In Pursuit Of The Wolverine ~ Gladys at Mary Lake


Hamburg, United States

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January 1963 ~ high above the frozen waters of Mary Lake, Muskoka District, near Huntsville, Ontario. Over night it was around 40 below, & that’s COLD in Fahrenheit or Celsius…. No electricity, no running water, & a small wood range for heat (& some cooking, though the Coleman gas stove handled those chores). The cabin was (& still is) constructed of big softwood logs (hemlock & red pine) cut on the land, & once the little stove was roaring, the logs warmed up quickly & retained the heat remarkably. Start the fire with softwood, then add a couple of rounds of hardwood ~ maple or oak ~ damp it down & you were good for most of the night.

In the light of dawn, I headed out in the extreme cold (but it was very still, & the day promised to be sunny) to the privy, carrying the toilet seat under my arm. This was standard practice… the seat spent the night under the wood stove, so parts of you would stay toasty whilst the rest of you froze solid. As I stepped out of the cozy log cabin & glanced up at my destination (some 25 feet away), what to my wondering eyes should appear but a genuine wolverine. And he was standing in the deep snow right next to the outhouse. I had been taught from an early age that wolverines were to be avoided at all costs. Almost all other north woods denizens will flee when confronted (though black bears are unpredictable & can pose a problem), but wolverines are ferocious & don’t need much provocation. I stared at him, he stared back at me, & then we both turned & went our separate ways.

This is Mom ~ the inimitable Gladys McConnell (1912 ~ 1996), on her snowshoes, who, while not REALLY in pursuit of the wolverine, was intrepid in her pursuit of the absolute quiet & surpassing beauty of the scene at our cabin, Trail’s End. The log cabin sits 90 feet above the lake on a massive granite point. In those days, we had to hike about a mile & a half to get there, the last half-mile across the ice, which my father always tested with his hatchet before we proceeded. There were no snowmobiles to shatter the stillness in those days, & we shared our retreat with timber wolves who howled in the forest behind the cabin, lynx & yes, wolverines, among others. The only other human was an elderly ice fisherman who occasionally brought his dogsled (one raggedy old pooch; big fella of the shaggy mutt variety) out onto the ice just off the point where the ice was a little thinner & easier to cut through. We ourselves used to clear a skating patch, & the three or four or five of us who were present would play shinny hockey matches. I have never encountered a more fascinating or desirable winter idyll ~ set a standard that has been well nigh impossible to duplicate or even approach. Sigh.

This link will take you to a summertime view from the point in front of the cabin. This is, as you will see, one of Ray’s shots.

Artwork Comments

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