Since the flooding of the Quill Lakes started a few years ago, Ken Kerluke has joked to his cousin Lawrence Haskey, my father, about getting in a boat and going to Dafoe for breakfast. Finally I decided to call up my good friend Kelsey Glennie to see if he would snowshoe with me across the three lakes, starting at Wadena and going across the Little Quill, Mud and Big Quill lakes all in one day.
I took three toys along as stand-ins for my three children.
On March 11, though it was cold and windy, with the recent warmer weather we figured this might be our last opportunity. We left the shore of Little Quill Lake at 7 a.m. and arrived in Dafoe on the southwest shore 15 hours later.
The route we ended up taking was 56 kilometres (35 miles) long. Making the journey took everything we had. The energy-expenditure ratio of running to snowshoeing is 1:3; every mile of snowshoeing is equivalent to three miles of running. In other words, it was like running 168 km (105 miles) in one day. To top it off, we were both carrying 40 pounds of supplies on our backs. We needed them; 15 of those pounds were water.
Kelsey might have been standing in the middle of a vast white-sand desert!
Besides the aching muscles and sore, blistered feet that go with snowshoeing, the hardest part of the trip was experiencing the 30 km/h winter wind gusting up to 50 km/h that day. We were only able to stop for a few minutes at a time for a drink or protein bar and had to get going again or we would get too cold. We were dressed for moving, not being stopped on the lake with the wind blowing through us, and there was no one nearby to rescue us if we got hypothermia.
We saw the arrival of our Canada geese on their northward migration, a nesting ground with about 1000 nests up in the trees in a very small area surrounded by lake, and coyotes and crows that probably wondered what we were doing out in their territory and whether we were going to make it.
There were also large cracks that we had to cross out on Big Quill. We arrived at the first about 4 o’clock and, only 18 inches wide, it was easy to leap across.
The real test was at 8 p.m. when we came to a crack a metre wide right across our path. With only about seven miles to go, it was either make the jump with our wornout legs that already had 28 miles on them, or turn back.
By the time we got to Dafoe, my brother Leland and his family had been anxiously awaiting our arrival, watching our small flashlight coming across the last miles of the journey. When we reached their vehicle we were quick to call my dad and Ken. “We made it to Dafoe for breakfast but were a little bit late getting here. You guys must have left!”
If the water gets any higher, we joked, and joins up with Long Lake to the west, it may have to be renamed Quill Long Lake. We hope a drainage program does come into effect so that no more farmland around the Quill Lakes is lost to the ever-rising water. Old-timers once said there used to be paddle boats that went between Last Mountain Lake and the Quill Lakes back in the 1920s, when it was just as wet as it is now. Due to creeks being filled in and dams being built for agricultural purposes, the water will not flow that way anymore.
After all was said and done, Kelsey and I agreed that doing this particular trek once is enough!
Submitted by Lyndon Haskey