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One man—alone in the wilderness. PHOTO: KEVIN CALLAN



Tere’s a difference between being lost and not knowing your whereabouts. Troughout my wilderness travels I’ve succumbed to the second more than the first. On river trips I’ve been totally mystified on which twist or turn of the river I was propelling myself around. I’ve crossed countless lakes, clueless of which bay I was drifting across. I’ve wandered off more portage trails than I care to ad- mit. I even once guided a film crew to the wrong access point on a familiar river— how embarrassing! Fortunately, being totally lost has been

rare. But it has happened. And when it does, the anxiety factor increases dramat- ically. Tey say not to panic but when you are truly lost it’s hard not to run through the woods in a cold sweat, waving your arms around, screaming, “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!” at the top of your lungs. At least for me anyway. My worst case was during a solo trip

down the Missinaibi River in my early twenties. It was on an early morning drift when I noticed a lone wolf lapping up water along the bank. As I snapped open my camera box, the wolf took flight into


the thick boreal forest. Keyed up from the sighting, I beached my canoe and ran through the bush in hopes of catching up to the animal and capturing it on film. Ten minutes into the chase I realized the

wolf was long gone and I hadn’t a clue where I was. My compass and map, of course, were sitting on the deck of my canoe. Suddenly, each jack pine surrounding me looked iden- tical to the next, the mosquito population seemed to increase considerably and the forest became deafeningly silent. Yes, I be- gan to panic. Who wouldn’t?

I gathered my woods lore through shows like Grizzly Adams and Gentle Ben. It was an old episode of Te Forest Rang-

ers that saved me. I recalled Joe Two Rivers telling the gang that you can deduce direc- tion from the sun. I remembered that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Since it was early morning and the wolf was sighted on the west bank of the river, I figured that if I walked toward the ris- ing sun, I would eventually get back to the river. I did. And there to greet me was the wolf standing a few feet from my canoe.

In my youth we didn’t have television shows like Survivor Man or Man vs. Wild.

My days as a Boy Scout didn’t help much.

I retained little from our meetings at the community church every second week, ex- cept that moss grows on the north side of the tree. Apparently, it doesn’t. Moss was growing on all sides of the trees where I was standing. In my youth we didn’t have television shows like Survivor Man or Man vs. Wild.

Tis time, when I unsnapped my camera

box and the animal dashed into the woods again, I decided to stay put. I jumped back into my canoe and spent the rest of the day being slightly unsure of my where- abouts, but not lost.

KEVIN CALLAN may date himself with his TV show references, but he’s never too old to get lost. Check out his new book, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, to find your way.

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