Solo

Ted Solo

SOLO CANOE TRIPPING

Definition. A solo wilderness traveller using the canoe as his mode of transportation. Solotrippers spend at least one night in the bush and some have gone on trips lasting up to many months. Travelling lakes and rivers, portaging canoe and gear to get from one lake to another or to avoid rapids that could be dangerous. Usually they are completely autonomous but some extra long expeditions may require re-supplying by bush plane. When I started solotripping we only had maps and a compass as navigation aids. Route information was almost non-existent and difficult to obtain. Today most trippers have added a GPS device to their navigation kit and some soloists have also invested in safety devices such as PLB's and SPOT. Sometimes satellite phones are also used for both emergencies and bush plane "take out" info. While planning solo trips Google Earth can be used to assess portage conditions and/or the presence of loggers and new roads.


TRIP JOURNAL

Kekek River to Waswanipi via the Eagle River

Entry for Thursday, August 11th, 1977

Portage

The loons awoke me this morning just as the day was breaking. What a great sleep I had. Wish I could sleep like that at home. As promised by both the rising smoke from last evening's fire and a blazing sunset it was a grand day today.

I had wild blueberry pancakes for breakfast, cooked over an open fire. Brown sugar mixed with a little water made for a delicious syrup. Nothing tastes as good as this at home. The outdoors enhances all my senses. Had more "cakes" than usual, as I would need all those extra calories to meet the challenges of today's portages, especially if the next one is anything like the last one. The trappers and native peoples left this land many years ago and now no one keeps the portages open.

On this, my 11th day out, it's been 8 days since I’ve heard any forestry operations. Except for the first day, after getting off the train the previous night at the Kekek River Bridge, I have not seen another soul. Unless that bear I spooked on the canyon portage counts as a soul. The sight of me coming his way with the canoe on my shoulders must have terrified him, as his escape through the forest was quite noisy.

So peaceful out here, so easy to get lost in one's thoughts. Wonder how Nicole and the children are doing this morning. God, I love them so! Hope they understand my need to be alone out here so that the stresses of my work can be left behind and that my body and soul can rejuvenate. Being alone in the wilderness is truly a remedy for me.

Again I got an early start this morning. I've always been like that just in case the winds picked up before I had a chance to complete a grand portion of the miles I'd like to do that particular day. I have no idea what the low or high temperatures were today, maybe 40 to 60 degrees F. with the 60's being at about 2:00 in the afternoon. However the water feels quite warm for mid August. I do need a good wash. The water being so soft out here I don't even need soap if I swim around for a few minutes.

The paddling was easy today with only a slight quartering headwind out of the NW. I'm always amazed how this small wood canvas canoe is great to paddle. A little large at midship but kind of all right for me to paddle while sitting or kneeling further back of center. No wonder hunters like these canoes as they give off such a natural sound when the waves break against them.

Today's first portage was only fairly difficult to find. At least I figured from way out on the lake where it should be situated. I choose to look for it at the narrowest place as shown on the maps between this unnamed lake and the next one, a little to the East of the small feeder creek. From the water there was no sign of a portage. Thick alders were everywhere. I had to walk the shoreline in the water up to my waist for about 100 yards to the East. I then cut through the alders and went inland 10 yards and came back to the canoe walking parallel to the shoreline. Bingo, there it was! Moose had been using it and it was relatively open but not going completely down to either shoreline any more. I walked it both ways with the axe and opened up a landing area at one end and a "put in" at the other end. A few drags of the canoe and packs over old large dead falls and then some quick work with the axe on the more recent ones to remove branches. Two and a half hours later I was on the next "no name" lake.

It was too mucky for lunch at the "put in" so I paddled to a nearby small sandy beach and had a lunch of home made biscuits and soup. The fire was really hot, as I had found some dried beaver cuttings that I split with the axe. During lunch a cow (moose) came into the water nearby, looked me over but could not get my scent. She buried her head underwater and came up with vegetation dripping between her lips. Soon I noticed a calf on shore. He was grazing on the Labrador grass. The cow made me think of the bull moose that swam across the Kekek River in front of the canoe on my first day out. He also was very dark in color. The calf however was much lighter.

It was a long, relaxed and dreamy paddle to the second portage. It turned out to be as the topo map predicted, short and quite vertical, over an esker. It led up to one of the many small lakes that make up the headwaters of the Northern drainage system. From here on all rivers and creeks I would have to travel would be running in my favour. 13 more days to go at this rate and I should reach the Waswanipi Indian Reservation on the 24th of August. Great, I have enough food to last until at least to the 27th and Nicole only expects me back by the 30th.

For the last two days I started to notice the presence of Canada Geese and they were numerous on this last lake. The young were already quite big and they would start to migrate in 4 to 5 weeks. My presence did not bother them at all. I imagine that their eating frenzy to pack on the calories for their return to the South was more important to them than my presence.

I broke out of a daydream at about 4pm and started looking for a place to spend the night. 20 minutes later a beach appeared off to the West and I headed for it. It suited me fine. Got into a dry pair of socks and set up camp. Lots of blueberries nearby, moose and bear tracks in the sand and a bald eagle overhead trying to steal a fish away from an Osprey. Sure enough the Osprey panicked and dropped his lunch. The eagle dove down and almost caught it before it hit the water. He did manage to pick it up off the surface and soon disappeared into tall trees behind my camp site.

As I move North the trees are getting smaller and it's more work rounding up enough spruce boughs for bedding. Takes a while to get use to setting them down so that they are comfy, but man that smell is perfume to me. Besides I just hate lugging around an open foam mattress and it's waterproof cover. Too heavy and bulky and besides, the waterproof cover is too sweaty. No tent tonight, I'll just place the Egyptian cotton outer tent fly over my sleeping bag to keep the frost and/or dew off the sleeping bag. Can't wait to hit the sack, it's been a great but tiring day.

For supper tonight I had a complete Kraft diner to which I added a 1/2-cup of powdered milk for extra protein. You can't get me to touch this stuff at home but out here, yummy! Pushed it all down with more than a cup full of wild blueberries. Later I gathered another cupful for tomorrow's pancakes. I've been into blueberries every day now since I started out and my S--t is as dark as a bear's scat.

After supper I felt warm enough to go into the lake and clean up. It did not take long to get comfortable in the water and I managed to do enough swimming around to get most of the grit and smell off of me. I also scrubbed some underwear and socks in the lake water and they came out smelling nice and clean. Shook most of the water off my body and got into dry clothes. Dried my hair with one of my extra T-shirts. It will dry tomorrow spread out on top of the packs in the canoe.

Sitting around the fire tonight I am wondering if all is well and peaceful back home. What will that new Tandy computer sell for? How long will this area be as wild as it presently is? The loggers are coming and this place will change forever. As the fire burned out I slid into my sleeping bag and laid on my back looking through the entrance up at the sky to see the stars as total darkness covered the woods. Thinking about Nicole and the kids again, about how time flies by, what will tomorrow be like? Will I see otters again, swimming up to the canoe and chirping at me? I just can't keep my eyes open any more. Those 12 miles of paddling and the time spent portaging has tired me out in a healthy way. My belly is full of food and all is well out here in the middle of "no where". Time to put my pencil and pad away, blow out the candle/lantern and go to sleep. XX Nicole, Shawn and Kel.