Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/8/2010 (3837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's a woolly ride when you're paddling alone on a wilderness river hundreds of kilometres from help and your canoe starts getting sucked backward in swift rapids.
Fortunately, Winnipeg lawyer Ivan Holloway got the boat turned around, took in some water but managed to shoot those rapids and 60 others to complete his solo canoe ride of the Hayes River.
What did people say when he landed on Hudson Bay at the former York Factory trading post run as a heritage site by Parks Canada? They were shocked he was from Manitoba.
"They said about half the people that canoe the river are from Minnesota, and the other half are from other parts of Canada and the world but not Manitoba," said Holloway, 33.
"Considering the river is entirely in Manitoba, and considering the river's importance to the country and Winnipeg, that's terrible."
Holloway's family speculates Ivan may be the first person born in Manitoba to solo canoe the 610-kilometre route from Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay. It took 20 days.
The Hayes River was travelled by explorers, fur traders, natives and settlers until construction of the railway in the late 1800s. The Hudson Bay Co. established its York Factory trading post at the river's mouth in 1684. In 1812, the first Selkirk Settlers plied the Hayes River on their way to settling Fort Garry, now Winnipeg.
Holloway didn't intend to go solo. He just couldn't find anyone else to go. "Lots of people said it was a great idea... and they'd see me when I got back."
There was great concern within his family about safety. He would travel through polar bear country. Holloway packed a 12-gauge shotgun.
He encountered three black bears and it was the second that forced him to use the shotgun. The bear had come between him and his canoe, which contained food. Holloway yelled and fired a warning shot but the bear wouldn't leave.
The bear ducked into the bush briefly and returned. It was five metres away when it reared up on its back legs and came down, still eyeing him. That's when Holloway fired and killed the bear. He didn't encounter any polar bears.
"The greatest dangers out there are not the bears, or the rapids. The greatest dangers are a sprained ankle, falling into cold water too far from shore, getting poked in the eye by a tree branch, losing your axe. Any little mishap can turn extremely dangerous because of your location," he said.
While the Hayes was a major transport route for settlers and explorers -- even Sir John Franklin travelled it on one of his expeditions to find the Northwest Passage--it has been travelled by aboriginals for more than 10,000 years. That made the experience of paddling the same waters, walking the same portages and staying at the same campsites, all the more profound, he said.
He cooked exclusively by campfire. He started his fires with birch bark and reindeer moss but that vegetation disappeared when he reached the Hudson Bay Lowlands, about 150 kilometres from the bay. The climate also changed from T-shirt weather to parka, long johns and gloves. Holloway used spliced twigs to start fires.
He freeze-dried all his food. His food pack weighed about 18 kilograms and he shipped some food to Oxford House. He made about a dozen portages. He would make them in three passes.
The family caretaking York Factory told him one other man had paddled the Hayes solo this year, an American in a kayak.
As for being alone for three weeks, Holloway said it didn't bother him. "I grew up in the country, on a farm near Sperling two miles from the nearest neighbour, so I spent a lot of time alone," said Holloway.
"Were there times I felt down? Absolutely. Were there times I felt I was in the greatest place on Earth? Absolutely. You're on the water, in sunshine and forest and you have complete freedom."
He kept in touch with his family and friends with a satellite messenger service. It had one button that said "OK" and gave his location. He punched it twice a day and emailed the message to a subscription list.
A second button was a distress signal relayed to Manitoba Search and Rescue -- which he didn't have to use.