Into The Forest

August 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Far enough away to gain seclusion, yet within reach of those whose genuine interest prompts them to make the trip, Beaver Lodge extends a welcome to you if your heart is right.” — Grey Owl

Province, here is an adventure story.

When the moon is high and full, three women follow roads North, further than they’ve been before. They aim for the forest and the deep night sky. On the shores of Waskesiu, they prepare for a long hike. Astronaut food, a tent, three sleeping bags, coffee, hobo knives, cups, and spare socks; into the packs with these. Attach a bear bell for good fortune. Who’s got the deet?

Through mosquito hordes and every green imaginable, the journey to Grey Owl‘s cabin begins.

The sunlit landscape is a changeling: Here, great distances of wooly moss spread beneath the trees, offering spaciousness to the shimmering birch. There, a giant poplar stands landmark. Clamber up root-bound riverbanks, through fields of fern, over felled trunks, swampy muck sucking at feet. Then the green lake, a fecund skim of thick algae blotting out life from all the pale trees surrounding. Suddenly the forest bears fire scars; black spires of char jut through lush brush. Other trees die of old age, fading slowly to the forest floor in invisible, tangible stages. All the while Kingsmere Lake beckons, and at last they strip and plunge into its cold clarity before pushing on.

They reach Northend in five hours; 17 kilometres down, only 3 more to the goal. In late afternoon light, they round the last bend and the cabin emerges from the landscape.

It is lonely. Serene. Full of presence, though whether the legend’s or the land’s cannot be determined. The women try to imagine how to live here, in this isolation and beauty. They stand at the trio of sunken graves on the hillside. They stare across Ajawaan Lake and then they depart for their camp.

Astronaut food tastes divine, it turns out. They sleep.

In the morning, clouds mottle the sky and shortly after the hike begins, the rain does too. The slow fat drops escalate into torrents and the three are drenched in seconds. Keeps the mosquitoes away. But then: hail pummels, lightning lashes and they scan for falling trees as thunder sharpens their eardrums. Too close. The path is a river, they stumble and slip and try to move quickly to escape the weather. It takes an hour and a half to find the other edge of the storm.

At last they reach the trailhead, where strangely, they had begun only the day before. The forest has impressed itself. Hundreds of mosquito bites and lasting exhilaration prove their hearts are right.

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