Saturday, July 31, 2010


We've had a long couple of days getting here, but the weather has been exceptional-- blue skies and glassy, glassy lakes. Somehow we are exactly on track for kilometers for finishing the trip, but with no room for days off! We're having to paddle 35-40 km/day, which is a lot with the upstream travel and the big lakes, but everything is going so smoothly. We kind of have the attitude that we'll paddle as much as we can when the going is good, in case weather or other things hold us back...

The upstream travel has been interesting--fairly strong current on the Winnipeg River, but we're able to hop up eddies along the side of the river, where the current is either slowed significantly or even moving downstream. Using the eddies and ferrying across the current have allowed us to move pretty efficiently upstream. Having whitewater experience is helping us hugely!

After Dorothy Lake, the scenery has gotten beautiful--rocky shores and pine trees. The islands and channels of the Winnipeg River are exciting and not too hard to navigate through. We've enjoyed the challenge of the rapids and still have time to swim and even fish.

Tonight we're staying with friends in Kenora, and will get an early start on Lake of the Woods tomorrow. I'm extremely tired tonight, so this post will be short...there's lots I'm missing, but my couch is calling!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Arrival in Winnipeg...


Well, we spent all of Saturday on the train--it arrived in the Pas around 4 am and we got into Winnipeg around 5:30 pm. It was uneventful to say the least--lots of sleeping, reading and snacking. The Via Rail man was constantly rattling off the names of towns we were approaching or going through, most of which I'd never heard of before. There were fields and more fields.

I've been itching to get on the water, but I know this is the last real break until the end. There won't be any more major stops, just a few hours in Fort Frances in say good-bye to Erich, and to get Karl settled in.

After we got off the train in Winnipeg, we had to wait for our gear, and we ended up bucket-carrying the canoe down the escalator and through the train station. Probably the most interesting portage I've done yet!

We've had help from a really nice family, whose son picked us up from the station and will drive us to Powerview tomorrow. I can't wait!!

Take care,


Friday, July 23, 2010

Winnipeg tomorrow!

Hi again,

Erich and I will be catching the train early, early saturday morning (3:15) from the Pas, and it will get to Winnipeg at 4:45 that evening. At least that's what they tell us! I have a bit of experience with trains in Northern Ontario, and know the times can be loosey-goosey. We'll hope for the best! With a great deal of help behind the scenes, a place to stay in Winnipeg has been arranged as well as a ride to Powerview, on the Winnipeg River, on Sunday.

Our gear is stored right now with a nice family near the river, but as soon as the train station opens at 5 pm we'll start shuffling our gear over. That means a 4 block portage down the main street with our canoe. Leave it to the pair of us to turn heads doing something like that!

The second leg of the trip will begin in no time! After so long on the murky, silty North Saskatchewan, I've been dreaming about Ontario lakes, swimming and fishing. With 4 weeks of paddling left, I'm afraid we're on the downslope of the trip. Noooo.... I'm definitely not ready yet!

Erich might post again, but if he doesn't, we'll try to write from Winnipeg.

Bye for now,


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Paddling With Sister Again

It's been a pleasure. What a great time its been thus far! I can recall lying on my mattress the first night in the tent letting out an enormous sigh thinking, "This is better. This is where I want to be."

After a full day of airports and airplanes and figuring out how to meet up with my sister from Saskatoon to Prince Albert (Thank you Nicole!) it was great to leave all that behind. Things get a lot simpler when you are on the river. Oh sure, it's hard in some ways, but in others it's a lot easier. You wake up, find the blue barrel that has all those gluten-free yummie calories in it. Figure out what fuel will get us through the day, load up and paddle! Yep, thats what you do on a canoe trip. Put your paddle in and pull some water, and do it again and again. Its ridiculous to some, but to us it just makes sense.

We've got our systems dialed. We both like having a clean and efficient camp site. We're quick in the mornings (motivated by our tiny buzzing, biting neighbours) and then we're on the water. We crunch the numbers, stay found on the map while at the same time not being too consumed by distances and progress. The best part about doing something like this is just the process. Being in the moment. Every bend, every nook and cranny along the river bank offers some form of familiar uncertainty. Whether its man-made hunt camps or beavers launching themselves 2 meters off a river bank in front of you there's always something just around the next bend!

It's been cool to check out this part of Canada. Having spent time on outdoor trips in Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and the Yukon, the prairies (especially these northern sections) had never been on my radar. My thrill-filled trips come from white-capped mountains and white-capped rivers of the West and my peaceful ventures have always sprouted from the land of the lakes in Ontario. I feel almost proud of the fact that I am getting to experience the lesser sought after, North Saskatchewan River.

It's been different. At first there was clay, although by the sounds of it, I didn't have to deal with the brunt of it. Clay banks and thick willowy/aldery "schwack" along the shores are different from the eastern smooth rocks and spruce/fir forests which we are excited to get to. Closer to Prince Albert, the Sk river was full of mamal activity. It seemed to make sense that as the river turned into a marsh-like delta there wouldn't be as many wildlife sightings. The closer we got to Cumberland House, mosquitos and hunt camp care-takers seemed to be our only friends.

When our little blue tent is pitched on the shores of the only main watering source for elk, moose, cayote, deer, beavers and bears you can expect to hear and see lots of action. There were a few days where seeing 2 coyotes, 2 elk, a moose, and 8 white-tails were not uncommon. Floating by them in a canoe gives a better opportunity to be quiet and not scare them off. Of course, this meant at night it was a regular occurance to hear loud rustles and footsteps. On the 2nd night something pretty large in size came trampling right beside our tent. I can attest that every noise and I mean every noise always sounds bigger when you're lying down in your tent. I'm pretty sure this must of been an elk as we could feel the thudding of its foot steps. With hearts racing and just 30 min of sleep, we couldn't get back to sleep. I recall staying up for quite some time just chatting about anything and everything.

As we got into Muskeg territory we were happy to have paddled upon a beautiful hunt camp. It looked well maintained, with grass recently cut, I called up onto the river bank and the only one there to greet us was a gorgeous golden lab. We knew someone would be back and waited for just an hour before Nathan, a care-taker boated up from downstream. Having the kitchen there to boil water, and a lodge to get relief from the bugs was amazing. The photos and quality of this camp left an impact on both Kristina and I. Nathan, the care taker was very hospitable and we wish we could have stayed longer to meet the owners who seem to lead quite the ideallic outdoor lifestyle. Signing the guest book we learned that we were only 1 day behind a family who's doing a similar trip in a canoe. We had heard upstream from others, about this couple, with a 9 month old baby and their dog paddling in the same fashion as Kristina and I. I can only hope that one of the first acts this baby learns is how to swat a mosquito on his face.

Where we are from in Ontario people make reference to the bugs being bad. Now, I know black flies are a different breed and that bugs are bugs, but I have never experienced mosquitos like we did in muskeg land. I'm no biologist, but I can safely say that we went through Ground Zero. All mosquitos in the history of the earth must have migrated from, or orignially started in the marsh lands of the North Sasketchwan. One swat on my leg killed 16. I once took my head out from my bug net to lick a plastic knife that had peanut butter on it and I killed 2 mosquitos with my tongue against the utensil. Okay, okay, I know that there are tons of wet landscapes I have yet to travel and maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to trump this experience, but it was noteworthy to say the least! I thought about how all mammals experience bug stress. Those poor Elk have it worse then us! With the right clothes, closed shoes, a tent and managing your time it really isn't that bad. My only advice for anyone who ends up in the muskeg would be to never, at no time, relieve yourself in the bush. Doing your thing in the forest is a piece of cake compared to Ground Zero. Let me know if you find a way to hold it in for the 200km's it takes to get through it! The battle is 100% mental.

We are enjoying the rest here in the Pas. I have to take care of job applications and paperwork for the up-comming fall and winter seasons. It appears that there are numerous trippers and people in the Winnipeg paddling community who are reaching out to make the transition to our next leg easier. What goes around comes and around. Here's to being in Friendly Manitoba! Thank you Jay Morrison for the CPAWS contacts.

Thanks to all the friends and family for support. My time is running out on this paid internet card. No time for editing - apologies for typos and spelling errors.


Hello from the Pas!

Hi all,

Well, we made it here last night after a big day on the river! Erich really wants to write a post on here, so I won't say much. I'll let him say how his first 9 days on the trip have gone :) Here is a link to the article the Prince Albert Herald did about our trip. I'm not sure how long the link will stay current.

It's pretty accurate, except the distance covered will now be around 2500 km, and we're ended up in Minnesota, not Michigan.

There are some new pictures up!


Monday, July 19, 2010

ask us about the mosquitoes!

Settled in for the night south of Cumberland House in good spirits.
Spent a night at Big Eddy Camp and got a much-appreciated lift around the Tobin Lake damn from Gary Simon at Thunder Rapids Outfitting. Had a great time surfing huge waves across Tobin Lake, sailed a bit, and made it in what must be record time!
And yes, the mosquitoes are HORRENDOUS!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Next major stop, The Pas

July 16th.

Leaving Prince Albert Kristina and Erich were taken by surprise. When they went back to the house, where Kristina had left the canoe in PA, this couple had called the local paper ( I believe, The PA Herald) and a reporter came out and interviewed them and took some pictures. The story about them was printed the next day. That was a little bit of excitement for them and quite unexpected. Kristina said they are having long hot days on the river. Lots of elk, moose and cayotes. No more beaver stories as of yet. When they called they just finished their first portage around the dam in Nipawin. On the river they are averaging apprx. 6 - 7 km/hr, when it opens to the lake about 4 km/hr. They are hoping that the current will pick up again. Through a little research it appears the train they might have to take (to avoid Lake Winnipeg)from the Pas to Winnipeg will be on the 24th. That is only if they can't find a ride. Both Karl and Jay Morrison are trying to see what they can do about a ride. They are both anxious to head into some real wilderness soon.
Erich's comment to me on the phone was, "get up in the morning, paddle for 10 hours, eat, sleep and then start over again. How much better can life get" Life on the river sure sounds wonderful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back on the river...

We're heading out today, back on the river! 3 days was enough time in the big city of Price Albert, and I'm anxious to go again.

Erich got in from Saskatoon at 2:30 this morning, after an exciting string of delays and events...he started in Whitehorse, flew to Edmonton, got delayed in Calgary, the new plane got hit by lightening, more delays, and he finally hooked up with a contact I'd made in PA who happened to be on the same plane, and gave Erich a ride into PA. Whew! Life on the river is much simpler!

The next places of note are Tobin Lake, Nipawin and then the Pas. Take care, and we'll write again when we can!

kristina and erich

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I've finally gotten around to buying a card reader and found an internet cafe. I've uploaded a few pictures, but the computer is sloowwww, and the quality of the pictures is I think too high/large for this computer. I will try some more from the library tomorrow. Hopefully this will appease the family for now!

summer reading

As my mom mentioned below, I'm a big reader and seeking out bookstores is one of my favourite things, even in the middle of a canoe trip. I'm on my third book in three weeks, and needed a new one!

Before I left, someone recommened "The Pillars of The Earth," by Ken Follett. It's set around 1100 and I hated it at first. Thought it was the cheesiest historical fiction I'd ever read. I'm not usually into knights and battles and castles. But I gave it a chance. Soon I couldn't put it down! It honestly grabbed my imagination and sucked me right in-- I remember climbing a hill near a farm to try for cell reception, and having visions of knights appearing on horses over the hills. I accidentally used the word "latrine" in normal conversation one day, with Angela, and we had to laugh. I went to sleep thinking about monks and cathedrals and hangings... Anyways--all this to say that I found the sequel today, in Coles, and can't even wait to start reading!

Hello from PA

Hi everyone,

Well, it was a peaceful, enjoyable but uneventful haul from North Battleford to PA. It seems that river section is a bit more remote, with more wildlife, fewer farms, roads and people in general. It got hot and buggy!! I've taken to packing everything up in a hurry in the mornings, and getting on the water as fast as I can--and then stopping to eat breakfast on a sandbar when the bug-insanity dies down.

I had wandered into the "Fort Carlton Historic Park," because from the river it looked like it was just some interpretive plaques along a bush road. Then I came out of the bush and stumbled onto a whole complex of buildings and parking lot. Always strange when you think you're alone and civilization appears. The ladies were really nice, and let me tour the 'museum' without paying admission, and enjoy the air conditioned building. It was heaven.

The beavers are still dominating the river as far as wildlife. They never fail to startle me when they leap off the banks and into the water. Wow, are they big around here! So many I guess they are considered pests. The ladies at the museum said I was lucky to have seen otters--I guess there used to be a lot more than there are now. From my knowledge, beavers and otters don't like each other, so maybe the high beaver numbers have something to do with it.

Lots of elk starting to appear. I had a whole family (5) cross the river in front of me at one point. Unlike the bears, where it seemed like Angela and I getting too close may have scared one of the cubs into drifting away, I gave these guys lots of space.

Lots of coyotes still yipping away--I was paddling late the other night (it was around 7 I think), and there was a complete uproar on both sides of the river from two groups of coyotes. Howling, barking, nearly screaming...they were really agitated! It always sends shivers up my spine.

The winds are pretty predictable these days, coming up in the afternoon and sticking around for a few hours. It took me a bit longer than it should have to stop getting frustrated and figure out a system! As I am generally travelling east, and the wind generally from then north/northwest, it has a tendency to try and pin my boat to the south shore of the river. It takes all my power just to turn the boat east again and I feel like screaming when that happens. So (it's probably so obvious to everyone else!) that as soon as I sense the winds picking up, I have to tack and turn the boat facing north and hold the angle tight, paddling straight into the wind... if I lose that angle I won't get it back without a fight! The river is choked with islands around here, so I have to plan my course around the islands carefully when it gets like that, so I can I use the wind to my advantage.

The other day I made an under-wear sail. Well, sort of. I needed to wash out clothes, and it was a nice breezy day (but too windy to lay clothes on the deck to dry). So I took the rope that's attached to the front of the boat and ran it up on an angle to my spare paddle, which i propped up against the thwart in front of me. Voila--a clothes line in the canoe! Worked like a charm.

It's nice to rest and bask in the luxury of a hotel room here. Real food, a bath tub, internet...ahhh. I left my gear with a really nice couple near the river, and they lent me a bike to get around town! Lots of really nice, helpful people in PA.

Erich gets here monday night, so the solo part of my trip is done! I'm glad I took up the challenge and continued on alone, but I'll be glad to have Erich along. I'm hoping he'll be with me until Fort Frances, where Karl will take his place.

That's all for now! I'm going to try hard to get some pictures up soon.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Things are looking up

Today Kristina called us from Prince Albert. Sounds like she will have a couple of days rest in a comfy bed, explore the town a bit and do some final adjustments to the journey. Erich just finished his 35 day NOLS course and Monday will be on his way to meet Kristina in Prince Albert. We sensed a sigh of relief from Kristina when we told her that Erich was really excited to join her.
We will let Kristina tell the rest of the story. Just thought we would post this and let everyone know she will be in good company for the rest of this cross country paddling journey. These next few hundred kms. will be slightly different for the brother and sister team that a few years ago did their first trip together from Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park to Moon River, Georgian Bay. A couple of years and more experience will make a very big difference. Have fun you two.

Sabine and John

Monday, July 5, 2010

hello from north battleford!

Hi everyone,

Well, I made it to the big city, in one piece. Quite the welcome, actually--an angry deer stomping her feet and snorting at me on an island, beavers everywhere, a herd of panicky cows not happy that I was stuck in their slough, and some wild winds last night... lots of excitement. This morning I paddled into the city and stowed my gear up on a bank and hiked in. I'm at the library, and need to find a place to stay, a few groceries and little items. Phone calls home and to friends, a bath, and a restaurant meal! I haven't seen a soul in three days, or spoken to anyone, so it's nice to chat with people again.

I have to say, I do miss Angela and I hope she can get her back better. I can imagine how emotional it would be to be in her shoes. We had planned so much together, and had so much invested in the trip. It was extremely difficult to continue making plans and talk about going on solo, while she made plans to leave. We made excellent progress in those first 9 days, and got along great, in the boat and in camp. We had the same mindset about camp life and being clean and organized, and a desire to spend long hours on the water. Lots in common (even strange thoughts, like the night we camped beside some busy beavers and both fell asleep wondering if they'd find and chew our paddles up!)

I did have butterflies in my stomach when I paddled a way from Jay and Angela under the bridge. I had done a little bit of solo overnight canoe tripping, and lots of days puttering around solo in canoes and on hikes, but not with a big, heavy loaded boat and weeks of travel ahead of me.

Despite my worries, I put in a couple of extra hours on the water each day, and I've been able to make it between 50-70 km, which put me in North Battleford sooner than anticpated. I'm not finding the boat too hard to manage, as I initially worried I might. I do enjoy the days alone on the water, but it does get lonely in the evenings, when everything is packed away, dinner's eaten and it doesn't get dark till 10:30/11.

The river is changing down here--choked with islands and narrow channels, and it's harder to find campsites as the high water mark on the banks is sometimes 6 ft or so up. I've been lucky to find grassy spots on the banks to tuck in my tent, and sometimes a spot at the end of a farm road along the river.

I'm holding out hope I can meet up with my brother somewhere between Price Albert and the Pas, and paddle with him a while. Karl has cleared his schedule to spend the last week or so with me, through Ontario and to the end.

Somedays I feel really hopeful, and some days are frustratingly long... it's going to take some perseverance to keep the goal in sight, but I am excited and happy...

take care!!


Squashed Dreams

Hi All,

So I've been told by a few people now, that I should update on my status as I apparently have just "dropped off the face of the earth" according to our website. The reason for that being that obviously I am no longer paddling across Canada, therefore I am no longer a part of Kristina and Angela's Cross Canada Paddling Journey.

10 days. We had developed a schedule, tasted all of our food and tweaked our recipes. We'd developed roles within our two member team, and swapped both bow and stern multiple times. We covered 600km and had unlimited conversation. And it all ended so quickly.

I experienced a back injury earlier this winter that had me off skis and doing modified work at my job of Ski Patrol for six weeks. During which time I was seeing a chiropractor and physio working through a lot of rehab exercises. Our goal was continually on getting me fit and ready for this enourmous trip. I worked hard, and felt great. I even rafted through the month of May experiencing no issues. Therefore I had no reason to believe that going out on this canoe trip would give me any reason to doubt myself.

About 7 days in I started to feel stiff and sore, but continued to work on my stretches and exercises. I chalked it up to continuous days out on the water! We were paddling up to 10 hours a day, which is quite a bit to be sitting in a canoe. One morning, I felt good and decided to roll the canoe over by myself, not something I would uncommonly do. However, that morning, I felt something tweak in my back. Brushing it off as minor, I stretched out and climbed into the bow of the canoe. The pain only got worse as the day went on. I experienced the pain I felt originally upon injurying myself the first time. Lightning bolts of pain shot down my back with every paddle stroke, among other symptoms.

The hardest part about sitting in that canoe for 10 hours that day, was not the unbearable headwind that slowed us to 15km in 4 hours or the shooting pains. Nope, the hardest part was thinking about how to tell Kristina that I felt my trip may have just ended.

It was vaugly discussed, taking some rest days and seeing how I felt, but knowing my back and my past injury I knew that this was going to take more than a few days. Needless to say I felt like a failure, everything I had just planned for over 6 months just ended. I was devestated. It was really hard to watch Kristina make alternate plans, scrambling to find someone else to replace me while I waited for Jay to pick me up just north of Vermillion. I struggled with the concept that she was able to keep going and I was not.

The hardest part was when Jay and I dropped Kristina back off at the water. There were so many emotions involved. We could tell she was nervous, as she should be. She just took on an oversized canoe for just one person. But the hardest part was standing there as she paddled away.

However, I am now in Jasper, with an appointment for physio to re-open and re-evaluate my situation. I'm driving for rafting trips until I feel better enough and am giving the go ahead to possibly guide again. I am re-focusing. Trying not to dwell on what has happened, when I do, I get pretty upset. I'm still devestated about the events that played out.

At the moment I'm trying to figure out the good that can come from this situation. I need to focus on healing my back so that I can work again this winter and carry on with my plans for going back to school. I hope Kristina does well on her own, I'm not going to lie, I was pretty concerned about her even discussing the option to carry on by herself.

Anyway, I've gone on enough. I have not fallen off the face of the planet. But I am no longer apart of this journey, so I am refocusing my energy elsewhere. I do check spot everynow and then to check where she is. But the blog updates at this point are too much for me to handle. So good luck to Kristina and take care.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 13, all is well

Sittng by the campfire last night we got a phone call from Kristina. She sounded in pretty good spirits. It seems the North Saskatchewan River is treating her quite well. The last two days she made about 60 kms. each day. The river is being good to her and according to Karl he said the river is giving her a 3 km/hour boost. Paddling is easy and with long daylight hours she is spending a lot of time on the river. Not having a paddling partner at the moment is making the "camp time" a little boring. I'm sure with set up, cooking and a little rest and relaxtion, it doesn't leave too much time to be bored. The last two days she has not seen anyone at all. The beavers are keeping her company every now and then, but no other wild life in site.
Kristina thinks she is about 70 kms. from North Battleford, where Karl has shipped her next food package. She is looking forward to going into town, searching for the bus depot and hopefully finding a book store. The one book she took on this trip is almost done. If anyone knows Kristina, she is always reading. Unlike the voyageurs she is lucky to have food drops and an opportunity to go shop for a new book. Of course through this amazing modern technology we can keep everyone up to date.
One week from now we hope to hear from her brother Erich, and then we will see if he can join her for the remainder of the trip. Obviously she is still determined to get to Thunder Bay.
Next report should be coming from North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Sabine and John