A Day in the Life of PACT

On this trip there really is no such thing as an average day. Rain, wind, exhaustion and friendly cottagers offering us too many drinks can sometimes play havoc with our schedule.

But we do make an effort to stick to a semblance of a daily routine. Here’s what a good day on the water is like for PACT.

6.00am – Alarm goes off. Alarm gets ignored.

6.15am – Alarm goes off again. The team gets up and slowly packs up tents and sleeping bags. Scott goes off to collect morning firewood.

6.30am-7.00am – The morning fire is lit and water for oatmeal and coffee is heated. Scott freaks out and removes several ticks he got from romping through the woods.

7.00am-8.00am – Breakfast is eaten while the day’s route is discussed, a goal is set and everyone looks at the map to get an idea of where we’re going. The rest of the bags are packed and loaded into the canoe and we’re ready to hit the water.

8.00am-11.00am – The most energetic paddling of the day happens. Everyone is feeling well rested and, if we’re lucky, being warmed by the early morning sun.

11.00am – Someone yells, “Snack break!” and forward momentum immediately ceases. Granola bars and a jar of peanut butter are produced and we take in some much needed nutrition. The jar of peanut butter usually lasts about 5 minutes.

11.15am-2.00pm – More paddling. The best time of the day for us to negotiate tricky portages or other obstacles since everyone is still feeling strong. Plenty of boat conversations happen during this time, usually involving games of trivia, would-you-rather, and obscure sports statistics. Scott spots wildlife far off in the distance. The rest of us are skeptical of its existence.

2.00pm-3.00pm – A point on the distance is chosen for lunch. We pull up and cook a quick meal and take a short rest. Scott removes more ticks after collecting firewood. On busy days when we’re trying to cover a lot of ground, a pre-cooked lunch is eaten in the canoe.

3.00pm-8.00pm – More paddling, more conversation and maybe another quick snack. Later in the evening, fatigue starts to set in and the pace drops a little. Around this time we start looking for a campsite, often choosing a point in the distance for a final push.

8.00pm-11.00pm – The canoe is unloaded, tents are set up, firewood is collected and dinner is cooked. Everybody finds a role and gets the job done quickly. Often, lunch is pre-cooked for the next day. Dishes are washed and packed and a tarp is thrown over our packs and gear to guard against possible nighttime rain.

11.00pm onwards – Much needed sleep is had so we can do it all again the next day.

"The Larry (Naylor)"

Against a stately blue wall, a photo of President Barack Obama watches closely over the room as US Customs Agent, Officer Naylor sits at his desk.
"And what is the name of your boat?" he  asks, not looking up from his computer.
We look at each other without a word. After being on trip for 61 days, officially naming our voyageur canoe is something we hadn't done yet. Now, in the United States Customs Office in Beaudette, Minnesota, Officer Naylor is pressing the issue.

"What's your name?" I ask. "We can name it after you!"

Naylor gives a deadpan reply, "You are not naming the boat after me."

"I saw his name on his uniform! It's Naylor!" Marc exclaims.

Naylor is unimpressed. "You are not naming the boat after me."

"Okay," I say, trying to think of a name on the spot. "How about Larry?", thinking of the builder of our canoe.

"Larry Naylor!" Marc adds.

"No. Larry will do just fine." Officer Naylor enters our freshly named boat into the system.

Minutes pass. Wanted ads are scanned, as are checklists of what you can and can not smuggle into the country. More questions are answered and paper work is filed. Since we are travelling along the Boundary Waters between Canada and the United States, we must obtain the I-68 form to allow for passage between the two countries in remote locations. It's a precaution form.

Conversation resumes when we are able to pick up our passports.
"How does it feel having a canoe named after you?"
"The boat is not named after me."
"Well, that's your opinion."
Naylor gives us a deadly look that can politely be described as "the stink eye". He is standing now, and his full 6'3" "I've seen it all" frame says more than his words.
"I'm telling you the name of the boat is Larry. It is NOT named after me."
The attempt at amicable conversation over, we quietly take our leave.

So, with the approval of the United States Customs and Immigration, the US Federal Port Authority and the US Department of Homeland Security - and the Canadians are cool with it - we christian our canoe "The Larry (Naylor)"

The Invisible Hand of Martin "Marty" J.R. Clarke

From Lac du Bonnet to Kenora, a region known as Manitario, our crew was guided by a mysterious force known as "Marty". Like the Great and Powerful Oz or Dr. Claw, Marty made his presence known from a remote location.

Marty knows people. And he knows good people. He knows the Manitario region inside and out, and has friends and accomplices in every picturesque hamlet. No canoe tour is too small for Marty to call in favours for.
"From every dock there shall be shouts of support, and from every passing boat, at least a wave!" came his thunderous voice, commanding all of Manitario to obey.

Marty was always one step ahead of us, almost as if he could monitor our progress from space. He would send carrot-on-a-stick directions and contacts for his many friends in the area. He set us up for great encounters and we were amazed at how well his best laid plans turned out. As you'll see, foresight is Marty's best attribute.

How could Marty have known that when he sent us directions to his friend Travis Arnold's cabin on Lac du Bonnet, that we would end up meeting Laura Burn of Mint Printing, who donated business cards for the trip? Or that the rest of the Purves and friends crew were so much fun we had to stay two nights to make sure we used that wood stove sauna and indulged in late night Kraft Dinner. Did he know that after all that we would enjoy a pre-departure breakfast with Gerald, Karen and Dylan Arnold and take some delicious jam to go? We suspect so.

Did Marty set us up to be kidnapped by Party Pontoon Pirate Matt Bruce, a man who knows how to get things done? How did he plan the seamless transition from meeting to being held comfortable captive at Charlie Gibson's Gunn Lake Lodge? (The food poisoning from bad leftovers was our own doing). Did he realise that the entire under 30 crowd of Minaki would come out to meet us - the crazy paddlers who like lakes? We think so.

How did Marty arrange the timing of our crew's arrival at  the Northern Harbour Marina to coincide with their annual fish fry? That we would be given tours of every boat in the marina by enthusiastic skippers? That 'Bossman' Gary Hall would be so excited to be our resupply and help us out he could hardly stand still on the dock? Did Marty know that the marina also held Big Lake Fiberglass, and its owner Chris would finally properly patch our boat? We think Marty knew what he was up to.

We would like to thank all of those who stepped up to show us the true spirit of Manitario. And to Marty, the man behind the curtain, whose invisible hand pointed us in the right direction.

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Who Will Speak for Manitario?

It is not known to any school children or teacher, geographer or land surveyor, politician or diplomat. But nevertheless, it exists.

In between friendly Manitoba and gargantuan Ontario there lies Canada's eleventh (11th) and soon to be province, Manitario. It stretches from Lake of the Woods in the southeast to Lac du Bonnet in the west, making it the smallest province in Confederation.
There is but one geological feature in Manitario, and that is the Great Canadian Shield. It will not and can not accept any substitutes.  The land is littered with lakes, and the lakes littered with islands. A twisting and powerful river system joins them all together. The deep greens of pine and spruce, highlighted with the whites of birch are perfectly perched atop pink granite rock that reach into the water like fingers.

Manitario's largest town and financial capital is Kenora, at the north end of Lake of the Woods. Minaki, Pinewa, Lac du Bonnet are the other major urban centres, each town a tight knit community blissfully aware of how beautiful their locations are.

Manitario is perfectly capable of supporting itself financially. There are six hydroelectric dams between Kenora and Lac du Bonnet, with enough power to provide for residents and to export to other markets. The extensive river and lake system, including but not limited to Whiteshell Provincial Park is a haven for paddlers, anglers, hunters and cottagers. The outdoor tourism industry is in full swing from May to October, bringing money from as far away locations as Toronto or Texas.

Manitario does not claim to be anything more than it is. A land and people sandwiched between two provinces, caught between the Leafs and the Jets. Its population possesses the friendliness of Manitobans, but lack the "what have you done for me lately" of Ontarians. They are people who like nothing more than to sit on the dock in the sun and watch the world float by. There are no solid deadlines in Manitario, "I know, I'll get to it", coming the closest. For who can finish putting up the wainscotting when there is barbequeing to be done?  They are prone to bouts of hilarity, generosity and good times.

Yes, Manitario may not be an officially designated province - yet. But it certainly has enough charm and wit to win the hearts of the entire continent.

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PACT Fan Mail!

Comments and Questions from Humberside Montessori School in Toronto, Ontario.

 

“How much food do you have to pack?” – Noah, 6

            We had to pack a lot of food.  It was a very tricky process.  Feeding six people for over 4 months requires a huge amount of planning. We pack all or our food in three blue food barrels.  When full each can weigh up to 100lbs! We are only able to carry enough food for about three weeks at one time, so on our drive out to Alberta, we stopped at several places to drop off boxes of food that we will pick up when we paddle by.   

 

“I hope you have a nice trip there.” – Astrid, 6

            Thanks Astrid!  We are definitely having a nice trip.  Canada is an amazing country to view by canoe.  We have seen incredible animals (beavers, moose, deer, otters, and bears) and have met wonderful people across this country.

 

“I wonder what they use for toilet paper?” – Shaneesa, 6

“I used leaves once in High Park.” – Joel, 6

            Good question Shanessa.  Unfortunately, we just use plain old toilet paper- just 1 ply because it packs lighter.  It is a hard to guess how much we will need, but lucky we have not had to use leaves yet, but great suggestion Joel.   

 

“What colour is your canoe?” – Sophie, 6

            Our canoe is made of fiber-glass and is light brown.  It is designed to resemble a traditional birch bark canoe, so there are some black markings to make it look realistic.        

 

“You will probably see dolphins.” – Abbey, 7

            Unfortunately, no dolphins yet Abbey.  We have seen the endangered Lake Sturgeon, which looks like a small shark and can grow to 6 feet and over weigh 200lbs!  We were paddling on a lake in Manitoba and we did see a whale...but it was just an inflatable beach toy.  We tied it to our canoe and were fortunate enough to find its owners and return it home. 

 

“What do you do to pass the time” – Earl, 7

            We spend most of the time paddling, eating and sleeping.  When paddling to help pass the time we tend to discuss a lot of movies, food, and music and share stories with each other.  When we do have an hour or two of down time at the end of the day some members of PACT will enjoy a good book, journal writting or go exploring in the woods. 

 

Are you going to get real strong and do some wrestling? – William, 6

            Great two-part question William!  We are definitely getting stronger on our journey.  We spend usually 8-10 hours per day paddling, so we are getting a lot of upper body strength.  We didn’t have to portage (which means to carry the boat and all of our gear over places we cannot paddle) at all for the first month and a-half of our trip, so our legs were not getting much exercise.  Recently however, we have started a lot of portaging.  We just portaged over eight huge hydroelectric dams, several rapids and have a lot more in our near future. This is great because we are preparing for our biggest challenge, a 13km portage in Grand Portage, Minnesota.  Portaging is an excellent way to get really strong- both physically and mentally.

            In regards to your second question, we have not yet planned a wrestling event, however if we run out of things to talk about and the mood should strike us, some wrestling matches may be in our near future.  I would put my money on Peter to win because he wrestled back in his high school days, however Marc does have a great deal of co-ordination and youth on his side. 

 

“I hope you don’t poop your pants!”- Noah, 6

            Thanks for your concern Noah.  There is definitely no space for a toilet on our canoe, so we must plan our poops precisely.  At times there have been a few close calls when paddling across big lakes and nature began to knock, but thankfully no one has resorted to a pants pooping yet…not even a fabled ‘Aqua-dump’.

 

Thanks so much for the great questions students!  If you have any questions for PACT, please send your colourful banner to:

PACT

1 Voyageur Canoe

River or lake, Alberta to Quebec, Canada

P4D D1E

Or Email

2013pact@gmail.com

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HUGS & KISSES, FRIENDLY MANITOBA

Dear PACT,

Heard things worked out for you during your recent visit. I'm so glad. You see I like to be a good host and a good friend.

I heard you entered on the Saskatchewan River. People find the delta can be confusing, but I think that's part of its charm.

I know you know that Cedar Lake can be "fussy". When you entered I made a deal with it. If Cedar wanted to storm and rage and show you how windy it could get, then it should do the decent thing and show you how calm and serene it can be. We made the deal, but it was a day later than I had wanted it. You see, Cedar, being a young lake, always likes to do things his way. But I was glad to see you take advantage of the situation and have a delightful night paddle. Did you like how I got the sunset to blend with the sunrise? I even called in favours from the Northern Lights and the Half Moon - who really doesn't like to bend from his schedule - to add some extra light. It was my way of saying "sorry for the wait".

I got nervous about your Lake Winnipeg travels so I was able to get Gerald McKay to meet you in Grand Rapids. I knew he would have good advice for you. I didn't want you to get intimidated because the lake is the third largest reservoir in the world, and tenth largest fresh water lake in the world. And talk about shallow and tempermental. I have tried for years to get Lake Winnipeg into a wind schedule, but he doesn't listen.

I figured you'd be tired about halfway through Lake Winnipeg, so I made sure that the McBeth Point fishing village had extra cabins, and some friendly people to show them to you. I even hear you had a fish fry with them! That makes me so happy. I love it when Manitobans are the good hosts I like them to be.

I'm glad when the lake really threw a fit, you were able to use Ken and Linda's cabin. The east shore is my favourite too, and I made sure the cabin was in a beautiful and sheltered bay. What a place to wait out the temper-tantrum. Sorry about that display. It's embarrassing and gives us all a bad name.

Thrilled you were able to spend Canada Day with me. I had a great time, and it looked like you did too. Perhaps we should plan to get together next year?
Bring some of those ice cream sandwiches you were raving about and I'll bring the sparklers.

I really am sorry about all the damn dams. And the water level. When I heard you were set on paddling UP the Winnipeg River, I was distraught at the timing - the current was running was stronger than it had been in years! Oh, if it were any other year, or even two weeks before! Unable to strike a deal with both Manitoba Hydro and Ontario Power Generation, I made sure some of my best hosts were waiting to meet you and cheer you on.

And talk about good hosts! I am so glad you ran into my friends the Purves' and the Arnold's in Lac du Bonnet. They were raised in true Manitoban style: good friendly hosts. It's not my fault that you had such a good time you had to stay another night!

I really tried my best to show you a good time, and to challenge you just a little bit. I had heard that Wild Rose Alberta and Land of Living Skies Saskatchewan were too easy on you. I'm not like them.  I am a true friend. And sometimes friends need to give you a little push to make you stronger. You'll notice that everytime you were tested, something or someone was there to help you out. PACT, what we have now is true friendship.

Please visit again any time you'd like.

Hugs and Kisses,

Friendly Manitoba

Would You Rather: Windbound or Upstream?

Debate constantly rages in our boat. Here is a recent example of one stemming from our experiences on Lake Winnipeg and the Winnipeg River.

Would you rather be windbound for an uncertain amount of time OR be paddling upstream against a current that holds you to 2-3km/hr (see July 4th inReach tracking for stats on this frustration).

Being windbound means the lake is so windy that it is unsafe to paddle. On Lake Winnipeg, a notoriously breezy and shallow lake, wind and wave can gather strength very quickly and without warning. The water can be dangerous for a couple hours to a couple weeks.

Being windbound is a game of  patience. You have to be very quick to recognise changing force of the waves,  and find suitable shelter before the swells are too big. Then you wait. We were lucky in that only twice has the wind been so bad that it required us to scrap the whole day. Otherwise it became pretty routine to start later or pull over in afternoon, and be on constant watch of the weather. Books and guitar are the simple pleasures to get you through, until the call is made and you must paddle your heart out to put some distance between windstorms.

Paddling upstream, is a game of strength. When the force of the river is acting against you, there is no stopping. Full strength paddling to make it past the slightest rise in elevation and swift water is draining. Being stuck on a river treadmill is great for endurance training, but poor for covering distance in a reasonable amount of time. You do move forward though. There is no waiting game, as the river does not stop its flow during the evenings. You can paddle and make ground, but you have to be happy with the ground you cover.

Windbound or Upstream? Which pace slowing-environmental obstacle would you prefer? Are you a patient person, able to wait for just the right conditions? Or do you prefer the grind, moving forward but fighting for every inch of river?

Weigh in on our debate! Tell us about your best or worst experiences being windbound or paddling upstream.

Funny Things Animals Do …… PART THE SECOND

Hello again friends, families and other assorted jealous outdoor folk. The PACT party continues to be the bestest! It has been a couple of weeks since we last shared our animal observations and in that time western wildlife has continued to be a great source of conversation and laughter.

Here is more of what we saw:

3. The bigger they are, the harder they sprint.

Our paddle through Lake Winnipeg has brought us into REAL bear country. The endless rocky  and sandy beaches that surround this beast of a lake are known to be heavily populated by the Berenstains.

While we often think of bears as the kings of our Canadian forests, its always surprising to see how genuinely timid they are. The other day, a life size teddy wandered into our camp and after one clank of our pot set the big bad beast jolted back into the bush before anyone even had time to fear its arrival.

Only a couple days prior we had another intimate run-in with nature, but this time it was a big fat beaver named Bruce. Most of the other beavers we’ve met along the way have shared Mr. Berenstain’s feelings towards humans. We are big, magical and scary. Beavers generally hear us, brace themselves, see us, and then power-slap their tails and swim as deep as the river’s floor will let them.

Brucey on the other hand, had decided that today was his day to face the trespassing humans. Enough was enough. He had himself tucked away perfectly amidst the bushes as he heard our voyageur roll down the last leg of the North Saskatchewan. He smelt our 37 day old margarine creep closer and closer and closer. He timed his attack flawlessly. When we paddled in line with his beaver lodge Brucey barreled his big beaver gut towards our boat ready to take on the world. The six of us turned to the wrestling bushes in a panic…our eyes met his…..AND…….he got scared and ducked deep DEEEEP into the river and began to plot his next attack.

Sure he didn’t get us this time, but little Brucey faced his fear and the next time an unsuspecting human paddles through his turf, they are bound to get a healthy piece of tail in the cheek.

Next, we saw the bravest mammal of them all – THE OTTER!  Lake Winnipeg is filled with blue green algae making it unsafe to drink. As a result, we have to paddle into small connecting rivers along its coast to fill our bottles. The other day we pulled into a small river system and were met there by the Otterbergs – A territorial family of 8 that understand the importance of holding their ground.

As we waltzed into their backyard they stood tall and united. They poked their heads out and stared us down with bravery and disgust. We figured they would back down after realizing we were a part of the all-powerful human team. NOPE! Needless to say, we filled up our bottles as fast as we could and got the hell out of there.

Wise backcountry travellers have long said, “its not the size of the bear in the fight, rather the size of the fight in the otter”. When approaching wildlife in your future adventures never take your safety for granted. You never know which natural neighbor is going to take a stand.

PACT Appreciation

A chance to paddle across Canada comes often only once in a lifetime, and what may be ever more rare is to find AWESOME people that want to take time out of their lives for such an adventure. I am thankful everyday to have the opportunity to share this experience with each person on the trip. It has been a great privilege to watch everyone as they settle into their new life in a 24-foot- voyageur canoe. Here are only few of the great things that the Crew brings to the boat as we continuing PACTing around!

Hollye!

What up fellow lady friend! She not only helps balance the female presence on the trip but her childlike spirit goes a long way. You will often hear her giggle from the front of the boat whether it be the late in the day “crazies” or her laughing at her own imagination. She brings to the boat some hilarious stories of “young” Hollye and her big city life in Toronto. When she has something that she wants to get done, she enters this zone of determination, which enables her to push through hard paddling days, buggy nights (solution #1: bug net!), and the frequent case of the “hungries”. She has introduced the crew to the art of popcorn making, which I must say trumps any movie theater popcorn and is done over an open flame.

Scott!

Scott, newly named “Goldfish” for his great affinity for tiny goldfish snacks, has an untamable energy for life. He wakes up, most times singing and bopping around the campsite, enthusiastic for the day’s adventures to begin.  (Meanwhile most of us are still peeling our eyes open and reluctantly unzipping our sleeping bags). His humor consists of endless puns, which compliments any activity throughout the day. He has supernatural eyesight and has a keen ability to see beauty, wildness, and joy in the simple things nature provides; he can watch the water and the shoreline for wildlife for hours. When Scott gets to a site he puts on gloves and his Roots boots, heads into the forest to collect wood, and the “video game” begins! His man-child characteristics translate to his love for adventure, getting dirty, and a passion for learning and playing outside!

Peter!

Anyone can tell by the permanent smile on Peter’s face that he is having the time of his life on this trip across Canada. I can only picture his imagination taking him on trips back in time as a crewmember with the Voyageurs of the Northwest Company or going on an adventure with some of the first Canadian explorers. He has a charisma that no local can resist and has a knack for wooing any radio host or ferry operator for some PACT love. When Peter is in the stern you can hear him singing, cracking jokes, laughing hysterically at the jokes (his own a lot of the time!), or a “Hello, Bonjour!” to any lucky stranger that we run into. Peter brings the history alive with his storytelling and is a constant reminder for the crew that we are PADDLEING ACROSS CANADA and that is pretty darn cool! He inspires myself and I believe the rest of the crew with his passion for experiencing Canada in a deeper way.

James!

James provides the crew with years of knowledge and wisdom collected from his travels and life experiences. He is the voice of reason for many of us on this trip and whenever a question arises, we turn to James for the answer. He is the first awake and often the last to go to bed. He pushes the crew to paddle harder and to keeping going when the energy is low. He frequently boggles our minds with scientific breakthroughs and random facts. (Marc is still is having trouble swallowing that the “sun is a giant star”… I give it a couple of months and he’ll come around) He has taken on reading while paddling, which is another example at how he enjoys a bit of a challenge in his life. As an even-tempered fellow, he surprised me when he said, “Marissa, you may not be able to tell, but I am reeeaaaally excited. (In an Australian accent of course!)”, which just got me excited because it was great enough for him to say something.  He is fully present in every moment of this trip and he is able to bring a lot to the PACT crew dynamic.

Marc!

“Barrel Boy*” also known as Marc is the person I have to thank for being on this trip; he sent me the message asking me to join and now 6 months later here we are 6 weeks deep. He is a big personality in the boat. He is always the one to break the silence with a crew trivia question or just sharing with us what new idea, invention, or business plan is brewing in that brain of his. On-the-daily, he is yelling obscene things (interpret as you wish!) from the boat or telling some hilarious thing he has done throughout his college years. He is quick with the jokes and my favorite thing about him is his contagious laugh, which brings the boat most often than not to roaring boil. That smile of his reveals Marc’s love of life and people, which encourages me to laugh, smile, and love a little bit more each day.  CUSTARDDDD*!!!!

*He is in charge of the food barrels, which are labeled Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, and hold all of our food until our next resupply

* Custard: a word yelled out by Marc and can mean just about anything you want it to be. It at times is even appropriate in song form. (soon to be seen/published in the PACT-ionary)

There is A LOT to say about each one of these amazing people. The days are filled with laughs and smiles, and I can only sense that my appreciation for everyone growing with each day.

LOVE AND HUGS,

Marissa  

A Night at the Museum

There is something magical about a night paddle. The water is calm, the sky is alive and every sound pops with a little more weight than the last. If you time it right, you can really see nature come alive. We got lucky!

Large lake paddling is often accompanied by stress and uncertainty. You never know what the wind is planning and it is important to react quickly. Opportunities to sit back and soak it in are few and far between.

Cedar Lake was our first of these experiences. We were quickly reminded of the potential power that the water can carry. Our first crossing had us tightening our lifejackets a little more snug than we would have hoped for. We learned our lesson and sat back waiting for the wind to die down. Then we kept waiting.

We prepared ourselves for a night paddle thinking that the waters would calm in the evening. They didn’t. We decided to set our alarms for an early wake up thinking that things would die down before the sun came up. Nope. We waited out the day alternating through our crew sleeping and watching the water. We were well rested, anxious and ready to paddle for as long as the water would let us.

Four PM came and we saw our chance. We were packed up and fed with the boat loaded. By five we hit the water with no cut-off time in site. The waves continued to settle and we continued to stroke. The sun went down behind us leaving a trail of pinky goodness at our backs. Before the light faded it began to reappear on the other side of the sky as the sun prepared for another day of work in Northern Manitoba. The northern lights said hello as we passed through Easterville and a couple of shooting stars later it was already 3 AM.

Looking behind at the distance we had covered, we could hardly tell where the water ended and the sky began. It was a blue so blue it made other blues look green. We talked movies, debated ideal pizza toppings, listened to music, sat, paddled and pondered. As we cooked our breakfast around six in the morning we could feel the end of the lake within our reach. Our arms were burning, but we sucked back our classic gorp and peanut butter combo, team stretched, ran around, splashed some water on our faces and trucked on through the final bay.

Over 85 kilometers later we camped around the corner from the lake’s end at the Grand Rapids dam. It was 11 am and we had the remainder of the day to rest, recoup and think about our night at the museum.  

E'Kosi Gerald

There is no word for ‘thank you’ in the Cree language- a hard pill to swallow for a crew brought up to mind their Ps and Qs. E’kosi” is the closest translation, meaning “it is done” or “that’s all folks”.

A quick Cree language lesson wasn’t the only thing on the menu for us in Grand Rapids.  Our planned quick stop in the town was extended to a bottomless helping of pickerel cheeks, walleye and enough wine to…well, more than enough wine. 

After the most unforgettable paddle of our journey so far- the 17-hour sunset to sunrise, starry northern light surprise paddle (detailed in the blog “A Night at the Museum’)- PACT was on the outskirts of Grand Rapids, Manitoba.  Dazed and sleepy from our all night push, moments away from our next site for some rest, we met Gerald McKay. 

A Manitoba Hydro employee on a tour of the lake, Gerald promised to meet us at the dam, and guide us around its enormity. We got more than a dam guide, we got a Grand Rapids guide and Lake Winnipeg guardian angel.

“I don’t know why,” Gerald explained that morning as he was unrolling a fishing net to gift us, “but every time there’s a canoe trip that stops at Grand Rapids, I get the call to help them out.” Over the course of our day, it was easy to see why

Gerald was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and passionate of his community. He was enthusiastic about showing us the insider’s tour of the town.

Our first stop was a Cree Culture camp on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. We arrived just before lunch, in time to see children learning how to braid sweetgrass. The Culture Camp is designed to help elders in the community pass down traditions, language and craft to younger generations. The camp is the perfect blend of heritage based hands on skill sets and community sharing and learning.  A wonderful expression of Outdoor Education – taught with passion and purpose.

We then toured the rest of town, Gerald stopping to show us an old graveyard dating back to the early 19th century. His great grandmother is buried there in a separate plot signifying some elevated importance in the community.

“I’m not sure what she did, but she did receive a bear claw necklace from Sitting Bull himself,” he proudly notes. Then adds slyly, “Maybe she was his girlfriend…”

Gerald was a great host and kept us up later than we should have with stories of home and abroad. He was keen to hear of our adventure to date and had lots of advice for our future on Lake Winnipeg. Gerald has fished Lake Winnipeg all his life, and has seen his fair share of canoe trips successful and otherwise on the world’s tenth largest lake. He shared information on good locations for campsites, beautiful beaches, friends in remote fishing villages, spots for fresh water, and local legends of dancing ghosts and buried gold.

Gerald shared with us his the story of his ongoing efforts to help out Winnipeg Harvest, a food bank. Due to fishing quotas, fisherman throw out less valuable fish species in favour of those that will fetch a fairer price. Whitefish for example is a common species often caught in abundance. Since they aren’t worth much on the market, fishermen throw the fish back into the lake. They typically do not survive the process of “catch and release” in a gill net.

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“It’s just a waste. The fishermen are willing to donate the fish for free to the Winnipeg Harvest, and I keep getting blocked by the provincial government.” Gerald explained he has arranged for the fishing co-ops on Lake Winnipeg to keep their whitefish catch for the food banks. The same food regulations would apply to the donated whitefish, meaning that millions of pounds of fresh clean fish would find its way into Winnipeg homes. He food bank is ready and willing to accept the fish. Gerald has been working on this project for years, and has been the subject of a documentary. Still, he is met with complications while tones of fish are wasted.

“There shouldn’t be children going to bed hungry when all this good food is being wasted. It’s been disappointing, but I’m going to keep fighting for it,” Gerald says.

Gerald is trying to organize the donation of millions of pounds of fish to Winnipeg’s hungry. He gave our crew a fish, we ate for a meal. Gerald taught us to fish, and we ate for the rest of the trip, and spread the word of his good works. 

For more information, please view “Change the Normal” found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo4UUbY4PRQ

After everything, Gerald would not accept a thank you. “Helping people out is something that comes natural, there’s no need to be tripping over thank yous. “

E’kosi Gerald!

 

The Liberation of NSG

Readers Note-The Pas (a small village in Manitoba) is phonetically pronounced The Paw

 

There are strange things viewed by those who canoed, us- the people who paddle for PACT.

On the river shores, pelicans by the scores and beavers sure were not lacked.

Weird things eyed and weird things spied, but the weirdest we ever did see

Was when paddled along the North Saskatchewan and I liberated NSG.

Now NSG, we first did see, from afar amongst branch and stone.

It was large in size and soon we’d realize it was a vessel much like our own.

To no surprise and the boat had capsized, held prisoner by logs, sticks and muck. 

 We paddled beside and from our boat we tried, but the poor old canoe it was stuck.

No rescue I guess, this caused me great stress.  We would have to leave it here.

But the pirate in me would not let this be, this ship we must commandeer.

So into the blue, an in water rescue and I gathered up all my might.

And with a great deal, pop went the seal and the canoe- it turned up right.

A missing yolk and some seats that were broke and it was filthy through and through.

But with a little repair and some tender love and care, this boat could look brand new.

So later that night at our new campsite, with brush and soap in hand.

I scrubbed and I scrubbed and I gave her some love removing the dirt and the sand.

The canoe turned to white, now shiny and bright and to my surprise I did see

Some way, some how, both sides of the bow- a decal marked NSG.

I’ve never owned a canoe, could this be true, a boat for who I am?

Oh how great! A twist of fate! The sticker meant Now Scott Graham’s.

But a sad realization, causing frustration, my dream to be untrue.

More than half the route to go, it would be too slow portaging another canoe.

So we towed it behind with an idea in mind, if not for me then instead

Supporting our cause, when we get the The Pas, it could be used for outdoor ed.

We asked around but no one in town seemed to know surprisingly

Where a found canoe could be donated to, so we went to the RCMP.

We told them our tale, but to no avail, it turned into no help at all.

Instead of enjoyed, it soon would be destroyed as a federal protocol.

I pleaded “Sir no! Can’t we find it a home? There must be something to do.”

Was there something I missed, “don’t police auctions exist?” And he said “no son that’s not true”

NSG was towed away by a truck- CAA, as we parted we said our goodbyes.

I waved to my ship with a quivering lip and rivers of tears in my eyes.

There are strange things viewed by those who canoed, us- the people who paddle for PACT.

On the river shores, pelicans by the scores and beavers sure were not lacked.

And in the end, it’s true my friend- a hint of irony.

NGS’s liberation means probable cremation.  I should have just let it be.

 

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Funny Things Animals Do … PART 1

For the past month we have shared our portable home quite intimately with nature. Spotting wildlife in the river, the banks and skies that surround us has been a surprisingly consistent treat. It can be exhilarating, intimidating and hilarious and can even break a 30-minute spell of silence with a synchronized team ‘awwwww’.

We have a lot of time out here to discuss just about everything that goes on around us and we thought we would share some wildlife related observations.

1. Modern-day Animals Practice Hands-off Parenting.

Today’s human mommies and daddies shower their children with love. Nowadays more and more people are worried about the level of toughness and resilience of future generations. Well I’d like to see these critics be a little baby moose for a day and we’ll see which method they prefer.

The other day we paddled by a big mama moose and her with two newborns. The water was abnormally low at the time so the ridge to the forest was especially steep. As we paddled by, Mrs. Moose darted off as if she had just seen six floating ghosts. Her two babies were left confused and alone. You could tell they knew they were supposed to run somewhere without having a clue why. The two little siblings spent an arduous couple of minutes clawing and grunting their way up the hill and after a couple hooves to the face they worked together to clear the ridge and avoid the six friendly voyageurs. They didn’t get pushed up the hill. They did it themselves, and you can be sure next time they will be quicker.

We didn’t feel like complete bullies giggling at the sight of two confused baby moose knowing that someday this type of parenting will leave the moose with the final laugh.

2. Little birds have more fun.  

More often than not, people come across major celebrities without anything but negative stories to tell.  Some of the best memories come from the times we meet a local hero and get to know them on a more personal level.

Same goes for wildlife. Everyone wants to be an eagle. Who wouldn’t want to soar through the skies and mount themselves proudly on the tallest tree in the forest? That being said, given the choice I’d be a swallow over an eagle any day. Sure the bigger birds can cruise around and be feared by every creature around them, but that’s a lonely life if you ask me. Swallows on the other hand are tiny little birdies that zip around the canoe in groups of hundreds and rise and fall through the sky like jets. They aren’t going to appear on anybody’s coins, but you can just tell that they love each other and the swallow life is the life for them.

Stay tuned for Funny Things Animals Do – PART 2

Paddling at the Edge of the World

After leaving the dense forest and marshy delta behind, we have arrived at the edge of the world.

On the river one could only see as far as the next curve in the course, the vistas blocked by hills and tree.

Here at the edge of the world, we have miles of unobstructed view. Travelling south we keep the dark land mass to our right, its shores alternating between pebble and sand beaches.

To our left, the world opens to water as far the eye can see. The sky stretches in an endless horizon line. There is nothing that can be seen past it.  We pass from peninsula to faint peninsula, hoping that the emerging land mass is just that and not a mirage sent to lure us over the edge. It is the scene of brilliant sunsets and blazing sunrises, that overlap each other as if Apollo is working hard not to be forgotten.

On calm days the sky and sea are indistinguishable. A hazy light obscures the heavens from the edge. The water reflects the suns rays and all is glass. But these days of harmony are few and far between. Typically our canoe bobs up and down, at the mercy of the indiscriminate wind and wave. We plod along, keeping close watch on the clouds above and waves beneath. There are times when the edge of the world roars with anger and throws all its might behind the waves, crashing them down in thunderous repetition. It is as if Prospero is watching and commands the water to rise out of spite of our progress. It is then we must take refuge like lambs on the shore contesting the giant flies for our own flesh.

The local black bear population patrol the shores, curiously observing our boisterous crew before darting back into the evergreen bush. The pelicans float and soar near the edge but dare not get too close lest they plummet to oblivion. Out of the corner of one's eyes you swear you see the backs of whales disappear beneath the waves. It is all I can do to keep from worrying that a large horrible sea creature will devour us whole from underneath.

Paddling here at the edge of the world is humbling experience. It's beauty can bring a tear to your eye, while it's fury will leave you cursing it under your breath. When at peace or tempest, floating in our canoe, we are ever reminded of the scale of the world, and how truly immense a place it must be.

why a 25' voyageur canoe?

We’ve been asked many a time, “Cool adventure, but why a voyageur canoe?”

Critics will say a voyageur canoe is a heavy burdensome beast of a vessel.

What the voyageur canoe lacks in a lightweight carbon frame fully makes up for in history and community.

The History: Voyageurs typically used two sizes of canoes to conduct their business; The Montreal Canoe for the Great Lakes and Ottawa River, and the North Canoe for west of Lake Superior.

The Montreal Canoe, or 'Canot de Maître', was the heavy freight canoe used to deliver supplies from Lachine to Fort William . It was about 36 feet (11 m) long and six feet wide and weighed about 600 pounds and carried 3 tons of cargo or 65 90-pound standard packs called pièces. Crew numbered 6-12 with 8-10 being the average. On a portage they were usually carried inverted by four men, two in front and two in the rear, using shoulder pads. When running rapids they were steered by the avant standing in front and the gouvernail standing in the rear.

The North Canoe, or 'Canot du Nord', was used by the wintering partners paddling from the interior heading to Fort Willam bringing the furs collected over the winter to Fort William. It was about 25 feet (7.6 m) long and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide with about 18 inches of draft when fully loaded and weighed about 300 pounds. Its cargo was half or less of a Montreal canoe, about 25-30 pièces. Crew numbered  4-8 with 5-6 being the average. It was carried upright by two men.

PACT is paddling a 25’ Selkirk model from North Woods Canoe, a modern day version of the Canot du Nord.

The Community: There is a certain type of camaraderie that can only be achieved when travelling in a single voyageur canoe. Unlike in a group of tandem boats, a singular voyageur canoe experiences the exact same circumstances at the same moment. There is no lead canoe, no trail canoe. No strong canoe, no weak canoe. There is no gear pack canoe, no food barrel canoe. There is no brave canoe to test the rapids for the group, there is no lilly-dipping canoe lounging down the river. As a single canoe crew we are all of those. We will have to work as a team to overcome obstacles as a single unit. In a sense, we are amplifying the team building mechanisms of a regular canoe trip. We will be able to share stories, sing songs, eat and rest as a group.

We are very much enjoying the experience of a voyageur canoe!

 

Our fine vessel at our departure point on the North Saskatchewan River

the first month

Exactly one month and two provinces since take-off, we are happy to share some recent thoughts.

 

I CAVED!

After four coffeeless university years of late nights and early mornings, my lifelong stand against Mr. Horton has begun to break down. It started with an innocent sip. We were welcomed in Nipawin by an old friend of the Ervine’s named Brent. He brought us fruits and high fives and in the morning he dropped off a pair of thermoses that may have very well changed my life.

I saw the rest of the team get excited and thought – Marc, my dear friend, stop being such a stubbornsman and enjoy a cup with your friends – So I sipped. YEAH, I DID IT AND I’D DO IT AGAIN! It was what the connoisseurs refer to as a ‘double double’. I think its because it tastes twice as good.

Anyway, a couple days later coffee reared its ugly head yet again. James saw me playing out the rest of my life in my head and told me to relax and have a cup. Well now I’m four mugs deep and I’m trying to figure out which direction I want to go with the rest of my life’s mornings.

Well that’s where my heads at!

Tooooootaloooooo

-Marc

 

 

Oh, For Goodnesslakes!

I’m fond of a good pond and understand all of the commotion in the ocean. I see what’s to see in the sea and my regard for rivers is raging rapidly.  However, most of all, I like lakes.  Love, if not for a personal and constant craze for phonetic fulfillment, perhaps the more suitable declaration.

With the majority of the North Saskatchewan River in our wake, day 21 found PACT entering our first, Tobin Lake, north of Nipawin, Saskatchewan.  Spending my childhood on Miller Lake at the family cottage, countless evenings watching the sun sink below Moira Lake at Camp Quin-Mo-Lac and having spent the past five summer seasons paddling the waterways of Algonquin Park, calling the sunny shore of South Tea Lake my home, I have developed quite an admiration for the tranquility and power of lakes, and a passion for being in, on and around them.

As we entered Tobin Lake, there was a communal a sigh of familiarity and bliss – a canoe PACTed of Lake Likers.  Our journey across this summer will take us through several lakes, including what will perhaps be our most challenging phases of the trip- Lakes Winnipeg and Superior.  As we prepare for paddling these vast puddles, we will not neglect their power and the potential vulnerability we face while traveling, yet I am overjoyed to soon be upon these spectacles and canoe, swim and reflect in (and on) some of the largest lakes in the world.

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. 

-Henry David Thoreau

For Goodness…the answer is lakes.

-Scott

 

 

The Fine Art of Sleep Paddling

Here’s an interesting lesson the trip has taught us so far: we’ve all discovered first-hand that it’s possible to fall asleep while paddling.

It seems obvious, I know. We spend long days on the water performing a tiring and repetitive action while the hot sun beats down relentlessly on our heads. Of course we’re going to fall asleep.

But here’s the curious part. Your brain falls asleep but your arms just keep on paddling. We see it every day. One of the crew’s head starts nodding forward, lower and lower, until eventually they’re snoozing contently in the bow seat. But their arms keep going, not missing a beat, keeping perfect time with the rest of the paddlers like a tireless piston in a hardworking engine.

Apparently we don’t even need to be conscience anymore to propel the boat forward. If we keep this up me might just wake up in Montreal feeling refreshed but wondering what happened.

Perhaps this is a sign we’ve finally achieved paddling zen; a oneness with our canoe and our spirit, allowing us to move forward on a higher plane of understanding while transcending the physical limitations of our earthly bodies.

Or maybe we’re just really, really tired from all this canoeing.

James

 

 

The bugs are back in town!

The end of the day was approaching quickly, and we had spotted a nice flat area on the right side of the river. It was perfect real estate for the night; a beach for a campfire, flat grassy patches for tents, and woods for exploring. Little did we know that we would be sharing this site with one of nature smallest and peskiest creature…THE MOSQUITO (gasp and perhaps some Jaw’s theme music would be fitting). It was not just one, but thousands of mosquitos that were kind enough to welcome us to the Saskatchewan delta, their needles sharpened and ready to prod and poke every inch of our bodies and persistent in their pursuit of fresh food, and they have no limits as to where they should or should not take a nibble.

We unloaded the boats and set up camp as if it were any other night. The fire was ready and the water was boiling, but dinner prep was interrupted by a swarm of the mosquitos. Staying still was out of the question.  Each of us became silent and restless.

Dinner resulted with all of us eating burritos in a 3-person tent and our only obstacles being how to get seconds without being attacked by more mosquitos and if at all possible without getting out of the tent. We had a flawless system, a wonderful dinner, and a short break from the battle between the mosquitos and us.

We may not be looking forward to the countless nights of sharing dinner with the mosquitos and black flies, but we ARE looking forward to the future challenges and beautiful surprises that are in store for us as we continue to paddle across Canada!!!

With all my love,

-Marissa

 

 

A Corner of Canada

On Day 20, we camped in the Wapiti Valley, near the village of Gronlid. We were ahead of our schedule and this was our first resupply point. Our resupply contact was an old friend and neighbor of mine, Nick Trudeau.

Nick and I grew up outside of the village of Tyrone in rural southern Ontario. The last time I saw Nick was four years ago in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Nick was really excited to be a part of our trip. He was even more excited to play host in his adapted Saskatchewan. He arrived with his girlfriend Dorothy, our food and a warm Saskatchewan welcome. They pitched a tent and spent the night camping with us. It was great to catch up with Nick and tell old stories again.

Nick is a man who loves life. He has been in Saskatchewan for the last four years on and off, but always returns. He is just making the move from Gronlid to Saskatoon.

"I can't quite put a finger on why, but I keep coming back here."

He thinks it might be the people, the land, the open space, the freedom.

"Oh yeah, and sunsets like that." He said as he nodded to a brilliant pink and orange sunset that spanned the entire horizon.

From our experience in Saskatchewan, it is probably a mix of all these reasons. As far as I can tell, the whole of Saskatchewan is filled with Tyrones. The rural lifestyle, a pace demanded by the weather, and community support. It has been a welcoming and beautiful province, and I can see why Nick keeps coming back.

Whether it is the farmland hamlets of Ontario, the tidal towns of Nova Scotia, or the dusty villages of the prairies. We all find our corner of Canada to call home and Nick has found his in Saskatchewan.

Enjoy our country,

-Peter

 

 

I LOVE FAMILY

So I think that everyone has a unique way to view their own family, and that idea develops as one grows up. I have no idea if that’s actually true, but it seems to have been the case for me…so I’m going to go with it. This adventure across Canada has already allowed me to meet a great deal of amazing people, but I have been blessed to reconnect with an incredible side of my family. Being in Cumberland House was an amazing opportunity to get to know the people who make up a unique portion of my family tree. I could go on for days about each of the individuals who have opened their arms and hearts to make me feel welcome and comfortable in a community I knew little about.  I didn’t think my perception about family could be influenced so drastically at this time in my life, but I am so thankful that it has.  Cumberland House has definitely been the highlight of my journey -  I will never forget the time we spent here and the connections I have made.

Thank you to everyone in Cumberland House who has made this part of our trip truly special. You are all incredible people!

Love, Hollye

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so long, sunny Saskatchewan

Dear Saskatchewan,

It is with a heavy heart that we have to say goodbye. It's not you, it's us. We just have to press on.

It's not that we won't miss your 15 days of sun, or the river that bears your name with the favourable current. It's not we are tired of meeting friendly people in your riverside towns who are always offering their help - and homemade sausage. And we certainly aren't over your big sky sunsets that last until 11 pm. We really just have to move on.

Remember the time we had lunch at the Forks? Remember the time we crossed Tobin, our first lake? Remember the time Tim Horton's was waiting for us at Scot's Landing? Remember the time we were shown the meaning of true hospitality in Cumberland House? We do too. But it's time to roll on, Saskatchewan.

We can't blame you for having an accessible North Battleford radio station that immediately put three river rats on air - in fact we kind of liked it. And you really can't be blamed for Prince Albert's mismanaged hydroelectric dam project at La Colle Falls. The century old attempt has some very interesting spaces to climb on. Please don't be embarrassed about the time that you unleashed a plague of mosquitos onto our campsite. We hear Manitoba has even less control. But we have to get it a try.

Saskatchewan, don't compare yourself to mountainous Alberta - you've still got the largest inland delta on the continent. Don't be bothered with Onatrio's plethora of professional sports teams - your one franchise has the attention of the whole province. Don't get jealous of Manitoba's glamorous lakes - your river systems are far more practical anyhow. Don't get down on yourself for being the quiet province - people really do like the strong silent type. For us though, it's all about timing.

We feel we are lingering with our rest days in Cumberland House. We both know that in four hours we will have crossed over into Manitoba. We can't delay the inevitable.

So farewell Saskatchewan. Farewell to your rolling wheatfields, living skies, friendly people, songbird filled woods, educational historic sites, ferry crossings, surprise rapids, hydroelectric dams, and resulting man-made lakes. We will always think of you fondly.

So long, Sunny Saskatchewan. You had it all.

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Forts, Repairs and Advice

Twice now we have been privileged to stay at the sites of fur trade posts and utilize some of their original purpose.

Fort Pitt, near Frenchman's Butte, Sk,was once the halfway point between Fort Carleton and Fort Edmonton, is now a small park in the corner of a farmers field. There are some picnic tables and grills for day camping and some self guided interpretative signs detailing everyday life at the fort and highlighting the fort's role in the events surrounding Treaty Six and the resistance of 1885. Nothing is left of the two forts, but timbers have been laid down to help the visitor imagine where buildings stood.

Next we camped at Fort Carlton, further down the river near the present day town of Carlton. Here we found a full size reconstruction of the Hudson's Bay fort that stood for 75 years. There's a visitors centre and educational programs, highlighting Fort Carlton's regional role in the fur trade, development of the west, and specific attention to the Carlton Trail. The overland route from Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to Fort Edmonton got its name from the midway point and re-distribution centre at Fort Carlton. Exploring the grounds you can still see the deep wheel ruts carved by heavy Red River carts over the years. The seed of another long distance trip across Canada has been planted.

Spending time at the forts is a great way to connect yourself to the past. Particularly meaningful for us as we came upon the fort sites as people would have when they were active, by canoe. Though the river has receded and the brush grown back, approaching the forts still brings a sense of anticipation and the expectation of rest and recooperation.

Coincidentally for us, each of the forts presented a time for canoe maintenance. A small patch was applied at Fort Pitt, and full on surgery took place at Fort Carlton. The latter a more thorough job aided with the expert advice and materials from a fellow cross Canada paddler named Ross Phillips. Ross and crew paddled their Cross-Canada Canoe Odessy in 2011. Living in nearby Saskatoon, Ross and his fiancee Kirby met us on the river upstream of the fort, and brought the kind of fresh snacks canoeists dream of - veggies, fruit, chips. Ross also had many tips for the upcoming portions of the trip, and filled us in on how his team got by.

He returned the next morning with extra canoe repair essentials and gave a brief tutorial. Apoxies, putties, and fiberglass resin, we are now well versed in methods of repairing fiberglass keels.

We were able to use the sites of the forts as they were intended for - rest and repair time for passing canoeists. And of course to hear a tale or two about the ups and downs of previous voyages.

inspiring stories and mysterious grills

Happy Two Weeks!

Finally, 17 days since PACT’s departure from Rocky Mountain House, it is time to hear from the crew members….

Storytelling

The other day at the Historic Site of Fort Pit, I was sitting in the field, enjoying one of the long spring/summer sunsets. I was thinking about the place, the river we have been traveling on. And about the stories that have been written about this historic fur-trading route, and about the stories that we are currently writing. Fort Pit has these structures laid out to help paint the picture of the people who once lived there and what once stood at this site, giving those who visit a sense of place. Although we have Peter’s historic anecdotes, not every place that we will visit will have spaces dedicated to remembering. It is sometimes easy for me to forget the people and animals that, simultaneously or previously, have traveled this same route. There is so much history and happenings in the spaces that we are passing through. My new challenge from this point on is to really take the time to observe my surroundings and listen to the stories they have to tell.

The beginning of this trip has been a really wonderful journey. I am slowly becoming more comfortable and more in tune. There is much to say about these past two weeks, but I am happy, sun/wind burnt, and the spirits are high!

Love and Miss Y’all!

-Marissa

BOAT-yliciousness

This sort of canoe trip is brand new for all of us. The sites are not set and our path is undiscovered. Focusing on the journey rather than the destination is always something campers try to do - but it becomes especially important when the destination is four months away. With that in mind, we’ve done our best to keep the ride spicy.

We’re all together in a single boat. More people means more stories to be giggled at and perspectives to be thrown out there. The chats come and go, but when it's on, we really make some magic. Thanks to the knowledge of the rest of the crew, I have now reached the point where I feel comfortable writing a Grade 7 level science test. If you have time, I suggest 'Googling' solar systems. I’m not sure if I’m buying this whole ‘sun is just one of many giant stars’ thing, but there is some fascinating stuff going on up there.

Our talks can be fun and light at times, but heavy and thought provoking at others. Two weeks deep I am happy to report that we are keeping ourselves entertained and enjoying our time on the water.

Have a good one,

-Marc

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‘What is the one thing you are looking forward to most?’

Wes, an employee at the Rocky Mountain House Historical Site, posed this question to me on the morning of our departure.  I didn’t hesitate with my response.  I grew up playing in the woods, swamping, hiking, camping, canoeing and exploring outside.   ‘Nature’ was my response. 

Moose, deer, ducks, wolves, geese, beavers, eagles, pelicans, bears and more have been spotted from our voyageur vessel thus far.  We have paddled past cliffs, fields, forests, rolling hills and prairie flats.  Everyday we wake from our tents to paddle the water and then set up our new life in the woods for the night.  And everyday I am so excited to fall asleep and do it all again tomorrow.    

Go play outside!

-Scott

Kindness from strangers…

Every few days we paddle through small towns, and sometimes we reach larger places where we stop for a break or to find some treats for the trip. We have been welcomed by some of the most friendly people I have ever met; I am amazed by the generosity and kindness they have shown us. I am so grateful that we have taken the time to stop, talk, and get to know people who are interested in our journey. You may have read about Uncle Bob and his ranch. I enjoyed getting to know the locals of this small town and was humbled by the gifts they offered us. Yesterday we spent the afternoon in North Battleford where we met a couple that were so excited about our trip, that they rounded up the family to see us off down the river. We also met a lady who ran a non-profit business in the community and offered us a ride down to the water, since it was a long walk into town.

These incredible people have made my personal highlight reel for the beginning of our trip. I am excited to continue experiencing unique communities, sharing stories and creating memories with fascinating people. 

Miss you guys!

-Hollye

Cheers to the Doing

After two weeks of paddling, everything is going smoothly, and happening fast.

Planning an expedition of this nature required and still requires a tremendous amount of logistics. Route, resupply, equipment, safety, fundraising, sponsors, and media require attention. Marc spoke to this previously as the “Adventure leading up to the Adventure”. After such a long planning and anticipation time leading up to our departure, it is the most satisfying feeling to be paddling our canoe with the present company. I am constantly in awe of the landscape, the weather, the wildlife, the people, and our crew. We are off to a strong start and getting stronger. Now having started the adventure, I am grateful to be in the ‘doing’ phase.

Enjoy the Outdoors,

-Peter

The Grill From Heaven

Three days ago we left our grill at a campsite. As far as gear goes, it wasn’t the worst thing to lose. It’s not quite the same as misplacing all the tent pegs or accidentally leaving Marc behind, but having a grill definitely makes cooking a lot more enjoyable.

As we pulled into North Battleford yesterday, getting a new grill was high on our list. But where do you buy a camp grill in a small town you’ve never been to before? Come to think of it, where does anybody buy a camp grill? They’re always just around when you need them. No one ever seems to remember actually buying one.

So it was no surprise that amongst Battleford’s stores and markets we couldn’t find one. Later, as we were heading back to the river, I was standing on a downtown street corner trying to remember which way to go when I looked down at my feet and, no word of a lie, I was standing right on top of a grill. This has never happened before - I have never in my life found a camp grill on a street corner. It doesn’t belong there, it belongs on a campsite.

Yet here was the exact item we needed, lying on a street corner at the exact time we needed it. I’m not sure who to thank or how to repay this favour, or even the astronomical odds of something like this happening, but we’ll all paddle on while luck is on our side and hopefully things will just keep going our way.

-James

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oh, alberta

Having crossed our first province off the list, it seems appropriate to reflect a little on the Wild Rose Country.

Alberta first and foremost is beautiful. It has the dramatic Rocky Mountains, the green rolling foothills, and expansive prairie farmland all packaged as the Canadian wild west.

The North Saskatchewan River, with its winding path, steep clay cliffs and clear mountain waters, slowed and widened after Edmonton. The cliffs gradually diminished making way for green hills and farmland. It's muddy banks were filled with wild life, particularly bird life. It was after Edmonton that we were tried with our first batch of weather, damp days and a persistent five day headwind that was determined to prevent us from leaving the province. All good practice for the rest of the four months.

We had incredible hosts from the staff at Alberta Pioneer Ranch Camp in RMH, and enthusiastic support from our launch at the RMH National Historic site. We had a stay at Shalom Park and learned a little about water skiing. Edmonton was a joy of a city that we all agreed to make a return visit. The residents of Duvernay were welcoming and the Wally's in the town of Elk Point left us in good spirits.

Our first 11 days in Alberta was our training trip. Our warm up. The current was in our favour as was the weather for the most part. We were able to find our roles in both canoe life and site life,  as six people figured out each others tripping style and came together as a unit. We're still working on efficient mornings.

Alberta was a great start to our journey. Since we were so excited to actually begin, Alberta seemed to be over before we knew it. But oh Alberta, you are magnificent.