Recent History – 2005
After 81 days and more than 3,800 kilometres of paddling this summer, Karl and Inge-Jean Mattson were happy to relax at home during the Labour Day weekend. What is left of the couple’s Sweetwater to Saltwater expedition amounts to hundreds of slides, a collection of sketches, notebook entries and a universe of memories.
It started back in June when they dipped their Hellmen canoe in the Peace River in their Rolla backyard and ended late last month on the shores of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.
“On the Arctic Ocean there were a couple of waves that actually took my breath away,” said Inge-Jean, recalling the last days of the trip.
“We found a backwater route into Tuktoyaktuk about seven kilometres out. It made it longer, but we got there. I don’t think we would of otherwise. A couple hours later there were white caps as far as you could see.”
The trials of the trip were fresh in Karl’s mind as well.
“We sunk on Great Slave Lake,” he said. “But, we made it to shore.”
The duo kept to their mission of a self-propelled journey from their backyard to the Arctic. They turned down lifts in pick up trucks in favour of portaging through the bush, pushing their canoe and their supplies while their dog Pike walked alongside. But, mostly it was paddling; day in and day out, the same strokes, over and over and over again.
However, Karl, an accomplished artist, did manage to use some of their downtime to try out photography and sketch some of the landscapes. Inge- Jean, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in natural resource management, did an informal study on the diverse wildlife they encountered.
“I was just keeping notes on what we did see,” she said adding that the pair spied caribou, moose, bears and a variety of birds throughout the trip. “We saw lots of wildlife. Actually, some of the richest wildlife was right outside of here on the Peace River.”
The odyssey was also a cultural experience as the pair visited many different native settlements along their route.
“We would run into some locals on the river,” said Karl. “We helped carry a moose once and got a bunch of moose meat.”
Inge-Jean said that sometimes they would hear people calling them from the banks of the river.
“It seemed like the further north we got the friendlier everyone got,” she said. “We would be paddling and someone would just call us in for tea. So we went in and they would serve us tea with caribou soup and fish guts.”
The Mattsons are now preparing a slide show and an educational presentation reflecting on some of the environmental concerns of the Mackenzie Drainage Basin.
A slide show of their trip will be part of “Sweetwater 905” on Saturday starting at 7 p.m. at the Rolla area home of Emilie and Larry Mattson. Sweetwater 905 is a celebration of area art, writing and music.
They will also complete their online journal that can be found at www.sweetwatertosaltwater.ca.
As for their next adventure, the jury is still out.
“I wouldn’t do the same trip again,” said Karl, “maybe a different direction.”
“Yeah, maybe south, so it gets warmer the more we paddle,” Inge-Jean added.