Thursday, September 30, 2010


October is coming upon us and the weather is changing faster than the leaves. However, we were surprised to see the sun out this morning, perfect cleaning weather. All of the gear we used in the North woods now has to be cleaned and put away. Its crazy to think the next user of this gear wont know the stories behind them. What our bags must have seen, heard smelled and felt must be atrocious and beautiful. They have seen boats tip over and felt cold water as well as bear teeth! They have smelled god awful aromas which I hope to never smell again. As the sand from Pancake Bay is washed out, so are memories. As the dirt from Greenhill portage and water from the Missinaibi is scubbed clean from the gear I see glimpses of the past. These memories will fade but not be forgotten. The sun dries our bags, absorbing the evidence that we were ever in Canada. Yet we know, we feel and we see that we have changed since we departed on this expedition. As we take down the last river bag down from the line, one chapter of our journey ends, but another one begins.
“Destruction breeds creation.”


Guess who’s back? ECOEE’s back! Back in the Mac! Here we are, back at Horn Field after, well, pretty much half of our sememester. It seems crazy so much time has flown by. I don’t know whats been going past faster, the minutes or the miles.
Today at Bradford Woods was Phenomenal. Their programs are incredible, and even after operating for over 60 years, they’re still finding ways to improve and add new programs. Talking with John at the equine center, I felt more inspired than I have in a long time. It’s people like John, who choose a life they love rather than a life of riches, that make the recreation field what it is.



Today, to me, felt exhausting. Maybe it was the work I turned out. Perhaps it was the massive swarm of children buzzing around today. Honestly, I think it is just the shift from backcountry back to the world. There are lights and signs and chocolate and warm air hand dryers and chocolate and more chocolate. It’s so overwhelming. Things move so much faster and few things are the same out here. It’s not bad, just different. That’s a strange, feeling unaccustomed to things that I spent 21 years doing. I guess I just still have a lot left to learn.
This morning, we departed the Gate’s home, but not for some wonderful words from Jeff’s parents. Jeff’s father was wandering amongst the group and mingling with us all morning. He told us we have a good thing going on here, although he personally felt like, “a mosquito in a nudist colony.” He said he knew, “what to do but didn’t know where to start.” I’m so committing that to memory.
The road to Bradford Woods was a long and arduous drive. Not only did we fudge up our travel plan, but a tire was blown in the process. Although, the hardest part of the drive wasn’t sitting on the side of the road or dealing with a spare tire that didn’t fit. No, it was the 5, yes, 5 White Castle’s we passed along the way. Even trying to comprehend all the wonderful bite sized sliders we passed is a sensory overload.
When we finally arrived at Bradford, we were greeted with a smile, and an army of children. The staff knew how to handle a group like ours though and stuffed our face with spaghetti, vegi-meatballs, and other wonderful foods before they asked us to really do anything. After moving into our cabin with central air (complete with touch screen thermostat, oh baby), we joined the children for a scavenger hunt and a skit show revolving around their experiences at the O.E. center. All of that was awesome by itself, but to top it off, we had s’mores. Righteous, RIGHTEOUS! I guess the front country isn’t so bad after all, considering the s’mores and all.



It is so hard to believe that we have just spent the last month in the backcountry. After an enthusiastic morning of paddling, we have pulled out of the Missinaibi River. With all the excitement of a fresh shower and a turkey dinner thanks to the kindness of Denise and Louise from the outfitters, things haven’t really hit some of us yet. I personally find it eery to be out in civilization now that we’re out. Between even the first few pieces of society we have come across, I find the excitement of our long anticipated gas station food to be lost. Ashley put it best when she said that it doesn’t feel like a month long expedition, but rather a weekend camping trip with friends. To be out amongst the trees, stars, and waterfalls, the appreciation of nature doesn’t completely sink in until you’re out. Needless to say this trip has been something I will never forget. We have been tested in pretty much every aspect I can think of. We’ve gotten on each others nerves, cried on each others shoulders, opened our doors to others and closed them shut too.
At the age of 21, I have been lucky enough to see and experience more than some people ever dream of. I have jumped out of planes, dove the depths of the oceans, paddled through hundreds of miles of rivers, and the journey has only begun. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities I have been given, and I couldn’t be happier that I’m on this trip with all of you. We’re all living the dream right now, and it’s happening quicker than we think. So keep your eyes on the prize, whatever yours may be.

‘And it makes me think of where I’m at
On my not so straight and narrow path
All the generous and mostly undeserved blessings that I’ve had
I’ve had an all American mom and dad
Some of the coolest friends you could ever have
I’ve found love I thought I’d never find
Sometimes I can’t believe this life is mine
And I’m not planning on leavin yet, but the truth is you just never know
And if this is as good as it gets
Man, I think I’m good to go.”
-Jason Aldean



Waiting for a train in vain

Early to rise, so not to miss the train. In reality the train missed us, according to a cheery Canadian conductor, the train missed us by a week as a result of a washout down the track a ways. As we stand shivering around all of our unloaded gear alongside the railroad tracks, we come together and regroup. Louise, Denise and Owen from Missinaibi Outfitters come to the rescue. So we reload everything back up onto Owen’s truck and three small cars, practically go carts with four doors. On a positive note we practiced our gear loading/unloading efficiency! A long breakfast of sugary donuts and coffee at Tim Horton’s and we are on our way. The trip was going smoothly until we hit a bump in the road, or should I say spruce grouse. An explosion of feathers clearly showed the fate of this bird. After the “fowl play” we continued to our destination, Hawk Junction, but first a forestry lesson taught by Owen. Did you know that the crowns and branches of the trees that are logged are either left behind or burned, seems wasteful. Also, now-a-days they cut down smaller trees instead of big ones, because we are too impatient to wait for these magnificent plants to grow big and tall. So now they just cut more quantity of smaller trees to compensate. But in Silva culture, is there any compensation for the land? I don’t think we sufficiently repay the earth for our bountiful harvests. Shortly after our talk with Owen we pull into Hawk Junction, we turn a corner and see two white vehicles of destiny, patiently awaiting our arrival. One of these vehicles needed some coaxing with jumper cables, the other with a wrench , but soon enough we are pulling into the voyagers lodge ,where many of us had red meat for the first time in a month. For the veggies, they had vegetables again for the 30th time this month. With full bellies we pull into our pancake bay campsite, where some of us went to bed while others mossied around, pondering what their next move was going to be. There was a discrepancy between sleep times tonight, so our group needs to be more aware of how far there voice travels. However, we all eventually drifted to sleep/ ~Goodbye and goodnight~

You cant always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you can get what you need. -stones


Last Day of the River Adventure

29 Days just happened in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday we were not canoeing but walking our boats through the river to our first campsite and having an explosive lesson on how to use our stoves to cook. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were having class under a tarp on a sunny sandy beach that stretched a quarter mile long and wide taking swimming breaks as the day grew hotter.
A lot has happened in these last 29 days. This Journal along with personal journals, mental notes we made, along with the pictures we taken are almost minute things compared to what we have learned and how much we have grown.
My favorite thing about the wilderness, next to its unexplainable beauty, is its power over people, or the power it can give a person. I have seen over and over the power nature has on an individual. Looking back on this past month has completely reinforced this notion I consider to be fact.
Today the person who tried to light a stove upside down is now fixing them with no problem and few questions. Those who were once close to clueless as to how to how the backcountry worked now have a teaspoon worth of knowledge and understanding of it. Some who may not have had any idea how to cook and make things taste good are now conquering the spice kits. People that were quite and SUPER soft spoken have just started to speak up and be heard. We have all grown so much and so many things have happened it’s hard to fathom or even believe it. All that is for sure at the end of the today is some are happy to have left the river for as much as they enjoyed it and some would be completely ok to resupply and get back on it. But we won’t. Today was the end of one fantastic adventure and the beginning of more exciting and challenging adventures to come. We have gained the knowledge and know-how we need to continue. As long as we remember it and understand that there is still MUCH room for improvement we will be ok.
This reminded me of a quote: “The thing about life is that you must survive. Life is going to be difficult and dreadful. Things will happen. What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough. Not in the sense of being mean to others, but being tough with yourself and making a deadly effort not to be defeated.”- Katherine Houghtin
So let’s GO! Let’s keep Truckin!
Continue to grow and to learn and to work together on the rest of our adventures. We have gotten this far. Let’s blaze through the possible storms to come and rise above them!


Peace & Love Always and Forever,
Kate Nelson



Missinaibi River (Glassy Falls/Sandy Bay Portage)
Day 2 of Evals

Sitting in the Storm King all day doing evals, how much FUN! Though it is kind of fun when we get so distracted and tired that the goofing off makes you laugh till your stomach hurts. Evaluating your peers is not very stimulating. As we mark off scores for our group mates I start to realize that I myself need to work on a lot of the things we are marking people down for. This is not only a learning experience for properly critiquing your group and evaluating those you work with but also an experience that helps you to learn about yourself and, at least for me, help me to come to self realizations of my own. The biggest one is that we all have a lot of to learn, and the fact that we have learned so much already makes me wonder, will our brains be able to manage and store all this knowledge!? Or just make us go insane?
Well I guess we will find out.

Pat Croke


Day one of EVALUATIONS!!!!

Evaluation ready by 8 a.m., start the first evaluation at 8:45 a.m., and finish only two evaluations by 9:45 p.m.! Yeah, that’s thirteen hours of evaluating only two of our peers. We all understand that evaluating is an essential part of our growth as leaders, but DANG! But we made the best of it, talking and getting ourselves in a comfortable spot, drinking hot drink like our lives depended on it, and getting to know what goes on in other people’s minds. Everyone with out a second thought easily answered some of the questions, but others took up to ten minutes to debate through and decide upon an appropriate rating. Evaluating our peers across the camp stirs up some evaluating amongst ourselves with V.O.M.P.’s and such, but in the end critiquing and evaluating each other will be good for everyone.

Ashley VanSpeybroeck


“Glassy Falls”

Only two days left on the river. Time flies when you are having fun and on the run. I’ll admit that I never thought I would be camping on a beach in Canada. I’m glad to be spending my last days on the river with sand between my toes and a great view of Glassy Falls. Needless to say it’s not all fun and games. It seems like as soon as I feel good about accomplishing something, I have more work to do. School work aside, it is a job in itself just living out here in the backcountry. Between paddling, portaging, hiking out heavy packs around, setting up camp, cooking, bear bags, tarps, stoves, water, cold nights and frosty mornings each day presents a new and invigorating challenge. These are surely things our bodies and minds were not used to at the beginning of the semester. From our “so long” dinner back at Horn Field Campus, there is one final goodbye quote that has stuck with me though the entire trip, and that is; “Improvise, adapt, sit down and shut up.” I know I’ve personally done all three of these things at one point or another. We may all have a lot to learn but I think we have handled this lifestyle change rather well.



Beaver site # 2

Winnie the Pooh strikes again this morning, taking another snack bag full of goodies (at Katy’s dismay). Waking up us girls quickly realize that what was thought to be a prank (set up by the boys) was in all actuality a living breathing sneaky little black bear! Unless, of course, they had time to tear through Evans Starburst, fruit punch, black beans, and a few other U.F.O.’s (unidentified flavorful objects) to create a crime scene  topped off with a giant pile of steaming… well you get the idea. Somehow our smart four legged friend managed to avoid waking us up even with all of our pots, pans, and other noisy items piled on top of our “:secured” bear bag. At least we finally put to practice the art of hanging the bear bags. Food is such a commodity at this point (with only a few more meals left) that we can not spare a helping hand to our hibernating thief.
Although today was spent largely in our tents, (lightning kept us on lock down) much was accomplished in the Hen house. Whether the topic was beautification (eyebrows, nails, and hair) bears, boys, school work (a bottomless pit), chocolate, gear (the rankings and our preferences) or planning out the rest of our meals (all in individual bags, in order to get the best of our rations) we had quite the productive day.
Realizing that in just tow weeks I will be getting dropped off at the Riverton Airport (cough*at 3 am*cough) and yall will drive to Yellowstone afterwards… is it just me or is this going by WAY TOO FAST?... one more campsite, 16 more miles, then good bye Canada =( LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLE!!

11:04 pm. I nudged Kate after hearing our pots clank from the dangling food bags near our tent. I am the only one awake and I thought I may have been hearing things (well hoped). She mumbled and went back to sleep… 5 minutes later I heard sticks cracking and rummaging even closer to our tent… it was Winnie back again. I wake up Kate and Ashley, quickly followed Katy and we paraded out of our tent. “bear bear bear bear bear bear… bear bear bearan” Kate was armed with 2 empty white gas bottles, Ashley with the poop scoop equip with bear bell, Katy with her useful appendages (clapping) and I with the bear spray. It is obvious our food was found… we are back in the tent now



Beaver Site.

“Are you ready for some football – A Monday night party!”
A nearly full moon tonight – lighting the path back to my camp site after a long day and debrief. It is not long after I hear Salvador shouting, “Murph! Hey, Murphy! What’s with this Parkay? Get over here!” As I turn the corner with my head lamp I immediately see a mangled blue bottle with the kindof buttery substance pooled up on the rock it sits on. Going back to investigate the area a trail of buttery droplets lead me to my tent where the creature (supposedly a smaller, more curious BEAR) seemingly tried to draw a smile face on the vestibule door. A pan that I had soaked with water for ease of scrubbing was licked dry and Evan’s blue food bag has apparently vanished. What a way to end our second longest paddling day since setting sail on this river. I feel if Reader’s Digest put this day in to an article, it would read as follows: “WINNIE THE POOH (bear) VISITS WIU’S ECOEE EXPEDITION IN HOPES OF BARTERING FOR HONEY BUT INSTEAD BUSTS PARKAY BOTTLE UPON REALIZING THAT NOT ONLY DOES PAT, DENER, AND EVAN HAVE A PITIFUL SELECTION OF FOOD BUT THEY ALSO LOOK NOTHING LIKE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN.” But I digress. The day was long, sunny, and only slightly wet. It’s hard to believe we have only a few days left in Canada. And boy, I miss Monday Night Football!



Devils Shoepeek

I woke up this morning, stepped out of the tent, and immediately had to defend myself from ninjas and Mr. Smiths from “The Matrix”. Numchucks, samari swords, and nature’s fury together defeated our foes as we did our morning stretches. After some final instructions I left the group and started my day with Kim, only to see legs fly up in the distance as Denver did a 10-point tumble into the water. Watching through the zoom on my camera from across the river, I watched how everyone went into helping mode and couldn’t be anything other than impressed. Even though we are in the storming phase, there is never a time when one is short a helping hand. After two portages, some rapids, and a psych-out campsite, we arrived at our home for the night. It makes me happy to see the tents and tarps so well set up, the canoes cleaned and flipped over, and the steam coming from campsites as the groups make their dinners. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, but the way I see it, we are going to be alright. We are all there for one another, and that makes me feel ready to take on any kind of ninja.

Ashley VanSpeybroeck


“Two Portage Falls”

Up at 5am, twenty two miles in the canoes, couple hours of camp set up and cooking, ten minutes of stuffing face, couple hours of debrief, starting this journal entry at 11pm. As fatigue set in during the long paddle and confusion turned into frustration, I took a minute to breath and reflect on the twenty one days that have flown by. It is hard to believe we are just shy of 40 miles from Mattice. It seems like just yesterday that Katy was lighting a stove upside-down (god love her she has come so far since then), or Ryan practically tripping over a bobcat on the beach, and of course Sal finding new, creative ways of expelling his flatulence in or around Jessie’s face (most recently the cartwheel fart). As the day went on, it only got better with a little good conversation. Talk of mom’s home cooking, old high school stories, pranks, sports, friends, holidays and family make me realize how lucky I am. It’s the little things so often overlooked that can turn things around for you. Make the seconds count.



Unnamed Rapid after Brunswick

“A group is only a strong as its weakest member.”
Though I don’t completely agree with this, especially today, I am still reminded of it. Today, even with three members feeling down in the dumps or some variation of it, we were still able to make it 12 miles in 3 hours WITH taking at least a 5 minute break every half hour. Last night started things off right with tent mates making soup for their under the whether tent mates. This morning the helping hands, caring hands kept to work cooking, carrying packs, carrying extra weight in boats and more. As all this helping and caring is shown I can’t help but think on the positive side of the scale. All day long the group as a whole cared for each person. Some asked every fifteen minutes, “How are you feeling?” some told funny stories or just acted as their normal goofy self and some were the silent care givers staying to themselves and making the most out of the day trying not to be the person that asked yet again, “are you ok? If you ask me I think our group will be quite all right. We laugh a lot, learn a lot, explore a lot and bicker a lot and in the end we are all one tribe moving in individual directions while still keeping and eye on every other member in the group whether they be the strongest or the not so strong. Though I do not want to have to bight my tongue since we still have to figure out how to live in a 15 passenger van as a group of 13 I still have high hopes for this group. If not we can definitely say we tried.

Peace and Love Always,
Kate Nelson


Thunder Falls Day 2

Waking up in a tent is always awesome, no matter how many times it happens. It’s just one of those things that is always good. However, breakfast is not always good but tends to get better with time. A little bit of this and a little of that, something Jess calls “goolash”. Add a little maple syrup and presto! Breakfast is served. Things declined after the morning meal when news came that Jeff was under the weather. Perhaps he is a mere mortal afterall, but I still have my doubts. Nonetheless, ECOEE, led my our LOD Topher, pressed on in the pursuit of knowledge about the out of doors. There were bobcats and lynxs, woodland carribu and clear cutting, wigwams and intelligence tests. Lesson after lesson in a classroom with a forest in the front, a river in the back, a waterfall to the left, and some rapids to the right. Beat that Macomb!
But with Jeff’s condition not improving and one of our own not feeling so well, we stayed in camp and lived to paddle another day. Not so bad though, considering the beauty of this campsite. What is bad though, terrible actually, is the fact that this river has NO WALLEYE IN IT! I hear that does and fisherman say they catch them left and right on whatever they throw! I say fiddle sticks! I catch nothing but snaky little Northern Pike, peppered with the occasional Smallmouth. My group wants Walleye, I want Walleye, where’s the Walleye! I guess that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.
So to close this day and entry out, I want to record an observation of mine as I sit by the fire warming my feet. Around cities, it’s never really dark, just orange and glowing. Macomb can be pitch black. But Ontario’s clear night sky is neither. It’s like a night light of stars for us. Remember those boxes with the lights in them from the early 90’s? You would put a piece of paper on it with a pattern and put colored plugs into the pattern to make it a picture? I think they were called Lite Bright’s. Well, the Ontario sky is like God’s Lite Bright.
“The sky resembles a backlit canopy with holes punched in it.” – Incubus



Thunder Falls

Fire! I have fire!
A lean-2 up against a wall of rocks and a massive log. Six pairs of shoes are the only things separating me from the dancing whips of flame. Overhead are a dozen socks and a line lifting them over as they dangle between two trees. As I listen to Ryan read from the Missinaibi book and the distant roar of Thunder Falls I can only reflect on what was thought to be an easier day when compared to our last few.
It was cold this morning. Going deeper in to our expedition it seems colder every day – which makes crawling out of my sleeping bag that much more difficult. However after some hash browns and a glass of tea my world seems a bit brighter.
As we pulled out from the beach today, the wind greeted us with its ridged touch. By beach, I meant massive pile of drift wood. Split Rock Falls was our haven for the night – a sacred place of this region in all of its might. As we left our gifts of M&M’s, tea leaves, and thought, our minds soon focused on the day ahead.
The weather remains wishy-washy. Tiny squalls of the past few days had been reduced to nothing but a slight sprinkle – which was very pleasing. Our planned portage and a small rapid within the 6 mile paddle was all that stood between us and our destination. What could go wrong?
Play by play – 6 canoes and 1 kayak --- stuck, stuck, tip, stuck, tip, lined, tip. My canoe was fortunate enough to be the first down though my partner did get terribly wet. We were quick to grab floating objects before docking and heading up the water to help others. Until that point I had never been more concerned on this trip. At least half of us were completely drenched with an air temperature in the 50’s and icy water to boot. Luckily we got away with only having suffered some bumps and bruises, cold bodies, and wet clothes. Once again, blessed. No canoe or kayak could have made such a hard left by heading back and turning right on a dime (if only you could see it! (A BEAST)) Side note: I just put TigerBalm on my face. Now I’m writing through my left eye. Only peeking at my pen and paper. I immediately regret this decision.
We are camping across the river from the group. By we, I mean those belonging to “The Mansion” tent group. Kate dropped the pudding. It’s okay though, her dry shoes and fleece pants had it coming.
“When you’re camping and a bear attacks, you don’t have to be the fastest camper – you just have to be faster than the slowest camper.”




ECOEE’S got soul uh….double up….uh uh. OHHHHHH YAAA YA Ya Ya
My back achin my boots to tight. My bags are shaking from the left to right. To the left, to the right, to the left, to the right. Greenhill portage of the grave yard we choose the route that keeps us safest. But have no fear, cause Ryan’s here. He’s the fearless leader that keeps us in the clear. Weaving, winding all around. We make several trips and get ride of our booty rounds. But ill tell ya on thing, even when im ready to spring. It’s the individuals that surround me that make this experience one of a kind. Im not going to remember everything I learn on this trip. Yet the memories I bring with me will last a life time. Using the land around us is what makes me the happiest. Learning how to make cranberry desserts has been my favorite. There was Cranberry buttermilk pudding, Cranberry brownies, Cranberry cheesecake. Let’s not forget the most unique of them all. Cranberry tea infused with Jessica’s secret blend of herb’s and spices, topped off with a dash of Keenan surprise. With so many smiles, laughs, and jokes I don’t know who wouldn’t love this. Im on the adventure of a life time letting the good times roll. All I can say is with ten more days left I don’t want it to stop. I saw we keep on keeping on.

Much love <3 Katy


Wavy Rapids

Just after packing our boats, one of our 4-wheeling Canadian friends dropped by to send us off, his big smile he wears could speak a million words. He, also a forest dwelling camp rat like us, is happy to see that this lifestyle has not been forgotten. He is happy to know that we did not camp in vain on this historical plot of land, since he knew our intentions were good he and his friends not only shared a laugh with us, but spaghetti and pickerel (sorry Jeff). As we paddle we hear a train in the distance, which is first a disturbance of the serenity we have enjoyed these past 17 days, but turns out to be somewhat calming to know that society exists outside of ECOEE. Then just around another river bend we see two bald eagles fly to perch atop a tall birch. We are starting to progressively see more wildlife as we learn to talk less. I don’t even remember how many rapids we hit today, but I do know the helmet cam got some use. A few waves splashed our bodies and faces which made ripples engrained in our memory forever. If I forget this day I’ve forgotten how to live. Then what a way to finish off the day, then with a grand finale rapid photo shoot, followed by a beach group photo. After a hard day getting drenched by rapids, it was nice to relax by a fire thanks to Pat and some hard working wood gatherers. Then thanks to Kim we went to sleep with bellies full of high bush cranberries.

Harmony with nature is like harmony with a friend, you can’t cherish his right hand and chop off his left. - Leopold



Waking up to a dance party is very different than I am use to but might as well go with the flow.
Rapid after rapid after rapid after rapid after rapid after moose
The rapids of the acclaimed missinaibi river are rather low. Most of which were just a lot of rocksin ehich the caneos bottomed out in but in the ending the rapids of the day paddling down the long and windy river a silence upon the group fell in which a moose came upon the water front. A rather large animal in which everyone was looking forward to seeing.
I think that might have been the most silent thr group has been on the water. Crazy as it must sound.
The sounds on the rapids have never beenso sweet. With Denver and ryan just lying on top of there canor floating down the river.
Arriving at peterbell was an amusing site. Lots of left over stuff just strun about it made it like one of the unkown historical sites.
Now after having a pretty good dinner ryan came rolling back in a four wheeler with pasta and a we bit of fish just making the evening.
” The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for” ~Joeseph cambell
Stay classy ECOEE




The day started off with one saying running in my head… “The energy is really high”. Not only are we making our way to the river (finally) but also running rapids. As I may hae said before, white water is the butter to my bread. There will not be one day where a smile is not planted on my face that we see rapids. Water in my eyes is the MOST powerful element and as long as that is running through my mind as it is over rocks safety will be kept.
Long days are ahead with many obstacles, but if we celebrate “Saturday, Saturday Saturday Saturday” like we did tonight… pizza and cake… our spirits will be graced with food comas  hearty, delicious food comas.
Peterbell is our destination tomorrow and hopefully we all stock up on some DELICIOUS WILD CRANBERRYS. Lets stay as dry as possible, avoid the slugs that may be in our shoes, and stay relatively quiet for some hopefully wildlife sightings on the first FULL day of river.



Missinaibi River (Fairy Point)

I woke up this morning and have never been so relieved at the sound of silence. No wind and no rain! Evan came by the tent and said “we are leaving as planned.” Yes, we are back on the water and the best part is, I get the yak (kayak).
On our way to Fairy Point we stop and gaze at the ancient pictographs. Being the person I am its hard for me to believe they are real. I have a great imagination and sometimes that’s the problem. It’s easy to imagine someone painting those pictures and calling them historic. I think I just have a hard time grasping things like ancient pictographs from thousands of years ago. But the longer I stare the more real they become and I can’t stop thinking of those who may have drawn them. How different their lives were, what types of beliefs they had, what they held most dear to them; all I know is that it is much different from what beliefs and ideals are dominant today. How the world has changed. This was their home, their town, their neighborhood, WOOF!
It is a lot to think about, but I don’t let the thoughts linger for too long cause I’m in a kayak and lets be honest, kayaks are awesome. I had a blast going from boat to boat talking to the group, playing games and cracking jokes, what a great day on Missinaibi Lake. Thanks to Chris and his bag of goodies it was a great lunch too. Tuna salad, mmhhmm. With a side of fiber bar that Ryan from one of the RV camping folk at our rest stop. The sun is out the scenery at our camp site is amazing and the water, well I think Jess put it best when she said “I could cut glass right now.” Over all one of my best days yet, and to top it off chicken pot pie for dinner, Canada’s finest cookin done on a tiny stove under a big tree on a wet ground, can you say “Left Overs?”

Pate Croke


Half Way There

After a couple of gloomy days on our island, we have reached our half-way point of days on the river. Unless nature calls in a monsoon, the days of being in the tent getting things done at a leisurely pace are over for now. The time has come for lessons, and although none of us feel truly prepared, we are learning more than we think from each other. As Jeff assures us that we certainly aren’t doing the worst job he has seen, we all look forward to having our lessons taught with some stress taken off our backs.
Soon we finally enter the river, which is what we all came for. Rapids couldn’t come soon enough. As our famous ‘storming phase’ rolls in closer and closer, it is my prediction that things won’t really blow up until we run out of food.
No matter how many different emotions each of us have flying through our heads and our hearts, it seems that things are starting to balance out. We all have our good days and our bad days, but pushing on regardless of those feelings is part of the reason we’re out here. There’s no doubt that this is tough. To be in class 24-7, to be this busy all the time, to live in such close quarters, and to do it without a break. But I still laugh out loud when I think about the kids right now punching in excel sheets and regurgitating information they will never remember. It feels strange to know that this is literally a once in a lifetime experience, and to put yourself years ahead of now thinking of where we’ll all be at. Not all of us will become outdoor leaders after this. It’s a life that’s not for everybody. But we are all soaking in this experience in our own separate ways. Whether we are process, product, people, or idea on the IP-3 scale, we all are continuously understanding what we want out of this experience and this chapter of our lives.
No matter what, I am so thankful to be here right now with everybody in this circle. Thankful for Jeff and Kim, thankful for ECOEE, thankful for RPTA, and thankful that a unique set of circumstances has brought me to be where I am now. Cheers.



“The Island”

Right now I am sitting on the most perfectly comfortable rock chair on the side of an island in the middle of a giant lake watching the mass of cumulus clouds waltz by; and I am at peace. All I hear is the wind through the trees, the waves against the rocks, and my pencil on the paper. Looking at the clouds I cannot help but to imagine how tall they are, and if I were a cloud, how I would measure up to it. I often wonder about this in real life when I think about how I measure up in the world. We learned, and taught a lot of stuff today and every minute was as entertaining as the last. Although some of us are done with our lessons, there is still much to learn from one another. Each of us is small cloud rolling through the sky, and as we gather knowledge our cloud grows. Maybe one day, if we continue learning past our experiences on E.C.O.E.E., we can become a bigger cloud, a bigger person, and become someone great.

Ashley VanSpeybroeck


Great Watery Expanse

Crooked lake from beginning to end, this is also how we paddled. Everyone was impatiently waiting for Sal and Kim to return from their scouting of the first and only portage this day. While waiting, good food and Bill Murray movies take our minds for a jog. As I nibble my leftover backwoods bread, I wonder what’s taking them so long, then all of a sudden we all hear Kim’s voice trumpeting through the forest. Then their faces poke out from the portage entrance, stern looking and determined. Sal instantly gives us the news we’ve been yearning to hear. Pack up and move out, were paddling across the Missinaibi. This portage went as though we’ve been doing this for years. At one point I thought I was watching a real French voyager hiking down the portage and my imagination got the best of me. By the time I reached the other side I had traveled 300 years back in time then snapped back to now. The voyager turned around and it wasn’t a voyager at all, just Ryan. But looking back maybe it was a voyager; maybe we are all voyagers, maybe on a different mission, maybe not. We then entered a great watery expanse, the biggest we’ve seen thus far, known for taking lives, the Missinaibi is a fierce animal striking when least expected. Ten minutes after discussing the cumulus clouds and stating how they tell us the weather will stay unchanging, it starts down pouring, literally 3 minutes after landing at our campsite. During a clear sunny day, the skies opened up and released its bounty. Tarp setting 101 whose going to swim, whose going to drown. That’s it for now, just like our group, clear for now, but theirs always a calm before the storm.



What a way to end the night?! Gazing at the starlit sky while the guru adds some meaning to all of the unknown above us. You couldn't have asked for a better day of paddling. With water as flat as a mirror and the only noise to hear were paddles in the water as we desperately looked for any form of wildlife larger than a beaver. Nature so pristine is something that many have lost touch with and something every person deserves to experience. There are surely a lot of nice things that I take for granted back home. However an experience like this is too good to pass up.



Dog Lake- Fifty-Sevenbay

To watch, to listen, to hear, to feel, to do, to wait, to wander, to sit, to pack, to sleep, to find…

Description finds no bounds to the environment we stay. Day by day the weather changes from rain to sun from sun to rain and rain to cold. Learning in a place with no roof or chairs or chalkboard no overhead no artificial lights. Who can say the gray brick walls that contain 30 or so students ready to drone through class.
Unlike that class the one I am in has a new bed every night and a new strangely cooked meal every morning.
Today there was a renewal of energy in the group all set to canoe with the clouds lumming overhead we put are paddles in the water. Passing the small town of Missinabia comes back memory of a restraint style pizza.
Finding out though from our instructor there is not even a gas station in Missiabia.
As the group



Rabbit Island and the Little Island Next to it

Woke up slow today. Yesterday was mainly gray and rainy and today is nowhere near different. So, I figured canoeing today to be out of the question. Waking up was quite. With most of the group on the other island the only constant noises were loons and Kim, though even they were more quiet than usual.
On cold rainy days the goal is to stay as dry and warm as possible. Usually doing a lesson or two while the rain is gone can get checked off the list, but not today. Today two tent groups (8 people total) are on Rabbit Island doing whatever they can to pass the time, stay dry and warm, and maybe get some work done. In the mean time Ryan, Evan, Jeff, Kim and I were doing the same. The whole day continued as the morning started, quiet and slow. For the most part Evan stayed in the tent doing his own thing, Ryan went back and forth trying to catch a fish, Jeff got a lot of little things done, Kim was here and there doing about the same while also adding her own narrative, and I wandered. I read a little, napped a little, talked to each person a little, put up a tarp with Kim for more than a little and so on. Though I should say, putting up a tarp means doing it once, taking it down, trying again and repeating until it is just right.
At one point I found a nice rock Ryan had shown me and pumped some water. While sitting there I reflected on today, the days to come and also something that has been talked about for the past few days, the stages of group development. Our group has gotten along pretty well overall and for the most part pretty consistently. However, we are all human and we all know, even me, that life is not all sunshine and rainbows. At some point everyone gets mad, annoyed, bothered in some way by most everyone, especially when we live 24/7 with each other. So, as I sit on my rock pumping water and looking out on to a very gloomy day I am reminded of the phrase, “the calm before the storm.” I have already seen signs of rumbling and anticipate with cautious excitement the grand finally to come.
Because life may not always e sunshine and rainbows, but, the grand majority of the time there is only one way to go and that’s up! To bigger and better!

Peace & Love Always,
Kate Nelson


Rabbit Island

Raindrops are falling down with almost too much of a calming sound. It is hard for me to focus after such a long, wet and strenuous day (especially while being cozy in my sleeping bag). Today was the first of many which we will be faced with turbulence, shaking right or left in the constantly changing weather. You never know which direction to choose. One thing for sure is whichever way we go our safety will be in each other’s hands. Although that may seem intimidating for some I not only trust, but believe in every single group member. Our high spirits even after these past two days assures me that whatever gets thrown at us we can dodge. (As time goes on hopefully our reaction times will increase as well)
 I do know what makes anyone happy out here, BIG Ol’ POTLUCK with your neighbor tent.
Yee Haw!

J-SHWAG (Jessica)


Stony Potage

Wow. Day 20. You really lose track of time out here. Not only that, but you often lose track of the day of the week and that is strangely enjoyable for me. So anyway, the day….
Departing blindly into the fog of our early morning, relying on nothing but a compass bearing to guide us reminded ze of the many voyagers who have traveled this waterway before us. Heading out on the water in search of furs or adventure or perhaps even something more. I was reminded again of the many that have made this journey before us as I walked the portage trails, nearly doubled over from the weight of my pack.
It takes something special to be out here, to be doing this. I’m not exactly sure what that “something” is, but each of us in the group possess it in our own ways. We’re learners, workers, thinkers, and adventurers in our own right, and maybe each of us is a bit confused as to why exactly we’re out here, but with each paddle stroke we take, we’re each a little closer to our answers.
Laying here in my tent, listening to the water rush past to my left and Denver trying to haggle Sal for a Cry Baby, I think maybe we’re not necessarily here for our own personal reasons, but we’re here for all the people in our lives. The people we’re sharing this experience with, the people we’ve left to come here, the people we have yet to meet, and the people who aren’t fortunate enough to be here with us. Perhaps we’re doing this to show the world how simple and beautiful life can be once you leave the couch, television, and microwave behind.
This here, these trees overhead and the dirt in our fingernails, this is what the real world is.



Missinaibi River

Adding to my work load…well I guess there’s no complaints. We just got our new tent groups and I am already enjoying the entire evening with the gingers and Chris. We’ve a few spills and a plethora of laughs.
The trip hasn’t been anywhere near what I expected but then again I knew that I would have no idea what it was like until I actually started it. It’s only day 6 on the river and the way things are moving it feels like we have been here for weeks. I don’t if it is our unfortunate encounters with low water and dangerous weather, or if it’s all the thoughts I have of those back home, making it seem so slow. But then again do I, or we, really want this to go fast? I feel like I have learned so much already and there is still such a long path to walk or canoe.
All I can say is thank God for the amazing people on this trip with me, because no matter how slow it seems, frustrated I feel or disgruntled someone else is, not a day goes by without smiles and laughter. With the wind at your back and sun on your face, truck on.

Pate Croke