Monday, July 30, 2012

Baxter Conservation Area: Kanoeing in Kars

This week, it was Heather's birthday, and to celebrate outliving Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and everyone else in the Club 27, as well as entering the age women feel the most attractive, she invited me to join her friends at Baxter Conservation Area, where her friend Andrea works as a manager. This is how I found myself spending my Sunday canoeing in Kars.

(I am so tempted to spell that either "kanoeing in Kars", or maybe less Kardashianly, "canoeing in cars" which evokes a completely different image and a great band.)

Baxter Conservation Area is located south of town along the Rideau River in Kars. I went to high school with kids who lived in Kars. We used to make fun of them for living in cars. I'd never been to Baxter before, even though it was only a half hour drive away. On my way there, I passed the most curious field of grass with skinny glider planes and tiny Cessnas scattered everywhere. Apparently there's a flying school next to the conservation area.

When I arrived at Baxter, Andrea introduced me to a shy turtle named Antonio. He was a stinkpot turtle, which I think is horrible name for a species, but apparently they are like the skunks of turtle kind. I also got to meet and hold a little garter snake named Alexander, who had managed to somehow poo on his own head. Sometimes I envy snakes. Not for this particular reason though.

We met up with the rest of Heather's friends and carried our canoes out to the Rideau River, which was wonderfully cool and peaceful, despite the motor boats racing past us with water-skiers trailing behind. The last time I had been canoeing, it had been at Lake Oanob in Namibia, which was somewhat of an artificial body of water placed in the middle of the desert, so it was nice to be surrounded by "real" water and not feel nervous about dipping your hand into the river.

the birthday girl getting ready

Overhead, Cessnas pulled glider planes out into the sky, and we got to watch the gliders soar through the air. There is no way I would ever get into a plane that didn't have an engine, but there's something majestic about watching a silent glider coast along the skyline.

"Oh no! We've arrived at the River Styx," I cried.
"It's just a marsh, Gloria," they assured me.

Good, because I'm not a fan of the band either.

it may not be the river Styx, but there was definitely this dead seagull

row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream

merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream

Speaking of dreams, I made one of the most important discoveries of my summer: the ice cream boat.

yes, I said ice cream boat.

Remember the ice cream truck that used to come into your neighbourhood playing the happiest songs of your childhood? Remember how you'd get so excited and as soon as you heard the cheerful sound, you would grab your sister's hand and go running into the streets to chase the ice cream truck, instantly forgetting every time your parents yelled at you about not running straight into traffic?

It seems as though I heard the song of the ice cream truck less and less as I grew older. Maybe it's not as profitable anymore to drive around an ice cream truck (THOUGH I HIGHLY DOUBT THIS. HOW CAN ICE CREAM NOT BE PROFITABLE). Maybe I'm at work during the hours that the ice cream truck goes by in the summer. Maybe the ice cream truck is like Santa Claus or rainbow connections - they only come for those who still believe. Which also doesn't make sense to me, because I do still believe:

Charles, my running partner: "Gloria, are you planning to jog carrying your wallet?"
Me: "Yes..."
Charles: "Why?"
Me: "Er, in case the ice cream truck comes by?"
Charles: "...Really?"

The worst is sometimes you'd think you hear the song of the ice cream truck, but it's the most horrible ding ding ding ringing, as though the truck's bells are depressed and only want to play one note instead of "Do Your Ears Hang Low". You run out into the streets anyway, your heart pounding with hope, only to realize that it's the knife sharpening truck coming by, inviting housewives to bring out their dull knives. What the heck. Why would anyone play with my heart like this.

Anyway, I've discovered that there exists an ice cream boat that floats on the Rideau River, selling all sorts of wonderful flavours in cones such as triple chocolate brownie, maple walnut, and black cherry. Police boats love stopping by the ice cream boat. Kids float up to the boat in their giant intertubes. Motorboats line up like it's a drive-through. Once, a man fell asleep while driving his boat and rammed right into the side of the boat. There was no way we were going to pass up this opportunity, and so for the first time in my life, I paddled my canoe up to the freaking ice cream boat.

I don't think I can adequately describe my excitement about the ice cream boat.

i guess you`re just what i needed
i needed someone to feed

Needless to say, it was a magical afternoon. After canoeing, we hung out in front of the cabin, climbing trees, playing frisbees, poking things with sticks. I went for a swim at the beach. I'm not sure what was more refreshing, the mid-canoeing ice cream or the post-canoeing cooldown swim in the river. Oh, who am I kidding? The ice cream boat was magical, like a lost childhood memory that I knew I would someday find.