It’s early May, and I still had snow slipping into my rubber boots as I hiked up a small unnamed creek leading in to an old logging camp. The camp, designated on one of my old work maps as ‘Simard’ (a common surname in the region), was likely small and only in existence for one winter, 1924-1925. Had it existed longer, it probably would have made it on to other maps with more information, such as date of occupancy.
I love how quickly traces of humanity can disappear up here. I think about it sometimes, and wonder in 90 years how much of the present will have vanished. In some ways, it could be even greater than the past 90 years have been, given that most of our trash is now trucked off-site, and any abandoned buildings are buried, rather than burned or left to rot.
Something about these old camps calls to me. Using a generalized dot or hand-drawn smudge on a map, and topo features such as streams and lakes, I challenge myself to locate these old camps as precisely as I can, without having to trudge around for an hour or two before I find something. All the old camps were located along streams for easy water access, though given that the operations only took place in winter, I’ve found some of the streams to be surprisingly undersized. In-woods engineering in the days of yore was impressive.
There wasn’t much to find at this camp. There was an old moose antler, chewed to shit and looking like it was giving me the finger. And there was an unidentifiable bone from an unknown animal. There were a few old metal tubs, a bunch of disintegrating aluminum cans, a small amount of scrap metal. No glass bottles to be found here.
One of my favorite things to see at these camps are the decadent old spruce trees that grew up adjacent to any clearings. Lateral branches remain from whichever side of the tree was exposed to the extra sunlight of the clearing. This makes it relatively easy to see where buildings and roads were located way back when. It’s not a glass bottle, but it’s still pretty neat. I’ll take it.
Old lamps are a staple of these camps. If the camp was large, the discard pile of lamps would be in a separate location from other refuse. The bigger the camp, the more outbuildings. This camp had no sign of a blacksmith, for example, and there was only one small trash midden.
In an interesting twist, some harvesting equipment was sent into this area two years ago, so the majority of trees that had grown up in the clearing were recently cut. The trails that the machine traveled on are filled with his brush. So it’s difficult to tell if any more old shit was hidden underneath his tracks or not.
Not much to find here, but it was rewarding nonetheless. Digging up history that very few people will ever see, especially considering that it will continue to decay, is a unique experience.