Expectations vs. reality of an adventure

The thrill of adventure, is, in part, moving into the unknown. Sometimes you can guess what’s around the next corner, but you never quite know what will greet you and how it will change your life.

Still, I like to be prepared when I embark on a new path. I find a little information and planning can go a long way toward reaping the benefits of whatever I encounter next.

So I prepared as much as I could for my time in the bush, having never spent two months in a remote location with only another human and a dog for company. I researched the area, researched the nearest towns, researched the climate, asked a hundred questions, packed, and re-packed. I had a picture forming in my head of what lay ahead of me.

Expectations and reality. The two miss each other by a long shot so often.

I had heard enough stories from Ingi about life on the trapline in the 25 years he ran it to have some idea of what I was getting myself into. In years past, those two months in the bush sounded something like this:

The first ten days would bring cool temperatures and bare ground – easy ground to travel to clear a few trees that had fallen, here and there, few and far between, using the trike to travel and open up 65 miles of trails on the 120 square mile trapline. The lake would be open, allowing us to set beaver and muskrat traps with ease on the first or second day, and travel often by boat down the river to search for moose.

Then freeze up would come, around the tenth day at camp. Most of the trails would be cleared by then, and we’d be able to travel the muskegs by snow machine and set traps. There could be a few days of black ice thick enough to skate on, and we’d be able to explore the entire chunk of land.

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Ingi pulled the kayak out on the first day, but also had to scrape a solid foot of snow off the dock.

But on Thanksgiving Day, as the helicopter whisked us up and over Snow Lake and the woods that encompass it, the picture of what had been vanished in my mind and in Ingi’s. The smell of fuel from the chainsaw filled my nostrils as I looked down on a beautiful, broken forest, blanketed in snow. It would be different this year, in more ways than one. We knew it instinctively. Our reality during the first few days at camp changed. They went something like this:

There was so much snow on the ground when we arrived at Tulabi that Brad, our pilot out of Snow Lake who had flown Ingi into the trapline for years, laughed incredulously and took a photo before he left – the first time he had ever done so. As I stepped out of the chopper, its propellers still spinning, I had to cover my face with my hands to avoid being decimated by tiny white grains.

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Ingi said there was more snow on our October arrival date than he had seen by the time he left in December in all the years he ran the trapline.

The trails, our paths to the natural treasures that lay beyond camp and the lake – they were barricaded by fallen tree after fallen tree, great chunks of timber collapsing around us under the weight of a wet, heavy snow. By the end of our third week, we’d cleared trail every day except for our arrival date, one day of heavy freezing rain, and a few days when we had set traps instead.

Weather rules for farmers and trappers. It dictates what can be done, and how, and with what amount of ease. Ingi said there are many trappers who would be completely discouraged by the amount of trees down this year. As we began the seemingly impossible task of cutting and clearing trees with limbs buried in snow, Ingi asked if I, too, was discouraged.

“No,” I shook my head, smiling.

And so we carried on.

You won’t find stories of straightforward bush work or a record fur year, here. The reality of my six weeks in the bush with Ingi was one of obstacles and the unexpected, matched with the fun, learning, laughter and love that came with them. That reality was a reality worth living, an adventure worth having, and it taught lessons worth learning.

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