The Road to Fall Down Lake
Day 2 - Tuesday, March 9, 1999
I wake to the sound of men's voices and the smell of bacon cooking.
I feel the group is still wondering if I, the only female on
the trip, will hold them back. The sleep room is hot from stoked
pot belly stoves and I wonder how I, in my underwear, will dress
when 5 men are in the open room across from me.
I pull on my clothes from the day before, brush my hair, change
my socks and reinsert the boot liners into my Sorels. Groggy
from the nights sweltering heat of the fire, I lumber into the
kitchen area hearing dried pine needles crackle under my socks.
is cooking bacon and showing off the toaster. The simplest
methods of living can sometimes cause the most interesting
conversations. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention.
Necessity at Pump House, our first camping location, involved
placing a slice of bread against the side of the steel drum
wood stove until browned on one side. A spatula shaved the
loose and then Pete placed the slice back on the side of the
drum to toast side 2 and worked further on the bacon. A little
rust never hurt anyone--maybe.
Excitedly, we all had to toast bread.
The men made conversation, muddling through sign language for
translation from French to English and back. Sam tried to ask
Flag and Ivan about moose, creating virtual horns with his hands
placed at the top of his head. Flag smiled and repeated the
word "moose" and with understanding added, "Oui
(pronounced "whey" in French Canadian) many moose."
Sam then moved on to lynx, fox and other animals that might
be hunted in the Bush of Canada. While dad continued to cook,
Pete sought out the lean-to out house and I watched Sam, impressed
with his game of charades.
After breakfast, Ivan and Pete cleaned dishes and I inquired
about the snow shoes lined up in the bank outside the door.
Ivan chose a wooden pair for me with a rubber boot insert for
easy installation. However, I wanted the old-time-lace ties
for a more authentic feel of the wild.
I began to try out my new footing, keeping legs wider apart
than the normal gait. I walked across the 2 feet of snow on
the pond without falling deep to my knees as I had done the
day before. I searched for tracks in the snow from the night
before to identify what riled the dogs in the middle of the
night. My father quickly caught on to what I was up to and
up his own pair of snowshoes. He joined me on the pond and
we ventured off the back edge into the forest to identify bunny
tracks leading to a hole.
Walking uphill around trees in the depths of the forest proved
to be a challenge. Every so often, one of us would turn a shoe
and take a fall into the deep snow. The pillow was soft, making
for an easy fall, but returning to our feet was the real challenge.
We returned to the pond to find Sam, in snowshoes, looking for
us. We all walked around the pond for a while and joked about
the events of the night before. Flag had placed so much wood
on the fire he couldn't stand the heat. He left the tent, driving
the "montanange" (snowmobile) back to the house for
the night, leaving us to swelter in our bags. This morning
boasted of seeing the northern lights sprinkle a green mist
across the sky on his trip home. We muttered under our breath
thinking we could have been more comfortable out in the snow
than in the 100 degree heat of the tent.
Washed, packed and bundled up, we harnessed the dogs for our
trip to Fall Down Lake. The process of tying them on the leader
happened quickly and succinctly.
I remained in the lead today although Ivan rode on the sled,
directing us on the appropriate path. Turning corners proved
to be difficult with his weight and mine on the sled. He often
dragged a foot on the turns to help redirect the sled. We traveled
across frozen lakes and through beautiful spreads of white birch.
Small hills tired the dogs, but once over any ridge, they barked
happily and picked up to a sprinters pace. If you forced them
to stop to wait for the trailing sleds, they would turn to send
disappointed glances and yelps my way as if to ask, "what's
the hold up?"
Once running again, their barking stopped and the quiet sounds
of sled runners over damp snow remained. We soon became hungry
for lunch and learned about "the big fire." We tied
down the sleds for lunch allowing the dogs to sleep in the cool
Flag and Ivan with chainsaw and axe in hand felled dead pine,
dragged them into a pile in the snow and lit the lunch time
fire for warmth and the cooking of food. A pile of six-foot
logs lay burning with one tiny pot of soup balanced on it. This
is an image that will remain in my mind with humor for many
years to come. We laid out dried pine boughs as seats and a
table and ate cheese, granola and sandwiches while the soup
heated. Upon tasting the soup we learned we would humorously
decline it at any meal for the remainder of the trip. We were
relieved when Ivan instructed us to dump it out. No one wished
to insult our chefs, but we also wanted to remain healthy on
the trip. The mantra became, "no soup."
Rested and geared up for our remaining journey, we continued
over snowy knolls pointing out moose tracks, jack rabbit and
Ivan tracks. His simulated moose tracks didn't fool the rest
of the group.
Within several hours we came to a halt at the top of a hill.
Ivan jumped from the sled and looked at me with a smile, telling
me to wait here. He returned to explain our arrival at Fall
Down Lake. We didn't know the details of the naming of this
lake, but by namesake, we all knew the outcome. I yelled for
the dogs to go ("allez") as I dragged the brake to
keep them from flipping the sled down the thousand-foot mountain
slide. We reached the bottom when the dogs made a quick right
turn, forcing the sled over a 2' tree stump, which I somehow
managed to pry us away from without injury. To my knowledge,
the rest of the group made it to the base unscathed as well.
We had arrived at camp #2.
We tied the dogs down for the night, the men dug the water hole
in the lake and I scouted out the tent to relax on the pine
bed floor. Flag started the fire, Ivan and I worked to decipher
the dinner menu and Dad, Pete and Sam scouted the area. Eventually,
I learned that "cauchon" was pork and that would be
the main ingredient in our dinner stew.
Pete built the fire outside the tent where we would linger for
warmth while preparing dinner. We exchanged bits and pieces
of what we had learned of the naming of fall down lake.
Apparently, Flag had christened Fall Down Lake on his snowmobile
after a heavy snowfall in a previous year. He rolled to the
edge of the lake in a daze and arose unharmed. We also exchanged
stories of each sled from our days events. It seemed that each
of us by now had eaten snow at one point or another.