Issue: 2015-08-27 PHOTO: Winnifred Peterson
Moss near the Fish Lake Road on August 15 this year
My favourite childhood memories are when Mom would take us to Fish Lake, just a few miles out of Whitehorse. We spent our summers there along with several other families during the 1950s.
Though the summers at Fish Lake were my favourite times, there were always chores to do before playtime.
Our mother, Carrie, was a single mom and her heritage was of the Teslin Tlingit people. She was very much at home on the land and quickly gave instructions to me and my sisters on what we should do or help with.
Other adult campers would help us to set our tent up, then the little wood heater was installed. The nights were cold at Fish Lake!
Then we would go with Mom and her trusty canvas tarp to collect spruce boughs. The entire floor of the tent would be covered with these fresh branches, woven together. Then we would place our mattresses down and the rest of our bedding.
But, no rest yet! Our next task on setting up camp in those hot summers was to get the water that was needed for drinking, cooking, washing up the dishes, pots and pans, and clothes, as well as for personal cleanliness.
We also gathered wood for campfire cooking and for the little heater in the tent. Whenever we saw rotting wood, we would place chunks in our sacks; these would not burn up in flames and were good for smoking fish.
We helped Mom set the fish net for trout and whitefish. This is a job that required much attention to what she instructed us to do. Not an easy task, but we would get it done.
When we were finally settled in and rested, Mom would talk about what we would do tomorrow. She would plan our trip up on the hills to hunt small game, and explain how later in the summer we would pick the berries that would be ready.
Each day, Mom would “run” the fish net. We would get some whitefish and trout, then help her haul the fish to our camp so she could start preparing it. A couple of fi sh would be for supper that night, of course.
The rest would be cut to be hung and smoked over the fire.
In a few days, we would don our little canvas packsacks that Mom had made for each of us, customized for our different sizes. We each had an empty glass bottle tucked inside those packsacks. The walk towards the top of the hills was hot and dry.
There were spots on the trail where we would stop to rest under spruce trees, where we could get shade.
Finally, we reached the spot where we would get the water, where the trees had moss under them. The shade was extra nice (I call it our “spruce tree oasis” now).
While we quietly rested on the spongy moss, I could hear the sound of water running ever so softly, bubbling over the tree roots.
Mom would carefully pull up the cool moss to reveal icy cold water!
She would fill each one of our glass bottle, and we would all have a drink of this water. It tasted so good! Mom would then place the moss back to cover the tree roots. Then we continued on our way up the hill for the day’s activities.
We would later have lunch at what Mom called the “dinner camp”. She made a small fire and toasted smoked trout. The trout was so tasty along with the bannock she had made at camp.
Cooked in a dutch oven by the fire the night before, the bannock was thick and delicious. Of course, Mom made a pot of tea. Needless to say, this water made very good tasting tea.
In those summer days of the early ‘50s, we used little water. Today, we could live on much less water than most of us use daily.
The very basis of life is water. As babies, we lived in water in our mothers’ womb. Just think, we lived in a small sac of water for nine months!