Saturday, April 19, 2008

Linda Bartlett - Newfoundland's Woman of the Paddle

Below is a version of an article of mine on paddling friend Linda Bartlett in a recent issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine (on Wild Women). Above Linda wears a particularly fetching rain hat (although I don't think MEC carries them) on our 4-night trip to Exploits Island in '05.

Name: Linda Bartlett
Occupation/Role: Outdoor Enthusiast/Outgoing Chair of MEC
Hometown/Province: St. John’s, Newfoundland

“There’s an old Chinese saying ‘you’ve never lived ‘til you’ve run a raging rapid and ridden a wild horse’,” says Linda Bartlett. “Well, I’ve had horses that have been difficult to handle and I’ve run the canyon of [Newfoundland’s] Main River.” A woman of lean build, extraordinary stamina and sheer love of the outdoors, Bartlett’s roster of adventures (like sitting behind the blowhole of a humpback whale during a rescue mission, or speed skate skiing smack into the face of a bull moose) could well rank her as the female Indiana Jones.

Bartlett probably has more paddling experience under her PFD than any other female in the province. She started canoeing about 20 years ago, completing most of the major rivers of the island – some with her then 165lb Newfoundland dog Bear - and twice running the Churchill River of Labrador lure which she paddled in a solo canoe in 2006. She switched strokes about 10 years ago. “I found a lot of skills used in canoeing I could use in kayaking and I love the sea.”

Driven by physical challenge (the former Captain of the McGill Woodswomen team took gold in a snowshoe race, practicing hard “for fear I’d come in last”), Bartlett spent the Millennium whitewater kayaking in Nepal, “…sitting on a bag of rice paddling with a head of cabbage between my knees.”
What others are saying:
Paddle Canada President and a Level 2 instructor trainer, Richard Alexander is quick to recognize Bartlett as a role model. “Her high level of competency is complimented by her enthusiasm to share her knowledge and passion with others. She is, in every sense, a leader in the paddling community.”
From the bay to the boardroom:
For the past four years, Bartlett has brought her enthusiasm for the outdoors and knowledge about gear to the boardroom as chair of Canada’s leading retailer of outdoor gear. “I was drawn to the values of Mountain Equipment Co-op, and it’s become a vehicle for change,” says Bartlett, adding “I’m motivated to make a difference.”
Fast forward:
Her day job in Tourism with the provincial government, and involvement with MEC have carved into her time on the water. Next year she intends to change that by paddling more in her home province. “I’m not a fair weather paddler who explores the coast in calm conditions. I enjoy wind and waves. I’m looking forward to challenging myself in the elements.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Witless Bay Line Barrens

[Photos: top & bottom by Alison Dyer; group shot by Graham Openshaw; 2 skiers by Peter Armitage, April 2008]

"What time of day do you call this," says Graham, as daughter Ella and I, stunned by a glazing sun, scramble with our x-country skiis. We'd left St. John's and arrived about 40 mins later - now noon - out on the Witless Bay Line - a road known for its winter white-outs, over the barrens between the Trans Canada Highway and the coastal Southern Shore Highway.

I mumble something about being at the kayak pool sessions the night before with both kids. And now we are here - where my buddy Peter Armitage has his winter camp (a canvas Innu tent). He, his partner Barb Neis, mutual friends Graham and Janaki (an Aussi) and a few others are out for the day - or weekend - camping and skiing. Ella and I decide to join them for the afternoon across a vast white terrain scattered with erratics and irregular life - like something belonging to the White Witch: a landscape bewitched by a dazzling sun, and magnificent chards of sparkling glass beneath shorn larch and grizzled spruce (a thaw following a freezing rain).

Early on - and far behind - attempting a snow plow, my left ski hits a bare patch of caribou moss, grabs onto it like a drowned man to a tossed lifejacket, and sends me caterpaulting into the albeit fresh and tasty air. I land unceremoniously like a sack of garbage. So be it... I paddle therefore I am... I ski because winter doth cover this land for 8 months (i.e. I suck at skiing but try to make the most of it).

The landscape is marvellous - we're tired, and after two plus hours head back to camp, finding it by its trail of wood smoke. Tea, Innu donuts and a ritual bowl of instant noodles are enjoyed laying on a bed of fragrant fir boughs. Sore muscles, red cheeks, and warm food usher us into a trance-like nap.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Innu Crafts Available

"I spent three weeks in Unaman-shipu (La Romaine) on the Quebec Lower North Shore in February and March 2008. My Innu Mom, Alice Bellefleur, asked me to flog a number of her craft items in St. John's upon my return. These were sold almost instantly."

So writes my long-time friend and paddling buddy, anthropologist Peter Armitage. He goes on to say that Alice Bellefleur:

"takes commissions, mostly moccasins, mittens and knitted wool socks. ..if you're interested in placing an order, send me the outline of your foot drawn on a piece of paper (in the case of moccasins and socks). Same thing for an order of mittens - send me the outline of your hand drawn on a piece of paper. Mom is 75 years old and never stops making crafts."

If you're the shopping type, I can't imagine a better gift - or reason to buy - than a pair of these exquisite hand-made items. And you'd be supporting an important local, sustainable and aboriginal economy.

See Peter's site for full details and more photos of crafts.