Emma Wehner: How to Bush Crash Across Manitoba.

Jun 23, 2023

When embarking on an expedition, the key is to meticulously plan everything, this way you have lots of experience planning for when everything falls apart. This was the case for my Backyard Beginnings crew as we set out in record-high waters last spring to find every portage submerged by the raging river. The Backyard Beginnings expedition endeavored to share the benefits of paddling as a mental health outlet. Needless to say, it certainly was a test to the crew’s mental strength.

After battling for 45 days through the drowned and burnt forests of Woodland Caribou Park, Atikaki Provincial Park and the renowned Poplar River Park Reserve the team got to experience the pathless land of the Churchill River as it flowed out into Hudson’s Bay. The team met every challenge with fortitude and arrived at their destination with smiling faces and some humble wisdom to share. Here are their top Ten portage tips:

  1. The correct time of year to bush crash through marshes is early spring, this way some of the bugs are still frozen, just like your toes.
  2. Be the first ones through the parks after a fire. There is an added sense of accomplishment to spending hours finding and clearing paths. To whoever portaged through Woodland Caribou after us, I’m sorry we robbed you of the pleasure. 
  3. Be one with the bugs. No seriously. Completely cover yourself head to toe with a protective layer similar to a bug’s exoskeleton. 
  4. If the pile of ant covered moss looks like an inviting place to nap, you are past due for a candy break.
  5. If a portage runs beside a beautiful waterfall campsite it is time to stop for the day, especially if you are only 700m around a corner from your previous crash site.
  6. If using satellite imagery to scout portage options be sure to look at imagery with very low water levels. This way you can always be hit with the element of surprise and you’ll continually get to say, “the next one couldn’t possibly be this hard”. 
  7. The correct number of jars of “just in case” peanut butter is N+1, where N is the number you currently have. This will make your packs perfect for getting good strong muscles.
  8. When your friend plans an entire route based on guestimating any crash less then five kilometers is navigable by compass. Definitely trust them. You will gain tons of bush crashing experience and perhaps even get to experience the thrill of momentarily being lost.
  9. In polar bear territory, our portage tip is: don’t.  In case you need to be reminded how delicious you are, let us tell you, you are a snack.
  10. Keep a close eye on your boats, sometimes they get too adventurous and try to sneak off and run things without you… probably more then once. On second thought, just portage more.

Expeditions are full of fun surprises and hard work. There is something very unique and rewarding about navigating challenges (like portaging through frozen marshes or chasing after runaway boats) that are so that is so removed from the challenges faced in city life. While none of us love portaging (in the moment) we all agree that they make us mentally stronger and somehow the next portage becomes more achievable. Hopefully, life’s challenges are the same.


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