Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Treating That Chilly Feeling
While the plumber, at a dollar an hour, is poking around the sink looking for the frost in the water pipes, and the wind from the bay is hunting out the spot where there isn't any, it is a seductive advertisement which pictures a girl in a peek-a-boo waist picking oranges
By W. Lacey Amy
Photo by R. R. Sallows.
Florida and California have fulfilled for many years the ideals of the average conception of winter comfort. It is natural one should flee from cold to escape its terrors—so natural that, like other great reforms or discoveries, the years have been slow to bring the ripeness of experience.
But a new idea is springing up—or rather an old idea is being applied to a new subject. It is the boy who dabbles in the water’s edge who feels its chill; plunging in, “the water’s fine.” Similarly it is the half-winter of the middle north—of the “temperate” zone—the damp winds, the fluctuating temperature, the uncertainty of clothing, that makes us shiver. We think only of the high extreme of temperature as the relief from the winter discomforts of the Northern States. We are just beginning to discover the possibilities of the other extreme, the continual zero. Modern therapeutics is popularizing the cold air cure for ills that have been accustomed to yield with reluctance; and is spreading the fact that dry, steady winter is not only curative but pleasant.
Europe has passed America in this appreciation of frigidity, steady and clear. The Swiss winter resort is as well-known as the healing water of Carlsbad. Switzerland, during the winter months, requires no other advertisement throughout Europe than its mountain sledding, its skiing, its skating. Where the pleasures of sport have gained such publicity the matter of health is subsidiary, although, in truth, an unappreciated essential part of that pleasure. In America we had known of the winter attractions of the mountainous European country many years before we realized that at home we have most of the elements of the sport, all the requirements for rosy cheeks, and but a small part of the expense in the enjoyment. The place, and not the idea, has held sway too long.
Northern Michigan, and Minnesota, and Wisconsin are able to supply the new winter resort for a few weeks at a time; then a thaw revives all the terrors of winter. Only Northern Canada can hope to give a fair test to the advantages and attractions of unfailing snow and ice for shivering man. But unfortunately Canada, with its small number of leisurely rich, has been content to accept the popular idea of the warm winter resort. Only three years ago did it begin to realize its possibilities as a substitute for the doctor or southern trip; but one experiment was sufficient to convince, and the secret could not be kept. At least one hotel has succeeded in proving to many a chilly man that thirty below is a more efficient remedy than eighty in the shade.
North of Toronto, two hundred miles above Lake Ontario, there is a tract of bush and lake that is not unknown to the summer tourist. Its two thousand square miles have been thoughtfully set aside by the Ontario Government as its own peculiar care. Algonquin Park has its hundreds of admirers for the warm months, the greater number of them from the United States. As a summer resting-place, amid pine-saturated breezes, hill-bounded horizon, watery stretches that joy the fisherman, and canoe courses that fill with wonder and delight, it has supplied the perfect necessary for many a wearied business man. A dozen of its rocky, tree-covered islands cuddle the houses of New York and Pittsburgh and Boston, believers in the open air of the wilds for summer happiness. Its two million acres, its twelve hundred lakes and rivers, are planned on the maps and photographs of many a cosy library of American city homes. But the pictures are of waving trees and rippling waters and fish-laden pleasure-seekers. Soon there will be added another set of pictures—snow-bent evergreens, whitened lakes, twisting snowshoe trails, and the bright-eyed admirers of nature under her purest mantle. In that altitude of two thousand feet above New York sea winds, the man of the Northern States is going to find his shuddering winter tears change to glowing winter ecstacy, as some of his friends have experienced already.
He is destined to realize with pangs of regret that winter comes only once a year and lasts but three months. He will learn that ozone at twenty and thirty below is a new-found exhilaration, a heaven-sent remedy for most of the worst ills, a bracer that will fill the northward trains that now run empty to gather the next load for the South. Algonquin Park in the winter is a disease in itself, a homeopathic inoculation that will reach its greatest benefit to mankind in the epidemic form. It becomes a habit. One does not learn to love it after determined efforts, like olives and tomatoes; it is a case of love at first sight. No person has even been there once when the blackness of the evergreens beneath the snow mantle is a tracery of nature's most artistic efforts, when the tingle of the frost sends the thinnest blood in bounds to the finger-tips, when the crunch of the snowshoe is the password of the sport that is more exhilarating than automobiling ever was, is pretty sure to return at his first opportunity. And Algonquin Park is merely the pioneer of the new idea—one of a hundred coming Canadian Meccas for the wind-pierced mortal looking for relief.
To the man who has never pulled the thongs over his toes except along the drifted fences of the suburbs, snowshoeing in Algonquin Park is another sport. There you go somewhere; you see something; you saturate yourself with life and vim and laughter and praise of the Maker of such things. In the morning crispness you step from the door of the hotel and read with surprise the thermometer's report. With a wool cap pulled over the ears, a pair of wool mitts on the hands, a couple of sweaters and a coat, three pairs of stockings and a comfortable pair of mocassins on the feet, you are ready for three hours or more of exertion than would bring fatigue in one whole week of city life. A careful breath or two until the lungs become accustomed to the dry, almost choking frostiness of the air, and then a steady tramp, tramp through new realms of glorified nature, island-dotted lake or evergreen bush where naught but you and the tracks of the wild life mark the surface of the smooth snow. It is on these bush trails that the greater treasures of the northern tracts reveal themselves.
There is nothing in this world of ours to rival the evergreen woods under snow that rests and grows under the added flakes of many storms without a breeze to dislodge them. Where the lumberman has been before the Government prohibited him, the stumps protrude from the white, black and staring, crowned with a high hat of softest, lightest snow. A fallen sapling has become a giant tree with its added covering; its tiny branches look large enough to bear. The smallest slant to a standing tree masks its high side in the prevailing white, and a roughness in the bark that is almost imperceptible offers sufficient foundation for a six-inch mass of snow. Everything is exaggerated to its grandest aspect, and the imperfections are softened to the general effect.
Through this the snowshoe trail winds in the unexplainable fashion of paths, turning out for imaginary obstructions, and dropping into unnecessary hollows. A huge log bars the way, but the broken trail shows that underneath the snow is but a small tree-trunk that can be leaped. A really large log intercepts, and the expert steps exactly on the top and jumps wide enough to clear with the heels of his snowshoes. If he is learning he probably takes no chances but sits on the log and cumbersomely throws his feet over. On a new trail everyone takes his share of the breaking, for the loose, soft snow of the northland lets the snowshoe sink a foot or more when unbroken. But when you come second in the line you carefully step in the tracks of the leader leaving someone else to break down the intervening snow. The “crunch” of the snowshoe is the most absorbing sound in all that land. A shout a hundred yards away is unheard in the swing of the tramp, although there is no more startling stillness than that of the northern woods, except at unexplainable times when the small birds fill the air with their twitterings.
Within the Park the animal life is protected. Not a firearm is allowed with a barrel longer than four inches, except to the rangers. Deer in uncountable numbers wander across the frozen lakes and through the woods, care free and conscious of their protection. Their only enemy is the wolf, against which the rangers wage a continual warfare. Last year these marauders were fewer than ever on account of the killing of many females the previous winter. To the first of February only twenty-four had been trapped or shot by the many rangers who live in cabins throughout the Park. Foxes, fishers, ermine abound. Beaver dams are sometimes so serious a nuisance that their builders have to be shot to clear the land. Partridge flutter all around, betraying their presence by the showers of snow from the branches they touch. Blue jays chatter, sparrows twitter, squirrels scold, and the whisky jack hurls out his rasping note.
But again there may be that utter silence which is unendurable. In the quiet of the north there is no use waiting for a break. When that silence comes everything in life is waiting with you. Until the nerves can bear it no longer one can stand and stand, and then he must break the quiet by the sound of his own snowshoes. All around may be the tracings of innumerable small animals—the mouse, the squirrel, the partridge—or the larger tracks of the deer and the fox and fisher, but with all their freshness and the knowledge that within the sound of your voice there are undoubtedly hundreds of animals, not a twig will crack, not a tree rustle, not a bird will twitter, until sometime later when you are not thinking of it you discover the woods are alive with sound of small birds.
It is at night the lake trails call to the snowshoer. The thermometer is dropping, dropping; a coolness is all that tells of the direction from which the wind would blow if it came; and the cold moon is brighter than you ever saw it before. Along the side of an island you pass through the shadows of the evergreens, so black that they seem holes in the surrounding whiteness and glitter. The line stops and listens, but always is that absolute silence that comes sometimes in the daytime. A moment of this and the sound of the tramp is a welcome relief. If one is lucky he may hear far off in the northern hills the short howl of a lonesome wolf. But the wolf in Algonquin Park bears no terrors for man; deer are too plentiful and too easy to bring down to make man a temptation.
In all directions the trails lead off from the hotel across the lake or through the woods, always tending towards one of the many lakes within easy walking distance—Cranberry, White, Grant, Head, Polly, etc.—varying in length from three to ten miles and affording an unending variety of scenery and snowshoeing difficulties; and when one’s sense of direction is acclimatized, so to speak, the charms of new trails assert themselves. In addition there is a toboggan slide that provides the women with screams and the men with muscular exercise. Immediately in front of the hotel the surface of the lake is kept cleared for skating, and the uncertainties of hard weather are unknown. But the snowshoe crowds out most of the other sports, except at the odd intervals.
Although there was last winter but the one hotel that catered to the new idea, the manner in which the public demonstrated its approval will open up a score more within a very few years. Indeed, a few Canadians have taken to camping in the woods, independent of hotels. And the zero life under canvas is not the unpleasant experience it might appear to the uninitiated. One inestimable advantage that such a life, either under canvas or shingles, will possess, is the solution it offers of the food question. A bone to gnaw and a cup of coffee in Algonquin Park, when the straight lines of frost-mist hang still along the tree tops, will be described as a veritable carousal by the man who has the new idea.
Cache Lake, on which the only formal apostle of the new treatment is located, is also the home of the superintendent of the Park. A big, burly Scotchman, he is conclusive proof of the efficacy of the zero cure for all ills. All the year round the many rangers under him report from their cabins through the wilderness of woods and lakes. From these points they fight fires, wolves, careless campers, and unlicensed fishermen. Every winter in February the superintendent harnesses his two big Danes to a wide-runnered sleigh for his long round of visits over the hundreds of miles between cabin and cabin. He does not bother to watch the mercury sinking out of sight; nor do storms mean more than a temporary inconvenience. A ranger’s cabin may be more comfortable than a sleeping bag, but the appeal is weak. Robust health—the health of the north woods—is the best fortification against anything the temperature can threaten. And watching him start on his long trip the winter resorter feels an envy that would have made him shudderingly pull up the bed clothes a week ago.
That is the most pungent feeling which comes to the experimenter in the new idea—the disappearance of his dread of cold. It is an ancient remark of the adventurers in the North and in the Far West that the cold is “too dry to feel;” but it is so true of the man in his sweater and cap and mocassins that his greatest surprise from the first day is the position of the mercury. It is the only hardening process that does not entail discomfort during the early days of treatment. The thermometer cannot go so low that a few minutes on the snow-shoes does not uncover the ears and make mitts a burden.
- The Amphibious Suburb of St. John’s
- Literary History of Nova Scotia
- A British Eskimo
- The Bombers and Snipers
- The Life Savers
- Hell at Hooge
- Dumb Talkies
- Introduction to The Fourth Dagger
- Salvage—A Canadian Idea
- The Women of The Magdalens
- The Credit System in the West
- The Perfect Ending
- Education and the War
- The Timber Wolf at Home
- Treating That Chilly Feeling
- Earmarks of Genius
- The Farmer and the War
- Labour and the War
- The Non-Combatants
- Woman and the War
- After Three Years
- My New Gardening Gloves
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.