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By ARTHUR HULL MABLEY
T was merely a vague possibility until that bright June morning made it a purpose. We had reached Toronto on our annual sojourn and had four hours to wait for the Grand Trunk train north. "We" do it," said we, and before noon we ha rounded up the following camp outfit:
One tent, drill, 72x9 feet, without poles or fly; folding camp stove, weighing about three pounds; a few pieces of tinware; assorted provisions for a month.
To these we later added two portable cots and some bedding. Be it known that neither my wife nor I had ever camped, even so much as in the back yard. We had neither read authoritative works on camp economics, nor puzzled over the enticing pages of beautiful catalogues published by the manufacturers of campers' supplies. We were merely humble disciples of the Forest and trusted in the Wilderness.
Extending some fifty miles north of the Ottawa division of the Grand Trunk Railway system, at a point about seventy-five miles east of Georgian Bay, lies Algonquin Park, the national reserve land of Ontario. Numerous tourists pass through a corner of this tract of two thousand square miles, but few leave the train and find their way into the in
terior. It is still wild, with all the wildness of the primeval woods of this, the oldest forest in North America. Except for the inroads of lumbermen and the railroad, it is a land still unharmed by the hand of man. It is no summer resort and it supports no hotel. The man who ventures within its confines must needs be his own supporter as well as a lover of the free life. To the devotee of the primitive she shows vistas of beauty that delight and entrance, and for the genuine sportsman, whose chief aim is not death, she is generous. Rock, water and trees are the elements out of which this beauty is made. Fire-rent granite, veined with seams of quartz and mica, forms the ground floor of a thick vegetation of pine, spruce and hemlock, whose roots seem to penetrate into the very rock, so shallow is the nourishing soil. Eight hundred lakes, many of them nameless and unsurveyed, fill the hollows in the rocks. Deep lakes these are, with waters cold and dark, enshrouded in the strong arms of the interminable forest.
We had secured a government map of the park before leaving home and we now set to work upon it to find a suitable place for camping. We knew nothing of the region from personal experience, nor were we successful in securing knowledge from others. Even at Huntsville, our jumping-off place, we found out only the fact that if you wish to know what a place is like you must
go and find out. As Rainy Lake was near the boundary line, thus offering an easy escape in view of the dangers of this step into the dark, and, besides, was on the railroad, we decided for the lake of ominous name-a name welldeserved, as we discovered.
We bought at Huntsville a staunch canoe Peterborough model-which by its good behavior in all kinds of weather became an honorary member of our household under the Christian name of "Hilda." The Canadians excel in hospitality and canoe building. We were offered a birch canoe for a third of the sum, but, romance and drowning aside, the lone Indian's canoe is a botch beside the slim cedar skiff of his Canadian brother. Our craft was 16x3 feet, with the slight bulge below the gunwale, which makes the difference between life on the water and death in it.
Rainy Lake station proved to be a sawmill surrounded by a few forlorn houses, apparently built for a day and a night. The presence of a lone couple dumped in that desolate spot was an interesting spectacle to the two or three individuals that sidled around us, but when they found that we were only a couple of fools who had come five hundred miles to camp in this lonely spot, curiosity gave way to astonishment, astonishment to pity and pity to kindness. We had been told that all we needed to do was to slide our canoe from the train into the water. We were now informed that the lake was filled for a third of its length of three miles with logs, and that not even a canoe could get through "Now, the best thing you fellows can do," volunteered one of our new acquaintances (the other "fellow" was my wife), "is to have the section gang take your canoe and duffle on a hand car to where the water is open." That evening we acted on this advice, after finding temporary lodging in the sawmill boarding house and spending the afternoon inspecting the lake under the guidance of John Urquardt, fire ranger and gentleman. At a point one mile from the western end the lake widened into a beautiful sheet of water, with a
single island well up toward the eastern shore. We rowed thither in the only boat the lake could boast, the property of the lumber company. The beauty of the spot and its desirability as a camp site appealed to us at once.
Rain forbade a start the next morning, but after another one of the hospitable Mrs. Blake's dinners we set out with high anticipations. We found our possessions in a shanty of an abandoned lumber camp where I had my first experience as a pack animal. The initiation took the form of carrying an eighty-pound canoe down a steep bank to the edge of the water. The start was easy and graceful. The canoe caught the spirit of the descent and gained enthusiasm at every bound, for I had quickened my pace, not wishing the canoe to reach its destination before I should. The race came near ending in kindling wood and humiliation, but we managed to break the force of one another's fall by joining forces and coming down en masse.
Few joys are comparable to homebuilding, even though that home be but a tent. It was with great zeal that we landed and took possession of the island in the name of the Fresh Air Life. We felt the heart throbs of primitive man as we hewed our tent poles and set up our little cross tree, for at last we could live the simple life. Accelerated by the rumble of distant thunder, we soon had our light canvas stretched over the poles and firmly fastened by guy ropes. To one who was not a lover of forest freedom, the inspection of this flimsy home and the prospect of a month's sojourn therein through all the changes of sun and storm must have been forbidding indeed, but to us it seemed cosy and delightful. After setting up the cots and bringing in our boxes and enough fuel to last over a rainy day, we found that we had barely room in which to turn around, but we came to live in the open, not in tents. The opening looked out upon a ledge of rock that sloped toward the water and made a landing place.
We were now in the real wilds, only