the travel was narrow, through twisting channels and lowland
grasses. It was a day of slow shallow water, a day of pushing
with the paddle, of pulling the canoe over dams of sticks and
mud, past the faint, musty scent of the beavers that made them.
It was a day of lonely shores burned clean by fire, thick now
with spindly jack pine. It was a day of looking ahead for the
opening that would lead to big waters and high forested ground.
Wind walked the night sky, pushing dark clouds past the moon.
Now in the early morning, the canoe
traveler moves quickly on the water. Here at last
the canoe can glide with each stroke, can respond
to each twist and nudge of the paddle. The wind
blows gently now, but the battle in the sky above
is not yet decided and dark clouds fight with the
morning sun. There's a point of land ahead, a
last stop before the bay opens into big Eagle
Lake. Here the traveler stops, carefully pulling
the canoe to high ground before climbing the
sloping granite shore.
There's a fire ring here, long
unused. People have been here before. Some came
only to live for a few years, to hunt, to gather
rice in the channels to the east. Others came
later, searching for furs, stopping to look for a
slight dip in the tree line, a stream into the
lake where beaver might lodge. There may have
been prospectors, for not far to the north gold
lies buried here and there in the hard rock.
Still others came to test their skill in finding
and catching the powerful jack fish, or the
pickerel that appear and vanish, delighting and
confounding the best of fishermen.
Trees and brush cover the
western shore of the point and the canoe traveler
pushes his way through, stepping carefully on the
moss covered rock. As the trees part, his eyes
are filled by the wide waters of Eagle Lake. The
lake catches the color of an open patch of sky
and the water reflects a deep indigo blue.
Sunlight stabs down through cracks in the dark
clouds, lighting up the distant forest in
dazzling patches that move slowly across the
land. The wind blows, and the smell of pine and
pure water and cool moss covered earth fills his
senses. He sits on the rocky shore, his eyes
never leaving the vista before him. All thought
of the day before, all plans for the day ahead,
all time is suspended as he sees and feels the
Thoughts come and go as the
canoe traveler sits, but mostly he thinks not at
all, and this is why he's traveled so far to be
here. The distant forest shore, the horizon
untouched by the hand of man, the pure indigo
waters, the wind that whistles through pine and
rustles through birch, the sky of rain giving
clouds, of life giving sun, the flow of time that
brings these things forward, then takes them away
- all are known by that part of man that knows
without thought what is good. The canoe traveler
sits, eyes wide, and feels the good land.
After a time, thought returns.
"Where is the headland that leads to the
western channel? Will wind and rain be my day, or
will the sun push through?" The canoe
traveler looks at his maps, lining up and
interpreting the artificial world on paper. The
moment in time is past. There will be another,
perhaps soon, for Woodland Caribou Park is full
of such places and moments. The canoe traveler
knows this, and is driven to go forward, to cross
the waters and walk the portages, to see what
lies beyond, to relish the next morning, or
suffer the hardships that bring clarity to his