For a long time Dave Halsey thought of himself as a visitor in the bush country.

Halsey, a 22-yead-old from McLean, is crossing Canada from west to east at the permafrost line, using dogsleds, canoes, snowshoes and shank's mare.

"It's funny," he said, "butit's only been in the last few months that I haven't been counting the days until I got back to the city, even though I love it in the bush."

He's back in the city today and he sees things differently.

"Now I think of the bush and the river as my home. I don't want to lose that feeling."

He's going to have to survive on memories for a few months, anyway - Halsey's not going anywhere.

The last time he made it out of the bush was two weeks ago to the metropolis of Moosonee, Ontario, where the Moose River spills out into James Bay. It was the end of a 1,200-mile paddle up the Berens River, the most satisfying stretch of the 3,800 miles Halsey has covered, and down the Albany River. Halsey and his traveling partner, Peter Souchuk, did a little celebrating after their weeks in the back country.

Halsey was feeling his way back to a borrowed trailer to get some sleep. He had to cross a little creek, and someone had thoughtfully placed a steel sheet over the trickle of water.

Halsey stepped on it, slipped and went crashing to the ground, breaking his fibula, dislocating his ankle and tearing ligaments. It took him an hour to crawl the 300 yards back to the trailer.

The doctors at nearby Moose Factory are used to such backwoods mishaps. They told him by phone to go to bed. They'd set it in the morning.

"I spent the night clinging to the bedpost," said the adventurer.

Next say they patched him up, but Halsey wanted to be sure it was right. He flew the next week to Arlington, where doctors told him to stay off it for six months, at least.

Halsey, who has crossed three-quarters of the Canadian wild and was beginning to see the light at the end of forest, was crushed.

It wasn't first setback. Fifty miles after he left Vancouver, a year and a half ago, Halsey's original three partners deserted him. He thought it was all over then, after two years of planning. But he hunched his shoulders and plunged on, alone, over the Rockies.

Last fall he and his new partner, Souchuk, capsized their canoe in the Athabasca River three times in one afternoon. Souchuk left the half-frozen Halsey and started to walk the 30 miles to the nearest town. He figured to come back and get the body, but he found help sooner and they brought Halsey back alive. That caper ended in a Canadian hospital stay for both men.

Now this.

Halsey, who has fallen for the gentle rhythm of his slow voyage up one watershed and down the next, has decided not to be discouraged. He'll catch up on writing this fall, and when the leg heals he'll head back to Moosonee to join a native trapper in the outback for the winter season.

In May he and Souchuk will gather again for the canoe trip across James Bay, the 400-mile plunge upstream to the headwaters of the Rupert River in central Quebec, and then a 350-mile downhill plunge from Lake Mistassini to Tadoussac on the St. Lawrence River, and the end of this journey.