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How it all began
A story about small events that change your life,
about finding solitude and knowing just how lucky you are...

By Grant Pastuck

One summer afternoon in 1980, I was working at my store with not alot going on, when this guy came in to buy a Get Well card for his girl friend. We started talking and he said that he was going canoe camping later that day. Out of the blue he asked if I wanted to come. I said okay, phoned my business partner telling him I was leaving at 4:00 P.M. so he should come to work. I packed up whatever kit I could muster and off we went.

That was how I met the Commander. We drove to Davidson Lake in his sh-tbox Vega , got there in the dark and paddled across the lake by moonlight. I figured he knew what he was doing.

We set up camp, had supper and went swimming by the light of the moon, discussing dharma and drinking beer, having fearlessly brought a six pack of Blue. The next day we canoed all over the lake, and hung out the whole day outside. That was the beginning.

That summer, we camped almost every weekend, travelling into Baine Lake and Wilson Lake, where I had my first taste of single malt, quite alot more than a taste actually. I learned how to carry a canoe, make a fire, set up a tent. I met the Chief, the Commander's other partner. He didn't trust me for some reason, like I was a danger to the trip. The only danger I posed was to myself when I had too many tastes of single malt, but I figured that one out after a few years.

Then we went all the way up the Bird River to Snowshoe Lake, which was 25 miles and took us two days. This was major tripping, I thought. I loved it. We would go almost every Friday afternoon and come back Sunday night, go to the Comm's place and watch an NBA game, have a pizza and some beer and plan our next trip.

There are watershed events in life that change everything ever after. My first one was probably when I opened my business in 1978 that saved me from ever working for someone other than myself. I'm still there now. The next one was when the Commander walked into my store on a slow day in the summer of 1980. That changed everything. I became a camper. That's how it all began.

How things work out is weird sometimes, but you only see that backwards. The girlfriend that the Commander was buying a card for soon left the country for a few years to work in Europe, which, seeing as how I was unconnected at the time, was why we could go to the bush as often as we wanted. And we did.

A Year Later She Came Back

After two years or so of camping with impunity, the Comm's ladyfriend returned. "This is going to change everthing", I thought, and I was right. We started camping in couples and you know, the whole tone of the expeditions kind of sagged. We still went out alot, but it wasn't as spontaneous, it wasn't as rough, the food became fussy. But it was alright. Over the next several years we camped in a lot of different configurations. There's alot of stories to hear from those years and we might get to some of them some day. But those were the transition years. That's all gone now.

The Comm has a new lady, and three kids, and the two of them trip alot. My special lady has no interest in canoeing, not because she's a princess, but she would rather ride her horse and she's got this real aversion to bugs, and where we live,it's either buggy or cold. Fortunately it's never both. So for yours truly, it is now the Comm. and the Chief and that's it,because I don't trust anybody else. Hell,I don't even trust the Chief, and on any given day, the Commander lets me down. Or almost kills us. But we're still here, still going into the bush, where we are so at ease. After we set up camp in great beauty, after a days paddle, we always say, "We are so lucky".

Why We Are So Lucky

Alot of people diss Winnipeg, which is where we hail from. It's flat, cold in winter , buggy in summer, and not quite big enough, at 650,000 souls, to be a major urban player. Like we care about being urbane.

But why we like it here is that the city ends twenty minutes from anywhere, the country starts and if you go northeast for 125 miles, you can put your canoe in the water and paddle to Hudson Bay if you want. I wouldn't. But it gives you an idea of where we live. Where else in the world can you do that? Siberia? Probably not. Essentially, there's not a whole lot north of us except rocks, forest, lakes, and a whole lot of unendangered wilderness.

So from where we sit, on a sloping rock on the side of a pristine lake with clean air, clear water, and nobody else on it , with the blue-green-blue beauty of water, forest and sky, we say "We are so lucky". When you can drive for 2 hours and then paddle for one day and leave eveyone else behind, and then paddle for days on end without seeing another party, that's pretty lucky. And that's where we come from.

When we do encounter someone in the bush, if they're fellow Canadians, they say "Nice day, eh?" But if they're American, they say "What the hell, where did you come from?". You see, they have to fly by Bush plane for two hours from Kenora, not seeing a town, a highway or a house the whole trip to be dropped into the bush, either at a fly-in fishing camp or just to paddle, and they think they are in the far northern wilderness and no one else can get there. But no! We get there after a two hour drive and a two day paddle. That's where we live. No wonder they get so pissed off when they see us. Sometimes they even appear to be alarmed by our presence, as if we may be dangerous, or aren't white or something. That is why we are so lucky. Heck, I even like the winter.

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Copyright 2003 by Grant Pastuck