My sixth day of walking through the Avalon wilderness began a little later than usual. Feeling fatigued and knowing that I didn’t have too far to walk to reach my next campsite, I slept till after eight o’clock. A crow, using one of his softer sounds, finally coaxed me out of sleep. The day was calm in my little grove. I ate oatmeal on the shore of The Drop Long Pond while a loon dove for his breakfast. The Drop and other nearby hills were veiled in fog.
Walking commenced at about half past ten. My destination for the day: the southern end of the Hawke Hills. Upon reaching the eastern extremity of The Drop Long Pond I found another part of the old ATV trail that I’d happened upon the day before. I followed it until I had to turn north. The trail continued east towards Paradise Pond and Butler’s Pond. Branching off the ATV trail was a worn track on the marsh that led directly to the shore of The Drop Long Pond. Since it didn’t have the two distinct tire tracks of an ATV trail, I surmised that it might be wear caused by snowmobile traffic. Although there’s a ban on snowmobile use in the Reserve, I wouldn’t be surprised if snowmobiles come to that area in winter. There are cabins fairly close by and good ice-fishing to be had in the Salmonier River watershed.
My first bearing that day presented me with nothing overly unusual. I walked over marshes and barren ground to the pond directly north of The Drop, then to the pond directly north of that. Through the tuckamore and wooded areas I found old caribou trails. Along the way I scared up a few partridge. As usual they gave me a good start. One of them was only a few feet away, close enough that I could see his tiny pink tongue when he opened his mouth to sound the distinctive partridge warning-chuckle.
At the next pond to the north, the one just southwest of Big Island Pond, I stopped for lunch and considered my next move. It was then about midday. The clouds had lifted a great deal, revealing the high places, but showers occasionally swept through, shrouding the hills for a spell and spilling dampness upon me. The southern end of the ridge that constitutes the Hawke Hills was now in view. It presented itself as an impressive and imposing rocky summit. According to my plan, this high ground was to be my way out to the Trans-Canada Highway. However, I worried that if the cloudy and foggy weather persisted it would be an impractical route. Since the warmth of the afternoon was causing the clouds to lift for the time being, I considered making a dash immediately for the TCH while the weather was good, instead of spending another night in the woods. Still undecided, I made haste for some small ponds located just below the end of the ridge.
Along the way I saw several geese gathered on the crest of a small ridge not far to the west, their long, smoothly curved necks and silhouetted heads sticking up above the horizon. They looked at me and at one another, their honks sounding notes of concern. After some discussion, they flew off.
As I arrived at the ponds below the Hawke Hills, blue sky and sun appeared for the first time that day. Fat puffy clouds hurried through the sky. The land around the ponds was all undulating hills covered with scattered boulders and tamarack. The rocky southern end of the ridge rose dramatically above. It was an awesome scene to behold. My presence did not go unnoticed. Ten ducks flew the length of the nearest pond and seemed about to land, but turned and flew back again. Then some geese appeared at one end of the pond only to fly off as well. It appeared that they were not interested in my company. I was not offended. I was more than grateful for the titillating display of life and sunshine that greeted me as I descended the barren slope towards the pond.
I felt hopeful and confident that tomorrow the hills would be clear of cloud and precipitation. This seemed the perfect place to make camp. So I did, atop a small barren hill at the eastern end of the pond.
Immediately after setting up camp I headed back up the slope to gather partridge berries among the boulders and tamarack. The berries there were exceptionally abundant and perfectly ripe. I filled three containers with partridge berries, altogether about six litres, enough that I would feel their weight in my rucksack the next day. The wind became stronger and cooler, so I returned to the tent, prepared a quick dehydrated meal, and enjoyed the view of the ridge.
As darkness settled in the wind began to gust, sometimes bringing showers of rain with it. My tent held up well. The sound of the wind and rain soothed and excited me. My sixth day in the Avalon wilderness had been a welcome break: a shorter walk than usual with time left at the end of the day for berry-picking. It had been perfect timing to find such a plenteous patch of berries so near the end of my journey. I looked forward to summiting the ridge the next day and anticipated the sight of the communications towers that would mark my return, for better or worse, to the world of women and men.