After 85 days and 3100 km paddled, the Canadian Odyssey is now through Canada’s midway point – Thunder Bay - and onto Lake Superior. After over a month spent in the company of 6 great friends, Michael is back to being alone on the world’s biggest lake.
From Winnipeg, Michael was joined by Bob Salmond and changed from kayak to canoe. They put the boat in Lake of the Woods in Kenora, ON. Except for being shore bound for 2 days, it was enchanting and exciting –particularly the 13 km crossing from the last island in the Lake to the mouth of the Rainy River. It was the longest crossing between points of land Michael had ever done! Bob Salmond was a great partner, immersing himself in navigation and decision-making. His easy-going nature filled the time with stories and general conviviality. Their time together ended in the town of Rainy River with the arrival of the two Bob R’s from Vancouver.
Michael and ‘the Bobs’ (Bob Rieder and Rebagliati) have been paddling mates for 5 years. In one canoe and one kayak, they readily got into socio-athletic mode, which created both success and enjoyment. They took on the beautiful but challenging ascent of 3 River systems: Manakan, Maligne, and Pickerel. Collectively, these rivers clear much of the water out of Quetico Provincial Park that ultimately flows to the Arctic Ocean ie. it is UPSTREAM! Without portages around several rapids, they had to get out and wade the boats up through rocks. They learned a lot, which Michael hopes will come in handy when he goes upstream again on the French River in early September.
In Michael’s words: “The portaging was often difficult and undeveloped but the two Bobs were always up to the challenge. I want to acknowledge that Bob Reb has a congenital problem with his feet which made the going even harder on him but he suffered stoically and never lost a beat”.
After getting to the top of the Savanne River flowing out Lac des Milles Lacs - the height of Land Portage over the Laurentian - Michael was met by Bill Climiewho helped him get to his home in Silver Islet on Lake Superior. Together with his brother Bob (an old Queen’s football teammate) and wife Leslie, they hosted over the weekend and helped him plan his next leg through Lake Superior. He greatly enjoyed his time with the Climies and once again feels fortunate to be the beneficiary of extraordinary generosity. Bill’s knowledge of Lake Superior was described as “priceless” and he joined Michael for 2 days on departure to navigate a complicated gap between Sibley and Black Peninsulas and on Lake Superior.
In Michael’s words: “The last 5 weeks went so fast and I felt a real sense of loss as the time came to a successful end. I got used to companionship of Jan, Bob Salmond, the 2 Bob R’s and the Climies. It was a real change to take on the trip on a solo basis again. I can’t say enough about the strong spiritual bond I forged with these men over this period. I am a lucky man for that alone, nevermind their great assistance in helping me to move along my travels.”
The stretch of territory through the Canadian Shield from the Winnipeg River though to Thunder Bay is acknowledged as being some of the best remote canoeing in the world. According to Michael, the lakes and rivers paddled were as beautiful and enchanting as any he has seen to date. As mentioned in Michael’s blog, this route was the equivalent of The Canadian Highway from 1802 to 1879. Now desolate, the paddlers repeatedly reflected on the irony of how many people once used this system to get across Canada. On one occasion, they encountered two lovely Americans (Bob and Virginia Knapp from St Louis) who were fishing at the terminus of the historic BARIL Portage. They were incredulous to believe that Canadians were not exalting in its existence and meaning.
Upon entering the Rainy River, Bob S and Michael stopped at a beach for lunch where they met a "very nice local family". They suggested they stop in to meet their sister who lives on the river about 6 miles upstream. They did.
Tom and Shirley Cressey were enjoying a casual afternoon when a couple of Santa Clause look-a-likes showed up in their backyard in a canoe....and ended inviting them in to spend the night and enjoy cold beer, barbequed steak and (of course, who doesn't have it lying around in case of drop-ins!) homemade rhubard pie.
"We were in heaven."
Michael is solo again and facing new challenges equal to Lake Winnipeg. Lake Superior is the biggest lake in the world and experiences Ocean-size swells, currents, boat traffic and high winds. He plans to take it on with fervour to finish on time but with a conservative view to risk. He has already shown his willingness to spend time on shore when conditions become dangerous. In the words of Bob Salmond, “I noticed that, although he has incredible vision and a desire for adventure, he is no fool. He doesn’t take any unnecessary chances and is very good at handling the canoe” He will do his best to stay close to shore and will look for safety in the (relatively) high volume of traffic on the Lake in the summer. He has asked that we pray for his continued good judgement and fortune.
Michael was interviewed and appeared on CBC in Winnipeg, stay tuned while we await the footage!
To date, we have raised $14,000, towards a goal of $50,000. Thank you to all who have donated! We rely on your support and are deeply touched by each and every contribution. No donation is too small!
How to Donate:
1) Secure on-line donations: click here. **100% of all on-line donations receive tax receipts.
2) Send a cheque, payable to:
Tides Canada - Strachan Hartley Foundation
468 Arbutus Ave, Duncan, BC, Canada, V9L 5X6
**Donations made by cash or cheque of $50 or more receive tax receipts
As before, Michael continues to update his daily progress on the SHLF website
This includes daily check-ins via his SPOT tracker, photos and media updates, and links to social media (Facebook and Twitter) which are being updated daily.