Out behind our house, growing up in Muskoka, were ten thousand acres of unroaded, unhoused, almost unowned and certainly unspoiled wilderness. A few snowmobile trails were the only access. Signs marked the trails as off-limits to all but paid snowmobile club members. Other signs, by absentee landowners, warned snowmobilers to "Stay on the trails!" and forbid trespassing. I, however, claiming the freedom of all non-human creatures of the forest (for what deer or raccoon pays attention to those signs?) broke the law and went trespassin'.
It's a wonder to me that no-one else in my family did likewise. What a wasted opportunity! A few times I took a tent and sleeping bag with me (or sometimes just a sleeping bag) and stayed the night with only the distant shouts and laughter of campers a few lakes over, or some indeterminate rustling around me of a raccoon or squirrel (although in the night, everything sounds like a bear!) In the morning, I would head home, usually in time for breakfast. Someone would ask where I'd been, and I would just smile and shake leaves out of my hair.
Usually, however, I would just spend the day with a trail map, exploring dead ends. I would search out Angel Lake, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, and all the others, never sure which lake I found, as the maps were not that accurate. Sometimes I would follow a determined stream that crossed my path and seemed to have somewhere definite to go. Once, using a topographic map and compass, I blundered through the bush for several hours until I found Big Stephen Lake, which is uninhabited and unreachable by any road or trail. I felt like 'stout Cortez' in the poem by Keats. Was I the first to ever see this little lake? (Though not so little, it was a kilometer across.) But no, an old green bottle attested to the presence of previous explorers. I was almost as excited to find that lake, after so much sweat and scrapes, as I was when I later visited Stonehenge, or the Great Wall. For how many tourists have gawked at those wonders? But here was a wonder that was mine alone.
Andrew one time came with me, to find Artie Lake, which we'd seen on a map- a mere speck of blue, but we were curious why such an insignificant pond had a name. I don't think we found it that day, but I did find it later. It was not much bigger than a bathtub, but a single loon was resting in it, making a pretty picture.
Someday, park the car by a no-trespassing sign. Jump over the rusted chain that blocks the rutted road, and follow where it leads. Break the law. Go trespassin'. You'll only regret it if you don't.