Gore Bay -- some places never change or at least you feel that they haven't. I rarely get this sensation in the city, where daily activities proceed at supersonic speed. But Manitoulin Island, with its ancient igneous rocks, ghostly oak trees and isolated clapboard farmhouses, almost always seems changeless to me.
Yet these features juxtaposed with its friendly inhabitants and old-style family farms are what bring me back to my dad's cabin on Tobacco Lake in Gordon Township.
Getting to Manitoulin is a slight pain, especially on a long weekend. You can take the expensive Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory or drive the long road around Georgian Bay. I choose the second option and head out on the Civic Holiday Friday on the Greyhound express.
Long bus rides are usually pretty quiet, but I land a seat beside a former media specialist and producer for the NFB from the 60s, and our lively discussion about family farms, government bureaucracy and Elmore Leonard make the five-hour ride seem like two.
My dad meets me at the bus station in Sudbury, and we drive another two hours to Tobacco Lake, south of Gore Bay in the centre of Manitoulin. That night we sit on the porch and talk shop over a case of Molson Canadian.
Saturday's agenda puts my physical abilities to the test. My dad cooks breakfast and then takes me to his ranch on Maple Point, a small peninsula east of Gore Bay overlooking the North Channel. He calls it a "walk," but most people might call our trek across acres of swamp, plains and thick cedar forest something else.
Though my father hasn't kept his own cattle here since he left Manitoulin in his 20s, he rents his land out to local beef farmers. As he did growing up, he examines the cow paths and dung beside the many hawthorn bushes and oak trees along the plains. I get an inkling of how farming here has changed from a smaller, more organic enterprise to today's enclosed, factory-like agribusiness.
We're hot and sweaty when we return to Tobacco Lake and head straight for the water, where we stay for the rest of the day.
Sunday is even more fruitful. We head to Mud Lake, a secluded body of water on the island's south end where we've fished for years. Only three summer homes are visible on the quiet lake full of beautiful lily pads and surrounded by marshes.
We canoe to our usual fishing spot and drop our lines. Overhead, a tern dives for fish. Shortly after it leaves, we reposition the boat. Soon our rods begin to bend.
As a kid, I remember catching up to 40 perch in one morning. While we don't do that well today, we do catch enough for a good meal for the two of us.
"Damned if you can get this in T.O.," my pop says later, frying the fish on the wood stove.
I can only nod and agree.