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Travel Books - Cache Lake Country

When I was a boy of perhaps 10 or 12 years old, I read a book that made a great impression on me. It was the story of a man who lived in a cabin in Northern Ontario, and it followed his life through the course of a single year. The book was a mixture of homespun philosophy, observations on the natural world, and practical woodsmanship, and the text was illustrated with lovely pen-and-ink drawings on the margins of the pages, showing you how to–amongst other things–make a toboggan, harness a dog team, construct a smokehouse, carve a canoe paddle, or sew your own moccasins. It inspired in me a desire to flee to the woods, build my own log cabin, and run a trap line.

Unfortunately, I never took note of the book’s title or the author’s name, so later, when I went to re-read the book, I was never able to find it. All I could remember was that it had a green buckram cover.

Two decades later, in a hunt camp in Northern Ontario, after a day spent tramping through the autumn woods, talk turned to favorite books. A good friend began to describe his all-time favorite read: “Well, it’s about this guy who lives in a cabin in Northern Ontario, and spends an entire season there…”

“Wait a sec!” I said, recognizing a description of my lost childhood classic. “What’s it called?”

Cache Lake Country by John Rowlands,” he answered.

Well, I returned home from that trip, went to my local public library, and requested Cache Lake Country through the inter-library loan service. When it arrived, I was pleased to rediscover the lost book of my youth. It even had the green cover that I remembered. I passed it on to my son, who enjoyed it, but admitted he skimmed the philosophical bits,

zeroing in on the “gadgets” that Rowlands creates for living comfortably in the wilderness. Cache Lake Country was published in 1947, so it describes a north full of old-style logging camps, prospecting, and fur trapping, a place where travellers lived on a diet of pork, beans, flapjacks, maple syrup, bannock, and bacon grease, and slept on beds made of balsam fir boughs. We will never see that north again, but it is fun to rediscover it in the pages of Rowlands’ book.

Running off to live in the woods was a popular dream for boys of my generation–my wife calls us “the last of the Daniel Boone era”–but I don’t think modern kids still carry this dream. I wonder what they dream of now? Space travel? Or are their imaginations too stunted by video gaming to dream?

Anyway, read Cache Lake Country. It might not be great literature, but it is a great read. It fueled my childhood ambitions. Perhaps it can inspire you as well.


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