Crashing Canoes & Making Memories
Only five minutes after departing my dad’s house in Owen Sound, Ontario, we unexpectedly found the bow of our canoe occupying the back seat of the car. It proudly sat there, like an uninvited eager golden lab, waiting, amongst 10 days worth of food and camping gear, for our next move. It was a start which was already promising to make this a memorable father and son canoe trip. All that was left to figure out, as we silently removed the canoe from the back window of the car, cleared the broken glass away, and reattached the trailer to the hitch, was for what the trip was going to be remembered for.
I am happy to report that the start was no Omen, just fodder for future storytelling. The rest of the trip rolled out in spectacular glory, bound together like one of the ‘Boy’s Own Annual’ that line my father’s bookshelves, complete with wilderness, wildlife, and characteristic heroics. We cheated the autumn days with swims in the river, heated from stolen summer days. We brought the wilderness to life as our travel by paddle strokes revealed, beavers slapping their tails from their lodges, eagles launching from their trees, and geese and ducks scattering from the reeds. We stared down a moose and her calf, that guarded the middle river, until our sweaty stench sent them running. We stealthily watched a black bear rumble through the shoreline oblivious of our vulnerable island based campsite.
The campfire cooking was often hooked from the well fed campsite creeks , and completed with fire baked sweet cinnamon buns. The only detour from dinner to dozing was to watch one more log burn on the fire, or to keep one’s’ eyes open for one more act from the northern lights sweeping across the sky. Our sleep came easy after 30 kms a day of canoeing and portaging. Heavy eyelids dropped to dreams suspended in the white noise of Thunderhouse Falls, or the sweeping silence of Canada’s great North. The trip did come to an end, concluded by hitching a ride on the rails of the Polar Bear Express as it retreated from the oncoming fall weather from Moosonee at James Bay to our rendez-vous with our vehicle 300 km South.
It was a stellar Northern Ontario canoe trip, but the river was more than a passageway, it was the source from which our stories could flow. We regaled in the old story standards: Baking Bras, Tundra Tom’ Flying Circus, and Lucky Canoe Lasso. We no doubt rehearsed a new one: Portaging Without A Hitch. What I know now is with these experiences together, my father and I have written a classic together, and there are more chapters to come.
I invite you to create a story this year, in your life, with someone that matters to you. Experience something together; go heli-skiing with one another. In your story and with time, the pitch might get a bit steeper, the powder even deeper, the cliff even bigger, the fall even further, but at the very least the truth that you shared that time together will always remain the same. It’s times like these where you know where you come from and you know where you are going.