“HEWN BY HAND”
With minds inclined to higher ground and rucksacks laden down/
Hikers trudged through misty groves towards the mountain’s crown/
By pitching camp near shallow tarns before the sun was spent/
Spare time remained to get a sense of whither trails went.
For days they tramped through scented woods to rest by cool cascades/
Probing for concealed lakes and undiscovered glades/
Seekers of the wilderness estranged from city lights/
Beguiled by secluded haunts on lonely mountain heights.
For those who’d known the anguish midst the fetid fields of France/
Friendships forged by mountain life meant newfound confidants/
Together with their hands was hewn a sylvan brotherhood/
Who came to know the forest moods in ways no others could.
When the Thirties bred depression instead of work that paid/
Thoughts swiftly soared to Hollyburn’s enchanting esplanade/
Its trails aimed at simple truths atop this summit’s rise/
Where those who stayed built cabins on a patch of paradise.
In the bush they knuckled down renewed by honest toil/
As for the creed of caution, most professed to being loyal/
But woodsmen reckoned certain rules existed to be flouted/
And common sense was only good if tried by those who doubted.
Doubtless words were uttered when someone barked a shin/
Or come dismal days of pelting rain when mortals couldn’t win/
But, when latent tempers flared into comic woodland farce/
The guy who groused about his pals was chided as an arse.
Building cabins called for backbone as the obstacle was height/
While its craft entailed joining logs to make them seat just right/
Yet, despite the grief, fulfillment showed on every grimy face/
Since times were tough, men felt glad to be in such a place.
Each dewy morn, a rousing fire; fried bacon in a pan/
The whiff of camping under canvas; boiled coffee in a can/
Living meagrely upon the Ridge, Spartan though it seemed/
Meant those who met the challenge shaped the form of what they’d dreamed.
As winter snow banks ceded ground, ’twas time to hit the trail/
In summertime’s ascendency when lads were keen and hale/
To sheltered lakes and silent realms strode the self-possessed/
Striking off through scattered blooms to the mountain’s aery crest.
While feasting eyes on serried sights upon this barren nub/
They hunkered down, and thus at ease, partook of simple grub/
From head-springs to meadowlands the venturesome did roam/
Over roots and rocks around the Ridge ‘til eventide and home.
If a fellow felt too punky to seek a mountain lake/
He’d stretch out on his sleeping bag knowing things were jake/
Thus, to laze about or ramble out in summer’s golden time/
Induced a state that verged upon the blissfully sublime.
When gathered to encampments, they formed a human garth/
Contemplating firebrands within a cobbled hearth/
Through overhanging evergreens obscured by dark of night/
Wood-smoke coiled skywards, drifting slowly out of sight.
Here dwelt vagrant gods of solitude, served by rule of thumb/
It truly was a skookum time when all they staked seemed plumb/
Their deeds confided memories, so when twilight days took hold/
Wistful tales of the past could be summoned and retold.
They weren’t just bearded characters poor-bound in the wood/
But honest folk in changing times coping best they could/
Companions of the timberland and pithy raconteurs/
Entranced by Nature’s gilded charms ‘neath noble conifers.
This footloose breed whose simple quest was a cabin all their own/
Later thought of their achievements as a firm foundation stone/
Hopeful that the winds of change would gust but ne’er prevail/
So their legacy might be preserved by those who’d come along the trail.