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Thread: The Trip to Camp Eagle Eye

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    Default The Trip to Camp Eagle Eye

    The Trip:

    Dad always planned his vacation to start on the first weekend in July. The trip was not a spur-of-the-moment project where we quickly loaded the car and split for regions north of the border. Preparations began months in advance. Sometime in April Dad would begin to save a few dollars from his “walkin' around money” to spend on extras like gas and oil for the outboard motor, new fishing tackle, and bait. Every payday he would give me his extra cash (when I became old enough to handle this chore) and I would stash it in the “kitty”. The kitty was a small tap box stowed in the bottom of Dad's wooden tackle box. When the small bills began to pile up, they were exchanged for larger denominations.

    Sometime around the beginning of June we began to catch night crawlers for bait. During the day we wet down an area of the lawn. Then at night we would carefully stalk through the wet place with flashlights and grab the worms as they lay on top of the ground. You had to be quiet and very quick to grab them before they could retreat down their burrows. We kept the worms in a wooden box in the cellar. The box contained wet, ground-up newspaper called “bus bedding”. We sometimes added coffee grounds to the mix to make the worms more feisty. We had to sort through them every few days and remove any dead ones. The day before the trip we transferred them with fresh bedding to a “Bait Canteen”, an insulated worm carrier.

    At about the same time in June, we began backyard casting practice. Dad didn't use the new-fangled spinning tackle with its monofilament line and small lures. And fly fishing tackle was too delicate and fiddly for the fish he was after. We used bait casting tackle with wire leaders and 25-pound test braided line. Dad didn't go much for this “sporting” nonsense of fighting a fish and finessing it up to the boat and into the net. When he had hooked a fish, the sporting was supposed to be over. He wouldn't consider shooting a sitting rabbit, but trying to land a five pound fish with a four pound leader wasn't sporting; it was just plain stupid.

    Casting practice was needed because bait casting reels were prone to backlash. At the beginning of the cast, the reel tries to spin faster than the line goes out. The result is a backlash where the line tries to wind itself backwards on the reel spool. The result is a tangled mess commonly known as a “bird nest”. The line in the bird nest has to be stripped off of the reel and wound onto the spool the right way again. To avoid getting a bird nest, one applies pressure to the spool with one's thumb, lightening the pressure gradually as the spinning spool slows down.

    After mastering the art of casting without making a goshawful tangle, one had to achieve accuracy. Our fishing was mostly done in weed beds and around stumps and sunken logs. We had to reliably drop a lure into a hole in the weeds or place it next to a stump without either hitting it or dropping the line over it. Windy weather added to the challenge.

    All of this backyard work was done with last year's fishing line and a dummy plug. The dummy was a conical plug without hooks . You could open the end and add or subtract lead weights inside. When we had practiced enough, we oiled the reel and wound new line on it.

    Sometime during the month of June we overhauled the rest of our tackle, replacing missing or rusted items, sharpening hooks, and polishing spinners and spoons.

    We packed the car on the day before the trip (a Friday). The outboard motor went into the trunk of the car at the back (if customs wanted to see any particular thing it would be that). We packed everything we would need for the duration, including enough food to last until Monday.

    In the early years, the actual trip (250 miles) took 10 to 12 hours, depending on traffic and the whims of customs. In later years, when the interstate highways were built, it took only 8. We usually left in the wee hours of Saturday morning. This put us in Buffalo and at the Peace Bridge before the morning rush.

    When I was just a little whipper, a bed was made for me on the car's back seat. I was expected to sleep back there at least until sunup. Sleep? Forget that sleep nonsense! This was high adventure! We were making a family legend here. I wanted a sandwich, dammit! Eventually I would nod off as the boring parts of the countryside went by. When we came to a town, the road noise would change or we would stop for a traffic light and I would be wide awake again, looking at the strange scenery (and catching hell for getting up).

    In the early years, the only freeway or limited access highway we encountered was the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in Canada. Every other road was two lanes that went through the business district of every city and hamlet along the way. This made the trip a long and tiring one, especially for Dad who did all of the driving.

    We had to stop for Canadian customs at the end of the Peace Bridge. Sometimes Dad had to declare the motor, sometimes not. A few times the customs agents pulled us over and completely frisked the car and contents – a major delay.

    When we finally got onto the QEW, we could make up some of the lost time. We took the Brighton exit and passed Campbellford on the way to Camp Eagle Eye.

    Just north of Campbellford, we had to cross a “swing bridge”. This was a low bridge that could rotate parallel to the river to allow the large boat traffic to pass. When a cabin cruiser wanted through, it would stop and sound its horn. The bridge master would leave his house, walk down to the bridge, erect a barrier at each end, and produce a large two-handled lever from a rack at the side of the bridge. He inserted the lever into a socket in the center of the bridge deck. Leaning on the handle, he would trudge around in a circle like a sailor at his capstan. The bridge would slowly open and let the boat through. When no more boat traffic was in the offing, he reversed the process for the road traffic.

    The swing bridge north of Campbellford had a wooden deck. For the first several years the deck had some loose planks that would rumble as a car drove across. I named it Thunder Bridge. Crossing there was one of the highlights of my trip. One day we crossed and found workmen making repairs. What an outrage! I was maybe five years old at the time. I leaned out the window and gave those guys a blast of opinion. Alas, they had already destroyed the thunder.

    North of Campbellford, the roads were all “dirt” but covered with crushed limestone. Road graders kept them smooth but the loose stone was tricky to drive on. As years passed, these roads were gradually paved – an encroachment by civilization that I was sorry to see.

    When we came to within a quarter-mile of camp, I could smell the clean odor of the river mixed with the peculiar spicy smell of the grass and weeds that passed for a lawn there. That was the first sign that we had arrived at the heaven-on-earth for little boys. When we stopped at our cabin, I wanted to rush down to the water's edge and look at the river and listen to the slap and cluck of the waves as they struck the boats and rocky shore.
    "Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little." -Epicurus-

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    Default Re: The Trip to Camp Eagle Eye

    I don’t know if you’ll receive this message, but I am also from northeast Ohio and I can remember way back to being a young child the annual summer trips we would take as a family up to Camp Eagle Eye on the Trent River. Those were some of my favorite times as a young child. At that time, Rt 90 had not yet been in existence and the only west/east road from Ohio that took us to the Buffalo area was Rt 20. As you had noted, it took at least 12 hours and we always left in the wee hours of the morning. I have attempted to do some research on Camp Eagle Eye but there really isn’t too much available on Google. I was able to determine (I believe) that where the main office was is now called Fisherman’s Paradise Resort. I don’t know if you recall the small general store that was at the beginning of the access road that led to all of the cottages. On Google Earth, the building seems to be still there, unless it was torn down and the current one built in its place. Some of the old cottages may still be there as well. Recently I stumbled across an old postcard from Camp Eagle Eye, which I quickly bought in order to have a piece of something to recall my memories from my childhood. In many ways, those days seemed so innocent and full of much fun and laughter. I wish sometimes I could turn the clock back just to experience it all over again!
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    Last edited by Tallgeodude; June 21st, 2021 at 06:14 PM.


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