Thursday, January 29, 2009

Low Tech Canoeing VIII - Wind and Smoke

Continuing about my 1948 canoe trip from "Wooden Canoe":
" Grandpa complained that the one thing they could count on throughout the trip was that the wind would always be in their faces, no matter from which direction they were paddling. The same phenomenon held true for smoke from campfires---always in the eyes."
We only got really lost once. It was after a day in civilization. When we reached the northernmost point of our journey we had arrived at the little wide-place-in-the road on TransCanada Highway 17 known as Wabigoon. We spent a short time in a Hudson's Bay Post replenishing our provisions and a long time in an Official Ontario Purveyor of Beer. We returned late to our last campsite which we had named "Slimy Island" because that's what it was. Next morning we are off on the return which, after some upstream paddling and a couple of portages, will find us in the Turtle River, a tributary of Rainy Lake. In a big marshy bay we find what we think is the right river flowing in and confidently head upstream. It is extremely serpentine thus masking what direction we were really heading. The hangovers from the previous day's imbibing didn't help. Late in the day we came to a bridge where no bridge should be. We have inadvertently arrived back at the TransCanada Highway an unknown number of miles east of where we spent the day before. Determined not to waste an entire day we decide to skip camping and spend the night going back downstream to where we started the day. So with the bow man snoozing and the stern man steering we drifted all the way back to our point of departure. Daylight enables us to find the right stream and we are on our way again. Today I used Google Earth and MapQuest to go back and relive that misadventure.
" The year 1948 was back in what Grandpa called the good old days when smoking was fun and guilt-free. The veterans' habits had been nurtured during the war by the availability of cigarettes at 5 cents per pack in the PX or ship's store and free in field rations. The point of his telling about their low-cost addiction was to try to explain away why, after leaving  their last pack of cigarettes on a rock towards the end of the trip, two grown men would paddle back several miles to retrieve the fags and travel an equal distance to get back to where they turned around. Grandpa said that one consolation was that one of these legs was downwind."
Cigarette adds used to dominate magazines and radio like prescription drug commercials and two-page ads dominate TV and magazines now. My Dad smoked Camels so that was what I learned on. I didn't start until I was 19 and had a hard time with coughing and hacking but I stuck with it until it took. "I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel" their ad went. "Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War" their ad said when they changed from green packs to white to save chromium. "Blow a Little My Way" said the seductive girl to the Chesterfield smoker.
"It was four skinny, hard muscled, sun tanned, mosquito bitten, unshaven, smelly canoeists who successfully and happily arrived back at Rainy Lake. Ken, Ned and Jim, freshly graduated from engineering school, went on to start their careers and John went back to college."
John and Ken are gone now but Ned is still around, living in a fancy retirement community on the Atlantic. The Old Town Otca still exists, one year older than I am, but that's another story.
NEXT: What happened to the Old Town?

No comments: