May 17, 1917
Even though there was a frost last night, I decided it was warm enough to set up my camp on Hayhurst Point. I’ll still take my meals at Mowat Lodge and check for my mail but I’ll be staying here most nights from now on.
I can’t be too far away, as I might be taking on some guiding work. Hayhurst Point is a favourite spot of mine – across the lake – I can see the cottages and higher up on the hill behind, Mowat Lodge. I can see smoke rising from Hotel Algonquin. My campsite is far enough away that I’m not bothering Thomas and Mary Hayhurst (after whom the point is named). They’re friends of the Piries and Bertrams who have cottages on Gilmour Island. They came to Canoe Lake about the same time as the Frasers, but at the suggestion of Dr. Bertram. Thomas has weak lungs and the advice of Dr. Bertram was to spend time among the evergreens. Two years ago, their son Alexander died of black throat diphtheria. I remember Mark Robinson bringing the casket across the lake by canoe. Shannon transported it with his hearse to the cemetery. It was a sad day for all around Canoe Lake.
I looked for where I had my tent last year. It was between two jack pines. The ground was still level from what I had cleared out last year. There were some depressions where I chopped out some projecting roots and I had to fill the holes with sand to make it smooth. I brought my canvas tent which I had stored at Mowat Lodge (my silk tent is in South River). The previous years I used a rope between the trees but this year I decided to make a more permanent fixture. I chopped three small trees, one to use as ridge pole, lashed to one of the jack pines, and the other two to form the front support of the tent, a lean-to of a sort. This configuration gave me some flexibility where I could face the front of the tent. I made it face due south, so I could see the full glory of Canoe Lake, I could see Little Wap, Big Wap, Gilmour and beyond, Cook Island. It was a grand view, and I felt like I was looking into my future and my fate.
I swung the canvas over the ridge pole. It has a musty but pleasant smell. The smell of past winter. The smell will be gone after a day in the wind and the sun. I fashioned tent pegs by splitting slabs off an old pine stump nearby. The stump was nearly three feet across, a reminder of the majestic pines that once dominated the landscape here. No more. I pegged the sides down and the tent began to take shape as a shelter and a home. It felt good. To make a soft bedding I cut the branches of several balsam firs and spread them on the ground inside the tent. I brought three blankets with me. I spread them out on the firs. My oldest (and most threadbare) blanket was on the bottom on the branches.I would sleep underneath the other two. My Mackinaw coat, rolled up, would be my pillow. With the blunt end of my axe, I hammered a three-inch nail into the jack pine, about four feet off the ground. That’s where my lantern will hang.
I brought a cheesecloth to hang across the front, to keep out the mosquitoes. They still manage to get through, but the cheesecloth reduces the numbers enough that there’s a fighting chance for comfort.
Outside, I drove a nail in the other Jack pine to hang up my provisions. Mostly to keep it away from the chipmunks. They are the greatest threat for stealing food. If you don’t pay attention, a chipmunk will gnaw through your canvas pack in no time flat. People ask me if I am worried about bears in the Park. I say no, chipmunks are the biggest threat.
I set up the fire pit. The rocks were still around from last year’s camp but scattered about. I placed the rocks into a circle and started a fire with some kindling I made from the stump. For supper I brought a can of beans which I heated up in the frying pan on the wire grill I set up. My reflector oven, I left aside. I’d be using it tomorrow but not tonight. I burnt my tongue when I started in on the beans – I didn’t let them cool down enough. I had that funny feeling on my tongue for the rest of the night. I didn’t make tea because it would hurt too much. A swig of water soothed the burn, a swig of whisky made it burn more.
I smoke my pipe while I watch the sun go down in the west. Across the lake I can see the lights at Mowat Lodge. I can also see the lights at the Trainor and Blecher cottages. I thought I could see a silhouette in a window but I’m sure it was either my imagination or the cooling air playing tricks with the lights. The frogs are peeping but subdued. The water is lapping quietly on the shore. A loon cries only once; a long cry. I roll up my coat for a pillow and begin to make my bed. The fresh cut evergreens make a fine smell over the smell of my socks which I hang to dry at the front of the tent. I can feel the temperature going down, but I can easily stay warm. The cool temperature is a blessing because it keeps the mosquitoes down. Before I fell asleep, I remember that I hung my pack on the nail outside. My canoe is pulled up onshore. All is good for the night.