As it has for the past fifteen years, a new season begins at TRL when a DCH3 Turbine Otter delivers Kev, Frances and a small crew onto the old dock, just hours after the Spring sun and warming winds have taken the ice off the lake.
Winter has retreated to the north of the Labrador for now, leaving only a few drifts as evidence of the vast coldness that, for eight months, covered our corner of the boreal forest. The willows and alders have yet to bud and tamarack trees have just begin to push out new needles.
Within 24 hours, Kev and the crew have the generator up and running, the water lines re-attached, and the boarding removed from the camps’ doors and windows. A tidy path is cleared through the snow drifts so supplies can be carted from the dock to the cook lodge. Frances and Judy stock the pantry shelves and clean the kitchen areas top to bottom.
The cold winter winds have done their usual damage – rocked the cabins off their proper footings and this year, even removed a window from the four man camp. (Better wind than bears!)
When the rest of the crew arrives a few days later, chores turn into projects. Our 2014 primary task is replacing the aging, rotting main boardwalk that connects the guest camps to the cook lodge. To its credit, it has endured fifteen years of weather extremes, thousands of foot poundings and the endless munching of the few bacteria we have up this far north. Gone, it is, and dangerous to boot. And so begins the task.
Dave gets it all started with the removal of the four-man connecter. Guides Anthony, Byron and Ron take to the woods in search of suitable saw logs. They scour the far shorelines for stands of larger tamarack, fell the victims and drag them to the water’s edge. When a boat load is cut and limbed, they tether them together behind the Lund and haul them slowly up the lake and into the cove nearest the sawmill.
Out behind the camps, the sawyers begin to move timber from the lake’s edge to the sawmill where they will be sliced into two inch slabs.
The new treads are cut at 2 inches thick to withstand the weather and traffic that they will endure for the next fifteen years. We have used thinner cuts in years past. Though we get more slabs per butt log, the thinner boards tend to weather and break more quickly.
A crew of eight men make tireless daily progress. Rails are laid and leveled and the tamarack treads fitted and nailed fast. Foot by foot, the new boardwalk takes its place as the main artery of camp traffic.
2014 is a fine year for TRL. All the weeks are booked full and the many guests will be walking the new surfaces, stopping often to photograph sunsets, visit with one another, and take in the surrounding wildness.
Chalk lines are snapped along the edges of the newly laid lumber, cut-lines for the chain saw that will trim the walkway into a uniform width. Scrap ends are collected and saved for firewood that will fuel the many wood stoves that warm the cabins.
Lingering snow banks chill the end-of-the-day rewards. Calloused hands grip cold cans to whet well-earned thirsts. Then dinner! And perhaps a card game if the muscles are still up to it.
After the project is complete, we stroll the new walk and take inventory. Total of 385 boards cut from from 130 trees. 2310 nails driven. Eight men, six days – three of rain, three of sun. Project Complete! – just in time, a day before the first guests arrive.
Next years projects will include building a new dock and replacing the ‘back’ boardwalk that connects the dock with the dining lodge. How we look forward to another beginning! One board at a time.