Government Camps in the Middle of Nowhere

In Swallowed, the upcoming debut novel by Isla Jane, the survivors of a plane crash stumble upon a trapper’s cabin deep in the wilderness. According to Jane, this is not as unrealistic as it may seem. Here’s what she had to say about that.

Canada is vast, yet only in the most remote parts of the country will you not see signs of humans. Those signs may be as small as a footpath, as barren as a logging road or as lonely as a crude shelter in the forest made by hunters.

Decades ago, crude emergency shelters, also known as government camps, were built on crown land by those who visited remote areas frequently. Two of my uncles kept such camps, miles away from civilization. They were small, simple, one room buildings. They provided the basics needed to survive: shelter, bunk beds with blankets and a wood stove. Many held other comforts, such as a table and chairs (or benches), a counter and shelves.

Sometimes, they held the very basics in food: salt, pepper, sugar, tea, coffee, a few cans of beans. Added to this were the required dishes, utensils and pots to cook and consume food.

Finding a shelter like this could save someone’s life, and the agreement between the government and the person maintaining the camp was simple: leave it unlocked for those in need. My uncles signed a 99-year lease to own the camps. When the oldest uncle became too old to maintain his, he signed it over to my older brother, who now owns the title for 99 years.

The camp has seen many upgrades over the decades, including a roof-tight outhouse to ensure the user doesn’t get wet. I’ve been there several times, and my brothers use if frequently for camping, fishing and hunting expeditions. It’s a place where you can go to get away from it all and forget the outside world exists, where squirrels get named and the neighbourhood raccoon reminds them not to leave food unattended.

Swallowed by Isla Jane is a story about survival and adventure. It takes place in Northern Ontario, Canada. The novel will be released in spring 2020.

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