Notes From The Quebec Wilderness

“The Year Of The Residential Rodents”

By Gabrielle Blair

Quebec Wilderness


We have been jinxed this year, what with one thing and another. It started with the preparation of the boat which we keep covered with tarps over the winter. When we removed the tarps, we found that squirrels, or maybe chipmunks, had stored a million peanuts, still in their shells, in all the available compartments, along with dried leaves and shredded paper. It took quite the gymnastics by yours truly to reach deep into the wells to clear out the junk of the squirrels’ winter hotel. Then Alec discovered that they’d chewed at the wiring, so that needed repairing and the purchase of a new fire extinguisher in case of something dire happening.

As usual, the boat was so loaded that we couldn’t get up on plane using the 115 HP motor, so for an extra boost, we started the auxiliary 20 HP motor and we were up in a moment. We roared off only to have the auxiliary motor cut out after a minute or so. No amount of coaxing could get it to start again. With the motor cover lifted, Alec discovered that the fuel filter housing had become detached and had lodged itself in the gears and, even after he’d managed to free it up, the gears wouldn’t work. Yamaha motors are not supposed to behave like that.

Then followed the almost impossible task of shuffling the luggage around so that we had as much weight in the bow as possible. That still wasn’t enough. As a last resort, both of us crawled over the boxes in the bow and by leaning out precariously, with the steering briefly left on autopilot, the 115 HP was able to reach 15 miles an hour, enough for the boat to plane at full speed. The prospect of the thirty-six kilometer journey, which normally takes 45 minutes, taking five hours had we had to limp along, was not particularly attractive at the end of an already demanding day of packing and loading. When we arrived at the camp, we were glad to see that the ice hadn’t wrecked the dock or swept it away. A good start!

Ah, but not for long. With the shutters of the cabin removed, we were greeted by a horrible sight. The mice had overrun the place. Absolutely everything that had not been wrapped in plastic or put away in sealed boxes was used as a toilet. So it has been non stop cleaning of every nook and cranny: everything they had crossed, be it floor, shelf or drawer, required washing, disinfecting or throwing away. Chewed shoelaces and socks seem to have been a delicacy and my gardening canvas shoes are now in the garbage. So much for the poison that we left in tins and jars all around the outside of the cabin, which in previous years has allowed us to enter the place and find it relatively much the way we’d left it, eight or nine months ago. Anyhow the cleaning has been my job.

Alec’s work has thankfully gone smoothly: the water got hooked up easily, the pump started and we only found one leak; the giant batteries that are fed power from the solar panels are doing their job; the generator started right away and the bald eagle and her young are in their nest, just like last year and the year before. She glowers at us from the branch beside her nest, perched on the highest pine on the opposite side of the bay. Eagle junior pokes his head out and occasionally flaps his already large black wings. The hare that lives under the cabin has bounded off a couple of times, surprised to find his tranquility disturbed by the noisy occupants above his home.

Signs of bears? They’ve been here for sure and have stripped the mountain ash shrubs of their leaves. My columbine and foxglove seedlings planted last year are already flowering and the peony has clusters of healthy pink buds. There’s a heat-wave at the moment, but the lake water is pristine and fresh, not too cold, and the swimming is divine.

We are ready to start enjoying being here in this incredible silence, with peeper frogs serenading us on a starry night, and a half moon reflected in the lake. Finally with the internet connected to satellite, I can tell you all about it.


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