With all of the beautiful early spring weather we have been having for the month of March, I immediately began to plan a camping outing. Tops on the list was to take on some unfinished business and head to the hunting camp in Enfield (see previous post “men vs wild“). The last excursion was so enjoyable that I just had to do it a second time. This time I tripled the amount of maps, and studied the map like an old foe. The battle plan was set, and the weather was spectacular. It was easy to convince the same friends of mine who were a part of the last survival adventure, and were allies with a common enemy. In a foreboding set of circumstances, we again left for our adventure at around 2 o’clock due to prior engagements for one of us.
The departure time proved to be the only similarity to the last outing. The back roads seemed to be in pretty good condition, as far as extremely backcountry logging roads go. I had the assumption that we wouldn’t be able to drive in any significant distance, but for once I was wrong with no negative ramifications. I carefully navigated each dip, hole, mud puddle and crumbling culvert while saved hiking time piled up in the back of my head. 20 minutes later, we reached the familiar high voltage power lines and I decided my station wagon had come sufficiently far enough out of its element.
We geared up feeling great about the hour of hiking we just saved. Last time we hiked up this part of the trail we had a bitterly cold headwind slapping us in the face while we inched up the hill. Today, it was sunny and warm, and early enough in the season that there were no bugs. As a former tree-planter who’s seen the worst the outdoors has to offer, these conditions were ideal. Our gear was still heavy enough to keep us focused on the objective, which was the elusive cabin in the middle of the woods. This time we were positive we were making the right turns and heading in the right direction, but a couple of hours later we worried that we underestimated the distance and difficulty of the hike. Just as our bodies began to break down, we reached the end of our path, spirits were high, as the land became familiar and I knew that when the path ended we were to head into the dense woods and put our lives in the hands of the coordinates on my GPS. The road indeed did end, but a new road continued…. a road to hell.
The new road was a familiar one to me, one I had seen every day for 4 summers tree planting. It was a skidder track, which led into a huge clear cut, a clear-cut where the dense woods surrounding the cabin used to be. My heart quickly sunk and I made plans for once again sleeping outdoors while holding back some seething anger. Surely the cabin was shown about as much respect as the rest of the land, and had been cut down, chopped up, spit out and stomped on. Nevertheless, we followed the GPS which said the cabin was 200 meters straight ahead…. in the tree graveyard. Luckily the farther we went the closer we got to a clump of trees which had been spared. In that section of trees was our GPS target. We headed into the trees and did some bushwhacking, eventually coming upon our oasis. The elusive cabin was alive! It stood defiant and welcoming, the extremely rustic facade almost winking at us. We rejoiced in an exhausted manor, and quickly put all of our gear in the cabin and did all of the work that we needed to do for a night of extreme relaxation. It was a beautiful night, and the nature around the cabin was superb; including babbling brook as well as some large old trees which had been spared through a couple generations of tree massacres.
I couldn’t help but be angered by the complete and utter devastation of the area. It was odd, because I had spent 4 summers working in clear-cuts, but this one was especially offensive. My previous visit to the cabin involved a half hour of bushwhacking and was a secret hideaway in the heart of the woods. The woods were now completely gone. This time the walk was over the rotting carcass of what was the woods I knew. This destruction had a personal meaning to me this time, as it was land I had known before it was destroyed. I had always known that Nova Scotia’s forestry industry was a dirty secret of the province, and that our “woods” were really nothing more than tree farms, to be harvested every 20 years. It was a lot more difficult to shrug this fact off now, and really made me realize how badly we treat our environment.
Nova Scotia has no real “forests”, what we have are tree farms, mostly softwood plantations. We plant softwood because it grows quickly and can be harvested quickly. Our woods looked nothing like this in the old days. It is completely unnatural to have forests of complete softwood, yet that is what we have, and not many people realize it. The only real forests we have are in our provincial parks. Point Pleasant Park, Kejimkujik, and Highlands in Cape Breton are our only real forests, because they have been protected for generations. If you get a chance to visit one of these areas, and you compare the forest there, to what you see on the side of the highway, you can begin to appreciate just how unnatural our forests really are.
Clear-cuts are universally frowned upon, and offend everyone. The province has so many, that it eventually had to install new regulations as a result of so many complaints, many coming from visiting tourists who commented on all of the clear-cuts they saw as they drove across the province. The new regulations weren’t to curtail the cutting, nor to harvest wood in a more sustainable and ecologically sensitive way. The regulations stated that clear-cuts could not begin within 20 meters of any roads or highways, as well as a 10-meter buffer zone beside any body of water. The result was to hide our dirty secret. Now you can drive down the highway and have no idea that behind what you think is a forest, is immensely more damaging than any hurricane or explosion this province has ever seen.
There is a huge economic and political aspect to this issue, and I can appreciate the fact that completely curtailing clear-cutting would have huge ramifications on many people. What really bothers me is that this issue does not get any media coverage, no debates or discussions. Most people are completely unaware. The people who are aware are people with similar experiences. People who are accustomed to a certain area they loved to explore as a kid…. or have a certain attachment to, and then one day, they go to visit it, and see that it has been destroyed. It’s likely only after an experience like that that you can truly appreciate how poorly we are treating our forests.
After a night in the cabin, we fired up the wood stove and had breakfast, which tastes roughly twice as good when you are camping. Each thing you throw on the grill, put on your plate, or in your cup is one less thing you have to carry out. Guilt-free eggs, bacon and sausage are the best way to get your spirits and your energy up in a hurry. We then went out to chop some wood to replace what we had used. Luckily wood was not hard to find here, and came in the form of pre-cut piles. We closed up the camp, and headed back home. The return trip is always more enjoyable because you know where you’re going, know what to expect, and your pack is no longer a burden thanks to your digestive system. The trip came to an end as we reached the car, and as I turned the key and the engine started, I officially deemed the outing a success. Unfinished business, no more.