The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  SPRING 2003










In this issue

Front Page


Spring Packet


From the Editor

Canoelit I

Canoelit II

National Archives

Back page




Longtime subscriber Dr. Randy Gangbar from Toronto caught us up on his unique and worthy summer trip.

“You heard from me (Randy) several months ago, and now we are well and truly committed to our efforts to raise money for Juvenile Arthritis. I'm writing to you to direct you to our web site, to ask if you can do anything in Che-Mun to get the word out to other subscribers, and to ask if you or any of your pals or others you know may be interested in supporting our venture with a donation.

“Our son Josh has been chronically ill with Juvenile Arthritis for most of his life. We have a Web site up and running, as well as posters, brochures, and even an article about me and this venture in the Village Post Magazine; true, as our daughter Kira says, the picture makes me look like a “dork”... To be brief, I am raising money for Juvenile Arthritis research at Sick Kids through their Foundation. This summer, Josh and our family will take a fundraising canoe trip down the Old Voyageur Channel of the French River; I am hoping you will sponsor us. My aim is to raise $55,000, which will fund a research Fellow in Rheumatology at Sick Kids for a year, and improve the odds of kids like Josh getting more effective treatment and better care.

“Please visit the web site, which describes things in more detail. I hope you will consider making a donation; all donations are fully tax receiptable, and information on donating is on the web site. Of the several ways of donating, the simplest would be to call the Foundation with your credit card number. Make sure you mention Joshua’s Voyageurs (Code # 8076).”

Che-Mun is happy to make a contribution. The Web address is:

Joshua and the Voyageurs, The Gangbar Gang: Randy, Kira, Mary and Joshua.

Jim Abel, a veteran northern paddler from Pelham, MA wrote a note to Che-Mun when we inquire about this year’s trip. We featured one of his trips in Outfit 103.

“You asked about my expedition plans this summer. Well . . . there AIN’T gonna’ be a trip. Damn. I’m not headed North this summer and I can hardly believe it (first time in more than 25 years I haven’t been up there). But, the war with Iraq and other current events helped squelch the expedition’s plans. During and since the war, international travel and/or shipments became much more cumbersome and costly (plus, with terrorist threats, even dangerous). Also, SARS seems to be putting some clampers on travel into-and-through Toronto and Quebec.

“Then Air Canada went bankrupt. Meanwhile, increasing fuel costs and (consequently commercial and charter flights) made transportation much more expensive. In the interim, the war produced a bunch of illegal immigrants trying to cross from the U.S. into Canada, so custom checks have gotten MUCH tighter at the border (making our re-entry with all the expeditionary gear more problematic). Added all this up, in what might proved to be an ineffectual attempt to reduce some of my concerns and incertitude, I cancelled plans for the 2003 expedition. It makes me sad and sorry. But I do believe I made a correct decision; if for no other reason than to unload commitment to which I was unable to devote the concentrated attention needed.

“Now, I honestly don’t know what activities I’ll be undertaking this summer. I suspect I won’t be venturing very far from home. The principal purposes for sticking around are because of the war, and all the other above-mentioned crap. AND I need to own up to the reality that the land around our home (we have an acre but not a “real” yard . . . NO grass; just trees,

wild flowers, a garden, rocks and bark mulch) is in great need of extensive rehabilitation. That’s because, about eight weeks ago, we had more than 30 huge white pine trees and several scores of smaller “shrubs” removed, those tall trees were excellent lightning rods . . . we’ve been struck three times and during storms they were dropping big limbs around the house and garage. So, either the trees or us had to go, the trees lost . . . for now.

“The yard clean-up should take me about four to six weeks, at least. Next, the house need repainting. That’s another project. Also, if any time remains, it wouldn’t hurt to paint and refresh several rooms inside the house. So, in summary, I can find plenty of ways to occupy my time this summer. Had I been conducting an expedition, I would have hired someone to do all the “real” work while I dicked around in the wilderness, Now, guilt and financial restriction about such a strategy impel me to take a more prudent approach.

Regarding the war and other conflicts mentioned in this letter:

“As despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I ho and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron deeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water and I feel above me the day-blind flying stars waiting with their light. I rest in the grace of the world and and free” - Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things.”

Ottertooth Web site, Che reader Bob Grafton sent us this e-note after some Canoelit reading.

“Reading can be a dangerous thing.  I devoured Great Heart.  I was and am stunned by the racism that native peoples have been subjected to (and are yet), not because I wasn't aware, but because it hadn't been brought home to me so personally and heart-rendingly as it was through Elson's fear at having lost Mrs. Hubbard.  The matter-of-fact way he and the 'boys' concluded they'd have to run for their lives because they'd never be believed about her death, or even if they were, they'd be punished anyway just put the frost in my gut.  Then Elson concludes they'd find him anyway.  What a comment on our society.

“Then, the way native people are portrayed in terms of their seemingly mystical abilities in the woods, well, what can I say. Sure it's racist, too, but having done many of these same tasks myself, I want to believe, I want to look up to these people as models worthy of emulation, standards to measure against.  Just because it's two white Americans pretending to write in the native voice might diminish the reality, but it does glimmer the path, so to speak.  I don't know about you, but I'm always looking at my outfit and thinking "How can I do this better?'  I always read the on-line stuff with a view to improve my trips.  Food packs, map technique, GPS, satphone, whatever.  When I read of the powers of discernment & the expertise of native people in the literature, I'm awed.  Gladdened too.  I can aim high, at least.  I felt so great about this book. 

“Then I saw your brief review of Raffan's Deep Waters and picked it up. My nostalgic romance with Labrador was over.  What a hard read, not the style, but the content.  To have so many children die in that way was criminal, even if the coroner didn't think so. “Lost brother”, what a thing to write in a resort guest book. The SJSO attitude of 'devil take the hindmost' is so antithetical to expeditionary thinking, so disrespectful of the wild & of those with whom we venture out, it makes me see black. Deep Waters should be mandatory reading for anyone taking a minor into the woods, or taking anyone, for that matter.  I'm sure I'll get over it, but the image of a turned over boat and kids in the water hasn't left me for a week now. I guess it's a good lesson, to be aware and take good care.

“Keep up the great work.”



 Spring 2003         Outfit 112 

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