Semiahmoo Secondary student Brendan Pousett (left) and Yellowknife resident Jack Panayi (right) paddle the Mackenzie River this past summer as part of a program focusing on protecting wild rivers.

Trip to NWT connects student to nature

Brendan Pousett shares his experience navigating the waters of the Mackenzie River

Semiahmoo Secondary senior Brendan Pousett, 17, ventured north this past summer to learn about protecting wild rivers. He wrote about his lessons learned and offered to share them with our readers.

Brendan Pousett

Special to Peace Arch News

When the opportunity came from the Canadian Canoe Foundation to go paddle part of the Mackenzie River, my heart skipped a beat.

I had never done a serious canoe trip, but I knew that to pass this up would be foolish. A completely free trip does not come around every day, so I had to say yes.

Even though I lacked significant experience paddling, I took the chance.

My first day in the Northwest Territories was rough. The wind beat against us, carrying rain, which had been pouring down in buckets all day.

Although it was August, the rain was freezing, at least to me, a direct result of being above the 60th parallel for the first time in my life.

The storm of emotions in my head paired with the wind and rain all around me. I shouldn’t have been there. Most of the people there were expert paddlers.

The wind and rain kept blasting us through the night. The next day, we were forced to wait it out, and we didn’t get back in our boats until the afternoon. The rain had stopped, but the wind didn’t let up.

Back on the water, I settled into a rhythm. Paddling in the front of a canoe is simple, but I waited until the weather cleared to try the back.

Learning to pilot a canoe is like riding a bike. Once you get the hang of it, it seems so simple that you wonder how on earth you had trouble with it in the first place.

For some, the art of steering and staying on course effectively can take days. I had days, but I didn’t want to be the guy who was holding everyone back. Luckily, I picked it up quickly.

From the second day onward, the weather was spectacular. It seemed as if the weather was challenging us the first day, testing to see if we were worthy as a group to face the long trip or if we were going to give up.

I had to look at the weather this way, and I also had to know that I was going to better the challenge, or I would have to go back. In hindsight, every trip can have bad weather, but looking at it this way allowed me to look forward to what was to come after.

At the end of the trip, I reflected on how I felt that first day.

The trip made me realize that if people act instinctively to solve their short-term problems, they may miss out on what the rest of the time has to offer. If my team had chosen to go with their immediate need and turned around, I would have not experienced an amazing trip.

Paddling on a wild river, such as the Mackenzie, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

As someone whose hobbies include wilderness backpacking and camping, it has always been important to me to spend time in these wild places.

Many do not experience this kind of connection with the outdoors, which is partly why we as a society have such a hard time protecting it.

If more people took advantage of what is everywhere around them, especially in this beautiful province, the connection they would experience would drive them to become more involved on how the wilderness is developed and conserved.

However, until this happens, our society will be continued to be plagued with the same environmental issues that it has failed to cure for so long.

 

 

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