Sunday, February 14, 2016

Romancing the Canoe - Happy Valentine's Day!

As the lake waters are firmly frozen and the rivers that openly flow look fearfully cold, on the coldest day of the year so far, last night we were off to an event in Old Chelsea, Quebec, to listen to people talk about canoeing. Such a Canadian thing to do on a romantic holiday!

Here's a link to the event poster: Romancing the Canoe

It was organized by Becky Mason and Reid McLachlan in support of an artists' co-operative in Chelsea, La Fab. It was a sold-out event and people were gathering in the church well before we got there 45 minutes early. We got great seats, it's a small venue, so most seats were pretty good. They had some beer and wine for sale in a side room and everyone seemed to know everyone else.

Eventually it got started and after a lovely introduction by Becky, Wally Schaber spoke first. He talked about his book, The Last of the Wild Rivers, which is about the Du Moine River that runs into the Ottawa above Des Joachims. He had slides with various pictures from his book. He's been in the outdoor business for his whole life. He started Black Feather Wilderness Adventures that did excursions and canoe rentals on the river. He also founded Trailhead here in Ottawa. When he sold the business in 2012, the Du Moine portion of the business was abandoned by the new owners and the Wolf Lake Algonquin First Nations has taken it up to run as their own business now. As it should be.

The main point of his talk is that we need to ensure we keep the Du Moine River and watershed as it is now, the last wild river. By wild river he means that there are no hydro dams, no real access by extensive roadways, no development of hotels, or other attractions and that all people who come to visit the river, do so with respect and appreciation for this wilderness and the Algonquin people that have lived here for centuries. 

He talked about the history of the river as well as told some tales of current trips on the river.
Wally's book
There was a musical interlude after which door prizes were drawn (great prizes too, although I went home only with books and signatures).

Roy MacGregor also talks about the Du Moine River in his book. He touched upon a lot of the stuff he wrote about canoes in his book. 

Roy's book
Roy talked about how he was involved with CBC on a panel to determine what the seven wonders of Canada were a few years back. His submission was that the canoe was one of Canada's seven wonders. You can find them all over the country, there's no geographical limitation. At first the panel wasn't receptive, then it became much more so afterwards. It won a place in the top seven.

He talked about a story in Canadian history that we rarely hear about. It was an excursion organized by the British to rescue one of their own who was ruling in Kartoum. The Nile excursion entailed sending Canadian voyageurs who would paddle up the treacherous Nile to resuce this man. It was quite the story with a sad ending. He was killed several days before the excursion would have reached him and in the end all was for naught. It's a colourful story, well told.

He mentioned the friendship between Becky's father, Bill and Pierre Trudeau, also in the book. Canoeing cuts across everyone in our culture, it can be enjoyed by all. 

We enjoy our time in nature, canoeing the rivers and lakes, walking in the forests, listening to the loons and the wind through the trees. It's wonderful to add some depth to those feelings, by hearing about the past of the great spaces we enjoy today, and the people that were there before us.

This was a well organized event, heartily enjoyed by all. We all walked out eager to get back in the water again. Although sitting in our frozen cars waiting for them to warm up on such a frigid night, we knew it wouldn't be that soon.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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