By GERALD J. ROY
Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly
In a mid-July edition of The Wreckhouse Weekly, I wrote a review of a book by Adrian Payne where he described his young days of wondering what lay beyond the Long Range Mountains, and his adventures of exploring over the following decades. This prompted me to reminisce about my own wandering in what was then still pristine wilderness, when I first arrived on the Southwest coast.
At that time, there were no quad trails crisscrossing marshes and flat land areas. Some of those forays into what was, to me at least, truly wild terrain were with my brother-in-law and best friend, Tom Kettle. When I did venture on my own, it was always to explore areas which he had described to me. I understand that it is now somewhat easier to reach these areas, but when I first endeavoured to reach Campbell’s Pond, I had to climb the sheer face of a mountain while following a trickle of a brook, sometimes falling two feet for every three gained. But oh what joy I felt when I first set eyes on that magnificent, small lake, to flick a fly upon its barely undulating surface, to sit on a rock on its shore to boil a kettle and enjoy a cup of tea. That I caught nary a fish worth keeping was of no consequence, and I can still fondly reminisce about that experience.
Along the Trans Canada Highway, where I once found the start of a path to reach McDougall’s Pond, there are now private residences with private entrances. In the late 1980’s, one could travel unchallenged to various ponds and brooks, camp overnight under the stars (weather permitting), fry some of the day’s catch in bacon fat, and still return home with a mess of trout.
Having reached the age when I am seen as a crotchety old man, my exploring days are all in my memory now. But I still recall vividly my first trek to the top of the South Branch of the Great Codroy, called ‘the Gorge’. That is where I first snagged a salmon, or rather, it snagged me. From then on the adrenaline rush of having such a beast on the line had me looking for the same feeling for years to come. I did not land that particular fish, but I did return for the eight-mile journey upriver many times afterwards. The gorge and the waterfall above it were open to salmon fishers then. Sadly, because some irresponsible people abused easy access to the fish and were not content to cast a line, the stock has been depleted by those going into the spawning pools.
One particular memory touches on when, having built a lean-to with some boughs and after a fitful night’s sleep, attuned to the unfamiliar sounds of the surrounding forest, I had a hearty breakfast of a can of beans and went to the falls in quest of salmon. With no luck, I returned to my camp, only to find that my can of beans had been turned upside down, and showed unmistakable claw marks of what could only be a large bear. Naturally I beat a hasty retreat down that river and cut the normal five or six hour trek back to my car by a wide margin.
I recently took a trip in-country with a friend on his ATV. I was rather surprised to see that upon arrival at his cabin he unlocked it. Often during my wandering days in the back country I would come across a cabin that had been left open to all comers. The rule was to leave it at least as well as we found it, and we usually left any surplus food supplies in case some other soul may need shelter and sustenance. Sadly, those days of trust in our fellow fishers seem to have disappeared too.
I can recall once going to the Grand Bay River for a day trip of salmon fishing in the Fall, before the end of the fishing season, and being caught by an inexplicably early snowstorm. Remembering an earlier trip in that area with my perennial guide, Tom, I went to a cabin located a few hundred yards in the woods. The door was unlocked, there was wood inside the cabin, a makeshift stove built from an old oil drum, some food stuff, and other necessities. I was snug, warm, and had ample time to wait out the weather. I returned there a few days later to replenish what I had used.
Be it far from me to condemn the encroaching urbanization of the region and the surrounding towns and recreation areas. Still I find it sad that some individuals seem to think the environment is only there to be abused. Would it not be so much easier to take out any garbage you carry in and conserve this wonderful corner of the world for generations to come?
Meanwhile, just like other old cronies, I am left to relive these wonderful moments in my mind only and hope to pass on my passion for the wondrous environment of the Long Range Mountain area to the next crop of would-be explorers.