Traveling in Canada and to the Moon

Patricia M. Snell

Copyright 2013 by Patricia M. Snell

Photo of moon by Richard Loller
                                         Photo by Richard Loller.
While traveling in a remote area of Canada, an historic event happened, and we learned that camping on a remote island is really like camping in our backyard.

In the summer of 1969, I was between high school and college. I didn't have a summer job to keep me busy, but my summers were never boring for very long. My father was a bit of an adventure-seeker, and every year my parents planned trips that took my brother and me to a variety of destinations. In July of that year, our adventure was a canoe trip on Lake Temagami in Ontario Canada. The lake is in a remote, sparsely populated part of Canada, about 400 miles from our home in Rochester, NY.

We packed our supplies and loaded two canoes onto the car for the long drive to the lake. Along the way, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins joined us with their canoe, as they had done on previous trips. I don't remember most of the events of our weeklong trip, but the passing of over forty years has not erased my memory of a tiny island where we camped for a couple of days.

The island was really just a big slab of rock, with a few scraggly plants. We had chosen it as our campsite because the thick forest on the mainland was filled with hungry mosquitoes. There were several things about this treeless island that made it a poor choice for a campsite. One was the lack of privacy. We dubbed it "no-john island" and used a canoe to ferry over to an outhouse on the shore where there were some uninhabited cabins. The island was also a poor place to pitch tents. The hard ground would not accept tent stakes, so heavy rocks were used to anchor the tents. Inside the tents, the slab of rock made a poor mattress.

The most memorable event on the island happened as we huddled around my father and his small transistor radio on July 20. My father was holding the radio against his ear and straining to hear the historic news broadcast about the Eagle spacecraft's landing on the moon. Radio reception was poor in our remote location, but my father could hear the dramatic details, and he repeated the news to us as he heard it. The landing wasn't proceeding as planned, but finally the historic words were announced from the moon, to Houston, to TV's and radios around the world, and to my father's ear. My father repeated the words to us; "The Eagle has landed."

It was a strange experience to be camping on a remote island while we heard news from a far more remote place. There was an odd perception that we were just in our backyard, compared to the thousands of miles the astronauts had traveled into space. Our island seemed more like home. We lacked comfort and privacy, but we had air to breathe and gravity.

Any comparisons between our canoe trip and space exploration are presumptuous. The only comparison I dare make is that we were all adventure seekers who were challenged by our adventures, and we all succeeded. Astronauts would continue to seek adventure in space, and my father would continue to seek adventure where he could find it on Earth.

I did not accompany my family on any more trips after the summer of 1969 because I had my own adventures to experience in college and in my future work. I am grateful that my last family adventure was a memorable one, thanks to the astronauts and a tiny island on Lake Temagami.

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