Harrowing Trip Home

The plan for the return trip from Ft. Severn was to fly from Severn to Pickle Lake. Bill and Fred Harbison would drive from there to Temagami in Bill's Jeep, towing the canoe trailer. I was to switch planes and fly to Thunder Bay with the rest of the campers. From there we were to catch the eastbound train. Fred [Reimers] had decided that it made more sense to travel back from Thunder Bay, rather than Savant Lake, because we could take the train all the way to Temagami. There we would meet Bill and the boats and paddle in.

As intended we flew from Ft. Severn to Pickle Lake in twin-engine, prop-driven Hawker-Siddeley 748 and landed in some pretty hairy thunderstorms. Bill and Harbison picked up the canoes and headed for Temagami. The rest of us waited at the tiny Pickle airport for our flight to Thunder Bay.  

Boarding plane with gear at Ft. Severn airport.                               Photo: Keewaydin

Left to right: Clark Gregg, Fred Harbison, Alex Ottley, Chris Stanley, Rives Newman, Chuck Barnes, Frank Briggs, Jamie Talbot, Jon Doyle, Rob Turner.

However, huge thunderstorms screwed us all up, and we could not get out of town that afternoon. Since the train from Thunder Bay ran east one day and west the next, if we missed it we would have had to wait two days for the next eastbound train. We ended up unrolling our duffles and spending the night in the Austin Airways hangar. The train was an early morning one, and we clearly missed it.

When we took off early in the a.m. from Pickle, myself and nine campers loaded into a Beech 18, we weren't really sure how (or if), we were going to make the final campfire! I remember standing in the airport Hertz outlet at Thunder Bay International Airport with an American Express card and no driver's license trying to rent a van! I convinced the agent to let me rent it, but  Amex wouldn't approve the card without photo ID - welcome back to "civilization"!!

We managed to get a message to Bill through a fallback plan (thank god for good trip-planning and a partner you could trust!) and he and Harbison made a detour to the Thunder Bay airport. Bill succeeded in renting the 15-passenger van and we began to convoy home. We drove all night to get back to Temagami - the McDonald's in Cochrane was our only coffee stop. It was a hellish two days with no sleep. We went from canoes and portages to planes, trains and automobiles.

            Ted Forbes, 1/4/00


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