How 'Bout An Overnight Canoe Trip? It'll Be The Best Thing You Do This Summer
For many years I’ve imagined myself taking an overnight canoe trip, exploring the vast wilderness, setting up camp in the backcountry and maybe wrestling a bear (I have seriously thought about it). The only problem was, I’ve never travelled by canoe and I don’t own any gear to take on a trip anywhere close to overnight in backcountry.
The universe aligned and I found Twin River Travel. Lifelong friends Sam and Tristan grew up racing kayaks and canoes and spending summers on the water. Sam’s first paddling trip was with his family at 3 years old. They love paddling and they LOVE paddling through Manitoba. It certainly makes sense, Manitoba has more than enough rivers and lakes to paddle and portage across for every single person in the province. In fact, Manitoba has some of the world’s best paddling and whitewater canoe routes. People travel from all over the world to paddle the Bloodvein and Seal River.
Twin River Travel takes care of EVERYTHING you need to spend a few nights camping and paddling. Tents, canoes, food, water, marshmallows, fishing rods, super cozy sleeping bags. They ask you to prepare for the weather and to dress for the lows (temperature). They send out a list of fewer than 20 items you should bring including rain gear (just in case) a swimsuit, and proper outdoor shoes. You show up at a designated meeting area and they drive you into Manitoba’s beautiful wilderness.
My friend Janice and I spent a two night, three day trip with our guide, Liam. Liam is exactly who you want to spend 72 hours with, in a remote part of the province. He’s an adventurer, is certified in Advanced Wilderness First Aid, he has competitively raced canoes, has an amazing outlook on life and has 72 hours of hilarious real-life stories to share.
Here’s what I learned while on my 2-night canoe trip:
Portaging is basically hiking with heavy stuff. I’d always imagined it to be two people walking through the bush, singing, with a canoe over their heads. Nope. It’s actually one person taking a canoe through the bush. In my case, it was Liam. Janice and I carried our food barrel and supplies behind him. Twin River asks you to help out but never to carry anything more than you’re comfortable with. We portaged three lakes on our trip, so we hiked through three different stretches of forest carrying supplies, three times - on the way there. It was fun and neither of us found it difficult.
You need to be prepared. Before we even began our trip, Liam and Sam took time to run through safety. You can tell it’s a priority for them and for first-time paddlers, it puts you at ease. They travel with a satellite phone and Liam would touch base with Sam in Winnipeg every night. It would be there that Sam would alert Liam to any weather patterns moving our way. That ensured Liam was able to schedule the day around possible rain. It did rain we were prepared with great shelter and shorter paddling excursions. Liam also gave us the option of not paddling, but Janice and I were keen to explore.
I now feel comfortable in a canoe. If you’ve spent little to no time in a canoe, you approach it differently than someone who has. It’s intimidating; all you can focus on is not having it flip. I can now confidently get into and out of a canoe. They’re actually sturdier than you think. I also now know how to steer a canoe, and not by using the ineffective rudder technique either! Janice and I encountered headwinds and by the second day, we were more confident in how to approach them and actually enjoyed the challenge.
You drink lake water. I’m not normally someone who would shy away from drinking lake water but I have to admit, it took me a full day to get used to the idea. It doesn’t taste any different than any other water I consume. It did resemble a batch of weak tea, but in colour alone. Twin River has 3 possible options for water purification. We used gravity filters which kinda look like an IV bag. We boiled water for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
I assumed we would eat freeze dried food on our trip. No way. We ate fresh, amazing food that Tristan had prepared beforehand. Liam served us Hungarian goulash, Pad Thai, pancakes, bacon and fresh bannock.
Bathrooms in Manitoba’s backcountry are amazing! I was perfectly fine with using the forest as a restroom but in some areas of the province, you will find open-air toilets. Basically, a toilet with a plastic tank underneath it out in the open, free from stench and old plywood walls. Plus the view is worth a million dollars!
If you can hike two hours, you can canoe the trip I took. There was never more than 3 hours of paddling at a time and portaging through the forest was never more than a kilometre. The trip I took is aimed at beginners but they offer multiple day excursions for those with experience. There are options for those who would rather not paddle alone, and for families wanting to give their children the gift of the outdoors.
What really stuck with me about my time with Twin River Travel was how accepting and fun the crew was. They immediately brought you into their world, letting you in on their inside jokes. It felt as if I was hanging out with friends for the weekend, never a guide I’d just met. They are environmentally and socially conscious and it was just so clear to me that they want everyone to take away a few of the many amazing memories they’ve made on the water, whether that be education, an appreciation for nature or comradery. You need to check them out. It’ll be the best thing you do this summer.