Paddling North: Heimans tell Rotarians of northern adventure

by Jessica Kellogg -

At Wednesday’s Rotary Club meeting, Allison Heiman and her husband Mike spoke about their 1225 mile canoe trip from Ely to York Factory, Hudson Bay in 2016.
Having noticed that the waterways were interconnected enough to create paths across the Canadian wilderness, Allison and Mike, as well as Allison’s twin sister Laura and Mike’s brother Mark, set out on their trip on June 7, 2016.
They took two canoes, two barrel packs of food, and scheduled two food resupplies.
Starting on Farm Lake, they paddled north through the BWCA towards Ontario’s Crown Lands.
Within a week, they realized they had vastly underestimated how much food they would need, so would spend the rest of the trip buying food from the various native villages they passed.
In the Crown Lands, they experienced excellent weather, and met many fishermen who were surprised to learn they had canoed from Minnesota.
When they made it to Kenora, ON, they were very excited to quickly set up camp and find a restaurant in town.
From Kenora, they took the Winnipeg River towards Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Bloodvein River.
As they reached more remote country, they saw fewer people, more wildlife, and “unbelievable fishing.”
They continued into Manitoba through the Atikaki Provincial Park. There, they were able to shelter from a rainstorm in a small fishing cabin.
In 2001, the cabin’s owner had left a letter and guestbook inviting any traveler to stay. Among the signatures in the guest book was a trip from VCC and groups from Camp Widjiwagan.
Lake Winnipeg was their least favorite leg of the trip. With vast open water and big waves, there was greater degree of danger on this lake.
The water conditions often forced them to paddle from about 4-8 a.m. and again from 5-10 p.m.
After finishing the Lake Winnipeg crossing, they continued to Echimamish River and the Hayes River.
It was in this leg that they faced their biggest problem when one of the canoes was pinned in a rapid and bent.
Fortunately they were able to patch a hole and continue with a slightly creased canoe.
In the last days of their trip, they saw beaver, caribou, black bears and even harbor seals.
Seventy-eight days after leaving they paddled through the night, seeing incredible stars and northern lights, and arrived at York Factory on Mike’s birthday.
Mike closed their presentation saying, “We would absolutely do it again.”