Insights From a Wilderness Adventure

I recently returned from a 10 day river canoe trip in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada with a group of friends. This was my first time visiting the province of Saskatchewan and my first time this far north in Canada.

After a 10 hour drive north of the city of Prince Albert we flew one hour by float plane to the mouth of the Cree River at the north end of Cree Lake at 59 degrees latitude. We landed upon clear water and a long sandy beach where we unloaded our gear and packed our two canoes for a 150km paddle north. Upon reaching the sandy shore we saw large black bear paw prints in the sand. We were now in remote wilderness and were venturing into a stretch of river where we would see no other humans and have no cellular service for the next several days.

We said farewell to our pilot, got into our canoes and began paddling. We were now dependent on each other, the river, weather, and the ecosystem surrounding us.

Upon entering the river flow I felt awe and gratitude for the remoteness, beauty and purity surrounding us. We were in a land of abundance and with immediate access to the purest of drinking water, large fish that would feed us the entire trip and wild blueberries that were more abundant than anywhere I have ever seen.  Being one with the river and somewhat discreet in our travel we also had a unique vantage point to see black bears foraging and several large moose eating grass and weeds alongside and ever right in the river.

I have done extensive wilderness adventures and each one has its unique rewards, challenges and lessons. This adventure provided me with many insights that proved to me yet again the power of nature to heal, teach and transform. These are some of the main insights I gained from this trip.

There is value in experiencing myself without any role or hierarchy. In ordinary life I need to play roles and sometimes I get identified with these roles to the point that I forget who I am and what I am like when I have no role.  I was reminded on this trip that I am satisfied and at peace even when I have no role.

More is not always better. We live in a complex world and our lives are increasingly influenced by and mediated through technology. As someone who grew up without the internet and did not become socialized or form my identity through the internet I often feel overwhelmed and burdened by the prevalence of technology in my personal and professional life.  I also do not enjoy communicating through social media or through smart phones as much as I like in person communication. I learned on this trip that I am much happier with minimal computer and smart phone use in my life and plan to be much more mindful of how I use technology.

The earth is my home and home takes work. The feeling of being at home is interesting. Sometimes I feel it with certain people or in certain places or simply being. Sometimes the challenge, awkwardness and anxiety of a new experience makes me feel uncomfortable and less at home. Sometimes I can feel at home even if others are telling me where I am is their home and not my home at all. Being at home to me seems to be more of an experience and how I participate in the moment rather than a fact. My experience of this adventure was that it was a home. It became a home not because of any entitlement to it but because, in part, how I and the men I traveled with participated in this trip alone and together. The trip required labor, communication, chores, physical endurance, patience, wilderness skills, organization, leadership and strong character. In all these ways home was created. Home took work. I am reminded that though I am worthy of being at home on this earth and I am in a sense already at home, there is much work to do in keeping this a home for myself and others.

I am grateful to the men I traveled with, the friends, family and locals who supported our trip and to the ecosystem that resourced, challenged and inspired us.