I dipped the paddle into the cool water and gave it a gentle shove.
In moments, I was gliding across the still surface of the river and into the storied past.
Ah, the lazy days of summer!
The door of the old yellow school bus stood ajar as a rambunctious pack of obnoxious kids excitedly hopped up the steps into the dilapidated interior and took a seat one by one.
For the next four or five monotonous hours on the road, we'd wile away the time (as it seemingly stood still) by singing several rounds of boisterous camp-fire songs.
"Ninety-nine bottles of beer in the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer. If one of those bottles should happen to fall, there would be ninety-eight bottles of beer in the wall."
The trek through the back roads of Ontario was long and hot and Northward bound.
At long last when the bus pulled into Honey Harbour just after twilight, I was snuggled up in an uncomfortable heap in one corner of a worn seat fast asleep.
I half-recall a counselor lifting me up and carrying me outside to a waiting cruiser which purred at a dock that creaked underfoot.
The sounds of the gentle waves lapping at the edge of the boat were soothing - and at the same time somewhat hypnotic - as the small speed boat ferried each and every one of us over to Beausoleil Island.
For a fortnight, my new-found pals and I would be exploring (and braving) the wilds of Ontario with youthful curiosity and tireless vigor.
In addition, there would be a lot of sun-kissed hiking, swimming and canoeing.
After all, idle hands were the Devil's workshop, weren't they?
Indeed, on occasion, we'd be fending for ourselves on a sort-of rite of passage that took place like clockwork in August every year.
On occasion, when the golden sun broke over the rocky terrain in the morning, I would peer out into the great beyond.
Suddenly, the aroma of hot porridge would assail my nostrils.
My stomach would growl hungrily in response.
Camp Wabanaki was unlike any other summer camp I ever attended and more picturesque than most.
Here, a series of small cottages (dorms, if you will) were strategically placed atop perches that jutted out over rock-cliff faces that fell treacherously for a brief stint, then plunged into a fresh-water basin below .
The routine started quickly enough.
In preparation for a week-long canoe trip through the Crown lands, there would be a bit of prepping in the form of swimming lessons, first aid, wilderness survival, and even instructions on how to tie a myriad of fancy sailor's knots.
One year, our journey took us through the locks at Bracebridge and along the Seguin river.
A creek chosen for a short-cut to paddle through on one leg of the arduous journey, turned out to be all dried up - so, on that occasion - we were forced to lift our canoes over the rocks for a short period 'til there was sufficient water in the riverbank to set them alight on the surface once again on the other side.
Now and then, it was necessary to portage around dangerous gulches or fast-moving rapids, through the forest at the outer edge.
During one such adventure, as my hands were held high supporting the canoe firmly, menacing mosquitoes swarmed all over my naked back and thirstily sucked the blood right out of my tender virgin skin.
Needless to say - during this unexpected encounter - all the boys were inclined to step lively through the underbrush to the other side - where the sight of fresh-water swelling the banks was a welcome sight.
As to the canoe lifting, well, it's part of the folklore in those parts.
Whenever a lazy canoeist dragged his vessel over the rocks - instead of lifting it high and out of harm's way - fragments of paint were inclined to scar the rocks signaling which campers came through that way.
If a hiker spied "red" on the rocks, tradition demanded that he cry out:
After all, Camp Wabanki's canoes were a bright fire-engine red!
Each vacation, it became apparent who the slackers were by simply observing the waterways and byways in the great out-of-doors, for tell-tale signs.
Conquering the forces of Nature oftentimes turned out to be a feather in one's cap, too.
One year, we were offshore quite-a-ways in Georgian Bay, paddling away, when a wild storm swept in from out-of-the-blue.
Powerful waves set into motion by a series of high winds were so severe, in fact, that they threatened to overturn our lightweight canoes.
So, our counselor - a seasoned pro on the campfire trails - instructed us to strap all three canoes astride each other.
Then, we stretched our rain gear over our paddles and proceeded to harness the wind - at which point - we triumphantly sailed into shore just beyond a lone cottage (owned by T. Eaton of the Department Store Chain) at the tip of the private Island.
Notwithstanding these adventures on the topsy-turvy seas, there were also a multitude of other leisure activities designed to challenge us and play havoc with our wits.
At night, we often played capture the flag in the inky-black night beneath a breathtaking canopy of twinkling night stars.
There were sailboat excursions, relay races, you name it.
To this day, when I recall all the fond memories of Camp Wabanaki, a smile comes across my face.
I have only to catch a whiff of porridge one frosty winter morn to find myself whisked back in time to recall some of the most cherished (and happiest) days of my entire youth.