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Steger ends Canadian journey short of destination

Ely's Will Steger loads gear in his specially designed canoe-sled before one of his recent spring treks. The canoe-sleds he uses are Northstar canoes built by Minnesotan Ted Bell. Will Steger photo

While his home state has been basking in 80- and 90-degree heat in recent days, Ely explorer Will Steger managed to find real winter hanging on in northern Canada.

Steger is now on his way home to Minnesota after ending his adventure across the barrenlands from northern Saskatchewan to near Hudson Bay.

Steger, who has led successful dog-sled expeditions to the North Pole and across Antarctica, left northern Saskatchewan on March 21 on a planned 1,000-mile solo trek across Canada's treeless subarctic. He planned to reach Baker Lake, near Hudson Bay, 70 days later.

But on day 70, Steger was still hundreds of miles short of Baker Lake after having to trudge through heavy snow, which slowed his daily progress.

Steger had committed to returning home for a fundraising event Thursday, June 7, in the Twin Cities for his nonprofit Steger Wilderness Center, an energy-efficient conference center that Steger has built near his homestead in Ely. According to the map at he appeared to end the trip about two-thirds of the way toward his goal.

"I expected a lot of thin ice and rapids and all sorts of adventures of that sort. But it was more of a harder slog, which is a different type of experience. I have no disappointment at all. You always get what you get whatever you do," Steger said in his May 27 daily update for the trip made by satellite telephone.

Steger was picked up by a small ski-plane by former Ely pilot Dave Olesen and taken back to Olesen's home on Great Slave Lake, the first leg of the trip home to Minnesota.

"It was a two-hour flight back. It really put me in touch with how much winter I was actually immersed in. ... By the time I got to Great Slave Lake, there was some water on the ice. Some of the rivers had rapids and falls in them, although the quieter areas of the rivers were still frozen," Steger posted Monday, May 28.

Steger, 73, hauled a custom-built canoe-sled loaded with 200 pounds of gear and food over lakes, rivers and portages. His route passed through no villages.