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  Mike Haider's writeup
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Mike Haider's Writeup


So you want to be a voyageur?

I can't recall when the notion first struck! Maybe it was on one of those well-intentioned non-urgent trips about the house in search of something or another only to arrive somewhere bewildered and mystified as to where or why. A definite senior moment. The first CPP cheque arrives this month. At some point I realized I should record some of the 'goings on' with this endeavour for no other reason than to better embellish future story telling and for 'bragging rights'. This is what makes those macho types tick for sure.

The idea for a wilderness canoeing adventure of this significance (at least in my protected world) originated from a broadcast e-mail to the Gonzo crowd, looking for interested parties, from Gordon W., stage name Gimp. I know some of the original bandits from some recreational noon hour running/jogging and one-time hiking of Mount Washington and thereabouts. My motto at the time, "The beaten trail is fit for beaten men." Gimp was trying to organize a trip down the Hayes and had roughed out some sketchy information, including a tentative budget, and a warning that this was not for the weak at heart. He did say "seriously interested and able to paddle beaucoup des heures." Hard to measure but winter swimming and gym should do the trick I thought.

Anyway, I tentatively stuck my hand up thinking the odds are good to great that I would flunk Gimp's credit and character screening. There was also the issue of even numbers for canoeing purposes and lots of time and reasons for bailing (as in backing out). Here it is towards the end of May, the flights are booked and I'm in too deep, if only for prides sake.

There's been a flourish of activity in the gear planning and acquisition, and in the attempts at gaining some basic canoeing skills. Bernie Levy's 'beginner flat-water' course in Gordon's back yard was a blast! Including the mid May dip. Keji's holiday weekend trip was wet and wonderful. But we've heard about that.

My thoughts to date have been of a roller coaster/merry-go-round nature. Friends and wife Suzanne have for the most part asked; "Why would you ever do that to yourself." The best encouragement being, "That would be great for about three days." The most thought provoking; "How do you get the booze in?" Little do they know, this is the 21-day substitute program!

What I really lack is the canoe skills. At this particular point my tendency is to freeze somewhere between thought and appropriate reaction. However I'm banking on Gordon's strategy that suggests typically on this type of venture one pairs the worst with the best. I'm feeling pretty good about the other half of my team (whomever that might be). I'm just along for the ride as they say. Another concern is the tent and tenting arrangement. The twenty-year old unit that we shared in Keji looked like a soggy Kleenex on damp days. One can only imagine, say, three days of a typical NS steady crosswind downpour with no place to go in beautiful downtown Northern Manitoba. And what about the fragrance of three unkempt men in closed quarters? Too late! Nothing I can do. Suzanne has put the 'bite' so to speak on any more gear spending.

Looks like the group of seven is fixed, wielding three canoes and a kayak. The plan is to rotate in the kayak. Good luck with that you other 6 folks. The odd-number, bailout-exit strategy dashed with one splash of Gimp's innovative crisis management genius.

June 13th/05

'Time's a- closing in'

It's getting close. Halfway thru June and still no wiser in canoe skills. I watched all the videos (the master Mr. Bill Mason) but I'm smart enough to know that's something akin to watching the golf channel 7 days a week and wondering why your game isn't improving. John and I missed a chance for a paddle on Saturday, the recreational component of the "Canoe To The Sea" race. How much fun versus hard work would that have been?

Got an email from Neil Mackenzie, our partner in crime from across the pond. Seems I'm not the only novice. He's doing his part to gain some confidence/experience and by the sounds of it is somewhat apprehensive as well. My worst fear! There might be a weaker link. I have to maintain my standing in the pecking order to ensure the good pairing. Sounds like we're going into this thing with 3 rookies, 2 flat water canoe/kayak experts with some white water experience and 2 white water/flat water canoe/kayak experts.

Neil is feeling left out. I assured him it was only because of the distance separating the participants. We haven't been getting together locally or regularly as a group, and questions are being answered via email and phone as we go along. Besides, anyone who can do the AT doesn't have anything to learn except canoe skills. I reinforce with Gordon how exceptionally well Neil is progressing with his canoe skills, and strongly encourage Neil keep up the good work and keep Gimp advised.

I'm now vacillating between being excited and scared. The winter program is wearing off and I'm down to some little bike rides and occasional jog. What the hell, we'll toughen up as we go along. I'm definitely in trouble! Marilyn advised me the other day at a chance meeting, where I'm looking relaxed and soft over a coffee, that John has a personal trainer and is working out at Nubody's seven days a week.


We're on the way!

I'm sitting in the St John airport at 3:10 pm. I thought I could kill a few minutes of a 2 hr wait by scribbling a few notes on the back of my useless e-mail flight itinerary. It's been almost 10 years since I've set foot in an airport. My how things have changed. A nice little hop (25 min) on a Beechcraft propeller job seating no more than 20, between Halifax and St. John. The landing was somewhat peculiar and scary, a sudden twisting motion to the right on touchdown. Another reason never to participate in the air miles (Aeroplan) thing again.

The last couple of days have seemed to drag on. Not enough to do and too much time to rehash the packing. Correction, plenty to do but no desire, and every time I revisit the packing I seem to add something else. Suzanne advised me last night that the thermos was absolutely the last purchase. 'Me thinks she's getting a little cranky'!

The large hockey duffle bag originally thought to accommodate everything for the flight has grown to be (weight wise) unmanageable, and now Alex's smaller hockey bag is commissioned as well. Food is heavy. We'll thank ourselves for forwarding the right proportions to Oxford House.


My first journal entry

I'm delayed in Montreal, but the boys meet me in Winnipeg anyway, and we motor to Gordon's sister's place taking command of the house. So much for the good planning! The option to forward some food and shed the subsequent weight is gone. We didn't allow sufficient lead-time.

The hospitality at Maddie's and husband Ray is remarkable. I'm here for Friday and Saturday night. These folks are absolutely unflappable. I have never experienced such a sincere warm welcome of 6 (7 minus 1, I'm assuming Gordon is not a stranger; strange, but not a stranger) total strangers. Some folks have been here less than one hour and already have their feet on the den coffee table with no sign of shame. We're into Ray's booze already.

This is the first time 'on the road' that I am taking the time to make an official entry in my so-called journal ($1.00 hard cover at the dollar store) versus the back of worthless scraps of paper (my Aeroplan email flight itinerary again, it's at least 5, 8x11's long). It's rather difficult to write with tired limbs and no place comfortable to sit etc. etc. On Saturday a little shopping took place for/with Neil who had not yet bought groceries. Neil's full trip food compliment: two nutritional and nineteen junk food days. Heretofore after referred to as 'Sweet Thing', which has absolutely nothing to do with his good looks or disposition.

Nothing to do at this point but rethink and repack over and over in the mind.

Barbecued hamburgers for supper Saturday night! Gimp at the helm and of course he burnt the burgers, but they were on the grill and in the bun in record time.

What a monstrous thunderstorm late Saturday; Jul30th/05. A lot of spectacular lightning, coupled with a great sheets of rain. I had trouble sleeping with the humidity, stickiness, anticipation and all (my recurring nightmare, the Kleenex tent).

We're on the road Sunday Jul31st/05 at about 2:00 pm. with the arrival of Katie fresh from the airport. Dave (our driver for eight hours and partner in the outfitting company) gets us to Norway House without incident, albeit with a mother and cub black bear sighting along the last stretch of gravel road to Norway House. The cub and mom were very non-threatening and lethargic at least it seemed from within the safe confines of the van. It isn't hard to understand why individuals are lulled into a sense of well being in the presence of these fellows. "Let's give the cute little fellows something to eat."

Aug.1st/05 Monday morning and the trip-starting pictures are taken at Norway House. We now backtrack to Seal Island Bridge where we put in. A casualty already, the kayak has lost one of its' storage hold covers. Duct tape to the rescue. I read somewhere that the only thing duct tape is no good for is ductwork. Odd! All that bouncing for 8 hours on the trailer I guess. Dave gives us some left over army rations (contents unknown) from a previous group outing. He's off and we're in. Two great weather days (beautiful sunshine) on the water and the uphill stretch prior to reaching the Hayes. Gordon is collecting the details on stops and mileage for the days and I think I can fit the pieces together later.


My second and last journal entry

I promised myself that I would not allow this to happen. I knew from the get go that this discipline would escape me. It's the creeping, thin edge of the wedge, chronic lazy man's thing. This is actually character strength, knowing one's limitations.

I'm on the train on the way home an hour beyond Thompson Manitoba and this is the second time I've managed lifting the pencil. Lying awake unable to sleep this night even with the rhythmic train rocking motion, I thought there must be a way to write about this adventure beyond a chronological detailing of every start and stop, sight, sighting, portage, rapid etc. Just like the old days at work. Asleep at the helm, missed the point of the entire exercise and now it's expense sheet and justification time. So much for fitting the pieces in later! This means I'll have to find something vague to write about that will ease my conscience.

People will undoubtedly ask; "How did you enjoy your trip?" Candidly and prior to the trip, I said I'd probably sum it up by saying; "It's something I'm glad I did, but I'll probably never do it again." I stand by that now, but it sure doesn't embellish or make for good reading, let alone justify the expense or effort.

John Cameron asked a great question of himself (out loud) somewhere along the way and undoubtedly after a drenching; "Why am I making this trip?" His response, that his reasons were not good enough, caused me to wonder the same (not out loud). I think I was captured by the fear of missing another opportunity (for all the fun purported by those adventurous guy/gals that do these excursions) coupled with the fact that it might be my last chance.

I took some pictures with my waterproof, disposable and cheap, 27 shot, dispensable camera and they're just what one would expect. Cheap, dispensable snap shots, of no great significance/magnificence, the start, some in-between and the end. Not really worth the pain of scanning and attaching, although I may get ambitious. However, as intended, these will undoubtedly resurface later somewhere in the clutter around the house and if the mind still responds, will stir up some good memories. As usual I took the lazy man's approach and relied on the notion that someone would probably bring some good gear, take some quality pictures including yours truly (an oxymoron) and digitally share. In this case Katie's on the hook, and I was after all, instrumental in fetching her camera from the drink. Katie, in my fantasies, will affectionately be known as the "Camera-Touting, White-Water-Cowgirl come Goddess who shepherded me thru the northern extremities of Manitoba.

The Trip

In hindsight, in general

The trip was a blast, about what was envisaged; much toil, some lulls, some disappointments, some chills, some spills, some consternation, some joy, some learning and 'some good' as we say in N.S. The company was great, the weather co-operative, the belly for the most part full, the sleep sound and the luck good. No thoughts along the way on pending car repairs, unpaid bills or unattended work around the hacienda. Simply get up, get fed, get packed, get oriented, get going, keep up with Gimp and handle what presents itself along the way.

The true pleasures: the direction clear, the task straightforward, and the pace feverish at times but manageable, and little time but for the job at hand. The hard work rewarded with small pleasures like a few pages from a good book, a snug sleeping bag, a hot drink (non alcoholic damn!) and the secure feeling of a warm fire when necessary, as time permitted and absolutely with no plastics burning. Minga's explicit orders! Her Royal Highness, better this aka than to be forever known as Plastic Woman, had spoken!

I have to come clean. There was a campfire somewhere along the way and I threw a homeless and seemingly harmless morning Porridge wrapper into the flames. It looked innocent enough from the outside, but guess how they 'keep-em' waterproof; plastic lining cleverly disguised on the inside. The instantaneous growl from inside HRM's tent the minute the wrapper wrinkled: " Who's burning plastic"? How did she know that? I didn't fess up, thought she might blame Gimp. He'd been caught before, and besides, who messes with someone who can beat you in arm wrestling? In retrospect, maybe just maybe this is why she grabbed that branch that spun us around.

Repetitive motion and excursion for me bring serenity. White water piques adrenaline. Progress is real; one can wallow in the accomplishment. Hardships with decent weather are minor. Wet feet, scrapes, itches, dirty fingernails, bugs, hard slugging, relentless packing and unpacking of bags and canoes and the chill of the spill go with the territory.

Fourteen days on the water covering some 600 plus route kilos and 9 topo maps and one is bound to encounter all the water travel elements.

... The tame

The clear, tame and up-water canal like, beaver dam infested waters of the Echimamish River. The high water conditions were a blessing here. Only one or two on the dams required getting out and hauling over. Note: plastic bladed paddles break easy when trying to bully one's way (the lazy man's approach once again) over the beaver dams. The pain is in carrying a useless aluminium handle for 500 more kilos. I could have burnt a wooden one with HRM's permission. This speaks to the wisdom of bringing a spare or two or three. Up-river thru Hairy Lake to Painted rock portage: a mere 10 metres. We didn't even have to unload the canoes.

Early, early morning on a very calm mirror like Oxford Lake knowing it's just a matter of time.

The last couple of days beyond Whitemud Falls, downhill and swift, success eminent, with the wind at our backs and the sun shining for the most part. We even managed to hit the outgoing tide when we entered The Bay's influence reach at river's end. Good planning Gimp or outhouse luck?

... The physical

The physical excursion of the long-haul lake paddling of significant bodies of water like the Robinson, the Windy, the Opiminegoka and the Oxford with heavy wind conditions, front, back and sideways (not all together of course but we encountered them all). Fortunately, lady luck was with us. I would say on average the winds were more behind and across than directly against, but formidable and challenging in any case.

... The mental

A safety lesson learned and the proverbial wake-up call about group consensus and pre-planning the route while staying within shouting distance when the whitecaps can be seen in the distance. You know it can only get worse and you should have a 'get out of Dodge and regroup' plan. Anyway, the water was warm and the bumps insignificant. Fortunately someone noticed that there were a couple of MIAs over the Opiminegoka crossing. Lady luck was with us.

... The cheating

We cheated and got a lift across Knee Lake. Good decision, pretty hefty pesos. Don't forget your warm clothing and wet gear for this excursion; about one and three quarter hours in the 3-sport fishing boats powered at full throttle by 30 hp Mercs. I know we could have managed the paddle, but there was no value-add in the exercise and we were looking at least two and one half days minimum, weather cooperating. Lazy man's approach once again, good news, it's starting to rub off on the group.

The prepared hot freebie meal at the Knee Lodge staff dining room and the change in scenery prior to the lift were morale boosters for sure. Great hospitality and an impressive set up for the rich avid fisherman. I counted 20 lodges, 30 boats and 3 pontoon bush planes. We made a pact, at least the majority, well at least the two of us in the conversation, that should lady luck bless one of us with a cash windfall we would treat the group to a weeks fishing at the Lodge. Hasn't happened yet. You can't be lucky at love and expect money too. How's your love life Gimp?

... The humbling

When the Knee Lake Resort Guides put us off at the other end of the lake, I managed to give a mighty tug on an unsecured canoe atop a slippery aluminium boat and went ass over teakettle (slam dunk) in the drink. Nothing hurt but the pride. I can only imagine what the Guides thought about our chances of success after having witnessed this, and half the group frozen and chattering from lack of adequate clothing for the crossing. You'd think some bright camper would have twigged to the fact that these guys were wearing heavy canvas parkas, mitts and toques prior to lift off.

Good advice from the lodge staff and guides: "The water's significantly higher and voluminous, be prepared for many portages and don't do anything stupid. A couple (man and wife) just got rescued after 12 days isolation just up river." I can only hope that this guy didn't do the 'nothing to it honey' sales pitch prior to their outing! Can you imagine the 12 days of bonding under these circumstances? We witnessed one-half of their canoe vertically planted as a memento to, or as shelter during their ordeal. Likewise: the fallen tree that might have triggered their misfortune. This speaks to the wisdom of the satellite phone and strength in numbers.

A group hug regurgitating the lessons learned to date and how to incorporate them in our go forward strategy for the white water, and we're off with rekindled enthusiasm not without a dash of anxiety at least from my perspective, having never done this before and knowing you're the weak link.

... The white water (or in the water dunkings)

Let me count the ways. The ways one can be dumped.

One: Beaching the canoe on the rocky shore of Lake Opiminegoka in high winds and waves. This was voluntary, but against all good advice, 'common dog' and wisdom. I think we already mentioned this one and can only chalk this up to stupidity.

Two: Yanking the canoe off the boat after the lift across Knee Lake. This doesn't really count as white water or indeed canoeing, strictly stupidity. As mentioned the native Guides were sensitive enough not to snicker.

Three: John and I sideways over the one-half metre drop, somewhere prior to the real white water, with everyone yelling "straighten up". Straighten up to what? I thought they were talking about John's posture. Find out later it had to do with squaring the canoe to the drop, parallel to water flow. Too late! Good lesson for next time. I think this counts as ignorance, somewhat different than sheer stupidity. What ever happened to the best with the worst pairings? This is the same pair that had to be rescued by the ladies in the white water of the Spryfield pool at the grand finale of Bernie's spring training camp.

Four: With Gimp and I on the rescue, strenuously paddling upstream in search of the occupants after corralling their spilled canoe and scattered gear which we beached for a later downstream retrieval. We round the little land jut/protrusion in fast water. I leaned 'hard in' upfront as Gordon was yelling from the stern: "don't lean in". Ignorance again! Lost my fishing gear and the group's topographical maps at this moment. The Maps were of little consequence as we were already past the big bodies of water where detail was required/convenient. Besides, we still had the GPS unit and the fishing gear was cheap and old. Didn't really want to clean those ugly Pike anyway. There went the best with the worst, stay dry pairing theory.

Five: Backwards, in the stern watching Minga's horror/delight (?) in the bow as she let go of the branch, and over the metre drop we go. A fun and frantic, 200 meter plus, in the water, on your back, looking over your shoulder for the canoe trip with everyone yelling "get out of the way of the 80 lb canoe filled with a ton of water" like you have some hope of managing that situation. A well executed dump if there is such a thing. Gear all in one neatly tied retrievable bundle but not tied to the canoe. I'm giving Minga credit for both the well-organized gear and the (premeditated?) dump on this occasion. Katie managed to retrieve my empty partial plate container (frozen rubber hockey injury) bobbling in tamer waters below the rapids and present this to me in front of the whole group at drying time. I can't imagine where this came from or how she spotted it. I must have been in a rush that morning and put it in a pocket or something. Alas my Northern Goddess and the rest of the world now know I'm damaged goods and not completely whole. Maybe this belongs under humbling.

In all of these a change of clothing was required, if not a fire and hot chocolate to dry out and take care of the chills, all the while relishing the rehash of the ride.

... The food

My meals were really not very imaginative or creative even though some thought was given to this upfront. With the guideline of one manageable pack plus a day-bag per person for ease of portaging, weight restriction and bulk became paramount really quick. I did manage to achieve this for 21 days of food albeit the large Dry pack was pretty damn heavy. In the preliminary planning stages, Suzanne & I experimented with vacuum packing, homemade nutritional snacks, lunch alternatives etc. We explored things like reducing bulk of boxed Kraft diner by eliminating the packaging and vacuum sealing the contents. One has to be careful here not to vacuum seal too tight as the macaroni sharp edges pierce the plastic wrap. We tried beans out of the can and vacuum sealed. The beans were still too heavy and I was leery of the mess should the seal be broken. We found out that vacuum sealing does not replace canning or the need to refrigerate goods that need refrigeration. There went the pepperoni. Beyond the pre-packaged rice's, noodles, canned meat/fish the only creative efforts were: pre-packaged bannock (vacuum sealed, just add water enough for two). I found that while boiling water for my Sidekicks I used the frying pan of my mess kit as a cover for the water pot with the bannock mix inside. This kind of pre cooked the mix and when the water boiled I put the frying pan directly on the heat. This helped avoid burning the bannock given the pernickety low heat/simmer control of the Whisperlite. This routine also required a flipper. John had one. John had everything in fact, if only he could find it! Suzanne's chocolate plus peanuts++, her fruit extraordinaire and oatcakes vacuum-sealed in snack packs stored and packaged and packed well.

Although in pretty rugged packaging, the constant compressing and packing and pushing and prodding took its' toll on the look of the mainstay of my grub, the Quaker porridge, the Sidekicks and the hot chocolate. They all looked pretty flimsy at day 14. I'm not sure what another couple of days or another soaking or two would have done. I had put the food items in garbage bags inside the main dry bag. I probably would put the food in a dry bag within the dry bag as I did with sleeping gear and clothes if I had to do it again.

One highlight of the food was the gratis, last minute army rations dished out by Dave at the put in. Remember those? They turned out to be king-sized, sugarcoated jujubes, purportedly with sufficient nutritional value for the day, and complete with, I suspect; Chinese or Korean translated usage instructions. You know the type, like the odd assembly instructions you get with your Canadian Tire barbecue. Only in Canada!

... The gear

Footwear was a real concern. I was too cheap to buy river sandals. I would do that next time. Normal sandals snagged in the underbrush on portages etc. with anything sharp or dirty ending up under your toe nails. The portage lengths and terrain were such that hiking boots were not required. How would you keep them dry anyway and who could stand the aggravation of changing back and forth? The river sandals combined with quick dry socks, wool socks, neoprene socks or bare feet depending on conditions, and a pair of sneakers would have been suffice. Tim and Minga may still swear by their rubber boots. My sneakers hit the dumpster in Gillam. What is it about sneakers that stay wet for any length of time?

Short pants turned out to be a nuisance. Too much skin exposed to potential scrapes, sunburn and flies. Also I believe the zipper off type require more drying time because of the extra material and stitching, again more nuisance than worth. Just another do, undo, keep track of, something else to go wrong irritant!

I forgot my toque but probably only needed it once or twice.

Pills bottles are not waterproof. I wouldn't have, and didn't think of that, but perhaps the good doc should have mentioned this. Is this just cause for litigation Katie? A couple of days in and I had one massive 'good for whatever ails ya', colourful piece of solid chalk-like consistency, powerful medication. I didn't really need this stuff anyway and besides there weren't too many 'right moments' to miss. What was I thinking?

The Superstore waterproof day bag stitching didn't hold up. Thanks goodness for 'Packman' John's two massive rolls of duck tape. I think John had visions of completely cocooning a broken canoe and erecting a two-story log shelter (with trim) in event of an emergency. Who knows, it could have happened. Did I mention that John came absolutely prepared for any eventuality and armed with Marilyn's 200-page document entitled: "John Boy's On The Road Daily Survival And Wilderness Medical Tips." Behind every good man there's a good woman. Such a pity she wasn't there to help with the portages.

Remember to keep your gear organized, together and bound to itself but not the canoe, before the first spill.

... The portages

We encountered all shapes and sizes. The relatively easy but the longest Robinson portage was the site of tram ruins from York boat days. This was about 1.5 kilos long with good footing and obviously heavily travelled. However, there was altogether too much human sign about for what should have been pristine. I'm betting that a lot of folks came here fishing in its' hey day. The only worthy sign was the bear track and droppings. Generally speaking I could say this (human evidence) about the whole route. Hopefully we didn't leave our mark.

The toughest was the virgin one we literally forged along the charred bank on the wrong side of the river. We suspect we could have avoided the dead and burnt windfall under footing, and the waist deep in water canoe lining had we exited on the other side. Nobody made haste to back track and check it out.

I believe this was the only occasion that we completely missed the mark. This is not to suggest that there weren't some pretty ugly easy to find portages.

... The campsites

We weren't hard done by. Our days were never really cut short or over extended as a result of not being able to find at least a suitable one. Can't say for sure if this was good luck or good management. I'm sure someone will take credit. I think Hap's hand drawn maps did the trick, coupled with the orienteering expertise of those who paid attention.

The most memorable for me were the Oxford Lake beach site and the old Camp along the Echinamish. One could have spent a comfortable day or two at these spots without tripping on each other. Perhaps we could have fished a little more in earnest.

I will always wonder had we ever encountered gale force winds how the various tents would fare given that there was precious little in the way of securing lines or loose rock for ballast. I guess the gear inside would have done the deed. I believe with all my heart that our unit (at least the fly) would have been airborne despite the gear. It simply had that fly away look.

So much for the notion of elevating the food cache for bear proofing! There weren't sufficient or able enough tree limbs handy the campsites along the entire route that would have stood that weight, let alone anyone in the group with the patience to perform this arduous task.

... The lies & myths

Nobody purposely burnt plastic.
Knee Lake was a tough, tough go.
Gimp only lost one hat and was considered excess baggage without his glasses and maps.
Gimp is a lousy negotiator.
Tim picked the worst campsite, a 45 degree riverbank 6 in. bog.
Tim can't carry two canoes at once with HRM in one, up a steep incline carrying her pack.
Tim does woman's work because he castrated himself rear mounting a canoe in haste after skinny-dipping (Echimamish).
Minga can't get up before 8:00 am.
Tim's cranky without coffee, correction, before making Minga's coffee.
John forgot something and/or actually packed for himself.
John regrets not investing in a waterproof gun case.
Marilyn will eventually figure out a way to get the rust off the 30-30 Classic Vintage Winchester for John. Granddad's flipping in the grave.
Scottish culture, eat dessert before indulging in dessert before savouring after-dinner mints.
Sweet Thing enjoys a wee Winnipeg style, Polish-sized bit of Scotch (8 oz water glass full) before 10am.
Neil hid and didn't share in excess of 5 army super jujube rations.
Titanium parts slow you down and disorient your compass.
Gimp knows anything about pairings.
Tim was a gold rush days pack mule before reincarnation and sentenced to purgatory with Minga
Hairless-chested men are further up the evolutionary ladder and smarter than their hairy counterparts.
Women prefer hairless chests
Neil is not long 'out of the trees'.
Katie leads a sheltered life.
Katie overdresses for motorboat crossings.
Minga would have caught more fish had she tied her own knots.
Katie missed a day without a shower.
Mike is barred from 100% of the restaurants in Gillam.
Katie would rather sleep with a Polar bear than in the same room with Gord, John and Mike.
Mike's good at Hearts and afraid of playing cards with Minga.
Minga's never played strip poker for money. How does that work?
Mike was awarded the sterling trophy for most dunkinks, counting the unfortunate slippery footing incident.

... Quotes or understatements of the trip

"I'm thinking of getting a new tent"- Guess who?
"This take off (on the mud water filled pot holed runway) will be a little rough but don't panic until you hear me scream"- Pilot.
"Why am I making this trip"-To see how much gear you can carry? - Packman
"These are bloody good" - The jujube bandit
"Sometimes I think I only get invited to carry gear"-The mule
"And to keep me comfy, and toasty and content, so mush big boy" - HRM
"I'm a little rusty in the canoe" (shortly after dumping Minga) - Katie Kayak
"Who left that damn phone on and killed the battery" - Guess who? - Who else had their hands on it dimwit?
"I'm back" - The weak link.

... Most frustrating times

Threading the tent poles, and unthreading the tent poles and thr.....
Unpacking and repacking at Goose Inn for the early last minute plane ride out.
Disassembling the canoes at the end of the journey with lousy tools and rusty, stripped hardware, rushed for time thinking this is all that lies between us, and the Plane ride out.
Waiting 40 minutes in the cold rain, on the so called York Factory Runway strip (ATV trail at best), watching Katie turn blue, thinking he won't be able to land, and we're back in the damn boats heading towards cold pork chops and unpacking.

... The reward

One York Factory Branded Canadian Tire Paddle.

... The end

Woody A. is credited with saying: "80% of success is showing up".
Lance A. is credited with saying: "Pain is temporary, quitting is permanent".
Mike says: "The remaining 20 % is PURE, the memories indelible-THANKS FOR THE RIDE"!

Mike Haider

  Mike Haider's writeup
  Daily Log (called into Helga by Sat phone)

The Daily Log (called into Helga by Sat phone)
Day One

30 degrees, sunny, a slight breeze and no mosquitoes left the hardy group of 7 feeling pretty good after day 1. Total distance travelled 70 km.

Upon their arrival at Norway House Sunday late evening, the van was met by two bears. A mummy and a young one, who kindly broke up their visits, so as to greet the group twice. They paddled down the Nelson til it met the Echimamish River - where they paddled upstream for 35 km. Tomorrow is a 35 km paddle to the Hayes, at which point they will be going downstream.

Stat phone worked well, Gord came in clear as a bell when he came in - I kept losing him - is that becuse the earth is moving? The satelite is moving?

Minga has a river name - HRH (her royal highness). More names to follow?

Day Two

Another hot day on the river! Temperature about 35 degrees with a strong headwind. The group are still making their way upstream to the Hayes, with about 12km to go. The river is mostly narrow with lots of marsh on either side.

They passed 5 beaver dams and saw two otters romping in the water. Now that Neil has learned to paddle the kayak, he has become quite attached to it.

They stopped paddling around 4:30 pm and pulled up by an old cabin that looks to be used by fur trapers. All is well, and they did mention that they are enjoying lots of unsuccessful fishing!

Tomorrow they face a small, 50m portage. Then its downstream all the way to the Bay!

Day Three

What a nail bitter of an evening - it seems that setting up camp and getting dinner started are more of a priority than calling home. At 10:45 last night, as panic was beginning to set in, the phone FINALLY rang. What happened to our arrangement that he would call home around 9pm....but I digress.

Temperature 28-30 Sunny. Wind behind them and they're heading down river. Distance paddled - 42 km. Did Painted Stone Portage - not 50m more like 10m - did not even unpack the canoes, but dragged them through the grass. Continued 14 kms across Robinson Lake, completed 1 mile portage on to the Hayes River. They are camped on Logan Lake, which is really just a widening of the Hayes.

Wildlife a tad scarce today - spotted many bald eagles along the route, but that was it. Stays light til about 10:30 and the sun is up around 4:45am. What a long day! True to what is said about the blue skies of the prairies that go on forever. Spirits good. They get to sleep in tomorrow as they paddled til 7:30pm. Minga, HRH is delighted!

Day Four

Well, today got exciting as the group met up with 4 sets of rapids. They ran three and the other portaged the other. All stayed dry with the exception of kayaker Neil, but apparently the smile on his face was enough to let eyerone know that he enjoyed every minute of the ride and soaking.

The wind in the afternoon was so strong as to create 2-3 waves on Opiminegoka Lake, so they rested on the shore til after supper when the wind died down. Gord called just before they headed out for a 5 km paddle to a campsite. He is learning that waiting to call around 11 is just not good enough!

Wildlife included more otters and bald eagles, and a dead pike skeleton with such wicked teeth it was agreed that no one wants to catch one! Spirits good. If they get their 5 more kms in this evening, they will have travelled 32 kms in total today.

Day Five

Another great day in the wilds of Manitoba - temperature around 30 sunny, with some cloudy periods. Distance padled 38 km, 1/2 way across Oxford Lake. This is a large lake and fortunately there was no wind which made the crossing a delight. Tomorrow they will head out early in hopes of avoiding possible wind. Plan to be in Oxford House for lunch and sit down to a meal not out of a package.

There were another 4 sets of rapids, 3 of which they ran and the fourth garnered a portage. The girls, Gonzo and HRH have been trading off in the kayak. Note, the ladies went through the rapids with no incidents! Go girls go!!

Lots of eagles spyed today and also a float plane coming and going - Gord think perhaps it was bringing fishermen in. They also saw a float plane yesterday. Again all seemed to be in good spirits. 5 days down....but whose counting?!

Day Six

Total 35 km Weather - sunny (I think) but with a strong wind

Today they started out early, 6:20 am, to cross Oxford Lake on their way to the Indian Reservation of Oxford House and signs of civilization. Around 10ish, the winds picked up producing 3' waves according to Gordon and 4' according to John Cameron (who told his wife he was scared). John also told his wife that he has seen signs of bear scat, but no bears. John has a gun, but Marilyn chuckled as she commented that he is likely to shoot himself in the footor worse, the ..... (Humour helps when you are sitting at home wondering if these guys are OK). They did manage to get to the lea (lee) side of the lake and avoided the worst of the wind and waves.

Arrived in Oxford House 1:30 and stayed about 3 hours. Found the residents to be very friendly. I believe it was here that they were told that there is the possibility that when they get to the fishing lodge on Knee Lake, they might be able to get a motor boat to take them to the end of the lake - a prospect that seems to be quite appealing. How the boat carries 3 canoes, 1 kayak and 7 guests is beyond me and brings up a rather interesting image in my mind. Perhpas it would take a couple of trips - we will see.

Gord commented they had done enough lake paddling and are ready for the river.

That's all for the day. Reception was very poor tonight. Those satellites must be moving around.

Day Seven

Day 7, Sunday August 7th

This was a quick call as Gord was using the satellite phone at the Knee Lake Fishing Resort. He had been trying to call home from his rented phone for an hour or so, but the phone kept cutting out. This is very unfortunate as after today they will be on the Hayes River with no other "civilization" in sight til York Factory. Gord figures as of tomorrow they will be about 10 days from York Factory. That could mean 10 days without contact as they work their way towards Hudson's Bay. Rather a nerve racking thought for those of us who wait. On a positive note, there are paddlers in front of them and they have met a group coming from Hudson's Bay traveling south. It seems there are people on the river system. Also, they see planes flying overhead every day. Weather was sun with clouds.

They traveled 35km today. It was raining when Gord was speaking with me, around 10pm. They ran 5 rapids today and carried once - over Trout Falls. At the base of the falls they fished off rocks in the sun for a couple of hours. No luck. It seems they are not destined to have fresh fish for supper. Good thing they didn't pay thousands of dollars for a wilderness fishing expedition! Tomorrow they are getting a ride to the end of Knee Lake when they will head downriver on the Hayes. From here on in it's river paddling, with some small "lakes", which are more or less a widening in the river. They appear to be moving at a fairly good clip. If Gord's calculations are correct the trip will take them 16 days. 16 days is what it took a fellow Gord spoke with in Winnipeg, who also shared his topo maps with Gord.

Day Eight

Day 8, Monday August 8th

Just a very quick call from Gord to say they had gone through a series of rapids and are now entering Swampy Lake. The battery on the Satellite phone has "one ticky" left, so I told him to call in two days. They are fine.

Day Nine & Ten

All is well with the adventureres. They have managed to paddle through and portage 34 rapids with 20 km to go to the end of the whitewater. There are a total of 45 rapids. Fun and games..... There are about 223kms left to travel. Phone was in and out. Good to know they are safe and Gord will try to call in another couple of days.

Day Eleven


Day Twelve

A quick call from the "rapid" man. They successfully ran the series of 45 rapids, with a few spills I understand, and believe they are about 20 kms past the last rapids and into the home streatch (couple hundred kms) of the Hayes River. Gord estimates that they did about 10kms per hour for about 1 1/2 hours today with the current helping them out quite nicely as they venture into Polar Bear country. They hope to make good time now, notwithstanding a headwind.

They will not call until they get to York Factory - perhaps by Monday or Tuesday if all goes well. Keep you fingers crossed that the white bears leave them alone.

Sign me, just about had enough, no finger nails Nancy.

Day Thirteen


Day Fourteen

The group are now about 50kms from York Factory. They are in good spirits and looking forward to the end of the journey. They hope to catch the train from Gillham to Winnipeg on Wednesday. (trains only run Monday, Wed and Fri) and arrive in the city Thurs am. Tomorrow, once they reach York Factory, they have some organizing to do including making arrangements with the plane to fly the boats out, and most importantly, get their paddles branded.

So far no polar bears. Katie (Gonzo) seems to have the same appreciation of bears as I do, sleeping nestled between 2 men for protection. Let's hope the final few kms speed safely by and each paddler reflects on the past couple of weeks and their awesome adventure. I am thankful it is just about over. They are not out of the woods yet!

Day Fifteen


Day Sixteen

August 15, Tuesday, also Day #16

Well they guys paddled into York Factory early this afternoon. It seems they got their business wrapped up and are actually in Gillham tonight. They will have a day to relax before they can get the train to Winnipeg Wed. Will arrive in Winnipeg Thurs am. I'm sure there will be many stories to share upon their return.

Cheers! Nancy "Taking one day at a time"