Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CK Awards and Lake Winnipeg Journal Entry

Hello everyone!

This past year has been a whirlwind of HBB writing and presentations. Ann is currently on trail, leading a trip through Camp Menogyn, and I am vegetable gardening in DC. We haven't seen each other in several months and I keep daydreaming about our days on the river. I miss the feeling of accomplishment we felt after hard paddling days and the satisfaction of using our wit and strength to overcome obstacles, always carrying the vision of Hudson Bay...

We find out tomorrow whether or not we receive Canoe&Kayak's Expedition of the Year Award. There are some amazing nominees...I'll post soon to let you know the outcome. If we get it I'll probably hit the trail immediately in any direction so just inform the authorities that I am in fact not missing and just keep telling my mom "It's fine, it's fine" with some "shhhh's" in between until she falls asleep. Thanks!

Here is a journal entry from where we were a year ago today. Enjoy!

"...we had to cross Bloodvein Bay with a West wind. We got about halfway through the crossing and couldn't fight the waves anymore. We had to ride them into the NE corner of the bay and take shelter on the East side of an island. There we ate biscuits and jam and cheese and salami and well, everything. Then we took off West toward Princess Harbor. The waves calmed down, but the down-pour moved in. It rained so much that we couldn't even see the shoreline we were supposed to follow. We finally pulled into Princess Harbor around 9:30 pm. There was a sailboat on the dock and several old cabins on the shore. We pulled up and walked around to see if anyone was awake. I knocked on Brenda and Ed's door and Ann knocked on Myrtle and Frank's door. Of course by the time she got there they already knew we were here because Brenda had called. So is the nature of this place, we were soon to find out. We set up camp in the rain and hurried to get dry and warm. In the morning we awoke to Rufus, the dog, sniffing at our tent. We hopped out of bed and walked to the point to see how the waves looked. We were intercepted by Frank on his ATV telling us that breakfast was ready whenever we wanted to head up. It wasn't hard to do, but this place was already 10x better than Gull Harbor. We walked up to Myrtle and Frank's place where Myrtle greeted up with hugs, eggs and bacon, and coffee.  Awesome. We chatted for a while and learned that Princess Harbor isn't really a town, per say, but a family that decided to all live next to each other....(we spent the day getting to know the family there. We played music, cribbage and ate 2359923 times during our short visit)...

The wind had died down a bit so we decided to make a break for it. We said our goodbyes and paddled off into the night. I was sterning and pointed the boat more toward the far point than Ann felt was safe, and that began our biggest fight yet. I don't like to passionately argue these days because, from my personal experience, it only leads to miscommunications in the heat of the moment. We each said our bits and continued in silence.

The moon did not show. In pitch black we paddled, always a nervous tension about us. It looked like we were paddling in space; the stars shone in the clear night sky and reflected on the still, vast waters. The milky way was the most defined I've ever seen it. The northern lights began to show their colors as we turned farther towards the North. Ann turned on her headlamp just in time to catch a moose standing at the water's edge. Holy shit! Good thing we didn't paddle into it...We saw clouds moving in from the West and decided to camp. The first place we found looked good so we went for it. Then the rain and winds came -- perfect timing.

We went to sleep still angry with each other. The alarm went off at 5, we woke up at 10. The waves were still large, but they were coming from the SW, so we ventured off into the rough water. The waves were scary so we paddled for about an hour and landed on a very small beach in the same bay. The waves were relentless. Ann napped while I wrote her a letter about how we are sisters and how it is normal for us to fight. I woke her up to play cribbage and gave her the note. Things have been good since then.

We made couscous and cake and went to bed. A lightening storm woke us up around 2 AM. the waves were crashing hard just feet away from our tent, thunder was cracking from above, and the lightening lit up the whole tent with every strike. It was insane. We woke up at 5 to start early and beat the wind, but to our dismay the wind was relentless.

During breakfast Ann let out an "ahhh! ahhh!" because there was a snake only feet away. We stomped to scare it away and Ann accidentally trapped it under a stick. She set it free and it went off. A few minutes later another snake came from behind us. After we scared that one away we saw a third snake closer to our canoe. Were we at some sort of snake breeding site? Were we camped on a nest? We packed up, and fast. Once everything was ready to go we looked out at the water and quickly remembered why we were sitting around here in the first place. The waves crashed in hard and white caps danced in the distance. We set up camp again and played more cribbage...(the beginning of several windbound days, unfortunately.)"

Stayed tuned for more!

P.S. We have a few more presentations lined up in NJ and DC, I'll keep you posted on dates.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Voting for Expedition of the Year

Hello Blog Followers!

We have exciting news! We're up for expedition of the year on Canoe&Kayak's website. Please vote for us at the following link: http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe-kayak-awards/vote/expedition-of-the-year/

Look for another update soon! We hope you are all doing well and getting out there paddling this summer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Upcoming Presentations

Happy New Year!

We just wanted to give you all a heads up about a few presentations we are giving:

Friday February 10th -- St. Olaf College -- Time: 3:30 PM

Saturday February 11th -- REI Bloomington, MN -- MN Canoe Association -- Time: 11:30 AM

Saturday February 11th -- Montevideo, MN -- CURE MN Annual Meeting -- Time: 5:30 at the library and a short version at 8:30 at the Hollywood Theater!

We will also present at Canoecopia this year on Saturday, March 10th

We are excited to see you all!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Last Memories of Our Trip

After 72 days, our adventure culminated in 13 days on the Hayes River. While at Oxford House, Ron ghost-blogged for us, so I'll start this entry on day 78. The day we left Oxford House.

The segment between Oxford Lake and Knee Lake is called Knife Rapids. We made it over the rapids pretty quickly and thought we had done a great job, but when we brought the canoe up on shore at our campsite that evening we discovered a large scratch and puncture on the stern.
The leak is right there by the skid plate. It only leaked about a 1/2 cup per hour.
 The hole wasn't too big, but we decided to take advantage of North Star Resort, a five star fishing lodge on Knee Lake. We stayed for one day and one night repairing our stern with a fiberglass kit provided by Stone Harbor. It was actually really easy to fix. It also helped that we were in a lodge... We were playing it safe by fixing the crack and were glad later that we made the stop.
This is Mark the caretaker of the North Star Resort.
We camped one more night on Knee Lake reaching the last stretch of our journey. The rapids after Knee Lake are successional. At every corner, there were different white water challenges. We went along carefully and had so much fun running mostly fast CI and CII sets. The guidebook we followed is called "Wilderness Rivers of Manitoba" by Hap Wilson. He draws each set by hand and tells you what route he followed for each set as well. It's a very useful book, but he couldn't have possibly checked out all of these sets unless he would have stayed in this small area for a month. Anyway, eventually we strayed from his meticulously mapped out sets to the uncharted Wetiko Rapids. We were stuck in small channels that led to waterfalls that led to more small channels and more waterfalls. We did about twenty 10 foot portages and were losing steam fast! The sun was setting, so we decided to camp. Our campsite was on an island and was surrounded by five waterfalls. We thought we were lost, but it was the most beautiful campsite of the trip. So, beautiful we forgot to take a picture and I offered an entire granola bar to the Sasssquatch (I know not very L.N.T., but I was just so appreciative).

The next day we found our way back to the main channel right away! Off we went for a day full of portaging around big waterfalls and running fast rapid sets. We did really well, but all day we were thinking about the last three rapid sets. They are all CIIIs and aren't discussed in much detail by Hap, and they are the last sets before the calm descent to Hudson Bay. We'd been searching for camping until 9PM when we finally reached the first of these final rapid sets. We just had to stop, so we ended up camping in a very small area.

The next day we got up at the crack of dawn to get over the sets and have the rest of the day to float the Hayes. We thought we'd be alright without the spray skirt on the first set because we were planning on getting out of the wave train and not taking on any water. I wasn't paying attention to the water we were taking on in the bow while I was sterning. When we finished the set Natalie said in her calmest voice, "bail as fast as you can." I said, "what?" and looked down in horror at our completely filled boat.  We had about 3 inches left, or we would have been under water. It took us about fifteen minutes to get all the water out. The next CIIIs gave us no trouble, and we arrived happily at Whitemud Falls.
Whitemud Falls!
This marks 200 km to York Factory. We were so pumped! After some portrait pictures at the falls, we hopped in the boat and started the float to the bay. This part of the river was by far my favorite. You could see all the way to the bottom, move fast and feel the presence of the steep banks that were covered in spruce trees or falling away. It was sunny and 80 all day. We made it to just before the junction of the Hayes River and God's River. Just 110 km away from York Factory! We had a brilliant idea: to stay up all night by a big fire and leave as soon as we could see the water. About 30 minutes after dinner, we both fell asleep... We agreed it was some of the best sleep either of us had had on the trip! We did wake up early and without breakfast started on our break for the bay. We knew we could move 10 km per hour, so we had 11 hours until York Factory if the weather didn't change. All of the stories we had heard about the last length of the Hayes were scary. Fog, rain, headwinds, polar bears. But, we had a perfect day! It was 70 something and sunny...too nice. We were both on edge all day and getting more anxious by the minute to just make it there already! Around mid day we were given encouragement from nature. The only cloud in the sky shook with thunder, and on the shore there were 5 wolves! Five minutes later there was a herd of caribou. We were ready to go! We saw seals and more caribou too!

Mud cliffs line the last flush of the Hayes.


Wolves. Notice how dark it got all of the sudden.

Hudson Bay in the distance and a seal in the foreground.
 We arrived at York Factory sometime in the afternoon. We had forgotten to eat all day, so our thoughts were not on our accomplishment or the completion of the trip but our stomachs. We made about 3 pounds of hashbrowns, eggs and black beans under the watch of Lenny the maintence guy because there was a young polar bear in the area. They were nice enough to let us stay with them in a bunkhouse. They cooked us sausages and told us stories from the summer. Teagan and Jason were the caretakers. They are a young couple and this was their first summer at York Factory. Lenny had spent three summers there. That evening we branded our paddles and introduced our dog to Lenny's huge, friendly German Shepherd, Jake. It was a beautiful night and we had a wonderful rest with full bellies in anticipation of getting home. In the morning, we woke to gunshots and Jake barking. We opened the door and about 100 meters away there was a polar bear walking on the boardwalk. Wow! I'm sorry I didn't Gopro it for you. That day, after a great tour of York Factory, we left on the float plane with Teagan and Jason.
Natalie and Lenny getting ready to brand some paddles. There's a polar bear siting right next to York Factory that you can't see in this picture.

Woo! We did it!

After the Menogyn Femmes Du Nord (a 50 day canoeing adventure), you brand your paddles with an "M" for Menogyn.
I can't really tell you how I feel about the trip right now. All I know is that it was fun and I learned a lot! I wouldn't trade this experience for anything, and I can't wait to reflect on all of our adventures over the next couple of months by talking to people and writing. For now, we're taking some time off from HBB. I will be living in Steamboat Springs for the next two months working at a luxury dog resort (yes Myhan will be coming with Lucky Dog!), skiing and waiting to start grad school in Fort Collins. Natalie is traveling the east coast visiting family and friends. She is still looking for a job and wants to do more speaking about our trip. Call her! 305 972 6564.

Here are some of our GoPro videos from the last stretch:

Natalie and I want to thank you all so much for all of your support. We will keep you involved in our presentation schedule and progress with writing a book.

Goodbye for now! Ann Raiho

PS. We raised $3000 for Menogyn! $1500 from the canoe auction and $1500 from your generous donations!! 

AND sorry we don't have a song... We would have sung you this one...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Norway House Experience

Once we got on the Nelson the only thing standing in between us and Norway House was the infamous maze of water known as Playgreen Lake. This is where Eric Sevareid and Walter Port missed the direct channel leading to Norway House, forcing them to paddle the long way into town. The journal we had from the Hudson Bay Expedition trip in 2005 also got lost on this lake and took several hours to find the right channel. We camped at an old fishing co-op building in the middle of Playgreen Lake and took off early the next morning to catch the end of York Boat Days that afternoon. We had a rough headwind as a looming death cloud sat over Norway House, mocking our efforts. We decided to wait said death cloud out until the skies cleared and rainbows appeared with leprechauns to escort us to the right channel. One of our mottos was “Good Decisions 2011: Never try too hard." After our morning coffee and a lovely game of ‘name the three people you would want to/never want to be stuck in a room with for 24 hours’ (you were probably mentioned at some point during this discussion…all good things, I’m sure!), we set off with clear skies. Rainbows and Leprechauns did not magically appear to lead us on our way like they will in my upcoming book Hudson Bay Bound: The Search for the Real Robot Unicorn. However, a motorboat appeared from the Northeast shore as a beacon of light streaming from the channel to Norway House. We followed the channel until houses started popping up along the shore. We were on the lookout for Mike Muswagon’s house with the red porch, which happened to be right across from ‘that other house with the red porch’, which no one told us about. After a comical series of downstream/upstream and this house/that house debates, during which a motorboat of tourists took pictures of us paddling in circles, Mike’s daughters eventually flagged us down. So began the Days of York Boat!

York Boat Days were awesome. Mike and Janice Muswagon have wonderful, down to earth kids (older than us) and grandkids (younger than us); the whole family was genuinely fun to hang out with. We sat around with Krystal (who is now pregnant – Congratulations!), watched movies and ate food. It was perfectly relaxing. Then we went to the shore to watch the York Boat races and to satisfy our ever-growing metabolisms with Moose Soup and bannock. That night Ann and I stayed up with Mike and Janice until 1:00am learning about the political and social issues present at Norway House and in many aboriginal communities in Manitoba. I was especially interested in food-access in the community. The local convenience store is called Northern Store and the prices are very high for healthy foods (ex: soda is cheaper than water, and a gallon of milk is $10+). Therefore, people ideally buy the cheaper, more processed foods that can cause diseases such as diabetes. This is just one of the many problems they face. Another hope of the Muswagon family is that the unemployment rate –currently at 85%-- improves within the community. We don’t know a lot about the specifics, only what we took away from conversations, but 85% unemployment is absolutely ridiculous and reflects an obvious injustice. It is our responsibility as educated citizens (which often involves sifting through some lies and stereotypes) to make political decisions out of understanding and not ignorance.

The night before we left, we enjoyed a delicious BBQ dinner with the Muswagon family. They decided that we needed a dog to protect us from the polar bears that had been checking our gps location online every night, anxiously awaiting our arrival to the Hayes River (In the soon-to-be hit novel, Hudson Bay Bound: The Search for the Real Robot Unicorn, these tech-savvy polar bears will aid me in my search and, extremely turned off by my dance moves, agree not to eat me). Anyway, Krystal shows up at the BBQ with a small, sad looking puppy. It was light grey with one blue eye and a limp that says, “I’m cute but useless." The jokes ensued; we had to get a different dog. This dog was given to a grandchild. Nothing I write now will effectively describe how hilarious the search for our dog was, but here is the story anyway.
We hopped in the car with Krystal and two of her friends to go dog shopping. Everyone knows that the best time to shop for stray dogs is late at night while driving slowly through neighborhoods in the reservation, calling for applicants out of the car window. One time while we were rolling along I actually saw a woman in the house we were passing look worriedly out her window then shut the blinds. We looked sketchy, and it was awesome. We cracked jokes at the dogs we saw that ‘weren’t good enough’ and jokes about stealing dogs from houses (all in good fun, nothing serious). After rolling around for a while we decided to check back at the multiplex where there was a high school dance going on. We figured that the smell of sweaty hormones protruding from the building must have attracted the stray dogs lingering in the parking lot. And there we saw her, the silhouette of a good-sized puppy with the sexiest lack-of-a-limp I’ve ever seen. She was licking old ketchup packets off of the parking lot floor like it was her job, and I admired her determination with the task at hand; this was the one. Ann hopped out of the car and chased her down while everyone was yelling as if we were carrying out some sort of military mission. I ran outside, picked her butt-dreaded self up from the concrete and threw her in the back seat of the car. We zoomed off as if we had just done something illegal (which we hadn’t – the puppy may have starved to death during the winter). We named her Myhan, which means wolf in Cree.  Ironically, she kind of looks like a fox. Whatever the name, the broad has character. She sleeps and sleeps and sleeps and “Ann do you think it’s weird that all she does is sleep?” We soon discovered that she was sleeping so much because she was underfed and very tired from the res-dog life. After about 2 days of eating real food (she still had a special place for ketchup packets in her heart) she finally perked up and started acting like a puppy. “mmmmm Chacos are delicious” and “if I eat a little bit of the tent every night then Ann and Natalie will have to sleep outside with meeeee!” But really, she slept in the canoe most of the day and hunted at night. We once found a beaver hand in front of our tent in the morning. Good job, Myhan, you badass.

We paddled away from Mike’s House on an overcast afternoon… stay tuned for the blog about the last section of our trip!

Norway House is a wonderful place with very kind people and we hope to return someday soon to visit the awesome Muswagon family.

This is the Fisherman's CO-OP on Playgreen Lake that we camped next to after exiting Lake Winnipeg

Flour packing at York Boat Days. We should have entered...

Some of the beautiful Muswagons. From left to right Ann Raiho, Wally Muswagon, Janice Muswagon, Mike Muswagon, Krystal Muswagon, Natalie Warren.

Myhan's first five minutes with us

Friday, September 9, 2011

Presentation Information and a Video from the Big Lake!

We're here in Grand Marais today preparing for our first presentation. If you are in town, join us at Stone Harbor tonight at 7:00 PM. We will be showing pictures/video and telling some good stories. If you aren't in town or can't make it tonight, listen to The Roadhouse on WTIP tonight (September 9th) around 5:00 PM. We'll be over there chatting with Buck and Bob about our adventure. Above is a montage from our experience on Lake Winnipeg! We will be blogging about the Hayes and the return to MN in the coming days.

Minneapolis Presentation!
Save the date: Thursday September 22nd
Place: REI Bloomington, MN
Time: 7:00 PM

Besides telling stories and showing sick GoPro videos from the Hayes River, we will also be auctioning off a brand new Langford Canoe with all proceeds going to YMCA Camp Menogyn. Our dog, Myhan, will also be present and available for petting and treats.

Bring anyone and everyone you know who is interested! We really would like to share our story with as many people as possible.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hudson Bay Found


After paddling 200 km in two days, we arrived at York Factory at around 4pm on August 25th. There was a young polar bear frequenting the estate, so we slept inside after branding our paddles and eating sausages. Yesterday we flew out in the afternoon with Teagan and Jason the York Factory caretakers. Good thing we got there when we did because after September 4th everyone will leave for the winter. Now, we are in Gillam, Manitoba waiting for the train which will take us to Winnipeg where we will be picked up by our friends, Megan McClanahan and Austin Danicic.

The end of the Hayes was a magical experience, and we will make sure to give you all the play by play with lots of pictures and video when we get back to the states. Thanks for all of your support!! We are so happy that we accomplished our goal and can't wait to tell everyone all about our adventures!!!!!