(Re-Posted from separate chapters as a complete story)
Shortly after I completing my military service in WWII I returned to my hometown of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada. I’ve included the photo you see as I looked very much the same when I returned minus the soldier’s uniform of course. Over the course of my service in Europe I had grown from a boy of sixteen to a young man of twenty-one. I was discharged two weeks after the end of the war in Europe for long service so I was one of the first men to return to Kirkland Lake after the war. My dear friend Bob Lapointe hired me to work in his beer parlour and we decided to go on an eight day fishing trip through rough wilderness with only our canoe and our wits to guide us back. This is the story of that fateful trip, it is a long and eventful tale filled with adventures so I will be writing it in installments and posting them here on my blog three times a week so please check back for the next installment they will be titled Rapid Inn and numbered so today I will start with:
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I had just returned from the Western Front of WWII after five and a half years overseas. I was discharged earlier than other soldiers for having served over five years active duty. For a brief period of time I like many other returnies was treated like a celebrity. I mention this so you can relate my appearance to the photo displayed above.
Andria Papineau, the young woman, who helps me edit my novels is forever pushing me to write stories of my youth that I have no intention of including in any of my future novels as to me they are just memories of the past, though I have decided to include them in this blog. I hope you find the following exploits interesting.
My neighbour and friend Bob Lapointe owned the local beer parlour and when I returned from WWII he gave me my first civilian job as a waiter slinging trays of beer at his establishment. Just after the war there was still separate bars for men and women, it was only later that they started permitting people of the opposite sex to drink in the same room.
Bob Lapointe was a qualified pilot, he had acquired a pilot’s license before the war but when he applied for the air force he was rejected because of a liver condition. He used to take me out flying quite often, it is because of him that I got hooked on flying and later also got my pilot’s license. I also paid for the required gas, he sometimes allowed me to take over the flying controls briefly in gratitude.
I was also able to buy an old model A ford cheaply because of the job Bob had given me. We started taking many hunting trips together me with my 410 shotgun and Bob with his 22 repeater rifle, we drove along the old logging roads for partridge and rabbits of which there were both plenty as most of the other hunters were working in the war plants or in the army. The game had plenty of opportunity to thrive and multiply.
This over abundance of game did not last forever. When the rest of the men returned from war you took your life in your hands walking through any forest as you might be mistaken for a deer, so great was the number of hunters roaming the area. A whole new attitude returned from the war with the men and within a year you were hard pressed to find any road sign that was shot through with buckshot holes.
The difference was staggering, when I first returned we were over run with deer and moose a couple of years later you had to hire a pilot to bring you far away enough to find an unspoiled hunting ground. It was the same with the fishing when the men came back from the war some of them would run nets across rivers and catch all the fish that swan in them until the rivers and ponds were practically empty of fish. That is the reason you now need a license to fish or hunt and they have only certain seasons to hunt whichever species of game and quotas for how many fish one can catch. Needless to say the story I am about to relay to you took place before the rest of the men returned.
Bob showed me a map that indicated all the places where rivers joined and traced the paths where we would have to portage, which consists of carrying the canoe on your shoulders, including all the packs with our gear and cooking pots ect and walking across land to meet the next river or lake. I was surprised Bob picked me as his companion as I was inexperienced with traveling by putting paddles across our shoulders and balancing the canoe on them though I was always ready for a challenge and a new experience at that age.
My Model A Ford was to carry the canoe and all our gear to Sudbury, one of Bob’s waiters would drive us there and take the car back to Kirkland Lake to await our call and come pick us up at our destination when our 300 mile journey would be at an end.
Our journey commenced, Bob having attended to all the details. I came prepared with a box of 9mm shells and my favourite German lugger pistol. I had taken it off a German Sargent Major who was given no alternative than to drop it or I would of dropped him, he didn’t argue and I was a little disappointed he didn’t put up a fight, but I was different person then.
I was pleasantly surprised that my Model A made it all the way to Sudbury without any problems. Bob then took me to a dock where a float plane was tied up a young pilot came up and introduced himself, I was looking around for his mother because he looked so young, but Bob just started telling him to load our stuff up and tie the canoe to the pontoon, I reluctantly got on board and we took off towards our destination.
For a brief moment as we were descending towards the lake Bob and I thought we might not survive. The inexperienced pilot took a sharp turn wing down I swear the edge of the wing scrapped the water, he was almost at stalling speed though he straightened out in time, thank God! He landed down wind which you should never do and we bounced twice hard off the water. I thought Bob was going to wring the pilot’s neck from the look on his face but he just told him off and we didn’t give him the customary tip. We offloaded everything in silence as Bob’s face turned from red back to it’s usual colour. Later apologized as he felt bad for almost killing me hiring that twerp of a pilot.
Stay tuned for the next installment!
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After our ordeal with the inexperienced float plane pilot we were eager to set up camp and get to catching our supper. We set out on the lake and all it took was one quick cruise before each of us had caught a 2 pound speckled trout which we cooked up for our supper. Now that we had gotten to our destination in one piece, speed was not our top priority. We bedded down that night and the following morning we set off at a leisurely pace. Breaking down camp we packed everything into our canoe and set off to take in all the beautiful scenery that this northern wilderness revealed to us. Each new section of the geography of our country provided us with breathtaking views, waterways and lowland marshes, rivers and lakes, mountains each had a constantly changing but none the less beautiful species of flora and fauna. I remember thanking God to have allowed me to the survive the complete horror of senseless violence I had witnessed in the war. To be able to live and see and smell all that is available to to the human senses as many of the soldiers and friends I had fought with had lost life and limb, sometimes sight and smell. How lucky I was to still be whole and have the mental capacity to experience and enjoy all the bounty that nature can provide. Paddling across river that fed into the wide expanse of lakes did not prepare us for the back breaking woodlands we had to cross. Rough tree and rock strewn narrow forest trails hardly wider that a deer track that seemed to never end all while portaging our canoe, which means carrying it over our shoulders balanced on paddles across our shoulders, our muscles were not prepared for this strenuous task and I wished it had come nearer the end.
As we rounded the end of the trail and saw water coming to greet us again I felt relieved but thoroughly exhausted we had no energy to catch our supper that night and hurriedly set up camp and fell directly to sleep.
Paddling constantly for the next few days, I learned Bob had a delightful singing voice, he taught me many beautiful songs in french which he had learned in Catholic school we had been forced to attend while most of his anglophone friends attended english public schools. I learned to accompany him fairly well and so we passed our time canoeing on those still lakes on summer afternoons singing and also took the time to fish. We had no need of rods, they took up too much space. Bob paddling in the back of the canoe would let a length of copper wire trail behind us and every so often he would catch a fish. Most of the time he would release it as it was too small, you see we were particularly on the lookout for Pickerel, which the Americans call Walleye. When Bob would catch a particularly large pickerel he would hand me the reel and I would bring it in, we caught two five pound pickerels one day.
Pickerel / Walleye
Bob steered us towards an island the lake for the night we set up camp and rolled rocks into a circle to place our round grill on we loaded the underside with firewood and placed our frying pan and water pot on to start cooking our supper. I slinked off for my evening movement. As I had deftly hidden myself I observed another canoe filled with three burly foul mouthed men approach the island. You’ll never guess what happened next, so you’ll have to come back and check my blog for the next installment of RAPID INN.
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As I was relating in my last installment Bob and I had paddled to an Island to set up camp, as he was cooking our fish for supper I had slunk off to have my nightly movement and had concealed myself quite well. I had just finished and was covering up the hole I had made for this purpose when I saw a large trader canoe, much larger than ours with three burly, scruffy looking gentlemen aboard. I saw the men pull up to the island and disembark, they were even bigger than I thought as I looked closer I saw they were deerskin garbed and carried huge bowie knives on their belts.
They proceeded to unload three large canvas wrapped packages onto the shore from their canoe, then they spotted Bob and stopped. They were eyeing Bob and whispering amongst themselves as they fingered the handles of their bowie knives, which made me very nervous. I couldn’t tell what language they were speaking or what they were saying but they kept whispering and caressing their knives looking back and forth to Bob.
Bob ignored them he kept stoking the fire and turning the fish as if the men weren’t even there. The men started getting louder and it seemed to me they were getting ready to jump Bob, this is when I became convinced they were the enemy and my army training took over. I took out my German lugger taking the safety off and began calculating my battle plan.
First off my training told me to take out the surest threat and make certain they cannot escape and get behind you. I calculated that the man to the right could quickly slip into cover and come up on my rear, the man on the left could overcome Bob in one quick movement and take him hostage. The center man could in the confusion dive into the canoe and grab whatever firearm they might have available.
Plan one take out the man on the right with a body shot, then the man on the left another body shot the man in the center another body shot. The main problem with the plan was that I had fourteen rounds in the lugger, should I fire one round for each man or do I take the time to get two into each man to be sure? During the time it took to make my mental calculation Bob hadn’t even looked up at the men and continued with his cooking.
Plan two then presented itself, I spotted a metal cracker container and quickly made my decision. I fired three shots in quick succession bouncing the metal cracker tin three times making quite a racket. The men froze, then they quickly reloaded their canvas wrapped parcels into their canoe before jumping in and paddling off like crazy. I fired one shot beside their canoe as they retreated and they paddled even faster.
Bob then walked to the canoe took out our dishes and began portioning out the fish for supper. He seemed so calm that I had to mention to him what he had thought of the whole situation that had just occurred. He said casually that he believed I was going to kill those men and that he was completely fucking terrified so he decided to try to keep his cool by acting like the men weren’t there.
He then passed me a tea bag and we started talking about what we should do. We decided that rather spend the night on the island as the men could come back as we slept we would wait until dark then proceed to the next river over as indicated by the map. As we paddled under cover of darkness we saw a campfire on the opposing bank of the lake which must have been where the men had set up camp.
I must confess that neither Bob or myself would soon forget the immediate scare we had suffered but as we paddled on past daybreak the beautiful scenery and wonderful natural settings changed our mood and we began to relax again. As we paddled we came to a large clearing where there were many animal tracks we detected a large number of wolf tracks and got back into our canoe quickly. Paddling further on we quite soon saw a large pack of wolves on the bank of the river gorging themselves on a fresh deer kill there we even little pups getting in on the action, but that’s a story for another day!
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As I related in the last chapter we were paddling down a river when we saw a large wolf pack gorging themselves on a fresh deer kill, there were several pups getting in on the action which meant that the den was surely close-by. In my reasoning it followed that since the wolves were able to hunt so close to their den there must be an abundance of game in the area.
I noticed all manner of other animals waiting in the wings for the wolves to leave scraps behind, there were foxes and hawks waiting and of course the crows always waiting for their share. The wolf meal meant good eating for the scavengers as well. As we paddled along the river we saw other wolf packs ranging along the calmer pools obviously waiting for some unlucky animal to pause and have a drink.
I turned to Bob and asked him if he’d ever seen as many wolves in the forest. Bob replied that he surely hadn’t and the abundance of wolves probably meant that the hunting wasn’t going to be very good for the first nations people as there also a great many reservations in the area. We decided to report the over abundance of wolves to the ranger station at the end of our journey. Although sometimes scary the sight of wolves seemed to excite a primal part of the human subconscious mind and was very thrilling.
Much to my relief the wolves seemed uninterested in us as they had plenty of deer and moose to hunt. We continued on the river, the current making so we hardly had to paddle. I took the time to make myself a neck rest out of my paddle and lazily enjoy the view as I was in the front of the canoe with Bob navigating from the rear, every so often he would turn us to follow the winding of the river.
I even fell asleep once. I woke to the sound of Bob yelling at me. He told me to not be so lazy and fall asleep as we never knew what would be around the next bend there may be a wolf ready to pounce or some unexpected rapids. I undid my neck rest and had hardly gotten my paddle back into the water when we hit some rapids that were unmarked on Bob’s map.
The rapids stretched for a half mile and might have been easy for accomplished canoe paddlers, which is why they were probably unmarked on the map as avoiding them would make for a rather long portage over land to the next lake. For Bob and I it was a serious trial to keep from capsizing our canoe and we barely escaped with our lives. Our canoe was almost filled to the brim with water as we re-entered calmer waters we had to disembark and guide the canoe along the shore line until we found a suitable place to land it and tip the water out.
We continued on the river until Bob saw a notation for a series of larger rapids. We could hear the roar of the white water already so we pulled the canoe over to the bank and decided to portage around these rapids. It was later in the afternoon and we desired a change of scenery anyways. We pulled the canoe over our heads and started walking. The area was more marshy and we passed a few ponds where moose and deer were partially submerged sometimes with only their antlers sticking out of the water as they dunked their heads in search of lake weed the freshwater equivalent of seaweed to eat. They were not particularly interested in a canoe with four legs so we continued on until Bob steered us to a rise of dry land and directed us to lower the canoe.
I didn’t understand at first why Bob had us stop as it was only late afternoon and we could have gone on much longer without having to set up camp. I saw Bob pick up a number of baseball sized rocks and head towards a pond as I followed him it became apparent why he had stopped us. He must have heard the chorus of frogs croaking as we got to a pond where a number of the largest bullfrogs I had ever seen were hanging out on lily pads. Bob threw the rocks and expertly hit a frog with each one. When Bob fished the frogs out of the water I swear they were each about the size of a small cat. Bob cut off the giant legs with parts of the sides and cooked them up. An old french recipe passed down from his mother, needless to say they were delicious.
This was a relief to me as for a moment I thought he was going to tell me to go shoot one of the moose or deer we had seen in the marsh. Which would have been a waste as we wouldn’t be able to eat much of the meat before it would spoil as we had no way to smoke the meat to preserve it. The legs were most delectable and Bob promised to recover several more in the morning for our noon hour treat.
True to his promise the next morning he prepared his arsenal to stone a few more bullfrogs. My paddle was lying flat on the ground close to our canoe, ironically one of the frogs jumped and landed directly across my paddle and in his frog killing frenzy Bob let fly his rock and managed a direct hit on the frog and my paddle beneath it. The sound of the wood snapping was obvious to us both. Bob had cracked the paddle in half down the middle. If you can imagine what the use of a canoe is without a paddle than you can imagine a grown man crying and that would have been me.
What will happen now will we be able to complete the trip with one paddle between two men? Tune in next time for the Fifth Chapter of Rapid Inn.
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Bob had succeeded in breaking my paddle in his enthusiasm for catching frogs. The crack of the handle breaking almost in half had been loud and obvious to us both. We inspected the damage and sat down for a long time I thought everything was lost there was no way to paddle a two man canoe with only one paddle and we were barely past the halfway mark on our map. I cursed myself for traveling so lightly, why hadn’t one of us thought to bring an extra paddle in case of emergency?
Suddenly Bob got up and headed into the forest with his hatchet, I heard chopping and assumed he was blowing off steam. Bob returned with a short round tree limb and proceeded to split it down the middle using one of our kitchen knives and the hatchet. He then attached the split ends over the fractured handle of the paddle creating a splint, he then wrapped the whole handle of the paddle tightly with thick electrician’s tape (which Bob always carried) and then covered it in wrapped copper wire. The result was a paddle that was even stronger than before it was broken. Remember folks you can fix anything with a little tape and a lot of ingenuity.
As we packed up our canoe before setting out again another problem presented itself, we were running low on supplies. Although there was plenty of game along the river I was reluctant to shoot a moose or deer as we would never be able to eat all that meat before it spoiled, the amount of waste would be nothing short of criminal. The only other alternative to three square meals of fish a day was to set up snares for smaller animals. This made sense as we wouldn’t be wasting any meat.
Bob set up camp on a flat stretch of shoreline that was crisscrossed with many small animal tracks including rabbit. walking a little inland through heavy shrubs and new growths of narrow trees we decided which type of snare to set up. We would take a tree that was close to the animal trails and strip the top of leaves, we would bury the top half of the tree securely then loop some wire through an arch and place the wire directly in the animal’s path putting obstacles to either side so the animal would have to step in the snare at which point the tree would dislodge and hang the animal as it snapped back to its upright position.
It works almost every time! Provided an animal steps in the snare it’s struggle to get free will dislodge the tree and activate the trap. That night we enjoyed a roast rabbit each. One gets bored of fish every meal quite easily especially if one is cleaver enough to think up an alternative. Our bellies full we collected from the other traps in the morning and quickly cooked the animals collected for our lunch and dinner saving time as we had many more portages and adventures to come.
We entered a very mountainous region of our voyage. The river was sided by large steep cliffs on both sides. We then spotted a herd of mountain goats, previously I hadn’t thought we had mountain goats in Ontario, but I was clearly proven wrong. They appeared to be almost vertical to us on the sheer cliffs just white dots expertly navigating the mountain side. I remember thinking that if I had my rifle with me I could shoot one and it would roll straight down to us. Of course I’d have to hit it first at a thousand yards straight up.
At our next campsite we set up next to a beaver dam in a marshy area. There were no trees to set up snares but a a beaver made the mistake of swimming by us carrying a large tree limb and needless to say we made a beaver stew that night. After a long boil the meat was edible but still a little tough, we had picked up a large cooking pot at one of our campsites that must have been left behind recently by another camper. We were only able to cook up the beaver because of that find as it was quite large.
There was even some left over for the morning. After we checked our traps we found a rabbit and a fox. I don’t know of anyone else ever eating a fox but we made a stew of it with the leftover beaver and the rabbit, we threw in our last potato, a carrot and an onion and we had ourselves a delicious stew. We put in in a large bottle we had with a sealed top and dragged it behind the canoe attached with wire so the water would keep it cold. It fed us for two portages. Next we came to an abandoned mining camp where we encountered two things we’d never before seen, but that’s a story for another day.
We happened on an abandoned mine site that appeared to have been abandoned for a number of years previous. We were lucky to find this place and it yielded two of the biggest surprises of my life. The first was very lucky indeed. We sat down on the little rotted dock that had been left by the miners and the second the bait touched the surface of the water as large mouth bass would snatch it up, I mean it was just ridiculous. It became boring very quickly we kept throwing them back in until we caught one of the largest fish I’ve ever seen needless to say we ate very well that night. I have never seen before or since a expanse of water yield such a bounty.
When it came to cooking the fish we didn’t even bother to descale it we cut the fish down it’s back along its spine making two large fillets we then simply held the skin and it separated from the flesh very easily. When we fried these massive fillets it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had. The second surprise was a little more sinister than the first. Bob and I decided to do some exploring around the site. We came upon a door that was locked it sided into the hill and we thought that maybe it was the entrance to a cellar where there might be some leftover cans of food. The door was made of logs and very heavy Bob finally managed to wrench it open after some hard pulling and jostling. The lock was old and rusted and came apart as he swung it open to reveal…
Millions and millions of bats! the most terrifying high pitched screaming sound drove us back before we even got a look at them. We finally worked up the nerve to look and we saw a million pairs of eyes starring back at us from the dark the were all hanging from the ceiling huddled together I shudder even remembering that sight of screaming eyes and flapping leathery wings. Bob crawled forward on his stomach until he was able to get close enough to shut the door. We both ran away from that door screaming and shaking. I confess I had difficulty sleeping that night knowing that now that dark hoard was streaming through the sky above us doing God knows what. Probably eating mosquitoes now that I think about it.
We left that place as quickly as we could. The next portage was the longest we had to endure on that trip. Our walking trail led us through numerous marshes and clearings where we encountered a large variety of game. We especially saw an abundance of partridge. Bob was so skilled with his rock throwing at this point that he could knock down a partridge with one hand still holding the canoe. We had many tasty meals of partridge and rabbit along that path as we had to pause quite often to relieve the constant pressure on our shoulders from carrying the canoe.
We were very happy to find the next lake on our map as the strain on our shoulders had become unbearable. We were unlucky to come upon the lake on a very windy day, the waves on the lake were almost as high as the ocean we had difficulty paddling over them and got so much water in our canoe that we had to turn back and try to find a way to get over those wave.
That’s a story for another day though check back for Chapter Seven of Rapid Inn.
When I left off in Chapter Six Bob and I had to turn back from a large lake as it was a particularly windy day and the waves on the lake were quite big. On our first attempt our canoe kept tipping from side to side and taking on water so we returned to the shore. Bob was more experienced with canoes and he found a solution to our problem. He retreated into the forest and came back with a six foot long dry long that was quite light and easy to carry. Bob attached the log to the side of our canoe with two thick branches at each end, you might have seen boats with these attached or even canoes, they are called outriggers. When we tried to cross the lake the outrigger kept our canoe more stable and we were able to finally make it across.
Once we were across Bob’s map indicated a large stretch of narrow river with numerous lengthy curves with no rapids but a large waterfall. After the waterfall the river would continue it’s winding path and lead us to a final two mile portage to a large lake and across to our destination the department of lands and forest docks and marine base from where Bob would call his waiter friend to pick us with my car. I have to say I was a little sad our adventure was going to come to an end but we carried on paddling on the winding river. We heard the waterfall long before we saw it. We were forced to portage around the fall for fear of going over. When we consulted Bob’s map we saw two intersections of portage trails marked by a blaze indicating two routes to the other side of the river. We discussed it and decided to take the path that stayed closest to the waterfall as from the sound of the rushing water, it was a big one and we curious to see it so we took the shorter path that bore right and led to the waterfall. Had we taken the left trail we would have missed a sight we would never forget for the rest of our lives.
The trail took us on a steep decline for a quarter of a mile which was hard to negotiate while carrying a canoe over our shoulders and then through very thick wooded brush. We were always within earshot of the waterfall but had yet to lay eyes on it. Then a clearing opened up from the trees and we saw a very sturdy wooden bridge which stretched over the run off from the falls and provided a spectacular view of those waterfalls. The path was close enough to the falls that the mist from the water rose into the air and when the sunlight hit it it was like walking through a rainbow. The falls were wider than they were tall and fell over bare rock so the current moved very swiftly. I thought to myself it was a good idea to portage around it before the current got the better of us as we surely wouldn’t have survived if we accidentally went over.
After we crossed that bridge we saw one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen; two magnificent log cabins like the structures you would see at the centre of a rich estate they looked absolutely perfect and a comfort for our sore eyes as we had been living rough in the bush for days on end. The cabins were made of peeled logs with a shiny shellac finish that seemed to glitter in the sun. We had finally come to Rapid Inn.
To be continued soon…
We came upon the most beautiful log cabins we had ever seen. From the outside they looked perfect. The logs were clean of bark and shiny with shellac, the picture windows and doors were made of tinted glass and there were lovely hand carved seats in front of each building. As we got closer we saw even more delightful details; there was a path paved with decorative tiles that ran from the pool at the bottom of the waterfall all the way to the cabins and as we got even closer we saw a hand carved sign above the door of the first cabin that said ‘Rapid Inn”. We soon realized that what we thought at first was two cabins was one cabin with two wings. Bob and I could only sit and stare in utter amazement and of course listen as the cabin being so close to the waterfall seemed to be accompanied by the music of rushing water which I can still hear when I think back on the memory of that place.
Eventually Bob and I remembered to return to our canoe which we had lashed to the side of the bridge and pull it out of the water as we wanted to further explore this beautiful place we had found. When we returned to the cabin which seemed to us to be a slice of paradise in the forest completely unexpected like an oasis in the desert. On the side of the main building we saw many names carved into the wood logs stating when they had visited and where and what kind of fish or game they had caught, the list was long and stretched back to the early 1920s when I was born. Later when we left Bob and I also carved our names in the log I suppose they are still there to this day if Rapid Inn still stands that is and I do hope it still exists as a welcome sight for sore travel weary eyes.
Up to this point we had not tried to open a door as that would have been trespassing but the carved names and the name “Rapid Inn” made us wonder if this building were here for the use of travelers. Bob also stated that he had not seen any new names carved since the start of the War. We tried the door to the main building and both the well oiled screen door and main door were unlocked so we went right on in. We were speechless at what we saw when we entered, it was the most beautiful and well appointed kitchen either of us had ever seen it was like walking into a kitchen supply store.
There was everything a chef could dream of: The beautifully tiled floor matched the spotless tile counter tops and above those were hand carved cupboards of utmost beauty, there was a massive chrome and metal wood burning stove that was highly polished and had copper cooking vents. There were every type of copper and steel cooking pots and frying pans as well as a large butcher block equipped with every type of knife and saw. We didn’t look into the cupboards and drawers as we were eager to explore the rest of the cabin.
We entered the other wing through the outside entrance which was also unlocked and the sight that greeted us was like one of us had rubbed Aladdin’s magic lamp. The first thing we saw was the welcome mat which said “To clean feet,” and a shelf to place our shoes on. The floor was artfully designed block hardwood which was polished to a high shine and was almost blinding, we promptly removed our shoes and placed them on the shelves provided. We each traveled in different directions as we explored.
I was astounded to discover the radio set and a gramophone winding unit with a cupboard full of what I am sure were priceless classic records. There was also a large bookcase with a complete set of encyclopedias and classic literature. In the dinning room was a large table and a giant hutch filled with complete sets of glass and plate of every design and shape imaginable, in the drawers were row upon row of cutlery and of course an assortment of crystal wine glasses and I’m sure much more than I can even remember.
I could hear Bob yelling to me about the discoveries he had made so I ran over and joined him. There were eight separate bedrooms each with it’s own sink and lavatory facilities, the rooms were small but well appointed and each had a comfortable bed decked out in fine linens so much so that we decided to sleep on top of the covers so as to not have to wash and iron the sheets before we left. We also found some amusing old timey night shirts which gave us both a laugh but were very comfortable to sleep in, of course we washed and ironed those before we left. In the main room was a large marble and rock fireplace big enough to roast a pig in. I am glad to say that even though we hadn’t marked the floor we waxed and polished it before we left so as to leave the place in exactly the same spotless condition we had found it. We were very sad to leave Rapid Inn the following day but the fishing had not been good and were hungry so we set off downriver and you’ll never guess what happened along that river, Guess you’ll have to keep reading!
So near yet so far. We had reluctantly left Rapid Inn behind us to catch our breakfast on the river which we quickly did and fried up it was a delicious trout for some reason we weren’t able to catch any fish in the pool under the waterfall at Rapid Inn, perhaps too much current but we still carved our names into the outside log wall adding our names to that history. We had consulted Bob’s map after breakfast and found that we had just to paddle for about ten miles or so on the narrow overflow river from the rapids of the waterfall until reaching the lake we had to cross to end our adventure. Both Bob and I thought our adventures were at an end as we surveyed the high clay banks of the narrow river there was certainly no scenery here and we became quite bored. There was no vegetation as the clay banks of the river were nearly perpendicular to the river and it was far and away the most boring paddling of the whole trip, but hold your breath. We were about to experience a very real possibility of loosing life and limb mainly for yours truly. The river being narrow was also meandering and sometimes you couldn’t see what was directly ahead due to the winding of the river and sharp corners of the bank so we had no warning until we were practically on top of a moose!
We had rounded the corner and surprised him while he was munching on lake weed he was submerged but when he heard us coming he pulled his gigantic head out of the water, he had a tremendous rack of antlers and water poured off of them as he looked straight at us. We were on a direct collision course with the biggest bull moose I had ever seen both of us started back paddling but the current of the river was driving us closer to him and since the banks of the river were so steep we were sure there was nowhere for him to go but straight through us. The moose calmly looked at us and continued chewing some weeds from the bottom of the river as I struggled to hold onto my paddle and reach for my lugger at the same time, it seemed to be somehow tangled in my belt or shirt I was too terrified to wrestle it loose quickly enough. I was thinking that this might be the end of me as I was the one in the front of the canoe, Bob would have a chance to escape as the moose would be busy trampling and drowning me. We were a bare few inches away when, to our great surprise the moose gracefully stepped onto the sheer bank it was at least twenty feet to the top of the bank and clay is notoriously hard and slippery to climb I guess that is for someone who doesn’t have hooves. He nimbly dug in his hooves and that life threatening moose got himself out of our way. He didn’t seem bothered at all by us as if we were merely ants to him and he had grown tiered of us and gone off to greener pastures. He climbed straight up and out of the steep clay river bank disappearing from sight.
Once the moose had climbed up curiosity got the better of Bob and he paddled back to the indentations the moose had made climbing the bank. He then got out and climbed the bank using the indentations as foot holds. I lashed the canoe to a log and followed him up. I found it quite easy to climb the bank thanks to the foot and handholds left by the moose’s hooves. Once over the top of the clay bank we emerged onto a plateau of flat land covered in low lying brush, one could see for miles in every direction but we couldn’t spot that great big moose anywhere. It seemed like some sort of magic trick either it had run off very far indeed or perhaps there was a dip in the land we couldn’t see there certainly weren’t any trees for it to hide behind. All I can say is that moose are mysterious creatures. All in all that was one of the biggest frights of my life right up there with that giant cave of bats Bob and I had found on this trip although this incident was certainly a brush with death. We climbed back into the canoe we talked about how with our trip almost at an end we came within a few inches of certain death. I couldn’t have known then that I would indeed live long enough to be a ninety year old man, it was a close one and we laughed over the excitement of it all. I can tell you that we paddled on much slower around those river bends and I made sure my lugger was very handy.
We consulted Bob’s map once more and saw we were indeed very close to our destination we simply had one last portage to go and then a final lake to cross it was a big one and if there was a high wind when we reached it we may have to use our homemade outrigger but that’s a story for another day.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of Rapid Inn will we make it back in one piece? Are there more adventures awaiting us? You’ll have to come back and see!
We had narrowly escaped the moose encounter with our lives there are many stories of people loosing their lives when confronting moose especially when defending their young or if they feel threatened in any way we were damn lucky. True to Bob’s map and it’s directions we had an easy portage across flat ground and since we had no surplus food to hinder us with extra weight in no time at all it was time to put the canoe back in the water. I had even left behind the extra large pot we had found to cook the beaver stew I figured someone else might need it so I had left it at the portage by Rapid Inn for another traveller. When we reached the lake it was calm and mirror like the trees and sky reflected in it’s almost unmoving surface, no need for the outrigger here. We left that dry log that had surely saved our life in that windy lake crossing by the side of this the last lake we had to cross before reaching the Lands and Forests building.
It was a beautiful lake though we had many adventures on our 300 mile journey we were now both looking forward to getting back home so we put our canoe onto that calm lake and paddled across, it didn’t take very much time as there was barely any resistance or current it seemed and soon we were approaching the Lands and Forests building. We could see it from a long way off as there was a float plane attached to a dock and we paddled towards it as if it were a beacon from a lighthouse. I was excited about getting my car back and sharing our stories with the guys at the beer parlour. As we got closer to the dock we noticed there were a few people milling around on the dock and then we recognized the trader canoe and the three men I had shot at to scare away on that Island.
The men had opened up their heavy parcels and were taking out large furs for the examining eyes of buyers. I realized then and there that the men had been more scared of us at the time as they were trying to protect their furs. I thought for sure they were killers or criminals, I had been terribly wrong, they were just fur traders. We quickly collected our thoughts and realized that they had never seen me as I was hidden in the bushes and that Bob should put on his red jacket and hat which he had not been wearing when they saw him. We pulled up our canoe alongside theirs and there wasn’t the faintest whiff of recognition. We both breathed a sigh of relief as they had cause to report us since I had shot at them.
We went into the building and Bob phoned his waiter friend to come pick us up. I was watching Bob’s face as he spoke over the phone and it suddenly fell and his skin went pale, I had a sick feeling in my stomach as Bob looked directly at me, had a member of my family fallen sick or died? Bob hung up and approached me cautiously. It turned out there was a fatality, my poor model A, the negligent waiter had forgotten to fill up the oil (like I had specifically told him to do) and the engine had seized up and cracked the engine block. Bob told me the waiter had to get it dropped off at the dump, so that was the last I ever saw of my dear model A Ford. I tell you it was the first time since the end of the war that I wanted to use my gun to kill a man.
I found this picture of a derelict model A and I think it depicts my mind state at the time.
Note to the reader:
I was curious about Rapid Inn as it seemed like such a dream to have found that place so I asked one of the land and forest officers and told me that he knew about the place but that they like to keep it under wraps and discourage people from heading there from that side of the lake but that they can’t stop people from getting there from the opposite side. We were damn lucky to have found it it seems. He continued on to say that the rumour was that a member of parliament had had it build with government money and being a bachelor when he died from a heart attack he had no one to will it to, then the end of the First War came in 1918 and no one knew of it, it became a ghost camp a building locked in time. The people that came upon it always left it in good shape but everyone tried to keep it as secret as they could. I was lucky to find it that one time but I never went back and never told the story to anyone until now. It has been oh so many years I hope it still stands and is still in such good repair.
Once was: Now as is:
Here is the novel I wrote about my wartime experiences the picture on the cover is what I would have looked like during the trip to Rapid Inn, If anyone is interested you can purchase my books on amazon.com or press this link.
Piper to the Rear and Other Stories of War and Life