Words: Jen Hanson | Photos: Hank Devos
Epic. There is no word that describes the adventures of the 2013 Extended Canoe Trip better.
I’ve been on a few canoe trips in my day. I’ve paddled a good portion of Algonquin’s Lakes, I’ve portaged through Killarney’s corridors, I’ve guided my way down the French river. I once had a dream to trip in every park in Canada and have put a fairly good dent into Ontario’s parks. Temagami, however, was one place that I’d yet to venture in to. Last Spring, while the CIM Team was gearing up for its usual summer of non-stop action, we contemplated what was realistic to fit into our schedules. In 2012 we debuted the Extended Canoe Trip as an option for folks who were looking to push their limits in the wilderness and to dig deeper into the interior than a weekend trip allows. The Annual Trip is no walk in the park, some folks are just looking for… more.
As anyone who has spent time in the CIM ‘office’ (oh…wait…) will realize, there is a fine line between the ‘real world’ and the ‘CIM dream world’ – a line that we are constantly trying to navigate as we let our minds wander to the very edges of achievable (from every perspective you could imagine – time management, financial, the actual physical limitations of our bodies and minds…) This past spring, we had to ask ourselves whether the Extended Canoe Trip was something that we could pull off – Were there enough people who could take off a full week of work to join us? Would people want to spend their vacation with us? Could we actually handle the logistics of a week-long interior adventure among our growing commitments of the summer?
All it took was a look at my map pile (yes, I have a pile of maps – someday they will become a drawer of maps, or a neatly folded stack of maps, but for now, they remain a pile) and to see the corner of my ‘never before used’ Temagami map peeking out to realize it. Without a doubt, the Extended Trip was going to happen. she sucked Luke’s shoe into the depths of her belly), Luke was freed and it was time for everyone else to take their turn. Not a single leg (or hand, arm or hip, for that matter) was left un-muddied. It took just over 90 minutes to battle our way through, but we came out in one piece (minus Sarah’s sandals which succumbed to the depths of Laura’s bog). We were greeted at the end of the portage by Laura Lake – an equally smelly swamp that did anything but welcome us to slip in for a rinse off. (Luckily, Laura Lake opened up soon and we were able to scrape off the sludge.) We went the entire day without seeing a single soul. Although it was an exhausting day (we dared not admit it, though – our hardest was still to come!) it was beautiful and peaceful. We may have made a few of our own portages (in fact, Hank portaged 3 of the 4 canoes himself through a Hank-Made trail to get us into Wessel Lake, our final resting point of the day – it must have been close to dinner time) but we survived the day and the seven portages it threw at us. We pulled into Wessel Lake amid a beautiful sunset (yes, it was 8:30pm) only to find that there was not one, but TWO other groups camped out on this tiny lake. We were forced to make our own campsite for the evening, ate a quick dinner and went straight to bed. We had to mentally prepare for Day 4. Although the portages were short, we had TWELVE of them to take on throughout the day. We awoke early (actually early, this time) and were at our first portage by 8am. Unfortunately, Amber, Sarah, Hank and I took a wrong turn and ended up taking our boats 400m in the wrong direction. We brushed off the feeling that it was a sign of things to come and pushed on. We had a choice on this day – we could take our originally planned route north through a highly recommended corridor of Temagami or we could cut out eight of our portages and over half of the days paddling to arrive at camp early. After a short discussion, every single tripper voted to take the longer, more epic route. That’s what we were here for, after all! We pushed on and really began to appreciate the ruggedness of the Temagami wilderness. Twelve hours on the waters saw us battle with missing trail markers, waterfalls, swimming holes, and natural waterslides. We carried our boats and packs around dried up river beds, precariously along the forest’s edge, and through log flumes. We rewarded ourselves with a slide down the area’s revered natural waterslide, only to find ourselves covered in slimy, black, worm-like water creatures (we, at first, thought they were thousands of leeches – I’m sure you can imagine how that went over…) We arrived – again, under a setting sun – to a wonderfully beautiful campsite and a clear sky. We ate pasta. We shared stories. We played music. We enjoyed the stars. We had had an intense, epic, extremely challenging day, but no one complained. Everyone was so proud of their accomplishments – each person had played an integral part in getting us through the day. We started Day 5 out with two short portages and a wonderful paddle across Donald Lake. We absolutely rocked the 1km portage (our longest yet!) into Kukagami and arrived at our campsite before noon. We enjoyed the day swimming, napping, collecting firewood, reading, telling stories, and reliving our adventures. Tomorrow our adventure would come to an end and although we were much looking forward to a warm shower and fresh fruit, I think each of us was a little reluctant to go to bed that evening.
We awoke to grey skies and strong winds. Headwinds. Our first of the trip. Today’s trip consisted of just one portage – 1.5km in length. Long – but we were pros by now (and our barrels were light!) We moved unbelievably slowly against the strong winds, covering in 3 hours what would have taken us 45 minutes to cover had the weather been on our side. Pulling into the bay where the portage was located, a friendly cottager came out to point us in the right (or so we/he thought) direction. Rain clouds had rolled in and we could hear thunder in the distance. Perfect timing to get off of the water! We were pleasantly surprised to see that the portage followed an old ATV trail! Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, each and every one of us missed a (likely unmarked) turnoff and our 1.5km portage was turned into a 4km adventure (involving more mud, gravel pits, and even some hitch hiking).
Needless to say, we were all overjoyed to reach our cars and pack up the packs and boats. I arrived home with more bruises, cuts, and scrapes than I could count. My muscles were sore (in fact, muscles that I didn’t even know I had were sore) and my feet ached. But I felt amazing. I felt proud of myself and every person on the trip. I actually missed portaging when I woke up at home on Tuesday morning (did I just say that?)
Diabetes became such second nature on the trip. So second nature that it was barely even mentioned in this blog. It was a commonality among the trippers. No need for explaining when someone needed to pull out a snack (which was often!) or took a break from paddling to test their blood. I recently came back from completing the Inca Trail Trek in Peru. Here, I was the only person with diabetes. Although the Inca Trail was nothing in comparison to the challenges we faced on this canoe trip, diabetes was so much more on my mind. As most of us do, I tried not to let it show when I was worried about a low or frustrated with a high. I just tried to push on. It was remarkable how much I DIDN’T feel that anxiety and frustration while on the Extended Canoe Trip. It gave me a new appreciation for the benefits of adventuring with other Type 1s.
Thank you to Tammy, Becky, Virtue, Sarah, Luke, Hank and Amber for joining in on the adventure and for the experiences you shared with us. You are epic.
Thank you to Hank for capturing our trip in pictures.
Thank you to Amber for volunteering her time with us and lending us her guiding expertise.
Thank you to Virtue for taking these words and putting them together in an amazing ‘prezi’. What’s that, you ask? Take a moment and check it out (either below or here)- you’ll feel like you were right there with us!