door shuts between you and your friend, it’s incomprehensible that it will be for the last time. But that it was... Guy departed next morning and with that slam of the door, my friend had departed for eternity as another door slammed on my own life…..

How I long for just one more adventure…

Guy (Lt) & Yuri (Rt) At Ancaster Ontario, July 1964

Another Trip Up North in Guy's Infamous Fargo Van (1970's)

Guy, Kicking Back at Spring Lake Ontario (1980's)

Guy Holding My Godson, Christopher (1990's)

Taken On What Was To Be Our Last Meeting

(1) ‘Black Day In July’ from the album ‘Did She Mention My Name’ -Gordon Lightfoot-1968

(2) O.P.P.- Ontario Provincial Police

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived”

Henry David Thoreau
Google Earth Co-ordinates:
(cut and paste everything after the dash- (in red) into Google Earth search bar.

Restoule River & Provincial Park
Lat/Long- 46° 05’02.36” N, 79° 48’00.68” W

Note: Further route description of Restoule River can be found in my post:
'Supplemental River Trip Descriptions'

(Scroll through that post until you come across this river).

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is beautifully written,Yuri. And I'm so glad you shared it with me. I have fond memories of Guy and his charming smile and was glad I could be along for parts of that ride. thanks for sharing the parts I missed.caroline