Borealis Paddling Expedition
The Borealis Paddling Expedition is a canoe trip consisting of 5 women who will paddle through the Boreal Forest, Tundra and Arctic wilderness.
The Rock's Been Crowned
06/26/2005, Barlow Lake, Dubawnt River

The tree lost ground, the rock's been crowned, the tundra is king. We are certain we are finally here. We've reached the tundra and are far from everything before. Transitioning out of the tree line has been a gradual and climactic process. Even as exposed land appeared more and more, the tundra defied the eagerness of five awaiting paddlers and presented himself only on his own time. The changing landscape and several other components made the last week incredibly pivotal in our journey.

We finished the watershed by doing a final, rather machine-like portage into Wholdaia Lake. Wholdaia reminded us that we weren't just on our way through the Dubawnt River; we were on Wholdaia, and we had better be paying attention. With a shrug of its shoulder it blew us clear off the lake into our first wind-bound afternoon. Certain that a Caribbean cyclone was moving in, we awoke at 4 a.m. the next morning only to be greeted with glassy water, a gentle tailwind and a warm morning sun to welcome the day. We graciously accepted and toasted our coffee to the great "Wholdaia makes the rules Lake".

A day later, a long sandy esker invited us into a moment we've all been daydreaming about for two years -- the entrance to the mighty Dubawnt River. The water gained speed, and immediately our trip had changed. We respectfully dropped a branch into the new waterway, as the Dene people traditionally do, gathered our astonishment and rode the sweet current. Since then we've become Dubawnters. We drink and thank Dubawnt all day without rest. The river is wide, clear, cold, fast and bold as all get out. It knows nothing but north and doesn't hesitate to get there. We've paddled through Hinde, Boyd and now Barlow lakes along our way, each which head or side winds to keep us humble and working.

Today was a day unlike any of the previous. Cold but sunny, we paddled a few substantial sets of whitewater and several swifts that followed the river's ebbs and flows. Cumulus clouds and conversations filled the air when in what seemed to be a heartbeat we realized that the masses of black spruce trees had retired and we were in the tundra. Confirming that everyone had recognized the transition, we hollered with excitement and transformed into five individual sponges, absorbing all we could. The land did more than lose its trees: it revealed slopes of greens, reds and yellows, rocky shores nose-diving into the river, and distant hills that made the imagination float. As if this wasn't spectacular enough we were being cautiously observed by an Arctic wolf. He was white, curious, and much bigger than I would have imagined. He paced a bit on the shore, attempting to flee, but was as awe-struck at us as we were with him. We're taking this as a good omen.
Today also illustrated that a day in a canoe on the tundra is unique. There are moments of staring at the delicate stitching on the spray deck, the logo of your bow person's PFD or the angle of wind ripples on the water. Moments after these can be filled with explosive realizations about how small five women in two boats are, about hundreds of miles of unsheltered, uncensored wild land and about the irrelevance of our existence here because this rocky wilderness will remain as it has since the last ice age. In the same breath I can feel so small or so big, completely unnoticed or bright as the sun. It can feel like I just got here today or like I've always been here. Somewhere amongst the craze of contrasting thoughts I'm distracted by the Snicker's bar burning a hole in my pocket, so I take a bite and paddle on. Eventually, the day ends with a "Wow!" and a sigh, and rest is taken. As this rest is so vital to our performance and well-being, we'd like to again thank EMS for donating a Tundradome tent and Sierra Design for their goose-down Starlight sleeping bags. We couldn't be more comfortable or happier to crawl into our bags, as they are definitely bringing coziness and dryness to a new level. Our Tundradome has already stood up to major wind, rain and a few bear kisses, and is performing perfectly. Thank you again, we're sleeping beautifully.

As the last week was full of revelation and change, the next lies just ahead, brimming with potential. I'm reminded of the words of Mary Oliver in "Wild Geese": "[T]he world offers itself to your imagination, calls you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - over and over announcing your place in the family of things."

VIEW PHOTOS (received from the first resupply)

Support the Borealis Campership Fund at Camp Manito-wish YMCA


Who: Meg, Nina, Beth, Karen and Emily
Where: Camp Manito-wish YMCA
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