Open Water Trips

Adventures in Open Water in Small Boats

To The End of the RIver: A Trip Report - Part 2

I opted to walk back since the kind woman who offered to drive me back was not there yet. As I walked along the main road back to camp, I was warmly greeted by families out for pleasure walks. I watched children scramble around the town playing games and shouting out loud at each other just I had done when I was their age. I felt very much at home walking back to camp and thought that I would love to live in such a village if I could find a way to earn a living. Just before I reached my camp two young girls stopped to ask me about my kayak and trip. They asked me if I was ever scared at times. I replied that I was just a little scared at times but that I had confidence in what I was doing. I told them that because I was a big strong man I was able to figure out what to do when things got bad. They looked at me with large googly eyes while they smiled at my description of myself. Sid drove up and I raced over to the camp to load my stuff onto the back of his truck. For a second time, I found wonderful luck when a major portage was needed. I hoped my luck would continue.

I launched early in the morning before anyone at Cumberland House was awake. From there on, I was eager to reach Cedar Lake. The river here is very similar to the river in the Edmonton region less the deep valley found in Edmonton. In fact, the river rarely changed character once I was beyond Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The one difference that I started to notice in the Cumberland Lake region was the increasing presence of bogs along the shores and beyond. Marsh birds became ever present. Terns became my constant companions. Tall yellow fenegue grasses, reaching heights of almost 8 feet lined the shore in some places. I knew I was getting close to Cedar Lake. I met and spoke with local fishermen often enough. While floating along we chatted about the river, Cedar Lake and my journey. I was warned once again about a man who attempted to cross Cedar Lake in a 12 foot fishing boat during 2007: he never made it. He was found drowned. Apparently, he attempted the crossing without a life jacket. I always kept mine handy on top of the deck, just in case, and used it any time I was unsure of conditions.

About three hours before I set up camp for the night, I met a group of hunters led by a Metis guide. They had just arrived at their campsite and were setting up tents and equipment. They hollered across the river and invited me to stop for a beer, an offer I could not turn down. They spotted me earlier working my way downstream and said that they were impressed with how far I had come. We introduced ourselves to each other, but I cannot remember their names and did not record them on my voice recorder. They demanded that I drink their beer and told me to put my can of Guinness down. I obeyed instantly. They peppered me with questions about the kayak and the journey. They couldn’t fathom how I could survive in the wilderness for such a long time with such a skinny little boat. I explained where all my gear and provisions were stowed. Once done, they understood me well. After an hour of visiting I had to leave to carry on with the trip. I wanted to reach the entry to Cedar Lake by nightfall. They insisted that I take a spare can of beer with me for the road: I did not refuse the offer. They informed me that if I paddled far enough, there was a ranger station with three rangers staying the night there on the last big island before Cedar Lake. The guide was sure they would let me camp on the nice lawn if I made it that far. I made every effort to track down the station.

One hour before nightfall I found myself at what I thought was the ranger station. I spotted a young man standing on a dock smoking a cigarette. He spotted me and waited while I raced with powerful strokes across the river to meet up with him. I greeted him well and asked if he could offer up a patch of grass for me to camp on. He offered me better. A whole crew of students came out to see what the commotion was and invited me up to the kitchen tent. There were seven graduate students in all, doing a variety of studies at the Summerberry Marsh, a conservation project sponsored by Ducks Unlimited. They were pumped to have a visitor as interesting as I was because of my long river journey. Apparently they were kind of bored with each other so I was a refreshing break in the routine for them. We plied each other with stories of their research and my river adventures. One of the boys was lusting after a Guinness when I confessed to carrying a small stock with me. I went to the kayak and brought one for him. They all had a share. I also plied them pemmican since none of them had ever tasted it before but had heard of it. We chatted until almost midnight then the crowd started to thin. One student had to get up at 0400h and offered to wake me. I told him that was too early for me and that I had a nice internal clock that woke me up at 0500h each morning. That said, we all turned in for the night. I was offered a hot shower and a bunkhouse to use for the night. It wasn’t mosquito proof so I set up my tent without the fly inside the house.