Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Voyageurs in my veins"

I was curious whether I'm the only one in living memory to have canoed the Qu'Appelle River, and it turns out I am not. I found this article "Voyageurs in my veins" by Jean-Philippe Bourgeois. He describes how in 1996 he and Alain Bourbeau canoed the estimated 3700 miles from Calgary to Montreal, taking the southern route. Alain had never slept in a tent before this trip.

This is a great, well-written article, and I enjoyed comparing their experiences with mine. For instance, the discovery of the Qu'Appelle:

At the top, I look east, and see no water. If the river's there, it's hiding down in the trees. So I climb down the far side of the dam, on the left side, where my map indicates the channel picks up. I see no water.

I look down at my feet. The Qu'Appelle is a drainage ditch, and empty.

I knew this was a possibility, but I honestly didn't think it would come to this.

-- Kevin Saff, from Little boy lost.

Atlases differed because of the dam which backs water up, the South-Saskatchewan either joined up with the Qu'Appelle or it didn't, leaving a huge gap. An earth dyke separates the two systems.

Alain, through a deviant lack of shared information from my part, did not share my anxiety. We paddled from Calgary to Winnipeg using the "Canadian Tire Road Guide to North-America". Page 112 failed to reveal where the anticipated link with the Qu'Appelle was.

Standing on top of the dyke, we peered into the horizon and saw nothing but a few cows, ankle deep in a mud puddle, the only water in sight.

--Jean-Philippe Bourgeois, from Voyageurs in my veins.

Their Qu'Appelle met this disappointing first impression more than mine did. For the first five days, they had to pull the canoe over the muddy river bottom, in water never exceeding four inches. Their photo of the Qu'Appelle is horrifying. I was so lucky to do this in a high water year.

The entire article is worth reading. Their experience in Ontario, which I never got to, sounded surprisingly similar to mine on the Mississippi.

1 comment:

John said...

Lucky enough not to have it been the Boneyard the full way!