One heck of a portage

Four Minnesota men are trying to canoe from the Yukon, all the way to Hudson Bay this summer. "I'd say the underlying point is just the adventure of it," said Matt Harren.

Four Minnesota men are trying to canoe from the Yukon, all the way to Hudson Bay this summer.

“I’d say the underlying point is just the adventure of it,” said Matt Harren, who is making the trek along with his friends Steve Keaveny, Winchell Delano and Pete Marshall.

Though they are all experienced canoeists – hailing from “the land of 10,000 lakes”- this 4,000-kilometre voyage is going to be a challenge for them, said Harren.

The quartet started their journey on May 8, after getting off the ferry in Skagway. From there they traveled through the Chilkoot Pass and put in at Lake Bennett.

They’re currently paddling against the current, up the Pelly River, on their way to Faro. They plan to arrive at Chesterfield Inlet on Hudson Bay by mid-September.

No one in the group is a stranger to long canoe trips, but at four months, this trip will be the longest any of them have ever done, said Harren.

Their passion for paddling was sparked by a program they all went through in high school.

“It was a program started by our biology teacher,” said Harren. “A month-long canoe trip up near lake Winnipeg.”

As adults, all worked as guides for a wilderness therapy outfit.

“Basically parents will send their kids out in the wilderness with guides to try and help them learn to cope with things better,” said Harren. “Some of these kids have trouble with anger or depression or drug use. They try to use those things to cope, so we try to teach them a better way to handle the problems and stresses of their lives.”

With all their combined experience, Harren said they are ready for almost anything, including polar bears.

“We have no intention of being unprepared,” he said. “We are very aware of the risk that those hungry bears pose, especially the season that were going to be there.”

Traveling across the North from west to east isn’t the normal direction of travel.

“As far as we know, no one has attempted this specific route so we thought, it’s calling our name, let’s see what we can do,” he said.

There’s probably a good reason that no one has done it before.

Three of the rivers, the Pelly, the Ross and Mackenzie, flow in the opposite direction.

“It’s about 450 miles all together against the current,” said Harren. “We’ll paddle when we can and drag them when we have to.”

They at least have the equipment for it.

“One of our companies, Kokatat, who is sponsoring us, gave highly discounted dry suits, which will be invaluable to us,” said Harren. “We can pretty much walk in the water and be bone dry for the entire day.”

You can track the group’s progress on their website, www.canoe2012.com, thanks to a SPOT GPS locator.

“We’re giving as much information that we can give people,” said Harren. “Plus our parents are dying for information. They’re checking the SPOT everyday.”

Harren is also filming the expedition with the hope of producing a documentary about their adventure.

Friends and family have offered financial and moral support. So have people they’ve met along the way.

“The people that we met are just so excited and so helpful towards our goal,” said Harren. “It’s been astounding for us.”

They were especially impressed with the hospitality they received at Tagish’s Six Mile River Resort.

“We were expecting a Pinto and we got a Rolls Royce,” said Harren. “We’re really thankful for the support we’ve been shown up here.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading