Not Typical of Northern Hospitality
17 July, 2011
Paddler Glen Smith from Lucky Lake, Saskatchewan, has been paddling across Canada a few weeks at a time since 1993 but had never run into an experience like he had on Lake Nipissing this past Saturday night.
Starting near the Metheny Portage in Saskatchewan, the height of land portage between the Hudson Bay and Arctic Sea watersheds, he set a goal of completing the Voyageur Route all the way to Lachine, Quebec. This summer he will almost finish his journey and after starting in Sault St Marie earlier this summer he expects to arrive on Ottawa in about 10 days.
This past Saturday after paddling a 10 hour stretch up the French River and crossing the south bay of Lake Nipissing he arrived nearly exhausted near Britt's Island at about 8:00 p.m., could see no sign of a cottage or private property signs, and set up for a late dinner and to get a good night's sleep.
Glen is a "no trace "camper, uses a butane cooking stove and his one man tent requires a minimal amount of space.
Unfortunately for Glen the island owner shortly realized Glen was camping on his island and at about 9:30 p.m., in approaching darkness, the owner firmly directed Glen to leave the island as he was not welcome to camp there.
He was able to find an exposed rock island nearby, set up his tent by head lamp and spent an uncomfortable night with minimal shelter from the wind and on a very uneven rock surface that at any other time would not be suitable for anyone to spend a night. The island owner had generously directed Glen to other potential camp areas only a few miles away in darkness, that Glen had no navigation lights in an area used by speed boats was not the island owners concern.
My own experience is that this is in no way typical of Northern Ontario hospitality. Friends of La Vase Portages who met up with Glen to transit the historic portage route on Sunday have more commonly seen people open their homes to the cross Canada paddlers, to hear about their adventures or in Glen's case to learn how he hand crafted his own cedar kayak. Recently the Transcaneauda paddlers were actually put up in a cottage on the south shore of Nipissing for two nights as they were windbound while heavy storms passed through the area.
Having camped at over a hundred locations across Canada, the Friends of La Vase Portages were indeed sorry to hear about the poor welcome Glen was extended and hope the positive experiences you have had elsewhere on your journey will leave you with the true feeling of friendship and helpfulness that we know most Canadians share and that the actions of a single property owner are not typical of Northern Ontario hospitality.
A Labour of Love
Weighing just 54 pounds Glen's cedar strip kayak was hand made and designed specifically for his cross Canada journey. The detailed inlays of coloured wood reflect the spirit of a true labour of love. A second layer of fibreglass over the hull had added some weight but as there would be some shallow water travel and rapids the extra durability was needed.