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A Northern Lights Journal
In our community we want for each other to be nice and helpful; happy, excited and not always depressed; supportive and optimistic; fun, honest, authentic, inclusive. We want for there to be no cliques, no gossip, to be fair, to use careful language , to be enthusiastic and to treat others the way you would like to be treated.
As eight strangers we came together for the first time today. It felt great finally learning of the people we would be spending the next ten days together and really beginning our journey. All our bags were packed and our gear was all ready to begin our trip. We were all pretty nervous, excited and a little unsure of what the future held for our group. We sat in the tepee for the first time and spoke of how we wanted our community to evolve and operate. I looked around at the seven faces around the circle and couldn’t wait to get to know each of them better. We finally hit the water for the first time and paddled away from the dock. It’s a crazy feeling to paddle away from the known into the wilderness, both excitement and apprehension filled my stomach with butterflies as we lost sight of base camp.
After a short paddle we hopped out of our canoes and collected firewood for the first time. We learned the types of wood that would burn well. Ewww poplar yummm cedar…..we camped for the first time on Long Island and got some of our new routines down. Foot washing, tent set up and tuna glop….We began reading the Golden Compass then had our first night sleeping on the hard ground of Temagami. We all slept so well.
Our first morning on trail brought many new routines to be learned. The first was that we woke up to put on our wet clothes from the day before. As soon as we were up and dressed, we needed to pack up all our gear into our wet bags and take down our tent. We learned quickly that there isn’t time to sleep in the wilderness – we rely on the daylight so we had to get travelling early. We had our first breakfast on trail – oatmeal with lots of yumminess in it. After breakfast we washed the dishes and packed our wannigans into canoes and hit the water. We began working on our paddling muscles as we headed North from our campsite toward Sharp Rock Inlet. We got to a place called the Lower Narrows where cliffs rise out of the deep water of lake Temagami. We found a trail up to the top of a cliff and took turns trusting the word and example of our leaders and jumping off, into the air for a second and then into the cold water of the Narrows. Every girl on the trip jumped off and everyone was really supportive of each other taking the leap off that ten meter cliff. After we jumped and swam for a while, we continued paddling through and narrow and shallow section that opened up into Sharp Rock Inlet. In the distance we could see the tepee of the boys’ camp, Langskib. We headed for that island and made camp there. We spent that evening curled up with the rocks and roots of Wind Shift Island.
The sun rose on day three of our journey, and we woke up to a cloudy windy day. We ate a yummy breakfast of couscous and raisins. After we had broken down camp we paddled to the front dock of Langskib and got blasted by huge waves and a headwind as we turned the corner. We were surprised to find people on Langskib as we were not expecting anyone to be there. We all felt so welcomed onto the island and received a wonderful tour from Howey. After the tour Lynn, the cook gave us apples and cookies to eat on the cliff of looking out over the beautiful lake. We needed to hop back in our canoes though and keep paddling on our voyage. Before long we had arrived at our first portage and were ready to face the challenge. We unloaded our canoes and brought our first heavy loads across the trial. It wasn’t too long of a portage but was a bit hard due to the rockiness. After the portage we arrived at Diamond Lake and paddled hard into the headwind. We all felt a bit tired out but managed to get into camp before sunset. We also went down a place called the shoots were Diamond Lake ends and Lady Evelyn Lake begins. It was like a little mini waterfall and it was super fun. We camped right after the shoots were we could still hear the rushing water as we fell asleep.
We woke up at the bottom of Lady Evelyn Lake and paddled fifteen kilometres to the North most point in on day. The lake opened up and became a huge body of water for up to traverse, paddling hard, North, North, North. We entertained each other with funny stories and songs all the way up the lake. A light South wing was at our back, blowing up in the direction of our travels but also blowing in some wet and wild weather. All the way at the North end of the Lady Evelyn Lake, we found a beautiful campsite and made ourselves a big pot of veggie chilli and more cornbread than we could finish. After dinner was cleaned up, we sat together in a circle and each one of us shared a bit about our experience of being female, what about that makes us proud and what about it brings challenges. In the middle of our circle we had to move into the big tent because the rain hit us. After the circle, we stayed in the tent and read The Golden Compass and had hand massages from Lucy. After the leaders left the tent, the thunder storm hit and it poured until we were all asleep.
We rose to the sun which was a bit higher in the sky then usual as we had a bit of a sleep in. We broke down camp and ate red river with apples and lots and lots and lots of brown sugar. We got on the lake and started to go back south down Lady Evelyn Lake. As we paddled South down Lady Ev., the huge expanse of sky above us was splashed and blotched with heavy grey-blue clouds, and wind continued to drive at us out of the South. We paddled by small rocky islands which were governed by colonies of terns who took terns sitting proud on the jagged rocks and flying around the island in low circles, squawking as if to keep us off their dung-splattered crags. It is a distinct privilege to be able to witness this broad Northern sky, and to surrender to un-habituated birds. We finally got most of the way down the lake and then camped near Blueberry Island and had a blast all swimming in the afternoon sun. That night after we had all gotten into our tents an enormous storm hit us. Huge thunder and lightning for most of the night…wooo hooo. It was quite CRAZY.
We began day six in the sun, after a long night of rain. We continued to the bottom of Lady Evelyn to the “Diamond Shoots“. Julie and Lucy hauled our canoes up the rushing shoot before we reloaded and headed South on Diamond. With the North wind at our back and the sun demanding that we smear ourselves with sunscreen, we were able to eat lunch while floating on the lake, drifting in the direction we were headed. Holding our canoes together in a raft, we ate bannock, read from our book and soaked up some sun. We stopped on the Western Shore to examine ancient petraglyphs on some protected white cliffs. The meaning of the symbols is a bit of a mystery to us recreational paddlers, but if we guessed we might decipher images of canoes filled with paddlers and great mythical birds and perhaps bears. We continued down Diamond and then began heading West, as the wind shifted and served us with a mighty headwind. We found ourselves and campsite on Diamond and collected our firewood. We took some solo time to think about events, people and situations that had helped shape us into the people we were. We spotted some red canoes with feathers on their bows and ran to tell the leaders. We all grouped together and all at once yelled `Langskib` into the wind and watched as the silhouetted canoes turned back toward us, screaming `Northwaters!` We hung out with a boys group for a little while and heard some of their stories and they heard ours and then we ate dinner as they continued on, looking for a campsite. We stayed up late having our circle about the three important things in our lives. We also had a group discussion about the rest of our trip, where we would travel to and what would be our priorities.
As we rose on day seven we noticed that the wind shifted yet again and began blowing East, exactly the way we were planning to paddle. So, yet again, we were forced to paddle straight into a headwind. We made our way East on Diamond and ferociously paddled towards the Diamond portage. When we arrived at the portage we decided to do it with style and strength. We struggled a fair amount but completed the portage in good time. Nicole and Tamara carried the canoes the whole way and did very well. All the wannigan carriers did an amazing job as well. As we loaded our canoes back into the familiar waters of Temagami the wind picked up very strong from the South. We paddled hard into the headwind for a couple of hours making little headway because the wind was so fierce. We finally found a campsite and made camp. Lucy made quesadillas and they were delish! We tucked into our tents to read and a huge storm blew in over us lulling us to sleep.
The wind was still ripping out of the South when we woke on day eight. This wind would be a cross wind for us as we headed East to travel through the Upper Narrows. The white-capped waves threatened to spill in over our starboard gunwales as we made our way. Once through the Narrows, we headed South, the lake widening as we traveled, and sky thick with low grey clouds. We paddled in a lessening head wind and heavy rain for long stretches, paddling hard to keep ourselves warm. We stopped to collect fire wood in a cedar grove when we spotted four red canoes heading South as well. As they approached, we saw that they were the Northern Lights KoKoKo section! They stopped on the shore where we were tied up and we had a chance to share stories and catch up. We started paddling as the rain began again, continuing South in thick fog. The wind began to shift and blow at us from the West, and as we neared the Northern Point of Granny Bay we felt the wind shift to a tail wind, shoving us into our campsite before lunch. The North wind is often a cleansing wind and it cleared the low clouds out of the sky. The sun came out and we had the afternoon to play at the campsite and make large girl piles in the tent. After dinner we were watching a beautiful sunset as a boys section in a voyager canoe paddled up to our campsite and we gave them our dinner leftovers and sent them on their way. After dinner we had a circle where we each had a chance to share something we had learned on the trip; a lesson we would take back home. A few girls talked about learning to be more appreciative of the things they take for granted in their lives at home.
It was difficult to believe when we woke up today that it was already day nine. The trip just flew by and it feels as though we just left the dock on day one. We began our paddle in the rain and it didn’t let up for a couple of hours. Coincidentally, the rain let up as we approached our last portage. We were all very up for the challenge and were eager to prove ourselves. We began and ended with style; many of us only putting our wannigans down once during the trail. Right in the middle of the portage there was a massive mud hole that was quite a challenge for us all but; together we got through it. We finished the portage and felt very accomplished. We paddled into camp and set up camp and moments later both tents were crushed by the wind. Lucy and Julies tent was broken and we had to reset up the six person. Julie and Lucy ended up having a slumber party in the six person and it was really nice all be together. We ate really cheesey mac and cheese and had cookie dough out of a big pot. Yum yum. It was pretty hard to fall asleep in that can of sardines but when we finally did it was a great sleep.
The wind was blowing out of the North for our final paddle into Base Camp. Once all our canoes were in the water and loaded, we circles for our last time on trail. We wanted to take the time to tell each other about the beauty we had also seen in them, so that if this community never was the same again, we would have no regrets about having not said the things we meant to say. We took turns sitting in the middle of the circle receiving the positive feedback that the rest of the group had to offer. Once on the water, we paddled hard to get in site of Base Camp. We paddled in in a line, to the cheering of the people on our home dock. Everyone bow hopped in style and the celebration of our journey began.