Mis à jour : il y a 6 jours
When I was 14, my parents gave me a book that I treasured and kept with me. I reread it several times, including a few times, sitting in front of the door of an old trapper's camp. With my cousin Richard, we roamed the forest wanting to imitate the characters in Paul Provencher's book; the last of the coureurs des bois.
On Sunday, we would visit my grandfather. Sitting in his chair and smoking his pipe, he told me about his adventures as he traveled mountains and valleys across Canada. This is the culture I grew up with. That of the "coureurs de bois" and forest workers at the start of the 20th century.
Gradually I got the equipment to go to the forest too. By referring to the stories of Paul Provencher, I acquired traditional, heavy and bulky equipment. The men who went into the forest did not go to visit it for a weekend, they went to live there for weeks or even months. My first meals in the forest were cooked over a campfire. The floor of my shelter was made up of spruce branches planted at 45˚ to form a fragrant insulating mat.
Afterwards, I got myself a canoe to go even further - and a ground pad. I have hiked rivers, lakes and portage trails, with my friends or alone, but mostly with my family. Joanie, my daughter was still in diapers the first time she came with us. I slept in the prospector's tent with some Attikamewk friends, again on a carpet of spruce branches. To Paul Provencher's readings were added the books and films of Bill Mason. The canoe remains the finest invention for traveling the hinterland of the Canadian Shield.
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But the mountain called me. I started rock climbing and ice climbing and then mountaineering on high mountains. This is where I left traditional gear behind to move towards high technology. The search for performance and, it must be said, safety through rapid progress in a more dangerous environment. The materials became more and more efficient, light, waterproof but breathable (?), Quick-drying. Our backpacks were getting lighter and we were going faster and faster to cover as much ground as possible.
The years have passed. Today I'm taking out my old mountain gear in bright colors. The noise of nylon makes me cringe. Synthetic fabrics melt if I'm too close to a fire and a spark is land on my pants. In addition, over the years, but also by choice, I slow down. I just savor the moment of being in the backcountry. The peaks attract me a lot less as my legs get heavier.
I want to reintroduce low-tech and progress slowly - Go-Slow. I want to cook again over the fire, avoid freeze-dried industrialized food and use fresh or homemade dehydrated food.
I rely on the knowledge accumulated over nearly 50 years to keep my bag light while having some of my equipment made of natural materials, in whole or in part.
On the other hand, I don't want to fall into the trap of a new fashion trend that we see on social networks and YouTube; extreme bushcrafting and survivalism.
I don't want to build survival shelters. Too often I have seen beautiful campsites ransacked by idiots who wanted to emulate their favorite Youtubers and practice building shelters without thinking about the impact on the site. In 50 years of living in the woods, I have never had to build myself an emergency shelter always having a small tarpaulin in my bag and if I ever had to spend an unforeseen night in the forest, I am convinced that what I learned in my youth will help me get through it. I don't need to spend my time making complex constructions that damage natural sites.
I don't want to build myself a wooden chair or a table. I prefer to sit and sleep on the ground, my head on my bag. I want to stay mobile and leave a minimum of traces. I want the least interference between me and the canopy of trees or the stars. I want to keep moving even though I cover less territory in a day. I've got plenty of time.
My stove burns twigs that I pick up on the ground or dead kindling. It doesn't leave marks and if I'm feeling lazy or the forest fire rating is too high, I can put a small alcohol stove in it that weighs nothing. I don't want to spend my time on the boardwalks of national parks where the organizations that manage them are building more and more complex infrastructure for Sunday adventurers. I want to get away from the popular parking lots and trails that go to the top for the trendy Instagram selfie of the day.
There are a few long hiking trails that allow immersion and that I would like to do while I'm still in good shape, including the Sentier International des Appalaches, in the Gaspé peninsula. But I also want to explore the less traveled trails or rediscover the old trails from the 1950s and 60s and 1970s that SEPAQ (an agency that manage national parks in Quebec) abandoned because these trails did not correspond to its "business plan".
I return to the sources to calm down by traveling paths and tracks little frequented. I cover less distance, but I savor my presence on the land. The 20-30 kilometers of daily hike gave way to a dozen or so, but also to more time to soak up the environment. Nature, mountains, rivers and seas are the canvas for my stories, but the pace has changed. A rhythm more conducive to contemplation, poetry, art and tranquility. And what better than a teapot on the fire to help me wait while my waxed poly-cotton anorak dries after the last rain.
Adhering to the "code of responsible adventure", I do not geolocate with precision the places I explore, except in a few rare exceptions such as my trips to the Arctic or during a relevant historical reference.
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Texts, drawings, videos and photos © Marc-André Pauzé - all rights reserved