As you can see from the 3 potential titles, I was unsure how to tell this story. That’s partly why it’s a week later before I tried to compose it. Should I put a big emphasis on the fact that I often act like I know everything, or should I plead the case that, basically, it was a good idea or sell myself as someone who is always ready no matter what comes my way? I’ll let you decide which would be the best title.
Now for the story:
As many of you know, my wife Wendy has retired from the Nova Scotia Rehab (QE2) where she has worked for many years as a physio, specializing in lower extremity amputees. I thought it would be great to celebrate with a get-away week-end to some nice lodge with a roaring fire, etc. Well it just so happens that one of our friends has a fine lodge (camp) in the wilds of Guysborough County and it was available on the chosen weekend.
Points to note that Wendy brought up:
- It’s been 15 years since we've been into the camp.
- It is winter, with lots of snow down.
- The hike in is about 7- 8 km.
My reply: The (ATV) “road” goes right to the camp, no problem. Of course we’ll find the camp. Besides, I have a map, compass and I went over the route with the owner’s brother, Stephen Rand.
We find the approach road: Ferguson Road which, normally, you can drive in 1 or 2 kilometres before leaving the car.
Not this time – had to leave car at entrance.
We hit the trail at about 2:15 pm, Saturday, January 24; temperature -4C; slight snow fall; 8 to 12 inches of unpacked snow on trail. We’re well dressed, toboggan in tow, with double mummy bag good for -7C, dry clothes, enough food for two meals, plus lots of snacks, first aid kit, DVD player with evening movie, crank portable radio, hand axe, Trail Blaze break-down buck saw, fire starting items, candle lantern, head lamps, large battery lantern, bottle of water, coffee pot, coffee and tea bags. Oh yes, snow shoes and hiking sticks.
The first section seemed to be all uphill. After a little adjustment, we became a two person dog team with Wendy in the lead. We found we weren’t as young as we felt, taking frequent stops trying to get used to the effort and the snow shoes, with each of us trying to make a snow angel unexpectedly. (i.e. fell)
Here we are in the harness, just crossing the first bridge, about 2 hours in, feeling confident we’ll make camp by evening. Unfortunately, I didn’t copy down Stephen’s instructions and was going by memory. So, as we hit the points as described, I mixed up the order and assumed we were further along then we were. In my defence, another bridge was added over another brook since Stephen had been there and I mistook this new bridge for the second one Stephen spoke of. This really confused the situation.
By 5:35pm, it’s dark and we were on a lake which we thought was Bobsled Lake, our destination. For the next two hours we bush-whacked, and walked up and down the lake looking for the cabin.
Being as stubborn as I am, I made one last search (about the fourth pass), with Wendy sitting alone on the lake with the toboggan, fearing the worst. Both of us praying we would find the camp, but to no avail.
On my return from the far upper end of the lake, I come through a fir thicket and walk on top of a hummock, which turns out to be an overturned aluminum boat -- a perfect lean-to!
I marked my find and headed down the lake to find Wendy, who is now reasonably scared and feels we should walk out, even though it’s dark and we’re exhausted. I calm the issue with my find and convince her we can make it through the night. After all, it’s not on a bog, we won’t perish and she may well live to enjoy her retirement.
We hike back up the lake with our gear in tow, picking up firewood on the way. We find our site and start to set up camp, finding the ground is bare under the boat and the bubble pad from the toboggan makes a great ground sheet.
As the site started to shape up, our stress level lowered and we settled in to spend the night. I got a fire started. We collected more firewood, sawed it up with the buck saw, piled it under the toboggan to keep snow off since it had started to fall again. We cut fir bows to soften our bed and help keep the frost out. We lowered the boat to reduce snow entry, stoked the fire, had a snack and settled in for the night.
The fire gave good reflective heat, plus a comforting feeling it would keep any wild animals away (i.e. ravaging coyotes).
Besides getting up to stoke the fire several times and at 3:30 to cut more wood, the night was uneventful and a fair night’s sleep was had by all.
I did spend some time mulling over in my mind where the camp was and were we on the right lake.
The dawn brought us a new day with renewed energy and after a little persuasion, the fire was alive again. We had drinking box slushies and Jane MacLaren’s homemade raisin bread for breakfast. Yummm!
I took my map in hand and walked down on the lake looking things over, and realized we’re not on Bobsled Lake at all, but Little Ross Lake, the lake before Bobsled. I didn’t know why until I talked to Stephen Sunday evening. The extra bridge issue became clear.
Obviously it was quite difficult for the Lord to answer our prayers, that we would find the camp (on the wrong lake). The boat was our answer to prayer, our make-shift camp. Praise the Lord, we survived to tell the story.
We had an enjoyable 2 hour, 45 minute hike out, following our tracks from the previous day.
Things on a positive note:
- The morning sunshine helped.
- Wendy’s new waterproof outdoor pants and radio (from Christmas) worked well.
- The -7C sleeping bag from TAO passed the test.
- Snow shoes helped a lot.
It was a good experience showing us we have what it takes to spend a night in the bush if we had to, but we’re unlikely to make it an annual event. And we hope to take a rain-check on the cabin – in a better season!
Bernie and Wendy Levy live to have another few adventures!!!