By: Rob Dolson

It’s not the Destination, it’s the Journey!

For me, this was what the Expedition was all about! We all met as a team at the Fairmount in Vancouver for dinner and received our briefings for the trek to come and there was when we heard that the fires in British Columbia could cause problems with the hiking portion of our Expedition. The team departed for Nimpo Lake and we saw some great views of the Coast Mountains from our flight windows and I realized there’s a lot more to this country than what I have seen in my extensive travels. Once we arrived in Nimpo Lake, we set up our tents and divided up our food and supplies for the hike portion but! Haha as the Cabot Expedition had Ice, the Mackenzie Expedition had Fire! The BC fires changed our plans a few times and the decision was made to head to Bella Cool, BC early to get out of any danger caused by the fires. So after and a very interesting bus ride down Hwy 20, which have some crazy switch back roads and a very interesting driver named Cowboy Jim, we made it to Bella Coola and the Gnome Home campground!

So, we didn’t get to hike the full Mackenzie/Grease trail from Tanya Lake. Once we arrived at the campground, the group wanted to at the very least hike what would have been our last day hike from Hump Lake. The group moved to the trail head and started our climb up the Grease trail that Mackenzie took down. We went from roughly 138 meters above sea level to about 4800 meters and made our destination called Hump Lake. Once we took off our day packs and were happy that the climb was over, we were greeted by hordes of insects! I am sure also happy that we made the climb! After eating some lunch under a bug head net and refilling our water I realized that oh crap we actually have to climb down! Now normally you would think that’s the easy part, but with the steep descent, it was harder than the ascent! The group made it to the bottom and we finally touched the Mackenzie trail and it was worth every bit!

Next, it was the white-water rafting down the Bella Coola River and I must say the knowledge our raft gain from our guide Fraser was awesome. Seeing the all the Bald eagles, seals and the info about the Grizzly and Black Bear population in the area made the paddle down the river a high point to our trip.

The Ocean Canoe! First of all what a great piece of equipment I must say! We had a practice day in some pretty crazy morning weather (rain/wind) which gave us all a better understanding of the conditions that we might face. The next day we were heading out for our final leg and well the weather was beautiful! The water was like glass and the paddling was made easy by this great turn in the weather. Our first night at camp was its own adventure in that we were able to tour an abandon local hermits cabin, which I compared to the Blair Witch Project, but I wasn’t scared or anything…really! Next was the rising tides that made some of us move our tents a few times and also consumed one Co-Chair. The tides pretty much had us on an island for the night and turned out to be pretty cool when you wake up in the morning and see it all the water gone! Day 2 of the canoe was much like the first as the weather was in our favor and the group paddled roughly 35 km’s to get to what I think we thought was the most beautiful cove I have ever seen. Tucked within the Fjords this place was a local secret and I know why. It had its own hot spring and excellent mountain views and I realized what an amazing country we live in. Now with all the great weather, we had Day 3 was a different story. The winds and whitecaps showed there #ugly head and made the canoeing all the more challenging and real for all of us! That didn’t deter this group at all, we pushed and worked together to ensure we will make that Rock!

Finally! Once we hit the shore at the bottom of where Alexander Mackenzie wrote his inscription we all felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in the fact that us as Canadians, Civilian, and Military, could come together as a team and achieve such a great Expedition. We sang O’Canada, took a lot of photos and smiled at the fact that we did it! The trip back on the Fishing Boat was the icing on the cake as we were able to dolphins playing around the boat, a Humpback whale breeching 250 metres away from the boat and being able to retrace the distance we covered was amazing end to an amazing Expedition with an amazing group of people I am glad to have met!

“There’s a Right way, a Wrong way and then the Mackenzie way”