After four weeks of preparation which has included shipping all the winter gear to my cousin Derm in Winnipeg, finding maps, talking to local guides about the paddle route, filming and acquainting myself with the spirit of the largest fresh water lake in the world, and gathering all of the necessary gear for this long paddle, I am ready to leave the shores of Lake Superior in Gros Cap May 3rd if the conditions are safe to do so.
Much of the ice has melted and I have a friend, Johanna, coming to help me paddle the first few days. She is bringing me a dry suit to paddle in from White Squall (https://www.whitesquall.com/) who I also need to thank as these suits are prohibitively expensive and they made it affordable.
My basecamp in Northern Ontario as I have been doing all this prep came to me as so much has on this journey. I had just arrived in Sault Ste Marie, and googled where I might find the best espresso and ended up at a small cafe called Dish (http://dishespresso.com/about/). As I sat sipping my first of a few espresso’s, I started talking with some of the woman who worked there. I told them what I was up to and that I was looking for a small cabin in the forest where I could prep for the upcoming 2300km paddle and wait for the sheet ice to melt on Lake Superior. ” I know the perfect place” a woman named Kara said and she lit up like the sun. Minutes later I was talking to her Auntie Robin on the phone and soon after I found myself sitting in a sweet cabin in Goulais River at a place called the Bellevue Valley Lodge. http://www.bellevuevalleylodge.ca. Upon arriving there the first person I met was adventure travel journalist Conor Mihell (www.conormihell.com) who just so happens to guide for Naturally Superior Adventures ( https://www.naturallysuperior.com) and has written books about paddling on Lake Superior. I seriously could not have planned it better yet I hadn’t planned it all.
Traveling the longest trail in the world has required staying fluid; any sort of schedule or fixed arrangements would have crumbled because they would have been too rigid. And the more time I would have invested into the schedule and logistics ahead of time, the more rigid I would have been to sticking to them because I had worked “ so hard” on them. The most important attribute on this journey is being fluid and adapting to whatever unfolds.
Bellevue Valley Lodge is owned by Robin and Enn. I have no words or language to explain how close and connected I feel with these two warm, giving, amazing souls. I can only say as I write this, tears fill my eyes. And not because I am sad. Because of their kindness. They have been family for me as I have nested in their forest.
My next declaration of gratitude goes to Tim Millar and Nova Craft canoes ( www.novacraft.com) who gifted a canoe for the journey. Till this point I have borrowed canoes from local folk for the paddles but it would be hard to return a canoe after paddling 2300km away. So huge gratitude and a high five to all the beautiful kind folk at Nova Craft who with no questions or expectations have donated one of their canoes to this expedition. I went to their manufacturing facility in London Ontario with my friend and intern, Hannah Gerry, and had a lesson on how canoes are made. I am honored to paddle a canoe made in Canada and once I finish the paddle portions of this journey in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, I will gift the canoe to that community.
The next step after getting the canoe was to name the canoe. After sitting with it for a week I turned to the Sylliboy women. For those of you new to this journey, I was welcomed on the shores of Whycocomagh by Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy, and his wife Marie, daughter Duce and other community members as I finished a 40 day paddle of the Bras Dor Lake in Cape Bretton back in the fall of 2015. The name that came forward was Kwimu, which means loon in Mi’kmaq, so that I may always float on the water easily. Thank you Michelle and Duce Sylliboy.
And lastly I have just received a grant from the Royal Canadian Geographic society for this 2300km portion of the Trans Canada Trail. This is a childhood dream come true. The seed for this journey was planted into my imagination when I was ten years old. The first book I read was the story of The Hobbit and after that thirsted for tales of peoples adventures. I am inspired by organizations like the RCGS who support expeditions, not for profit, but to feed the spirit of exploration. It is in this spirit and as a student of the old way that I paddle on.
Blessed be everybody