written by Ann Verrall
The first section of Dianne’s journey on the Voyageur Trail passed through Mississauga First Nation territory.
This relatively short distance is chalk full of contributions of knowledge, supplies, accommodations, meals and physical exertion. The beginning of a new section of the trail, accompanied by a switch in travel mode comes with lots of logistical planning, experimentation and a learning curve. We are very grateful for the community of people who have helped out and taken part in this process with us.
The preparations for this journey began near Peterborough with Kevin Callen, The Happy Camper. Kevin was lending us a frontier tent (and a variety of other warm things) and giving instructions on how to rig up a harness to pull a sled. From there it was a return to the farm on Manitoulin Island where Becky Campbell and Maureen Strickland put us up again while we prepped for the next section. Becky and Dianne rigged the sleds. The first 12 + km were to be undertaken with Maureen, Becky, Dianne, myself (Ann), Aslan, a six month old Pyrenees dog and the 27 lb. frontier tent. And thanks to Patty for the loan of the winter sleeping bag!!!
Prior to arriving, I had reached out to the Voyageur Trail Association, president Carole Blaquiere and the Blind River reps Andy Penikett, Joanne Marck. We were hoping for local expertise and any assistance possible with finding accommodations. It was Carole who connected me to Tina Schneider and Laughing Water’s B&B, Algoma Mills.
Upon our arrival, Tina greeted us with snacks and smoked fish from Clarence’s Fish Market while we met with Andy and Joanne from the Voyageur Trail Association. As they poured over the paper maps from the Voyageur Hiking Trail Guidebook, Dianne gained deeper understanding of the trail before her. And I grow more relaxed knowing there are caring people close at hand.
When Dianne is traveling the trail, I am watching the GPS Dot that is Dee to make sure she is moving and in the right direction. As I would be on the trail with her this time, I needed someone else to follow the dot. Denise Tufts in Oyster Pond, NS was that person. Thank you Denise!
There are many uncertainties in this adventure but one thing is pretty much guaranteed – nothing turns out as planned. But for these 3 days we had a deadline – Maureen and Becky had to be out by Monday for work on Tuesday. After our second day on the trail pulling the sleds and the 27 lb tent it became clear that we would not make our exit point the next day at our current rate.
Maureen devised a plan that would mean she, Becky and I would hike out with backpacks and one light loaded sled. We would leave Dianne to stay another night on the trail. This plan required us to rendezvous with Maureen’s friend Mary Nadon at the end of the plowed road to then drive us to where Maureen’s car was parked in Iron Bridge. Dianne would start moving the gear she could further along the trail, then head back to the tent. I was to come back the next day to help bring the rest of the gear out. As my exhausted body trudged along peaks and valleys I knew I could not come all the way back there alone.
When we arrived at the end of the plowed road we found Mary, Joanne and Andy with their snowmobiles all at the last house on the road – Michele Kirk’s. They had showed up in case we needed help. But nothing was needed for that day. The next day they offered to take me on the snowmobile the first 3.5 km and then hike in with me to find Dianne and help carry the gear out. I was much relieved and oh so grateful.
At Michele’s we were greeted with hot tea and a very enthusiastic welcome. Maureen drove me to where we had begun our expedition so I could pick up the van and return to Laughing Water’s B&B. What started as a donation of one night’s accommodation before heading to the trail for our 3 day stint, turned into a week-long base-camp upon my return.
The next morning Andy, Joanne and I all met at Michele’s. Michele provided a helmet for me to have my first ever snowmobile ride. On the trail with Andy and Joanne provided a whole new experience. I was able to experience the beauty more as I was reminded to look around and not focus on the few feet in front of me and my weary body. With each step, grateful that I had such experienced travelers with me. It all worked out. We met up with Dianne. Andy pulled the frontier tent out with a smile!
The sleds were pulled out by the snowmobiles for that last 3.5 km as Dee finished hiking out. This section of the expedition ended at Michele’s with tea, chicken soup, ham sandwiches and a meaningful human connection.
The rest of the Voyageur Trail journey Dianne will do with her long-time dear friend Jenica who arrived from B.C. With Laughing Water’s as our base, Dianne and Jenica were able to sleep in beds after a couple of 12 km day trips. Hot tub visits warmed and loosened aching muscles. With internet and power, we wrote blogs, backed up footage, recharge batteries and bodies. With lots of space, they were able to spread out and do a big repack to go back to tenting on the trial (this time is a small nylon tent).
Andy and Joanne continue to be a source of info, answering questions, finding out about road access and river crossing.
And to Jenica, I am ever grateful to you for accompanying Dianne this next month on the Voyageur Trail.