Saturday, 9 July 2011

There Is A Place I Know...

There is a place I know...  It is both a physical place and a place that exists in my mind.  The physical place is one that anyone can get to if they have the inclination.  It requires either a trusty canoe or a good pair of hiking boots, although for me, the canoe is far more preferable.  It helps if the wind is right and the waves favourable.  No small amount of exertion is necessary -- a decent sweat is poof of that!  And at the end of the day, a good meal is needed to soothe the pangs in one's stomach and a flat place to lie is good medicine for the back.

The place in my mind is the romantic version of the physical place.  It started out a quarter century ago as I and my canoeing partner gazed at the topographic maps.  We wondered what the blues and greens of the map would equate to should we ever find ourselves there?  Would we be able to push a fully-loaded canoe down the waterways?  ...Or would it be impassable and force us to retrace our steps?  And what of the names of the lakes and river?  Do they hold promise of good times?  ...Or perhaps a warning in an ancient language that we foolhardy young men could not understand?  These were the contemplations that created the mythos of that place that lives in my mind.

At first we only pecked at the dark hinterlands -- for to bite off too much would surely be inviting disaster!  We would go up a river for a couple of days, test the waters (quite literally) and return from whence we came.  Gradually, and over time, we became more comfortable and we pushed farther into the unknown.  Those first few years were grand failures in many ways for we knew not what we were doing.  Our gear was inadequate; expectations too high and common sense far too low.  To avoid carrying the canoe and gear, we'd paddle another few feet only to find ourselves portaging through a bramble and cursing ourselves for such idiocy.

Gradually, we learned to have faith in the Land and the people who had trodden through before us.  Portages began and ended where they did for a reason.  Imagine that!  It was humbling and privately embarrassing to think that we had ever questioned the millenia-old pattern of those that had established these routes!  We came into tune with the Land and found portages where we expected them.  Trip after trip we learned more; became more at ease.  Foul weather ceased to bother us as much, the unknown rendered less spooky, and the shadows of the land became more illuminated.  We had found the key, come into our own and become one with the Land.  In many ways, it was a parallel for us two young men growing up.

Now, when I think of this place our experiences seem surreal and I have a hard time reconciling them with reality.  Similar to the waking moments after a dream I wonder: "Did all that I remember really happen?".  But I know that it did, as I have met people in the woods with whom I write to.  I regularly give advice on routes, travel times, campsites and reminisce with my canoeing partner about our adventures.  There are still others that I hope to meet in the woods someday -- maybe we'll meet on a portage trail and share lunch or help carry each others' gear.  Perhaps brew a cup of tea together on a rainy, Nova Scotian spring day...  I certainly hope so...

There is a place I know...


  1. Dood!

    Welcome to the world of blogging. A great entry too, I look forward to more views from basecamp!


  2. Thanks man! I appreciate all comments as I do pretty well with constructive criticism ;) Your comment, coming from such a well-read and written guy, is meaningful. This one had been brewing and for quite sometime, but I think a conversation that you and I had on our LaHave Trip this year helped push this over the edge. Plus it just feels good to write!