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...


  1. Great videos, you two. You went through some amazing stretches of landscape. And Myhan is a keeper!