Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Old Canoe

The Old Canoe

My seams gape wide so I’m tossed aside
To rot on a lonely shore
While the leaves and mould like a shroud enfold,
For the last of my trails are o’er;
But I float in dreams on Northland streams
That never again I’ll see,
As I lie on the marge of the old portage
With grief for company.

When the sunset gilds the timbered hills
That guard Timagami,
And the moonbeams play on far James Bay
By the brink of the frozen sea,
In phantom guise my Spirit flies
As the dream blades dip and swing
Where the waters flow from the Long Ago
In the spell of the beck’ning spring.

Do the cow-moose call on the Montreal
When the first frost bites the air,
And the mists unfold from the red and gold
That the autumn ridges wear?
When the white falls roar as they did of yore
On the Lady Evelyn,
Do the square-tail leap from the black pools deep
Where the pictured rocks begin?

Oh! the fur-fleets sing on Timiskaming
As the ashen paddles bend,
And the crews carouse at Rupert House
At the sullen winter’s end;
But my days are done where the lean wolves run,
And I ripple no more the path
Where the gray geese race cross the red moon’s face
From the white wind’s Arctic wrath.

Tho’ the death fraught way from the Saguenay
To the storied Nipigon
Once knew me well, now a crumbling shell
I watch the years roll on,
While in memory’s haze I live the days
That forever are gone from me,
As I rot on the marge of the old portage
With grief for company.

 By George Marsh (Scribner’s Magazine, October 1908)

Photo taken when on forest fire assignment in the late 90's. Old cedar strip canvas freighter canoe abandoned on the shore of the Attawapiskat River, east of Lansdowne House

Canadian Canoe Museum

After I retired from the Aviation and Forest Fire Management branch of the MNR I spent my first summer off in 45 years just goofing off and canoeing! It was a great way to spend a summer after all those years of working. Starting in the spring of 2013 I've been spending the months of March and April working and instructing on the SP100 Basic Forest Fire Fighting Course for a friend's company.This is the course that the MNR requires their prospective Ranger Crew applicants to obtain before applying for the summer fire season. This is a great way to spend a couple months for me and we finish up at the end of April just as the ice is coming off the lakes and rivers and I can once again get out on the water and indulge in my passion for canoeing and the outdoors.

I've been on the road since the first week of March across Southern Ontario again this spring delivering the course. The course is structured so that we deliver the material on Wed - Fri from 4:00 - 11:00 pm daily with Sat/Sun being full 8 hour days 8-5:00. This leaves us time to check various local attractions etc. during the week days, usually on the Thursday. As I also like to bake bread I suggested a visit to the historic Arva Flour Mill near London, where I loaded up with several large bags of different flours for myself and friend back in Sudbury. The next course was in the Kitchener-Waterloo area so a visit to the St. Jacobs Farmers Market was in order!

The next course was held in Lindsay and I suggested a visit to the Canadian Canoe Museum located a short drive away in Peterborough.

 birch bark canoe display - Quebec and Ontario styles

It had been a few years since my last visit and the other 2 instructors had never been and in fact didn't know it existed! This museum is a unique national heritage museum that showcases the canoe and it's place in Canada's history. It has a wonderful collection of over 600 canoes, kayaks and other paddled craft with over 100 of them on display. The museum is organized for self guided tours taking you though the history of the craft in Canada and also features some interactive and hands on displays. They also offer workshops for both children and adults throughout the year - check it out - you know you could use a new paddle or wanigan or moccasins or ......

If you're ever in the area, stop in for a step back into some of Canada's history who knows you might just get the urge to get out canoeing.

east coast style birch bark canoes with a west coast cedar dugout in the background