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River Lessons from the Albany 3

Page history last edited by Heather Durnin 10 years, 2 months ago

River Lessons from the Albany/07


In June of 2007, my youngest son, Brent, and I went down the Albany River which is about 460 km north of Thunder Bay. Including 4 travel days plus 20 days on the river, the total adventure was 24 days. We travelled 750 km in high water conditions from our put in point approximately 5 km south of Mishkeegogamang (formerly Osnaburgh House) to Fort Albany at James Bay. One day we travelled 90 km, and on another one we only covered 7 km, due to very high wind and cold (5C), wet weather. During our 20 days on the Albany, it rained on 15 of those days and temperatures were cool ranging from 0 degrees C to 15 degrees C. The black flies and to a lesser extent the mosquitoes were out in full force on most days.

We saw very few people and basically we were alone on huge lakes and in big rapids for the entire trip. Thankfully, we never dumped. Our canoe was loaded with over 720 lbs. including us and our food for 28 days. We had originally planned to travel down James Bay to Moosonee, however, basically, I ran out of the mental and physical energy to do that. Around day 11, I told Brent that I couldn’t do that part and wasn’t willing to risk paddling on the Bay. By the way, I was in the bow the whole trip. Brent was the teacher and I was the student while in the challenging rapids. Father became son and son became father at times.

It was the best trip of my life.


A few times at night, Brent and I would entertain ourselves by thinking about lessons one could learn from going down a river. They certainly aren’t new or especially profound, but you might find them interesting.

These lessons are being considered for the First Nations Wikwemikong Outdoor Adventure Leadership Program. The author, a professor at Laurentian U., considers our efforts to be good examples of metaphoric learning. Here is the excerpt in that draft manual introducing our “Lessons”.

The following River Lessons were prepared jointly by Dave and Brent Martin during a father and son expedition in 2007 down the remote Albany River towards the First Nations community at Fort Albany. The lessons are poignant reminders of what the river can teach all of us no matter where we are at in the life continuum. Shortly before embarking on their Albany expedition, Dave had retired, and Brent had recently graduated from university. As Dave and Brent travelled down the river together, they each reflected and shared their life journey through these significant transition periods in both their lives.”


1. Take things step by step. Don’t rush, be logical, be patient, and the job will get done.


2. Each day accomplish what you set out to do, but be flexible to change, if a better idea comes along.


3. Take what life hands you and deal with it.


4. When the going gets tough, persevere through it. Put your head down and work. It’s time to dig down and crank it up a notch. When it gets tougher, you get tougher.


5. When an opportunity comes up, look it over carefully and then make a decision. You may only get one chance. You pass by only once.


6. It’s not easy to leave the security and familiarity of your home (tent site) and venture out. However, in order to progress in life, you must set out not always knowing what will happen. Never let the unknown freeze you in a certain place with fear, so you only go through life in a safe cocoon. It’s a big world out there. Step out and embrace it.


7. Even on the worst of days, there is always something to be thankful for. Keep your spirits high and live every day the best you can.


8. Always remember during the tough days that a good one is coming. Don’t fight the bad day, just run with it and stay positive knowing that a better day is coming soon.


9. When a person looks at a set of big rapids one tends to concentrate on the bad parts and visualize disasters that might happen. This is normal thinking, and we should be very aware of the dangers. Obviously, if the risk to reward ratio is too high, then the rapids aren’t run.

However, the better way to view it is to concentrate on the line through the rapids and not worry about the distractions. As in life, you will never reach your goal, if you let the distractions which may be negative comments, thinking or whatever else, stop you from reaching your destination. Focus on the road to success, ignore the negative distractions and follow your “line” to accomplish your objective. It is always a good idea to have a plan B and C, if plan A fails.


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