The meeting of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers in downtown Winnipeg is known locally as The Forks.
It wasn’t always a tourist attraction and despite the immense importance of the place, I am anxious to leave. Unlike most of all the other forks I’ve paddled up to, this one would be wholly unrecognizable to the early explorers who were led here by their indigenous guides. The pontoon boats stemming the current with outboards and full of tourists half listening to the skipper/tour operator/carnival hawker aren’t helping.
Having started out in heavy rain, the afternoon sun is not to be wasted. I jump back in the canoe and paddle away, all too aware that both me and the clothes I’ve been wearing for weeks are covered in mud.
The Red River is wide and quick. Too wide. There are no campsites and by 7pm I’m getting desperate. By 7:30 I’m committed to a closed boat launch, the ramp buried under 2 feet of slick mud and ooze. But I am off the water and safe.
Paddling away from the Forks, my mood and thoughts were sinking. The shore, uninviting and dirty, wasn’t helping. In the middle of the river now, taking advantage of the current, apartment buildings on the eastern bank offer no hope of sanctuary. Suddenly, right out of the blue, some one yells at me from an apartment balcony. ‘You’re that guy! That guy paddling across Canada! You’re on TV right now! I’m watching you on TV. Good for you buddy! Woo hoo! Good luck! Look, it’s that guy paddling across Canada!’
I raise my paddle at the woman and her daughter excitedly jumping up and waving with both arms. They will have no idea what their unexpected outburst has done for my flagging spirits and sinking mood.
I let the current carry me a few yards before I dip the paddle into water I can’t see a quarter inch into. The water I’ve been drinking for days. The water that has become my home. Head down, misty-eyed I whisper to Kai Nani ‘Angels everywhere. And always when you need them most. Simply everywhere.’