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.
Q&A With the BPE
08/07/2005, Nanau Lake, Nunavut

As I start this update, I'm thinking back to a week ago. We were at the headwaters of the Meadowbank River and so excited to finally be on waters that flow into the Arctic Ocean. The headwaters now seem so long ago, as far as time is concerned, but yet still not so far away, a fact that I credit to the strong, steady headwind that has controlled our movements the majority of the week.

But the week did not begin this way; it actually began under a relatively hot and sunny sky, with our third and final resupply brought in by plane by Boris Kotelowitz from Baker Lake, a small community about 50 miles away. It all went so smoothly and we are so very thankful to Boris for that. After the excitement of resupply and the day of rest and reorganization, we were psyched to paddle and we did, for one day. But the north wind had other plans for us and for TWO mornings in a row, we awoke to driving rains and howling winds. We were wind-bound, which, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, means that it is so windy you could paddle, but you would just be paddling in place while the wind blows the snot right out of your nose. We have been fortunate to not be wind-bound too often on this trip, but since we were, we made the best of it.

There is an art to sitting in your tent all day and not going crazy. It involves a careful formula of reading, journaling and drawing, playing games, or doing other things to pass the time. These activities are ideally spread out so as to maximize the entertainment value of each and are separated by strategically timed naps (lots of napping). By the end of the second day, despite our formula for avoiding insanity, we were in need of some new form of entertainment. Inspired by the fun call-in interview we had with Wisconsin Public Television last week, we decided to interview each other and include the Q&A in the end of this update. We hope you enjoy it, or at least understand the circumstances under which it was written.

When we woke up to a third morning of wind, we could take it no longer and convinced ourselves that the wind had subsided a bit and that we should at least try to paddle, and so we did. And though our progress has been slow, it feels awesome to be moving. The wind has continued to blow strongly these last three days and the mostly cloudy skies give us short rainstorms and intermittent glimpses of blue sky and sun. While that totally sunny sky we had at our resupply seems like a dream, we have also seen about 20 rainbows in the last two days, including the brightest one that I have ever seen, so we aren't complaining. We are camped on the southern end of Nanau Lake on the Meadowbank River. The landscape over the past week has become even more barren and rocky, if possible, and it seems to me even more beautiful, if possible, and we are just soaking it up.


Q: What's the weather like?
A: Beth: Maybe this will give you a good idea. On the cold days -- many of them lately -- I wear for paddling wool socks and knee-high boots, two pairs of long underwear bottoms and rain pants, long underwear tops, thin fleece, insulating jacket, rain jacket, neoprene gloves and a fleece hat (sometimes two).

Q: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
A: Beth: At the beginning of July, when we were on Markham Lake, which was covered with ice and it was really cold, we had to face the idea that we might just have ice on every lake for the rest of the trip. Fortunately it hasn't turned out like that, but mentally trying to prepare for that idea was really challenging.

Q: How bad are the bugs, really?
A: Karen: My "ORIGINAL BUG SHIRT" jacket has been a permanent fixture to my body lately. However, I don't believe I am the best gauge. Emily, much more tolerant of the bugs, has only brought hers out from the depths of her stuff sack a handful of times. So, overall, not so bad.

Q: How does the BPE make a decision with five leaders?
A: Karen: Most of our day-to-day decisions seem to be made just by whoever feels most strongly. This may sound a bit odd, but with this crew it works. As for the most difficult group decisions, a little sharing of ideas, some give and some take, and the decision is made. We like to think our collaborative leadership style is working wonders.

Karen also wrote a Haiku:

Ode to the Headwind
Brrrrrrrr, I love to paddle it.
Our muscles are strong.

Q: What do you do when you are not paddling?
A: Emily: A large portion of our time is spent cooking. We like to make cakes. But we also do a lot of exploring, reading, yoga, photography, harmonica playing, drinking hot drinks, and soaking up our surroundings in as many ways as possible.

Q: What are you looking forward to on the rest of the trip?
A: Emily: It's hard to believe we are coming so close to the end of our journey, yet we still have the rest of the Meadowbank, part of the Back River and the Arctic Ocean ahead of us. That is more than enough to look forward to in a place where every turn holds something new to be discovered.

Q: What's your favorite meal?
A: Nina: Jeez -- tough question. I'm a big fan of quiche, curried pinot and apple pie, but I'd have to say my favorite meal is cornbread, either with chili or as a crust for tamale pie, and chocolate cake with mocha frosting for dessert. Nobody makes a cake like the BPE.

Q: What's the most beautiful thing you've seen?
A: Nina: I would have to think about for awhile given how many amazing things we've seen, but one beautiful thing I've seen is the midsummer arctic sunset. Through most of June and July, the sun only set for an hour or two and the colors of sunset melt right into sunrise along the northern horizon.

Nina wrote a Haiku as well about her trench foot that she has on her hands. It goes like this (2 stanzas):

Trench foot on my hands
Or were they just gnawed by some
Rabid wolverines?

Secure, warm and dry.
No easy feat in these waves.
Yeah, Polysporin.

Haiku from Emily:

72 Days.
Cheese, peanut butter, jelly.
Still can't wait for lunch.

Q: What are you looking at right now, Meg?
A: Well Beth, she says with a British accent, as I gander north across the Meadowbank, considerable elevation stands, heavily splattered with lichen-speckled rocks, an Inukshuk stands on the hilltop. To the east washes out the end of the Class III rapid we ran this afternoon. To the west lies the day ahead and to the south, I'm not quite sure. The back door of the tent is closed.

Q: What do you miss most?
A: Meg: Beyond some family and friends and maybe a fresh salad, we don't long for much out here. I'd have to say that we're all craving some wild dancing to loud music. Watch out Madison!

Last Haiku --

Off-Keyed Ben Harper
Stumbling through A Tribe Called Quest
I'd better just hum.

All for now.

View Photos CLICK HERE

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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