Know the North guest blog #1 – We’re Headed North

January 20, 2016

CPAWS Manitoba is a proud supporting partner of Know the North, a group of eight paddlers undertaking a 50 day canoe trip that will take them through Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Manitoba. As educators, their aim is to bring their experiences home in order to inspire the next generation of Canadians to become active participants in preserving our natural environments. Over the coming months, we will be publishing guest blog posts from the team as they prepare for and reflect on this incredible adventure.

Packing only what we’re willing to carry (and then some, for good measure).

Last summer, right after I got back from a six week canoe trip, I got to spend time with my cousin’s kids, who were four and seven. We spent the entire morning playing at Canoe Trip: paddling down waterfalls, carefully tying up our imaginary boat on shore, meeting a crotchety one-legged trapper who promised to show us the best place for trapping beaver if we would carry her over the intervening mountain (far-fetched, I’ll admit). I lost several pieces of gear for weeks, as my bag was unpacked, each piece carefully examined and discussed, and then carried around the house and ‘cached’ for later.

People who spend time in the big outdoors or the wild are handed the incredible opportunity time and time again to reach out and change lives. We travel to places others only dream about. In that interaction, what do we do? Hopefully, we do not boast or swagger. We do not keep the best spots hidden away for ourselves, for fear that too many people undo a wilderness. We say “let me show you”. Growing up, the eight of us were all fortunate to have such people in our lives – be they guides, friends, or relatives. People who knew the names of wild things, who had travelled widely, or who convinced us to carry a heavier load than we might have liked, or trusted us to walk alone in the woods. We were uncomfortable or over-confident or afraid – and we were enabled by being allowed to try. We learned that there was a lot we didn’t know, and we learned.

It is our humble hope to enable others through our adventures.

Our trip will take us 1,400 kilometres through Canada’s north. Though we travel as eight, we hope to share our trip as widely as possible. Many of us are educators, all of us are storytellers. That four year-old sat down with me and said that, in twelve years, it would be her turn to go on a six week trip with me. We talked about how to build fires and the animals I saw. She had me teach her paddle strokes in the front hall.

The first time you hear about the thing that will become your passion, it is as if an incredible secret has been kept from you up until that moment. You wonder why everybody isn’t talking about it incessantly, dropping everything to follow that one spark. Or, perhaps, that thing is instead an ember that inspires you in subtle ways throughout your years. In so many of us, this appreciation of the wilderness, of wild spaces and species, has not yet been touched upon. We hope to start that conversation in our classrooms, our schools, our lives. It is more important than ever, as wild places erode through development or shift under climate change while more and more humans live in urban areas.

– Sydney Toni

P.S. We’re hitting the road in July, but each of us will share stories, dreams, and expectations right here as we prepare to head out. Stay in touch, follow along, and find stories of your own!

Republished from

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