Journey 4 Renewal

4 women on a 1,239 mile canoe trip from Seagull Lake to Hudson Bay to benefit Wilderness Canoe Base’s Renewal Campaign

Story and Photographs contributed by Tessa Larson & Avery

On August 2nd, surrounded by waves and the potential threat of polar bears, I paddled with three other courageous women and my faithful adventure pup, Avery, to York Factory at Hudson Bay in Manitoba after covering 56 miles that day, rounding out our 66 day canoe trip.

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This trip began as a twinkle in our eye as staff at Wilderness Canoe Base (WCB) on Seagull Lake in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota where the four of us women learned canoeing and outdoor survival skills as guides.

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Empowered by the physical strength, emotional prowess, and expertise of the wilderness gained at WCB, our group decided to not only embark on the daring feat of paddling to Hudson Bay, but also give back to the community that brought us together. Currently we’ve raised $107,250 and counting, far exceeding our initial goal of $50,000 thanks to a generous matching donor.

Following in the footsteps of the original fur trade routes and contemporary explorers like Eric Sevareid (author of Canoeing with the Cree), we began our journey in the Boundary Waters, following the U.S.-Canadian border west to International Falls, through Rainy River and Lake of the Woods. We then headed north through the Winnipeg River and the massive Lake Winnipeg, onto the Hayes River, God’s Lake, and God’s River, finally finishing at the historic York Factory on Hudson Bay. We encountered many adventures and challenges along the way including crossing vast lakes, portaging around dams and waterfalls, and learning to run rapids.

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The trip was not all hardcore backcountry. Avery (the dog) provided constant entertainment and laughter as she learned the command “scootch” to center herself in the canoe among many other playful antics. However, Avery’s and my adventure together began on a much shaker footing. A few months after I adopted her in Colorado where she was saved from a high kill shelter, she escaped from a fenced yard and was hit by a car. She had a collapsed lung, broken clavicle, and dislocated spine. Since then she has fully recovered and you would never know there is a plate in her shoulder and she was so close to death.

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We’ve moved to 5 states together and embark on all sorts of outdoor recreating including skijoring, camping, paddling, mountain biking, and hiking. She has paddled with me in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Canada’s Quetico, and even lived at WCB for a summer swimming on Seagull Lake every day. Her Ruffwear collar, bought shortly before the accident, has lasted years and represents the combination of outdoor functionality and aesthetic design that I wanted for Avery’s gear on our grand adventure to Hudson Bay.

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Outfitted in a combination of the K-9 Float Coat™ and Palisades™ Pack allowed Avery to stay safe in the rapids and big water of our trip while also carrying her own food on portages.

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Each day Avery “got dressed” in her Web Master Harness and Float Coat with her packs placed under the thwart of the canoe for easy access to clip on when transporting our gear over land.

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Learn about more details about Avery’s gear here. Having the technical aspects of Avery’s gear taken care of allowed her personality to shine and be her most significant contribution to the trip.

Since I adopted her nearly 5 years ago, she’s always been labeled a “happy pup” despite any trauma or disruption of routine. Each morning on the trip she awoke the whole group not just with a wagging tail, but entire wiggling body excited to face the day ahead, even at 3:30 in the morning. Many of the mosquito ridden mornings resulted in Avery escaping into the wrong canoe under the spray skirts out of sheer desperation. Throughout the day she napped on top of packs and and joyfully romped on land during our intermittent breaks encouraging our exhausted bodies to play as well. Once we settled into a bushwhacked campsite for the evening, Avery would scare away any potential wildlife, AKA threats, both visible and mostly invisible. She treasured time “inside” often laying on our screened tarp while it was being set up and would burrow herself under the rain fly of the tent begging to turn in for the night.

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Sure, there were some instances where I questioned bringing her on the trip. Like when she ripped through a pack liner, which kept our gear dry and helped our pack to float, to desperately eat leftover pancakes momentarily left unattended. Or during a terrifying moment when she was stuck under the canoe when we swamped on a standing wave while running a set of rapids. But like always with the companionship of an adventure pup, the pros far outweighed the cons.

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While we have momentarily ended our nomadic lifestyle for a cozy apartment and steady job, Avery and I are always on the lookout for our next adventure, both big and small. Currently we’re sharing our adventure story as often as possible to empower other women and dog owners to embark on their own journey as we continue our own in the Northwoods of Minnesota.