Sunday, June 3, 2012

Canoe Travel ...Recreation and Destination

 In May's posting of “Talking Waters” (2011), I wrote comments
about  Pierre Trudeau's  ... Nature-Love of  his canoe:

What sets a canoeing expedition apart,
is that it purifies you more rapidly
and inescapably than any other travel.
                             Travel 1000 miles by train and you are a brute.
                       Pedal 500 miles on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeious.
                       Paddle 100 miles in a canoe and you are already a child of Nature!

When my son was  young, he spent a couple summers taking “Learn to Canoe”
Classes through the Recreation Department...held at our city's waterfront facility. 
In later years, he developed a greater passion for golf and skiing.

Today, the opportunities for paddling are innumerable:  canoes and kayaks,
 Sculls and dragon boats...which take centre-stage in many summer time
 water events in our vicinity. High Schools have rowing teams and competitions
 to improve their skills. St. Catharines has a major water facility that attracts
not only local and provincial level rowers, but also those of world-class distinction.

The “Summer Olympics” in London, England this year is a prime example of the
great interest in these sporting challenges.  From Southern Ontario, we have
competitors in various disciplines of paddling and rowing.

Wilderness Awaits

Wilderness lands of Minnesota and Ontario ~ like the Superior National Forest,
Quetico Park, Wabakimi, Killarney and Algonquin National Parks ~ were formed
 years and years ago.  They waited ... as continents drifted, as glaciers
advanced and retreated, as the Canadian Shield was created, as early people
hunted and left their crypted paintings on billion-year-old-rocks.

These primitive and challenging lands now wait for those who would travel by
canoe. (From “” you can read about people who paddled
and portaged  through wilderness areas ~ places of discovery and adventure
~ places of challenging white water.
                     The awaited end result?  Pure Enjoyment and Exhilaration!

In Today's World...there are adventurers who, so engrossed in the pioneer days
when fur traders travelled the Canadian rivers by canoe, now challenge 
themselves in the  re-enactment of those long arduous tests 
of their willpower and strength.

Centennial Voyageur Canoe  Pageant (broadcast May 14, 1967)

Ten canoes plus 100 men racing over 3300 miles in 104 days equals one big
Centennial project.  It's Canada's 100th Birthday this year and this pageant is
 just one way people are celebrating the country's past and looking to its future. 
The CBC's Bill Guest hosts the network's live radio coverage of the pageant's
 launch on the North Saskatchewan River at Rocky Mountain House, Alberta
to Montreal, Quebec ... site of Canada's EXPO 67!

The competition, representing 8 provinces and 2 territories,, is tracing a route
Through rushing rivers, along windswept lakes and across gruelling portages. 
It's a way of  paying homage to the fur-trading-voyageurs and explorers who
opened up the country. Spectators in the hundreds, have turned out to watch
 the official start on a rainy day.

The  Manitoba team won the race after a gruelling effort.

Of Interest:  One of Manitoba's team members, Don Starkell had a difficult
childhood, an abusive father, spent 4 1/2 years in an orphanage and later
 with a foster family who introduced him (in his teens) to the Kildonan Canoe Club. 
When he was 17, he was named, “Most Outstanding Novice”.  He competed
 professionally as a canoeist winning 10 out of 12 races that he entered in 1967.

Further Interest:  A few years ago, an old yellowish-paged book came into my
 hands  about a Winnipeg resident, at age 50, who with his 2 sons, in 1980,
 set out upon  an epic canoe journey to the mouth of the Amazon River ~
Belem, Brazil.  The novel told of his many “trials and tribulations” along the route
...many difficulties encountered and peoples  he met. Eventually, he and one son accomplished their feat.  The book was excellent! 
I loaned it to a local bridge friend...and after a few months, asked her about it,
wanting its return. Unfortunately, she moved out of town...the book never
 seen again...LOST!

Now, in my research today, I discovered that it was Don Starkell, who set out
on this intended mission with his 2 sons...and approximately two years later,
succeeded.  AMAZING!  This, previously, I had not realized!

Paddle to the Amazon

On June 1, 1980, Don Starkell and his two sons, Dana and Jeff set out on this
epic journey never before attempted.  They followed the Red River out of
Winnipeg  to its  headwaters south of Fargo, South Dakota.  From there they
portaged to the Minnesota River, then entered the Mississippi River,
travelling to the Intracoastal Waterway at La Rosa in Louisiana. 
They followed the waterway south around the Gulf of Mexico to Veracruz,
where in November, they wintered for three months...repairing their canoe,
resting  and restocking of food and water.  (Jeff abandoned the adventure
and returned home.)

Don and Dana paddled along the coasts of Mexico and  Central America to
South America. On October 14, 1981 they made land at Port of Spain, Trinidad
...recuperating there for 6 weeks.
On New Year's Day, 1982 they set off and three days later, crossed the
Columbus Channel to Venezuela. Over 2 months, they travelled the Orinoco River
(where a long distance upriver is Angel Falls, on a tributary to the Orinoco)
then into the Rio Negro, and joining the Amazon River at Manaus, Brazil.
Here the river flowed downstream to the mouth of the Amazon at Belam, Brazil
on the Atlantic coast. The date was May 2, 1982.

In 1986, the names of Don Starkell and Dana Starkell,
were entered into the Guinness Book of World Records
for having completed the longest canoe journey ever...
a distance of 12,161 miles.

A newscast, January 30, 2012:
Don Starkell passed away at age 79.

Across Canada by Water

“Team Trans CanEAUda” Completes a 4300 Mile Epic

It was snowing, the temperature well below freezing and the Arctic waterways
 Turning to ice when 6 friends  finished a cross-Canada canoe journey on
October 14, 2011  in Inavik, North West Territory on the Mackenzie River. 
They were 6 college or university students (ranging in age from 22 to 24 and
Yebo, a husky-lab mutt) who started their expedition nearly 6 months earlier
 in Ottawa and paddled over 4300 miles across 4 provinces and 1 territory. 
In the end they were spurred on to reach their final destination by the quick
onset of winter.

“The cold is a great motivator,” stated one student.

Team CanEAUda spent over a year planning this summer-long odyssey
across Canada in name of watershed and wilderness preservation and in
support of the nongovernmental environmental organization, Canada  Parks
and Wilderness Society and Ottawa Riverkeeper.

With 6 weeks to go, the team pored over maps and realized they must push
their already planned  8 to 9 hour paddling days  by a few additional hours. 
They pushed aside the hardships of bone-chilling cold temperatures, waning
daylight hours and 4 cumulative months of exhaustion.

They woke at 5 am and often didn't pull off the water until 7 pm, well after
the fall of darkness.  With the assistance of the Mackenzie's steady current,
they put in regular 55 to 70-mile-days.

“We are all happy.  The novelty of paddling in the snow was fascinating
 after 4 or 5 months of spruce trees.  But all spent the last 2 weeks yearning
 for a warm fireplace.  No one really regretted getting off the water
 on October 14, 2011,” quoted another student.


Readers ~ You may feel as I did when assembling this material...
  Overwhelmed?  And with many questions?
What inner spirit drives these adventurers to such extremes?
                            Is it their deep passion for canoeing?
                            Is it the strong desire to explore and to map uncharted rivers
                            and lakes?
                            Is it the challenge of team-work to accomplish the above?
                            Is it like Mt. Everest?  It's there to do!  Its there to achieve!

These Canoe Quotes by Authors may appease your thoughts:

What the camel is to desert tribes, what the horse is to the Arab,
what the ship is to the colonizing Briton,
what all modern means of locomotion are to the civilized world today,
that and more than that,
the canoe was to the Indian who lived beside
the innumerable waterways of Canada!
(William Wood)

Take everything as it comes;
the wave passes; deal with the next one.
(Tom Thomson)

Anyone who says they like portaging
is either a liar or crazy.
(Bill Mason)

Everyone must believe in something.
I believe I'll go canoeing.
(Henry David Thoreau)

A true Canadian is one who can
make love in a canoe without it tipping.
(Pierre Trudeau)

Anyone can make love in a canoe;
it's a Canadian who knows enough
to take out the centre thwart!
(Philip Chester)


“Pearl of Wisdom”
SUCCESS:  In order to Succeed
We must first  Believe
that We Can!
(Michael Korda)

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written January 23, 2012
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