Wool Pants & Suspenders

Stories for a campfire

Ootsa Camp & Norseman Wall Tent

A tech savvy young chap asked one fine evening: “How did you unwind in the old days?”…. I simply replied: same as I do now…. “wool pants and suspenders”, pointing to a tired picture of one of our Northern camps hanging on the wall…. see what the fella is wearing?

The picture, along side others, showed a fine October day at our Ootsa Lake camp, near BC’s Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, over thirty years ago. Autumn colours have long since faded…. the fella shown is a good friend, “Uncle Kenny” as my boys call him. Our clothing of choice: wool pants and suspenders.

Distracted from his phone he stated … “you should recolour it….

I replied no, the picture is perfect… and invokes memories as vibrant and colourful today as they were years ago. Looking at it reminds me to simply pause and get out there in Nature’s paradise, whenever peace is needed. Works every time.

I lamented … Aaahhh, the comfort of our first wall tent….. it was a “Norseman”, made by a Langely, BC manufacturer. The canvas design is roomy and withstands wind, snow, rain, and the cold. A tin “Quebec” woodstove inside kept us warm on some cold, cold days… and still does. Even today a large potful of hot water always sits stovetop. It could be 20 below outside, but inside toasty warm…. with plenty of fellowship for Uncle Kenny, myself, sons & nephews, and tea to warm one’s innards.

Wall Tent’s Quebec Tin Woodstove

What do you need and where do you go, he asked?”

I answered all one really needs is a desire for adventure, a good shelter, a wilderness location, pack board, matches, fishing rod, sharp knife, axe, sleeping bag, hand compass, stanfield sweater, wool pants and suspenders. Add a rifle, tea, coffee, some salt, flour, bacon, eggs and one could live off the land comfortably. Nothing fancy or requiring batteries other than a headlamp.

Our shelter I explained, is an “outfitter” tent, a style that has been used virtually unchanged for hundreds of Canadian years, by fur traders, prospectors, trappers, and voyagers, to keep occupants safe from the elements. We use sapling wood to make a sturdy frame…. three of us can set up camp in less than two hours, ready to withstand buckets of rain or piles of snow.

I went on to describe our many Camp locations, chosen for their remote untouched lakeside settings…. delightful spots, full of wildlife and unbelievable natural beauty. Areas where nature is untamed, as wild as it is captivatingly beautiful… teasing all one’s senses with pleasures of sight, hearing, touch, and aromas. Nothing is artificial, no sirens, just wonderful ecosystems coexisting in harmony with the wild kingdom.

Lakeside Cow Moose and Calf

I talked of colourful autumn settings and winter snows… and more recently of Fall camps in a secret Omineca hide-a-way, rich in gold mining history, incredible fishing, and wildlife viewing. Thousands had trekked to this area during the great gold rush of the 1870 -71s. Gold seekers heading to Manson Creek, willing to endure a fourteen day hike from Fort St James to reach this spot. A long arduous pack board journey through swamps, harsh undergrowth, and spits of trails, then up over Baldy Mountain to finally arrive at this piece of paradise. Long since gone, those sourdoughs are all but a memory.

Fall Colours, Rosie, and Omineca Campsite

I said, try to imagine the thrill of a mirror calm lake, and a fishing rod bent heavy with a fine trout…. Now imagine a campfire’s crackling sounds and glowing coals ready to receive a frying pan. Do you find yourself relaxing… are cares melting away?

Fresh Trout for Breakfast

Can you taste it? Can you hear it… Can you see it? A savory sizzling of pan fried trout, no traffic, no timetable, no electronics…. just fellowship, the rustling of Birch leaves, and drumming of Willow Grouse. You awaken to the aroma of percolating coffee, thick cut bacon, and morning sunrises. You close the day with a fine harvest dinner, campfire stories, and remarkable evening sunsets, as shadows of moose appear out of the mist…. folding the day away.

Cow Moose in the Mist

Do you feel yourself slipping into meadows of simpler times, with only a compass to guide one’s thoughts, free from city drama, political voices, and time constraints? This, I said, is the bold gift of nature’s wild kingdom, given to those with a yearning to “get out there”, seeking peace and serenity. Wonderful life balance achieved by simply putting on “wool pants and suspenders”.

Moose Meadows

Fidgeting with his phone the young chap thanked me for my time… He summed up his thoughts by asking: “How do you feel safe… only canvas walls… aren’t you afraid of bears and wolves… and no phone? He then declared: not for me!”

A Wonderful Black Bear

I just smiled…. His statement more rhetorical than a question, and we bid our goodbyes and closed the day.

Safe travels out there, Gord Patterson