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PostPosted: September 23rd, 2020, 8:00 am 
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Joined: September 20th, 2020, 8:04 am
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Greetings,

It’s fun to discover this thread. I was scratching my head about these trips, mostly good memories, besides lost trip leaders and cooking wanigans. I have a good friend I did and end to end trip on VT’s Long Trail with who has outdone me with memories of that trip 50 years ago. No wonder I should have been keeping a diary all along!

I spent two summers at Kapitachuan around this time and I am trying to remember some names and dates. Yikes! I recall it was 1964 and ‘65 tho I have no evidence. This group seems to have pretty solid memories so I thought I’d ask if you know of others there around the time. John Soper was one, the guy who set a portage route and didn’t return for two days?? Do I remember correctly? Of course Carl Williams, too. But campers names and some of the routes fail me. I am scouring the maps and remembering names of lakes.

I did two months at least one year. Chibougamau was perhaps the last season. Quite an endeavor! I do remember that one! Would love to hear more.

Cheers,

- Tony Elliott


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PostPosted: November 19th, 2020, 5:07 pm 
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Joined: October 1st, 2020, 12:10 pm
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I was thrilled to come across this site with its string of posts. I had been looking at Google maps of the surrounding area in Canada and somehow, through the wonders of the Internet, arrived here. I was a camper in 1956 when I was 14. In that year, I had the impression that there were just two trips, a younger and an older. I was on both of the the younger ones. I decided to try to piece together some of my memories— those that must have been important to me at the time and, because of their continued existence, remain important to me to this day nearly 65 years later. I find myself writing this largely for my own benefit and perhaps for my grandchildren who will not have the chance of any such experience—I hope it might also prove of some interest to the other travelers on this string.

I am from the Boston area—my father put me on the train to Montreal at Boston’s North station (In our current age of paranoia, would any sane parent now put his 14 year old alone on such a train?). Like most, I met up with the group at the station in Montreal. On the overnight train we were all in the same car—one of those whose seats could be transformed into bunks with heavy floor to ceiling curtains separating bunks from isle. I suppose this has remained the same for more recent groups? Not much sleep was had by us or for the unfortunate other travelers in the same car. What kept everyone awake were the fireworks that a number of the older kids had purchased in Montreal. It started off rather innocently with someone setting off a round of small lady fingers in the isle and ended with two inchers being thrown at each other and, eventually, into our bunks. The isle floor was littered with firecracker paper, the car smelled of gunpowder. At one point, at an official train stop, two policeman were summoned, came into the car, looked around, kind of shrugged and left. It was quite a raucous, for me rather anxious, night. But we did arrive and made it to base camp of which I have virtually no memories.

For the previous four summers I had been at a camp in Wyoming at the foot of the Grand Tetons where we went on three week pack trips into the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Teton Wilderness Area extending into some southern parts of Yellowstone. In those days it was real wilderness, like the area of Canada that we canoed in—on those trips we never ran into a single other person…. I think the head of the camp probably had a talk with my parents suggesting that, should I take a year off doing something challenging, she would ask me back as a counselor. After my summer at Camp Kapitachuan I did return to the Wyoming camp for the next three summers as a counselor. Horses, fly fishing, mountains, the open spaces of the west, were my real loves then and I was very happy to be there—toughened, somewhat more mature, wiser (?) from my Kapitachuan experience.

Both of the younger groups that year were led by Henry Sheldon. I don’t remember the names of any of the other campers nor the names of rivers, lakes, places we passed through—in examining Google Maps and reading the above posts, the only names that were familiar were the Gouin Reservoir and Chibougamau though I’m sure our trips were to the south of these locations. Upon reading this string the only other name that seemed to ring a bell (other than Rod Beebe and Carl Williams) was that of Chip Madden. On my first trip the medical counselor was a med student in his last years of training, on the second an older, retired (or vacationing) doctor. I think both had been on prior trips.

I was a tall, very skinny, 14 year old—the following winter at school, at about six feet tall, I wrestled in the 115 lb. class. I remember so vividly the Kapitatchuan diet—breakfast alternating cream of wheat and oatmeal—lunch the alternating hash and beans with bannock cooked in reflector ovens, often quite late, the night before—dinner alternating rice and macaroni (with spice bottle livening up)—canned ham, vegetables, real reflector oven bread on our (3?) rest days. With all the work we did it was a perfect diet—I thrived actually gaining weight. In spite of my size I was in the stern on both trips (perhaps due to previous wilderness experience and some minor experience with a canoe at school?) and hence carried the canoe—I think the “guide” model which was the lightest of the wood and canvas Chestnuts. Struggling along on one of the mile long portages up to ones knees in muskeg is a pretty unforgettable experience. I remember on many occasions throwing the canoe off to the side of the trail to stop, rest, manage aching shoulders and neck.

Gathering firewood was one of the tasks I enjoyed the most. I became quite proficient in the use of the axe, a proficiency that has followed me, with some pride, throughout my life. Back in Wyoming the following summers I spent considerable time at the wood pile after dinner splitting wood for the cookstove, stockpiling it in the ice house. One of my important Kapitachuan memories was of forgetting my axe at the end of one of the portages—just failing to get it into the canoe as we left, probably last and in a hurry (struggling with the canoe I remember often being the last to get over a portage). It wasn’t until several hours of travel, probably at our lunch stop that the missing axe was noticed. It was entirely my fault and resulted in my bow man and I having to retrace our steps—several hours there, several hours back, to retrieve the axe. The rest of the expedition had to stop, set up camp, and wait for our return—a very humbling experience! At the same time I don’t remember being shamed by anyone. It was just something that unfortunately happened. There was no question about the remedy—we needed to go back—an axe was an extremely valuable tool, too important to leave. And there was a certain pride in having made the round trip—speedily without questioning the necessity to do so nor doubting our ability to find our way.

Another memory involved two soggy sleeping bags—the result of a capsize in rapids or sloppiness with securing them in the canoe. I do not remember whose canoe they came from nor the circumstances but around the fire well into the night we all took turns holding them up to dry over the flames. Finally the work seemed to be done. But appearances can be deceptive—beneath the covering, within the down, moisture still lingered—enough to prevent any kind of sleep that night for their owners. We all had failed in our task—together…. The next day was sunny, beautiful. Those sleeping bags lay spread out in that sun, traveling in the canoe, at lunchtime and at our campsite—which was what, in the end, they needed….

On my second trip, with our older doctor, it was necessary to evacuate one of us because of apparent appendicitis. In an age long before cell phones or other contemporary means of communication I have no idea of how that was brought about but it necessitated a layover while all was arranged, the task completed. I suppose there was a ranger station or other piece of the outside world within striking distance? I do remember one rest day at the site of what must have been a ranger station—a cabin on a hill overlooking a lake, a clearing surrounding the cabin going down to the lake—our campsite on one side of the clearing several hundred feet from the cabin. There were some residents of the cabin (the only other folks we came across in my two months in Canada) who had a working radio. I have a distinct memory of hearing Elvis for the first time. Elvis’ first album had been released by RCA Victor on March 23 of 1956 with “Blue Suede Shoes” as its lead song. “Heartbreak Hotel” had been released as a single on January 27 but, more likely, what I heard was a single that had been released on July 13—the A side was “Don’t Be Cruel” and on the reverse was “Hound Dog.” Together they went on to become number one on the Pop charts a position they held for a then record 11 weeks.

I have a lovely memory of my father meeting me at Boston’s North Station on my return. I think I was wearing basically the exact same clothes that I had left with two months before. I had left with a small army duffle bag. It must have contained some changes of clothes, my sleeping bag, a few books that were on a summer reading list, a light parka/rain jacket, towel, and other odds and endings that we were supposed to bring. Aside from the sleeping bag and rain parka, I don’t think I had touched anything else which was, after two months, a mass of mould. The clothes on my back had survived pretty well. They stayed on throughout the sometimes daily rain showers which, at least to me, had provided enough washing for both clothes and body. I am not much of a swimmer and probably did little though there must have been occasions to use such events to clean the body a bit. And, while rainwater did a fairly good job of cleaning my clothes of water solubles, it obviously did little for the accumulations of food, grease, fish guts, general hand wiping. Muskeg had taken its toll on my LLBean boots, rotting out stitching, separating, in places, leather tops from rubber bottoms. Everything on my back and in the back pack needed to just be thrown out. My father was delighted to see me and was full of laughter and good cheer about the condition of my clothes, possessions, body, and soul. A single souvenir of that duffel remains—a tattered, somewhat mouldy Penguin edition of Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. It had been on my summer reading list. On the inside front page in my adolescent hand is my printed name and the date 6/56. It remains still unread.




EDC October 2020


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PostPosted: November 19th, 2020, 5:58 pm 
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Joined: September 5th, 2010, 10:50 am
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What an inspired, exhaustive trip down memory lane, Mr Child. That’s a very impressive recall of 64-year-old memories. Well done, and thanks for sharing.
Mark Hinckley


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PostPosted: November 19th, 2020, 8:35 pm 
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Joined: November 18th, 2003, 5:35 pm
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That was a great read EDC. Thanks for sharing. Camp K has been a marvelous experience for many young men. I had the privilege of meeting some of you on the trail. Rod and Carl were special people. The wife and I shared a campsite one night on the Wetetnagami River with one of your groups. It was a memorable evening.
Be safe.

Gerald

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A smart man learns from his mistakes,
A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.
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