Wednesday, July 2, 2014

No Road to Churchill

Tomorrow we leave.  We will be paddling 1500km in 60 days.  My biggest challenge yet.

Someone once asked how I come up with this stuff.  I don't even know.
Voyageurs used to be paid more if they sing well.  That's a lifestyle I'm trying to reclaim!

I have been explaining this trip to people around the world for years already.  I knew I would have to be home to plan it, & now is the best time.  *(But the worst year.)

Matt's been here a week now - almost as much time as we'd travelled together in the past - & his bags are packed & ready.  He's stocked on snare wire, fishing hooks, bear spray & knives a-plenty.  His outdoor resourcefulness complements my addiction to maps nicely.  I snagged him during an off-the-cuff conversation about wild ideas & plans.  His lease is up in June & he was heading to Alaska for yet-to-be-determined adventure.
I suggested a detour.

His apparent constant elation at the prospect of this journey is motivating.  I had set dates to abort if we felt we were not prepared enough yet.  I would ask him periodically to let me know if a better commitment came up because finding a travelling partner with the same vision & priorities is next to impossible.  Matt only ever had his eviction date & our starting date circled on the calendar.

This is my baby.  It is under a microscope -no- a macroscope!  And people in Winnipeg know what this trip is.  They can feel the distance, the heat/cold, the bugs that are so bad even in the city, the history & the endless lakes.  They can ask the tough questions, which are the right questions.

Toughen up.  Normally I keep these things to myself, but this is the world my family is from & their acceptance needs to be earned.  I've been inviting questions to help round off all the edges.  I need help to think of all the angles.

As I talk to all the outdoor adventure/paddling/Northern Manitoban people in the province, I am getting the sense that we might be ready.  Their barrage of questions are answered.  Recently someone asked if I worked in the industry.  Paddling to Hudson Bay is fairly common (in the paddling world), but Paddle Manitoba has invited me to do a presentation of the trip when we finish, so ours must be unique.

Our trip does not go up the well-travelled Hayes River.  Instead, the Bigstone River is our highway to Gillam.  This is the point where we determine if we can make it at all.

On the North West arm of Stephens Lake, we must develop a route to Waskaiowaka Lake.  This is our golden ticket.  The rest of our trip has pieced together established canoe routes; this is the portion that I've designed.  The waterways in this area seem to exist, but their condition is unknown.  Depending on water levels, we could be looking at dry creeks, muskeg or navigable streams.  If we decide to turn back, Gillam is just there & has train access to Churchill....when the train is running.  (It has been shut down for at least the past month due to derailments.)

This is the kind of situation where I explain to Matt, "If we decide it's unnavigable..." he suggests "let's just do it."

Luckily for us, waters are stupidly high everywhere - at least down here in the South.  Hopefully it will make our portages shorter & design a path to Waskaiowaka.  There's a fishing lodge that's promised us cold beers there.

Manitoba has had some freakish weather to kick off the summer season.  The past two weekends were furious with squalls of rain & gusting wind.  The snow had just begun to melt by the time I knew there would be both unseasonally high & below average temperatures.  (I am no shaman.  It was easy to tell because there was still snow at the end of May.)

The weather has just turned & we're ready to go.  The forecast is for beauty for at least a week.  There is no stone for prep that's gone unturned.  All of the lists have been completed - A first!  We've double checked calories packed, forged & sealed contacts up North, flipped the canoe & drilled holes in her, cut up our precious maps & had farewell beers.  (It's been a trial.)  We've even packed toilet paper & called the folks back home.  Writing this is the final nail.

It's time.  We've never been more ready.

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