Mountains to Sea

I remember being fascinated as a kid when I learned that all water went to the sea. That the rain that fell in our lake emptied into a creek then joined with a river which eventually flowed to the ocean…amazing. I’ve always wanted to be that raindrop or at least catch a ride on it. And now, in a minor way, that wish is coming true.

Due to a quirky turn of events, I’m headed to the Notakwanon River in Labrador. You see, the original plan for this summer was to climb Mount Caubvick (highest peak in Newfoundland and Labrador). The plans included a mountain bike ride from home to the mountain (something else I’ve always wanted to do)…well–in reality the plan was to ride at least as far as the coastal boat and then use a combo of means to reach the base of the climb. All was on-track until the filmmaker whose brainchild this project was, wasn’t able to secure funding for the film for this summer (and thus the expedition is off for now-maybe back on for next summer-we’ll see).

So, without the Labrador trip, I was in sudden need to a trip and that led Marian and I to Iceland, me to France and Mont Blanc and now both of us to, you guessed it, Labrador. When Leslie (of Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp fame) and I realized that our trip to Morocco’s highest peak wasn’t likely for this year, she mentioned her friend Mark was planning an expedition to some river, somewhere. “Oh,” I said, “Marian and I have pondered doing the Churchill River this summer.” Putting two and two together now, Mark then got in touch and invited Marian and I to a much more remote Labrador river, the Notakwanon. After much hand ringing and jaw gnashing and a successful week of rivers at MKC, we accepted the invitation.

The Notakwanon has been called “Ultimate Wilderness Whitewater River” because it has nearly a week of non-stop whitewater paddling with few portages followed by a week of absolute gorgeous floating. We’ll fly into the headwaters of the river by float equipped Twin Otter airplane, get dropped off in likely one of the remotest spots I’ve been, and then paddle 160 kilometers to the sea as a team of six–once we hit the sea, we’ll paddle 24 kilometers to Natuashish and fly/get the coastal boat from there.

I spent much of today packing our dry food. We’ve planned a third of the group’s meals and Ziploc’s are our friends. We’ve planned specific meals so we’ve got them packed so we can just reach into the barrel and pull out one bag and it will have the entire meal’s fix-ins in it. Just before the two team members leave to drive the boats to Labrador, we’ll shop for and add the fresh food components. As a rule of thumb, I use a ball park figure of 1.75-2 pounds of food per person per day so it quickly adds up-we’ll likely be hauling something like 150-170 pounds of food along when the trip begins.

We’re also busy trying to get our paddling muscles in shape. Yesterday we went out on a scouting trip for my class and paddled about 22 kilometers towards the Avalon Wilderness Area. It was a good pre-shakedown to our shakedown trip next weekend where we will try out the various systems we are planning to take on the big trip. It will be a hectic time until we depart for Labrador on August 15 but I can’t tell you how excited I am after 16 years of living here to be doing a wilderness expedition in Labrador.

Speaking of mountains to see, this was also a big week in the Seven Summits realm. The rest of my Mount Vinson expedition fee was due so I closed my eyes, crossed my fingers, and clicked send. My participation on the expedition is confirmed and I’ll be starting training for that challenge as soon as we return from Labrador. I’ll be climbing with Dave Hahn (the Westerner with the most number of Mount Everest and Mount Vinson summits) and I am eager to learn from such an experienced mountain guide. I shared IMG’s Everest base camp with him in 2007 and passed him on my way to Camp Three in 2010. It will be a privilege to climb with Dave and I’m honing my Scrabble skills along with my technical ones.

Rayne and Xander pose in their Mount Vinson Penguin toques on the summit of Mount Whistler

Young Mountaineers in Action...Rayne and Xander pose in their Mount Vinson Penguin toques on the summit of Mount Whistlers in Jasper National Park

There are still lots of Xander’s penguin Mount Vinson fundraising toques available if you’d like to start your preparations for winter (or if you live in Newfoundland this summer you might want one to keep warm). Drop me a line if you’d like a toque (they are $20 plus shipping).

I hope your summer is going well. I’m enjoying “the tyranny of the vegetables” as our veggie co-op, deck container garden, and our community garden plot all seem to be delivering wonderful organic green things at a rate we can hardly keep up with…that and doing some slacklining…and today, I actually RODE my unicycle…yes, indeed, I made a whole half block before doing a face plant…learning is such fun humbling ecstatic work.

Have a good week,


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