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Cache Lake Country!

By (July 23, 2015) No Comment

cache lake countryOur book today is John Rowland’s warm and wonderful 1947 classic Cache Lake Country, ostensibly about the author’s small rough-living getaway cabin deep in the vast Ontario North Woods, although as Rowland makes clear at the outset, the quiet and sheer beauty of the place almost abstracts the place from any map or guidebook:

On most maps Cache Lake is only a speck hidden among other blue patches big enough to have names, and unless you know where to look you will never find it. But a place like Cache Lake is seldom discovered on a map. You just come on it – that is if you are lucky. Most men who travel the north woods sooner or later happen on a lake or stream that somehow they cannot forget and always want to go back to. Generally they never do go back.

Fortunately for all his readers (fewer now than back when this great book first appeared and cache lakebecame a small but genuine hit for its author – as far as I know, Cache Lake Country has been out of print for a long time), Rowland often found his way back, and he chronicles his adventures with a genial prose style very similar to the tone struck by Wyman Richardson in his own 1947 classic, The House on Nauset Marsh.

A big part of that similarity in tone comes from the fact that both books are filled with the beautiful black-and-white illustrations by the great Henry Bugbee Kane. The work he did on Cache Lake Country is elaborate: in addition to his customary gorgeous full-page pictures, he also provides dozens of spot illustrations and diagrams for the many do-it-yourself woods projects Rowland beaver lodgedetails throughout the book (making your own moccasins, creating a buck saw, identifying various animal tracks, etc.). Those diagrams add a very practical element to Rowland’s book, but the heart of the thing is sheer open-hearted wonder at the year’s seasons far from civilization. That sense of wonder is present on virtually every page, and it’s as fresh now as it was half a century ago. “The man who has never walked in the woods and smelled rain and felt it on his face has missed something indescribable,” he writes in a typical passage, both heartfelt and true. “But best of all I like the sound of rain playing on the roof at night about the time I am dropping off to sleep.”

At many points in the book, the folksy power of Rowland’s prose matches up perfectly with thegeese over marsh quiet gracefulness of Kane’s illustration of the moment being described:

I knew it wouldn’t be long after the ice went out until the geese would be coming over. And sure enough, I heard them! The night was still and clear, the stars were sparkling like splintered crystal, and the cool white moon was loafing high over Snow Goose Lake when it came – lucy reads lake countrythat wonderful sound all men of the woods wait for every year – the hoarse honking of the big gray Canada geese. In clear weather they often fly right through the night and just hearing them does me a world of good. You can be sure there was a wise old gander at the point of that great flight wedge leading them on to the lonely salt marshes that stretch along the low shores of James Bay.

John Rowlands was of course entirely right: most people who’ve travelled lake and stream and wood have a place like Cache Lake held somewhere warm and energizing in their memories. Not many such people manage to make magic of their treasured getaway open and visible to everybody, but both Wyman Richardson and John Rowlands – both with enormous help from Henry Kane – managed to do it, and we’re all in their debt for it.

Home » stevereads

Cache Lake Country!

By (July 23, 2015) No Comment

cache lake countryOur book today is John Rowland’s warm and wonderful 1947 classic Cache Lake Country, ostensibly about the author’s small rough-living getaway cabin deep in the vast Ontario North Woods, although as Rowland makes clear at the outset, the quiet and sheer beauty of the place almost abstracts the place from any map or guidebook:

On most maps Cache Lake is only a speck hidden among other blue patches big enough to have names, and unless you know where to look you will never find it. But a place like Cache Lake is seldom discovered on a map. You just come on it – that is if you are lucky. Most men who travel the north woods sooner or later happen on a lake or stream that somehow they cannot forget and always want to go back to. Generally they never do go back.

Fortunately for all his readers (fewer now than back when this great book first appeared and cache lakebecame a small but genuine hit for its author – as far as I know, Cache Lake Country has been out of print for a long time), Rowland often found his way back, and he chronicles his adventures with a genial prose style very similar to the tone struck by Wyman Richardson in his own 1947 classic, The House on Nauset Marsh.

A big part of that similarity in tone comes from the fact that both books are filled with the beautiful black-and-white illustrations by the great Henry Bugbee Kane. The work he did on Cache Lake Country is elaborate: in addition to his customary gorgeous full-page pictures, he also provides dozens of spot illustrations and diagrams for the many do-it-yourself woods projects Rowland beaver lodgedetails throughout the book (making your own moccasins, creating a buck saw, identifying various animal tracks, etc.). Those diagrams add a very practical element to Rowland’s book, but the heart of the thing is sheer open-hearted wonder at the year’s seasons far from civilization. That sense of wonder is present on virtually every page, and it’s as fresh now as it was half a century ago. “The man who has never walked in the woods and smelled rain and felt it on his face has missed something indescribable,” he writes in a typical passage, both heartfelt and true. “But best of all I like the sound of rain playing on the roof at night about the time I am dropping off to sleep.”

At many points in the book, the folksy power of Rowland’s prose matches up perfectly with thegeese over marsh quiet gracefulness of Kane’s illustration of the moment being described:

I knew it wouldn’t be long after the ice went out until the geese would be coming over. And sure enough, I heard them! The night was still and clear, the stars were sparkling like splintered crystal, and the cool white moon was loafing high over Snow Goose Lake when it came – lucy reads lake countrythat wonderful sound all men of the woods wait for every year – the hoarse honking of the big gray Canada geese. In clear weather they often fly right through the night and just hearing them does me a world of good. You can be sure there was a wise old gander at the point of that great flight wedge leading them on to the lonely salt marshes that stretch along the low shores of James Bay.

John Rowlands was of course entirely right: most people who’ve travelled lake and stream and wood have a place like Cache Lake held somewhere warm and energizing in their memories. Not many such people manage to make magic of their treasured getaway open and visible to everybody, but both Wyman Richardson and John Rowlands – both with enormous help from Henry Kane – managed to do it, and we’re all in their debt for it.