Frank Wolf was the last in our Spring Speaker Series, following Kevin Vallely and Freya Hoffmeister, and what an inspiring way to finish! We didn’t even have enough chairs we had so many people come at the last minute…it was awesome to see so many people enthusiastic to hear Frank talk.

I loved that Frank started off by talking about CANADA!! More specifically, about just how perfect Canada is for paddling and exploring by canoe, his preferred method of travel. The maps that he had on slides demonstrated this, especially using the Laurentian Shield as a guide – with an incredible array of rivers connecting lakes, which was the specific objective of this most recent trip.

Frank Wolf expedition map

This trip took him and companion Shawn Campbell from Lac La Ronge in Saskatchewan to Baker Lake in Nunavut, 1800 kms, which they completed in 44 days. That’s an average of 40kms a day, and when you saw the photos of the duo dragging the canoe, pulling the canoe, pushing the canoe, and carrying the canoe, you wonder how on earth they managed such a pace, but such are the speeds at which water travels…when it’s going in the right direction anyway.

The sheer distance traveled also had something to do with Frank’s disciplined routine, paddling from 9am to 7pm every day apart from when they were forced to hold up due to storm conditions. In all that paddling, there were clearly some very special moments in the trip, such as when two Dene boys got in their canoe to play, and it was their very first time in a canoe – something that used to be an integral part of the Dene culture which has now been replaced by more ‘convenient’ motorboats.

Dene boys in canoe frank wolf

The images of the tundra, and the cariboo crossing the Kazan River will also stick with me. Frank and Shawn saw 50-100 cariboo at a time, calves and all, swimming in front of them, and even a grizzly bear too. Amazing experiences that very few people have the opportunity to see; it was like watching Planet Earth from the cameraman himself.


It clearly was a feat of incredible endurance – I wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes with the volume of mosquitoes attacking them…but apparently those become like background noise after a while. [Skeptical face].

Frank Wolf mosquitoes

Truly, the lessons that I will embrace from Frank’s talk are:

  1. Exploring remote places puts you on the outskirts of society, because there is no society in most of those places; no-one to tell you where to go, or how it’s going to be. This is what he described as the anarchistic element to his traveling.
  2. Always explore somewhere different, because there’s almost infinite places to explore on this earth. That way, every bend on the river is new, and also the only time you’ll see it, so you take it so much more seriously to heart. According to Frank, this is a highly addictive way to live.
  3. Where there are no guidebooks, and no evidence of people having gone before you, that is where true adventure lies. You have to hope for the best, and expect the worst.

Those three condensed ideas are what I am taking away from this talk – I may not be able to apply them to everything that I do, but for inspiration on how to travel, how to challenge yourself and how to adventure – they work for me, and I have a strong suspicion that most of the people in the audience last night felt the same.