Ooohing and Ahhhing My Way Down the Winisk River
By: Joe McClean
I first heard about Keewaydin in 2010 when my wife and I were looking for a summer camp for our eldest daughter. Fast forward to the beginning of this year, my wife and three daughters had accumulated 16 years of Keewaydin canoe trips between them. My three daughters were looking forward to their Keewaydin summers, one as a first-time staff member and the other two their Bay and Section 3 trips. My wife was also looking forward to a reunion weekend with her section mates that she had been tripping with for the past two summers on the Missinaibi River. As for me, I was looking forward to another few days at Ojibway at Endseason. With this and my only real claim to canoeing fame being a trip with my mother-in-law along a portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, I always felt left out of the family Keewaydin conversations. I even felt a bit of a spare wheel at the Keewaydin recruiting events we had hosted over the years at our home.
So it was with this background and the enthusiastic encouragement of my wife and three daughters that I got the last spot on the Men’s Adult Trip of 2016. Once Bruce gave me the OK I eagerly waited for the trip details to be finalized and very quickly started to bombard my wife and daughters with questions about all things Keewaydin and canoe tripping. Much to their amusement, it became evident very quickly that all the talk I had heard over the years about tumps, rolling, wannigans, Dickies, trip/dry clothing etc. had gone over my head.
After promising my daughters that I would not embarrass them by questioning the Keewaydin Way (and a wry smile from my wife) I headed to North Bay to meet my section mates. From there we flew to the First Nation Settlement of Webequie where we put in on the Winisk River and paddled for two weeks, covering approximately 250 miles, ending up in Peawanuk, a few miles short of Hudson Bay.
My section mates were a diverse group with ages ranging from the late teens to early 70s. I was privileged to be with them and experience “the majestic, mysterious, mystical, magical Winisk River.” Together we all welcomed the outstanding weather, marveled at the array of birds, oooohed and ahhhhhed at the polar bear with her cubs, the list could go on and on. We all jumped in with both feet (metaphorically and literally) and immersed ourselves in the spectacular beauty and wilderness of Ontario. For two weeks we lived and for the most part loved the Keewaydin Way. (Some folks had questions about pot black and the wisdom of pot scrubbing after every meal.) Memories of these shared experiences will stay with me for a long time and I hope the friendships I made during these two weeks will last even longer.
Selfishly, I hold my own personal thoughts, memories, and experiences most dear.
Each night I would think about my three daughters who were, like me, at that same moment in time coming to the end of their day of paddling. It was beautiful to think I was somehow sharing the same moment with them. (Personal note to Anna, Kyra & Sadie: Telepathy works!).
Having completed my first and hopefully not last Keewaydin canoe trip I finally have a sense of why my daughters’ have wanted to do this for weeks on end, (rather than days like me), year in, year out since before they were teenagers. As a parent, being able to glimpse into my children’s world is a real gift. More precious is the sense of indescribable pride I have for my daughters now that I know what is involved in a Keewaydin wilderness canoe trip.
Thank you Keewaydin.
For more information about Adult Trips, please contact Bruce Ingersoll at [email protected] or 802-352-4247.