I learned at the very beginning of this journey in Newfoundland, the harder the rock, the kinder the people. And so it is in Northern Ontario. In these small towns, word still travels faster then internet and cell phones. Kind strangers come out of nowhere. The love finds you and feeds you pasta, plows a backroad so you can hike in easier to get that abandoned sled you left in the forest in a bad storm, or hikes in with steak sandwiches after you run out of food. People survive here because people help each other.
This 210km section of the TC Trail is actually two trails: 160km hiking/snowshoeing the Voyageur trail from Blind River to Garden River, and then a 50km ride on the Lake Huron trail from Garden River to the shores of the beautiful Lake Superior at Gros Cap.
There were many days when it took 6 hours to go 3km on the Voyageur trail. .We were dragging sleds up over rocky escarpments and bush whacking through numerous tree falls. These days were hard. They hit you physically and are crushing to the spirit. You gotta dig deep. You gotta remember, pain is weakness leaving. But if pristine, isolated time in the woods, is your idea of heaven, this is for you. The only footprints in the snow you see for weeks belong to the wolves, bobcats, rabbits, deer and elk your sharing the forest with. It is a free life experience you pay for in bruises and sweat. I loved it.
But before I inspire the masaochist within to go outside and play, there are a few things I recommend you do before you go.
First, get this book. The maps are great, and with the books binder format, you can remove the few pages you need so you don’t have to carry the whole book. The detailed trail descriptions are written from west to east and I am traveling east to west. So if I could have asked the fairy godmother for another wish, I would have asked for the trail description to also be written from east to west. But excellent none the less. www.voyageurtrail.ca
Second, bring a compass. Have a foot in the old world and in the new. That GPS is great but technology can let you down in a way a tactile paper map will not.
Third, If you haven’t done so already, download the free App for the Trans Canada trail, the link is on the website. https://thegreattrail.ca. This is FREE, lets you measure distance on parts of the trail, look at elevation gains over a set distance, and most importantly shows you where you are in relation to the trail. Hopefully the blue dot is on the green or blue line.
I am a huge fan of the new App. Even when I have no cell signal the map still pinpoints my location in relation to the trail. I am constanty comparing the digital map with the paper map.
You might also want to pick up a snow mobile map for the area. There are points where the trails intercept and if you need to reroute these may come in handy.
So now you have all your maps, I would contact Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes, blaqbear.ca, they exist to help folks plot out a back country excursion in this area. Need a drop off, help finding a place to stay along the way, buy supplies, get food. I also highly recommend reaching out to folks who run the B&B’s in the nearby communities to the trail. I have listed the places that helped us out at the end of this blog.. These people went well beyond in the service and kindness department. I would also contact the folks at the Voyageur trail Association and let them know your plan, they may have updated info about the trail. And unless you are a Marvel comic character in real life, I urge you to accept the fact that you will need help. I broke up the 160km into sections, determined by where accessible roads met up with the trail. In winter there are obviously fewer then there would be in summer. Plowed back roads to snow mobile trails provided extraction points. The sections were 20-30km long.
Winter is hard but no bugs and I think the best season to do this trail right now. I think the bugs would be bad in late spring, early summer, and the leaves may make the trail tags more difficult to see in the fall. Oh yes, and there is no trail, well, not all the time anyway, but it is well tagged. Bring a saw or hatchet.
And third, find a friend with a high pain threshold with a really good sense of humour.
I loved doing the Voyageur trail because I had a shared experience with other people. I spent three weeks with one of my closest friends from my home on the Sunshine Coast, BC. Jenica and I share the capacity to find joy even when suffering. Alone my will would have been broken. Together it was a great adventure.
This isn’t, in my opinion, a trail to be hiked or snowshoed under a deadline, not even for a section of it. That would be stressful. Someone told me recently anxiety is caused by a perverted relationship to time.
Out here time surrenders to the multiple obstacles you will encounter every day, sometimes every hour. So you need to surrender too, to the moment and each obstacle as they unfold. Slow and steady on the Voyageur trail.
The second part is a nice mountain bike ride that takes you through the First nation community of Garden River, then through Sault Ste Marie along the waterfront and then a long straight road to the shores of Lake Superior at Gros Cap. The video below is 3 minutes from that ride.
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Until next time, dee.
Laughing Waters, Algoma Mills https://www.laughingwaters.ca ( Where we stayed for our departure prep. half hour drive to drop off to beginning of trail)
Kathy’s BYOB, Thessalon. https://www.facebook.com/KathysBYOB/ Where we came off trail for pasta, showers,
Bellevue Valley B&B https://bellevuevalleylodge.ca Where I am prepping for the paddle