Alone — or not — in the middle of nowhere

Michael Johansen
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An unwelcome visitor came into my campsite when I was away. He left it in a shambles.

He first stepped on one of the tarps that make up my shelter and put his foot through a tent beneath it, ripping both. Then he took out the rope holding up the tarp frame and toppled several logs right onto the nylon tent. The light flexible poles couldn’t hold the weight and both broke.

It was an accident. I understand that. What I don’t get is why afterwards he smashed my four-cup coffee press. I’d cleaned it out thoroughly, but I suppose when you’re jonesing for java even the slightest aroma drives you crazy.

The visitor left a calling card. The bear, as he clearly was, had deposited a big mound of droppings right on the trail — either on his way in, or on his way out; I couldn’t tell. Since he found nothing to eat in the camp, I’m hoping he won’t be back. So far, I haven’t seen him.

However, plenty of other creatures have come by since he was here — none of them as destructive. Well, not destructive to me. The first I saw the night after my return was a ferret holding a dead something (like a large mouse or a baby rabbit) in his mouth. The ferret was just passing through. He skirted past my newly repaired tent and cut beneath the floor of my cabin-under-construction without seeing me watching him from above. He quickly disappeared into the Labrador tea with his supper.

The following evening a rabbit hopped right into camp and didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry to hop out again. Instead, he first crawled down the canoe launch to the lake, where he presumably had a drink and a bath (it had been a very hot day), and then he returned up top to nibble on some plants that grew around the building site. He didn’t seem at all bothered by the BTO music playing on the radio.

The evening after that, it was a large porcupine’s turn to pay a visit, although he was much less sociable than the rabbit. He skulked in the shadows beyond my campfire until I started putting stuff away for the night. When I saw him, he scurried underneath the cabin to hide. He must have wandered off sometime in the night. I don’t mind porcupines, but I don’t want them chewing on the juniper logs I use as a foundation.

A whiskeyjack was here the day I found the bear’s mess. The bird flitted from tree to tree when I inspected the damage, chittering the whole time as if it was an eye-witness eager to tell me everything. In truth, it was probably just hoping for food, but I gave it no more than the bear got.

The most numerous visitors are the nightly toads. It’s difficult to say how many there are because either there’s a couple of dozen chasing bugs, or there’s only two or three that get around really fast.

A couple of bats also come out at night to hunts insects. One night, they seemed to fly in formation, one bat following the other a little behind and to the side, the two of them swooping together between the trees and the buildings, over the water and back again, and finally out into the night.

I have some neighbours who have never come into the camp. One day, a beaver swam right past the point and later we met on the water. He had to swim a semi-circle around my canoe to get back onto his original course. He only became alarmed when I turned the boat towards him.

My favourites are a pair of loons who swim every day and call every night. Their nest on the other side of the bay had contained two large brown eggs on Canada Day, but now they’re gone. I hope the bear didn’t eat them.

“Don’t you go crazy out there alone?” I’ve been asked.

Crazy, maybe, but alone? No chance for that. I’m just glad Labrador doesn’t have skunks.


Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Geographic location: Labrador

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