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Articles / La Petite Guerre -2015

Published: 2015-10-19
Category: Camps, Treks & Adventures

The year is 1757….a small group of French-Canadian militiamen heads out to scout the surroundings of Fort William Henry… Or is it 2015 on the Swedish lake Båven?

The first weekend of May we, David Wallström and Lars Åkesson went out for a weekend of paddling and scouting in the spirit of the French-Canadian militia.

Our adventure started in Stjärnhov (that of course was named Montreal on our map) with a few km of paddling on a calm lake which then lead us into the beautiful almost jungle like stream Natån (Richelieu River…?).

Since the both of us are interested in the military side of history it was very easy to fall into character mentally. Early in the planning stage we had decided that one should at all times carry ones musket or be guarded by his comrade while collecting firewood etc, to be ready for combat at all times so to speak.

After the very calm stream we headed out on the big lake Båven ( Lake Champlain…) and the wind started to get…hmmm…not troublesome but quiet strong. As we were getting closer to enemy territory we tried to choose a paddle route that kept us out of sight from houses and farms we were passing. After 7 km we reached our decided advanced lookout post on the island Hånön.

We quietly landed the canoe, dragged it up and made a “cache” for it and our gear under a big spruce tree. After hiding the canoe we took a recognizance trip (no redcoats were hiding in ambush there…) before climbing up to our lookout post about 40 meters above the water. From there we could get a good look at the surrounding waters and islands and check for smoke from cooking fires or other signs of enemy activity. All seemed calm so we climbed down to the canoe, made a small fire and got us some bacon energizer and coffee…

We then navigated north of some islands to keep out of sight from one of the English forts and did some scouting on the island Torsö. After that we steered our canoe south into Tyviken searching for a place to make a base camp. Now we had paddled only another 11 km but the wind forces were starting to be very unfriendly to say the least. Since we started to feel some fatigue we went ashore and scouted the nearby mainland. We were not happy with what we saw from a tactical point of view so back into the canoe again......but after a short paddle we found what we were looking for and hid the canoe once more and carried our camp gear up into a good spot on the island Djupviksholmen. Before we allowed ourselves the comfort of the camp we decided to fulfill the mission first. Guess we are both equally stubborn headed….

Back in the canoe again, this time with nothing more than our “fighting gear” and some hazelnuts for energy. It was now getting kind of late in the evening and the wind made us aware of what was heading our way the next day. We paddled a few km into Edebyviken (Lake George) , we had renamed on our map the big farm/mansion Edeby- Fort William Henry (yes , it is nerdy we know that…). We silently landed our canoe on Hästö and continued our scout by foot, we found the remains of an enemy camp but at “the fort” all seemed calm and the enemy were probably not aware of us sneaking around their backyard.

It was now close to pitch-black so we kind of fumbled with the canoe back to Djupviksholmen. We did arrive in camp safely anyways and quickly got a fire going. We sliced up a piece of elk and put the meat on saplings and grilled them over the fire. It tasted good to say the least…. After that we made a soup consisting of boiled bread and some meat (part of what we do is trying to eat what our chosen personas would have been eating), please look at the pics in the gallery for the result of our master-chef efforts… We name the dish Soup de Poope…

After a hard day of paddling and scouting/climbing the warmth of the fire, some good tobacco in the stone pipe and a sip or two from the rum bottle made us feel like kings of the world again. Sometime after midnight we crashed into our blankets under the lean-to we had built out of one of our prelarts (oilcloth).

We both woke up pretty early in the morning and made the fire come to life again and made some coffee, bacon and bread for breakfast. Today’s mission was to scout Tovaviken and its surroundings to see if it was possible for our French main force to land and hide there with their canoes and battues. The weather was kind of nice and sunny in the beginning but the wind had started to build up waves that none of us were comfortable with (there is only safe to paddle as long as you are stronger than the wind and waves, for me that point is in the area of maybe 14-15 m/s / David).

After some struggle in the waves we landed and hid the canoe north of Tovaviken and started a long scout by foot. We walked by an old settlement called Tovastugan, very beautiful scenery and nature. Back at the canoe we made a small fire and invented a new sensational dish, grilled bacon with hot peppersauce on it… its interesting how physical work can make everything taste delicious.

After a quick smoke and some checking of our map it was back into the canoe again. Our planned route was not just possible to follow due to the heavy wind and waves. We had to decide to paddle a bit longer and northbound straight into the wave and wind direction instead (tough but easier technically paddlewise.) We passed between Ängö and Kalvholmen and found a good spot to land for a legstretcher and to eat a few handfuls of nuts. Might add a useful piece of info here, the water in these waters is incredibly clear and totally drinkable.

And then after 30 hours, 33 km of hard and windy paddling and 15 km of scouting in our mocs we were back at the fort and the adventure was over for this time. We both felt we deserved a night of feasting so we went to a local tavern ( David’s place) and opened a couple of bottles of portwine…

To sum this up a bit we might add that we really recommend this lake system for anyone interested in the outdoors and canoeing. The nature here is very beautiful and there are a couple of hundred islands to explore.

Someone might wonder why the fascination in the French-Canadian militia?? The following quotation kind of speaks for itself we think:

“Most of the ´habitants´ being obliged to return home due to the absence of provisions given to them to subsist and not for lack of the will to fight . Because `canadiens` are very brave, as much as docile, amenable and easy to lead. Furthermore they are patient in their sufferings, run tirelessly as much as the indians , are of strong temperament and indefatigable in the campaigns. It is one of the best militias in the world.”

-Extract from Memoires de M. Le Chevalier de Johnstone

If we are going to more of this kind of small adventure? Just can´t wait…

By the pen

David and Lars

Sketches from this adventure can be seen by clicking here!
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