It is a modest place, sitting at the end of a street of other modest cabins. For the last decade it has been our corner of tranquility, our escape from the city and from the stresses of the daily grind.
But we’ve sold it and we’re movin’ on.
My family has been coming to Clear Lake, the jewell on the southern edge of Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba since the 1940’s. Both my parents came here as teenagers. Mom remembers going to dances in the village and walking back to the campground in the dark hoping there wasn’t a bear lurking. Dad talks about earning pocket change caddying at the golf course then flogging the Winnipeg Free Press door-to-door.
I took my first picture here. A couple of years shy of school age, I grabbed mom’s Kodak Brownie and bolted from the cabin where we were staying to snap Bruno, a large black dog walking by. Sadly, my photographic skills weren’t up to the task of capturing the moving canine and the blurry picture showed little more than gravel and leaf litter.
The cabin area, knows as The Old Clear Lake Campground has evolved since then. Larger permanent cabins replaced the tiny ramshackle shelters that were moved in and out each year. Electricity and telephones arrived and now many cabins sprout a satellite dish or two, and big-screen TV’s are the norm. The communal cook shacks are still social hubs, but few cabin owners use them for cooking. Water and sewer hookups are coming and that will likely mean the eventual closure of the communal washroom and shower facilities. New two-story palaces are sprouting like dandelions.
The place is changing. It’s starting to feel more like a big-city, keeping-up-with-the-Jones suburban neighbourhood.
The last few weeks have been filled with many conversations that started with “Do you remember”. “Do you remember seeing the bear with her four cubs?” ” Do you remember hearing a Great Horned Owl call in the middle of the night and finding it perched in a nearby tree?” “Do you remember seeing the mother moose with her two babies?”
We’ve explored the park’s back roads by car, the back country by foot and canoed on placid mountain lakes.
But I’ll miss the place.
I’ll miss the traditional Labour Day weekend pot-luck dinner and marching through the Campground in the dark behind the Clear Lake Eye Patch Band.
I’ll miss our early morning drives with camera and binoculars. On these “moose hunts” we’ve seen plenty of critters – wolves, a lynx, a red fox, deer by the dozen, elk, bears, mink, bison and of course moose.
I’ll miss seeing the sun rise and the sun set.
I’ll miss this little piece of Canada’s great boreal forest.
But it’s time to move on.