Arrival at Fort McMurray

Arrival at Fort McMurray

Dispatch by Paul Auerbach
Photo by Jimmy Martinello

The Wood Buffalo team arrived in Fort McMurray from Oregon and Ottawa, and Squamish and Toronto, each of us hauling our share of the gear required for this long-anticipated trip and eager to put it to use. We're in Fort McMurray to meet our hosts with Fort McMurray Tourism and Parks Canada and as a jumping-off point for what should be an epic stand up paddle on the Peace and Slave rivers.

One look at Fort McMurray from the air is enough to understand why people want to live here. The city itself sits right at the confluence of the Athabasca and and Clearwater Rivers, amid boreal forest stretching as far as the eye can see to the north and west. If space is what you crave, there's a lot of it here! 

As with any trip the people make the difference, and we have gotten to know each other over the many weeks of discussing gear lists and route planning. Jimmy and Delano know each other from previous expeditions and the group has already formed good working relationships that will serve us well in what is sure to be a challenging and rewarding week in Wood Buffalo. The forecast is pretty good, with temperatures in the mid-twenties early next week, so we’re encouraged that the physical demands of paddling won’t be compounded by bad weather. 

Tonight we'll be meeting with Aleesha Baronian from Fort McMurray Tourism. We should have enough time on the ground here to have a look around town. Most of the evening will be taken up with a final check of all the gear (much of it courtesy of MEC). And then early tomorrow morning we'll take the 45-minute flight up to Fort Chipewyan, 280 kilometres to the north, Alberta’s oldest settled community and, you guessed it, the gateway to Wood Buffalo!  

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