We paddled into the Cree hamlet of Moose Factory against the salty headwind blowing up river from James Bay, manoeuvring our canoe between the undulating swells caused by the water taxis buzzing through the narrow channel that separates the island community from the main body of the Moose River. We looked how men look when they pull the last of 45,000 strokes with their wooden paddles following eight long, cold, glorious days on a river: stubbled, achy and desperate to stand erect and walk.
It would be disingenuous to suggest we explored Moose Factory; we skimmed it with tired eyes and fresh legs for a few hours along its dirt roads, visiting only the gas station’s convenience store and the Cree Cultural Interpretive Centre. The town’s signature travel-guide feature–the empty buildings of the 19th century Hudson’s Bay Company stores and lodgings–were found to be greying and dilapidated in congruity with the summer mud and wild grass overgrowing the roads. The vibrance of modern life in Moose Factory was implied in the satellite dishes hanging off the corners of every home and in the pockmarked pickup trucks rumbling past us on their circuitous island route, and in the signs promoting sewing classes and music festivals and employment opportunities.
Had we been lost–indeed, had we any ambition towards an itinerary–no shortage of kind strangers rolled down their windows and offered to help. But on the river we had spent our capacity to explore and discover, and there was not much left for us but to walk idly in a circle and then curl up around a hot meal at the lodge.
Thus, these photographs of Moose Factory, on the fifth of August, 2014.
Paddling the Mattagami and Moose Rivers to Moosonee – a trip report