Camping on Rupperts Island

by Alan Gelb

Sycamore Islander, June 1999


A late-afternoon rainshower failed to dampen our enthusiasm as Robert, Chris Hepp and I piled our gear into the rear canoe and set out for Rupperts Island on our camping expedition. The sky was dull gray and the river running fiercely, very high after April rains. Paddling furiously, we made slow headway up the creek and pulled in at an inviting spot. It was nesting season and Rupperts was alive with Canada geese, who clearly had mixed feelings about their new neighbors.

Reward for wilderness masons:
a hot supper around the campfire.
Our site was excellent but lacked stones to make a fireplace. While I unloaded and erected our tent (being careful to avoid the poison ivy endemic to the island), the more adventurous boys took one canoe for a stone-hunting reconnoitre, returning with the news that the ideal rocks were too large to carry. As we ventured out together I was even more impressed with the speed of the river which made it difficult to navigate upstream around Rupperts, but we returned from its upper end with the ideal rocks after a long and muddy struggle to load them. Now we could plan dinner -- steak, spaghetti and tea, with toasted marshmallows to conclude. As the dusk faded into night we sat by our fire, relishing the wildness and silence of Rupperts, and turned in. The silence was briefly broken by ghost noises made by Doc from the upper end of Sycamore, but alas, the boys had dozed off and to me it sounded like party-noise, rather than ghost-noise. Sorry Doc, you'll have to practice more on your ghouling!

Before packing, one more snapshot for the record.
Morning's onset was signalled by a spectacular chorus of bird calls, one on top of the other, all competing and all different. I lay in my sleeping bag, enchanted by the feathered choir while the boys built a fire, made tea (who says 11-year-olds can't be trained?) and headed off to explore. Moving with caution, they counted fifteen nesting geese, including one who had settled in an old tire. It was the best time to view Rupperts - the trees were still leafless and the woods were full of bluebells glowing in the slanting rays of early morning sun. Embarking again, we tried once more to circumnavigate the island against the press of the river but without success, and returned to find that an army of geese had invaded our campsite. Putting on a show of determination we advanced deliberately, and thankfully they retreated.

It was now time for brunch and the boys headed downstream to pick up Caroline and Michael and, more importantly, their bag of fresh Sunday morning bagels -- a touch of civilization coming to Rupperts. Loading up, we then returned downstream to Sycamore and reality, bequeathing our hard-won fireplace as a legacy to future campers.