I define wilderness as any place without internet. Extend that to no cell phone coverage and it becomes “the bush”, which I’m told is beyond the wilderness and much more dangerous. We were in the bush, the back yard of an old hunting camp along the river. We had a tent and sleeping bags. By my definition, we were roughing it.
Shelter is always the first step for survival when roughing it. We’d borrowed this high-tech piece of gear that came in a pouch only slightly bigger than my wallet. There was a separate bag filled with hard, carbon fibre strips, bearing no resemblance to anything I’d ever seen before. Help from a neighboring expert was solicited.
“Oh no, there are no poles inside anymore, nothing to bang your head into in the dark,” came the rather smug reply.
“Where’s the fun in that?” I demanded, noting the smugness, as I slid the space age collapsible poles through the outer sleeves. It was too easy. I was suspicious.
“Who designed this thing … NASA?” I ask.
“Oh sure, it was designed for use on the moon,” came the snappy reply, which lead me to believe I was in over my head from both a camping and sarcasm standpoint.
Thanks to help from the kids, we were able to cram the ten-minute job of pitching this thing into just less than an hour. But once erected, it was a thing of beauty. Our survival now guaranteed, I had time to reflect on roughing it. We’d brought food, we had shelter – this is a piece of cake. We’d brought cake, too. Soon I was imaging myself as a rugged “coureur de bois” with my birch bark canoe pulled up on the side of a river, warming my hands over a crackling fire as the song of the river played in the background.
“Tomorrow, we will paddle up the river and portage the falls to where the fish are abundant and the waterfowl are gathering for their winter trek”, I would say to my trusty companion. Yes, I could do this. After all, the tent is up, isn’t it? I was moments away from cancelling my subscription to PC Today when I heard:
“Dad, where is the root beer?”
“It’s in the cooler in the back of the Jeep.”
Where was I? Oh yes, who needs a computer? I’m warming my hands over the crackling fire, the song of the wilderness, nay, the bush, is being played by the river as it makes its way –
“Dad, can I have some chips?”
“Not now. I don’t want you ruining your supper.”
“What are we having?”
“We’ll have to kill what we’re going to eat tonight, my son. This is the bush, and that’s how one survives out here.”
“Is there an app for that?”
OK, so there is no birch bark canoe, we aren’t warming our hands over an open fire, and we won’t be doing any portaging, or killing. As we sat there eating our barbequed steaks and Caesar salad, listening to a new CD someone had brought, I reconsidered. Maybe we aren’t really roughing it. I doubt there were propane barbeques back then and I’m pretty sure no self-respecting coureur de bois ever had chilled Mouton Cadet in a glass. But we did have the sound of the river running over the rocks in front of us, which, after a few hours, reminded me of the need to use the bathroom.
“Where is the bathroom?” I asked innocently.
“About thirty paces out the back door, beside the woodpile.”
I take it all back. This is absolutely the bush and we are, indeed, roughing it.