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When in doubt, keep the open end up, and the pointed end forward. –Signature from online canoeing forum.

Voyage upon life’s sea, To yourself be true, And, whatever your lot may be, Paddle your own canoe. – Sarah Bolton

Paddle solo, sleep tandem. – Caroline Owen

Love many, trust a few, and always paddle your own canoe. – Anonymous

From Royalty Free Canoe Clipart.

Sometimes it is better to paddle your own canoe….or at least head in the same direction….however sometimes we should be thankful for differences. It is the Friday before the Thanksgiving weekend….our last long weekend before Christmas….the weather will be great all weekend here in southern Ontario….sunny and warm….the fall colours should be great too….so I hope you get a chance to get outside….to enjoy the Great Outdoors….maybe go for a hike….or paddle your canoe….and give thanks for a great place to be….for family and friends….for Mother Earth and all her natural beauty…. It’s a great time to ‘get away’ from it all:


From Clipart: Thanksgiving Turkey Bird Escaping From Being Butchered.



We have many reasons to be thankful:

There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe. – Bill Mason

The canoe is the most practical, efficient and satisfying way to travel through wild country, particularly on the Canadian Shield, where you can go almost anywhere. I think of that country every day of my life. One of the things I like best about canoe travel is that you are completely self-reliant. There is no dependence on mechanical devices. It is utterly simple. For me, the canoe means complete freedom – the ultimate escape. – Alex Hall

It’s pretty hard for me to go more than a few days without getting a paddle wet somewhere. For me, that stepping into the canoe and pushing off is a very special spiritual and physical experience. Bill Mason had it right: it’s like walking on water. It transports you to another way of being, another way of feeling – it restores my soul. – David Finch

I like to encourage people to paddle because it gives them a different way to experience the river, the landscape and…life. – David Finch

It is such a great way to take in a wide range of experiences. When we paddle, the experience of place moves from the brain to the heart, making it a life-forming experience. – Kevin Redmond

Nothing like paddling a canoe to restore the spirit and reconnect with this gorgeous planet that sustains us. – Dalton McGuinty, Ontario premier in twitter to Badger Paddles folks.

Give me a good canoe, a pair of Jibway snowshoes, my beaver, my family and 10,000 square miles of wilderness and I am happy – Grey Owl

We sit in silence drinking in the radiant glory about us. Words would have been sacrilege. – Sigurd Olson, “Describes Cruise Thru the Woods,” Nashwauk [Minn.] Herald, circa July 1921

This last quote is from the first article written by Sigurd Olson to be published….in the Nashwauk (Minn.) Herald, July 22, 1921….I thought it touched on the reasons we should be thankful so much….and did so better than anything I could write that I thought I’d share this article in its full length. From Sigurd F. Olson Website: Describes Cruise Thru The Woods is the following:

This is Sigurd Olson’s first published article. It appeared in the newspaper of the small town in northeasternMinnesotawhere he was living and working as a high school teacher. A slightly different version of the article was published nine days later in The Milwaukee Journal, where his older brother Kenneth worked as an editor. He probably was at least a little disappointed with this first version, because he didn’t get a by-line. But still, there, for the first time, were his words in print….

After making a month’s cruise in the north woods and lakes, Sigurd Olson, Charles Sollonen and Henry Hanson returned and stated that it was one of the finest trips ever made. The following article was written describing the trip, the scenery and the rivers and lakes passed through:

Cruising Through God’s Country

When the great Creator had almost finished our wonderful country he stopped in his labors and pondered. There was one thing lacking, a spot more beautiful than the rest where his children could come and soothe their weary spirits, far from the smoke of cities and the discordant glamor of industry, unsullied by the hand of man. God saw all that was to happen. He saw the ravaging of our beautiful forests, the despoiling of our streams and lakes by the greedy, sselfish, unthinking hands of those who know no beauty and see only in the wonders of nature resources for filling their own already bursting coffers. He also knew that some of his children would love nature and its beauties as they should; that the trees would be their temples and the glories of mountain, plain and forest, their religion. He knew that they would weep at the wanton destruction of the nature that means to them life itself. For those who deeply love and who truly understand nature in all its moods, God set aside a little bit of Paradise unaccessible for those who would despoil it. East of the Rainy Lake country and north of the rugged shores of Lake Superior lies a virgin wilderness almost too beautiful to describe. It would be as easy to paint a perfect sunset or the northern lights as to do the country justice. Imagine yourself in a primitive wilderness of lakes and streams and mountains where the only sounds are the laughing of the loons, the slap of the beaver’s tail and the slashing around of moose and deer in the bogs. It is today as it was before Columbus discovered this country, untouched, untarnished. The winds still whisper through the virgin timber, the waves on Big Saganaga still lap hungrily on the shore. The cry of the great northern loon echoes and re-echoes from Lake Superior toHudson Bay. The moose and deer come down to drink, down trails well worn through centuries of use. Everything is perfect. God had planned well. All is still, the water is smooth as glass except when disturbed by the jumping of the lake trout. The heavily timbered shores are reflected as from a mirror in the waters of the lake. As you gaze you sometimes catch yourself wondering which is which, the reflection or the shore. A white throated sparrow calls so far away and sweetly, one can hardly believe a note could be so clear and faint and still be heard. You stand there in awe, the silence almost overcomes you, a queer feeling comes to your throat. God, how beautiful it all is and your soul unconsciously goes out in gratitude to the Creator that has saved this little bit of heaven for you. Suddenly you are startled. A wild, weird screaming peal of maniacal laughter rends the silence like a knife. Not only once but peal upon peal, each more exultant than the first. A cold shiver travels up and down your spine. You wish you could kill that thing that spoiled it all. It is the call of the loon and is answered far off to the north and you wonder how far that call will travel; perhaps way up to Hudson Bay, who knows. As the echoes come back again and again from nameless lakes far away and finally cease, the silence is deeper than ever. Everything has a place in God’s plan, even the laughing of the loon. It is almost dark, the sun has set leaving the west a lurid tumbled mass of burnished gold. The sunset seems almost fierce in its intensity. It is not peaceful and glowing, but a sullen, angry red. I wonder if it will rain tomrrow. The tent gleams ghostly in the shadow of a huge spruce. Dan has been cooking supper. The odor of bacon and coffee assails my nostrils and I remember I am still alive and ravenously hungry after a long day of paddling and portaging. Dan asks where I’ve been and I answer, “Just dreaming.” He smiles; he, too, understands. After supper, our pipes. The smoke curls up and its fragrance adds the final touch to a day that has been lived but not existed. I take out my map and by the light of the campfire find we are on an island inOttertrack Lake. It is the most beautiful we have struck so far and if it were not for the call of “Something lost behind the ranges, lost and waiting for you,” we would camp here but like Kipling’s explorer we must look behind the ranges to see what awaits us there. We are sitting smoking in front of our tent. The smoke from our dying campfire curls lazily upward. It is almost dark, but over toward the east the tops of the spruces are faintly illumined. Watch expectantly up the waterway. A thin rim of silver, then slowly, majestically golden mellow, a glorious summer moon rises dripping out of the dark placid waters of Ottertrack. The spruces are sharply silhouetted. The wildeness seems bathed in mellow moonlight. Even the sharp old stump over on the shore has something beautiful about it. We sit in silence drinking in the radiant glory about us. Words would have been sacrilege. The mournful wail of a timber wolf comes down from the north and I shiver a little. We are not yet so civilized that we don’t recognize and fear the howl of the wolf. A silver waterway leads directly to our little island. Not it is smooth and polished and now strewn with a million diamonds as a riffle of wind roughens the surface. Peacefulness and contentment are mine. I am happy and why should I not be? I am no millionaire and in fact am poor in worldly goods, but can anyone else love the forests, lakes and streams any more than I do? My body is strong and full of the vigor of life; I enjoy my sleep, my meals, my work, my play. I look forward to years of happiness. Life is good to those who know how to live. I do not ever hope to accumulate worldly wealth, but I shall accumulate something far more valuable, a store of wonderful memories. When I reach the twilight of life I shall look back and say, “I am glad I lived as I did; life has been good to me.” I shall not be afraid of death because I will have drunk to the full the cup of happiness and contentment that only close communion with nature can give. Most of us do not live. Convention looks down on modern man and says, “There is my product, a creature bridled by custom and tradition.” He is not natural, even his emotions are superficial. He is a creature happy in a sense, a misguided sense, living and dying without knowing the joy of one natural breath. Our pipes are out and the moon is riding high in the heavens. We turn in for the night and sleep soundly on a fragrant bed of balsam. Awake at dawn, for dawn is the best part of the day in the wilderness. The trees and brush are dripping with dew. The birds are bursting their little throats with warbling melody. Everything is fresh and clean. A dip in the icy clear waters of the lake and our toilet is complete. The sun is just coming up over in the bay toward the east. The faint white, low hanging mist quickly disappears before its warming rays. A bull moose that we had not seen before is revealed, standing up to his knees in the water of a bay 500 yards up shore. He has not seen us and is busy eating lily pad roots. Every once in a while he ducks his head and neck under water, coming up in a shower of spray, the lily roots dripping in his mouth. The sun glints on his widely spreading horns and he is every inch a monarch as he stands and looks in our direction. He watches us a little while and then leisurely steps out of the water. We can hear the brush crack as he works his way up over the rise. We get our last glimpse of him as he stands on top of the ridge and looks down defiantly as if to say, “Who are you that you dare to come and disturb the peacefulness of my kingdom?” The trout are jumping and a pair of loons are laughing and splashing water with their wings. The water is so clear that we can see the fish feeding along the shore. After breakfast we break camp, dip our paddles and we are off for new country and new adventures. We paddle close to shore as there is always more of interest there than anywhere else. A mallard hen flies out in front of the canoe, quacking and making believe she is crippled. We soon see the cause of her discomfiture. A flock of little brown chicks are skittering for the shore as fast as their little legs and wings will take them. They ride in all sorts of nooks and peep out timidly at us thinking they are hidden. We paddle along through lake after lake, sometimes making portages from one lake to another. Some of the portages are steep and rocky so a man with a pack and canoe has all he can do to keep his footing. In some places beaver dams have to be crossed and marshy places waded through, not wet enough to float a canoe but too wet to walk upon. The beaver are very active and evidences of their logging operations are to be seen everywhere. They are so tame that we see them swimming about in broad daylight. When we get too close, down they go with a mighty flap of their tails. We are paddling easily along when the sound of a waterfall reaches our ears. We paddle in toward shore, leave the canoe and follow up the sound. It must be small because we hear only a faint trickling over the rock. After a hundred yards or so we come to a steep face of rock nearly perpendicular and perhaps 100 feet in height. A spring ged brook breaks over the top and spreads over the face of a rock like a thin transparent veil. The sun breaking through the birches seems to touch the veil with silver light so we called it the “Crystal Sheen.” The little falls is in a grove of slender white birches. The ground and the rock itself is carpeted with the most delicately tinted green moss. Everything is so exquisitely beautiful that I cannot help but wonder if this is not a fairyland. Some tiny fairies with gauzelike wings bathing in the spray of the Crystal Sheen would have made the picture perfect. We leave reluctantly and resume our paddling. The steady swish, swish of our paddles soon carries us many miles northward. It is a pleasure to watch your paddle in the clear water, and the little ever present whirlpool that you make with every stroke. We go through a narrow neck and presently the water becomes swifter. We are in a river and before we know it we are racing along very swiftly. White water breaking over jagged rocks warns us to keep our distance. A sharp rock almost seems to leap at us out of the foam, but a quick swerve of the paddle and we flip past. Now we are bounding and shooting through spray and white water. It takes quick thinking and quicker acting to keep away from the rocks now. The trees on shore seem to shoot past and the rocks are getting thicker. A patch of white water shows up ahead. I try my best to head the canoe to one side. Now we are in it. The sickening sound of a rock grating on the bottom of the canoe and we stop in mid stream. We paddle desperately, the canoe starts to swing. Two more feet and we are done for. A last desperate stroke and we slip off and into the current. The water becomes more quiet and soon we are cruising smoothly along through a lake ever northward. This lake is dotted with rocky islands covered with spruce and Norway pine. Gulls are flying around screaming and flying low over our heads. Evidently this must be their nesting ground. We are both tired and so head the canoe for a pretty little island near the center of the lake. It is a good camping place and the wild beauty of the lake with its many rocky islands and screaming gulls appeals to us so we decide to stop for the night. The rock is covered withheavey lichen, which makes a fine bed. The tent is soon up and supper on the way. After supper our pipes alight, we lay on our backs and gaze at the lazily drifting clouds. The lives of those who live close to nature in the northland are filled with adventures every day, and to the men of the north they are life. This struggle for existence and the fearless battle with the elements is what makes the manhood of the north big and clean and strong. The north asks for strong men, not weaklings, for here manhood is tested down to the core. To those whom she selects she reveals all her riches and if she does not give them riches in gold she gives them riches far more worth while that mean happiness and contentment. And so we traveled through hundreds of lakes and rivers, drunk in the beauties of countless waterfalls, rapids and virgin forests, saw naked grandeur as God intended it to be, unscathed by the hand of man. When we ended our cruise and our canoes grated on a sandy beach for the last time our hearts were heavy and yet how happy. We were ragged and unkempt, but what mattered that; our hearts were filled to overflowing. We came back empty handed, but oh how rich we were. We could say with Kipling’s explorer on his return: “Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre? Have I kept one single nugget? No, not I. Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker. But you wouldn’t understnad it. You go up and occupy.”

Well we celebrate  Thanksgiving this weekend here in Canada….yes, we are ahead of our American neighbours on a few things it would seem LOL LOL. It is also a good weekend to get out and enjoy the natural world too….cooler air….sunny skies mixed with few clouds….leaves starting to turn colour. This is a time of change….birds have already started to migrate south….other animals preparing for the cold winter ahead by getting ready to hibernate or just building a warmer abode….and the leaves changing. Yes, that’s the second time I mentioned the leaves changing. The autumn colours are here. Check them out by going for a drive in your car or riding your bike….or better yet going for a hike. Take your camera along too. You can get some great shots of the reds, oranges, and yellows many trees wear this time of year. Great places to check out the finery of fall are: Haliburton and Algonquin Park; Caledon (especially around the Forks of the Credit); the hills south of Georgian Bay such as near Collingwood or Owen Sound; the countryside of the Kawarthas; north of Belleville or Kingston along Hwy. 7; the Madawaska Valley or around Bancroft; and many of the ravines or other “wild” spots in and around Toronto (like the Rouge and Don Valleys or High Park). So if you don’t normally get out especially once it starts to turn cooler, think about doing so….don’t hibernate quite yet in front of a fire….get out and enjoy the colours. For a change.

Paddles up until later then….and enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend….preferably as much outdoors as possible….and give thanks for such an opportunity. Especially change. Now I’m off to go paddle….

The all-wood canoes had aesthetic appeal, they were light and much more durable than their bark predecessors, and they were used by latter-day explorers such as the Tyrrell brothers, but for use in wilderness locations, for lugging rock samples, hunting equipment or survey instruments, there was a much more practical and durable design – the wooden canoe with a canvas skin. The Peterborough boat builders knew this technology and were using it to some degree, but some would say that, relatively speaking, they were well behind their counterparts in the northeastern United States. Builders at the E.M. White and Old Town canoe companies had been refining canvas-canoe manufacturing techniques since the 1850s, experimenting with canvas sandwiched between wwoden layers in the hulls of canoes, and with painted cotton duck as a skin on the outside of cedar ribs and planking that made the boat waterproof and protected the vulnerable wooden ribs and planking from abrasion and impact damage. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

The Canadian connection to these, arguably superior, New England canoes was through the owners of the hardware store in Fredricton, New Brunswick. Stiff tariffs had made it advantgeous for merchants in Canada to buy Canadianwhich had protected the Peterborough canoe-building industry and its all-wooden boats, but the Fredricton “Daily Gleaner” reported in 1897 that Mr. W.T. Chestnut had imported a canvas canoe from a “leading and renowned boat building house in the United States, it being especially for use at Pine Bluff Camp.” The article maintained that this fine canoe would be exhibited at R. Chestnut and Sons’ hardware store for a few days. Shortly thereafter, the J.C. Risteen sash and door company in Fredricton (owned by a group including W.T. Chestnut and his brother Harry) started making a canoe identical to the imported American model and, in 1905, the venerable R. Chestnut and Sons canoe company was incorporated.

A curious aspect of this importation of an American canoe was that W.T. Chestnut secured a Canadian patent for the canvas-covered canoe design, despite the fact that the technology had been in use elsewhere in the country in one form or another for decades. Armed with this new patent, Chestnut launched a lawsuit against the Peterborough Canoe Company, alleging violation of its canvas-covered canoe patent. According to canoe historian Roger MacGregor, “Peterborough’s reply….was lengthy, detailed, and devastating. Chestnut did not even file a counter-reply.” And, MacGregor notes, as if to add insult to injury, another company, the Canadian Canoe Company of Peterborough, seeking entry to the canvas canoe market in 1907, simply acquired a Chestnut canoe in Fredricton and copied it exactly as Chestnut had done earlier with the American canoe. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

Although in later life Bill vehemently defended the virtues of his beloved Chestnut – his personal fleet included three, a 16′ Pal, a 16′ Prospector and a 17′ Cruiser – he could have been paddling any number of canvas-covered canoes built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. In fact, there were on the market, for all intents and purposes, dozens of nearly identical models, made by various manufacturers in the United States and Canada, many of which had the model name “Prospector.” But, even as a class or type of canvas-covered canoe, the Prospector that became his favourite was entirely consistent with Bill and his view of the world. It was mostly made of natural materials – steamed white cedar ribs and planking; brass tacks and screws; cotton-canvas skin; and white ash or oak seats, thwarts and gunwales. It was solid; it was durable; it could be repaired in the field; and it moved quietly and responsively in all types of water. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

Nothing feels like a cedar-strip canvas canoe – Omer Stringer, a confirmed traditionalist

Beautiful things made by hand carry within them the seeds of their survival. They generate a spark of affection. For some it’s sentimental, for some it’s the art of the craftsmanship, for some the beauty of the finished boat. People love these things and try hard to ensure they endure.

The survival of the wood-canvas canoe (to paraphrase John McPhee) is certainly a matter of the heart; a romantic affair. The economics are unfavorable. In fact, the wood-canvas canoe’s most conspicuous asset and advantage is that it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s the Shaker rocking chair of outdoor sport – handcrafted, simple, clean, and functional. There’s nothing in it that doesn’t have to be there, but all of the pieces add up to more than the parts. It works well and looks wonderful doing it.– From Honeymoon With A Prospector by Lawrence Meyer

From Dragonfly Canoe: Wooden Canoe Identification – Chestnut Canoe Company:

Capsule History: The Chestnut family started marketing canvas canoes in the late 1890′s in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The early Chestnut canoes were modelled after a canoe built by B.N. Morris, and indeed, the early Chestnuts show the influence the Morris canoes. Chestnut incorporated in 1907 as the Chestnut Canoe Company, Limited. The Chestnut factory burned down in December of 1921, and was quickly rebuilt. Chestnut Canoe Company and Peterborough Canoe Company merged under the holding company Canadian Watercraft Limited. Canadian Canoe Company joined them in 1927. All three companies continued to maintain there own identity. Chestnut shipped its last canoes in early 1979, then closed. Most of the Chestnut molds survive, and are being used in several wooden canoe shops in Canada. For more details about the history of the Chestnut Canoe Company, see Roger MacGregor’s book When the Chestnut was in Flower.

Serial Number Format – Highly variable. Most Chestnut canoes are not marked with serial numbers. Those that are may have five-digit numbers or a number starting with the letter “C”. Without accompanying paperwork that provides information about shipping, it is not possible to date Chestnut canoes using the serial number. Unlike Peterborough Canoe Company and Canadian Canoe Company, Chestnut never marked a model number on their canoes.

Kissing Cousins: Following the mergers in the 1920′s with the Chestnut Canoe Company, Peterborough Canoe Company and Canadian Canoe Company, all three firms marketed nearly identical lines of canvas canoes. It is often said that Chestnut was responsible for the canvas canoe production for all three companies. While canoes built in one factory were often given a decal for one of the others, for the most part, evidence indicates that each company was responsible for the production of most of its own canoes. Models that are otherwise the same in the catalogs show subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in hull shape, rib patterns, sheer lines, tumblehome, and the shaping of trim parts.

Chestnut Canoe Models

A brief description of the more common model classes offered by Chestnut:

  • Pleasure Models: These are the general purpose recreational canoes offered by Chestnut. These are excellent paddling canoes, and are the most commonly found models of Chestnut canoes. The 16′ Pal is perhaps the most famous of the lot, but the 15′ Twozer/Gooseberry/Chum is my personal favorite canoe yet.
  • Lightweight Pleasure Canoes: Built lighter than standard models. Includes the 11′ Featherweight and 15′ 50-pound Special (popular known as Bobs Special).
  • Prospector Models: These are deeper and beamier than pleasure models of equivelant length. Meant to carry lots of gear for extended trips, there is a lot of canoe packed into a Prospector. Bill Mason’s hype about the Prospector aside, it is a fantastic canoe, and is perhaps the model most widely copied by modern day composite canoe builders. Prospector models were available in double-ended or transom-sterned models.
  • Trappers Canoes: This is a loose grouping of smaller canoes that changed over the years. This class also includes lower grade pleasure canoes and the Bantam, which is a 2nd grade version of Bobs Special
  • Cruisers Canoes: Designed to go fast, these models are narrower, more rounded across the bottom and have finer lines than other models. The Guides Special models are cruisers than have close-ribbing.
  • Freight Canoes: If the Propsector can be considered the pick-up truck of the North, the Freighters are the semi-trucks. Bigger abd beamier, they have great carrying capacity. Available in double-ended and transom-sterned configurations.
  • Ogilvy Specials: Named after famous guides of New Brunswick, these models are designed for shallow, fast water canoeing, like that found on the famous salmon rivers of New Brunswick.

I love wood canvas canoes….especially those built by the Chestnut Canoe Company….my favourite canoe is based on the 16 ft. Cruiser, the Kruger….other models built my good buddy, Bruce Smith are similar to other Chestnut designs, the Chum and the Prospector. Several builders continue to build canoes either directly from the original Chestnut forms (such as Hugh Stewart of Headwater Canoes) or taken from Chestnut designs.

Of course, there are examples of Chestnut canoes in the Canadian Canoe Museum. One of which is Bill Mason’s favourite red canoe (I’ve written about Bill Mason’s love of Chestnuts here before….Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: Bill Mason….And Canoes….Especially Chesnut Prospectors).

From the Mason family website, Red Canoes: Red Canoe Donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum :

The Mason family donated Bill Mason’s treasured red Chestnut Prospector to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough Ontario, on June 17th, 1999….

Bill Mason loved his old canvas-covered wood canoes and used many of them throughout his career as a filmmaker, author and painter. But he always said his Chestnut Prospector was “the most versatile canoe ever made”, and that if he “could only have one canoe it would be the original Chestnut wood-canvas 16′ Prospector”. He journeyed quietly through the wilderness in this canoe, treating it not just as a vehicle, but also as a subject, a symbol and a friend. Bill’s Prospector has a lifetime of memories in it and if it could talk, all the little tears in the canvas, each broken rib and every cracked plank would have quite a story to tell.

Photo of Becky Mason paddling her father’s favourite red Prospector before it was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum, taken by Rolf Kraiker from Blazing Paddles: The Last Outing For Bill Mason’s Canoe.

Photo of the Bill Mason Exhibit at the Canadian Canoe Museum, from the Canadian Canoe Museum: 2011 Jack Matthews Fellow & Award-Winning Canadian Author Nicolas Dickner To Speak At CCM Jan 26th.

For more on Bill Mason and his Chestnuts….especially in his films….see Mike Elliott’s articles from his Kettle River Facebook page:

Path of the Paddle (Part 1 of 4): Bill Mason Shows Off His Chestnut Pal

Path of the Paddle (Part 2 of 4): Spotlight on Wood-Canvas Canoes

Path of the Paddle (3 of 4): Whitewater Ballet in a Wood-Canvas Canoe

Path of the Paddle (4 of 4): Defining What It Is To Be Canadian

Song of the Paddle: A Wood-Canvas Canoe Trip on Film

The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes: A Film Starring a Wood-Canvas Canoe

It is apparent that Bill did call all red canvas canoes in his films “Prospectors” when in fact they were sometimes Pals; in fact in Ken Soloway’s book The Story of the Chestnut Canoe (on pages 159-160 in the chapter on Bill Mason), Ken writes that he visited with Becky Mason at the Mason home on Meech Lake to examine Bill’s Chestnut canoes….even though Bill expounded that the 16 foot Prospector was the “world’s best all-round canoe”, Bill had acknowledged in his final writings that many of the canoe photos used were not of the Prospector, but of the 16 foot Pleasure model (the first “real” canoe he owned)….as Ken further states Mason enthusiasts who want to see for themselves, should examine either the books or the films. The Pal has cane seats and narrow ribs. The Prospector has slat wood seats and wide ribs. Ken continues and says he examined the two red Chestnuts….both showed signs of wear and much use….Soloway then states that the Pleasure model, Bill’s first canoe was officially not a Pal but a Deer because of its narrow, rounded ribs; also the Pleasure model Bill owned was the later widened version from the 1950s (Appropriate since Bill entered in his diary that he had purchased the canoe on April 12, 1958, about the time Chestnut widened the 16 foot Pleasure forms….the other red Chestnut was a Prospector but Ken Soloway found it to be quite used and rather distorted so the measurements he took off it weren’t quite true to those of the original form (which Ken owned) but that was probably from years of use….Bill also owned an 11 foot Chestnut Featherweight….Ken concludes that the Prospector was a very large canoe and would have suited Bill on some of his trips where his canoe was heavily loaded and Ken was personally convinced he (Bill) would have found a narrow Pal more fitting to the esteemed title of “best all-round canoe” if he travelled as light as most trippers do today.

Much has been written about the Chestnut Canoe Company….besides the previous noted articles, Mike Elliott of Kettle River Canoes has written several articles on his blog (Canoeguy’s Blog) pertaining to Chestnut canoes, including the following:

Five Aces: Unbeatable Wood-Canvas Canoes from the Chestnut Canoe Company

My 17’ Chestnut Prospector Wood-Canvas Canoe

Dimensions for a Chestnut Pal Wood-Canvas Canoe

Lawrence Meyer wrote a great article on his Chestnut Prospector, which is on the WCHA forum:

Honeymoon with a Prospector

Two books on the Chestnut canoe have  been written. One is by Kenneth Solway entitled The Story of the Chestnut Canoe (mentioned above), described  on as:

The Chestnut Canoe Company began in Fredericton, NB in 1897 and its impact was unequaled on the development of recreational canoeing and the canoe itself. Photos and images from the famed catalogues illustrate this intriguing Maritime story.

Photo from The Story Of The Chestnut Canoe.

Another book on the Chestnut canoe is When the Chestnut was in Flower by Roger MacGregor. When the Chestnut Was In Flower: Inside the Chestnut Canoe is the definitive history on the Chestnut canoe. On his website, Ivy Lea Shirt Co. Ltd.: When The Chestnut Was In Flower – Inside The Chestnut Canoe, Roger describes his book as:

A canoe fancier’s reminiscent look at the Chestnut Canoe Company, the result of nearly two decades of searching for traces of the canvas canoe from Fredericton, New Brunswick. Tells where the Chestnut came from and where it went. A book about canoes, travel, memories, and canoe-building. Includes professional lines-drawings of favourite Chestnut canoes: Kruger, Chum, Ogilvy, Prospector, Bobs Special. In hard cover, with over 400 pages, nearly 100 photographs and a few surprises. Sure to appeal, whether you know the Chestnut canoe in person or in passing – or would like to. 

Photo from Nautical Mind: When The Chestnut Was In Flower – Inside The Chestnut Canoe.

I love Roger’s book….it is the most complete book on the Chestnut canoe….I love the professional lines-drawings of favourite Chestnut canoes: Kruger, Chum, Ogilvy, Prospector, Bobs Special. I thought I’d include three of my most favourite canoe drawings:

Chestnut Prospector canoe drawing, lines taken off by Roy MacGregor November 1997, drawn by S.F. Manning August 1999.

Chestnut Chum canoe drawing, lines taken off by Roger MacGregor October 1997, drawing by S.F. Manning January 1999.

Chestnut Kruger canoe drawing, lines taken off by Roger MacGregor June 1998, drawn by S.F. Manning May 1999.

Photos from my copy of When The Chestnut Was In Flower, by yours truly.

These three Chestnut canoes typify three major types of models….the Prospector, the Pleasure and the Cruiser (also same as Guides Special except for closer ribbing).

As previously noted above, Dan Miller wrote in Dragonfly Canoe: Wooden Canoe Identification – Chestnut Canoe Company:

Prospector Models: These are deeper and beamier than pleasure models of equivelant length. Meant to carry lots of gear for extended trips, there is a lot of canoe packed into a Prospector. Bill Mason’s hype about the Prospector aside, it is a fantastic canoe, and is perhaps the model most widely copied by modern day composite canoe builders. Prospector models were available in double-ended or transom-sterned models.

Pleasure Models: These are the general purpose recreational canoes offered by Chestnut. These are excellent paddling canoes, and are the most commonly found models of Chestnut canoes. The 16′ Pal is perhaps the most famous of the lot, but the 15′ Twozer/Gooseberry/Chum is my personal favorite canoe yet.

Cruisers Canoes: Designed to go fast, these models are narrower, more rounded across the bottom and have finer lines than other models. The Guides Special models are cruisers than have close-ribbing.

The Prospector of course was made famous by Bill Mason (even though he owned and used a Pal in many of his films. The Chum was Omer Stringer’s favourite canoe (it is said that the one he paddled was especially made for him by Chestnut….that he even went to supervise it’s construction in Fredricton…..not sure if that’s true….but Omer did likely alter his Chum a bit any way….actually technically Omer’s Chum was a Doe since it had narrow ribs)….the Chum is the 15 ft. version of the Pleasure class of Chestnuts (the Pal was the 16 ft. model). The Kruger was a classic design….my beautiful green canoe is based on this model….and it is a dream to paddle….but I’ve written a lot on that subject already LOL LOL.

My beautiful dream, photo by yours truly.

Check out Roger MacGregor’s fine book….there is so much great information….just about ‘everything you ever wanted to know about Chestnut canoes, but were afraid to ask’.

You might want to check out the Chestnut Canoe Company Catalogs from various eras. (NOTE: There are other photos related to Chestnut canoes, as well as other catalogs and photos for canoe companies such as Kennebec and Old Town.)

Paddles up until later then.

“The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known.”  from  The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd Olson

I’ve included quotes from Sigurd Olsen before….I don’t think I included this one though. To me it speaks exactly of why the canoe is so important….and so much a part of a tradition….and of so many of us….as said in the quote “when a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known” (of course I’m still trying to get my canoe and I to become more as one….OK OK it’s me who needs to do the work on his paddling LOL LOL.) Paddles up until later.


I wanted to do something in support of Christi Belcourt’s Walking With Our Sisters project (I wasn’t able to get any vamps beaded in time). So I donated a painting….through the Auction for Action site….one based on the Walking With Our Sisters.

I sketched out a canvas….with a large Monarch butterfly at the heart of the canvas….against a background of various Anishinaabe floral …designs (similar to ones I saw on several of the vamps created for Christi’s art project)….but not in any particular order; more one of random nature….in a bit of chaos….like our day – to – day lives can be sometimes….or more so the effect on the families and friends of the missing and/or murdered women….it can definitely create grief….upset….emptiness….even chaos….violence against women in our community can also cause discord.

So I wanted to show that with effort and work….increased awareness & education….we can rise above such chaos and discord….fly free.

The lower right hand side includes symbols that I learned from the late Anishinaabe artist Norman Knott and have adapted for myself….the outer circle represents the physical body….the inner one the spiritual….the inner one is repeated above the butterfly standing on its own….this represents that the physical may die, but the spirit never does, it always remain.

This painting is called “Free Flight”. It is on a canvas 11″ X 14″. The attached photo show the work just finished….hopefully good enough to elicit some interest….and add to the funds being raised for this very important event: Walking For Our Sisters. (NOTE: The winning bid on this painting was $145.)

For more info on the issue of missing Aboriginal women, read the following:

Monarch butterflies are also missing….or at least their numbers are down….check out these:

I don’t wish to suggest that the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women is on par with a decrease in Monarch butterflies….although both are important issues. The number of missing or murdered Aboriginal women….the amount of violence towards Native women….all of this is totally unacceptable. But the decrease in Monarch butterfly numbers could be reflective of this issue of missing and murdered Native women….part of the problem with fewer Monarch butterflies could very well be climate change….or the use of certain pesticides. Maybe the missing and murdered Aboriginal women are also a result of the ‘climate’ of our society….of the way our society views Native women….and in this case, a climate that should change….actually should’ve changed a long time ago.  Like the use of pesticides may have decreased Monarch butterflies….and this use of pesticides is often indiscriminate, not caring what insect life it takes….and is often illegal….we must rethink the issue of missing and murdered Native women….the issue of violence towards Aboriginal women. Because it is illegal of course….and also often indiscriminate. In the case of climate change or pesticide use, we can find a better way to deal with things if we choose to. And we have the ability to correct these problems. The same is true with missing and murdered Native women….with the problem of any type of violence towards Aboriginal women….towards any women. We can find a better way to deal with either issue….to correct any problems that are causing these….whether it is decreased Monarch butterflies….or the numbers of native women, missing or murdered, or through any form of violence towards them.

Here are a few more thoughts on this and how we should treat each other….no matter what gender we are:

“Woman is the centre of the wheel of life. She is the heartbeat of the people. She is not just in the home, but she is the community, she is the Nation.

One of our Grandmothers.

The woman is the foundation on which Nations are built. She is the heart of her Nation. If that heart is weak the people are weak. If her heart is strong and her mind is clear then the Nation is strong and knows its purpose. The woman is the centre of everything.”  Art Solomon (Ojibwe), “Kesheyanakwan” (Fast Moving Cloud), Anishinaabe Elder.

“It is time for women to pick up their medicine and help heal a troubled world.”  Art Solomon (Ojibwe), “Kesheyanakwan” (Fast Moving Cloud), Anishinaabe Elder.

The Fire Within

Each of us carries a fire within….whether it’s through the knowledge we have, or through our experiences and associations, we are responsible for maintaining that fire.

At the end of the day maybe we should ask ourselves: “how is our fire burning?” Maybe that would make us think of what we’ve gone through that day — if we’d been offensive to anyone, or if they have offended us.

Maybe we should reflect on that because it has a lot to do with nurturing the fire within. And maybe if we did that….to let go of any distractions of the day by making peace within ourselves….maybe then we could learn to nurture and maintain our own fire within.

Another teaching is about the differences between men and women….and finding a balance in relationships of any kind between the sexes:

How fire represents the man; men are responsible for keeping the fire at ceremonies; that fire is like that male energy….when we take part in a sweat lodge ceremony it is like being reborn from the womb of Mother Earth….the lodge is that womb….the fire that heats the rocks that go into the lodge from the fire are like the male seed entering the womb….the water put on those rocks is the female energy….water represents the female….water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth with the lakes, rivers etc. that feed her….so women are keepers of the water while men are the keepers of the fire….what does this have to do with relationships????….if man is fire and woman is water, then think of it this way: if you take fire and put it to water you create steam which is largely “invisible”….so too much on the male side can seem to make the female “disappear”…..if you take water and put it on fire, you can put the fire out….same thing then if too much on the female side; the male is “extinguished”….so it’s all about finding balance….not too much fire and not too much water….a balance or a “partnership” in learning to co-exist.

Interdependence - Copy

“Interdependence”….moose needs wolf to survive as much as wolf needs moose.

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Fish design on door at Tea-N-Bannock.


Paddle I made….then painted….”Keeping Faith”.

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Feather box made then painted.


Drum painted for Bear clan friend.


“Northern Nights”


Couple of studies….works in progress.


Buffalo drum for young friend.


Another painting done….on 16″ X 20″ canvas….called “Bear Spirit”.


“Sticking Your Neck Out”, what leadership means to me.


When one thinks of leadership, one can be reminded of watching a V-formation of geese in flight.

The lead goose is sticking its neck out to break the air currents for the rest of the flock, thereby making it easier for the others to fly (as they “draft” in behind).

But if you watch that V-formation long enough, you’ll see that the lead goose will eventually fall back and another one will come up to take its place.

So a good leader will stick its neck out for whoever is following, setting a good example for the others.

But also a good leader knows when to let another lead, when to let others have a chance.


Painting for my partner Jenny Blackbird’s birthday,  ”Flight of Fantasy”.


Wedding gift for Jenny’s cousin, “In Unison”.


“Turtle Island/Mother Earth/Mother and Child”….acrylic on 16″ X 20″ canvas


A very quick study done on a canvas board….from sketching to painted in less than 5 hours….came up with the idea thinking of a certain Ma’iingan (wolf) kwe I walk with….who is a jingle dress dancer….I’m planning a larger canvas based on this soon.

I think of the issues faced by Canada’s Native peoples….and how this current government has treated First Nations….and then think again how almost all (if not all) governments have treated Canada’s Original peoples. Whether Provincial or Federal, governments should learn to listen to First Nations….to actually hear them….we have two ears and one mouth so should listen twice as much as we speak.

It was said that when the Europeans first came and ‘discovered’ North America that they had no eyes and no ears, since they didn’t see or hear. Maybe it is time to change that. Open up their eyes….and ears.

This was one of the reasons that Idle No More came to be….

Home On Native Land

From Facebook 9from Amber Sandy)….Mino Kanata Kiishikaat!.

I have often mentioned Art Solomon. Read Art’s poem ‘My Relations: O Canada from Eating Bitterness: A Vision Beyond Prison Walls:

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In Deconstructing ‘Canada’: A Vision of Hope, David J. Bondy wrote about Art Solomon and this poem from Eating Bitterness: A Vision Beyond Prison Walls:

Arthur Solomon was a First Nations teacher and spiritual leader who lived in Northern Ontario, Canada. Living and teaching the lessons of Native spirituality, Solomon pursued a vision of change, hope and healing. In his lifetime, Solomon fought passionately for Anishinabe voices in Canada to be heard. In his poem, ‘My Relations: O Canada’, Solomon problematizes the very foundations of hegemonic culture, challenging the assumptions behind the Western notions of subjectivity and nation. Solomon destabilizes the concept of ‘Canada’ as a nation, as a unified whole, by articulating the absences upon which ‘Canada’ is predicated, particularly the absence/exclusion of Native American voices and perspectives. In locating and exposing these silences, Solomon is deconstructing ‘Canada’ by upsetting the system of binary logic upon which notions of nation and identity are based. Solomon makes it clear that Canada, as a nation, cannot progress and heal until it learns to listen to and respect the voices of Native culture….

….the demarcation of boundaries which, as Solomon shows, have excluded Native peoples from the dominant Euro-American conception of ‘Canada’. Solomon is engaged in a…deconstructive project….that….demonstrates that the position of the Native as silent Other is crucial to our Western hegemonic identity….For Natives to speak, to claim subjectivity, is a transgressive act that disrupts the ‘order of things’. Solomon is locating these silences and writing/speaking them into the forefront. He is exposing how ‘Canada’, as a historical and nationalistic construction, is predicated on the systematic exclusion of Native peoples and Native voices, achieved through the silencing processes of systemic racism. By politicizing these silences, Solomon is engaged in….opening up spaces for silenced voices to speak themselves out of silence.

Solomon makes it clear that the marginalization of Native voices is not the result of any casual oversight. He writes to ‘Canada’: ‘You have rejected/and refused,/the most colourful/the most fundamental/thread of all./You have refused to include the original/people of this land…’ (Solomon, Eating Bitterness). Solomon forcefully asserts that the absence of Native voices from the dominant conception of ‘Canada’ is a result of a deliberate and systematic omission, a continuation of the same colonial project inaugurated by the early European explorers….

….At the centre of his poem (both literally and thematically), Solomon begins a stanza with the phrase ‘O Canada’: these two words, uttered together, invoke an entire range of associations. The phrase ‘O Canada’, as a verbal sign, so to speak, signifies on many levels. Every weekday morning, millions of children in classrooms across Canada, children of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, sing these words, which begin the Canadian national anthem, in praise of ‘our’ nation. There is such certainty evoked by the word ‘Canada’, particularly in the context of this anthem; there is no question as to what Canada is – Canada is simply Canada. It is, as the song goes on, ‘our home and native land’ (here Solomon is obviously intending the allusion to this verse and the double meaning of the phrase ‘native land’). This sense of ownership is suggested, and with such sureness: ‘our home’. In this context, ‘Canada’ is unproblematic, unified and coherent.

This is exactly where Solomon catches us. His second line of the stanza – ‘you are sick’ – undermines the sense of coherency and stability usually suggested by this image of Canada. Solomon problematizes ‘Canada’ by suggesting that, rather than unified and stable, it is a concept marked by certain fundamental absences and silences which threaten to destabilize its very constitution….The song ‘O Canada’, as a particular example, validates hegemonic culture by evoking dominant ideas about Canada and presenting it as an unproblematic whole. Solomon deconstructs this, challenging hegemonic ideology by suggesting that there is no unity. By interrogating the spaces of silence/violence at the heart of this concept, Solomon opens up ‘Canada’ to an important postcolonial investigation.

Solomon, in deconstructing the Western conceptions of Native Americans as non-white Others….asserting that there exists a lack not within Native culture but rather at the very heart of the hegemonic Western culture that has denied the diverse voices of Native people. This ‘lack’ is central to what Solomon diagnoses as the pathology of Western colonial culture, a culture that is ‘sick’ because it has ignored the teachings and wisdom of Native Americans. He is thus problematizing and/or subverting the position of the dominant culture which represents itself as fully realized.

Solomon is also problematizing the constructed colonial identities of Natives by stressing the diversity of Native culture; in describing it as ‘colourful’ (Art Solomon, Eating Bitterness), he is suggesting its richness and diversity. Asserting the reality of a multiplicity of Native cultures and languages, Solomon again upsets the binary logic of oppositional identities which relies on the stereotypical conception of ‘Native’ as a monolithic category. By addressing this diversity, Solomon upsets the categories by which hegemonic culture seeks to contain and control Native culture.

Solomon is also engaged in this poem in deconstructing the Western idea of ‘progress’….Solomon rejects these Western colonial capitalist notions of progress, and suggests just the opposite:

You have refused to include the original

people of this land

and your tapestry

of life will never

be completed….

And when you stop destroying

the earth

and the people

of the earth

then your healing

can come.

Canada, as a nation, Solomon writes, cannot grow, cannot ‘progress’ and heal, until it learns to listen to and respect the voices and teachings of Native culture. Western ‘progress’, as a capitalist ideology based on the importance of commercial and territorial expansion and monetary gain, is central to the Western psyche. Solomon, by locating this ideology as the source of Western pathology, opens up the often unchallenged authority of Western culture to a series of questions and probings, and makes room for – indeed, suggests the need for – Native voices to be heard.

Solomon’s project in ‘My Relations: O Canada’ is central to the theoretical project of contemporary cultural studies and postcolonial theory. Solomon problematizes Canadian concepts of identity and nation by exposing the politics which inform our national identity. With his words, he is paving the way for a diverse nation to become accountable to those voices that have been silenced and marginalized. Solomon offers us a vision of hope, ultimately, that it is not too late for us to learn from Native culture – perhaps most importantly, to learn how to heal.

As well, I will add a few more words from  Eating Bitterness: A Vision From Beyond The Prison Walls by Art Solomon (who worked so actively on behalf of Native peoples in the prisons):

“When Christopher Columbus landed in North America not one Native person was in prison, because there were no prisons.  We had laws and order because law was written in the hearts and minds and souls of the people and when justice had to be applied it was tempered with mercy.  The laws came from the ceremonies which were given by the spirit people, the invisible ones.  As a people we were less than perfect as all other people are, but we had no prisons because we didn’t need them.  We knew how to live and we also knew how not to live.”

Native people in Canada often find some of the words in ‘O Canada’ more than ironic….especially ‘our home and native land’….given the housing issues in most First Nation communities….and that this country of Canada was part of Turtle Island….truly was Native land.

Always one to believe in trying to see the positive side of things, I want to at least give voice to this discussion in a different format….so I am posting a few versions of ‘O Canada’….in Native tongues.

First a version from Asani, an Aboriginal womens a cappella group from Edmonton, Alberta. They present a stirring rendition of “O, Canada,” re-imagined to reflect the myriad peoples who call Canada their homeland. The group Asani hails from Alberta, Canada.  They are: Debbie Houle, Sarah Pocklington, and Sherryl Sewepagahan.  Here, Asani performs the Canadian National Anthem in the groups unique style:

There is this version sung at the 2010 Olympics Torch run  November 7, 2009. O Canada – kā-kanātahk the National Anthem in Cree. Sung by Lac La Ronge Indian Band member, Aileen Searson. Elders, Veterans,Torch bearers, Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, Vice Chief Morley Watson and community members stood proudly listening to the National Anthem in Cree.

And Robbie sings Oh Canada in Ojibway:

11 Year old Kalolin Johnson performs at the closing ceremonies of the Jeux Du Canada Games, on February 27,2011. Kalolin Johnson performed the National Anthem in her native Language Mi’kmaq and also in English, and was accompanied by Anna Ludlow, Ryan MacNeil, and artists from the National Arts Program who performed their piece in French . The video footage was taken by the TSN network.

And the Red Bull Singers sing Oh Canada in a Round Dance version:

Native people sometimes wear what is called a Unity button….a button with the four colours of red, white, black and yellow on it….these colours represent the four sacred colours of the Medicine Wheel….the four races of man….and these colours all meet in the middle….so we need to learn to meet in the middle too….to actually find common ground….equal footing. On what is our home….and NATIVE land.

Thought I would share this from the late Native artist and poet, Michael Robinson (


The Poet and the Song

Born on a star path

worn by Eagles and wind

I live in the heart of the sun.

My mother’s heart is the river of time.

The dark forest wall

is where my father sleeps,

where he gave me passage

to this small bend in the river.

The forest stands before me

an ancient doorway

I can silently slip through

to dwell among the colours

the shadows

and the spirits living there.

I can sing out

with a raven’s tongue

and fly above the night

to touch the fire

of starlight

and dance on the moon

until the end of time

but the river

marks my beginning

and my end

and here

I shall tell my story.

Michael Robinson Poet/Artist

For 24 years I was a light canoeman. I required but little sleep, but sometimes got less than I required. No portage was too long for me; all portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground ’til I saw the end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, paddle, walk and sing with any man I ever saw… I pushed on – over rapids, over cascades, over chutes; all were the same to me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the song… There is no life so happy as a voyageur’s life; none so independent; no place where a man enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza, huzza pour le pays sauvage! — anonymous coureur-de-bois quoted by a Hudson’s Bay Co. historian

The canoes rode well, not too high in the bows, but just enough. Peterborough Prospectors were made for the bush and for roaring rapids and waves. They embodies the best features of all canoes in the north. They were wide of beam with sufficient depth to take rough water, and their lines gave them maneuverability and grace. In them was the lore of centuries, of Indian craftsman who had dreamed and perfected the beauty of the birchbark, and of French voyageurs who also loved the feel of the paddle and the smooth glide of the canoe through the water. All this was taken by modern craftsman who – with glues , waterproof fillers and canvas, together with the accuracy of machine tooled ribs and thwarts , planking and gunwales – made a canoe of which Northmen might be well proud. – Sigurd Olson

Such vivid awareness is swiftly lost today, but if it can be held into adulthood it enriches and colors all we do. How often in the wild country of the north I have been aware of the spirits of the voyageurs, the shadowy forms that once roamed the rivers and lakes. Often at night it seemed I could hear ghostly songs coming across the water, the rhythmic dip of paddles and the swish of great canoes as they went by. – Sigurd Olson

Tu es mon compagnon de voyage! Je veux mourir dans mon canot Sur le tombeau, près du rivage, Vous renverserez mon canot

When I must leave the great river O bury me close to its wave And let my canoe and my paddle Be the only mark over my grave – from ‘Mon Canoe d’écorce’ (‘My Bark Canoe’) translated by Frank Oliver Call

From The Canadian Encyclopedia,, comes the following definition of the voyageur:

A voyageur was an adventurer who journeyed by canoe from Montréal to the interior to trade with Indians for furs. At the close of the 17th century, the term was applied to selected coureurs de bois, hired by Montréal merchants to arrange and sustain trading alliances with Indian bands. The term later included all fur trade participants: the merchant (bourgeois), his clerk (commis) and contracted servants (engagés). Today, the term “voyageur” suggests the romantic image of men paddling the canoes in the fur brigades which traversed much of the continent, living lives full of perilous adventure, gruelling labour and boisterous cameraderie.

Shooting the Rapids

Shooting the Rapids

Shooting the rapids, in a master canoe. Painting by Francis Ann Hopkins (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C2774f).

Voyageurs at Dawn

Voyageurs at Dawn

Painting by Frances Ann Hopkins. The overturned canoes make temporary shelters for the men (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-2773).

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

Oil on canvas by Frances Anne Hopkins, 1869 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada 1989-401-1X; C-2771).

From the now deleted website, Festival du Voyageur,


The term Voyageur, a French word meaning “traveler”, was applied originally in Canadian history to all explorers and fur-traders. It came in time to be restricted to the men who operated the canoes and bateaux or fur-traders.

The French régime was responsible for the rise of this unique group of men. From the days of earliest exploration until 1763, a large part of what is now Canada and much of the rest of the continent west of the Appalachian Mountains was French Territory. In this vast region lived the several tribes of Indians with whom the French settlers around Québec and Montréal were not slow to barter furs. Castor (beaver), marten, renard (fox), lynx, ours (bear), loutre (otter),loup (wolf), muskrat, and many other furs were in great demand in Europe and Asia.

At first the Indians took their skins and furs down the St. Lawrence River to Québec and Montréal, whither annual fairs attracted them; but in time ambitious traders intercepted the natives and purchased their furs in the interior. TheVoyageurs may said to have been born. Farther and farther up the St. Lawrence, into Lakes Huron and Michigan they ventured. Erie and Ontario were explored, and finally Lake Superior. Trading posts were sprinkled from Montréal to the Rocky Mountains, from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind them place names such as Detroit, Traverse City, Eau Claire, Duluth, St. Louis, Grand Portage, Presque Isle, Fort Macleod, Fort Kamloops, and Fort Quesnel.

As time went on, the French government found it necessary to establish rules and regulations for this lucrative business. Congres(licenses) to enter the Indian country were required; certain articles were prohibited in the trade, and only a specified number of traders would be licensed in one year.

Voyageurs formed a class as distinct in dress, customs, and traditions as sailors or lumberjacks. Short chemise (shirt), a red woolen tuque, a pair of deerskin moccasins, and jambières (leggings), held up by a ceinture fléchée (sash), and the azion (breech cloth) of the Indians, complemented by the inevitable pipe and sac-à-feu (beaded pouch) hanging from the sash.

One would expect Voyageurs to be men of heroic proportions, but usually they were not. The average Voyageur was five feet six inches in height. Had they been taller, they would have occupied too much precious space in the canot(canoe) already overloaded with provisions (cargo). But though the Voyageur was short, he was strong. He could paddle fifteen – yes, if necessary – eighteen hours per day for weeks on end and joke beside the campfire at the close of the day. He could carry from 250 to 400 pounds of merchandise on his back over rocky portages at a pace which made unburdened travelers pant for breath in their endeavour not to be left behind.

To aid paddling under conditions of difficulty or monotony, the Voyageurs sang. Songs were chosen whose rhythm was such that the paddles could keep time to the music. Ordinarily the steersman chose the song and gave the pitch. Sometimes he sang the stanza and the others joined in the chorus. In the parlance of his fellows he was a solo. Voyageurs were chosen partly with respect to their vocal abilities, and the effect of six to fourteen of them in full song was quite impressive. Of course, they sang in French – of the canoes, of their country, of their life, of their loves, of their church – sentimental romances, old ballads, humourous jingles, and lofty poems. These songs, many of which were inheritances from French Troubadours of the Medieval Ages, gave to their strokes rhythm and drive, performing in a way the function of the sea shanties for sailors.

To understand the Voyageur completely one must accompany him on one of his trips from Montréal into the pays d’en haut(upstairs country), as he termed the Northwest.

Any year between 1770 and 1840, Montréal Island was the scene of much commotion on the May morning set for the departure of a brigade of canots for the Northwest. As soon as the bourgeouis (agent) and come to terms with hisengage (employees), and engagements (contract) was signed. He agreed not to desert his master, not to give aid or encouragement to his master’s rivals during the period of his engagement. They were printed in French, with spaces left for the Voyageurs name, his home, the wages he was to receive, and any special provisions.

The Voyageur’s equipment consisted of a blanket, shirt, a pair of trousers, two hankerchiefs, several pounds of carrot tobacco (a carrot-shaped twist of tobacco). their goods were packed into pièces each weighing up to ninety pounds. Two of these pièces make an ordinary load for portaging, but stories were told of those who carried up to eight at once.

The route lay along the St. Lawrence to its confluence with the Ottawa and up that stream to the point where the Mattawa River joins it from the West. In this distance on la grand rivière there were eighteen portages. There were also approximately as many décharges: to these numerous falls and rapids were given names such as les chats (the cats), la chaudière (the kettle), les allumettes (the matches) and la calumet (the peace pipe).

On the second evening after the departure from Montréal, when the campement had been made in a pine-sheltered nook on the bank of the river, when souper had been eaten around the blazing fire, and whilst smoke from many pipes lay like a cloud against the dark forest trees, the call for une chanson was issued.

Reproduit sous l’autorisation du Festival du Voyageur inc.

There have been many different renditions of the voyageur songs over the years….some sung by camp groups around a campfire or on a canoe trip. The Canadian folk group, Tanglefoot, recorded two such songs which appeared on Canoesongs Volume I and II,

La V’la M’amie

Traditional Voyaguer Song, on Canoesongs Volume I

Arrangement: Joe Grant, Steve Ritchie, Al Parrish and Bob Wagar

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontre trois jolies demoiselles

Chorus La V’la M’amie que j’aime, j’aime, j’aime, La V’la M’amie que j’aime La V’la M’amie que j’aime, j’aime, j’aime, La V’la M’amie que j’aime

J’ai point choisi, mais j’ai pris la plus belle


J’l’y fis monter derriere moi sur ma selle


J’y fis cent lieu sans parler avec elle


Paddle Like Hell!

Traditional; arranged by Steve Ritchie, Sandra Swannell and Terry Young

Originally released as C’est l’aviron/V’là l’bon vent on Canoesongs Volume II, Portage Productions, April 2006

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle J’l’y fis monter derrière moi sur ma selle C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent V’là l’bon vent m’amie m’appelle V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent V’là l’bon vent m’amie m’attend

Derrière chez nous y’a-t-un étang Derrière chez nous y’a-t-un étang Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant

Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant Le fils du roi s’en va chassant

Le fils du roi s’en va chassant Le fils du roi s’en va chassant Avec son grand fusil d’argent

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

Then there is The Sons of the Voyageur,, are described as such: 

Journey back in time with the Sons of the Voyageur. These engaging “edu-tainers” bring the fur trade era to life through songs of the voyageurs in a multimedia rear-projection slide presentation featuring close to 100 images. In their interactive musical theatre performance you will hear authentic fur trade era songs sung a capella in three and four part harmony, and be led from Montreal to Grand Portage as the lifestlye of the Voyageur is portrayed in authentic period costume. An extensive collection of paddling, working and playing songs form the basis of this exciting historical overview of the life and times of a voyageur.



sov.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

The group consists of (left to right in the photo) Grant Herman, Tom Yost, Gary Hecimovich, Tom Draughton, and Ron Hobart.

The Sons of the Voyageur, Bien travailler

Sixteen chansons of the voyageurs, plus the Canadian National Anthem. Sung a capella by Les fils du voyageur, The Sons of the Voyageur.

Table of Contents

The Sons of the Voyageur, Canot d’Écorce

Twenty chansons including some of the most famous voyageur songs. Sung a capella by Les fils du voyageur, The Sons of the Voyageur.

Table of Contents

Canot d'Ècorce Album Cover

James Raffan wrote in Bark, Skin and Cedar, of another musical group steeped in voyageur songs, describing them performing at a dance with a voyageur theme:

The band for the costumed occasion was called “Rubaboo”, after pemmican soup, and included a line-up of musicians who, in their real lives, were about as close to modern-day voyageurs as one can get. There was Peter Labor, who runs an outfitting and tour firm on Lake Superior; Jeremy Ward, a birchbark-canoe builder; and a third troubadour who, by association with the other two and in his ceinture flechee, was voyageur enough for me.

Rubaboo was a basic stew or porridge consumed by ‘coureurs des bois’ and  ‘voyageurs’ (fur traders) and Metis people of North America, traditionally made of peas or corn (or both) with grease (bear or pork) and a thickening agent (bread or flour). Pemmican and maple sugar were also commonly added to the mixture. The musical group Rubaboo has performed at the Canadian Canoe Museum and other such venues. Their music is very much inspired by the voyageurs. As noted one member of this group was Jeremy Ward.

Jeremy Ward is the curator of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Jeremy has been involved with the museum for over a decade as a volunteer and staff member. He developed and carried out a number of significant projects and programs, perhaps the most notable of which was the research and construction of a 36’ birchbark canoe. Working before the public at the museum and leading a team of dedicated volunteers, Jeremy built an authentic, working example of the canot du maitre, the workhorse vehicle of the 18th and early 19th century fur trade in Canada. (This canoe along with Jeremy was featured in Ray Mears’ fine series The Northern Wilderness.) He has also designed and built the Preserving Skills Gallery and the Voyageur Encampment diorama.

The Canadian Canoe Museum ( includes exhibits depicting various aspects of the voyageur’s life and times, including much on the fur trade. Two educational programs offered for Grades 4/5/6/7/8 at the Canoe Museum are:



Trappers and Traders takes students of the middle-school age into the heart of the fur trade through the exploration of various peoples and characters who participated in this sweeping element of Canadian history.  Then through a series of costumed experiential role playing vignettes at our trading dock and voyageur encampment.  Stories, terms, French language, navigation, post locations, trade items, portaging practice, period food and manipulation of various types of furs make this an engaging experience for all.



Students take on the role of a trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company and explore the fur trade industry while trading information for furs and then furs for European goods.    They experience the emotional and physical challenges of the fur trade while gaining accurate knowledge of what life really was like in that industry. It’s a real game!

Here are some photos of exhibits related to the fur trade and voyageurs from the Canadian Canoe Museum:

phoca_thumb_l_47.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trading Post

phoca_thumb_l_36.jpg phoca_thumb_l_35.jpg

North Canoe, laden with trade goods.

Photos from Canadian Canoe Museum,

Paddles up until later then….and remember each time we dip our paddles into the water that we echo the songs of past paddlers….including the voyageurs.

I have used a tumpline….as well as a yoke….the tumpline was good especially if no yoke present….many find carved yokes are not satisfactory for portaging….and prefer a tumpline on a centre thwart….

I have a yoke that is not so ‘carved’ on my favourite wood canvas canoe….and I manage quite well with just that….


Photos by yours truly showing detail of yoke in my favourite green canoe.

However my portages tend to be mostly short these days (old age I guess LOL LOL)….if I was doing longer and harder portages regularly I would be very tempted to use a tumpline….

Here are some opinions on using a tumpline to portage:

From How to Portage a Canoe !, is this (although not specific to wood canvas canoes):

First of all the author makes these comments:

Lashing paddles to make a yoke. More of a guillotine than a yoke, when you wipe out. You will wipe out someday…we all do. The lashing shifts around, wastes time setting up, and the canoe will pound your shoulders.

The carved yoke. The purpose of a carved wooden yoke is to sell canoes and its job is done once the canoe leaves the showroom. It is not carved for your shoulders, my shoulders, or the shoulders of anyone you know. Even if it were, it would only fit when the canoe is level. Like any yoke, it is designed to pound your shoulders and inflict pain within the first 100 meters. It is also intended to slice into your neck on your way downhill, and slide off going uphill. Your arm is meant to fall asleep as you grasp the gunwhale to keep the canoe in place. At least if you wipe out the canoe will roll off you.

Then he describes using a tumpline:

The Tump Strap

The weight of the canoe is ultimately supported by your spine, so why not direct the load there as directly as possible? This is why North American Indians first used a leather tump strap over their forehead, tied to either side of the centre thwart. The weight is off my shoulders. Most of the weight is directly down my spine and the thwart rides on my back, behind my shoulders. The tump acts as a leaf-spring to absorb shock as I trek down the trail, or run across during a canoe race. You can jog with this method! I use a felt hat to block mosquitos and protect my forehead from the tump’s force.

The author continues with details on his approach to portaging with a tump.

There is a great explanation on using a tump for portaging….specifically a wood canvas canoe….from Camp Nomiinigue in Quebec….at Portaging A Heavy Canoe With A Tump Line. (NOTE: More on these two articles later in this post.)
Further discussion on using a tumpline is found at A Lecture On Tumplines:
The absolute best contemporary discussion of the tumpline I have ever read is in Garrett Conover’s 1991 work, “Beyond the Paddle.” This book is still in print, and while most of it concerns advanced canoe techniques, the section on tumplines is clear and concise. Conover is a huge advocate of the tumpline, and several photographs along with the text show his recommended techniques for use. Conover recommends a tumpline with some form of adjustment between each end of the headstrap and the longer load-lashing straps. “My guess is that those who are vehemently opposed to the tumpline are those who have never used one without taking the time to fine-tune and ensure a proper fit,” he says. “This is the fussiest point in the tumpline equation and requires some patience and experimentation to get right. If one never experiences getting it right, then the anguished howling and abject misery is easy to sympathize with and is entirely justifiable. A tumpline adjusted even a fraction of an inch too long or too short is indeed aggravating beyond belief.”
As Kevin Callan notes in The Pain of Portaging | How To Articles – GuideLines:  A tump strap can help spread the stress of the load and stops the canoe from slipping down your back. Take note, however, that a tump may not be for everyone. By resting the weight directly on the spine, neck muscles are essential.
There have been several discussions on using tumplines on, such as  Tumplines: good, bad, yes, no.
In that discussion on, I also posted the following:
Murat V. wrote the best of all articles online in his excellent Paddle Making (And Other Canoe Stuff) on tumplines and using them to portage a canoe:
Murat also posted about these as well on….Song of the Paddle forum….and likely elsewhere (I’m sure I saw other posts by Murat on other canoe related forums)….in Part 3 of this excellent series, Murat covers the use of the tump in portaging a canoe….he mentions many of the same sources I’ve already pointed out in my previous post here….any way, I think Murat says it all in his three part series….
In Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): Canoe Tump Project – Part 3: Using the Rig, Murat mentioned the two articles I had previously referred to….as Murat points out about the article, How to Portage a Canoe !:
This article by a canoe tump enthusiast suggests a contoured centre yoke is a horrible innovation. His method requires the replacement of the “stinky” centre yoke with 2″ diameter round aluminum tubing. Might work for him but not going to happen with my boat.
He continues with a great discussion on the other article previously mentioned, Portaging A Heavy Canoe With A Tump Line from a presentation made at Canoecopia 2007-2008 by Camp Nomingue staff:
 This full colour, clearly written article outlines all the technical aspects although they tend to use canvas & cord based tumps. Interesting that their lashing method involves securing the tump cord 1.5 inches ahead of the actual centre thwart.

Camp Nominigue Setup 

Murat continues:
Since my leather tump is akin to the Northwest Woodsman’s site, I’ve used his photos and accompanying YouTube video,, to learn the correct method of lashing it in. The video shows the method for a wanigan first and then for a canoe around the 3:50 mark. His canoe also has a contoured portage yoke just like mine.

NW Woodsman Tump Pics

However, one thing I never quite liked about the paddles being lashed in the claustrophobic space created by sandwiching your head between the blades. While re-reading the classic birchbark canoe text, The Building of a Chippewa Indian Birch-Bark Canoe by Robert E. Ritzenthaler I came across a paragraph (p. 96) describing one native way of using the tumpline. It involved lashing the grip end of the paddles to the centre thwart with the blades pointed towards the bow. The position is such that the the shafts of the paddles are flared away at the yoke resulting in a much more open triangular space. The arms are wrapped around the shafts with the hands loosely griping the sides of the tumpline on the forehead. Here’s the accompanying photo on pg. 95

One Native Tump Method

This last method appealed to me the most. With all tumplines however, trial and error to get it adjusted just right to work properly. While up north for a brief fall getaway, I got a chance to test out the setup. The tump was secured to the yoke with simple hitches but it took me about about 45 minutes of fiddling to finally find the right length. In the end, I figured out that for my boat and yoke, the best measure was when the centre of the tump’s headpiece just touched the bottom of the hull when pressed down with my finger. This will make it much easier to attach/adjust in the future so as not to waste much time.

Laying out; Clove Hitch to Yoke; Re-adjusted length

The slack was used to tie in the grips of two paddles and a piece of 1/2″ wide leather strip was used to secure the blades to the seat. In the end the setup was quite secure.

Grips lashed in; Blades secure; the final setup

Canoe tump portage

The results: I’m totally impressed with the use of tumpline. While my boat isn’t a heavy beast to begin with, the tump and paddle setup really make for an seemingly lighter carry. I walked around the property with the canoe (including uphill) to a parking lot area drawing some funny looks from neighbours and while it wasn’t an authentic bush portage, the tump carry did make a difference on the shoulders. From a safety standpoint, if I slightly shrugged my shoulders up and tilted my head back, the tump would slip off and roll backwards because of the way it was lashed in. A simple hand motion would swing the tump back into place onto the top of the head so it is relatively easy to get in and out if needed.Especially significant was the ability to let go of the paddles and rest the arms while the tump & shoulders balanced the boat. Also, with the bulk of the weight borne by the tumpline, you only really need one hand to secure the boat while moving. To take the picture above, I set up a sawhorse in the driveway, placed the camera on it, set it on a 10 second delay and walked into position, all the while efforlessly balancing the canoe with the tumpline. It may have its critics, but for me, I can see the potential in this piece of gear.
I hope Murat forgives me for using so much material from his blog on the use of the tumpline in portaging a wood canvas canoe….as I stated in the SoloTripping forum:
….in Part 3 of this excellent series, Murat covers the use of the tump in portaging a canoe….he mentions many of the same sources I’ve already pointed out in my previous post here….any way, I think Murat says it all in his three part series….
Let me close with a few thoughts previously mentioned on portaging here:

It’s the portage that makes travelling by canoe unique. – Bill Mason

….portaging is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop. – Bill Mason

Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy. – Bill Mason

Another prerequisite of good canoe country is short portages. Long portages, and by that I mean portages over half a mile in length, are rare and in the entire area there are on the regular routes perhaps not half a dozen of over a mile. On the average most of them are under a quarter-mile and many even shorter, thanks again to the damming of the river systems by the glacier. When you travel down any chain of lakes, your portages invariably follow the beds of the old creeks connecting them, now perhaps only seepages. If the water is high, it is often possible to paddle directly from one lake to another down the old preglacial channels or perhaps make a simple liftout over a separating ledge or gravel bar into the water above.

In the famous canoe country of Maine, portages are often several miles in length, a distance which makes possible means of transportation only by horse and wagon or even narrow-gauge railway. How much more adventurous and satisfying to throw on your canoe and walk quickly across a short woods trail to the next lake. Then you can enjoy to the full the sensation of being on your own and that in the wilds is half the joy of travelling. True, there are other lake regions to the north of us in Canada, where lakes and rivers are as plentiful, but nowhere will you find them with portages of the type found in the border country. The further north you go, the more muskeg you find and with more muskeg goes inevitably lower shores and swampy trails. Only here in the Quetico-Superior do you find them picturesque and beautiful, a welcome change to muscles weary with paddling, a pleasure rather than a chore. – Sigurd Olson, The Evolution of a Canoe Country, in Minnesota Conservationist, May 1935

May your portages be short and the breezes gentle on your back. – Anonymous

The worst portage ever is the next one! – Scott MacGregor

The thought of having to carry all your worldly possessions on your back has been cause to modify the quintessential Canadian adventure canoe trip in terms of how many portages will be encountered. Paddlers now have mutated their own aspirations of adventure by eliminating the “carry”-the fundamental and historical pith of the journey, and choose a route with the least amount of work involved. – from Grey Owl & Me by Hap Wilson

I have no desire for long portages. That’s like saying I desire traffic jams on the 401 when really all I really desire is to get home.

I have a desire for seclusion, for remoteness, stillness and silence, for portability, speed (when …it’s needed), and lightness. The mantra is “Go quietly, Carry little.” As you know, between Wellesley and Sudbury, often it is the long portages that take you to those places. I can go to Algonquin during peak season and not see another human for days, and I can do this simply by using portages that discourage most–and this is right off of Hwy 60.

And, although portages can be analogous to root-canal, they somehow bring depth and character to the trip, while you’re there, but also in memory. Like a pilgrimage, the physical strain wears down the body and opens it up to and is receptive to the solitude and even transcendence that the portage has brought you to.

Portages also represent something that runs counter to our culture of drive-thru convenience and auto-gratification. There is reward thinking about and completing a portage. At the end of the portage I gulp down the water and it may occur to me that I did not click a button to get this far. My body is almost broken, but the air is sweet. Even outside of the canoe world, there is a link between physical work and gratification and contentment. The link, however, is laid bare on some canoe trips.

In one of Olson’s books, he describes his favourite lake, the perfect lake in his mind, a lake that in the past he had spent days portaging and paddling to get to. One summer he decides to fly in, but quickly concludes that his experience of the lake and the area is not the same, is not as deep and meaningful. He is disconnected. To experience or to feel connected to his surroundings, he felt he needed the portages, the travel, the miles of paddling. The meaning of the place is not merely in the physical location, but in the journey.

Olson reminiscences fondly for both lakes and portages:

“I can still see so many of the lakes (whose shores and hills are forever changed after the storm): Saganaga, Red Rock, Alpine, Knife, Kekekabic, Eddy, Ogishkemunicie, Agamok, Gabimichigami, Sea Gull. It seems like yesterday… the early-morning bear on Brant Lake, that long portage from Hanson Lake to the South Arm of the Knife, that perfect campsite on Jasper Lake…”

I don’t like portages, but they get me to where I want to go. And out there, it seems that while I don’t like them, they are the tough-lovers of canoe trip: they know better than me in preparing me for the place I am trying to get to both physically and emotionally. – Paul Hoy

It not just about the trail one travels, as much as how one gets there….just as life is not so much about the destination as the journey….even with the portages LOL LOL. And when one gets to travel by canoe through wilderness, then one reconnects with the land….with the water….with the rocks and trees….with the whole environment….and maybe also with one’s self.

Paddles up until later then….and remember that life is not about its destination, but its journey….the journey might be tough, long and winding….but it’s sure worth the walk….or the paddle at least LOL LOL. – Mike Ormsby

As you near the far shore’s portage, you feel fresh, ready to carry the canoe Over the short yet rocky trail into the next small but distant lake Perhaps even to a welcoming campsite under the pines Settling down for the night under sparkling stars Maybe even catching glimpse of a shooting star or the Northern Lights

The cedar and canvas canoe rolls up onto your shoulders Not too much weight, a bit more than you remember from last year Just enough to let you know you’re still alive You double the carry over so you don’t overdo it Or maybe it’s just to take more time to see where you’re at

As you rest by a waterfall beside the path, you reflect on the day….on what lies ahead Still a few hours left before the sun sets….should be a full moon tonight Maybe you’ll hear the howl of a wolf…. the echo of a loon from a nearby lake You feel good….at ease….at home….and far from being alone The canoe and you have journeyed far…and still have farther yet to go

For each trip takes you away from the daily grind With each paddle stroke, there is definitely a greater peace of mind So you pick up your pack, walking the last of the portage Upon arrival, you launch the canoe onto the shining waters You and the canoe dance on into the remaining daylight – Mike Ormsby

Paddles up until later….and remember as the cedar and canvas canoe rolls up onto your shoulders: hopefully there is not too much weight….maybe a bit more than you remember from last year….but just enough to let you know you’re still alive….

Next time you portage, think of using a tumpline to ease the portage of your wood canvas canoe….maybe even with any canoe….

And think of where portages can lead you….certainly not just away from the crowds….

There is usually discussion about tripping with a wood canvas canoe.

I thought I would post on some of those thoughts here….with some quotes from others:

I have always believed that the Canadian Wooden canoe is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe. It is as much a part of our land as the rocks and trees and lakes and rivers. It takes as much skill and artistry to paddle a canoe well as it does to paint a picture of it. In this painting I wanted to capture the look and feel of a well-worn travelling companion. There’s hardly a rib or plank that isn’t cracked but after a quarter of a century it’s still wearing its original canvas. – Bill Mason, Canoescapes (NOTE: This was in reference to a painting done by Bill Mason of his favourite Chestnut canoe.)

Although in later life Bill vehemently defended the virtues of his beloved Chestnut – his personal fleet included three, a 16′ Pal, a 16′ Prospector and a 17′ Cruiser – he could have been paddling any number of canvas-covered canoes built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. In fact, there were on the market, for all intents and purposes, dozens of nearly identical models, made by various manufacturers in the United States and Canada, many of which had the model name “Prospector.” But, even as a class or type of canvas-covered canoe, the Prospector that became his favourite was entirely consistent with Bill and his view of the world. It was mostly made of natural materials – steamed white cedar ribs and planking; brass tacks and screws; cotton-canvas skin; and white ash or oak seats, thwarts and gunwales. It was solid; it was durable; it could be repaired in the field; and it moved quietly and responsively in all types of water. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

Wood and canvas canoes are strong, seaworthy, exceptionally responsive to the paddle and soothing to the human spirit – Hugh Stewart, master canoe builder, Headwater Canoes

Going down a river or crossing a lake in anything but wood-canvas is like floating on a linoleum rug. That’s just how it looks when you glance inside one of those types of canoes and watch the bottom flex and shimmer with the water. Whereas, in any wood-canvas canoe you have all these beautiful rich colors of the cedar planking and ribs, hardwood gunwales and decks, and caned seats. Even the smells are nice and directly relate to the environment you are traveling through. – Jack Hurley, canoebuilder

I suppose there would always be an argument for the different types of materials and canoe designs, but the wood-canvas canoe is one generation away from the birchbark canoe and was made for working and transporting people through the wilderness. It was designed and made out of materials that would stand up to miles and miles of flatwater and whitewater and portaging through very rugged and unexplored terrain. As a trip leader with kids and adults, I have safely traveled across many lakes in a wood-canvas canoe in conditions where other experienced paddlers in the new-design boats were either windbound or took on water during the crossings. – Jim Spencer, canoebuilder.

Nothing feels like a cedar-strip canvas canoe – Omer Stringer, a confirmed traditionalist

I use my wood canvas canoe to trip….and I find it interesting to have many a conversation around my personal preference of a wood-canvas canoe….and especially how many thought that such a canoe was lovely to look at….probably even beautiful to paddle…..but many were surprised I would use such a canoe for trips. Comments like: Isn’t it too heavy? How do you ever portage it?”….But it’s too fragile for canoe tripping”….“There’s a lot of work to those canoes, isn’t there? Don’t you have to revarnish the wood every year, repair or recanvas every year?”…. What happens if it gets damaged out on the trail?”….“Won’t that slow you down?”….“Well you wouldn’t run rapids with it”.

I remember being at the Wilderness Canoe Symposium and hearing about journeys in wood canoes through the Arctic….Sure but that’s all they had then” ….yes, even bark canoes had been used by earlier travellers or explorers (like David Thompson)….but wood-canvas canoes still have their place in wilderness travel just as they did when they were the main mode of travel by explorers, trappers, surveyors or prospectors, not to mention so many youth camps. Maybe wood-canvas canoes might even have their advantages over modern fiberglas, Kevlar or Royalex canoes.

On his Headwaters Canoes website, Hugh expounds his reasons for why a wood-canvas canoe,

We build canoes which are strong, seaworthy, exceptionally responsive to the paddle and soothing for the human spirit. Our canoes are for people to use seriously, whether paddling at the cottage, or travelling remote rivers and lakes of the north. The wood is carefully selected and our canoes well finished. The emphasis is on durability and performance rather than on “chippendale” finishes. We do not subscribe to the “fragility myth” which suggests that wood canvas canoes are too delicate to be used in remote, rugged country. With proper skills, you can travel pretty well anywhere in a wood canvas canoe. All of the intriguing routes and legendary canoe trips in Canada were done in so called fragile canoes. Although traditional canoes have been imitated in many synthetic materials, (prospector, for example) the responsiveness and efficiencies of the original designs are often lost. These ‘ high-tech’ canoes appear attractive because they are vaunted to be impervious to damage. Yet, many do not function well when you line, pole or paddle long distances with heavy loads. The concept and the magic of a canvas covered canoe is that it can have 2,3, or even 4 new outer skins in its lifetime. Since gluing and laminating are not utilized, any broken parts can be replaced at the time of recanvassing. These canoes are exceptionally recyclable and ultimately, except for screws, tacks and brass, biodegradable. Wood canvas canoes are considered by many to be “too heavy” when portaging. Using a tumpline, a technology given to us by aboriginal peoples, much of the load can be transferred from the shoulders to the head. We have also developed various ways through which a canoe can be made lighter upon request. These include thinner ribs, lightweight seats, and light canvas filled with butyrate (airplane dope).

Camp Temagami is one camp that still trip using wood canvas canoes….and they explain why they use wood canvas canoes in

….“You don’t take those on whitewater trips, do you?” is one response. “A little bit extravagant, don’t you think?” is another. These two reactions illustrate the two biggest myths concerning wood/canvas canoes: they are fragile, and they are so precious that their use should be somehow limited.

We use wood/canvas canoes for lots of reasons. The first is functional. Simply put, we think they work better for what we do than anything else out there. How do we make that choice? Well, a wilderness canoe must be big enough to carry a load and stay dry in rough weather; it must paddle easily enough to move well on lakes, but it must also be agile enough to respond well in whitewater; it must be rugged enough to stand up to weeks of hard use, and if broken, must be repairable in the field….

….The idea that wooden canoes are fragile is simply wrong. I have put my canoes through some gruelling tests and every time have been surprised by how they have responded. People such as our builder, Hugh Stewart, who has considerably more time and miles in them than I, and in tough, rugged conditions, have the same view. On trips we have shared with paddlers of plastic boats, we have found ourselves subjecting our canoes to more wear and tear (and, incidentally, running bigger rapids) than fellow travelers in lightweight Kevlar canoes. In 2002, two of our wooden canoes were “wrapped” on river trips – a situation I had always thought would end in kindling. (By the way, that was the first time we’ve ever “wrapped” a canoe.) Both canoes survived and were paddleable. In the same summer, an acquaintance of mine put an 8″ tear in an ABS canoe (an injury deemed ‘paddler abuse’, not ‘manufacturing defect’ by the builder). That same year we retired one of our original ABS Old Town Trippers, bought for the 1983 season. We could probably squeeze some more life out of it, but it had begun to leak in a creased area we repaired with putty. Some of our wooden canoes have twenty-five or thirty years on them, and could continue to be repaired. As though there were any need, I hope these examples banish the myth that wooden canoes are fragile. I now think they are more reliable than anything but layered ABS. Although wood/canvas canoes paddle admirably and are durable and repairable, many people are intimidated by their weight. Poorly constructed wood canoes are indeed heavy, and will get appreciably heavier over the course of a trip. Well built canoes are less variable. As well, wooden canoes are no heavier than comparable ABS ones. Perhaps Kevlar is lighter, but it is far less durable. In a trade off between weight and durability, wilderness trippers will always choose ruggedness, especially when good technique on the portage trail can make a load more bearable. What of other materials? The camp has a range of synthetic canoes; how do these stack up and why don’t we have more? It’s true that we need rugged canoes. Layered ABS boats (like the Old Town Tripper and Camper that we use) are virtually indestructible, but their bottoms are flat and flexible, making them slow on lakes and skittish in whitewater. They are also just as heavy as wood. We carry a few for situations where we expect more than normal wear and tear, but, all things being equal, they don’t perform as well. Kevlar and other ABS constructions can be moulded to any desirable shape, but neither is as durable as wood/canvas. Our Nova Craft canoes (ABS with a foam core) have been a disappointment….

I have talked about this subject in the past….maybe even bored many of you with my near obsession with wood canvas canoes (but as I’m stated here before: “WOODn’t you rather have a WOOD canoe?”)….wood canvas canoes though are not just ‘museum pieces’ (although the Canadian Canoe Museum has a great selection of wood canvas canoes)….they are meant to be used….the proposed trip by the Keewaydin Expedition 2012 certainly supports that….wood canvas canoes are not for everybody….but are also not just for ‘die-hard traditionalists’ or ‘wood canoe fanatics’ like myself….

Paddles up until later then….and if you haven’t already….I hope you get a chance to paddle a wood canvas canoe one day….and maybe even take a trip with one….

I have been rereading Building The Maine Guide Canoe By Jerry Stelmok (this is a direct link to the online book from This was one of the first books on building wood canvas canoes….it was followed by The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance that was written by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow.

Building The Maine Guide Canoe had a foreword by Clint Tuttle, a canoe builder and instructor of wooden boatbuilding. Clint shared his thoughts on wood canvas canoes, which included the following:

A canoe must fill many unusual requirements: it must be light and portable, yet strong and seaworthy, and it must embody practical qualities for paddle, pole, and sail. It must reject every superfluity of design and construction, yet satisfy the tastes of its owner and safely carry heavy dunnage through unpredictable conditions. These demands will be met by a builder both meticulous and clever – one who, through resourcefulness and dedicated craftsmanship, can build a canoe that will be an everlasting source of joy. It will provide pleasures that continue throughout the four seasons: loving labors that extend from spring refit through a summer and autumn of hard work and play, and on through the winter layup period of redesigning, building, and improving the canoe and its auxiliary gear.

I hope the author’s text….will impart….a proper understanding of of the creation of simple, graceful canoes. It is sad that the practical knowledge and technical skill necessary to build them has remained virtually uncommunicated. One can only hope that revealing a part of this information will result in a clearer understanding of the special bond between the traditionalist canoeist and the wood-canvas canoe. For indeed, a canoe reflects the spirit of its builder and user that develops a character more akin to a living thing than to a mere object of possession….

Check out the preface in Building The Maine Guide Canoe By Jerry Stelmok (this link will take you to an online version of the book)….Jerry weaves an interesting ‘tale’ of the Cosmic Planetwright and how the wood canvas canoe came to be….and was ‘lost’, especially with the manufacturing of aluminum and sythetic canoes….even if for only a while. This has to be read to be fully understood….merely quoting from the preface wouldn’t do it justice. I truly love Jerry’s bend on wood canvas canoes.

The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow picks up on this theme. This book is described in a review from The Essential Wood Canoe Enthusiasts Library, which also makes up part of A Canoe Reading List, found elsewhere on this blog:

The essential reference for anyone interested in wood canoes. Mainly a building guide for new canoes, also covers restoration, history, and capsule summeries of selected manufacturers. Includes plans for Rollin’s Cheemaun, Atkinson Traveler and Whisper canoes.

The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow is part history, part manual for construction, restoration and maintenance of this classic and lovely type of canoe. The book does contain complete plans for building various models of canoes….but more than anything the fine drawings, photos and writing make it the last word on the subject of wood canvas canoes.

The introduction starts off with the following:

Time spent in a wooden canoe of fine lines and able handling qualities is intoxicating. Restoring vintage canoes or building such craft from scratch can be consuming. It will ruin a man or a woman for any other work. This is not to dismiss all canoe builders as rapscallions, curmudgeons, or reprobates. But in the majority of cases there are the symptoms of an addiction, or at least a suspension of common sense where canoes are concerned. We are kin to the hard-bitten trout fisherman who stands out in the wind and rain breaking ice from the guides of his fly rod for a chance at an early season rainbow, or the railbird unable to resist the summons of the bugle, knowing it will be followed by the starting gun which will launch the thoroughbreds from the gates. We all know better, yet we simply can’t help ourselves. Why else would we devote our most productive years attempting to revive an industry that has not known real prosperity since before the Great Depression? Today, at long last, wooden canoes and their construction are enjoying a quiet renaissance, and this only encourages us, adding fuel to our dreams.

As the introduction concludes, the authors hope to impart a small portion of the essence of these wonderful craft that goes beyond cedar and canvas, tacks and bolts – the enchantment of boats so well adapted to the moods of our waterways, they seem a part of them.

These two books are important additions to any paddler’s library….especially if you love wood canvas canoes. Check them out.

Paddles up until later then.

Revisting the wolf as a teacher….for my favourite Ma’iingan (wolf) kwe who has taught me much already….and has more yet to teach….

“Perhaps it was the eyes of the wolf, measured, calm, knowing. Perhaps it was the intense sense of family. After all, wolves mate for life, are loyal partners, create hunting communities and demonstrate affectionate patience in pup rearing. Perhaps it was the rigid heirarchy of the packs. Each wolf had a place in the whole and yet retained his individual personality. Perhaps it was their great, romping, ridiculous sense of fun. Perhaps it was some celestial link with thw winter night skies that prompted the wolf to lay his song on the icy air. For the Native people who lived with the wolves, and the wolves once ranged from the Arctic to the sub-tropics, there was much to learn from them. Is it any wonder that the myths of many tribes characterise the wolves not as killers but as teachers?” –  Unknown

“To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul” – Native proverb.

This is the description of David Beaucage Johnson‘s painting ‘Song For The Night Sun’:

“People often wonder why wolves howl at the moon. In this painting, the wolves are shown embracing the moon and offering song to it. The songs are in gratitude for providing light for their night hunts. The white at the bottom is the Teaching Rock, a sacred place north of Stoney Lake in the Kawartha Lakes region of central Ontario. At this sacred place, there are images carved onto a gleaming white rock. Contained in the symbols on the rock are the teachings of the Medicine Wheel and the Spirit World. Night Sun is the English translation for the Ojibwe word for moon. To the Ojibway, the wolf is known as the teacher and it is said that we can learn much by watching the wolf.” (From Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery: David Beaucage Johnson)

Song For Night Sun by David Beaucage Johnson

(NOTE: The Teaching Rock is found in the Petroglyphs Provincial Park just north of Curve Lake First Nations.)

On Facebook once there was a photo with a Native teaching on Two Wolves….and life….it is imprinted on a photo of two wolves with a man in the foreground….in this version it is a Cherokee grandfather teaching his grandson about life….but I had heard it before as a Native elder talking to a young man….and I thought of a picture done by Norman Knott entitled Howling Wolf….so I decided to redo the story as I knew it….here is my version of TWO WOLVES:

Adapted from photo of Howling Wolf, limited print by Norman Knott; from

In case you have trouble reading the story above:


An Native elder is asked by a young man about life.

“A fight is going on inside of me,” the elder said, “A terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued: “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside of you – and inside of each other person, too.”

The young man then asked the elder: “Which wolf will win?”

The elder simply replied: “The one you feed.”

I have had the opportunity to take solo canoe trips….to get away from the crowds….or to escape from the daily grind that I might have found myself trapped into….to re-energize my batteries so to speak….but more than anything just to be on my own….to be quiet and listen to all the natural world around me has to offer.

I must admit though that lying alone in my sleeping bag and hearing for the first time the wail of a wolf howling through the otherwise still night did send shivers up and down my spine….and caused me to pull the sleeping bag up tighter around myself….until I realized that I was not only fairly safe where I was….but that I was also the “intruder” in this wild place. I ended up getting up and sitting next to a low campfire….partly I guess because it further added to my own personal sense of “safety”….but also so I could hope to better hear the chorus of the wolves calling. After a while I found myself throwing back by own head to “howl” in my own best attempt at immitating a wolf….and was more than pleased that I was eventually able to elicit a response from the nearby wolf pack. Of course I was never really sure what they were actually saying at the time….perhaps the wolves were wondering what stupid human being could be trying to mimic their calls.

Wolves played a big part in the ecosystem and delicate balance of the land and the First Nations recognized that role. The Wolf also represents the traditional importance of family to First Nations. Many First Nations credit the wolves in teaching them about the importance of family and how to hunt and forage for food. In other words, they were credited with the livelihood of the tribe.  Many tribes also believed that wolves were spiritual beings that could impart magical powers.

Natives have often held the Wolf in high esteem in their culture and traditions.  They are seen as a sacred animal and often featured significantly in ancient songs, dances and stories of many First Nations. The Wolf is given a revered and welcomed role in many First Nations.

The Wolf represents loyalty, strong family ties, good communication, education, understanding and intelligence. Of all land animals the Wolf has the strongest supernatural powers and is the most accomplished hunter. The Wolf is a very social and communicative creature, he uses body movement, touch and sound. The First Nations had great respect for Wolves because of their alikeness. Both Natives and Wolves hunt, gather, defend and even educate their tribe or pack. The Wolf has always been respected as a very family oriented animal because he mates for life, watches and protects his young until they are old enough to be independent and protects the elders.

If direction and purpose are lacking in life, when clarity and persistence are needed, the steadfast determination of the Wolf can overcome fear, indecision and confusion. Wolves are fierce, loyal, independent and well able to offer support on the most challenging healing journey.

The Wolf fulfilled several roles for the Native: the Wolf was a powerful and mysterious animal, and was so perceived by many First Nations; and the Wolf was a medicine animal, identified often with a particular individual or clan.

At a band level, the attraction to the Wolf was strong, because the Wolf lived in a way that also made the band strong. He provided food for all, including the old and sick members of the pack. He saw to the education of his children. He defended his territory against other wolves.

At a personal level, those for whom the Wolf was a medicine animal or personal totem understood the qualities that made the wolf stand out as an individual. For example, his stamina, ability to track well and go without food for long periods.

The definition and defense of home range was as important to the First Nations as it was to the wolf. The boundaries of most First Nations’ territories, like those of wolves, changed with the movement of game herds, the size of the band and the time of year. The band, like the pack, broke up at certain times of the year and joined together later to hunt more efficiently. Both the wolf and the Native hunted the same type of game and moved their families to follow specific herds. Deer sought security from Native hunters by moving into the border area between warring tribes, where hunters were least likely to show up, just as they did between wolf territories, where wolves spent the least time hunting.

It’s not surprising that the Native saw the wolf as a significant animal. Both were hunters upon which the survival of their families depended. The Native was very aware of the many ways in which his own life resembled those of the wolf. The wolf hunted for himself and for his family. The wolf defended his pack against enemy attack, as the Indian defended his tribe. He had to be strong as an individual and for the good of the pack. It was an efficient system of survival and in the eyes of the Indian, no animal did this as well as the wolf. The Native worked to be as well integrated in his own environment as was the wolf in his.

The hunter did not see the wolf as an enemy or competitor, or as something less than himself. His perception of the wolf was a realistic assessment of the wolf’s ability to survive and thrive, to be in balance with the world they shared. He respected the wolf’s patience and perseverance, which were his most effective hunting weapons. To say he hunted like a wolf was the highest compliment, just as to say a warrior fought like the wolf was high praise.

Chief Dan George belonged to the Wolf Clan and his lament to the wolf as a symbol of the vanishing wilderness and traditions of his people has become famous:

“All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.”

The wolf is a wilderness species that cannot survive the encroachment of its habitat by development and urban sprawl.

“Wolf is the Grand Teacher. Wolf is the sage, who after many winters upon the sacred path and seeking the ways of wisdom, returns to share new knowledge with the tribe. Wolf is both the radical and the traditional in the same breath. When the Wolf walks by you-you will remember.” – Robert Ghost Wolf

“The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.” – Keewation (Inuit) Proverb

This was the basis for a painting I did recently entitled “Interdependence….the moose cannot survive without the wolf and the wolf cannot survive without the moose….not enough wolves and the moose population can explode, causing lack of food leading to sick and dying moose….not enough moose the wolf has little to eat….so as in life there is balance:

Interdependence - Copy

“You ought to follow the example of the wolf. Even when he is surprised and runs for his life, he will pause and take one more look at you before he enters his final retreat. So you must take a second look at everything you see.” – Ohiyesa (Dr. Charles A. Eastman, Sioux)

So wolves have been long regarded by First Nations as teachers or pathfinders. Wolves are fiercely loyal to their mates, and have a strong sense of family while maintaining individualism.

Wolves are probably the most misunderstood of the wild animals. Tales of cold bloodedness abound, in spite of the their friendly, social and intelligent traits. They are truly free spirits even though their packs are highly organized. They seem to go out of their way to avoid a fight. One is rarely necessary when a shift in posture, a growl, or a glance gets the point across quite readily.

I do believe the wolf is a teacher….and I look forward to learning much from a certain wolf I know….

Wolf Credo: Respect the elders….Teach the young…Cooperate with the pack Play when you can…Hunt when you must…Rest in between Share your affections…Voice your feelings…Leave your mark.

It is said that the First Nations and the wolf have come to be alike….both mate for life….both have a clan system and a tribe….both had their land taken from them….both were hunted for their hair…..and both were pushed close to destruction….perhaps Native people can look to the wolf for their future as a people….the wolf is beginning to return to this land….perhaps First Nations will also cease to be seen as a “Vanishing Peoples”….and maybe emerge to lead the way back to natural living and respect for our Mother Earth….


From Wikipedia,, comes this brief description of who Henry David Thoreau was:

Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Thoreau’s books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism.

On a lazy day of August, I thought I would post some of Thoreau’s quotes:

I sailed up a river with a pleasant wind, New lands, new people, and new thoughts to find; Many fair reaches and headlands appeared, And many dangers were there to be feared; But when I remember where I have been, And the fair landscapes that I have seen, Thou seemest the only permanent shore, The cape never rounded, nor wandered o’er.”  – Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe. –  Henry David Thoreau

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing. – Henry David Thoreau

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life; living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness out of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience. – Henry David Thoreau

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. – Henry David Thoreau, from the chapter “The Ponds” in Walden

Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling. – Henry David Thoreau

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves – Henry David Thoreau

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads – Henry David Thoreau

All good things are wild, and free – Henry David Thoreau

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. – Henry David Thoreau

This curious world we inhabit…is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used. – Henry David Thoreau

In wildness is the preservation of the world. – Henry David Thoreau

We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. – Henry David Thoreau

From Community Canoe Project Campaign:

Welcome to the Community Canoe crowdfunding campaign

My name is Ranger Aidan, and I’d like to put a Community Canoe Garden in your neighbourhood!

What’s a Community Canoe Garden? As part of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project, our plan is to take old canoes that are no longer seaworthy and repurpose them as bee-friendly garden planters.

The Community Canoe Gardens will be installed in parks along the corridor of the old Garrison Creek. And they will be filled with native flowers that are really good for birds, bees and butterflies.  Listen to our interview on CBC’s Metro Morning.

Our Goal

Our goal is to raise $5,000 so we can establish a network of 12 Community Canoe gardens. This money will be used to buy old canoes, plus soil, plants, mulch and other materials.

And we need your help. Not only will you be helping to change the landscape of the city, check out the amazing perks for your generous support (see some pictures below)!

Why are we doing this?

Well, we love canoes. And not only do they look awesome filled with native plants and flowers, the Community Canoe Garden network will support local bees, butterflies and other pollinators that help ensure our fruits, veggies and herbs are abundant and healthy.

Please join us in this project. Together, we can build the Community Canoe Network. And please note that the Community Canoe Garden Network is just the beginning. Working with residents, community groups, the city, and local paddling businesses, our grand ambition is to establish Community Canoe as a service similar to bixi bikes, but for canoes. We want to help make it easier for residents to explore Toronto’s waterfront and waterways. Imagine adding a paddle down the Humber or the Don to your commute, or taking a canoe trip along the waterfront!

Please help bring canoes back to the city by showing your support for Community Canoe – a “park service” of the Homegrown National Park.


Ranger Aidan Homegrown National Park Project

Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Video footage provided by Greg Francis and Marianna Angotti


Check out pictures of some of the rewards:



Good News For a Change book by David Suzuki & Holly Dressel:

The Nature Principle book by Richard Louv:

Plant Guide by the David Suzuki Foundation:

A virtual high five:

One half community canoe which will become a garden:

First, the canoe connects us to Ma-ka-ina, Mother Earth, from which we came and to which we must all return. Councils of those who were here before us revered the earth and also the wind, the rain, and the sun – all essential to life. It was from that remarkable blending of forces that mankind was allowed to create the canoe and its several kindred forms.

From the birch tree, came the bark; from the spruce, pliant roots; from the cedar, the ribs, planking and gunwales; and from a variety of natural sources, the sealing pitch.

In other habitats, great trees became dugout canoes while, in treeless areas, skin, bone and sinew were ingeniously fused into kayaks. Form followed function, and manufacture was linked to available materials. Even the modern canoe, although several steps away from the first, is still a product of the earth. We have a great debt to those who experienced the land before us. No wonder that, in many parts of the world, the people thank the land for allowing its spirit to be transferred to the canoe.

Hand-propelled watercraft still allow us to pursue the elemental quest for tranquility, beauty, peace, freedom and cleaness. It is good to be conveyed quietly, gracefully, to natural rhythms….

The canoe especially connects us to rivers – timeless pathways of the wilderness. Wave after wave of users have passed by. Gentle rains falling onto a paddler evaporate skyward to form clouds and then to descend on a fellow traveller, perhaps in another era. Like wise, our waterways contain something of the substance of our ancestors. The canoe connects us to the spirit of these people who walk beside us as we glide silently along riverine trails. – Kirk Wipper, in foreword to Canexus (also published as Connections” in Stories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom And Waggery Of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell, p. 15) 

“The traditional way of education was by example, experience, and storytelling. The first principle involved was total respect and acceptance of the one to be taught, and that learning was a continuous process from birth to death. It was total continuity without interruption. Its nature was like a fountain that gives many colours and flavours of water and that whoever chose could drink as much or as little as they wanted to whenever they wished. The teaching strictly adhered to the sacredness of life whether of humans, animals or plants.” Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder

“Native people feel they have lost something and they want it back. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when I talk about going back over there, that we stay over there. You have to get those teachings and pick up those things that we left along the way. The drums, the language, the songs are all scattered around. We need to bring them into this time. You need these things to teach your children today in order to give them that direction and good feelings about who they are. They need to know where they are going. It doesn’t mean we have to go back to living in teepees. You can be a traditionalist and be comfortable wherever you are.” – Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder

Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there. – William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

As William Commanda, Elder from the Algonquian Nation and keeper of the sacred wampum belts, said in the opening of his June 10, 2010 message to the Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed:

I have been blessed by the guidance and strength of the Sacred Wampum Belts of our Anisninabe ancestors to assert their presence over the past forty years, and many, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have been awakened to our history, wisdom and relevance in these times of unprecedented global uncertainty and chaos. But in our traditional way of thinking, the individual is only a cornerstone of a community, and we must bring our individual strengths together to recreate the strong communities we developed in the past. I have often said that Indigenous Peoples are the only ones who have never gone elsewhere to make new homes, we are at home here; we maintain the sacred unbreakable connections with Mother Earth, and we have to assert this reality with even greater vigour and perseverance in these times of war and strife, climate change and environmental crisis. Without doubt, Mother Earth’s voice is loud now, and she is calling urgently to draw us back to her. We have a crucial role to play in restoring balance on Earth, and our Earth based and cyclical ways of thinking have a vitally important role to play in human evolution and growth. We can all see the huge deficit and spiritually bankrupt legacy looming in the global landscape.

Let me finally add these words of William Commanda:  “we need this old knowledge in our teachings to get through this new age”.




From Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign:

Epic Canoe Trip

From July 27 – August 9


A focal point of the year-long educational and advocacy Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign will be a symbolic “enactment” of the treaty in the summer of 2013. We will bring the treaty to life with Haudenosaunee and other Native People paddling side-by-side with allies and supporters down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City. These two equal, but separate rows will demonstrate the wise, yet simple concept of the Two Row Wampum Treaty. 

Itinerary and Map

Our itinerary is set for the 13 day trip down the Hudson River this summer.  See below or download the Schedule (pdf) At each of our stops, we will need logistical assistance from local supporters.  Below the list of ideas for ways to provide support is the current, nearly-final itinerary.  If you can help at a particular location, please contact the appropriate person directly.  If you have more general ideas/suggestions/offers of assistance, you can contact Andy Mager or Lena Duby. We will generally be leaving each morning as the tide is going out which will typically be between 10 and 11 daily.

Ways You can Help

  • Provide and/or arrange for housing for people who aren’t able to camp
  • Identify potential overflow camping areas if we fill up our spots
  • Assist with on the ground logistical support, setting up for events/camping, directing people to park, running errands, setting up signs, be part of our “leave no trace” cleanup crew…
  • Raise funds to help support the journey
  • Solicit donations of food from area stores and farmers
  • Bring food and/or arrange for others to do so to our breakfast, lunch or dinner spots
  • Assist with transport/pickup of new people joining us, help identify places where cars can be left
  • Help with publicity and media relations, both before and during the event. Contact Lindsay Speer.
  • Help organize an event for us in your community when we arrive, including seeking support and welcome from local leaders
  • Help fill two specific requests:  A pontoon boat or other boat with a flat deck -and a captain!- to assist the media team, and a solar device-charging station.  (Keeping media team’s computers, cell phones, and cameras charged is a key logistical challenge)

Our Itinerary

Revised 7/19/2013

Saturday, July 27 Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign Send-off Celebration Festival* Festival @ Russell Sage College, 65 1st St, Troy, NY (map) 10 am – 5 pm Key contact: Kevin Nephew or Lori Quigley Camping Site: River St. and Division St. Troy, NY (map)

Sunday, July 28: From Rensselaer Boat Launch  (Gather 10 am, launch 10:45) Launch @ Rensselaer Boat Launch 20 Forbes Ave, Rensselaer, NY (map) Lunch @ Henry Hudson Park, Barent Winne Rd & Lyons Rd, Selkirk, NY 12158 (map) Land @ Schodack Island State Park, 1 Schodack Island Way, Schodack Landing, NY (map) (arrive 4:30 pm) Camping site @ Schodack Island State Park For launch, Key contact: Andy Mager Key contact for site: Allison Smith

Monday, July 29: From Schodack Island State Park  (launch 10 am) No lunch stop: Lunch on the river Land @ Coxsackie Village Park, Betke Blvd & S. River St (arrive 4:30 pm) Camping site @ Coxsackie Village Park Sharing the River of Life, 7 pm Key contact: Allison Smith, Local Contact: Vernon Benjamin

Tuesday, July 30: From Coxsackie Village Park (launch 10 am) Lunch @Athens, 2nd St & N Water Street Athens, NY Land @ Dutchman’s Landing, (map) (arrive 4:30 pm) Camping site @ Dutchman’s Landing Protecting the River of Life, 7 pm, @ Catskills Point Park 1 Main St, Catskill, NY 12414 Key contact: Allison Smith, Local contact Sue Rosenberg

Wednesday, July 31: Launch from Catskill (launch 10 am) Lunch @ Malden-on-Hudson, End of Riverside Drive Land @ Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing Park Co Rd 37/Ulster Landing Rd (entrance) 934 Co Rd 37 / Ulster Landing Road, Saugerties, NY 12477 (map) (arrive 4:30 pm) Camp site @ Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing Park Indigenous Rights and African-American Freedom Struggles, 7 pm. Key contact: Allison Smith, local contact Sally Bermanzohn

Thursday, August 1: From Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing  (launch 9:30 am) Lunch and Event @ Hudson Maritime Museum, Kingston*, 11-2:30 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY (map) (paddlers arrive about 12:30 pm) Land @ Margret Norrie State Park, 9 Old Post Road, Staatsburg, NY 12580 (map) (arrive 6:30 pm) Camping site @ Margret Norrie State Park Key contact: Terry Eckert, local contact Tania Barricklo and Karin Wolfe

Friday, August 2: Launch from Margret Norrie State Park (launch 11 am) Land @ Poughkeepsie at Hudson River Rowing Association Dock, 270-272 N Water St, Poughkeepsie, NY (map) Camping site @ Hudson River Rowing Association Dock Lacrosse: The Creator’s Game Presentation, 5:30 pm Key contact: Jack Manno, local contacts Paul Gorgen and Stephanie Santagada Wells

Saturday, August 3: Launch from Poughkeepsie* (launch 10 am) Event @ 9:30 am: Welcome on the Walkway Gathering to Welcome Paddlers and Unity Riders to mid-Hudson Valley: Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, Poughkeepsie Entrance: 61 Parker Avenue Poughkeepsie, NY 12601; Highland entrance: 87 Haviland Road  Highland, NY 12528 website: Lunch @ Marlboro Yacht Club, End of Dock Road, Marlboro, NY website: Land @ Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY Directions to landing site: from Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, go 1.8 miles south on Route 9D, right on Beekman St., Right on Red Flynn Drive then immediate left on Long Dock Rd. Beacon Two Row Wampum Festival at Riverfront Park, Beacon, NY, 11 am – 8 pm (for directions, see Campsite @ David Eberle’s land, 35 Slocum Rd, Beacon, NY 12508 Directions to camp from Newburgh Beacon Bridge: south on RT 9D, 3.3 miles; Turn right onto Grandview Ave; Take the 1st left to stay on Grandview Ave.; Continue onto Slocum Rd, camping on the Right.

August 4: Launch from Long Dock Park in Beacon (launch 11 am) Land, event and camp @ Dockside Park, West St. and Fish St., Cold Springs, NY 10516 ‎(map) (arrive 2 pm) Follow Main Street toward the river, turn Right to Dockside Park. The Two Row Wampum: Past, Present and Future, 4 pm Key contact: Terry Eckert, local contact Rosemarie Pennella

Monday, August 5: Launch from Cold Springs Dockside Park (launch 10:30 am) Lunch and Sharing the River of Life event @ Peekskill: 12:00 noon at Riverfront Green Park, Peekskill, off of Hudson St, Adjacent to the train station. Paddlers land at 1:30. Land @ Stony Point (arrive 5 pm) Campsite at Stony Point Center: 17 Cricketown Road, Stony Point, NY Interfaith Peace and Friendship Event at 7:30pm Stony Point Center, 17 Cricketown Road, Stony Point, NY Key contact: Lena Duby, local contact Turtle McDermott

Tuesday, August 6: Launch from Stony Point (launch 11 am) Land, event and campsite @ Croton Point Park, 1A Croton Point Ave, Croton-on-Hudson, NY ‎(map) (arrive 1 pm) Elders Share Haudenosaunee History Event, 3 pm Key contact: Lena Duby, local contacts: Andrew Courtney or Mary Hegarty

Wednesday, August 7: Launch from Croton Point Park (launch 10:30 am) Lunch @ Nyack Beach State Park, 698 N Broadway, Upper Nyack, NY (map) Land @ Parelli Park, Hudson Way and Piermont Ave, Piermont, NY (arrive 5 pm) Camp @ 31 Ferry Road (Piermont Pier entrance/ball field) Sharing the River of Life program, 7 pm, Goswick Pavilion, Ferry Road, Piermont Key Contact: Lena Duby, local contacts Laurie Seeman and Margaret Grace

Thursday August 8: Piermont to Inwood/Yonkers (launch 10:30am) Launch @ Parelli Park, Hudson Way and Piermont Ave, Piermont, NY Lunch stop to be determined. Either at Beczak Environmental Center 35 Alexander St, Yonkers, NY 10701 OR Kennedy Marina/JFK Marina and Park at the end of JFK Memorial Drive, off of Warburton Avenue, Yonkers NY 10701 Land @ Dyckman Street landing, at La Marina Restaurant 348 Dyckman St New York, NY 10034 Poetry and Spoken Word: Two Rows and More, 6:30 pm at Inwood Hill Park, NYC CAMPING SITE IN YONKERS THIS NIGHT. (See lunch stop information)

Friday August 9: Inwood to Pier 96* Paddlers shuttled from Yonkers to Inwood and launch from: La Marina Restaurant 348 Dyckman St New York, NY 10034 Launch time at SUNRISE Land @ Downtown Boathouse, Pier 96 at 57th St. on west side of Manhattan) (map) 10:00am: Landing and Welcome by Dutch Consul General and Other dignitaries 11:30am: March to United Nations 1:30pm: Welcome of Paddlers to the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 833 1st Ave, New York, NY, (map) 3:00pm: UN Event to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (invitation only) Key contact: Aya Yamamoto NYC housing locations: Judson Memorial Church: 55 Washington Square S New York, NY 10012 Quaker Meeting house near Brooklyn Friends School

Saturday, August 10: New York City Two Row Festival 11 am – 5 pm, Brookfield Place/World Financial Center, west of World Trade Center, (map) Comedian Charlie Hill (Oneida, Mohawk, Cree), Akwesasne Women Singers, Sherri Waterman & The Haudenosaunee Singers and Dancers, SilverCloud Singers (intertribal), Josephine Tarrant (Kuna/Rappahannock/Hopi/Ho-Chunk), Speakers: Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief Oren Lyons, Chief Jake Edwards, native artisans, children’s activities, and more. *Events in collaboration with the Dakota Unity Riders


We will paddle between 9 and 15 miles each day and camp along the route. There will be educational and cultural events along the way, some large and others small. The gatherings will feature talks by Haudenosaunee leaders and allies and cultural sharing.  The itinerary is still being finalized. The current version is on the attached application, updates will be available on our website. We will arrive in New York City on Friday, August 9 to participate in the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The symbolic enactment and related events will draw thousands of people to the Hudson to learn and be inspired to create an equitable and sustainable future for all in the Hudson Valley and beyond. The events will attract tourists as well as residents. We aim to educate and inspire attendees to transform their relationship to the river and all parts of the natural world, incorporating a sense of historic responsibility for the environment and justice for the original inhabitants of this land.

Onondaga to Albany: July 2-14

Dugout Hits the Water

Haudenosaunee Paddlers are en route to Albany on the first leg of the Two Row Wampum journey. They will reach the Hudson on Sunday, July 14 after which they and the wampum belt they are carrying will rest for two weeks before the second part of the journey down the Hudson to the United Nations. They are being joined by other Haudenosaunee paddlers on the route. Contact Hickory, 315-775-7548.

Full Schedule Tuesday July 2: Onondaga Nation to Bayberry. Stop at Two Row Wampum Festival on Onondaga Lake Wednesday July 3: Bayberry to Oneida Shores Park Thursday July 4: Oneida Shores Park to Paradise Cove Friday July 5: Paradise Cove to Rome Saturday July 6: Rome to Barnes Ave., Utica Sunday, July 7: Rest Day KOA Herkimer Monday July 8: Utica to Lock (E18) Herkimer Tuesday July 9: Lock (E18) Herkimer to St. Johnsville Marina Wednesday July 10: St. Johnsville Marina to Kanatsiohareke (Tom Porters) Thursday July 11: Event at Kanatsiohareke. Drums along the Mohawk Friday July 12: Kanatsiohareke to Lock (E12) Tribe’s Hill Saturday July 13: Lock (E12) Tribe’s Hill to Lock (E8) Scotia. Festival at Mabee Farm Sunday July 14: Lock (E8) Scotia to Peebles Island

Epic Canoe Trip: Symbolic Enactment

July 28 @ 2:00 pm – August 9 @ 4:00 pm

We will begin with a cultural and educational festival near Albany on Saturday, July 27 and the flotilla will set off the following morning. We will paddle between 9 and 15 miles each day and camp along the route.  There will be educational and cultural events along the way, some large and others small. The gatherings will feature talks by Haudenosaunee leaders and allies and cultural sharing. The most up-to-date version of the itinerary can be found here.

We will arrive in New York City on Friday, August 9 to participate in the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Heron on Hudson

The symbolic enactment and related events will draw thousands of people to the Hudson to learn and be inspired to create an equitable and sustainable future for all in the Hudson Valley and beyond. The events will attract tourists as well as residents. We aim to educate and inspire attendees to transform their relationship to the river and all parts of the natural world, incorporating a sense of historic responsibility for the environment and justice for the original inhabitants of this land.

Our First Day on the Water

What a wonderful start to our epic journey!  Hundreds of indigenous and ally paddlers and their supporters gathered at the boat launch in Rensselaer in the pouring rain for our rousing send off.   The rain cleared away long enough for most of the send-off ceremony.  As Tadodaho Sid Hill gave the Thanksgiving Address from the shores of the River That Flows Both Ways, a hummingbird even came to join our well-wishers.

Local political leaders also come to send their good wishes for our voyage.  Congressman Paul Tonko, Mayor of Troy Lou Rosamilia, Albany City Councilor Dominick Calsolaro, and a representative from Senator Gillabrand’s office all offered good words and well-wishes for our journey.  Dan Dwyer, the Mayor of Rensselaer, also arrived as the last paddlers were launching and shared his well-wishes with the Haudenosaunee leaders there.

Two Row Wampum Enacted on the Hudson River

And then we were off!  It was a beautiful sight to see the two great long rows of paddlers, native and and non-native side by side setting off down the Hudson.  The rains and wind came back, but our paddlers persevered down to Henry Hudson Park for a lunch.  About six paddlers found it to be more challenging than they expected and were assisted by our safety boats and the US Coast Guard Auxillary with us safely to the lunch stop.  It is a good reminder that this is a serious river that deserves all our respect.

Despite the weather, a pair of eagles and a great blue heron joined us on the water for a while and everyone was in high spirits.   The weather cleared for our final leg and we made our triumphant entrance to Schodack Island State Park.   Jun-san Yasuda of the Grafton Peace Pagoda was there at both the launch and the send off, drumming her prayers for us.  At dinner, Etoqua welcomed us on behalf of the Mahicans to their territory, as this was the site of their Council Fire in the time of the Two Row Wampum Treaty.

In the evening, the young paddlers from Tonawanda Seneca sang for us and we all shared in social dancing.  We are all tired but determined and full of joy to be on this great journey together.

Two Row and Unity Riders

UnityRide-TwoRow logosmall2

The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign is delighted to collaborate with the Dakota People of Manitoba, Canada who are bringing their Unity Riders to the Hudson Valley this summer. They ride on horseback to spread a message of peace and healing for every nation and for humankind. This epic journey of the horsemen will cover thousands of miles from Canada to New York State and will rendezvous with the Two Row paddlers at several spots on our journey down the Hudson River.

The Unity Ride, led by Chief Gus High Eagle of the Dakota Nation, will join with the Two Row Campaign on July 27 at Sage College in Troy, on August 1 at the Hudson Maritime Museum in Kingston, on August 3 in Poughkeepsie and Beacon, and on August 9 and 10 in New York City. The Two Row Campaign will join with the Unity Riders in Woodstock on August 4 for their International Walk for World Peace.



From The Sigurd F. Olson Website,, comes this quote:

Such vivid awareness is swiftly lost today, but if it can be held into adulthood it enriches and colors all we do. How often in the wild country of the north I have been aware of the spirits of the voyageurs, the shadowy forms that once roamed the rivers and lakes. Often at night it seemed I could hear ghostly songs coming across the water, the rhythmic dip of paddles and the swish of great canoes as they went by.

I’ve included this quote here as I firmly believe that anyone who picks up a paddle and takes to the canoe in the north country is following the path that the voyageurs first took. It is as if those of us so inclined to go canoe tripping are listening to the voyageur’s songs. Mind you the voyageurs were not on a pleasure cruise….it was all business….and the portages with heavy laden packs and long days of paddling were literally killers….far from what a typical modern day canoe trip involves with ultralight Kevlar canoe and lightweight tent, pack, and other gear (including freeze-dried food that once prepared can seem like it came right out of the fanciest restaurant). But the sense of adventure must have been similar….even the country traveled through by the voyageurs and their modern day counterparts remains the same for the most part….and for many today as yesterday, the song of the paddle is literally music to their ears.

Spending time online I came across several songs inspired by the voyageurs….and in a previous post I did mention a musical journey by voyageur canoe….but I also came across a couple of short videos on YouTube on the voyageurs (both from the National Film Board)….it certainly wasn’t all music and songs….far from it:

Canada Vignettes – Voyageurs

The Voyageurs

Paddles up until later then….as did the voyageurs…..

Check out this report from the Canadian Canoe Museum on the WCHA Annual Assembly:

The Wooden Canoe Heritage Association.

Which is your choice????


From photos found online:

Trans Alaska pipeline,,

and RCMP Native Spirituality Guide,


I know which one is mine….

A few years ago, I spent a great weekend….of paddling….of good food….and great discussion around the campfire. Such a campfire is a wonderful way to spend part of a weekend….and way to get to know more about like minded friends.

It was my first communal campfire of the year that Saturday night….it was an amazing gathering with interesting conversation from a very eclectic group of folks….talk ranged from the meaning of life  (and why we are here?!?!?)….to humankind’s interference with Mother Earth….to really bad puns….and the perfect s’mores….with everything seemingly possible in between discussed as well….maybe you needed to be there, but trust me it was an amazing night of discussion….next to a lake….and occasional twinkling star….and even a brief glimpse of the moon rising over the water. All in all it was the perfect end to a perfect day….earlier we had shared a paddle around a marsh….and a fine meal prepared by our host.

One of my comrades around that fire later stated he felt that day-old campfire on clothes has to be the grossest smell in the world….but to me it is possibly the greatest smell….there’s nothing like a campfire….now I don’t recommend trying to have a campfire in the middle of your living room at home LOL LOL….and even a fire in the home hearth doesn’t really compare….a campfire is part of being outdoors….being outside….being with good friends….sharing stories and experiences….and the good times together.

Here are some quotes I found regarding campfires (from Scouting Around: Quotes:

Sometimes it takes looking through the haze of campfire smoke to see the world clearly.

Why is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire? (NOTE: This is not a comment regarding the ability of the person responsible for starting Saturday’s campfire LOL LOL.)

From Handipoints: Campfire Colouring Page.

Songs are a big part of most campfires….I am reminded of two great songs by Ian Tamblyn….one is Woodsmoke and Oranges:

Firewood, smoke and oranges, path of old canoe; I would course the inland ocean to be back to you; No matter where I go to, it’s always home again; To the rugged northern shore, and the days of sun and wind; And the land of the silver birch, cry of the loon; There’s something ’bout this country, that’s a part of me and you. – from Woodsmoke and Oranges by Ian Tamblyn.

Ian plays Woodsmoke and Oranges on Part 1 of Listen Up (Vision TV) segment on YouTube:

Another favourite from Ian Tamblyn is Campfire Light.

Then there is Boy Scout Trail: Campfire Closing Song Song:

Campfire Closing Song

Tune: Down in the Valley


Lets us all stand now – time we must go, Silently leaving – thoughts let us know, Thoughts let us know, thoughts let us know, Silently leaving – thoughts let us know.

Watch the fire flicker – the last of the flame, But as we leave you – your friendship we claim, Your friendship we claim, yes, your friendship we claim, But as we leave you – your friendship we claim.

Watch the red embers – a memory of light, We carry it with us, to show us the right. To show us the right, yes to show us the right. We carry it with us – to show us the right.

Watch the hot ashes – once it was wood, Has changed through service – a blessing that’s good. A blessing that’s good, yes, a blessing that’s good, Has changed through service – a blessing that’s good.

Watch the fire dying – but when it is dead, Always the memory – will lead us ahead. Will lead us ahead, yes, will lead us ahead, Always the memory – will lead us ahead.

By the way, just in case you weren’t able to get out this weekend and enjoy your own campfire, here are some videos from YouTube:

Crackling Campfire (10 minutes)

Enjoy the ambiance of this birch & pine campfire I built on the shore of Lake Superior in Lutsen, MN. If you listen closely, you can even hear the waves lapping on the rocky beach! This video is “real-time” for 10 minutes and is NOT looped! 


Natural Elements Campfire

This is just what it says….a high resolution video of a campfire, filmed in Northern Minnesota(NOTE: I love the sound of the loons calling over the crackling fire.)

Paddles up until later then….and hopefully you’ll be around your own campfire soon….maybe in Algonquin or Killarney or Temagami…..up at the cabin or cottage….or some special place in the outdoors….and you’ll get to enjoy it in the company of good friends. And maybe you’ll also come to think of woodsmoke from a campfire as the smell of success.


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