The following write-up and images are an update to this post, which already contains the prison’s history and tons of images from our first visit last fall…
I guess you can call us recidivists, because this past Saturday we packed up our tent and the basic essential camping gear and ventured north, returning to the old prison at Burwash.
Pockets of rainfall were teeming down off and on as we drove north up highway 69, and the blackest of ominous clouds filled the sky. But the sky opened up and the black clouds dissipated at the perfect moment as we approached the end of the road. We lugged our heavy packs and tent down the 5 kilometre trail into the remote prison, slapping at attacking armies of horse flies and mosquitoes along the way. With only the shoes we were wearing and a desire to keep them dry, a near slip into a beaver dam made us rethink our approach crossing the flooded areas: we stripped to bare feet and marched straight through the knee deep floods. After 45 minutes or so, Camp Bison revealed itself to us once again.
We were alone for miles in every direction as we entered the prison, and this was the case for the duration of our time served. We immediately carried our gear to the roof and set up our tent. We then spent hours within the prison walls recording video footage for my upcoming music video for the song ‘Reborn’. We dangled our legs over the edge of the building and watched the sun set, as we dined on meatballs, salad, assorted fruits and macaroons. It was at this time that we commented on the utter silence that surrounded us, and we listened to it, or rather the lack of it. As the sun disappeared, the ominous black clouds returned and blanketed the night sky.
A few hours after night fell we ventured back inside. Armed only with a mag lite, we held hands and walked in silence, re-exploring the entire building. We were now sharing the long hallways of cells with the bats flying overhead. It was in one of these hallways that we stopped and turned off the flashlight, standing motionless in pitch blackness for several minutes, soaking up the creepiness before returning to the rooftop campsite.
As we emerged onto the roof the black cloud cover was announcing a coming storm. Just then, the silence was broken by a screaming crying animal. It sounded cat like, and deadly. Whatever it was, it was large and it was announcing the moment it was most likely fatally attacked by a predator of some sort. On that note, we entered the tent and went to…well I can’t say bed because it was but a small pad on the stone roof…and I can’t say sleep because we barely got any. For a brief period of time, rain fell from the black clouds, but it was a bark worse than bite situation. In the middle of the night, the temperature fell to a chilly 10 degrees, which even this far north is below average for early August.
At 5:55 AM we were more than happy to call it a night, or a day, or whatever. We exited the tent onto our private prison rooftop campsite and to our delight the entire building was surrounded by a ring of dense fog. We spent a few early morning hours wandering and photographing, before eating and packing up.
Before the sun rose over the tree line, the soft morning light gave such beauty to long the hallways where the prison population once resided.
Stiff and sore, calloused and tired, we threw our gear back over our shoulders and made the long trek back to our car, and then the long drive back to our home.
Once again inmate, your time has been served and you are free to go.