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August 17, 1997
Geoffrey Peake, Chief Guide of the Hide Away Canoe Club (HACC) writes:
They say all good things must come to an end. Well, this shall be my final Guide's Journal entry for the North to Ungava trip. I'm writing this perched atop a rugged hilltop on the shores of Ungava Bay. From the top here I can look upon the estuary of the George River. Across the bay, about 6 miles away, lies the town of George River. We are what the Voyageurs of old would call 'degrade', or degraded. Normally used to describe when canoeists are delayed by the wind, in this case it is the high tides of Ungava that have degraded us. But with the remarkable view that is spread out before us, I am feeling more elated than degraded. The hills on the edge of the bay here have taken on an appearance that is decidedly lunar. Smooth, sheer slabs of rock rise abruptly from the water, sparsely covered with moss and grasses. Thin patches of trees cling resolutely to the fringes, hammered by the fierce winds that, mercifully, are absent today. In fact, under the perfectly clear skies we are enjoying today, the scene before me looks more reminiscent of a flooded canyon in Arizona than Ungava.
This morning we were on the water early to take advantage of the high tide. We rode the strong ebb current all the way out to where we have stopped on this rocky bay, waiting for the tide to rise again and float us into the town of George River. One thing we have learned since our last trip is to NOT enter the town at anything but the highest tides. With my binoculars I can see the extensive mud flats that extend out nearly a mile; in another few hours the rising tide will float us right to the town's edge.
Before that happens though, there are a few historical loose ends I want to tie up. Mina Hubbard, guided by her crew of skilled paddlers, led by George Elson, reached George River on August 27, 1905. Foremost on her mind was getting back to 'civilization' with her remarkable story. In her diary she wrote " If we should get out soon I might possibly get back and get my story and some of my pictures in print before Wallace is even heard from and that would be the thing for me. If I am to be successful that would make it complete. Oh, if it might only come out that way how grateful I should be and how complete would be my victory and how completely it would make of no account W's reflections. I think that is what I must do." Her hopes for a quick exit from the George River were not to be realized. For nearly 2 more months she would wait for that ship to take her home. And on October 16, Wallace and Easton, barely ahead of winter, arrived at George River to take up residence in the small and crowded little post. One can only imagine the tension in the air between Wallace and Mrs. Hubbard. Fortunately, it was not to last long. The supply ship arrived three days later. For Wallace, though, the thought of returning back with Mrs. Hubbard, having to concede that he had not only finished second but also lost a substantial amount of gear in their upset as well, was most likely too unappealing to bear. He chose instead to be dropped once they reached the open waters of Ungava in an open boat, and head west to the next nearest post of Chimo (where we shall be travelling to tomorrow, if all goes according to plan) But travelling in an open boat in late October in Ungava Bay is as difficult and unappealing a task as can be imagined, far more difficult than a trip down the George. The post manager at George River did his best to dissuade Wallace from this rash plan, but Wallace would hear none of it. And so, not more than a month after the harrowing upset on the upper George, Wallace and Easton again found themselves at death's door again when severe cold and snowstorms forced them to abandon their boats and go on foot. Exhausted and unable to continue, they sent their Inuit guides ahead to Chimo to bring food as they waited, on the verge of starvation, for them to return. They lasted over a week without any food at all before help arrived. Finally reaching Chimo, Wallace and Easton embarked on a dog-sled trip from there out to the Labrador coast and down to Newfoundland in time for spring, a very grand finish to the adventure. Although at times Wallace seemed beset with more than his fair share of misfortunes and errors, he was a persistent man, who, through sheer weight of perseverance, finished what he and Hubbard originally set out to do in 1903.
Well, for me, this trip is nearly over. I can see the tide is rising now, and soon it will be high enough to float us over the mud flats and into the inner harbour of George River. And there, my responsibilities as Guide end. Once those canoes hit the beach, the usual worries that I have concerned myself over the last 17 days will be gone; the scouting of rapids, the choosing of campsites, the making of bread, the charging of the batteries, all those daily worries will be replaced by others more complex and difficult to control. And, of course, I won't have to worry about doing my daily journal any more. I figure that since the beginning of this trip I have written over 10,000 words describing the many adventures that we have experienced in our journey down the George. At times I have cursed this daily task--you have no idea how difficult it is to file stories and pictures on a daily basis. At times I know there were typos, grammatical errors, or just plain dull or repetitive story matter. At times I wished for more time to polish up the story, or where it didn't quite have the right tone but, due to the late hour, had to just 'hold my nose' and file it. In the end I am just a guy writing about our trip down a river, and usually writing at the end of a long day to boot.
The last thing I would like to do is give my thanks not only to the sponsors who generously made this whole trip possible, but to the staff at CANOE who worked hard to present all the pictures and stories to the world over the internet. We sincerely appreciate their efforts. And a final note of thanks to those of you who tuned in over the last two weeks and offered your words of encouragement and support to us from 'over the net' Believe me, we greatly enjoyed reading your comments huddled in our tents at night, and were amazed at the wide variety of response from around the world.
As I sit on this hill and view the amazing panorama spread out before me, there is nothing more I can wish for. Today is truly one of those days I got into canoeing for and wish all my days could be as happy and productive as the days we have spent on the George. Until the next time (whenever that may be) Au Revoir!
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