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  • July 31, 1999

    Back in the North

    Geoffrey Peake writes:

    One of the more exasperating problems of any trip lies in bringing just the right amount of gear, and one in which I have had very little success. No matter how I try to estimate the right amount of food, it always seems like too much. Bernie and Lynn had told us that the maximum weight of our entire outfit should not exceed 2000 pounds. When you subtract 1200 pounds for our combined weights (hard to believe, but true!), and 200 pounds for the canoes, that leaves about 600 pounds left for food, paddles, equipment, etc., or about 100 pounds per person. For a two week trip you might think this would be an adequate or even generous amount. This morning when we wheeled the baggage cart up for the big weigh-in on the electronic scales that sit right on the loading platform, the total was 1000 pounds. That's right folks, 150 pounds per person, of which at least half that amount is food. The look of shock on Bernie's face told the story, but all he said was 'you guys must eat well.' A few cuban cigars (one of Bernie's occasional weaknesses) from Michael's stash and the matter was forgotten.

    Loading up the Otter in Pickle Lake for the flight to Webequie -- Michael Peake photo
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    Bernie's plane is a Turbo Otter, and the combination of the jet engine and a proper runway (as opposed to a water takeoff) gave him no cause for worry. Sure enough, the plane, crammed full with all 2300 pounds of gear (plus another 1500 lbs. of fuel) made a quick taxi down the Pickle Lake runway, before rising up off the tarmac, and off towards the Ojibway village of Webiquie, some 200 km. distant, on the Winisk River.

    We dodged several thunderstorms along the way, but arrived, about 90 minutes later at the picturesque little village placed on a sandy peninsula that thrusts north on Winisk Lake. The welcome we received typifies the kind of northern hospitality that we love about the north; a picnic of fried bread, baked beans, goose, moose, pickerel formed a delicious meal that tempted even a vegetarian like me.

    The eccentric nature of northern towns is difficult to explain, but often each one has its own defining quirk or characteristic unique unto itself. In Webiquie, the first thing that we noticed is that most of the kids on the beach were sporting golf clubs. We realized that we were in the midst of an informal golf game, with an impromptu course which I could not fully discern, although I noticed that it included buildings, vehicles, and of course anyone who was not quite nimble enough to get out of the way. Tom Stevens, our resident expert in these matters, gave out a few pointers on stroke development, but appeared to go unheeded.

    Other arecreationalpi trinkets that we brought with us, such as a skipping rope, a ball and jacks, and a paddleboard were eagerly examined by the youths who had crowded around our mountain of gear (all 1000 lbs. of it). Tom once again organized a paddleboard clinic, and established a record of 50 consecutive hits, a record that lasted about 5 minutes until a few youths caught the hang of it.

    The hospitality and relaxed nature of Webiquie is a refreshing change for us, and reminds us to slow down, relax, and enjoy the next few weeks. Tonight we are camped at the head of the first rapid on the river, about 16 km. past town. The roar of the water rises up every few minutes, and reminds us of the adventures that lie ahead -- and the hazards. During dinner a freighter canoe headed for town came up the rapid, so it can't be all that bad. Well, I'll worry about that in the morning.

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