A friend and I recently finished a 1,750-kilometre canoe trip from Yellowknife to the Arctic Ocean, with the latter half of the trip being a source-to-sea descent of the challenging Back River.
It was a “push-trip,” travelling an average of 50 kilometres per day through all sorts of weather and water to achieve our goal.
We moved for 10 hours per day, every day, across the big lakes, gruelling portages and whitewater rapids of the barren grounds. It was an all-consuming and immersive experience (which you will be able to read about in the Spring 2019 issue of Explore).
When it ended, I was still compulsively wired to keep moving at a frenetic pace through the wilderness. It’s not something that leaves me very easily. So instead of coming to an immediate full-stop from tripping, I tacked on a weeklong canoe trip in Ontario’s fabled Temagami region with some friends. The trip was like a space station air lock—a transition from the rarefied air of an out-there Arctic expedition back into the normalcy and comfort of our societal mothership.
Along with friends Brie, Steve and my partner Shannon, we set off the week after Labour Day for the Wolf Lake area, not far from Sudbury. The lakes and rivers were still warm but visitors to canoe country (including the mosquitoes) had all fled after the high season of summer. Touches of red in the maples and fringes of yellow in the birches hinted that autumn wasn’t far off.
We paddled just enough every day to feel like we were still on a canoe trip, but would stop mid-afternoon to linger in camp. That’s right, we lingered. It might be normal for most, but for me it’s somewhat of a revelation.
Lingering was such a luxury after 35 days of furious movement in an often bitter Arctic climate. Temagami seemed like an extended spa session compared to the Back River. Strip naked and go for a swim to that island? Check. Have a nap in a bed of moss under a warm sun? Oh yeah. Sip afternoon coffee alongside a rousing round of Yahtzee? Uh huh. How about some leisurely bass fishing? Giddy-up.
The rhythm of moving in a relaxed state through one of canoe tripping’s crown jewels softened the edges of my Arctic trip. It allowed me to breathe, unwind and contemplate. Perspective is everything.
Had I not done the Arctic trip, Temagami would not have been as sweet. The hard trip complemented the easy trip.
One would not have been as good without the other. My relaxed September canoe trip with friends was the perfect Chill Pill.