Henry Kroeker and Murray Carson would impress any voyageur with how many miles they have paddled together over Canada's most beautiful rivers and lakes.
For the past 29 consecutive years, the two bankers have escaped the office together by going on a canoe trip somewhere in Canada's wilderness. Although both are now retired from the Royal Bank, and live in different provinces on different sides of the Rockies, they still meet up for their annual paddling pilgrimage.
The two met and began their canoe escapes in Winnipeg while working at the same bank. When one was transferred to Toronto and the other to Flin Flon, it might have ended the excursions but Carson and Kroeker decided to expand their scope and become true Canuck travellers in Canada's unofficial national vehicle.
Over the years they rotated around the waterways that caught their fancy: Algonquin Park, Thunder Bay, Whiteshell Park, Quetico Park, then about 15 years ago they focused on British Columbia and for the past several years they honed still further to the Nation Lakes chain northwest of Prince George and accessed through Fort St. James.
This canoe destination is to the Omineca region what the Bowron Lakes chain is to the Cariboo region, only with a difference, the two men agreed.
"We like places that are somewhat remote, where you don't have to book a campsite and you won't see a lot of people," said Kroeker. "We did the Bowron chain, and it's beautiful, and a lot of people like having other people around them out there, but we like the size of the crowds on the Nation Lakes - we saw maybe six people the whole time we were out there this year."
They are gone several days on each of these adventures, but in their advancing years things have gotten more luxurious. For the past two summers, Carson's son Ian, a pilot when not working at his Centre City Electric business in Prince George, flew over the Nation Lakes until the canoe buddies were spotted. The junior Carson then dropped them a care package of a hot meal from Earl's Restaurant and a bottle of wine.
"That was a wonderful surprise both times," said Carson.
It helps balance the memories of tough times they've encountered like storms and turbulent water. None of these turns for the worse have diverted them from enjoying the trips, nor has the sequestered company.
"We have never had any major disputes, except once when Murray wanted his steaks at 6 and I didn't have it ready until 6:30. Fine, I said, I'll eat them both," said Kroeker.
The dry humour may be essential out on the water, but the two are contemplating this being their last paddle into the wild. Carson is 74 and Kroeker is 68. They have long discussed other buddy vacation options.
"We're getting a bit older, aren't you Henry?" Carson said.
They know that next year would be a milestone - No. 30 - but discussions between themselves and their wives will have to happen before their yellow Clipper moves them into backcountry water one more time. If it happens, though, they are not yet finished taking in the scenes of the Nation Lakes.