The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  SUMMER 2002











In this issue

Front Page


Spring Run

Summer Packet


From the Editor







By Kurt Berghahn , Donald Silva, William Trout, Henry Young

Part  1  2   3

Log-gone. An old sign of the times – log booms were preferred choice for many years to the wood to market. They were last used in the 60s. Photo: Donald Silva

Reminiscing on a voyage to an unknown northern land of Canada 50 years ago. A YMCA camp trip into Canada was, and remains, a delightful wilderness memory for a group of boys now in their 60s.                                                                                      


ifty years ago, or thereabouts, before girlfriends, high school graduation, college, family, career and now retirement, we assembled with others from our suburban hometown in planning and experiencing our first Canadian canoe trip.

In 1953, after being together in kindergarten, grade school, neighbourhood play and first jobs, we reach the summer following our high school sophomore year with the opportunity to join six other kids and two leaders for a ten-day YMCA-sponsored trip.

We consider this now to have been the most memorable adventure in our young lives.

Getting ready

Once our mothers received assurances we would return unharmed and after we arranged financing for the $75 expense, our attention focused on gathering necessary gear. Universal attire back then, as it might be today, meant blue jeans, flannel shirts, baseball caps and canvas sneakers. However, rubber ponchos and other personal items had to be rolled precisely in non-waterproof sleeping bags, which were then wrapped in a plain plastic sheet and tied with two cords. Everyday items preceded breathable, waterproof equipment and plastic trash bags.

Fishing gear included, typically, a 5-and-a-half-foot long fiberglass rod (one of the first), a level-wind reel with 25-lb. test braided black line, a heavy steel leader, and the always-reliable red and white daredevil lure. While this is not new millennium fishing tackle, the combination proved more than adequate for catch-and-release fun. Heavy camping and traveling equipment, however, awaited us in Canada.

The Road Trip

Excitement permeated the air when twelve kids and leaders loaded themselves and their belongings into a Plymouth “Woody” station wagon and another vehicle. U.S. Highway 12 led us north through interesting sounding places like Elkhorn, Whitewater and Black River Falls. We believed these names to be indicative of future outdoor experiences.

After reaching Minnesota, we spent the night in a YMCA on the shore of Lake Superior. There the sidewalk rose, to the surprise of us flatlanders, at a very steep slope. By now we realized that only and iron range and a border crossing separated us from Canadian wilderness that remained the main source of mystery for us. Before we could live those mental images, we needed to visit and gather supplies from a Fort Frances, Ontario, outfitter

At the Outfitter

“Lloyd’s Tourist Emporium-Canoes, Blankets, Tents, Indian Guides, Provisions” no longer provides goods and services for travelers, but many from that area remember it well today. Guidance from Lloyd’s employee proved instrumental in preparing this group of novices for water and wilderness. While one leader had been on this trip years earlier, without the outfitter’s advice we might still have found ourselves under-equipped for what lay ahead.

Those who were qualified decided we would travel in four bright red “freighter” canoes made of wood and canvas. To many of us these water vessels resembled those used in the Lewis and Clark expedition! Today’s canoes are far shorter and lighter.





 Summer 2002         Outfit 109 

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Maps and information herein are not intended for navigational use, and are not represented to be correct in every respect.

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