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Up on Bear Mountain: Reflections from the Early Days

Joan Barrett and Ted Moores of Bear Mountain Boats, seen posing on their original property in 1978

One of the benefits of having many years in the business is the large photo archive we can now draw on. We often dip into our albums to illustrate a solution to a customer or celebrate a particular milestone on social media—but it also provides an opportunity to reminisce. This evocative shot, taken around 1978, prompted Joan to write the following:

To me, this shot captures the intensity and vision inherit in our personalities, which would be needed to pursue a dream of starting a business where we could work with our hands. We knew it would take a lot of ingenuity to develop a worthy product that would sustain us—even though we had no skills other than determination. 

The photo was taken on Bear Mountain, likely when we were taking a break from working on our stone workshop. You can see a strong back through the window. We worked night and day developing the building system, experimenting with designs, sourcing materials, writing brochures, finding customers… Slowly but surely we hatched the plan to build canoes while living in a small log cabin on our property adjacent to the northwest corner of Algonquin Park. 

The stone/log workshop was conceived when we faced the reality of having no money so we turned to the resources available—stones and trees. 

Of course no banks would lend us money for either the workshop or the business, so we did everything ourselves. I recall Ted gave me a cement mixture for my birthday, because up until then we had been mixing by hand. It cost maybe $300, which seemed like a fortune to us! The water we needed was hauled by hand from a spring a short hike away.

So this is more than an old photo. It's a portrait of two determined people about to devote nearly half a century to their dream. And it's nice to know the quiet confidence in their faces would sustain them over the next several decades.

Joan carries water from the nearby spring to mix cement for the workshop

Joan Barrett carries two buckets of water, yoked across her shoulders

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