As long as there aren't too many mosquitoes...

I'm surprised that you've never heard of the La Verendrye Wildlife Refuge in western Quebec, given that is larger than the entire state of Maryland. To cope with this gigantic patchwork of boreal forest and its thousands of pristine, interconnected lakes, dotted with rocky, firry islands, the visionary Canadian parks department has an entire division set up to facilitate canoe camping there. Dozens of possible routes and hundreds of well-maintained campsites are exclusively for the use of those traveling by paddle-stroke.

One might think this a rather dainty way to point out the facilities, until remembering that this is Québec, et on parle français. Every La Verendrye campsite sports not only its own toilet, but a charming sign. All were apparently made by the same amateur wood-burner operator.

Why does it so often seem that the less visitors a place has, the more stringent the environmental regulations? I'm all in favor of stringent controls, but one might hope for the reverse. In La Verendrye, where there are almost no people to be found, all washing of dishes, clothes and the like must be done with biodegradable soap, at least 30 meters from any water's edge. Similarly, pooping at will in the woods is prohibited. The installation of rudimentary toilets at each of the many, many very remote campsites must have represented an enormous logistical hurdle in the initial establishment of canoe camping. The infrastructure is impressive. Many of the sites have room for only two, or three, or five tents, and the intention is that, barring the late arrival of another party of exhausted canoeists unable or unwilling to continue on the next site, no group will really ever have to share a campsite. (We had all six of our campsites entirely to ourselves). Nevertheless, each and every campsite we visited had its very own private, shady spot to sit and think.

The solution to placing hundreds of easily installed and almost maintenance free commodes: dig a pit, cut the bottom out of a bear barrel, place it over the hole, and make a slit in the top. Comfortable and efficient. Located a short meander through the forest from the tent sites, the La Verendrye long-drops were perfectly placed for meditation and contemplation, free of all disturbances save the gentle honking of the red-breasted nuthatches and the churring of the boreal chickadees in the surrounding evergreens.

from: Great Outhouses of the World

The result of this attention to environmental preservation is that although we filtered the lake water, I suspect we could have drunk our fill directly from the lakes without suffering any ill effects. When fresh water is worth as much as oil, and believe me, those days are coming, Canada will rule the world. Expect a full report on our epic canoe journey in La Verendrye, shortly.

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