Brereton Lake, Manitoba

June 11, 1950

Dear Family,

We have a little time again today, so I thought I would drop a line to let you know how we are getting along.  We are finally out of Ontario.  It is hard to realize how large a province it is.  We logged over 1500 miles before reaching the Manitoba boundary.  Our trip through Ontario is the equivalent of a trip to the Dakotas through the States.

As I indicated in the post card of the other day, the roads and country are of the most rugged you can ask for.  The stretch of the trans-Canada high way between Hearst and Geraldton has been open only four years and there has been little to attract anyone but the hardiest of settlers.  Houses are few and far between and gasoline stations fewer and farther. According to Carol's records we passed through a 132 mile stretch with­out a single sign of habitation.  What homes there are are reminiscent of our own pioneer days.  Rough hewn logs are al­most the only building material.  Few places up in northwestern Ontario have electricity, and fewer still running water and sewers.   The most impressive feature is the stark poverty of the few inhabitants.  Children are in taters and ribbons. The homes themselves bespeak of little more a place where human life can be carried on.  French is quite prevalent throughout Ontario.  Even at Hearst, the postmaster spoke al­most no English.  The clothing of the people is, of course, plain.  The outstanding characteristics are the billed caps worn by the French and the knee high rubber boots worn by nearly everyone.  The boots are a result of necessity. Once off the highway, the land is almost entirely muskeg. Muskeg is a combination of water, sandy soil, and the accumulation of thousands of years' forest growth in the form of rotted wood, leaves and just plain black goo.  In places it is quite firm and will support the weight of a man nicely; in others, we were told a ten ton truck could sink from sight in a few minutes.

The roads present a variety of conditions.  As far as North Bay, pavement of one sort or another prevails. Between North Bay and Cochrane, One occasionally gets gravel, but the road crews are out and improvements are on the way.  West of Cochrane, the roads are exclusively gravel or earth. Some stretches of gravel road were very smooth and well graded. Almost invariably, we make better time on a smooth gravel road than a paved one which after a few years up here is buckled to a roller coaster affair.  West of Hearst, the road is wide smooth gravel.  Beyond Geraldton we ran into the worst roads so far.  The road is a very old gravel that has become wash-boarded.  In addition, the only gravel that is apparently available for repairs and resurfacing consists chiefly of stones about the size of hen's eggs.  That combination will jar the daylights out of any car.  Once you hit the Lake of the Woods region, roads are paved again.  Thus far in Manitoba we have had pavement.

We have been very fortunate with campsites.  Except for one night, we have camped on public grounds maintained by the Ontario highway department.  Water and fire wood have been abundant, especially the latter.  In fact, wood is the natural resource of this section of the province.  The big timber is pretty nearly gone or in preserves.  But, the paper companies are stripping the land for pulp wood trees.  This is an especially destructive industry.  A tree has to be at least six inches in diameter to saw up into boards, but a three inch sapling is fine for pulp.  All that is left when the paper companies are finished is shrubbery.  Fortunately, Canada is taking remedial action, but much damage has already been done. Soaking in water is part of the preparation of wood for paper. Twice we have camped on lakes where thousands of acres of the water surface was covered by floating 1ogs. Speaking of water, we have camped on a lake every night except two, and one of those nights we were on a wide river.

As mentioned previously, rain has been our principal complaint.  We did not have a single day without a wetting 1 last week.  Today, our first day in Manitoba, one of the "prairie: provinces it is hot and sunny and we almost wish for the cool damp of Ontario.

Last night was our first bad mosquito experience. Our
repellant is quite effective, but they buzz quite close to
one's face, ears, and neck before
the odor drives them off
again.    Our mosquito proof tent is a Godsend.  An interest-
feature here.  There is a small grommet hole at each peak about a sixteenth of an inch in diameter.  Unless we plug them with a bit of something, we will have 'skeetoes the next morning.

We had no mail from you at Hearst or Dryden.  We are anxious to hear how you are getting settled in your new house.  Also if you connected the refrigerator.