Back from Rehab. Really long one

It's been 6 days, 3 and a half hours, since my last cigarette.   It has also been that long since I hopped into a car and headed towards the 4 day rehab clinic called Camping Up North. I call it rehab because we didn't bring any smokes there, and once we were up there, there was no way for us to buy cigarettes... no stores, no other smokers that we knew of.

The difference between here and there is almost night and day.   Here, I live on a busy street where there's 2 bars next door, and 3 others within a 2 minute walking distance.  There's a known crack complex around the corner, and the city holds outdoor concerts down the street.   The hospital and local fire station are also at the end of the street.  Not only that, there's an auto body shop in place of my back yard.   It can get noisy around here to say the least. 

Most of that made me and the bf appreciate being up north so much more.   There's no concrete, or asphalt.  No shopping outlets, fences, sidewalks, or streets.   No sirens, no car alarms, no yelling, and no karaoke.  It was me, the bf, and nature.   The perfect combination if you ask me.
The only things that were missing were my kitties (babies) and a place to call our home.

The weather was nice.  It was a little chilly, but that meant no mosquitoes or black flies... it was actually the perfect temperature for day-long hikes through the woods, but wasn't cold enough to deter us from getting out on the water for some world-renown bass fishing.  

We stayed in my bf's Aunt's cottage for most of the nights, but didn't stay at all during the day like my bf's parents did.   They have most modern day conveniences.  Satellite TV, internet,  hydro, and running water (although it wasn't potable).  Even their outhouse had running water that was pumped in from the lake in their front yard.    It was understandable, because they're a little too old to be roughing it like they used to, but it wasn't for us.  If we wanted to watch Judge Judy, and watch corny youtube videos (that his aunt was eager to show us) we would have stayed home.   They understood.  We wanted to explore as much as we could, and they helped us do that.

Rob's uncle and aunt are a lot like us, just older.  Before they became grandparents, they were the spitting image of everything we want to be.   They've been up there for more than 30 years, and they used to stay there year round.  Now because they are older, they don't hike, they hardly fish, and they don't hunt anymore.  They can't do the winters anymore either and go down South (Texas) for the coldest months.  But they used to be like Les Stroud from survorman - live off the land, nature loving folk .  They used to take off with nothing but a skillet, canoe, and their fishing poles for days and days at a time.   They saw that same ambition and adventurous love for those surroundings in us, and told us about all of the isolated lakes and best fishing spots in the area. 

His Aunt knew everyone and everything that had to do with the small community of campers up there.  She knew of all of the usually empty hunting lodges that seemed to be placed randomly out in the middle of the woods.  She also knew how long of a hike it was to the isolated lakes that most tourists of the area have never seen nor heard of.   She told us the sad stories of their life long "neighbors" of sorts, their passing, and how their families weren't interested enough to keep it up.    For example Cooper Lake.   It's named Cooper Lake because the only cottage on it's shore belonged to the Cooper Family.   Apparently his family have been trying to sell the cottage for many years, but found it difficult because it is so hard to get to... either you buy it without seeing it first, or you pass it up and go for something a little more convenient.   Of course Rob and I decided to check it out.  It was a 30 minute boat ride from the public marina (that's off a dirt road I might add) to an inconspicuous run down dock along the shore.  The dock was old... nails sticking out everywhere... it was hardly safe.  From there it was an hour hike down an overgrown trail that obviously hadn't been traveled or maintained for many years.  After almost getting lost (the trail started to look like the rest of the forest because it was left for so long) we finally saw the lake, and the lonely cottage that sat there.    The cottage was empty.  Rob and I sat on their porch.  It was almost erie.  We had never met the Cooper family, but we had something in common.  They would never know we were there, but there was something that made me want to thank them for their hospitality.   Then, we imagined what it would be like to be them.  What it would be like to be the proud owners of this nearly forgotten piece of landscape.  I shouldn't say owners.

It's more like visiting.  When you're there, you really do feel like you're venturing into something much larger than yourself.  The coin has flipped and you're more or less at the mercy of your surroundings.   A minor injury, like a sprained ankle, or allergic reaction out there could prove fatal, since at any given time you're many miles away from the nearest ambulance-accessible road - let alone hospital.   There's bears, and moose, both capable and willing to take a human life if threatened.  Without a shot gun and ammo, you don't feel like you're a member of the most powerful species on Earth.
It's scary and exciting at the same time.  Almost like the first time you drive a car.  You want to do it, and that's what makes you willing to take the risks.  Except in the woods, there's no pulling over.  You can't just stop and give up... no matter what you have to keep going.  Like when we saw bear tracks.   Usually we wouldn't think much of it, because it's pretty common knowledge that there's black bears there.  But these were different.  They weren't there on our way into to the woods (we would have turned back if we saw fresh prints on the way out)... they were also on top of the footprints we left on our way in.  Since we were going back to the cottage when we noticed them, we didn't have a choice but to keep going... we couldn't just turn around and walk back into the woods... there were no detours.  We just had to keep going, hoping that this particular bear wasn't too curious about us, and that it was no longer in between us and the cottage (our only safety). 

We were lucky.  We didn't see any bears or other dangerous animals on our hikes (like a moose, that can be more aggressive and just as dangerous as a bear), or any of the wolves who's shit I accidentally stepped in.  However, while fishing, and at the cottage, we did see a lot of different animals.  Including a tame fox that I fed.  I guess it was attracted to the scrap food Rob's Aunt and Uncle threw out as "compost" (they just threw anything biodegradable over the side of their porch). Every time anyone opened the door, it showed up.  Rob's uncle fed it an entire chocolate cup cake... so I guess foxes are not the strict carnivores I once thought.  They also like Hot Rod pepperoni sticks, and Italian baguette, which is what I fed it.     I also saw two bears along the shore while we were fishing.  The first spotting only lasted a few seconds, because he saw us and ran back into the forest.  But the other one was curious and we were able to turn the boat around and take pictures before it took off.   The fishing was also amazing.  Seemed like no matter what we tried, or where, we were catching fish after fish.   Rob's very first cast landed him the best small mouth of the year.  We catch bass by our apartment, but they aren't nearly as healthy looking as the ones we catch up there.  We also caught a lot of pike, and perch.   Best fishing of the year (well of my life actually)... but it would have been, even if we didn't catch a thing.

I love it there - I belong there.  I want to be there all the time.  The only thing stopping me and the bf from packing up my cats and few belongings is the lack of finances.   The fact of the matter is... people have done it, it's possible.   Rob's 70 year old Uncle makes a living helping other locals (especially the very rich people who vacation there) build and fix their cottages, boat motors, ATV's, etc.   With my welding knowledge, and mechanical background, I would have no problem making an under-the-table living out there.   With the progression of "green" technology like solar panels, and windmills, it wouldn't take long for us to be self efficient.   Rob's Aunt and Uncle have the interwebs, and TV, so we won't get cabin fever that bad during the winters, or the few months of complete isolation (the water a.k.a "only way in or out" is too frozen for a boat, but too thawed for a snow mobile 2 months out of the year). You know, they also have their washing machine, dryer, two fridges, and a garage filled with every tool one would need out there.  If all else fails, I could come back here for the winters to work on the boats with my dad during their busy season, when the ships are all docked for maintenance.   Hate to say it, but it would be possible to live on unemployment, because up there, besides mortgage payments, people only spend money every couple months when they stock up.... and it is possible to live off the land.

The whole time I was there... I didn't once crave a cigarette.  Now that I'm home (feels crappy to call this place that..) I crave them all the time. Really goes to show how psychological a smoking addiction actually is.   I look outside my window and I see all of the bar patrons outside for a smoke. I watch TV, I see people smoke, or I see ads for quitting smoking aids.  Even sitting at my computer makes me want one, since before last week, the two used to go hand in hand. 

I'll stop wanting to smoke eventually... I'll never stop wanting to go back.

Pointe Au Baril Ontario Canada -  My favourite place in the whole world.

Here's some pictures from my trip (including one of the bears I saw, and the fox I fed):

Uploaded 09/25/2011
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