Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mosquito Island

(A Journal Entry from July 25th, 2009--hastily typed up at nearly 10pm as I'm still sticking to my 90 in 90! Apologies in advance for its terribly unedited condition--I'm beat!)

Daybreak was damp and with a 60% chance of showers predicted it looked like another one of those days where you just feel like you’re wrapped in a soggy dishrag. According to my mom, the radio forecasters had said it would clear up later, but I wasn’t so sure.

It was Dan’s last day at the cabin and we hadn’t yet made the trip out to Mosquito Island. By lunchtime, though, the weather was still holding so we decided to go for it and if it rained on us, let it rain.

I grabbed water shoes for everyone, having learned my lesson last year: it was rocky around the island and too hard for bare feet. I checked the map, loaded everyone into the car and off we went.

As we parked in front of the last house on Needle Point, Dan discovered that I had packed him two left shoes, one Pete’s (size 13) and the other a more reasonable size. He seemed crabby about it and I tried repeatedly to trade my matching shoes for his but he wouldn’t have it. He’d been stressed and crabby the past three days already, dreading the piles of work stacking up on his desk back at the office. I was impatient with his crabbiness—it was ruining my fun! I gave up trying to give him my shoes. It was a waste of energy.

Cheerfully, I struck out past the “No Hunting” and “No Vehicles” signs and into the undeveloped woods beyond. Eiledon took the lead, armed with a strong stick to clear any cobwebs across the path. Gavin wanted me to go second. I think he was nervous about getting lost. Dan brought up the rear, slogging along in his mismatched swim shoes.

The path was well-used most of the way to the point. The trees were fairly mature and the woods were dark, preventing much undergrowth. There was surprisingly little poison ivy, the main ground plant being a single-leafed variety reminiscent of a hosta or lily leaf.

As we went, the woods grew lighter, the trees more sparse, and we could see through to the open air over the water on both sides of us. The well-worn path ended abruptly in a clearing just the right size for a camp site. Continuing on to the point meant picking out a much narrower, more ill-defined path through thickets of immature trees and ground cover. In the maybe 10 yards of this, Gavin asked more than once “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” I refrained from pointing out that one way or another we’d hit water in practically any direction. Instead, I reassured my worrier and we kept bravely on.

At the end of the path was the end of the growth, the end of the land—just the end. We were standing on Needle Point, aptly named as a single person could stand at the point and see nearly 360 degrees of water.

Straight ahead, maybe 5 to 10 yards off the point, Mosquito Island rose out of Mullett Lake. To be clear, there are no official maps of the lake which actually give the island a name. If it appears at all, it’s just a tiny blip. It’s main significance is that it is the only island in Mullett Lake and that it, along with the end of Needle Point, were purchased by local government and set aside as a public conservancy. My family had named it Mosquito Island because it was so small. But to my knowledge, no one has pursued any channels to give it an official name.

This was what we had driven and hiked and practically bush-whacked to see. Mosquito Island. Legend has it there’s a treasure buried there. Well, okay, my Dad has it that he and Les Heitger once buried some deer bones on the island and marked it with a pile of stones. But close enough. My childhood memories of the island were of swamps and cattails, areas of dry ground possibly suitable for camping, the sand bar somewhere off the southwest side of the island, and the one time we went there and found dozens upon dozens of tiny frogs. My kids had visited with me the previous summer and they were abuzz with excitement standing on that narrow point.

Equipped with water shoes this time, we stepped off the point into the shallow, rocky water. At most, the water between point and island is maybe six inches deep. A few large rocks jut out of the water as if trying to entice a mermaid to sun herself for a while. Dan and the kids paused on these to pose for a picture against the island backdrop, and then, in moments, we were there.

Eiledon found the entrance to a barely discernable path and led the way through cattail swamp to slightly firmer ground. We had not had the courage to do this the previous summer, having chosen instead to walk the circumference of the island in the water. This was new and, therefore, terribly exciting. It was much as I remembered it, which is to say, not much at all. But there was a thrill to being the only human inhabitants of this tiny world unto itself. I kept looking down into the swamp, hoping in vain to find any sign of my favorite animal, but it must not have been the right season for teeming frogs.

Shortly, after spotting a patch of poison ivy, we decided to find our way back to the water and continue that way. We meaning Dan, Gavin and me. Eiledon was angry and refused to join us. We just told her she could continue on land and we would meet her at the far end of the island. It could hardly have been five more yards.

We heard her barking orders to her pretend crew as she went, picking her way through scrawny pines and scraggly undergrowth. At length she appeared through the trees and followed my voice to an abrupt drop of about a foot and a half into the lake. She slid down into the water and the four of us continued around, stopping now and then to look for crayfish, admire tiny snails with tiny black shells, and take pictures.

My mom was proven to have been correct about the weather. By now the sun was bright and hot and the lake fairly calm.

We rounded the sharp point of the island that mirrored the opposite shore and kept on by water. On the southwest side of the island, Eiledon spotted a perfect, flat skipping rock and asked Dan to skip it for her. He did one better: he taught her how to skip rocks herself. She caught on quickly and the next twenty minutes were spent pulling flat stones out of the water and handing them to Dan or Eiledon to skip. After tiring of this (and soaking the arms of his sweatshirt) Gavin switched to lobbing huge rocks into the lake and shouting “Spe-lunk!” thanks to his recent fixation with Calvin & Hobbes. I slipped off to take a few pictures of island wildflowers.

One more circuit, we decided, before heading back to the cabin. But shortly thereafter, Eiledon found the bottom of a beer bottle and was very excited. “Is it beach glass?” she near shouted. Sadly, it was too recent to be beach glass and while not terribly sharp, it lacked the clouded surface indicative of long polishing by sand and water. Disappointed, she finally agreed to bury it in the water under a pile of rocks: a new treasure for Island legend.

Tired now, and a bit sunburned (well, me anyway) we cut our final circuit short and headed back to the mainland.

Dan was smiling. “This,” he said, “was the highlight of my week.” I was so glad for him, mismatched shoes and all. He would have a memory to savour after he was back among the non-vacationing.

Who says there’s no real treasure on Mosquito Island?


  1. Way to stay to the 90 in 90! You are doing it!! I'm very proud of you, lady. :)


  2. What a wonderful place and what a great story! ;o)