Camping In Canada: Wild Food Foraging

James E. Churchill describes a family trip camping in Canada and their adventures in wild food foraging.


| November/December 1970



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Churchill talks about his camping with the family and how they foraged a good meal in the remote wilds of Canada.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

After an evening meal of fresh lake trout, cattail biscuits, arrowhead vegetable and raspberry dessert, my son and I took the canoe—leaving my wife and daughter to their own pursuits—and crossed the 150 yards of Ranger Lake that lay between our island and the mainland. We were going to cruise quietly along the shore in hopes of seeing a moose. If we were lucky we might even get a picture.

Nearing a "bay"—which we found out later was a creek—we heard some commotion in the thick aspen and evergreens. Suddenly a white tail buck bolted straight up the almost vertical hill that was the bank of Ranger Lake at this point and we smiled at each other in delight at seeing a familiar Wisconsin animal here while camping in Canada. The noise coming from the bush didn't stop, however. It wasn't the deer that had made it. Paddling very softly forward we could detect a crunching; chewing sound coming from the base of a large aspen. Suddenly the tree dropped into the lake with a tremendous splash and water shot high into the air. We had witnessed a very rare sight: A tree actually falling that a beaver had cut. This more than made up for us not seeing any moose on the entire trip.

We had arrived at the island on which we pitched our camp by traveling through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, crossing the International Bridge at Sault St. Marie and driving our small, low clearance auto right up to the lake via Ranger Lake road.

Now, the Ranger Lake road may not be the best highway in the world, but it was surely one of the better wild plant foraging trails early this fall. There was acre after acre of large sweet blueberries, patch after patch of raspberries, huge sweet-tasting dew berries and many choke-cherry trees with the largest choke cherries I had ever seen. Cattails grew in hundreds of pot-holes along the road, arrowhead root was abundant, white pond lilies were everywhere and though we didn't fish them, many trout streams tumbled through the hills and gorges of the route.

We stopped a couple times on the way in and filled our pans with berries against the possibility that they would be scarce where we planned to camp. At Ranger Lake itself I noticed dandelions, thistle and plantain right in the campground but didn't pick any. We were too anxious to get to the island.

A mountain of sleeping bags, tents, cameras, pots, pans and clothes was swiftly loaded into the canoe . . . but not so swiftly that I didn't notice the small smoke houses that are located at almost every permanent dwelling on Ranger Lake. I found out how they're made and used and I'll try to include the plans in another issue.





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