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“What we have at Wolf Lake cannot be replicated…”

Continued from page 15— Wolf Lake was

expected to roll into the waterway park when pre-existing mining leases expired. Tat’s why Back, the founder of Ottertooth. com, a northeastern Ontario canoe-tripping and environmental website, was shocked last summer to learn that the MNR planned to revoke Wolf Lake’s Forest Reserve status to more actively promote mineral explora- tion and, by association, open the area to commercial logging. Back suspects it was pressure from the

mining industry that caused the MNR’s sud- den about-face. Developers don’t like parcels of land in regulatory limbo, says Back. Forest Reserve status doesn’t impede exploration activities for Flag Resources, the Calgary- based junior mining company with leases surrounding Wolf Lake, but the uncertain land designation can spook the investors it needs to fund its work. Regardless of Flag Resources’ 30 years

of exploration in the area having turned up no tangible prospects, MNR offered to exchange 340 hectares surrounding Wolf Lake for 2,000 hectares of protected land to be tacked onto the Chiniguchi park else- where. According to Bob Olajos, the secre- tary of the Friends of Temagami conserva- tion group, this is hardly a fair trade. “What we have at Wolf Lake cannot be replicated elsewhere,” he says. Surging public outcry put the heat on the

provincial government to revisit the issue. Last December, the Friends of Temagami and its sister organization, Toronto-based Earthroots, spearheaded a campaign that barraged the provincial legislature with over 1,000 faxes opposing the government’s plans to scrap the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve. In February, 17 conservation organizations and businesses, including Friends of Tema- gami, Earthroots, Paddle Canada, Camp Keewaydin and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, formed the Wolf Lake Coalition to push for its protection. Minister of Natural Resources Michael

Gravelle insists the province “struck a fair balance” when they decided to retain the Forest Reserve in March. Tis protects Wolf Lake from logging but keeps mining pros- pects alive. “It’s the world’s largest old-growth red

pine forest. Tat’s the hook,” says Olajos. “Tere’s a hole at Wolf Lake, right in the middle of this great forest. We want it pro- tected.”—Conor Mihell





Northern British Columbia’s Finlay River is seriously testing our skill and ex- perience. Good thing Tony Shaw, my 70-year-old bowman and friend, has plen- ty of both. A legendary B.C. paddler with a sly sense of humor, huge heart and diminutive voyageur build, he has dreamed of this trip for over four decades. Te Finlay is at record-breaking high flows for September, making the beta

gleaned from the few written sources on the route—one being Finlay’s River by R.M. Patterson, the book that inspired Shaw’s dream to paddle the Finlay—al- most useless. Reef Canyon in 2011 looks nothing like the photo in the insert. We see why the river got its reputation of being too difficult to travel, expe-

riencing our own versions of passages from HBC explorer Samuel Black’s 1824 journal and R.G. Swannell’s 1914 survey notes. Black’s guide breaks down at the sight of more endless rapids; flat ground is non-existent in the gorges and Swannell’s surveyors bivouac tied to trees. When we scramble up the base of crumbling 100-meter cliffs to try and scout

blind corners, my legs shake. Shaw is in awe, “Imagine, Black running these canyons in a birchbark canoe!” It’s one thing to be a very good canoeist and it is another to be a very good

person when the going gets tough. Literally carrying his weight on portages, joking and smiling, Shaw’s inextinguishable enthusiasm and thankfulness for being on the river inspires our team. No surprise he’s participated on numer- ous boards and committees over his long career, including the Recreational Ca- noeing Association of British Columbia and Paddle Canada. He’s also raised six kids, three adopted, and spent decades as a schoolteacher and canoe instructor. Like R.M. Patterson, the author and explorer who ignited Shaw’s fascination

with the Finlay, Shaw moved to Canada from England in search of adventure. He fell in love with canoeing northern rivers in 1967 while teaching near the Yukon border in Lower Post, B.C. Eventually, he set up Red Goat Lodge and out- fitted Stikine River canoe trips for the likes of Pierre Trudeau. Both Patterson and Shaw retired on Vancouver Island and even met there in 1983. Yet Patterson’s Finlay’s River, his last book, published in 1968, is really an ac-

count of others’ journeys on the Finlay. Even Swannell never paddled the entire river. But we are getting close. Shaw and I run Old Man Rapids perfectly; it’s the last whitewater of the trip. Construction of the massive W.A.C. Bennett Dam was completed the same

year Finlay’s River was printed, flooding much of Deserter’s Canyon beneath the sprawling waters of Williston Lake. When we reach this last historic landmark, Shaw’s eyes fill up. After 43 years of dreaming and 257 kilometers of paddling and portaging, he

struggles to describe how it feels to finally run the Finlay. “Elated. Sad. To live this moment, how I feel is beyond description.” —Laurel Archer


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