Chapter 1 – Which Way Do I Go?
A fortuitous series of events brought us to this place, a remote lake, far out in the Canadian wilderness, 100 miles from the nearest supply point. And, by wilderness, I mean the real thing.
As far as your eye can see, from the vantage point of a float plane high above the ground, you can gaze upon an aerial tapestry of multi-hued green forest intermingled with jutting rock formations, lowland bogs, and glistening lakes. Exposed rocky hill tops, sparsely vegetated with stunted trees that have managed to gain a tenuous foothold, along with low shrubbery and lichen, are sure signs you are flying over Precambrian shield, a dominant surface feature in the north. Serpentine rivers and streams cut through the landscape, the rivers occasionally flashing a churning white, where rapids lie in wait for the unwary canoeist. All of this is the perfect habitat for wildlife and outdoor adventurer alike.
We are surrounded by pure virgin forest, where the only human tracks are our own and the only neighbors are animals. There are no roads or trails to get here. We are well beyond any population centers, and a flight on a float plane is the only way you will reach us. The electrical grid, which the majority of the world’s population relies on to power industry and appliances, was left behind the moment we took off from the float plane base. We severed the electrical tether by vanquishing the utility company long ago.
We know we live here, at this particular location, and yet we have no street address. Our address is a set of coordinates, a latitude and longitude, given in degrees, minutes, and seconds. With the area so vast, any plane seeking to find us best be accurate down to the second, lest the plane fly by and miss us completely. There are no traffic signs, no mileage indicators, no flashing neon lights telling a guest they are closing in on our off-grid homestead. Our location is a mere pinprick on the Earth’s surface, blending in with mile after mile of picturesque landscape. Generally, twice a year we fly out for resupply and appointments. These biannual trips out are the only times we pick up our mail, buy food, and interact with other humans.
At epochal turning points in our lives, each of us are faced with the question, “Which way do I go?” I’ve asked myself that key question many times throughout my life, and my answer has always been to take the least traditional road. Of course, each of us has our own “What should I do, which way do I go?” moment. We each have our own road to travel–a lengthy road if blessed with health, but where every step along the way is a potential encounter with a roadblock, twist, or fork. I’ve certainly opted to take a few forks. Who would have thought that living in the Canadian wilderness, at this point in our lives, would be the destination for my wife and me? Certainly not I.
Over the years, I have been urged by friends and countless strangers to write a narrative of some of the events that have occurred in my life. I resisted for a time, but I’ve compiled some true stories, interspersed with some humor, arranged in a loose chronological order. I hope you will find these stories entertaining and informative. I’ll share accounts of survival and living in the Canadian wilderness, of hiking the Appalachian Trail in winter, of cross country bicycling, and of the horror of watching my world catch on fire. I write and pass on these experiences to provide encouragement for others to pursue their dreams, regardless of how far-fetched those dreams may be. If you are as lucky as I have been, you will have the support of your family, spouse, or both.
“Which way do I go?” Let’s start at the beginning, by heading north to Maine!
Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness is the story of the journey Ron Melchiore undertook as a young man from the city, first to homesteading in northern Maine and then to living in the bush of northern Saskatchewan. He has lived off grid since approximately 1980 and speaks candidly about the joys and the tribulations of his chosen lifestyle. In this nonfiction, Ron shares the diversity of his experiences in an easy-to-read, humorous, and sometimes harrowing narrative.