Short intro … This journal has often referred to Kenauk and we keep being asked about it. Kenauk is the largest private wildlife reserve in Canada and only an hour from home, half way between Montreal and Ottawa … which makes it very attractive in itself, even more so when you realise that there are less than 20 cabins for rent and you need never see another soul while you are there. It is uniquely and utterly unspoiied for such a site within reach of major cities. How can this be? Simply because the place has always been in the hands of the privileged, at the moment the Fairmont hotel chain. Now, a lifelong socialist like me should be shocked by this, because money has excluded the general population but I am of the opinion that even if I couldn’t afford to stay there (and it’s a close thing) I’d still be in favour of the status quo because of what it achieves. Looking at every other lake within a hundred miles of Kenauk, with their hugger-mugger cluttering of chalets shoulder to shoulder you can easily see what could have happened. It was the purest of chances that brought us here our first Canadian fall and we have come back annually since … heaven only knows what it has cost us over the years but not a penny wasted. Kenauk is Canada at its best as the several friends who have accompanied us over these years can attest.
And so this year, what happened was:
Birds (worth noting) … Spruce Grouse, Common Loon, Belted Kingfisher, Wood Duck, BCCH, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue Jay, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-winged Teal, Broad-winged Hawk, Raven, Magnolia Warbler, Great Blue Heron, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker, Canada Goose, Veery, Herring Gull, Eastern Screech-Owl, Cedar (?) Waxwing, Am Crow, Eastern Bluebird, Black and White Warbler, ? Rusty Blackbird, Sharp-shinned Hawk, TUVU
Friday 11 September
Our twelfth annual visit to Hidden Chalet at Kenauk since we “discovered” the place in 1998. As usual we arrived mid-afternoon and collected the boat to go up Lac Papineau to the cottage we rent every year. For the first time ever, no Loons were seen on the way up … the water level is exceptionally high and we speculated that their usual nesting spots may have been overwhelmed (later in the stay we did find Loons and with youngsters too, but the population is less than normal). Beautiful weather by the way.
Hidden Chalet has been gussied up – inside it’s as it has always been but it now a couple of feet higher on new footings with a wonderful new deck outside with table and BBQ. Very smart and very convenient. To one side a mountain has risen … the reason for the raising of the building as the installation of a new septic tank which, as one would expect, needs gravity delivery of its “food” meant the building needed to grow legs as digging into thje bed tock was even more difficult.
Before dinner and sunset (a real red-sky-at-night sunset) we took the canoe around the small lakelet behind the cottage and enjoyed Wood Duck and a Blue-winged Teal as well as finding some fabulous Pitcher Plants. And the fishing? One small bass from the dock satisfied me.
And so the whisky and dinner … and then outside to stare at the sky. I confess to not being able to see the point of astronomy as a hobby and the whole business of looking at twinkling lights through a telescope – telescopes are for looking at birds with I believe – but the massed stars you can see at Kenauk are something else altogether. Without any street or city lights the milky way really makes a great show and impresses the heck out of most visitors. J claims to have seen a shooting star – over my shoulder while I was looking the other way of course. Personally I don’t think that I have ever seen a shooting star in my life.
Saturday 12 September
Birthday – I am now 61 and beginning to feel it too. Good day , very good day apart from the fishing which was very bad … however, as it was bad because the sun was shining and it was warm and calm one cannot complain too much. After the traditional birthday bacon and eggs the day progressed smoothly from a quiet outing to a very calm and smooth Hidden Lake in a kayak, a chase after a Loon in canoe (that’s us in the canoe, not the Loon), a decent lunch and some fishing in a backwoods lake where we saw something huge very close, possibly a Muskie, rolling amongst the weeds but the bright sun and warm conditions pretty well kept everything down … even a decent hatch of sedge-like insects was being ignored so it wasn’t just me. The morning kayak trip was especially interesting – Wood Duck, Teal and a very territorial Belted Kingfisher that after seeing off one of its own kind spent a long time telling me loudly to naff-off. Dinner, whisky, wine … and sparklers beside the bonfire – not a bad birthday even if it was the 61st and I really am a geezer now.
Sunday 13 September
Quite mild but a wind up from the north and clouds breaking up the blue sky – a little cooler but plenty of heat in the sun. Despite good intentions (on the part of one of the party) we took until late morning to get into the boat and stroll down the main lake to Ile des Pins where the ladies were deposited with the lunch basket while our intrepid fisherperson took off to give sore mouths to five Bass. Honour satisfied back betimes to the island for luncheon and to photograph a number of warblers, mostly Yellow-rumps, skitting through the trees on their way southwards. A shy Veery put in a fleeting appearance and some Canada Geese passed south overhead. Late afternoon back at the cabin we hiked up beside the waterfall behind it to the beaver pool and a very overgrown trail from which we extricated ourselves aided by the wonder of GPS-breadcrumbs and stout footwear. Tea for two and beer for one before BIG STEAKS and fine wine. Life is still good at 61 plus a day, little sign of deterioration quite yet.
Monday 14 September
Another mild morning but overcast. Canoe circuit of the bay before breakfast where the ducks flew away again and the Kingfishers swore at us. Stroppy bird, your Kingfisher. Later in the morning another much longer session of canoeing on very calm water found a large water snake sitting in the sun on the side of a beaver lodge and digesting what was obviously a a large dinner … water snakes are not unknown in Quebec but they are quite scarce so it’s interesting to know that Kenauk has what appears to be a thriving colony of them. After lunch a driving circuit of the smaller back-woods lakes and then a power-boat expedition in search of a Loon produced some very nice photographs … many, many photographs in fact because having manouvered the boat close-ish to mother and youngster I kept firing off shots expecting them to dive any moment but they drifted closer and closer … smart birds.
Tea and cake, packed the fishing gear way, supper and drinks and tomorrow is departure day finishing with the farewell cruise down the length of the lake.
Until next year, then. Next year quite possibly without the fishing tackle – it’s a lot of stuff to bring along, we pay quite a premium for fishing rights yet in recent years, and especially this year, not a lot of fishing has been done. Too many other natural attractions.