Tag Archives: Perspective

Day 28: The Albany River

Adding another adventure to our weekend after a walk to the Youth Camp yesterday, we had a chance to go for a boat ride on the Albany River today.

Joan and Edmund Metatawabin are a wonderful couple here who have been incredibly welcoming and supportive since our first day on the ground in Fort Albany.  Joan is a former teacher who currently runs the healthy food program at the school and helps to organize regular farmers’ markets in the community.  Edmund is a former chief of Fort Albany First Nation and is currently an author and activist (he has a book coming out in August that I am very much looking forward to reading).

Joan came and found us working at the school this afternoon and invited us out for a boat ride.  We were in the middle of planning for our week of camp, but were happy to take a break for the afternoon to get out on the water.  We have been hinting to almost everyone we have met that we have been anxious to see more of the river, so this was a very welcomed opportunity!

We hopped in the back of Joan’s pickup truck along with her five-year-old granddaughter (who also comes to camp with us) and she drove us to her house.  They live in a wonderful log cabin just off the reserve boundary along the edge of the river.  We climbed down the river embankment, into the boat, and headed off down the river.

Edmund navigated the boat through the river, telling us more about the history of the land and the community.  As we boated past the site of the original community, a few structures were visible from the water and we learned that these are used by community members who gather at the site each summer.  As for the history, Edmund told us that this area floods quite regularly and when missionaries arrived they deemed it unsafe.  They moved further inland to be safer and the resulting community is the current site of Fort Albany First Nation.

As with my experience walking to the Youth Camp yesterday, it is hard to find words that accurately describe the beauty of the landscape on either side of the river.  We did not pass any other boats on the river and the land around us was completely undisturbed.  That sort of experience can be completely overpowering if you let it hit you.  It made me feel small and part of something much bigger.  Beyond that, I am at a loss for words.

Albany River
We pulled the boat into a small sandbar in the middle of the river at a point where we could just barely see James Bay from a distance (it would have been at least another 45-minute ride by boat to actually reach the bay).  We waded out into the water in our clothes for a swim and spent quite a bit of time splashing and playing with Joan and Ed’s granddaughter.  The water was shallow enough that we were able to walk through the river to another sandbar that was exposed above the water.  By the time we were ready to leave, the tide had gone out even further and another sandbar had appeared just beside where we had tied up the boat.

Albany River 2Albany River 3Albany River 4
The boat ride back was one again quite silent as I tried to take in as much of the scenery as possible.  This has certainly been a busy weekend without much time to rest and recover from a busy week at camp, but this really does not bother me at all.  It has been a weekend full of perspective, which is something that I have been craving lately.  Even with a slight lack of sleep, I think I am feeling even more ready to take on another busy week.

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Day 27: Youth Camp

We decided to go on an adventure today and walk to the Youth Camp where everyone here talks about going swimming.  We were told that it was about a three-mile walk and although most people drive there, our lack of a vehicle (or even bicycles) left walking as our only option.  It was a gorgeous day with a nice breeze though, so that task seemed much less daunting than it would have been on a warmer summer day.

The walk began along a road that closely hugged the river, but as we continued the river occasionally disappeared into the trees.  We did a fair amount of exploring along the way, stopping to investigate smaller paths and trails as we stumbled upon them and taking time to enjoy the view of the towering trees on either side of us.

Road to The Dykes
After about 80 minutes of walking, we began to wonder if we had made a wrong turn since we had yet to find anything that resembled a Youth Camp (or, at the very least, a place to go swimming).  Just as we gave ourselves another 15 minutes to keep walking, a tall dyke came into view.  We climbed up the side, barely managing not to slide back down on the loose gravel, and were welcomed at the top by a breathtaking view.

The Dykes
Even though it was an absolutely beautiful day, there were only a few people swimming and enjoying the weather by the water.  We walked down to the water and then made our way back to explore the Youth Camp a little bit more.  It sounds like the camp is used primarily during the spring and fall months for youth gatherings, but is also occasionally used by teachers organizing events for groups of students throughout the school year.

Youth CampYouth Camp 2Youth Camp 3
After exploring the Youth Camp for a little while, I took some time to walk along the shoreline.  I put my feet in the water and spent some time just staring out at the river.  It is hard to explain what it feels like to be standing on the edge of an island in Northern Ontario looking out at a landscape that is inconceivably vast.  It is also hard not to accept moments like that as ones of clarity and perspective.  At the risk of sounding too hyperbolic, all I could really do is take a deep breath, smile, and take a mental photograph that would hopefully be much more vivid than a real one could ever be.

The Dykes 2
Wanting to make it back to town in time for a community event, our stay at the Youth Camp was somewhat short-lived, but I certainly plan on going back before my time here comes to an end.  The walk back went by surprisingly quickly as I took in the view around me and allowed myself to feel small in the midst of the land around me.  It seemed like a good time to reflect and think about just how beautiful the land here really is.