Winner of Nova Craft canoe – Ron Maddock

The 2009 annual Spring Great Wilderness Clean-Up Program was a great success and with donations from sponsors (explore magazine included) the group organizer, Nancy Maddock, was able to give out a number of prizes for all the hard work volunteers did from here to Brazil to clean up wilderness areas. The big prize – a new Cronje 16 ft. canoe from Nova Craft (paid by money given by Canada Post) – was just announced. It was for the best story of the event, judged by [former] explore editor, James Little. Congradulations Ron Maddock.

Here’s his story:

It Was a Full Moon
By Ron Maddock

I am Nancy’s pretty old older bother. Ever since she started the Great Wilderness Cleanup, Nancy has been asking me to participate. I had declined in the past, mostly because of the inclement weather and black flies that one is likely to encounter around the second weekend of May. But this year I accepted, thinking “what the heck, why not”. As I said, I am getting pretty old and therefore foolish. Besides, I used to do a lot of wilderness canoeing, the kind where you need to fly in by float plane to a remote lake and then paddle down a white water river for about 100 miles or so, never seeing another soul on the way. I include these among the greatest experiences of my pretty long life. Accordingly, or so I thought, this would be a piece of cake. But the date was May 8, 2009, and there would be a full moon that night, and it had other ideas.

Aside from taking a wrong turn somewhere near Lindsay, the trip up to Gold Lake was uneventful. But then the fun started. We found that the black flies were out in full force as we got out of the car. I took the paddles out and started undoing the canoe straps while Nancy frantically searched for her bug net. Apparently, she took off her jacket with the car keys in one of the pockets and then leaned on the remote. I had finished undoing the straps and was ready to take the canoe off the car, so I shut the doors. I’m sure you can see this coming. The doors were locked, with all of our stuff inside, including the keys and the cell phone. After the initial panic, we decided to flag down a passing car. Fortunately, those nice folks had a cell phone and they helped us get in touch with CAA. We were promised help within 45 minutes, but I had my doubts. In the meantime, my own bug net was still in the car and the bugs were getting real nasty. It was then that I noticed that the sun roof on the car was open about an inch, so we started shoving sticks inside the car to try to open the locks. But the sticks were too thin to get any leverage. I then had my inspiration, which was not too shabby for a pretty old guy. How about a paddle? Maybe it would fit. Well, that did the trick, and we were soon on our way. By this time, Mike and Deb had arrived and they followed us down the lake shortly after we set off.

After setting up camp and having the first of our many fabulous meals, Nancy and I decided to go for a paddle. It was getting pretty chilly by then, so I had a fair bit of clothing on. I pushed the canoe out into the lake with just the bow resting on shore and climbed into the stern. Now I am convinced that Nancy did not do this on purpose. I think she actually likes her pretty old older brother. But as she attempted to push the bow of the canoe into the water, it somehow got tilted over, and over into the water I went, along with all of the clothes I had on to keep warm. Now this is May. The ice was barely melted. And we were now on Cold Lake. I’m thinking there is a reason it was named that. Yikes! Well, I figured it was a good idea to get out my clothes and into dry ones as soon as possible, but I wasn’t about to climb into my tent with soaking wet clothes. So I stripped them off outside the tent while Mike kindly took things one by one and hung them on the line. Deb was kind enough to avert her eyes (or so she claimed) but Nancy took great delight in seeing this spectacle and gleefully got out her camera. Feel free to ask for a copy of the photo. I have to say that my bare butt isn’t bad for a pretty old guy. So, there you have it, two full moons in one evening.

Saturday was pretty much a write off due to the torrential rains that started just about the time that Kevin and his gang arrived. Coincidence? Hmmm …. In the meantime, my clothes that I was wearing during my lake dunking were still pretty wet so I had to take them off the line and pile them up under a corner of the tarp to keep them from getting really soaked again (it was another 36 hours before they were actually dry enough to wear). The rain eased off by late evening and we were able to get in dinner and a nice fire. However, it seems that the rain was on the edge of a cold front which proceeded to move in, making for a pretty chilly night. It remained cold and windy the next day, but the rain was gone and so were the black flies. Too cold for them, but not for this pretty old guy. Nancy and I headed over to Cox Lake to continue the cleanup, which included a 900 m portage. I think it had been 20 years since I had done one of those, but apparently this pretty old guy can still do it. We spent the rest of the day cleaning up camp sites. The good news is that they were all pretty clean, but we still managed to fill two garbage bags, and had to leave a few things that we could not manage to take back over the portage.

Nancy and I stayed over to Monday and it was a glorious day. Unfortunately, the black flies thought so too, so we decided to beat a hasty retreat home. The trip ended with me losing my glasses somewhere, which a pretty old guy can’t manage without. And I had neither the full moon nor Nancy to blame for that one.

I must admit that I was sceptical of Nancy’s efforts to clean up the wilderness. Why clean up someone else’s garbage when you know full well that it will be no better at the end of the season? But apart from the satisfaction that one gets by restoring nature to the way it was meant to be, the effort creates an awareness that is apparently having a real effect. And, as Nancy pointed out to me, if someone comes onto a clean site, they are more likely to leave it that way. I have teased her a bit while writing this, but I have to admire my baby sister for spearheading this effort, and the truth is that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Where are we going next year? I just hope that it can be scheduled when the moon isn’t full.