Four canoes. 50 days. 1,384 kilometres.
That is what’s in store for the seven members of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society-funded Know the North expedition, which recently left their homes in Winnipeg towards Wollaston Lake in northwestern Saskatchewan. From there, the team will paddle almost 1,400 kilometres to Hudson Bay in an effort to, as their name suggests, get acquainted with Canada’s northern geography, and encourage the next generation of Canadians to do the same.
The group of educators and outdoor enthusiasts (Kira Burkett, Ian Girard, Hadley Burns, Paul Schram, Augusta Stobbe, James Swan and Steve Kesselman) are all under the age of 30. Together the friends will travel through four provinces, paddling north along the Cochrane River from Saskatchewan to the Northwest Territories, crossing into Nunavut via the Little Partridge River, heading south into Manitoba along the Wolverine River and, finally, traversing the Seal River to their finish line in Hudson Bay.
Throughout, the team will face challenging bouts of whitewater, plenty of upstream paddling and countless exhausting portages through remote, seldom travelled regions of the Canadian Shield, Taiga and Hudson Bay Lowlands.
As avid proponents of leave-no-trace camping, the team also hopes to promote the importance of environmental sustainability and will develop a suite of cross-curricular educational materials upon their return.
“Hard to believe all the time spent packing, dreaming, and mapping has come to an end, and now they're off to see how their well-laid plans stack up against the world,” wrote Sydney Toni, the team’s media coordinator, on their Facebook page. “No doubt there will be surprises and obstacles that will make them wonder why they set out, but that is part of why they are going. To find a place where they can't back down from a challenge.”