This year I am expanding on what I learned from my two previous expeditions of traveling on rivers at spring break up. I have doubled the distance I will be traveling and have moved my starting point to Northwestern Ontario, about 300 travel miles north of the Steger Wilderness Center. On the morning of March 7th, I will be boarding the Canadian Railroad (as a passenger) at the small village of Savant Lake, Ontario. The train will take me an hour to the east and drop me off at the bridge that crosses the Allan Water River. From there I will make my way south first by toboggan and then, as the ice begins to break up, by canoe sled.
I am leaving earlier this year with the hope of catching the mid-winter cold. I will be hauling a custom-made 10-foot toboggan with a 160 pound load of food, fuel and supplies. The county is especially challenging because of its remoteness, deep snow and flowing water. There are stretches of rivers where the danger is obvious but the challenge will be on many of the lakes with currents that creep through them. It looks like the break up will be early this year so the travel conditions will be a wild card.
A hundred travel miles into the trip, my route crosses the Trans-Canadian Highway. The village of Upsala is close by and I have made arrangements to cache my canoe sled and water gear there, along with a wet suit, food and fuel. The river section starts here at the Firesteel and the Siene River. I will traverse Lac des Mille Lac, cross the divide and head southwest down the French River drainage into the Northeast corner of the Quetico. I then follow the lakes and rivers south through the Quetico Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
In general, the travel will be slow at first because of deep snow. Five miles might be a good day. As the spring advances, the snow begins to melt down. At times a thick crust forms, providing fast travel. Often the days may be too slushy to travel but the surfaces freeze solid during the cold nights. In these circumstances, I travel at night navigating by the stars. Once the snows melt completely, the lake surfaces become iced and provide very fast travel. I can make up to 25 miles a day under these conditions. In some situations at break up, it is impossible to travel. There may be a two-day wait or a 10-day wait. Because of this variability, I have to travel with extra food and fuel.
I feel well prepared for what lies ahead. I am in fairly good physical shape and mentally I am strong. I am looking forward to living intuitively in the moment again. So please follow along to see how the adventure unfolds as I journey back home toward the Steger Wilderness Center.
See where the adventure will take Will in 2016.
Click to watch an overview of the route!