AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY In the Canadian Wilderness
“Want to go to Canada for the summer?”
nowhere, with no idea of what to expect for the summer.
That was more or less what my dad asked me in May of 1974, just after I had finished my sophomore year of high school. His secretary at Lockheed Martin, where he worked, knew some missionaries who ran a summer camp in Ontario, and they were looking for volunteers to help expand the campground. They needed help three weeks from the day that my dad told me about it. I didn’t know anything about what I was getting into, but I said okay. March 25 is Tolkien Reading Day. Anyone who knows of J.R.R. Tolkien knows that he wrote “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” — both books about characters who seize opportunities to go on unexpected journeys. While I did get about a three-week warning for my own unexpected journey that summer, it was short enough notice that it felt like I might as well have just been swept out the door with my sleeping bag and duffel right after the conversation with my dad. We flew all the way from Georgia to the Ontario wilderness in a little Cessna airplane. There were four seats, three of which were occupied by my cousin Tim, a guy named Robert, and me. The three of us would all be working at the camp for the summer. My dad, who had just received his pilot’s license, was flying the plane. At the time of our flight, he didn’t have his instrument rating, which meant he technically wasn’t supposed to fly us in unclear conditions. My dad, being adventurous and kind of crazy, took off from Georgia on a cloudy, rainy day, and aimed for a little patch of blue that punctured the sky. I’m glad I didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to fly in those conditions until after we landed in Ontario. “It was short enough notice that it felt like I might as well have just been swept out the door with my sleeping bag and duffel right after the conversation with my dad.” It took us three days to fly to the camp because we always had to stop and refuel. Finally, however, we made it to the camp. It was probably 50 miles from the nearest town, and the nearest town was just a general store and a gas pump. We were in the middle of
It turned out to be both a lot of hard work and a lot of fun. I slept in a yurt with five or six other guys. Our only bathrooms were outhouses, and while there was a place to shower, it wasn’t anywhere near the
sleeping area. During the day, the camp supervisors had no problem finding things to keep us busy.
Most of the time, we were either building new cabins or cutting
firewood. We must have cut firewood every day for a solid month. I learned how to drive a dump truck with a double clutch out along the logging trails, and how to operate
a chainsaw. We also dug holes for new outhouses, which I guess you could say was my first introduction to the plumbing business. There were also a lot of horses at the camp, and while I never enjoyed it all that much, I learned how to work with them and ride them. We sometimes took them out for rides on our afternoons off. We had plenty of fun when we weren’t working. Along with horseback riding, we would go canoeing out on the lake and camping on nearby islands. One day, one of the camp counselors asked us if we wanted to go water skiing. We didn’t have a motorboat, but we skied behind a Cessna watercraft on a really long rope. We put in solid eight-hour work days, the mosquitoes were horrible, I learned a lot of new skills, and I lost around 20 pounds (I was a little pudgy before that summer). All in all, it was a summer of adventure I would have lost out on if I had said no. I guess the moral of the story is when adventure comes knocking on your door, it might do you well to answer. You never knowwhere you’ll be swept off to!
–Pa u l Little
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