I am a big fan of the Discovery Channel’s show Naked and Afraid. If you have not watched it here is the skinny on it: Each week, a new pair of total strangers are faced with the ultimate survival challenge: survive for 21 days together with no clothes or supplies in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. In addition to the landscape itself working against the duo, the local wildlife looks to prey on them as well.
Sometimes when Steve and I drive down Lanark County roads I tell him the Discovery Channel should film a segment in our swampy wooded county. He keeps saying it just isn’t dangerous enough. I beg to differ, and as I researched a journey taken by John McDonald to Lanark in 1821 after debarking the David of London I thought it was perfect.
John McDonald’s letter to back home modified/translated into modern language by the author.
“The next morning we left Perth which is 14 miles from New Lanark and came to a large stream called the *Little Mississippi over which we had to ferry. Sometimes there was sickness among the new settlers and some would camp out on the banks of this very spot as they said the air was clearer. It wasn’t unusual for a family of four to be sick at the same time. You have to remember for months on their trip over the pond they never saw the sunlight and breathed in nasty air and upon arrival fevers and disease were the result.
So, some preferred to stop at McIlquham’s Bridge #2 (Mal’s Camping) whether it were for heath reasons or just a stop so they could leave their families in a location while the heads of household endured the arduous chore of viewing their lots. If they didn’t have a tent they would drive posts in the ground and make do with what they could find for shelter. Some were able to cover the top with blankets or whatever they could find to make a roof. This would not stop the snakes, lizards and squirrels from running about in their tents as well as being deprived of sleep with the intrusion of oxen and cows who had strayed from their owners. Lost pigs would steal what little food they had and the settlers had to pursue them in order to recover it. I imagine after these swine were caught they made for a tasty dinner.
Mosquitoes pierced through the skin and the settlers were so covered in bites they looked like they had small pox. The land was swampy and rocky and in some swamps the trees would fall across each other and stepping over them caused some sink deep in the mud.
Instead of coming to paradise they were now destitute because 5 or 6 months of the year consisted of frost and snow in their new home of Canada. It was said that no sound of music came from the birds only a death-like stillness reigned everywhere. Herbs and shrubs in the woods became a substitute for tea, but it was noted once again that every kind of liquor was cheap and available as well as an abundance of Indian Corn”.
Heck with alcohol and corn in plenty surely the birds were singing somewhere!
*Approximately one mile downsteam from Bridge #1 is McIlquham’s Bridge #2. There was a ferry in the early days or some other method of crossing as the settlers and pioneers would have to cross the river at this point when travelling between New Lanark and Carleton Place.