She usually has a short blonde bob that curls slightly. We were now into our second night camping and the bob was looking tangled. We were out in backcountry, it was pitch black, and the wildlife was getting curious. Our tent wasn’t completely without protection. We were pitched upon a slightly raised wooden platform. We overlooked a long stretch of lake. It couldn’t have been more picturesque, nor isolated.
There was a splash from the lake. It was a heavy sound, suggesting a large amount of water had been displaced. “It’s probably a beaver,” I whispered reassuringly. I knew full well it wasn’t a beaver, but I’d reasoned keeping her calm was the best strategy.
The blonde didn’t look convinced. I reached for the bear bell. The bear bell being an important bit of kit that acts to alert the bears to your presence, meaning that they won’t be surprised to see you – you really don’t want a bear to be surprised to see you. “Don’t ring it,” she said in a hushed voice. “I don’t want it to know where we are.”
I fell asleep listening to the noises of the forest. Something was circling our tent, I followed its plodding as I dropped off. If something was going to happen, there wasn’t really a lot that could be done anyhow, I reasoned.
The blonde had wanted to go to India. Newfoundland had cost as much; in fact, it had cost more. Everything in Newfoundland has to be imported, the meat, the pasta, any form of vegetable; the whole deal has to be transplanted from the mainland. The only thing Newfoundland can produce in the way of food is fish, bags and bags of fish. You would think that this would make the fish cheap, but you’d be wrong. In short, the blonde was now on an island she didn’t want to be on, paying large sums of money for basic foodstuffs, and potentially surrounded by bears, which are numerous and particularly hungry around August-September time.
When I awoke she was sat upright. I haven’t seen a living thing quite so pale; it had been an unforgivingly cold night. “Did you manage to get to sleep?” I enquired.
“No, not at all,” came the response.
Still, the sun makes all the difference and I endeavoured to raise her sprits. The lake shone like a mirror, as we exited the tent into bright sunlight. The Newfoundland winter is so cold that it kills all of the water’s algae, giving the water a fresh transparency not to be rivalled. This was the most isolated I had ever been, beating New Zealand’s southern isle by a significant margin. The air was fresh and crisp. I drank in the surroundings and warmed myself by the lake in the sun’s heat. I could feel the blonde’s mood lifting.
The reality of living in the wild is that you are always responding directly to that which your environment throws at you. We had spent the night shivering in our tent, but now nature had decided to ease off and warm us. We were at its mercy.
At the lakeside, I noticed a large clawed paw print leading up to the water. It measured approximately the same size as my hand. I scuffed the print over with my boot. Beavers must surely have large flippers after all, and there was no sense in creating a scene. Perhaps, it was time to move on.