This column marks the first Guide's Report of the Labrador Odyssey; originally I had envisioned composing these lines basking under sunny skies of majestic Saglek Fiord. Instead, I'm lying on a bed in Room #24 of the Royal Inn in Happy Valley, long after everyone has gone to bed, still 380 miles short of our goal and sustained by only the faintest hope that tomorrow we will start paddling.
Those of you who have followed our trips in the past know that wilderness trips are always beset with an amazing array of obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles are large and sometimes they are frustratingly obscure.
Members of the HACC Labrador Odyssey expedition unload their boats from the Twin Otter at the Goose Bay airport. Bad weather has delayed the canoeists at this point and they hope to resume their northward journey tomorrow. (Photo - Michael Peake)
Today was a day for both.
Our day began under cloudy skies at the Canadian Jamboree in Cabot Park, PEI. Michael had arranged that Air Labrador would meet us at the Summerside airfield about 10 am, and we all arose (myself the last and most reluctant riser) to ensure that everything would be ready to leave by 9 am. The whole Woods crew was there to give us a ride out to the airport and give us a grand send off. By the time we had all three vehicles loaded, including two trailers with canoes, packs, paddles, etc. it was nearly 9:30. We loaded everyone in and had hardly driven a few hundred feet when Andrew Macdonald looked out the back window and shouted.
"Stop the truck-the canoes are falling off!"
We all looked behind and, sure enough, two of the three boats were loose on canoe racks sliding around like a couple of greased pigs. Our procession quickly pulled over and Andrew and I rush outside and cinch them down again. We resumed our trip, and had hardly gone another few minutes when Andrew looks back and calls out again,
"Hold on-a canoe's fallen off!"
We look behind us and, sure enough, one boat has fallen off and skidded to a stop on a gravel road, with a second close on the way. Fortunately, we were still driving slowly, so we pull over again for the second time. Unfortunately, now we are on the main access road from the jamboree-actually we are blocking traffic on the access road, and a spontaneous crowd forms around us.
One scout leader passing by stops, looks over at us, and asks, "Are you the guys canoeing to Labrador?" We nod our heads in silent agreement.
He points at the canoe lying in the middle of the road and says, "You won't get far at this rate."
Not to mention that David Earthy, the head of Woods Canada-our sponsor-is driving our truck and that the car our canoe narrowly missed hitting just happens to belong to him. Everyone from Woods is too polite to ask the obvious question but I know they are all wondering-who on earth was responsible for tying those boats on.
July 11. An aerial view from the Air Labrador Twin Otter over the CJ'01 campsite in PEI. The HACC finally departed for Labrador today and arrived in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Photo - Michael Peake)
Well, readers, I must confess-it was I.
We eventually got the boat back on and cinched down, and I was able to convince just about everyone else within earshot that it was the trailer and not me that was to blame. In the end we made it to the Summerside airport on time, loaded up and are only a couple of hours flying time short of our destination.
If the morning was one of small frustrations, then the afternoon was one of big ones. The weather on the north coast has been socked in for nearly a week. The last scheduled flight to Nain, the northernmost community on the coast, was last Friday. Every day since then has been too overcast to fly, and it doesn't look like things are going to change in a hurry.
So what do we do? Well-aside from prayer-not much. If there's one thing we've learned over the years is to not get too worried about the weather, because there's nothing we can do about it anyway. We have a flight booked for Thursday at 10 am. All we can do is hope and pray for a small break in the clouds big enough to fit a Twin Otter.
Email the paddlers
with your questions and comments