Keele River Reflections

“Be safe. Be careful. Take care,” my friends’ words run through my mind.

I dig a wave’s crest and haul a J-stroke and stare down the next hay-bale. Foam laces its crest.

Since I was just a bump in my mom’s belly, I have canoe-tripped. My family paddles flat water. My parents love bird-watching, map-reading and packing my late grandfather’s musky, old, green canvas canoe packs that he used in the 1950s and 60s. We never really ran rapids, but contemplated swifts. We always packed lightly and followed my Poppa’s long-observed rules. It’s just who we are.

I moved out of my parents’ home. Since then, I have planned all my own trips. I married and moved to the bow seat and bought a house and sold the house and moved to Toronto and bought another house and watched my husband leave me and return and leave and return. And leave. I completed my masters degree and I changed jobs.

I also started canoeing rivers.

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Lessons Learned in a Canoe

I think it’s safe to say that my husband, Jamie and I are at the “Is that all there is?” phase of middle age. We are constantly busy with such things as work, kids, volunteer commitments, elderly parents, meetings, and socializing – but we struggle to find real meaning in all the commotion.

So as I was approaching my “big” mid-life birthday with a dream of touring the Tuscan Countryside, Jamie signed us up for a 2 week wilderness expedition with Canoe North Adventures. I suspect this is because it is something he had always wanted to do, so thought it would be the perfect birthday gift for me!

I considered the prospect of paddling the Keele River located in the Northwest Territories. Let’s see… paddle hard all day, no showers for 12 days, do our own cooking in some kind of soot-covered pot over a fire, lug around heavy gear, sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground in a tent surrounded by bugs and wild animals, with all the experience of a weekend or two paddling in Algonquin Park. How perfect does that sound??

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There’s Something in the Air Up There!

After paddling for several days, my pre-trip anxieties about being able to keep up with the other paddlers had pretty much disappeared down the whorls my paddle made at canoe-side. We were aided by the friendly current that meant that even when we stopped paddling and rested with all the canoes abreast and joined by paddles laid from canoe to canoe, we still continued down river at a fair pace. Being the least experienced paddler in the group of twelve women, I rather looked forward to the times when we just drifted along and found ways to share snacks and drinks across the bows of six canoes. Trail mix and red licorice are, to my mind, always  things of beauty, but in the cool, sweet air on the river and after a couple of hours of paddling, the appeal of nuts, seeds, and strawberry licorice rises to a whole new level.

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