Submit Your Widji Story


In the summer of 1973 I was a Boy Voyageur. Our trip consisted of three distinct parts.
I.    Upper Thlewiaza River – a smaller, raucous river
II.    Nueltin Lake – 120 miles
III.    Lower Thlewiaza River – a larger, free-falling river
I came across a poem I wrote on our trip about the first stretch, and I added a few verses at the end of the poem later.

Upper Thlewiaza,
    Sometimes called Kasmere;
Many rapids had that river,
    Many not too dear

Some required portage
    That we had to walk;
But those in which we shot on through
    Demanded that we talk

Of course we first would inspect them,
    To see where the channel lay;
Then before we would try to attempt their passage
    It was always wise to pray

But once you are out in the current,
    And it’s got you in its hold;
Confidence is most essential
    Lest you end up wet and cold

The first shock you receive in shooting
    Is viewing the mess from the top;
Somehow it always looks terribly different,
    And somehow you want to stop

The whitewater jumble untangles
    If you work it out as a team;
The rocks and the “V”’s are by rather quickly
    While your eyeball reflects a strange gleam

Now the years have flowed like the water
    Racing through the chute;
I long for the success and the thrill of it all,
    But nothing quite as cute

Each wonderful watery challenge
    Seen with those youthful eyes,
Run to the calm, brought new faith,
    And the makings of the wise

While the rapids taught me much
    Still that mix of fear and fun Will be my most trusted companion
    Till my life is done.

Bob Chiang

Camp Widjiwagan changed my life. My first trip was during the summer of 1970, and a friend, Peter Schumacher camp with me. Although Peter and I both returned from the 14 day canoe trip covered with mosquito bites, only I was infected by the outdoors bug. I believe instead of a life of wilderness trips, he went to buy a series of ever louder Ford Mustangs. 

The second summer, our trip retraced a route of the French Voyageurs leading from their fur trading grounds to the shore of Lake Superior via "The Grand Portage". The Grand Portage is 2,720 rods, or over 8 miles long. I probably helped carry the canoe a total of 20 rods. 

My third trip, was 21 days long and it rained on something like 18 of those days. I slept in a winter weight down sleeping bad made from a Frostline kit. I remember debating whether to buy the kit that would require a bunch of sewing for $60, or buy a less warm 'store boughten' bag for $55. Considering I still use this bag for cold conditions 46 years later, I guess it worked out okay.

When you think summer canoe trip, you hopefully picture a blue sky with cotton ball clouds, the sun sparkling on gentle a down filled winter bag sounds like a night in HE-double-hockey-sticks (pardon my French). Except we were far enough north to wake up to a skim of ice in the cook pot one morning!

At that time (before the invention of beavers evidently) we drank straight from the lakes and streams. That reminds me of a skill: hardly breaking our paddling rhythm, we used to flip our canoe paddle vertically with the blade pointing up, and tip it expertly so the water ran down the paddle shaft right into our mouth :) Quick delivery of giardia and crypto sporidia!!!

During my three summers at Widji, I probably spent close to 60 days paddling, portaging, and camping. I learned many important outdoor skills and lessons that provided a foundation for future adventures:

There is a limit of how many blueberries you can eat, if you exceed this personal limit, you'll throw up. After 21 days of exposing your face to sun and wind and bug bites and perhaps not washing your face with soap very often, your appearance disturbs people. 

If you're the duffer (a passenger sitting in the middle of the canoe), sit on your life jacket or you'll get a wet butt. No matter how much you get rained on from above and soaked by splashing or wading from below, you don't melt. A spare pair of dry fool socks is worth the weight. Experiencing outdoor adventures with friends and family is one of life's greatest gifts, don't - cha -no. .