Little Grand Rapids March1&2/2013

1.Keith Retying Ropes 2.Ruth Kemp & Reg Simard 3. Father Rheal's Church in Blood Vein 4. Scenic Winter Road 5. Map of Winter Road

Friends of mine, Reg Simard, Ruth Kemp and Keith Reid planned to deliver four canoes to Little Grand Rapids via the winter road so that in May, they and others, could fly into the community and canoe down the Berens River, a planned 12 day trip. I was asked along because it was an opportunity to visit several reserves on the east side of Lake Winnipeg that I had never been to. I hoped to photograph and interview some local elders plus establish contacts for future visits. It was to be a single day excursion. I could hardly refuse.

March 1/Fri.
By 8:15pm I left Winnipeg with Reg Simard and two canoes.
We stopped at Wavers, across from South Beach Casino, and connected with Ruth Kemp, from Berens River. I hopped in her vehicle so now we had a 2 vehicle convoy heading to Manigotogan.
There we met Keith Reid from my home town of Pinawa. We added a 3rd canoe to his roof rack (next to his canoe, ‘Irene,'). We were on the road 1 hour later to Bloodvein Reserve for the night. I rode with Keith, Ruth with Reg.
The Rice River Road, as it is called, was in pretty good condition. It is under 100 km in length and skirts the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
We arrived at Bloodvein close to 2 am and headed directly to the Man. Hydro trailers where we stayed the night. All of us were tired when we crashed 1 hour later.

6.Group Shot: Me, Ruth, Reg, Derby Organizer, Keith 7.Fish Derby Round Lake 8.Fisherman From Matheson Island 9. Testing Integrity of Snow Bank (they are sound!)

March 2/Sat.
By 8:30am we were up and with Ruth's sandwiches under our belts departed by 9:30am. After gassing up we dropped in at Father Rheale’s church which is undergoing major renovations. He was expecting us and provided a contact in Little Grand Rapids. He also gave us several packages to deliver and instructions on how and where to store the canoes. The Father has lived in Bloodvein for 13 years and visits several communities so knows many of the older inhabitants.
The route is circuitous to say the least as it winds its way through the Canadian Shield. The road heads east for perhaps 10 km before turning north for 60km. A few times Keith and I tried to create our own alternate route through the bush but didn’t get very far. Each time we decided to back up carefully and continue on the road built by professionals. (LOL)
Hours later we made a sharp turn east and came upon Round Lake where a fishing derby was underway. We stopped for 20 minutes to take photos and talk to a few organizers. I met a couple from Matheson Island hoping to win a prize. Pickerel and pike were the sought after fish.
The last 100 km east to Little Grand Rapids took several more hours. The Canadian Shield never looked more fine. We encountered a few vehicles, some rusted out relics on the shoulder. Late afternoon found us overlooking the lake on which the picturesque community of Little Grand Rapids sits.
It was a very pleasant day; the sun had burned a hole through the cloudy haze by that time. Large snow flakes that had being floating down for several hours had petered.
Driving over frozen Family Lake was like crossing a runway because of the very wide clearance. We passed several walkers and a few roaming dogs that looked like a greeting party. Everyone was friendly, out enjoying the beautiful afternoon. We certainly drew stares with the four canoes sitting on top of our vehicles in the dead of winter.
We spent one hour visiting with Sally and her husband, Tom, a retired teacher. Sally gave us a list of elders, then she and Tom followed us to Ruby Lilian Bouchie’s home.
I spent the next hour photographing and interviewing lovely Ruby. Sally helped translate with input from Ruth and Ruby’s daughter, Marlene. Delightful family; son, Oliver, runs the local airline.
Next we headed to Maudine’s home for the same. Sally and Maudine have been friends since childhood when their families lived together on the trap line.
Our last stop was the home of John James Bouchie. I couldn’t get satisfactory photos because of poor lighting. Interesting fellow though, I hope to re-shoot him outdoors next time in the community.
Ruth and I headed to the church where Reg and Keith had finished stowing the canoes. We were on the road by 5:30pm in dim light, sans canoes. After crossing the frozen lake and climbing the steep hill we began retracing our route.
I rode with Keith to Bloodvein. Night driving ensured there would be few surprises regarding approaching vehicles — we hoped! Road conditions were marginally better because of a light snow dusting and colder temperatures. Several trucks passed us but we had adequate warning.
We managed to bounce off only one snow bank on our return on a very sharp corner.
At Bloodvein Ruth convinced the store owner to remain open a few minutes longer so we could gas up. Otherwise we would have had to stay for the evening. Keith headed home to Pinawa. I rode with Ruth to the outskirts of Winnipeg where I jumped in with Reg, who was exhausted from the driving.
It had been a long, tiring but exciting experience. Couldn’t wait to view the photos taken!

10. Ruby Lilian Bouchie 11. Half Way Creek 12. Winter Road Over Family Lake to Little Grand Rapids

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