Winter Camping is not a survival course, It's more like an obstacle course for children played out by adults.
Jan 3rd. 1999 edition of the Journal du NORD EST, Sept-Iles, Quebec.
The Temperature has dropped below -20 degrees Celsius. Three students sit outside around the evening camp fire joking about the days events. Two more illuminated by two gas lanterns toboggan down a hill behind the camp, while another is curled up fast asleep in her wood-fired, stove heated tent.
I found Bernie preparing the evening meal of spaghetti and grilled-cheese toast. This is Bernie's third year of 'Camping D'Hiver' at Ski Fond Club Rapido near Sept-Iles, Quebec. He offers one and two night courses in four stove heated explorer tents, and also provides if needed snow shoes and sleeping bags and does all the cooking himself.
He met this group of three students from L'Ecole Manikoutai, Sept-Iles eight hours earlier at Club Rapido's Chalet Principal. "It never ceases to amaze me what they turn up with"' he says. "They all forget my advice.'What you bring, you have to carry'. You would think some of these students were leaving home for the last time not one night".
He says, there is no set way of snowshoe walking. "You just put one foot in front of the other and go for it. It's just a matter of trial and error. The students usually start off like a bunch of drunken sailors, but it doesn't take them long to find a rhythm." Bernie's camp is approximately 1 1/2 kilometers from Club Rapido. The snowshoe trail crosses over two frozen lakes, climbs over two hills with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, crosses one ice bridge and ends with a short descent of a cliff by rope and harness.
"So far, I haven't lost one to a broken leg", he says "heart attack or frost-bite. Actually the only thing I have a problem with is their enthusiasm. Sometimes they can be like a pack of husky dogs taking off in all directions".
His camp is situated by a lake high-up in the hills surrounding Sept-Iles and usually takes between 45 and 60 minutes to snow shoe there. "So, I suppose the first thing they do when they get to camp is kick-off their boots, lay back, eat and relax?" I asked. "You must be joking", Bernie replied. "First there's lake ice to be broken, water to be collected and wood to be sawed. I get them to light a fire in their tent while I prepare the food. Then after all that and they've eaten the T.V. remote is all theirs. They can either turn to the discovery channel and make their own trails, go tobogganing with TSN, sleep the afternoon away or help me cut down a few trees for the evening camp fire. The choice is theirs".
I left Bernie and his group at about 8:00 pm. They were now playing broom hockey on a stretch of lake ice they had cleared of snow. Two lanterns lit-up the lake and the sweep of hills surrounding his camp looked like an amphitheater. You could almost imagine a crowd roar and for a split second, I thought I was in the Forum.
For people who don't know Bernie Howgate and are thinking of allowing their children to participate in 'Camping D'Hiver' its hard to know where to start first.
Bernie is 49 years young. He emigrated from England to Canada in 1975. In 1980, he abandoned his engineering business for new horizons. Since that time he's spent eight years cycling around the world. He has soloed the Labrador coastline on snowshoes. Kayaked from Toronto, Ontario to Goose Bay, Labrador down the Saint Lawrence and spent two years living out of two trapper's tents near the Churchill River in Labrador's interior. During his quiet periods, Bernie has written three best sellers based on his travels and has entertained countless school children across Canada with his 'Tales of a Travelling Man' slide presentations. He has been a regular guest on radio and T.V. stations across Canada and is now putting his outdoor skills to work in his course 'Camping D'Hiver. He's self taught in every way. From writing, publishing and distributing his own books to always travelling solo. He has no formal education past grade 12 and admits to having a somewhat unstructured life style.
DATES OF ENROLLMENT
Bernie's winter camp is situated 3 kilometers from Sept-Iles at Club Rapido. The camp is open from January and runs continuously every weekend (weather permiting) until the end of March
Breakfast, dinner and supper are included. All equipment required during the duration of the camp including snowshoes, sleeping bags (double duvet if required), ice chisel, wood axe, buck-saws, toiletries, gas lanterns and snow shovels. There is four days supply of seasoned wood, cut and stored in every tent. There is also a supply tent with enough freeze-dried emergency rations for six people for two days, medical supplies, white gas and spare lanterns.
Students: $50:00 for one night; $65:00 for two nights
Adults: $65:00 for one night; $80:00 for two nights
For further information please contact Bernie Howgate:
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org