Fire / Feu


 

Un décor hivernal féerique

Gart Bishop nous raconte la grande aventure de lui et sa famille en camping durant l'hiver.

Ils ont vécu,
"un temps exceptionnel, lorsque l'aventure, la romance et la beauté se sont rencontrées pour créer une expérience magique..."

 

A Winter Wonderland

Gart Bishop
October 1999

 

ne crisp Saturday morning, in a January now ten years past, my wife and I and another couple parked along the margin of a rural road and unpacked toboggans, sleeping bags, packs and snowshoes. Our canine pets accompanied us; one, a malamute, was put in a harness attached to a small sled and the other, a foolish mutt, was allowed to roam freely.

Winter trees
(photo: NBEN-RENB)

The winter had had little snow, much of which had disappeared in town. Neighboring small lakes and the ponds that had formed in many of the farmer’s fields had perfectly smooth surfaces. Our destination was a small secluded lake ... and we had brought our skates.

We were not experienced winter campers, but rather summer campers with some experience. We walked along on a beautiful sunny morning, full of excitement, looking for adventure. The guys, confident with unproven ability, the gals, apprehensive of mishap but trusting in the male bravado.

Two hours of snowshoeing brought us to the small lake resurfaced by a recent thaw. The woods were a mixture of white and brown patches: brown where wind, rain and sun had allowed the grasses of last summer to poke through; white where the snow lay slyly covering hollows, cleverly hiding their depth until tested by the traveler who might sink two inches or two feet.

The search began for the ideal camping site. During the last five years, much of the lake's periphery had been harvested, leaving no dense woods. We settled on a young fir thicket, isolated in the middle of an open area, which offered a scenic view of the lake, abundant boughs for a springy mattress and dead standing trees for firewood. After a hearty lunch, a lean-to frame was erected, coated with balsam-smelling branches both on the sloping roof and the floor. Logs were propped up to serve as fireside chairs. A mountain of firewood was collected, cut or broken to length and stacked. In true Boy Scout fashion, a wobbly camp table was constructed from small branches. As the daylight faded, we were feeling satisfied with our preparations, and we began to relax and look forward to an evening of good food and a little drink, mixed with provocative and stimulating conversation.

Potatoes in tin foil were nestled around the margin of the fire; a batch of bannock was mixed up and set to baking. Juicy steaks laid out on rickety wooden supports soon began to sizzle. We huddled warm and smugly contented around the fire, sipping red wine from Tim Horton travel mugs. Supper was a relaxed, leisurely affair followed by a simple clean-up, involving little more than lightly rubbing the dishes with snow. Occasionally we would look up from the dancing and crackling flames to a starless sky. By the time we were finished eating, a light snow was falling. The night air from beyond snuck into the glow of our fire pit and the evening changed from pleasant to magical. We gazed out over the frozen lake and watched big lazy flakes of snow falling. In spite of the cloud cover, it was a bright night.

We took our skates, walked down to the lake's edge and laced up. By now a skim of snow less than the height of a skate blade covered the surface. Each couple set off arm in arm, leaving behind a patterned trail of wiry prints. In the darkened setting, the snow cover seemed like a cloud. You couldn't see what was ahead, but had to trust and have faith. The ice surface was perfect, no ripples or bumps. We skated out to the middle of the lake, then the two couples parted and in big loops skated back to where we had begun, our trails roughly outlining a large heart. There was perhaps an inch of snow down before the moon burst out. The air, no longer filled with downy flakes, glittered and twinkled with ice crystals.

We skated for an hour or more before returning to the comfort of the fir where we were able to gaze down on an intricate pattern of skate trails and dog tracks that recorded in detail everywhere we'd been. We had a cup of cocoa, then retired to our fir-laden shelter and fell asleep, looking up at the moon and a few brave twinkling stars.

By morning, just enough snow had fallen to cover all our tracks. Our world was pristine. It was like the previous night had been a wonderful dream. After a breakfast of thick pancakes slathered with maple syrup and a mug or two of coffee, the males donned skates once again and set off, this time pushing a makeshift snow plow, making snake-like trails. Various games and play where devised, and eventually the ladies joined in.

With reluctance we packed up and headed home, knowing that we'd experienced a rare time, when adventure, romance and beauty had all come together to create a magical experience.