Good Old Bob

by Sylvie O'Rourke

Today we are hoping to run into Old Bob. We have heard that he hangs out on the escarpment above Westport, Ontario, somewhere along the Rideau Trail. We have never met but I think he will have great stories to share

It is a beautiful sunny day, and an unseasonably warm one for early May. We start our hike at the Westport Beach on Sand Lake and follow the trail up the escarpment. The path is narrow at first but widens once a tree clearing reveals a large outcrop. We must keep an eye out for trail markers as the path is not so obvious here. There is no sign of Old Bob so far. In fact, other than the snakes we encounter basking on the rocks along the way, we have seen no sign of movement from anyone or anything. Even the wind seems reluctant to blow, but the occasional blissful breeze sent our way is welcomed relief.

About an hour in, we spot our first sign of civilization as the path skirts by farmland with an ancient, abandoned silo. Does Bob hail from here? There is no one around to ask. I guess I should not be surprised at the lack of hikers. The locals undoubtedly know better than to hike here in the blazing afternoon sun.

Up ahead we spot something strange on the path. Upon further observation we discover that it is a turtle lying on its back. It is alive but in peril. It appears to have rolled down a steep part of the path on its way down from an upper pond. We right it and it sits there unmoving as if stunned. We let it be with the intent of checking on it later as we are so close to our turn-around point. About twenty minutes later we are happy to note that the turtle has moved on, likely to the next pond. Hopefully, it is now hanging out with its pals recounting its close call.

Midway through our return trip, we begin to have vivid visions of walking into the lake at the end of our journey. We are tiring and nearly decide to give up on Bob, but we spy a blue marker on a tree and our curiosity gets the better of us; Besides, we still have plenty of water to hydrate. Not only does this new trail turn out to be short, but we have finally located what we have been seeking! It surprises me to see how healthy he looks despite his advanced age. Bob-The-Lookout sits on a rocky clearing. He has obvious signs of erosion and is dressed in a coat of lush and abundant moss in different shades of green, some soft and spongy, and some dry and crispy. Given his state, I have the distinct impression that no one has come to visit him in a while. He must be lonely as he wastes no time in pointing out the beautiful vista around him. He eagerly shows us Sand Lake below and the pretty village of Westport with its white church spire and water tower. I am sure Old Bob has witnessed much wildlife and human interactions in his lifetime. On a cooler day, we would stay longer to chat, but today the lake awaits. We bid him good day with a promise to return soon with our friends.

At the beach, we hurry to remove our hiking socks and boots to wade into the lake above our ankles. The water, still waking from its winter deep-freeze, is so cold it hurts, but I stand there stoically feeling my overall body temperature slowly dropping. When we return later in the season, we will know to bring our swimming gear for a dip after our hike. I look forward to introducing Old Bob to my friends. I just know they will love him.

Published in The Cornwall Seeker, the 2 in 1 Flip magazine, September 2021, page 23,

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