Sends us your email and ideas

We have more than 300 emails for camp alumni, but over the last couple of years some of you have moved or changed your email accounts.

Please send your new email and emails of other alumni to so that we can update our list of camp alumni.

If you have an idea for a blog entry or wish to contribute other material like letters, recipes, diary entries, trip maps. . .send them my way.

If any links are broken, please tell me.

And don't be bashful. It's OK to comment. Really. It's OK.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

1971 six-week Voyageurs log

Front row, left to right: Burton Tutt (Boryen), Ross Stewart, Glen Rodgers, Don Taylor, Hume Miller and Ted Spear. Back row: Glen Rodgers, Bob Fedyck, Tom Crawford and Brad Abbott

Go here on Google+ to read it. For easier reading, hover on the upper right corner of photo. When arrow appears click on it for fullscreen mode.

It's also on Flickr: Click on the magnifying glass in upper right of photo to read.

You can also download it (zip file) Camp Stephens 1971 Voyageurs or download and read it in a PDF file. (No, there are no viruses).

(I made this with an iPhone, a jig with a hole in it placed on two chairs (so the iPhone would not move when I took each photo) and finally reading the instructions for my iMac, which we've only had for four years.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Development of Woman’s Tripping at Camp Stephens

By Lynda “Tuck” MacIntosh (Keep)

In the 1970s woman’s tripping did not exist at Camp Stephens. 

I had attended “girl’s camp” for two years in the early 60s and as a youth leader at North “Y” I became hooked on camping. 

At that time the YMCA and YWCA were separate organizations in Winnipeg.  The YWCA ran Camp Kinnaird on an island in the Lake of the Woods near Stephens. Stephens ran for six weeks as a boys’ resident camp and Kinnaird ran for six weeks as a girls’ resident camp.

If you were a female member of the YMCA, your only option for resident camping was YWCA Camp Kinnaird. In the early 60s, the YMCA ran a “trial” girls’ camp during the last two weeks of August under the leadership of Sheila Gawley, who was the Women and Girls Physical Director at North “Y”.

Most of the campers were recruited from the “Y” branches in the city. In 1963 it ran again under the leadership of Ardis MacLennan, who was connected with the St. James “Y”. Although there were over-night canoe trips at these camps, there was no tripping program similar to the boys Voyageur program, which had begun at Stephens in 1963. As a camper and staff member at Stephens and as a leader corps member at the “Y”, I always thought this was really unfair. 

Girls’ Camp petered out in 1964 (not sure why, perhaps lack of leadership or lack of interest). At the same time my parents decided to move to Los Angeles. I attended Grade 12 and four years of university in Los Angeles, returning each summer to work one summer as a counselor at Camp Kinnaird and then for three years at the North “Y in their summer programs. 

I began to work on my dream of bringing girls camping (both resident and tripping) back to the Winnipeg YMCA. I was always bugging Hal Studholme, who was the executive director at North “Y”, about my dreams. I was also constantly haranguing Punch Jackson for ideas and development possibilities. I even wrote a paper on developing these ideas for a recreation course I was taking at university in Los Angeles. 

When I graduated in 1970, I was hired to work as Youth Program Director at the St. James “Y”. Hal and Punch had created the Camping Branch for the Winnipeg “Y” and Punch was hired to direct the branch. He took over in the summer of 1970 and ran the programs out of Camp Manitou. 

At the end of the summer in 1970 Punch became the director at Stephens. This was my chance! I nagged and nagged until I’m sure they were tired of seeing my face and hearing my voice.

In the summer of 1970 they gave me permission to start up Girls’ Camp, to run during the last two weeks of August at Stephens and to develop a girls’ tripping program that would use Camp Manitou as a base, as Stephens was still a boys’ camp for the first six weeks of the summer. Girls were definitely not welcome on the island during this time! At last, girls tripping programs were to be a reality.

The Serendipity Brigade began in the summer of 1970. I choose the name because “serendipity” means the ability to discover the unusual or the exciting…hence the Serendipity Brigade was a program for 12-14 year old girls, designed so that they might have a chance to do the exciting and unusual during summer vacation.

There was initially a lot of opposition to the establishment of a tripping program for girls. We worked hard, under trying circumstances, to develop a quality program that was tailored to meet the needs of girls. 

Although we had lots of terrific counseling staff to choose from, none had canoe experience. We choose three of the best counselors – Marg Law, Joy Ramsay, Pat McDonald- and set about training them in canoeing and other trail skills. 

We set up “base camp” at Manitou in an old abandoned cabin at the north edge of the site on the riverbank. We cleaned out the cabin and used it as a base for our program and to store our supplies. We taught fire-building, cooking on an open fire, setting up of tents and first aid skills to our campers during the first week. In the second week we headed off to Kenora by van and were taken to Channel Island on the Lake of the Woods via the Camp Kinnaird launch.

The Stephens' staff were supposed to come that day with canoes, paddles, and life-jackets for us, but they never showed up. We waited two days, stranded on the island before they arrived. They brought the oldest Vanguard canoes and paddles they could find. The life-jackets were key-holes made of kapok and as we later discovered, they sank when they were thrown in the water. We had a great time camping and cooking over the open fire, sleeping in tents and swimming, but we never did go “on the trail”. We weren’t discouraged, however.

Another trip that summer left from Clearwater Bay and looped around the northern part of Lake of the Woods. Equipment and logistics continued to be problems during that first summer.

The following summer, Serendipity was amalgamated with the Voyageur program which had been running for boys since 1963. Some of the first trippers were Karen Exchange, Michelle Halpin, Patti Pidlaski and Joanne Muirhead. Since that time, the tripping program for girls has grown and developed to include two, three, four and six week trips. 

Below are some brochures and pictures from the archives related to the Serendipity Brigade of 1970 and 1971:


Saturday, November 10, 2012


Two camp alumni have recently passed away.

Michelle Belfry (Halpin) died Oct. 30. She worked at camp in the 1970s and took out the '74 girls four-week canoe trip.

Condolences can be viewed here: Book of Memories

Trail staff from 1972: Tom Crawford leaning on Joanne Muirhead (Macbeth)Karen ExchangeMitch Halpin (Belfry), Jamie Grant, Dave McGimpsey, Patti Pidlaski, Randy Thorvalson with Jennifer Campbell leaning in front. 

Dave McGimpsey passed away Nov. 9. He also worked at camp in the 1970s.

Before his death his family created a fund to help send children to camp. In the photo below, he's standing pointing over the water.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A letter from my brother: August 6, 1982

A letter from my brother from Big Trout Lake, Ont. to me. At the time I was working at KaBeeLo Lodge, a fly-out fishing camp about 60 kilolmetres east of Ear Falls, Ont.

It was held together by duct tape. To read it click on the images below.

Geoff was on the 1982 six-week trip led by Scott McGregor and Chris Dillistone. Also on the trip were John Parsons, Dave Knox, Jeff Hunt, John Kagan, John Lamont and Gord Sims.

The girl's trip that year was led by Carole Deally and Eileen Askew. On it were Joan Sullivan, Kim Knight, Adrianne Cairns, Linda Beckett, Carolyn Bedford, Anna Ringstrom and Pam Jamieson.

I took this photo from the balcony of the just-completed Lount Lodge.

1982 six-week return. Geoff is speaking.

page one

page two

page three

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Old-time camp

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Old-time camp, a set on Flickr.
Most of these were taken in the 1920s.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

1969 six-week trip: Armstrong to Stephens

It was 43 years ago that Jim King led five boys on the first six-week trip.

The kids were Phil Reece, Peter Spencer, Jim Kane, Grant Mohr and Paul (Donut) Robinson.

Grant Mohr and King King at 50th Trail anniversary
Jim Kane and Paul Robinson now live in British Columbia. Jim King and Peter Spencer are in Alberta. Grant Mohr makes Winnipeg his home. Phil Reece passed away in 2010. His obituary is here.

What follows are Donut's memories of that trip. Mohr and Spencer also contribute.

The Winnipeg Free Press also wrote about the trip. Read it here.

It's Donut's wish that his story evolves as more people add their own memories.

And to everyone else, we're collecting stories and photos about every other canoes trip that followed. If the guys from 1969 can do it, so can you.

Here's Donut's story:

The 1969 six week: Phil Reece, Jim Kane, Peter Spencer, Jim King and Paul Robinson (Grant Mohr is missing).

At the time I was living at 69 Niagara St. in Winnipeg so I guess it was fate that something BIG would be in my life in '69.

I had been a junior camper at Camp Stephens in '64 and intermediate in '65 and '66.

A young Paul Robinson
I'd received the Order of the Falcon in '64 because I'd agreed to run as camp nurse after our 'little chief' refused to.  In '67 it was two-week voyageur canoe trip and in '68 it was a three-weeker, both led by Punch Jackson.

Because my birthday is in September I was going to be only 15 in the summer of '69, not old enough to be a Counsellor-In-Training (CIT) which was what I would have liked to do.  So it was no surprise that I got an invite to go of this "big new thing".

Tripper Jim King phoned me after Christmas and said he wanted to get us together before the trip left. I'd never met him. Later that spring I was invited to the Central Y in downtown Winnipeg for an evening watching some films. There were quite a few guys there - Jim was there for sure and probably Punch, but not too many guys who were coming on the trip.  The Lure of the Lonely Land (click) was one of the films, about two guys going north from Reindeer Lake into the barrens.  They realized that they weren't getting enough fat because the fish were so lean!  I think we also watched a film about a Cree Indian who was dumped out of a canoe in Northern Ontario and left to survive with only an axe - that was useful!  I'm not sure, but we might have looked at some maps with the route, Armstrong, Ont. to Camp Stephens.

The weather at the end of June was cool and quite wet - it was depressing that that crappy stuff was going east - just like us!  I'd put my stuff into a metal framed haversack. Waterproofing was double garbage bags and footwear was a new pair of canvas slippers, sort of deck shoes.  My hat was a blue and red toque. It was great at night to keep me warm. We had no sun screen. There was no such thing then. (Did I mention I have blonde hair and fair skin?).  I  did have a pair of good quality sunglasses in a case on my belt.  My sleeping bag was something out of the Eaton's catalogue.  I slept on an air mattress.  My rain gear was a new nylony type two-piece rain suit.

We met early in the morning at the train station in Winnipeg.  There were only six of us.  In '67 there were 21 and '68 there were 18 on shorter trips, but this one was only six guys. Six. For six weeks. I'd never met any of them except Jim.

It was a long train trip to Armstrong. It also rained almost the whole way. We arrived in the late afternoon and had to unload the canoes and equipment into a forestry guy's truck.  And the canoes!  They weren't Brigdens.  We'd always used Brigdens on short voyageur trips and I loved them, and I wasn't even the canoe carrier on portages. They had deep sides, a large capacity for 16 footers.

The ones we unloaded were heavy with low sides.  The tents were three-man canvas with a sewn floor and bug netting at the door. They had to be strung between two trees. I'd used them in '67 and '68. They were good tents.  We stayed somewhere in Armstrong that night.  The next day we were driven north to Caribou Lake for the launch of the paddlers home "ceremony" (Sarcastic bastard that I am, there was no "ceremony").

So as I was saying, we were on the south-west shore of Caribou Lake, the end of the road.  It was a big lake and there was a stiff north-east wind blowing. We'd be heading right into it. The temperature was cool but it was clearing and dry.  The forestry guy and Jim decided it was a bit too rough for us out there, so we retreated several miles to a more sheltered portion of the lake.  A lovely young couple lived there in a log cabin. They may have had kids...  

There, finally we were able to put the canoes in the water and LOAD THEM UP WITH ALL OUR EQUIPMENT!  All in, I'd say we had two inches of freeboard. Grant Mohr says one inch.  Good thing we hadn't ventured out on the big lake!  YIKES!

I was anxious,worried about the cold wind and the inability to get going.  I'm always like that in the A.M. on the trail, worried about the weather and water conditions and anxious to get going.  But this particular anxiety was more than that. We were way out on the edge of wilderness, probably no road between us and the North Pole, no habitation except this couple living in a log cabin which we were leaving behind.  The land was different, too.  Not many rocks, thicker virgin forest and much bigger hills.  It was beautiful land, virgin and vacant, totally vacant.

So we got over to the east shore of the lake and crept north.  That evening we did a major repack of all our gear and figured who would carry what over the portages.  The next day took us out the north end of the lake down a small river with several portages.

Six people, two canoes, lots of gear and not much freeboard.
It's surprising how fast we evaluated each other.  Jim King was King, our leader, chief and almighty brains behind the operation.  He carried one of the canoes.  Phil Reece seemed a bit out of it; this was not really his planned summer activity.  The second leader who was supposed to come with us couldn't at the last minute and Phil was gracious enough to do it.  He had had little camping or canoeing experience.  I often wonder how close the trip came to not happening without him. Peter Spencer was from Edmonton.  He was older and stronger than Grant and me.  He was #3 and carried a canoe.  Jim Kane was from Thunder Bay and was tall, maybe 6' 2".  He was next in strength.  Grant was the youngest.  

The canoes were Jim King, Jim Kane and myself.  King almost always paddled so Kane and I each paddled 1/2 days. I think the tents were me, Grant and Jim Kane in one and Jim King, Peter and Phil in the other.  These configurations never changed in the entire six weeks.  It was unfortunate that Jim Kane and I didn't really get along too well as we were together day and night.  I took an particular interest in cooking, navigating and finding and breaking trail through portages.

There were several options on the route we were going to take, some big and some smaller.  The first was a two-day detour north to find a man named Wendell Beckwith (click) who lived on Whitewater Lake.  So we were game and headed north after the first short stretch of river drained into a nice sized lake.  The only thing I can remember about that first stretch was that on one portage I fell in up to my waist and got pretty COLD (did I mention I like being warm and dry?).  The weather was again cool, but now it was showery.  We weren't in real happy moods.

The absolute BEST feature of the diet was a completely revamped "TL" - trail lunch.  Previously in '67 and '68 we'd done sandwiches and soup.  Boiling a huge pot of water for lunch to cook dried soup mix was a huge time waster.  The new lunch was rye krisps, a slice of cheese and summer sausage, peanut butter, jam and a cube of Baker's semi sweet chocolate and raisins with lots of kool aid to wash it down - EXCELLENT on a wet day, excellent any day.

Trail lunch: excellent any day.

On our return from Whitewater Lake we would trace a route heading south-west on a wee bit of this lake's western shore.  This was the "bonus" option #1.  This lake drained into Whitewater by two rivers.  We headed down the eastern and smaller one having entered at the south-east corner.  We probably had lunch on the lake.  The next stretch of river was bigger and nicely punctuated by short rapids, and the portages were easy to see.

The sky was clearing and it was warming up (finally!) when we arrived at the simplest, little wee set of rapids, no more than a two-foot drop.  There was the option of not portaging this one. King said we'd go first.  I was paddling in the bow.  We'd almost got through when from the back of the canoe there was this godawful "clunk".
I got the canoe headed into shore and before we were halfway there King yells out, "Paddle like hell Donut!  We're sinking!"
I did, and we were.

Fortunately, we landed safely and with the help of the other guys unloaded the canoe before too much indignity happened.  We inspected the damage - not too bad.  However,we soon realized that this was a bad spot to repair the canoe and camp overnight (to let the resin harden).  

A massive storm had blown all the trees down maybe two years ago, limbs and trunks all over the place.  I think King stuffed the hole with something and we soon ventured further down the river to camp and repair the canoe.  It was a good thing it wasn't a Brigden!  Major smash up!  But then if it was a Bridgen we might not have attempted it, at least not fully loaded.  Maybe that was why we had these canoes. . .

The next day we arrived on Whitewater and after hunting for Wendell's cabin we had lunch on a nice breezy point.  The bugs weren't too bad.  We didn't find Wendell's cabin and proceeded west and camped on the south shore of the lake.

This land was more like what I was familiar with, flatter and rockier.  It's a really nice lake - actually it was a widening of the Ogaki River which flowed out the east end.  So, as we're unloading the canoe King and I realize the black rubber, waterproof lunch pack that went under the stern seat was missing.  All our trail lunches for three weeks gone!  (We had food for three weeks - our half-way food drop was to be Sioux Lookout.)

I felt badly as that pack was my responsibility on portages - but at lunch?  It was decided that King, Peter and Kane would return in an empty canoe to the lunch spot.  We'd stay and set up camp, make dinner and have a large fire roaring to guide them home.  The weather had cleared, light wind, a fine evening.  I remember Phil sleeping and Grant and I had a swim and washed.  Then I unpacked the soggy food pack that had been soaked at "broken rapids".  Since this is true confessions, yes I ate several squares of chocolate during this process.  Sorry guys.  I don't remember fishing, which would have been brilliant.

So it was getting dark when we saw a light out on the lake to the east, then we heard a motor.  It was a boat coming with our canoe in tow. They'd found Wendell when they got back to the lunch spot - it was the smoke from his cabin we couldn't find earlier that they saw. The guy's cabin was much deeper into the marshy bay, must be buggy in summer but was a lot more protected in the winter.  We hadn't thought of that. The cabin owner, Wendell, stayed with us until late and then puttered home.  An eccentric American, claimed to have invented the Bic pen.  Very neat guy.  All ended well (except the chocolate...)

The next morning we headed west along Whitewater and then south UP the Berg River.  This was a much bigger river with no rapids or falls.  The current was stiff in our faces!  Suddenly, we were moving at a crawl.  I assured King that the current would slacken because the river started to "wind about" just up ahead - "like the Assiniboine", I said.  It didn't.  It took us all day to get up that nasty little stretch back to the "nice-sized lake".  We camped that night on the lake. Peter had a wonderful surprise for us that evening - an ORANGE - think fresh fruit.  And he even shared it!  No one else had the foresight to bring a treat.

Apple crisp on Wabakimi Lake.
The next day we followed the river which drained out the east end of Wabikimi Lake.  It was also in flood.  The water was well up into the bushes and the portage trails were difficult to find let alone get to.  It was another hard day and we were all very happy to see the vast expense of the lake come into view.  We camped that night on the lake - on the north shore at the east end, before it really opened up to the west.  Wabakimi Lake was one of the prettiest lakes on the entire trip.  This photo of me shows me proudly holding my "apple crisp" also another fine shot of that evening's sunset over Wabakimi Lake - fine weather - light wind.

ext day took us west out into the lake - it's a good size, heading to the south-west corner where the Flindt River drains in.  The first shore (it may have been an island) we hit had the skeleton frames of a fishing camp.  On one of the trees had been nailed the enormous heads of Northerns that had been picked by the birds clean to the bone/skeleton.  Their mouths were maybe four inches across - big!  The wind had been light and we'd made excellent time so we kept going up the Flindt.  This was different, very shallow, with many fallen trees across the river. I think we actually chopped through a couple of them.  Not much water - and no portages!  

It was one long set of really shallow water that ideally would have been portaged around.  We were tired and cranky when we finally stopped for the night.  But it was the most amazing pure birch forest!  Massive pieces of bark littered the ground.  Huge pieces of bark just hung on the trees by a thread.  No one had been by these trees in a long, long time - ever?  But it was so beautiful!  Why didn't I take a picture here?

(In writing this, Grant just reminded me that I had the sleeping arrangements wrong.  A bit of a blow!  Are any of these memories real?  It was me, Peter and Jim Kane.  Grant was right.  I do know we had a predetermined rotation, the middle being favored.  I also know that as the trip went on my mattress was flatter and flatter each morning.)

I based my memories re: the tents on that fateful morning on the Flindt in the beautiful birch forest.  I was sure Peter was in the tent with King and Phil.  Anyway there was a bit of a POWWOW that night.

Upon waking King had decided to turn around and go back to Armstrong, then by train to Savant Lake where we'd catch a ride north to the Marchington River. Then it would be an easy straight shot down to Sioux Lookout where we were to pick up our half-way way food drop.  Except we'd probably get to Sioux Lookout too early and have to wait.

The sun sets on another day of paddling.

This was such a bummer.  There had been no discussion of turning around - to me it was inconceivable.  Yes, the Flindt was a bad trip but things were going well - we were actually ahead of schedule, even with the detour to see Wendell.  There had been no discussion of the decision.  I guess I was in shock.  I looked at the map and Savant Lake (where we were trying to get to) was no more than a few miles straight west - it was a very large lake not to be missed.  

Detailed map of where the '69 trip turned back.

Further, three little lakes (which were all named) were marked out between us and Savant.  Later that morning in the canoe, I was in the middle with King in stern and I showed him the lakes and suggested we investigate.  There was even a prominent point of land right at the point the Flindt flowed into Wabakimi.  Nope, King said.  We were going back to Armstrong.

The weather deteriorated and by afternoon if was raining.  Fortunately we found a vacant "cabin"  where we stayed the night.  It was plastic over a 2x4 frame.  I wrote a letter home that night.

We got an early start next morning and made it across Wabakimi, down the portages we knew, across the "nice sized" lake.  Here (and it may have been on the way "out") the compass started acting up - some confusion here.  Then in the darkening skies up the river to Caribou Lake were we arrived in the dark at our original starting point.

(After Grant's feedback I've got some hazy memories of seeing several Caribou swimming  on a lake).

King asked for a volunteer to walk with him to the cabin down where we actually had started.  Because of what had transpired out on Whitewater, I volunteered.  It was a long walk at the end of a very long day.  We got there late and the woman fed me moose liver.  I hate liver but that night it tasted really good!

I can't remember where I slept that night - I might have stayed there.  Actually the next bit isn't really crisp.  Somehow we got to Armstrong and transported our stuff to Savant Lake by train.  I do have vivid memories of sleeping in the ditch right beside the CN mainline.  There was a lot of broken glass and not a lot of sleep with those trains running and running more all night long.   I also remember breakfast at the hotel - bacon and eggs (real, fresh) toast and coffee!  Excellent!  King thought we needed a bit of a pick up (True).  We got a truck to get our stuff up the road to the Marchington River.  Blah, blah, it wasn't much more than a creek, but it flowed west.

We made some miles that afternoon before camping on the shore of a long skinny expansion of the Marchington River.  That night Grant and I took a canoe out.  It was the first time we'd really connected.  I'd not had much to do with him as he wasn't in my canoe or tent. I do remember talking to him about a couple of my friends who were out on Voyageur trips.  Seemed that one went down the Albany River to Moosonee.

A calm day of paddling.
I think the next day we made it to Sioux Lookout, but I may be wrong.  I do remember that the Marchington River joined the Sturgeon River before Sioux Lookout.  Particularly, I remember a lovely set of rapids on the Sturgeon River; we portaged on the left.

Sioux Lookout: A place I got to know well.  We were in a provincial campground - Minnitaki Lake, I think.  Picnic tables and a nice sand beach.  

Jim King & Doug McEwen 

The next day King went into town to contact camp director Doug McEwen at camp - when could we get our next three weeks of food?  We still had food but we needed the big cache in order to get going on the next leg out onto Lac Seul and up to Ear Falls.  From there we'd go north to Red Lake if we had time, or slide down the English River.  Camp was our ultimate destination.

Each day King would go into town and return empty handed.  We all took turns going with him.  No food.  Doug had to get the stuff together and then get it up to Minaki and put it on the train.  We waited.  Peter turned his attention to a young female of the species from America, camping with her parents a couple of sites down.  

Vivid memory of my next 'Oops'.  Kane and I were out fooling around in one of the canoes; it started as a canoe wash and ended with me in the water and Kane standing up in the canoe - remember he was well over 6 feet tall.  I suddenly pushed the canoe and tipped him backwards, falling into and breaking the rear thwart.  King spend many hours fashioning a new one as we sat and waited. 

ate July 1969 - what was the monumental event worldwide - who did what that summer? Neil Armstrong walked on the MOON!  

Yes, we were all in town that night in front a the TV like all the rest of the world watching that technological triumph.  And we were stuck in Sioux Lookout waiting for our food drop.  It never did come.  In the end King bought a whack of canned food to last us to Red Lake and we finally set off down the English River to the BIG lake -Lac Seul.

This is the point Grant remembers having one inch of free board, but I don't think so.  There is a set of rapids on the English River before Lac Seul - it was a long easy portage.  When we got to the end I realized I'd forgotten the paddles and life jackets, so I had to go back.  Did you guys tell Donut jokes while I was gone, or did you just nap?  To be fair, we'd changed our carriage duties on portages. I had not previously carried the paddles or preservers.

Lac Seul is a large lake and it had been looming in our minds ever since we got to Sioux Lookout.  We could get hung up for days out there. This was why the route beyond Ear Falls (if and when we ever got there) was a bit uncertain.

Rolling out onto Lac Seul in the afternoon.  Partly cloudy, warm, wind and waves from the west.  We went about north-north-west to the north shore.  It was a long way.  Big exposed water coming down like a throat, which we had to climb up to the top (Ear Falls).  When we got to the north shore, King decided to stop, rest and wait for the wind to go down.  I can't remember dinner.


The wind almost died on schedule and we set off on a little "moonlight and starlight" paddle.  Lovely!  Made another good chunk up - excellent!  I slept OK. 

I don't remember feeling anxious about Lac Seul - we'd gone through a lot already.  Anyway, I was happy to be MOVING!  You know, under way.  We all were!  Ready to rumble!  There were still three weeks to go so let's make it good.  At this point we were planning to stop at Red Lake and buy a whack more food - canned.  Yes, TL suffered when the Klik replaced the summer sausage...  

Phil liked to scrape the mold and fat off off the fabric casing for the summer sausage.  I didn't care, tasted fine to me!  Best breakfast - canned Tulip bacon and whatever - scrambled dry eggs. . . Mmmmmmm.  Best dinner was a freeze dried (wow, really new tech coming) chicken and vegtable casserole which we served on RICE.  I now buy 18 kg bags of rice - that's how much I LOVE rice - Thai Rice is excellent. 

But I digress. The next morning broke misty and calm.  Quick pack and on the water early.  A strong memory of a fishing camp on a BARREN island.  Maybe we had lunch there... We noticed the wind had come up from the south (Blessings flow to the righteous!).  Quick lunch.  Coming up next is Grant's favorite part.  Exciting!  Listen closely children. . .

We could actually start to imagine seeing the north end of Lac Seul. The wind was much stronger right from behind us and the waves, which had a long fetch to grow, were getting comfortably large, and swelling under the canoes. Looking over at Grant's canoe there was developing a distinct surfing motion.  I think Phil had at one point contrived sailage.  Paddles worked to.  It was still a ways out from Goldpines, you could see it growing.  And the wind picked up again from the south.  The hint of surf was translated into a lovely up and down motion in our own canoe. I was paddling in the bow.  

As we approached the shore, the lake got more shallow and the waves grew again. We were rolling!  Sweet glory, right on home.  Landing on the beach was a wet trick though no damage.  Seems I remember several shore people had watched us come in - We'd done Lac Seul!  Behind us in a flash ending in a nice push to go up and in... deeper wilderness ahead.

The land from the Pickle Lake Highway west was VASTLY more populated than east of Savant Lake.  That was wilderness - here people were watching us.  I can't remember where we camped that night; downstream of the dam?  Such a relief for all of us that night. We slept well.

Next day broke blue and clear - light wind.  Down the English River, turn right (north) on into Pakwash.  This was a big lake too.  Not like Lac Seul, but bigger than anything else we'd been on.  Do you remember the GIRLS trip we connected with?  Now that was a fine event!  Some discussion re: toilet paper and brown sugar.  It was on a really nice spot at the south end of the Pakwash. From there the north end of the lake disappears over the horizon.  Fair winds as we paddled up the lake and camped at the ruined remains of a sawmill on the Chukuni River at the falls.  This was a good sized river, a beautiful set of falls.  Maybe the nicest of the trip. (I love waterfalls.  My first wife and I honeymooned for a month in July 1977 to the Rockies from Jasper to Waterton and we visited many waterfalls.)
Shallow paddling.

Anyway, the tents were put up on the old pile of sawdust. The softest bed of the trip. Tough to put in the pegs, though. The next day up and out into several largesh lakes.  I think Gullrock Lake was really shallow.  Seemed the other canoe suddenly almost ran aground.  In the middle of this big lake. Odd. 

I think we got to Red Lake that day. King had to buy food. I remember going into town but not coming home with food.  This is not the location of the gold mines.  I'd really wanted to see them. We got the food we needed and next day, calm and sultry, we headed west along the south shore of Red Lake.  A nice, calm morning.

Stop.  Here is where another turning point is.  We were now on the last leg of the trip.  The end was in sight.  I'd been over some of this next section two years ago.  

Umfreville Lake loomed large in my anxiousness as I recalled the day six of seven canoes swamped along the south shore - one made it around to Caribou Falls powerplant.  But these first pieces of our route were old, uncharted trails. Two very long portages were found and took us into lower and upper Medicine Stone Lake.  Beautiful lakes.

(I need help here guys, did we get to Long Legged Lake that same day?  I can't remember another camp in between.)

If so, then the afternoon was another set of portages.  One in particular very long - the longest of the trip.  I was really in my element.  That longest portage was not nearly as distinct as the ones into Medicine Stone Lake. Confusing - not one distinct path.  
Sun glistens on the water near the end of the day.

I was the first one out to the lake and then went back to find Peter who was going nuts finding the trail and fighting the bugs.  So I took his pack and led him onto the trail to Long Legged Lake.  We camped right there at the end of the portage. We had my (our?) favorite dinner to celebrate.

Next day was harder.  Continuing south, out of Long Legged Lake up and out to the Sturgeon River.  Weather was totally cooperative.  We were pond jumping and there was a thick floating mat of vegetation out from the shore. We could see the portages, but we had to muck through this up to our waists and beyond.  The smell on this Hot August Day was very strong!  

One portage I remember we couldn't find.  I remember coming out over a ridge and seeing our lake, just like the map said.  Phil in particular had been sceptical of my map skills. I can't remember where we camped that night.  Next day, great anticipation in me as we were about to happen upon the highest waterfall of the trip - 35'.  Unfortunately, a float plane tied up above the falls kind of spoiled the effect.  Also, the nice dry spell had caused the rivers to recede - it's getting to early Aug.  So, not much water either, disappointing.

I think I'm missing a camp over somewhere here.  I remember one afternoon as we got closer to Umfreville, a nasty looking storm was cooking in the south-west.  Phil suggested that we go ashore and set up one tent.  Play cards! That's what he loved to do.  SO WE PLAYED CARDS THROUGH THE STORM. It was a real good one. Rain, wind and thunder and lightning.  How I miss those storms.  Before I die I swear I will spend a summer in Northwest Ontario storm chasing. (Digression seems a necessary art of the memory part, they're all tied together into lines and webs.)
Neil Robinson. He led the 1976 six-week trip

Was it not that same afternoon that we crossed Umfreville? Or did we camp just down fron the storm tent?  Well anyway, we're almost home. As we crossed Umfreville, we were heading straight south to the Whitedog Reserve portage,we start to see these canoes coming across at us. Turns out it was the CIT trip coming out from Stephens - Neil Robinson was one I remember well - I'd been on Voyageurs with him in '67 and '68.  They were full of disdain - we weren't DIRTY ENOUGH.  Give me a break. 

So we get across Umfreville no problem and camp on the s shore n and e of the Whitedog portage.  I remember blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  It was mid August and we'd got a fine spot of them.  Getting over the chained log boom into Whitedog was no fun - slippery logs and scraping canoes - no one fell in though.

My worry at this point was the current up the Winnipeg River. Two years ago it had been fierce.  Now,however, it was mid- August, not July and the water levels were down.  I vaguely remember a campsite on a lake sticking out the west side of the river - it was between Minaki and Kenora.  Then the next day up and over the CP tracks by the old Keewatin flour mills into Keewatin Harbour.  We were home.  I think we took the back channel out to camp and camped on Fleming.  In '67 we'd been treated to a real steak dinner late the night we'd got in.  I don't remember anything special this time.  My memories are sort of fading out.  

Robinson and his hat.
There are a couple of pictures of me on Fleming wearing Peter's hat with the feather.  I loved that hat and Peter gave it to me.  He was a real good guy.

Next day we "came in", and the rest is history.

Since then I've felt like a bit of a fraud re: canoe trips.  Would you believe that in my CIT year, two years as a counsellor and several years doing outdoor education, I NEVER LED any canoe trip out from Stephens? 

Donut - June 7, 2012

Paul Robinson and daughter Betty McGill

Grant Mohr: Adding to what Paul wrote:

On July 24, we left Sioux Lookout loaded up with supplies, we had spent nearly a week there waiting for our next installment of food.  That night we camped on the Grassy Lake just before entering Lac Seul. The next day we entered onto Lac Seul where we camped.
Grant Mohr in canoe that's seen better days.
The next day was our big paddle on the lake.  I recall I was doing the navigating and deciding at one point to go straight across and calculating that we were a good hour from shore if the winds blew up, that night July 26 we camped in Shanty Narrows (UTM coordinates 505,000 E and 55950,000 N).  

The next day was our last day on the lake and the wind blew from the SE and we surfed in on the waves.  I remember we would let the waves pick up the bow and stern and we would surf on the wave till it died. 

Many years later I would try this on a lake and realized how difficult this is to do specially if the waves on running on the stern quarter.  With the wind behind us we made good time crossing the last stretch of Lac Seul.  

Another thing that struct me about Lac Seul, and things we would see later on Umpreville is the standing trees in the water that we would see in the sheltered bays.  The reservoir had been created decades ago but the trees were standing.  This was a precusor to some of the environmental assessment work I would do 40 years later examing the effects of hydro flooding along the Churchill River Diversion and on the Nelson at Jenpeg.  That night (July 27) we camped at a spot just downstream of the Ear Falls close to the power dam.

The next day we headed up the Chukini River system and camped at a campsite at the north end of Pakwash Lake at Snake Falls.  The next day we paddled into the townsite of Red Lake and camped for tree nights (July 29, 30 and 31).
We spent a day walking around town. We were to leave July 31 but there was a howling wind so we decided to stay an extra night.

The next morning I remember vividly we broke camp before sunrise to get a good start going across Red Lake before the wind picked up.  We left Red Lake and headed south into Parker Lake and through a set of six well-marked and maintained portages made it into Medicine Stone and Upper Medicine Stone Lake. Out of the south end of this lake there were a set of back-to-back long portages 72 chains and 100 chains.  

I can remember falling on one of these long portages carrying one of the heavy Woods food packs which was probably 60 per cent of my weight and having to wait until one of the guys came along to help me get the pack up again.  We camped that night at the entrance to Long Legged Lake.  

Just as we got onto the lake we camp across an outfitter camp and we crashed in actual beds for the night. I think we did over 30 miles that day and through some long portages.  We started before sunrise and paddled to after sunset it was one long day and we felt really good on what we accomplished and that we had made up for our wind bound day.

The next day we moved down thru a series of portages and camped at the upper end of Sydney Lake, our mileage was about half of what we had done the previous day.

A lot of these lakes had great fishing.

The next day August 3 we paddled south down Sydney Lake and camped at the outlet of the lake.  The next day we paddled thru a chain of lakes Rowdy, Right and Roger Lake and on to the Sturgeon River system and camped on the NE arm of Fletcher (Lake?).  The next day (Aug. 5) was a high mileage day as we moved down thru the Sturgeon system to the Umpreville Lake and camping in the narrows in the centre of the lake.

The day after we crossed the open part of Umpreville in a heavy downpour with no wind.  I remember stopping for lunch and we couldn't get a fire going for soup or tea and the trippers having to pull out a stick of fire starter to get the fire going.  From there we headed across the portage that seperates Umpreville and Whitedog.  That night Aug. 6 we camped at the Whitedog Dam and Powerhouse.

The next morning we continued our paddle southward across Big Sand Lake and to Minaki and we camped just south of Minaki on Aug. 4.  I many memories of Minaki, the previous year we came through with Punch on our two-week trip and six canoes and we gave a paddle-gunnel salute to people at the lodge.  This time with only two canoes we did not have such a crowd. Note the two-week trip, I was the only paddler with just two weeks under my belt; I had paddled with Punch he knew my devotion to canoeing and the outdoors and had recommended that I be nominated as one of the invitees on the six week trip.

The following day we continued south going upstream on the Winnipeg River.  Our paddle through the Dalles was uneventful. Yes, there was a current and we stuck close to shore and moved up through the current.  Donut (Paul) describes camping in a westerly lake off the Winnipeg River.  On my recommendation we had paddled into Locke Bay and camped on a point of land owned by my Uncle and Aunt.  

The funny thing was next year a trip did the same thing and they were told this was private land and then they mentioned that Grant had said it was OK to camp there and my Aunt and Uncle said no problem. Many years later my Aunt and Uncle subdivide their land and my parents bought one of the lots and built a stackwall cottage which they still have.

The next day as seasoned canoers we continued motoring up the Winnipeg River to Kenora and out into Lake of the Woods and camped Aug. 9 on Fleming Island.

The next morning Aug. 10 we paddled into camp to a paddle salute.

The trip arrives at camp; Punch Jackson's back is to the camera.
It was a long trip for everyone.

Paul talked about what he did after with respect to paddling after this trip.  I stayed for two more years at camp as a CIT and then as a counsellor.

In the yearly 70's I heard about the Manitoba Naturalist Society and I joined their outdoor program where I took up cross-country skiing in the winter and canoeing in the summer and got hooked on a place called Mantario.

For many years I was involved taking trips, work parties out to Mantario Cabin.  Mantario is where I met my future wife and we explored many a backwoods lake either in Nopiming, the  Experimental Lakes Area or the Ena/Vermillion Lake.  I took up whitewater canoeing for awhile.  I have always being an explorer at heart and from our cottage north of Kenora I have scouted and developed a series of ski/hiking trails.  My wife and I have just celebrated our 30-year anniversary.

Grant Mohr, June 2012

Peter Spencer: I have a few memories trickling back I'll share.

Donut references an earlier trip where there were seven  canoes, six of which swamped crossing Umfreville Lake. I was in the stern of the canoe that made it across. I remember leaving the group so that I could keep a better angle into the waves. It took us much farther out into the lake than the others but I was able to ride the waves back to the shore safely. 

Peter Spencer with son Colin.

The six others turned into a shallow bay and all swamped trying to turn around. In the meantime we had found a guy at the dock with a powerboat and went back to find the others camped and drying out their gear. Not relevant to the six week but a very clear memory. . .it was quite the day. I was unable to stand up when we reached the dock as I had been paddling for so long. . .

The day we camped at Minaki at the end of the six-week trip was interesting as we were VERY low on food. We had been rationing the food tightly for the days preceding that camp and to add to our predicament we were out of cash. 

Jim King knew a family with a cabin near where we were camped and he and I went to see if they were there with the intent of borrowing enough money to restock our food supply. We arrived at their cabin right at dinnertime and they invited Jim and I to join them. 

We were starving and I'm sure they must tell the story of two gamey smelling eating machines arriving on their doorstep that evening :) We enjoyed a fabulous meal and Jim borrowed enough for us to go to the local grocery store and stock up on beans and bread. 

The others were ecstatic when we returned to camp with the groceries and none seemed to notice when Jim and I politely declined dinner. We never did share with the others the menu that we had enjoyed. . .

I'm amazed at Donut's detailed memory of the route and some of the details. I remember the seemingly endless portages through the bush and the joy of reaching the far side of some of the longer ones and falling into the lake to cool off. I carried my personal pack plus one of the canoes. We all had significant loads.

I was brought up in Winnipeg and had been a long time camper at Camp Stephens. I remember going there in the summers as a junior camper then going on three canoe trips; a two-week trip in 1967, three weeks in 1968, and the six-week trip in 1969. 

During the six-week trip my parents moved to Edmonton. Immediately after the trip I stayed at my sister's place in Winnipeg for a few days before flying to Edmonton and my new home. I remember taking the bus back to Winnipeg after the trip and getting dropped off by friends at my sister's earlier than expected. My sister didn't recognize me at the door :) Six weeks in the sun canoeing at that age definitely changes one's appearance. . . I turned 17 a few weeks later.

I believe that canoe trip was a very significant event in my life. I moved to a new city right afterwards and attended a new high school for Grade 12 without knowing anyone at the school. I thrived that year and I remember being a far more confident and independent person that I had been in Winnipeg. I went on to graduate from university and have had a successful career as an entrepreneur with many ups and downs along the way.

I believe that the grit and determination that I was taught and experienced on that trip has helped me throughout my life. Plus, I'm still damn good with a paddle :)

Nanaimo's Wouter Bouman keeps his distance in his silver Mazda RX-7 from Sherwood Park's Peter Spencer, driving the yellow Porsche in the Eurasia Cup at the Edmonton Indy. Photo by Dave S. Clark (July 26, 2011)

Peter Spencer, Sept. 2012