I greet you in English, Finnish, and Ojibwe/Anishinaabe, three intriguing languages and cultures which have influenced my life and upcoming Arrowhead Journey. This is no ordinary canoe trip: it’s a special one. I’m paddling my canoe to see my daughter, Anna, graduate high school. I’m not out to set any record. I’m celebrating life in my own way, a way which other people tell me they value, therefore, I will share parts of my journal.
On Earth Day, April 22nd, 2009, at noon, from Grand Portage State Park, I will begin my journey on snowshoes, with my sled dog, Kitigan, in harness helping me pull my canoe and outfit on a toboggan for about two miles down the still-frozen Pigeon River to Lake Superior. When we hit open water, I will paddle around Pigeon Point and south to Duluth along the Shore. Portaging up the Grand Portage of the St.Louis River, I will follow the Old Northwest Trail over the Savanna Portage to the Mississippi River, and upstream to Anna’s graduation in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. On my return trip I will continue upriver to Lake Winnibigoshish, portage to Bowstring Lake, and paddle the Bigfork River downstream to the Border. Turning east, I will follow the Border through International Falls, Voyageur’s National Park, Quetico Provincial Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), and down the Pigeon River’s Grand Portage, arriving back at Lake Superior on August 7th, 2009, for the annual rendezvous and pow-wow at Grand Portage. It’s a long journey (1,000 miles), with big water, and dangerous river currents: I’ll use my skills to survive! And, beautiful country, my homeland: I’ll use my camera and journal to share it with you!
My outfit will consist of my hand-made, 45-pound, 14-foot birchbark canoe with canvas and birchbark cover, my two-year-old female dog named Kitigan with dog pack and harness, a food pack (food, dogfood, teapot and water filter), a camp pack (tent, bedding, clothes), a guide pack (daypack), a fishing pole, two paddles (ash, maple), and pitch pot (for resealing canoe seams). My diet will not change from what I normally eat year-round: oatmeal, granola, berries, coffee, tea, nuts, dried fruit, crackers, bread, wild rice, dried vegetables, fish, and chocolate. I plan to fish and eat fish nearly everyday. I’ll double-pack, double-carry every portage, the longer ones in 1/2-mile poses. I’ll navigate by instinct, map, and compass if needed. For communication I’ll simply wait until I get to a village with a pay phone, knowing I will go long stretches without modern communications. I’ll resupply food from prearranged caches when I go through Duluth, Grand Rapids and International Falls.
My pace will be comfortable, working with the weather and resting when it’s too rough to travel. I will be cautious, respectful, and safe. I intend to stop and visit friends and family along the way, and seek out my favorite “listening points” as well as explore a few other places which have been calling me (like Giijiikiikii and Lake of the Clouds). I’ve dreamt of this journey for ten years. Now, it’s time I follow my dream!