Canoeist finishes 3,100-km journey

August 3, 2006

That’s a lot of paddling.

An Ottawa man arrived in Lac du Bonnet along the Winnipeg River
on Sunday, completing a 3,100-kilometre canoe trip that took nearly
four months.

Canoeist extraordinaire Jay Morrison paddles up behind the Manitoba Legislature yesterday.  MARCEL CRETAIN Sun.

Jay Morrison, 57, began his journey in the ocean waters of the
Gulf of St. Lawrence on April 9 with the intent of paddling all the way
to the Arctic Ocean via the nation’s lakes and river systems.

Morrison said he first dreamed of making the trip while
studying Canadian history as a child. A whitewater canoeing instructor
who represented Canada in a number of triathlon competitions in the
‘90s, Morrison decided to take the plunge after retiring from his
career as a management practices adviser last year.

“I knew it was possible to do it,” he said yesterday. “And I knew that physically I could do it.”

Morrison spent roughly 200 hours building a hybrid canoe-kayak out of marine plywood.


A couple of months into the 8,000-km trip—following a
gruelling day in which he paddled more than 90 km through headwinds and
fog on Lake Superior—Morrison decided to cut his trip short and
continue his journey north next year.

Frustrated about not reaching his planned destination for the day, Morrison realized he was missing the point of the trek.

“It’s a cliche, but it’s all about the journey, not the destination, and certainly not racing to the destination,” he said.

Ultimately, Morrison said taking the time to meet people along the way was more important than reaching his ultimate goal.

“I knew that meeting people would be interesting, but it was
far more important to me than I thought it would be,” he said. “I met
some wonderful and interesting people.”

Morrison plans to complete his journey next year but this time
he won’t be paddling alone. His wife, Kelly—and perhaps a friend—
will likely join him for parts of the trip.

The portage after clearing the western tip of Lake Superior
was the most difficult part of his journey but Morrison said he is
looking forward to the challenge of paddling Lake Winnipeg en route to
the Arctic next year.

“Lake Winnipeg is considered to be more dangerous than Lake
Superior because it’s very shallow and when the wind comes up, you can
get very sharp-breaking waves,” he said.

Morrison, a national trustee with the Canadian Parks and
Wilderness Society, was in Winnipeg yesterday to present Conservation
Minister Stan Struthers with a special paddle on the riverwalk behind
the Legislature.

The Manitoba chapter of CPAWS is asking the province to make
good on commitments to work with aboriginal groups to establish a
national protected area in the boreal wilderness east of Lake Winnipeg.

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