The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  WINTER 2003










In this issue

Front Page


Winter Packet


From the Editor

Canoelit I

Canoelit II

Back page




In absence of mail (no one writes anymore!) we thought we would present you some highlights from the annual Canoeing & Wilderness Symposium held every year in the dead of winter in the dead of Toronto.

This is the 18th annual Luste-fest, known for its creator, Toronto physicist and paddler George Luste. The title this year was Northern travels and Northern Perspectives II, a general enough label to cover a wide variety of matters.

The event was kicked off by the man himself; as George Luste, desperately torn by his own rules for time constraints, presented his incredible four decades of northern paddling in a wonderful slide reminiscence.

You would be hard pressed to find someone with a more varied and stellar career of northern paddling. His first big trip was a 1963 solo journey from Algonquin Park to James Bay via the Abitibi River. The next few trips with newlywed wife Linda were of the distinctly budget variety i.e. no tent and no sleeping bags. As George noted, “I grabbed some excess plastic sheeting from the lab.”

In 1968, they paddled the Churchill (Hamilton) River in Labrador and were the last canoe party to view the incredible Churchill Falls before the hydro project reduced it to a trickle.

The next year found him with John Lentz doing the length of the Dubawnt River in the NWT. One incredible find atop a hill overlooking the frozen expanse of Lake Dubawnt was a cache with a note from the ill-fated Moffatt party of 1955. It was dated August 28, very late in the year to be there, and a week before Moffatt drowned running a rapid in a hurry to get to Baker Lake.

Other great trips include the Lands Forlorn route, the Stikine River, the Torngat crossing via the Palmer and Korok and a very scary “I won’t do that again,” April trip down the Missinaibi River in full flood. George noted he could see the portage signs several feet under water!

His circumnavigation of the Labrador Peninsula ranks as one of the most extreme feats of paddling. With his 24-year old daughter Tija, they paddled through McLelan Straight at the tip of the Peninsula, a tide-tossed treacherous piece of water for a sea-going ships, never mind a canoe.

Three long Nuvavut solo trips have been his latest adventures including one from Yellowknife to Coppermine where his partner bowed out the first week with illness and he carried on! And we hope he continues to carry on for many more miles.

Other talks of note included Levi Waldron’s party. This young Toronto-based group did an interesting

route (one that was on the HACC’s To-Do List!) of descending the upper Coppermine and going up the Fairy Lake River to Takijuk Lake and over the height-of-land to the Hood River. At Wilberforce Falls, because of the very low water, they ran the canyon below the falls, once famously tried by Bill Mason. They made it and his slides showed a fun-loving yet not reckless group of paddlers which reminded me a bit of our group 20-odd years ago. Sic transit gloria mundi!

Jim Stone and Max Finkelstein (see Expeditions) presented the A.P. Low story about their last trip and some of the history of the mysterious Low. The pair are working on a biography of the famous geologist - some well earned notice for this largely forgotten traveller of northern Quebec who’s always the shadow of the greater-known J.B. Tyrrell. The peripatetic Herb Pohl also added to Low’s travels around Richmond Gulf with his arduous solo circuits in the area up to the gorgeous Clearwater Lake and back.

John Jennings of the Canadian Canoe Museum has a lavishly illustrated talk on native craft and canoe routes and the celebration of them. A couple of great photos include a horse portaging a canoe and a pickup truck with a 40-plus foot west coast canoe on it that canoe museum founder Kirk Wipper drove across the continent!

A pair of paddling artists showed a beautiful alternative to those annoying cameras. Don Morrison of Oakville, Ontario and Bill Hosford from Ann Arbor, Michigan presented journals full of watercolours as well as separate paintings that capture a different and unique feel of a trip. Former teacher Morrison must have felt at home in the Toronto high school as he got the entire 700-plus crowd up on their feet to sing along with Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage.

Gwyneth Hoyle told the story of the subject of her latest book, Flowers in the Snow. Isobel Hutchison, a wealthy Scottish adventurer, traveled through Greenland and northwestern Canada and Alaska gathering plant samples in the 1930s. Along the way she met many famous northern explorers, including Knud Rasmussen, and had stories published in National Geographic.

Another Che-Mun subscriber Bob Dannert from Arizona is a veteran northern solo paddler with several 50-plus day treks. He showed a trip from 2002 that started near the source of the Back River and ended up going down the Western River which flows into the bottom end of Bathurst Inlet. One notable observation was finding an eddy filled with caribou hair 200 feet long and a foot deep and wide.


 Winter 2003         Outfit 111 

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