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Monday 12 May 2014

Roughing It

When Claire was young, we had a small travel trailer on a piece of land behind Howley, Newfoundland. Rick's parents, Melvin and Sylvia, had a trailer on the same land, which they owned, and we frequented during summer vacation. The land was on Grand Lake, where fishing was ideal and the peace and quiet enveloped you. Some of our quietest moments as a family were spent around that lake at Howley. Our daughter has the fondest memories of our too short days at Grand Lake, or Howley as we called it.

                                                     View from the trailer

This was the closest we ever got to roughing it. There wasn't electricity, toilets or running water. We had an outhouse, propane lamps, stoves and containers of water brought from home. Our trailer had a little propane oven which could cook the most delicious buns. Melvin, and Claire, fished. Our quad was great for rides on the dirt road or gathering wood further afield.

                                            Melvin readying the fishing gear


Melvin was a notorious fisherman. He spent many hours salmon fishing in his youth accompanied by his family who didn't share the same sensibility. However, trouting was his passion as well. Our daughter, Claire, unlike her father, loved fishing/ trouting. In the stillness of the early evening, we could hear her little voice as she chatted to her grandfather and waited for a bite. Periodically she squealed with delight when either of them caught their unfortunate prey.

                                   Claire's catch

We often cooked over an open fire or barbecued. When the wind was blowing the breeze kept the flies away as did the smoke from the fire. The fire became the gathering place, the evening warmth, the cooking place when the trailer was too hot, the light and heat in the deep darkness of the cool evenings. That fire was our evening amusement as well, we enjoyed tending it, as we roasted marshmallows and covered ourselves in camp blankets as the air chilled. Watching jets as they followed the great circle paths over the earth, the annual Perseid meteor shower every August or the view of the Milky Way during new moon, were great diversions around the open flame.

                        View across from the land with only one trailer visible.

One of the favourite pass times was blueberry picking. The berries rarely made it out of Howley because we ate them, making jam with dough boys (dumplings) cooked on top of the berries, our favourite summer treat.

The area abounded with wild life. Moose walked the road, undaunted by the humans co-habiting their domain for a few hours every summer. Squirrels and many varieties of birds were our neighbours. We didn't see bears but they were nearby, as were lynx and fox. One afternoon we watched a squirrel stagger off with a dough boy left in the fire pit. It took him several attempts to get the doughy treat back to his nest.

                              The cove which we cleared of the wood.

The land had a little cove that was very secluded and sandy. It was a great place to swim, especially later in the summer after the sun had heated the water for several weeks. Claire loved swimming there. We had a paddle boat which we really enjoyed as well.

                                       Marie, Claire and Nanny Mercer

The early morning air was so fresh and clean that you could imagine your body sighing from the thrill of the breath of it. The total darkness at night, stillness, and quiet, broken occasionally by a loon, assaulted the senses with its rarity. 

Falling to sleep with the windows open, with the country fresh air, in the still blackness, was so different from home, which was also in the wilderness. However at Grand Lake it was as if you were swaddled in nature which was itself asleep, breathing deeply all around you. You felt more alive than you had ever been, but willing to surrender to the moment, with dreams of another day of roughing it.

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