campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
Under Fire on Rockwell Stream

We all seem to live near one, a cozy little stream that runs near our neck of the woods and disappears on its way to some other neck of the woods. We all speculate what it's like down there, where it goes and what wonders might await us downstream on its small and winding way.

Nepisiguit Country backstream
A cozy stream in the Nepisiguit Country

Well, maybe not all of us, but I do. When Biff and Lori phoned me up and said they were going exploring on the Rockwell Stream, I had to confess I had never heard its name uttered before. Who would have the gall to name a stream after an American artist who mass-produced such kitschy homespun sketches designed to make your stomach queasy every time you looked at a calendar?

rockwell (75K)
Just yesterday on the Rockwell Stream

It's a small stream that cuts under Route 7 just south of Haneytown, and meanders down towards French Lake on the Oromocto River. Now, before you rush out, throw your boat on the top of your car, and head out, think again ... it's probably not even remotely as interesting as the stream that flows through the culvert behind your house.

Still, it was the first run of the spring, and I would have paddled in a sludge pond after that long dark winter. I remember the first few turns very well, the stream was barely as wide as my wood and canvas Ogilvy, and I had to lean to one side and flail with my paddle to make some of the quicker turns. It didn't take long to leave the highway and the houses of Haneytown behind us. In just a few minutes, it was so serene and woodsy that I thought I would see Toad Hall appear between the alders around the next looping bend.

meadow maple bog
The bog into French Lake

Before too long, however, the stream assumed a different aspect altogether ... the dreaded bog. Now, if you have read any of my other stories, you might think all my rivers end in some dreary bog or thicket ... but this one was different. Huge meadow maple trees grew all around, and the channels seemed to close up around us and lead to a curtain of stout hardwood, barring our progress. Thankfully, I had a stout pole with me, and was able to power my way through many of these walls toward open water again.

artillery (299K)
Rockwell Stream abuts Gagetown Army Base.

And then the guns opened up. Biff's house at the time happened to be on the perimeter of Camp Gagetown, and next door to a heavy artillery firing range. I don't know what they were firing that day, but they might as well have been ten feet away from us with Big Berthas. I'm just glad I didn't hear the whistle of an incoming shell, I might have dived into the water with my head up there where the sun don't shine.

Nanook and Biff
Nanook and Biff. Yesterday, yeah right.

Not too much later, the guns ceased firing, and the thicket opened up to the wide and welcome expanse of French Lake. We were soon ashore, and a quick shuttle brought us back to civilization and out of the war zone.

I guess there's a reason why the vast terrain of Camp Gagetown is off limits to civilians. Next time, I'll wear my flak jacket and hard hat.

campfire tales    I realized the old ways were gone for good when we went roughing it on the Nepisiguit.
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