Voyageur Journals

August 22, 2014

entranceOne final salute before coming ashore at Chippewa Park.The day of our arrival has come at last. 90 days are now behind us and the high excitement of completing our 2,000 kms canoe expedition is in the air! It is definitely a bittersweet feeling that the whole crew feels. The success and achievement of not only being able to complete the trip from Ottawa to Thunder Bay, but also of being able to stay dedicated, committed, and an unbroken team of 8 paddlers is reward in itself. The reality of what the end of the trip means is also very present in our group and the goodbyes that will be following in a few short days will be hard!

Although the weather during the day was not looking too promising, our original scheduled arrival was able to be kept as the team of Voyageurs are determined to arrive by 7 pm at Chippewa Park, Thunder Bay, rain or shine. For some of us, beachWe were greeted by President Lipinski, Minister Zimmer
and Chair Picotte along with family members and
enthusiastic MNO citizens.
family had traveled across Ontario to watch us paddle in to celebrate with pride our accomplishment. MNO citizens, employees, and friends also planned to come and watch the arrival.

Our guide Jeremy had become quite good at making our arrivals very punctual when it comes to timing. During the last hour of our paddle, the sun had decided to make its presence known. As we were getting closer and closer to the corner that would bring us into Chippewa Park, the crew took a few minutes to stop and share our last words together out on the water. At exactly 6:40 Jeremy gives us our final “En avant!” and our paddles hit the water.

With our Métis flag blowing gloriously in the wind behind us as hands-upOur friends in the MNO Summer Youth Cultural Program
greeted us with Métis songs and dances.
we were paddling forward in perfect cadence, we round the bend and enter into the bay to a sight that we won’t forget. Right before our eyes, large crowd of people, Métis people, all standing on shore displaying their pride, support and encouragement watching a canoe of 8 young paddlers paddle in to complete their journey. The significance of this sight was far more than just the number of people who came out, but significant as it showed the strength of a community of people gathering together for something they felt was important. Hearing the cheering, whistling and screaming was so exhilarating but also so gratifying for enduring the times that sometimes it would have been easier to give up. We received a very warm welcome by President Lipinski and the Honourable David Zimmer. The tears and smiles that we could see in the crowd really made quite an impression on us! The emotion was genuine and real and it’s something that won’t easily be forgotten.

Click here to view an ariel view of our dramatic entrance.

Our expedition brought people together. It proved that the sense of pride within the people and the pride in our culture is very much alive. Our expedition showed that supporting the youth is pivotal and also so vital as the youth are the future of the nation. It also showed that not only the need of community, but the need for passion within the community is very fragile. Landing on shore and watching that passion ignite within individuals, and also within ourselves is something that hopefully will not be easily lost.

As a modern day Voyageur, being able to experience firsthand a taste of what our ancestors faced is not an experience that I take for granted. Our expedition was a test of determination, commitment, pride, motivation, accountability, responsibility, patience and passion. All of these qualities that have been put to the test are that much stronger to bring into my everyday life after being a Voyageur. The beauty of nature, and the eeriness of paddling channels and lakes that were once a common passage of travel of many Voyageurs before us is an experience we all realize is very unique and special. Our experiences, connections, and people we met along our trip this summer is priceless. I am proud to have paddled alongside 7 other remarkable young Métis youth and those friendships I am sure will last a life time, but I am also proud to have been able to have the opportunity to represent a nation that has fought so hard for its people, its rights and its recognition.

We are proud to be Métis!

The MNO Canoe Expedition

August 21, 2014

sleeping-giantThe awesome Sleeping Giant just outside of Thunder Bay.After an amazing paddle past the Sleeping Giant yesterday, we were ready to make our way as close to Chippewa Park as we possibly could. It was another perfect day for paddling – almost no wind on the great lake and a very reasonable temperature. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions for our last full day of paddling. By lunch time, we paddled into the downtown of Thunder Bay. This was a really cool experience for me because I’ve been living in Thunder Bay for 3 years now to attend Lakehead University and I have never seen the city from that point of view. It really opened my eyes to see Thunder Bay in a completely different light. That has been something that has been really cool about this entire trip. The places that we’ve been are amazing sights and really cool to experience and to experience it in a giant canoe make it even more special. After we took a nice long lunch break, we paddled all but 6 kilometers of the remaining trip. Getting that close to our arrival location is really exciting because it means that we don’t have to paddle too hard tomorrow before our arrival. We’re staying at the KOA just outside of Thunder Bay tonight and are having a nice relaxing evening for our last night camping. We are all extremely excited for our arrival tomorrow. I can’t put in to words how it feels to be this close to being done. It brings excitement, anxiety, restlessness, nervousness and a bunch of other adjectives that basically describe every feeling anyone has ever had. With that being said, it still feels surreal. It’s hard to believe that today is actually day 89 and tomorrow we will be done our epic adventure. We’ve been working hard all summer for tomorrow to come and it’s crazy to think that it’s actually here! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Josh Szajewski, Kenora

August 5, 2014

“This morning we made it 40 km and almost made it to Terrace Bay.  Earlier we met up with Mike Ranta and his dog Spitz Jr.  Jeremy has been telling us about him since training! We finally met up with him just before lunch and got to sit and talk to him for almost half an hour.  He is paddling 8000 km across the whole country to help show the kids in his home town that anything is possible.  He started his trip April 1 and is expecting to be done sometime in October.  It really shows what can be accomplished when you set your mind to it and have a great purpose behind it as a driving force.

We arrived at camp and then later walked into town to try and go out for pizza because tomorrow is Jeremy’s birthday.  So we walked just over 2 km to the pizza place only to get a call from Sahra saying someone was having a fish fry, so we didn’t order and ran over to Trent’s house for some amazingly good fish that was caught only two hours before we arrived.   We hung out with them for the night and then hiked back to camp.”

-Heather Bunn, Fergus

August 4, 2014

“Today we woke up and quickly packed up and began resupplying because we had to leave before lunch so we could paddle the required 25 km.

Half of us went to grocery shop and the other half had to wash the barrels and the wannigan and the cooler out because everything is coated in a thick layer of sand.  We also had to try and get all the sand out of the canoe which was also a few cm thick.  We did everything we could in a few hours and then drove in to where we had paddled in the day before in  Marathon.  We made it to Ney’s provincial park which is across the street from where we camped our first night ever in our tents where it had been snowing as we pulled in.

-Heather Bunn, Fergus

August 3, 2014

“Today we have to paddle into Marathon for our arrival.  There weren’t many people there to greet us but the people who were there were so excited and happy to see us.  They invited us all for a fish fry and for some moose stew.  We all met up at Melissa and Aldin’s campsite.

Melissa gave us some amazing teachings and sang us a bunch of songs.  We then showed them our dances and taught them all how to jig and later we all received gifts from her for everything we did so we could have something to remember their family by.  They were amazing people and we will never forget them.”

-Heather Bunn, Fergus

August 2, 2014

“We pushed ahead into Marathon to make tomorrow’s arrival easier on us.  We camped out and explored the town.  We ate at Robin’s Donuts and had a few treats.  Downtime to relax an recoup to reflect on our voyage so far.  We awoke in the morning early for the arrival.  There were not many people there but the experience was fantastic and the sheer excitement from the crowd made the arrival wonderful.”

-Kyle Grenier, Midland

August 1, 2014

Pukaskwa National Park“We had another beautiful day today!  Today was our arrival into Pukaskwa National Park.  Because we had already paddled past there, we shuttled back to Pic River First Nations Reserve and paddled to the office at Pukaskwa.  We had an awesome crowd there who were very interested in our expedition.  It was a beautiful day and our arrival was actually a lot of fun.  I was lucky enough to have my parents there as they came to our camp near us for a few days.  And even though my dad whooped me in head wrestling it was really amazing to see them.  They cooked us an awesome dinner, which was great because not only did we not have to cook, but we got to enjoy my dad’s awesome cooking, which I was really missing.   Thanks a lot for everything mom and dad! Wow we’re really looking forward to our Marathon arrival tomorrow!”

-Josh Szajewski, Kenora

July 31, 2014

“I can’t even start to explain the magnificence of waking up to the sound of crashing waves and waterfalls rambling beside me, the best rest I’ve had is in these places, there’s something therapeutic about the wilderness that brings you peace and brings you closer to people, you get to talk with no distractions and make connections that I believe are impossible in our busy days.

Paddling off into the early sunrise we saw an eagle flying gracefully across a pink-red sky, it was flying away from our destination.  Soon enough we were stuck in a thick sheet of fog and couldn’t see anything in all directions but our governier Jeremy got us through the mist.  As we were coming out of the fog we saw 3 otters diving and playing along our boat, there such cute and playful animals.

Near the end of the day, as we pulled near our campsite still deep in the wilderness the lady kayakers ran out of the bush and started yelling “yayy” and “bonjour”! We were confused but happy to see people so far off in the bush.  As we landed and conversed with them we found out the reason for their excitement, they had met us earlier in Sault Ste Marie! It was so nice to have met a fellow paddler that had heard and met us!”

-Gerald Lavallee, North Bay

July 29, 2014

lake superior 2“’Good morning everyone! Wakey Wakey!’ I hate morning wake up duty….but it has to be done.  At least everyone had hot oatmeal ready to devour.

We had a good day ahead of us with a few places on the map to stop and explore history.  First stop, an old logging lodge that had a couple decrepit cabins left.  The lodge was shut down when the depression hit, but apparently had successfully ran for about 50 years.  We read that horses were used there and I hoped that I would discover an old horse shoe.  Unfortunately for me, no such luck.

A few km’s up we were privileged to go and observe the ancient Pukaskwa Pits.  It was so cool to see the remains of something that has lasted all of these years!  Perhaps to some it is just a pile of rocks, but for many, it’s a reminder of who really roamed these lands of Canada.

The next adventure was stopping at Otter Island which is the home of caribou.  Ro my disappointment we did not see even one.  But the provincial park’s houses were open to travellers in case of emergency and we found many, many notes and journal entries that dated to as far as 1991 by adventurers such as ourselves.

Upon leaving Otter Island, to the dismay of many, we left in a downpour.  Thankfully camp was just ahead.  Once landed, a tarp was quickly put up and hot soup was being prepared!

Almost on cue, our soup was eaten and the rain stopped.

The rest of the day was spent experimenting with the Dutch oven and making brownies and cake.  The brownies were yummy!  The cake ended up being a puck of charcoal; oh well.

Tonight we fall asleep to the sound of the waterfalls beside us and of course another spectacular view.  Oh the wild beauty of Lake Superior!

-Genevieve Routhier, Sault Ste. Marie


lake superior“Ola Everyone! We woke up this morning after a freezing cold night.  Some of us had wet clothes and tried drying them over night with no success.  Josh’s towel was more wet in the morning than it was after he used it, gotta love the morning dew.

The day was cold, I had on multiple layers and I was still shivering.  And even worse than that I’m losing my tan!

Close to the end of our day we came across 4 other canoers, the first we’ve seen on superior!  The first thing they said was, “We thought you were Indians”  Little did they know…

Finally we arrive at our campsite and we all agreed that it was the best campsite to date.  We were on a beach that already had a campfire going and a beach filled with driftwood.  Best fire ever! All clothes were then dried.

There was a bay behind us and we were all able to take nice baths because any water compared to Superior is similar to a bathtub.

After our lovely baths everyone gathered around the fire to dry off and watch the most amazing sunset.  We were all mesmerized with the sky changing colours that only Mother Nature could create.

The broken paddle has been passed onto Josh.  He received this when trying to fill the percolator with water, allow me to fill you all in.  We had been boiling water over the fire for drinking water.  Using a massive piece of drift wood we hooked the handle of the percolator onto the wood and anchored it over the fire to boil.  When going to refill the perc, Josh grabbed the huge wood the perc was hanging from completely disregarding the oven mitts sitting right beside it.  He attempted to fill the perc while on the wood stick but the handle popped off and went flying into the air.  Now he had to walk into the water grab to fill it with water and start trying to find the handle which had apparently gotten covered with sand.  After 20 minutes, Josh comes back pants wet to his knees, stick in one hand and filled perc in the other.

So that was day and here is hoping for a warm night.

Goodnight my loves”

- Amilia DiChiara, Thornhill

July 28, 2014

on the water"When we left Michipicoten the other day, we were told to let the eagle guide us. At our new campsite, we paddled and there was a bald eagle resting on a dead tree in the center of it.  Other things of note for today include a bunch of juvenile peregrine falcons playing and a partial wind day.  We had to stop for lunch time for a few hours.  We relaxed on some rocks in a sheltered bay and got an opportunity to read a bit of my book.  We also found a garter snake, well Jeremy did.  He jumped about 4 feet in the air yelling.  Then I ran and picked it up, and it pooped on me.  Then I washed my arm and picked it up again.  Overall it’s been a good day and I have my fingers crossed for a nicer day tomorrow!"

-Emily Ingram, Sault Ste. Marie

July 27, 2014

“We left Michipicoten First Nation with the “Eagle” song being played in the background by some of the Elders of the community.  There must have been an eagle following us that day because the winds coming from the east.  A great day to sail!  Even though we only had 22 km to do today as we had scheduled a like to the local falls later on that afternoon.  The magnificent view of the falls that took us 40 minutes to get to was well worth the trip through the woods, over and under falling logs and through bogs and even up a rope staircase.  What a great end to a perfect day.  I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store.”

-Kyle Grenier, Midland

July 26, 2014

wawa arrival``Today we paddled to Michipicoten First Nation to attend a Pow Wow that our good friends Emerson and Mitch Case had invited us to.  As guests we were welcomed warmly and I was so surprised at the greeting we received from our Aboriginal brothers, people there were so interested in us and our journey across Gitchigami.

We arrived in our historic clothing and to our amazement Geneviève and I were asked to represent the Métis people in the opening ceremonies! Proudly we stepped around the sacred grounds and Métis flag in hand with the many others from different nations and areas, sharing an incredible common history.  Throughout the day we learned Anishinabe traditions and even took part in them, dancing, laughing, and singing songs to the creator into the night.  We even taught some of the young ones how to jig! As we laid down that night to rest in the Elder center, that they so graciously let us stay in we were happy and full of excitement knowing that it had been an experience we will always remember.``

-Gerald Lavallee, North Bay

July 24, 2014

leg wrestling“We entertained guests of the campsite we stayed at with some traditional dancing and voyageur games. A First Nation Elder man, named Emerson, challenged Jeremy to a leg wrestling match.  I’ll never forget the best match I’ve ever witnessed-everyone was howling with laughter:

“Are you a real voyageur?” asked Emerson

“I am a real voyageur!” Jeremy replied enthusiastically

Emerson removed his shoes and walked quite purposefully towards the shore of lake Superior.

“I’m not a real voyageur! I’m not a real voyageur!” exclaimed Jeremy, in a feeble protest against the inevitable.  It was too late, Emerson was already lying down in the water, waiting for Jeremy to join him so they could begin their leg wrestling match.  Emerson flipped Jeremy over; the game ended quickly.

For a little while, I’ve had a pair of lacrosse sticks-hoping someone would play with me at some point. After dinner, Mitch accepted my invitation to play lacrosse with me! I was really excited that I would have a chance to work on my aiming and catching skills for once.  We tossed the ball back and forth for about an hour.  It was the perfect ending to my already adventurous day.“

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

July 23, 2014

“The day felt really long.  We had a pretty long drive ahead of us, so we could meet up the crew after several days of missing them.  I was worried about finding them because the cell service was poor and Jeremy informed us that they had been winded the previous day.

We did end up meeting up with the group, and everyone seemed so happy to see us. We arrived at the campsite around 6:00 pm, just in time for an awesome sacred fire! I can’t share many details about the sacred fire because it’s a very intimate/spiritual event.  It was extremely cleansing and I think the prayers really lifted everyone up.  We were also fed an amazing one pot soup!

We really appreciated the invitation to the sacred fire from our Mitchipicoten First Nations friends as well as their excellent entertaining skills!”

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

July 20, 2014

pictograph"Today we started out from Agawa point only a kilometer or so from the famous pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park, a sacred place of spirituality to the Ojibwe people it was used for vision quests to seek out help from the Manitou’s and as a honorary site to record great spirits and events. I was going to honor the Manitou’s and offer tobacco for safe passage on the turbulent waters of lake superior.  As we launched from our campsite in the wavy waters I reflected on all the voyagers and paddlers in the past who had sought out safe passage as well.  It only took 15 minutes until we were approaching the amazing cliff face that is designated a fault plane and had been formed long ago, but that cold designation hardly does it justice as it was surrounded with an air of mystery and holiness; we were truly amazed at the sheer gargantuan size of the cliff face. Paddling closer, the red stained images revealed themselves to us one by one, there patina worn down by a hundred years of wind, ice and rain but still shining though the rough granite. The images were spectacular and plenty and among the many canoes and animals such as cranes, eagles, turtles and moose I saw one exceptionally bright pictograph that I had been searching for, it was of a legendary great Manitou Misshepezhieu a spirit that is said to control the waters of Lake Superior and if angered would lash out his spiny tail to stir up the lake! I stood in awe of the simple beauty that this picture conveyed for a while, contemplating the rest of our trip on Superior and thinking of all those who passed by this historical place. When I left I dropped an offering of traditional tobacco given to us as a gift at one of our arrivals, asked Misshepezhieu for safe passage and thanked the Creator for the amazing experience of truly connecting with my past.

I leave you with a quote from H.W. Longfellow, 1855

“Lo! How all things fade and parish! From the memory of old men pass away the great traditions”

Let our Métis traditions be passed on forever and never fade away."

- Gerald Lavallee (North Bay)

July 19, 2014

sunset superior"Today we paddled 42km and arrived at Flour Bay. The camping situation is “rocky” as there is no grass available to set up our tents. We ate pork chops and potatoes with a medley of vegetables cooked by Josh and myself. One of the best things about being the cooks for the day is that you do not need to clean all the dishes. It is 8:41pm and me and Genevieve and a few others are about to go watch the sun set. It is going to be a beautiful night as the wind is low and the sound of the water as it breaks against the shore seems soothing. Wake up is for 5:00am again which for me is rough. I am not a morning person but I am usually the first one up and my tent is the first to come down “usually”. I look forward to the paddle tomorrow as we get ever closer to Thunder Bay and the AGA."

- Kyle Grenier (Midland)

July 18, 2014

lake superior"Today we had to wake up much earlier than usual, especially me because I was one of the people in charge of making breakfast. We were to be up at 4:30 whereas I was awake at 4:15 to get out the bagels and do the wakeup call. We quickly packed up and shuttled to the marina we had taken out at the previous day when we went to the Ermitinger House grand opening. The morning started out pretty chilly but by the afternoon we were all in shorts and tank tops! It was almost too hot to function but we stayed very hydrated and made it through the day. We set up camp on a beach and everyone had a great nap and went swimming to help cool off. At 5 we started making dinner which was battered Walleye and potatoes and onions fried in butter with parmesan and herbs and garlic. It honestly tasted awesome. We cleaned up and we are all currently getting ready for bed. This reminds me that I still have to pump up my sleeping pad, so I’m going to say goodnight."

-Heather Bunn (Fergus)

July 17, 2014

"This morning we awoke at the Voyageur Lodge at 7:00am, which would be late but considering we had to arrive in Sault Ste. Marie for the opening of the Ermitinger House around 10am we awoke early. We started getting into our historic attire and loaded up our camping gear in the canoe and awaited the trip back to Sault Ste. Marie. An hour went by as we arrived in the Sue wondering where we would start our portage into the grounds for the event.

We started the event off by portaging our canoe across the Bushplane Museum parking lot onto the main road and onto the grass of the event grounds to a group of people well into the hundreds. The Master of Ceremonies proceeded with the opening remarks and introduction to the trip that we were doing for the summer to retrace our voyageur forefather’s footsteps. We then proceeded with portaging the canoe into the fenced in grounds near our tent then took a well-earned rest as we headed towards the only shaded area in the grounds, a lonely tree with very little shade. We awaited to begin our interpretation by way of jigging to the onlookers that began asking questions of our trip and the wonders we have seen. Once we had finished answering and speaking with the group of people we then went to go have a quick snack before we jig and awaited Emily as she began to pull out her fiddle. We started with the 7-step then the rabbit dance then the heal toe poka then we got a request to do another 7-step by a few people who wanted to join in after seeing us perform it the first time. I’m guessing they wanted to see us do the steps first before joining since we already did the dance at the beginning but that didn’t bother us as we had between 4-6 dancers join us.

It was loads of fun and a well-earned dinner awaited all of whom were at the event. By the end of dinner most if not all people had left for the rotary fest happening close by so we had the opportunity to go venture off and see what the site had to offer. We ventured into the main exhibit and saw the Ermitinger House and the shop that Frank at the Voyageur Lodge had mentioned the previous day. We got to interact with the crowd of people that were left within the house and had an opportunity to learn about the history of the house and its occupants. The night was almost over as we had to portage the canoe for the last time into the parking lot and onto the trailer. We said our farewells to all who witnessed the portage and supported us with encouragement throughout the ordeal as we headed off to our campsite on the outskirts of town, the KOA of Sault Ste. Marie."

- Kyle Grenier (Midland)

"On July 17, we were expected at the Ermatinger house in Sault Ste. Marie as part of a planned festival that featured many old-timey-costumed individuals- including ourselves.  This was not a Métis Nation of Ontario Canoe Expedition event per se, but we were included in the festivities, and were also well fed.  As part of our contribution to the historical atmosphere, we were tasked with portaging the massive 600 lb (a conservative estimate, no doubt) canoe from the bush plane museum to the Ermatinger house.

That morning I woke up at 12:00 am, at 2:30 am, and then again at around four in the morning.  I didn’t feel well that night, nor did I feel any better that morning.  Feeling under the weather when contracted for 24-7 is a little awkward, and it seems nobody (including myself) ever wants to admit to being incapacitated by any means.  Luckily for me, it’s my job to ensure that The Métis Nation of Ontario receives footage of our programs.  So given the choice between portaging the canoe and shooting films and photos of the portage, I say, “It’s my job to take pictures of you folks; have fun and smile!”.

I was a pretty big target for heat exhaustion that day because I was already unwell.  Many old-timey-costumed folks working at the event spotted the peaky one (that’s me) and offered that I grab some water and lie in the shade.  I tried my best to stay on task as much as possible that day, but I felt badly that I didn’t participate in dancing.  It worked out though because I took plenty of photos and videos, and after the event I laid on cool concrete in the shade under a picnic table such that my brain cells stopped cooking.  As I write this on July 18th, I can confidently report that my biochemistry and physiology have returned to normal."

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

July 16, 2014

Batchawana-01“What a great day! After a few days off the water to resupply and get ready for the gigantic task of taking on Lake Superior it was great to get back on the water. It was tough after a few days in a row of sleeping in to go back to getting up at 4:30 but we had to do what had to be done. After making breakfast and getting the boat packed up, we headed to the put in place. Although it took longer to get going this morning then we hoped, we got on the water fairly early and managed to get a solid amount of distance in and made our way up Lake Superior. Although it was a beautiful day, it was still really cold on the water, given that Lake Superior isn’t exactly a small body of water. The nice weather and relatively warm temperatures helped to make a reasonable transition for us onto the biggest, toughest lake that we will have to challenge this summer. Tonight we had a great time because we had a great arrival at the Voyageur Lodge at Batchawana Bay. When we came in for our arrival, we were greeted by a local group of seasoned paddlers who were also in a voyageur canoe. It was a really cool experience for us as we haven’t seen any other voyageur canoes in the 1200+ kilometers that we`ve covered so far. When we made it to shore we were very excited to get to talk to around 50 very interested people and, as always, it was great to share our experiences with everybody. The owner of the lodge, Frank O`Connor, has been absolutely fantastic to us. Not only did he work hard to set up a great arrival for us, but he also allowed us to camp on the lawn and even went so far as to provide us a room in order for us to shower. Its people like Frank that really make this trip fantastic for us. This trip absolutely would not be as enjoyable without people like him giving us a hand and making the expedition a little easier and a little more comfortable. Every act of kindness that we get really brightens our day and really helps to shine a positive light on everything. We can`t thank people like Frank enough for their generosity!“

-Josh Szajewski (Kenora)

July 14-15, 2014

“After a great arrival into Sault Ste. Marie, we had a great couple of days off of the water. We stayed at the locks in the Sault and they were nice enough to give us a campsite in exchange for doing some cultural programming. We always love to spread our culture so doing a little bit of programming in the middle of the day was a nice break from doing all of the other things that needed to get done on these days. Amongst other things, we managed to fix the trailer for the boat, repair some damage to all of our paddles, do our grocery shopping and pick up some supplies to prepare ourselves for the upcoming task of Lake Superior. Although resupply days are days off of the water, they aren’t exactly days off. Usually they are pretty hectic as we have to do everything for the week ahead. Being in Sault Ste. Marie, we were lucky enough to be able to visit with both Emily and Gen’s parents. Emily’s parents had us all over for a fantastic dinner of lasagna and chicken and Gen’s mother made us some amazing cinnamon buns. It was really nice for them to get to spend time with their families and for the rest of us to get to meet them. It was great of them both to open up their homes to all of us. Thanks a lot to the Ingram and Routhier families! Lake Superior here we come!”

-Josh Szajewski (Kenora)

July 13, 2014

emily“Today was a very rewarding day for me.  We finally paddled into my home town of Sault Ste. Marie.  We started from Bell’s Point Campground in Garden River, and finished the final 15 kilometers to the Sault locks.  This afternoon we had our arrival into Sault Ste. Marie at the Sault locks.  Tonight we are going to be staying at the locks, and tomorrow will be a resupply day, thank goodness!

The paddle to the locks was one of the hardest that we have had to date.  There was a strong current that only got stronger the closer we got to our destination (and the hydro-electric plant), and a strong wind in our face.  We had to go all out for the final 5 km, the ENTIRE 5km.  Jeremy kept yelling at us “you have to push again!!!” when we hadn’t stopped pushing at all.  In the end we had to pull up past the locks and ferry across the river in front of the plant (After a quick break to catch our breath).  It did look incredible though, and Jeremy did an amazing job of ferrying us across the river.

The arrival was wonderful.  We had our best turnout to date, and we got to see our friends from the Sault MNO Summer Youth Cultural Program.  The most important thing for me was seeing my family out to support me and the crew.  It has been a hard 50 days, and there are a harder 40 left, and being able to see my family and talk face to face with them was a great encouragement for me.  As always, we absolutely adore all of the supporters who come to our events, so thank you people of SSM and the surrounding area, the canoe crew appreciates the support.

Thank you for tuning in to the July 13th installment of the Crew Journals!!!!”

-Emily Ingram (Sault Ste. Marie)

July 12, 2014

on the water 2"Today was rather nice.  We got to sleep in an hour, were invited to talk to some people, paddled 30k, got in at a normal hour, and still didn’t get to bed on time!

So today we got on the water for 7:30, so I lied when I said we got to sleep in an hour.  We actually got an hour and a half.  As we paddled between St. Joseph Island and the mainland we paddled past John’ s house, and he was out waving at us.  For those of you who don’t know, John was the nice guy who let us stay at his other property last night.  We had only gotten about 5 km down the river when we saw a beautiful house on the rock in front of us.  We were going on and on about this beautiful house when the owners ran outside and invited us in for coffee.  We chitchatted for a bit, drank their coffee, ate their squares (which were to DIE for, seriously), and used their bathroom (of course).  The couple who owned the house, and the lady’s sister & her husband talked to us about their adventures, as they were all boaters.  We even spoke about our adventures with the Spanish Marina, and one of the couples said that they had bottomed out and got stuck heading into there, which was kind of interesting.  We all signed the guestbook they had, and then went on our merry way.

The rest of our 30 km were rather uneventful.  We arrived at Bell’s Point Campground and met up with Beth and Gen (who was on road crew today).  We then took our per diem meal, and went out for Wacky Wings.  It is now later than I would like it to be, and I am just finishing up the journal so I can go to bed.  I am excited for tomorrow, as we will be paddling into my hometown.  I hope our arrival into Sault Ste. Marie goes well!"

-Emily Ingram (Sault Ste. Marie)

July 11, 2014

“We got an opportunity to spend the night at John Hooper`s place on Finns Bay Road near Saint Marie`s River where we got a chance to stay on his back yard and enjoy a nice sauna. As we sat there and reflected on our days paddle we came to wonder why and how we got here. We were sweating and laughing and have a good time yet we were so excited to move onwards to our next point in our trip. I had the opportunity to join our road crew; Beth and enjoy a days off of paddling yet all I wanted to do was join the guys and gals I have come to call my dear friends. We greeted them by the water in the yard and with smiles they yelled back ``HEY!!!!!!``. I asked them how their day was and what they did. They said that they had a chance to stop and get some ice cream. They also had a chance to sail and enjoy the weather a bit without paddling.

It rained a bit while we cooked dinner and even more while we were in the sauna but that didn`t bother me much as I was too busy enjoying the heat. It felt amazing to be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company outside our tents and somewhere social. I cannot wait to have a day that is so windy that I can enjoy sailing.“

- Kyle Grenier (Midland)

July 10, 2014

"Today we paddled from Blind River to Thessalon. A fairly uneventful day, we had paddled 55 km and things were going well….however there was a rift though the group that had been bothering us for quite some time. When you live together side by side 24/7 with a diverse group of people there’s bound to be issues, but we have a great system we use to work though group issues and solve problems we call it the debrief. Our debrief consists of us sitting down together and talking about our group dynamics and goals and it works! Being able to politely talk with your peers and come to solution that pleases everyone; or at least come to a vote if the issue has divided the group; helps our group stay functional."

-Gerald Lavallee (North Bay)

July 9, 2014

Blind River"Our arrival in Blind River was a lot of fun. They had a wonderful marina for us to paddle into, and even arranged for us to be able to stay there overnight.  The turnout for our arrival was very good and we had a lot of involvement from the community.  I met the local metis fiddle player, and the man who made her fiddle gave me a card.  Although all of this was a very interesting time, there is one more event that I thought I should let you know about.


1800 voyageurs

The people from Blind River took us to visit an old voyageur cemetery from the 1800’s.  This cemetery was overgrown with all sorts of trees and bushes.  There were also a lot of large plants that Heather and I think were cow parsnip, but we aren’t quite sure. The people from the Blind River area were kind enough to give us rides on their motorboats to reach the island where the former voyageurs were buried centuries ago.  The first stone we saw was a rectangular slab with writings on it about the passed, who had drowned.  We saw about four more stones after that in assorted shapes and sizes.  There were small crosses and monuments that towered at over 8 feet tall. The entire visit was made even more interesting by the fact that the girl who was giving us the tour was the descendant of one of the voyageurs.  It was really interesting to see the past connect with the future as she pointed out her who-knows-how-great-grandfather’s tombstone, put there in the 1800’s.  The historical metis voyageurs and the new generation of voyageurs had a connection through that place.  And it was an honour to be a part of it."

-Emily Ingram (Sault Ste. Marie)

July 6, 2014

Sanding the gunnels
Sanding the gunnels.

“Today was one of our resupply days!  What is a resupply day you ask; well those are the days that we spend doing everything that we cannot do when we are in the bush or paddling.  This would include doing eight peoples laundry after seven days, every mother can only imagine what that would smell like, as well as grocery shopping for these eight people for food that has to last them those seven days.  A typical day grocery shopping involves copious amounts of food, close to two hours in the grocery store as well as looks from everyone in the store wondering why these two 20-something year olds need all this food and if their parents are aware of what is going on.  These are also our per diem days where the MNO has so nicely paid for meals when we have run out of food to cook, yay MNO!  To some this might not seem like a day off but our bums would say otherwise as they are not pinned between our body weight and a wood seat.

The town we had our resupply day in was Killarney, I say this with love…it is a very, very, very small town.  However the benefits of it being a very small town was that when we went for breakfast lunch dinner and even as we were just walking around the town people were stopping to talk to us.  They all recognized us telling us that they saw us out there on the waves; they couldn’t believe how fast we were going and how impressed they were we were doing the expedition.  It was amazing, for being in one of the smallest towns so far on this trip it is also where we met the most people.  Everyone knew we were coming and everyone came out to see us at some point or another. “

--Amilia DiChiara (Toronto)

July 4, 2014

Heather and Emily
Heather and Emily.
“Well today started out without mosquitos or rain so it was awesome! We got on the water early and knew it would be a very long day if we were to make it to make it to killarney on time tomorrow. We needed to paddle for much longer than usual and we all knew it. It was windy and chilly and we all layered up like crazy, pants over shorts and sweaters under jackets. We got on the water at 6am and off at 7pm.

We got the opportunity today to navigate a labyrinth of islands today and to walk the boat over rocks as we paddled through the more protected areas of lake so it was less windy. Sadly we got stuck on lots of rocks and had to keep jumping out of the canoe and pulling it off and then jumping back in before it got too deep for us to walk.

Paddling today was harder than usual because it was really windy and the wind was in our faces all day, we struggled all day to make our kilometres but we all persevered and we made it the 50km we needed to complete and the 13 hours we took to do it. It was a real voyageur day for us and we all were happy to eat a nice warm meal and set up camp after such a long day.”

-Heather Bunn (Fergus)

July 3, 2014

parry sound Gen
Genevieve Routhier.
"It’s 4:41 am and I am awoken suddenly from a deep sleep by the jarring sound of my alarm. Time to get up and get breakfast ready! Pulled out the bagels, Nutella, and peanut butter along with a knife – quick and simple, perfect! It didn’t take long for the swarms of mosquitos to find our presence; they are almost enough to drive one mad. As all of the gear is being put away and packed into the canoe, a light drizzle starts that sets the tone for the majority of the day ahead. With the rising sun, a growing brilliant red glow lights up the sky and reflects off the water. The memory of my mother teaching me the rhyme “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors warning!” replayed in my head. The crew is ready donned in rain jackets, rain pants, and bright yellow rain ponchos. We get on the water by 6 am and the drizzle turns into a steady rain.

This time to our delight, the wind is at our backs! Despite the cold rain and wind, we are making good time and good distance has been covered.  Two beavers swimming in a bay couldn’t help but get our attention for a few minutes. So cute! With two short snack breaks in the morning, we paddled about 30 kms by noon. The stop for lunch was on a small island that had next to no shelter. Although when paddling we could keep fairly warm, within 2 minutes of stopping, it was absolutely freezing. We attempted at putting up a tarp for some shelter and sadly failed by resorting to standing in a small circle holding the tarp up with our bodies as we all huddled in close and ate a quick lunch of naan bread, canned fish, and sliced mozzarella cheese. Despite being very cold and wet, everyone is in a relatively good mood.

We push on after lunch, paddling quickly mostly just to get warm. After about 30 minutes I could start to feel my toes again. While deciding on camp, Jeremy spots what he claimed to be a swimming rattle snake! It takes no time until Jeremy and Heather are vehemently discussing whether or not rattle snakes can even swim. Even in the pouring rain, the whole crew is very entertained. Who was right? Who knows. I don’t think the snake wanted anything to do with us anyways, we never spotted another one.

Once we officially decided to select an island, everyone quickly sets up their tents to get inside, dry off, and warm up. Not very long afterwards do Heather and I get up to start cooking dinner. Yes! The rain stopped. The clouds started to part and soon the beauty of sunshine emerges. You’d never had known of the misery beforehand! Eight porkchops, 2 cans of potatoes, sliced up peppers, onions, and mushrooms later, our stomachs are satisfied.. although lets be serious, we could always eat more. Jeremy decides to make some bannock and we’re happy about it. I took the opportunity to explore the island a little more and just fell in love with the scenery around me. Big, smooth rocks, maple trees, cedars, moss, and small bays of water everywhere. I was able to spot an adorable, shy turtle who had no intention of letting me get close enough to get a good picture of him. I don’t think I can ever get tired to the sound of water on the shores, the wind in the trees, and the call of a loon at night.

Another beautiful evening has been enjoyed and tomorrow, we’re back at it again!"

-Genevieve Routhier (Sault Ste. Marie)

July 2, 2014

Emily breakfast
Emily making breakfast for the crew.
"After what felt like a short sleep we awoke to the sound of Emily’s wake up call, “Time to get up its 4:30am”. We packed up which felt like only a few minutes then started to eat breakfast, while Kyle and Josh start packing the canoe so we can get a head start on the rough, long day ahead. We were told 40-50km, which is daunting when we have only paddled close to 35km the week before. The water was rough, almost worse than the previous day. Yet we steered onward towards the wind, ever mindful of how the wind can change at any minute. Which it indeed did change from 10mile an hour winds to well over 15 which is very difficult to paddle through when it’s coming straight at your face. We had a stretch of 6km that we needed to paddle in open water which felt like eternity. As we took shelter within the inlets of passing islands while we take a break to reflect on the gap we just faced. We came across a Ship wreck of the, “Metamora”, which caught fire and sank in the days of old. We took many pictures and had a lot of fun but we had to press on. We had still a lot of kilometers to do before we hit Killarney so we continued onwards. We came across an island of rock and rubble and took a break in a small channel as we talk about where we were heading to camp and make dinner. We arrived at “Pointaubarrel Nature Reserve”, which use to be an “old” campsite with outhouses that weren’t used in years. That didn’t stop Gerald however as he ran towards the outhouse in full stride singing and laughing. We knew he would tell us all about how bug infested it was. Which didn’t come to no surprise when he stated that it was infested with spiders and ever a birds nest. It is now 6:58 and as I, Kyle Grenier write to you the viewers on all our adventures along the northern coast of Georgian Bay waiting for dinner to be served.  I come to wonder how my family is doing and what life would have been like if I didn’t decide to take this, “one in a lifetime experience”. Then it hits me like a brick! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else then right here, with the people I have come to call “family”. So I ask the viewers this simple question; years from now where would you rather be, working some 9-5 job or spending a beautiful summer on a once in a lifetime experience with the people you once called “strangers”? I know what I would say!"

-Kyle Grenier (Midland)

July 1, 2014

"After a day to resupply and get ready for our next stretch of our journey, we set off from Parry Sound and continue North on Georgian Bay. Next stop Killarney. With 200kms to paddle in 4 and a half days, we have our work cut out for us! Here’s to hoping that the wind subsides as the challenge of windy days and big water has at last begun. Paddling on big water slowed us down drastically to a very sad speed of 4 kms an hour. It takes forever to get anywhere! Five hours later with only 20 kms paddled, we found a beautiful rocky camp site.  As I sit here in the bay where we set up camp, I am overlooking the beautiful scenery of the water crashing down on the rocks, the setting sun and the sound of a few gulls in the distance. This to me is a taste of paradise. I can’t help but reflect on the change and challenges that the last 2 months have brought, and of the next 2 months ahead. We are getting closer and closer to my home town of Sault Ste. Marie, and I am so excited to make an arrival where my friends and family will be waiting to watch our entrance! As for now, I am taking in the beauty of Georgian Bay and I am remembering the rewards and hardships that my ancestors must have faced as well."

-Genevieve Routhier (Sault Ste. Marie)

June 25, 2014

“The importance of having an identity and a community to belong to often runs through my mind. Majority of my young life has been spent without these things that many take for granted, due mostly to the fact that I was involved with the Children’s Aid Society at a very young age and became a permanent ward of the state at age 11. Many youth share my story of being disconnected from themselves and others feeling that they do not belong in any community because they may not know they are Métis or had no one to pass down traditions and teach them of their culture. I was lucky; I reconnected in my late teens with a long lost relative on my father’s side of the family who later told me my ancestry was ‘Indian and French blood’ and gave me my family’s birth and marriage records dating back to the 1600’s. But what did all of this mean? I now know, it means I found my community, it means I found a family, it means I am Métis!”

- Gerald Lavallee (North Bay)

June 24, 2014

Penetanguishene Gen“Today we made our arrival into Penetang’.  It has been a rainy day, so it was out first arrival that we all arrived wet to!

We had a wonderful event that was planned for us by the MNO council.  Dinner was great, and we danced for the crowd, four Métis dances.  The dances were followed by a Q & A. The support and interest from the people was very encouraging!”




- Genevieve Routhier (Sault St. Marie)

Penetanguishene“We were requested to wear our traditional clothing for arrivals:  Corduroy pants and cotton long sleeve shirts for the boys, and twill (a type of cotton) Ojibwa-style strap dresses for the girls. Each of us is also given a pair of moccasins to wear as part of the outfit as well.

So it was pouring, and unfortunately rain ponchos are not part of the traditional clothing.  I could see the paddlers coming in- all in traditional clothing- soaking wet.  I was on land, wearing my traditional dress underneath a rain poncho with fake crocs instead of moccasins.  As they pulled into the beach I knew it was time to lose the poncho- so I did.  As such, I was the driest of the group (I also dawned my poncho as soon as the crowd dispersed, which happened to be just as the rain picked up).  Réjean offered to bring the wet clothes to a laundry mat to dry so we could all wear nice dry clothes to the event later that evening.

We danced at the event, and I was the only one from MCE wearing moccasins this time.  The socks were slipping on the floor and we had a couple falls, but nobody was injured.

Thank you Georgian Bay Métis for the excellent hospitality and great enthusiasm.  We enjoyed answering all of your questions and we hope you enjoyed our dancing skills!  The lasagna was excellent by the way- Thanks chef (s)!”

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

June 23, 2014

“Heather was still not feeling good today so we were down a paddler again today, which wasn’t a bad thing- might I add.  We help each other out when someone isn’t feeling well or when someone is hurt.  We left cedar point this morning.  The water was calm and the wind was at our back…or at least for part of the day.  For lunch we stopped at Camp Marygrove and spoke with Louise, the camp director, who invited us to beach our canoe and tell her and the camp staff about our adventures.  Louise made us coffee and a custom paddle for their dinner hall (for display purposes) which we all signed.

Overall we had a great day.  We finished just shy of our stop in Penetangwishene Harbour, which will make tomorrow day a pleasant paddle.  I am sure we all are excited for tomorrow festivities.”

- Kyle Grenier (Midland)

June 22, 2014

“The day started off with us shuttling from our campsite in Owen Sound to where we took out at the Wasaga Marina.  We were on the water by 8, although we were less one paddler. Heather is under the weather and unable to paddle.  We are all hoping she’ll return to health soon because the group is incomplete without her.  Although we were missing a piece of the puzzle, we managed to take advantage of a beautiful day and some flat water.  We put in a solid 45 km day.  We had a great lunch and are spending the night at Awenda Provincial Park.  Hopefully tomorrow we get another beautiful day!”

- Josh Szajewski (Kenora)

“The day was like any other with one unfortunate exception:  Heather was land bound today on account of being quite ill.  Don’t worry Mr. and Mrs. Bunn, we’ve kept a close eye on her and today’s the day to visit the hospital if her condition doesn’t improve by lunchtime.

In a way it was nice to have some quality time with Heather, and we spoke about the expedition so far and other things like her boyfriend and dog.  I felt a bit guilty about enjoying her company; mostly I felt badly that she’s not well and there’s nothing I can personally do for her to make her feel better (though I’ve been trying to comfort her and ensure she’s hydrated).  I’m proud of her:  she’s been an excellent patient and kept in great spirits too.  Heather is a tough cookie.

I got some work done too, but I can’t send my emails until I get internet service.  I’ll make sure Heather sees a doctor and Scott and Alysha get their emails! Two birds; one stone (that’s an expression- I don’t have my hunting licence).”

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

June 21, 2014

owen sound
Owen Sound Mayor greeting the
"June 21 was National Aboriginal Day, and we celebrated with the MNO Great Lakes Métis  Council in Owen Sound.  The sun was shining, the wind was gusting by the bay, and everyone was happily mingling.  Usually I feel jealous of the paddlers because I miss being in the boat, yet I know better than to volunteer myself for eight hours of paddling.  However, on this day I was dehydrated and perfectly content watching them from dry land.

I began mingling right away, and a woman from the MNO education and training branch, named Jessica, invited me to play her drum and sing with the group.  I was ecstatic that she offered! I didn’t want it to seem like I was going to ask (rather than being offered, and there is indeed a big difference) but I am quite sure she could tell how excited I was when she let me hold her drum.

“Our drums are our Grandmothers; all we ask is that she is treated with respect.  Never lay her face down, and wrap her in a blanket on a cool damp day.” Ellen offered when I asked her about the responsibilities and possible taboos of drumming.

Indeed I was happy to play the drum with the group.  I think I did well at maintaining the rhythm, catching on to changes in the pattern, and handled the drum in a respectful way.  I wanted to learn to sing their traditional songs just as badly as I wanted to play the drums…..but every time I’d open up to sing, I would belt out the verse just a line too late.

owen sound 3After talking some poor patrons’ ears off; sitting by myself for a moment allowed me to watch the event and reflect.  This event went swimmingly- it was the cat’s pyjamas.  I attempted to find a reason for the great success of the event:  It seems clear to me that if not for the passion of the community members, and our pride in our culture and heritage, the event would have been less than perfect.  Our jigging and games portion of our cultural interpretation bit can last only 5 minutes each if the community shows signs of boredom.  However this event saw many patrons from the Owen Sound area Métis volunteering to participate.

When we got to the MNO office in Owen Sound, Susan offered me some dried sage. I happily accepted the sage, and smelled it…I did that many times because I really enjoyed the smell of it.  I offered many people around me to smell it as well- although it probably wasn’t a novelty for them as it was for me.  Little did I know Susan had graciously put together “loot bags” for the MCE, which contained some sacred medicine, including tobacco, sage, and sweet grass.  I gave all of those a good whiff, but sage is definitely my favourite aroma now that I know better.

On behalf of the MNO Canoe Expedition, I would like to thank the patrons that came to celebrate National Aboriginal Day with us; and the Great Lakes Council for their superb hospitality.  Best Aboriginal Day I ever had--so far at least (after all it was my first time celebrating National Aboriginal Day).  I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking for my Métis community in Ottawa when I get back to ensure that I learn more crafts and don’t miss any more Aboriginal Days!

Some people celebrate their first Aboriginal Day as infants, some as twenty-three year olds, and some as fifty year olds! It doesn’t matter how old you are when you engage in your community, or how you express your culture.  We are a very accepting (not to mention fun) community.  Check out your local MNO office and get involved. I’m also pretty sure you don’t have to be Aboriginal to celebrate National Aboriginal Day; in fact the only pre-requisite is a good attitude and respectful conduct."

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

owen sound 2“Last night I was chosen to make the breakfast-which I hate!  It doesn’t bother me that I have to wake up early; that’s the easy part.  I have dreams that I don’t wake up and Kyle comes to my tent and says, ‘Amilia, aren’t you getting up? Its 6:56,’ and then I panic ‘cause I was supposed to be up at 6:30 and now no one will have any breakfast.  So I was up at 5 a.m. panicking that I haven’t woken up on time… great way to start the day.  But everyone did get a breakfast and we got out on time for our arrival with Great Lakes Council.  Phew! My job is done.

We have everything set up and we are ready to paddle in.  We see everyone is gathered, watching us and cheering us in.  There is an amazing group of women singing and playing the drums.  We’re so close, we are all smiling…and then we get stuck in the shallow water about 3’ away from where we are supposed to hop out of the canoe.

We all laugh ‘cause now we have to back up and try again.  We back up and paddle hard!! We make it with a slam of the canoe into the rock…Good enough.

We hop out and Gerald starts it off because he is the MC for the day. Everything went amazing!!  Everyone was so interested, not only in our trip, but also in our stories, and they laughed with us.  We jigged, played games, and we had so many kids and adults who participated that I was able to sit back as they turn left when they should have gone right.  Everyone had so much fun.  I only hope I look half decent after I see how silly we all can look.

After that, we were invited back to the office for dinner, which was GREAT!  Chilli with venison meat; I’m starting to like all this wild meat, YUM!

The night again was spent telling stories and laughing which is what makes the day for me.  The harder I laugh, the better the day for me (even if at my own expense).  But today it didn’t have to be because Heather took the broken paddle award from Beth when she dropped her entire bowl of corn soup—which was great I might add—onto the floor…Winner. Goodnight my Loves”

--Amilia DiChiara (Toronto)

June 20, 2014

camp“Ok we are waking up after a much needed sleep in!! We all had dinner at Boston Pizza, even though t most of us (aka me) wanted sea food….oh well; maybe next time.  Any who we wake up and have check out at 11 a.m., so we are heading to Owen Sound.  More or less, this is a day off for us:  Driving to a campsite, cleaning the van that always looks like a tornado has gone through it and today will be special because we are having a huge debrief.  Yay…

We have arrived at our campsite and there are three little kids running around everywhere, so we are all just loving it because they are just all too cute.  The dinner conversation that night was whose kids would be the cutest and how we are going to dress them.

The debrief—which lasted about 3 hours—is now over…. Yay!! Our debriefs aren’t that bad, it a lot of talking about issues that have occurred or trying to stop issues that may occur.  More or less, it’s a time for everyone to vent and let off some steam.  Emily is still the holder of the broken paddle award.  This just might be the longest I have ever gone without it.

Keep up the good work guys; it’s not easy to make me look good.  Goodnight my loves”

-   Amilia DiChiara (Toronto)

June 19, 2014

Nine Mile Portage"Our modern day Voyageurs have been making their way across the Nine Mile Portage.

The Nine Mile Portage was a portage route from Kempenfelt Bay to Fort Willow and Willow Landing on WIllow Creek. It was used for centuries as a shortcut into the upper Great Lakes via the Nottawasaga River. 
One of the oldest known European records of the route was a 1688 map by Italian Vincenzo Coronelli labelled as 'Portage de dix Lieuel'. This portage eventually became known as the 'Nine Mile Portage' by the British Military, during the war of 1812. The British used this route to resupply their posts on the upper Great Lakes."

- Scott Carpenter (MNO staff)

minesing wetland“This morning we woke up at Fort Willow to the sound of birds singing and the historic land covered in a thick fog.  We were to paddle that day on the Minising swamp.  A beautiful eeriness hung about the air that fascinated us all.  As we put into Willow Creek we soon realized what a day we had undertaken:  The large, 30’ x 5 ‘canoe that we had been paddling was quite large to navigate through the winding creek.  Even a tandem canoe would have even had trouble in that creek.  A few times we would have to jump out--shin deep in muck and thigh deep in water—so we could drag it through the shallow parts that the canoe could not be paddled through.

Yet our spirits were still high; laughing when Emily lost her 100$ river sandal in the muck.  She exclaimed in an annoyed tone, “Just leave it!” luckily the rest of us thought different, and Kyle retrieved it for her.

The most challenging position that day was L’avant, who was steering the canoe that day just as much as the Gouvernail.  To round the sharp turns in the creek, sometimes everyone would have to draw while Jeremy ruddered and got us through corners.  It was a time when our true teamwork came through and the group truly came together.

Later on, after 17 km of tough paddling through the swamp, we came to the junction of the Nottawasaga River.  Paddling through, we saw muskrats diving and large swallow dens inside the dunes that climbed on both sides of us.  As we came close to Wasaga Beach, many people were waving, and taking pictures from their homes and cottages, interested in us, our voyage, and our canoe.  All together it was an intense and physical, but also an amazing day; and we made it through together.”

--Gerald Lavallee (North Bay)

June 18, 2014

Royal Navy Depot"The MNO Canoe Expedition crew has departed from The Royal Navy Depot Holland Landing this morning.

Holland's Landing, constructed during the War of 1812, stood just north of this site on the east bank of Soldiers’ Bay. Its buildings and other facilities served as an administrative and transshipment centre within a network of roads, waterways, portages and posts that connected Lake Ontario to the upper Great Lakes. To avoid American forces in the Niagara-Lake Erie-Detroit River corridor, British authorities moved vital supplies from York (Toronto) through this depot to Georgian Bay to support the successful war effort on the upper lakes. In addition, they distributed gifts to Aboriginal allies in the region from this site."

- Scott Carpenter (MNO staff)

“Today was an exceptionally interesting day.  It was really great to get back on the water after a few days without paddling.  It was exciting to put into the water at the historical Holland Landing.  Being the day after a huge storm, it gave us a very interesting morning of paddling.  It felt like the scene from Forrest Gump where he was the only boat left afloat.  We paddled by several downed trees, damaged boats, and even a severely damaged marina.  It was a sad sight, but made us feel extremely fortunate that we survived the intense storm completely unharmed.  We were also very fortunate to have a relatively calm day that allowed us to complete the entirety of our paddle on Holland River and Lake Simcoe.  Although it was certainly a challenging day, it was exciting to arrive in Barrie.  Hopefully we can continue to be as fortunate as we have been in regards to the weather!”

- Josh Szajewski (Kenora)

June 17, 2014

“Today was a travel day.  We journeyed from Windsor to the Cookstown KOA.  We got there by 1:00 p.m. Later that day we did laundry as Jeremy went to pick up some gear from Tent City in Toronto.  On our way back we noticed that the weather started to take a turn for the worse.  We got to camp and started cooking under the roof of the lodge.  By this point there was a tornado warning for where we were.  The Cookstown KOA manager came and offered us two free cabins for the night to save us from the rain and potential tornado.  In the end the rain stopped and we were not hit by the tornado.  It ended up being a beautiful evening, even with the fireflies wishing us goodnight.”

--Emily Ingram  (Sault St. Marie)

June 16, 2014

windsor“Today we are at Windsor.  We arrived in the morning for a flag raising at city hall.  It was a great surprise to see my older sister there.  I also got to meet the son of an old council member in my area.  He was Ed Hass’s son and it was really cool to see how there are connections everywhere we go.  After the flag raising we were given a tour of downtown Windsor and then went to the park so we could do out interpretation of what we are doing.

I was really excited to see my sister and her husband there and I even got to neck wrestle my sister (I WON).  It was really good because everyone had lots of questions for us and was interested in how everything worked and how the trip was going.

Afterwards we posed for lots of photos and went to a dinner at the MNO office. There was homemade bannock and moose stew- it was absolutely delicious!”

--Heather Bunn (Fergus)

June 15, 2014

grand river“The day started out really well.  Everyone got showers and we got to sleep in! The day got even better because we visited my home council:  the MNO Grand River Métis Council.  We showed up to Riverside Park early and got everything set up.  As we paddled up the river was lined with people who were there to see us.  It was the biggest reception we have had so far.  It was amazing to see so many people so enthusiastic and legitimately interested in us and what we were doing.


grand river cake

We pulled out and set up the tent we use for our presentations in communities.  We then got to do our thing and jig (which my little brother, James, joined in on).  We had an awesome feast, and I mean feast!  We had a 60 lbs pig and my dad’s homemade elk burgers and salads.  We all left over-stuffed and with loads of leftovers.

I got to see my brother and his wife and their two daughters.  It was really nice to play with my nieces.


--Heather Bunn (Fergus)

June 14, 2014

June 17 image“The morning started like every other morning before it.  Breakfast was for 5 am, but this time we were leaving for 7 am to drive to Welland and do our planned event at Merritt Island.  We were paddling in, which was nice.  Even though it was a short 500m paddle, it was still tough on our behinds.  We were greeted by many fellow Métis people as well as many who weren’t.  It was a fabulous day:  The sun was out and there was barely any wind although, my allergies were hitting me full force-making it difficult to breathe through my nose.

We spoke with Reginald Bernier, regional councillor for the MNO Niagara Region Métis Council.  He was very friendly and quite knowledgeable.  I very much enjoyed the lavishly beaded vest that he was wearing.  Beading has always been an interest of mine.  Reginald was also the cook for the event, and his cooking skills kept me coming back for more.

Overall, the day was a good one.  We made new friends and lasting memories.”

--Kyle Grenier (Midland)


Merritt Island"As a road support person, I admit it that it has been too long since last I had a chance to paddle.  I insisted on paddling with the rest of the paddlers -but it was basically over before it started because it was only a 500m paddle.  I agree with Kyle that the event at Merritt Island went well.  Besides the excellent barbecue, my favorite part was jigging, and laughing with the on-lookers at our awkward jigging skills.  After we finished the event at Merritt Island, we realized that Niagara Falls was not too far from where we stopped to get gas.  Indeed, we visited Niagara Falls for a quick tour- a first for me.  I was awestruck by the natural beauty of the falls and the sheer size of them too!  I`ve been told that the Voyageurs have paddled through nearby rivers and completed massive portages to bypass the Niagara Falls.

On behalf of the MNO Canoe Expedition, I would like to thank the MNO Niagara Region Métis Council and all who attended the event at Merritt Island, for their excellent hospitality, as well as for their keen interest in our expedition."

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

June 13, 2014

June 13“We awoke to the sounds of birds chirping and trees rustling in the wind.  Not a bad start after a few days in an urban environment.  Then it hit us; a big day was afoot, and we needed to be ready to meet it head on!

We had stayed the night at Jeremy’s friends, James and Janice, the night before.  They greeted us with open arms and asked us many questions about our adventures.  Myself, Jeremy, James, and Janice, were in the truck on our way to the Burger Barn to meet up with Sharon McBride, who had graciously invited us all out for dinner.  Upon our arrival, we had found out that we lost our spot and had to wait, which wasn’t all bad because the van with the rest of the crew wasn't present due to navigation difficulties.  Regardless of the time, the dinner was fantastic.  Great food, great company, and new friends:  Not a bad ending to a re-supply day.”

--Kyle Grenier (Midland)

June 12, 2014

Etienne Brule Park"Our Voyageurs are making their way to Etienne Brule Park today. This stop in their journey marks a pause in the retracing of the historical Voyageur expedition route to visit Métis Communities in the southwestern part of the province.

Etienne Brule Park is located on the Humber River which was the point where the water was left behind temporarily and the Toronto Carrying Place (also known as the Humber Portage) was used as a portage route to reach the Holland River which would take them to Lake Simcoe and points beyond."

-Scott Carpenter (MNO staff)



Etienne Brule Park

“Today we paddle into Étienne Brûlé park.  Before we arrive we pull over and change into our traditional clothing.  It was supposed to be a 10 minute break, but that never happens with us.  Instead we played in the park for 30 minutes, in our traditional clothing, and we had people stopping and taking pictures.

We hop back into the canoe and head off for the park.  We were about 400 m from where Alicia and Johanna  were waiting for our arrival and we got stuck.  That’s right; we got stuck because the water was way too shallow.  Jeremy, Kyle, and Gerald had to roll up their pants and start pulling the canoe 300 m before the water was deep enough.  When we pulled the canoe up, this was followed by Alicia and Johanna laughing at us, but very happy we made it in safe. Goodnight my Loves.”

-Amilia DiChiara (Toronto)

June 10, 2014

Toronto“This was our arrival day into the Big Smoke! The sight of Toronto made me all giddy like a kid in a candy store.  So our sights are set for cherry beach where we will meet up with the road crew.  We’re paddling along the Lindsay strip (the man-made island) which has gotten a lot bigger than the last time Jeremy’s maps were printed, making the trip longer than planned…Yay!!

Now we’re at the beach, but this wasn’t ‘til after I spotted a wave that could of flipped us.  Instead, everyone just got soaked-with a quick adjustment.

Goodnight my Loves!”

-Amilia DiChiara (Toronto)

June 7, 2014

PeterboroughAs lunch was ending, we received a call inviting us to a dinner and comedy night in Peterborough, at the Canoe Museum with the Peterborough and Wapiti Council.  It was the best dinner ever.  Everything had game meat, and was delicious.  We are setting up camp in Beavermead, and the Girl Guides came and asked us all questions about the trip and about the canoe. NIGHT.”



--Heather Bunn (Fergus)

May 28, 2014

“Ok so it was Beth and my day to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  This meant I had to be up at 4:30 am; which sucked!! So the alarm goes off at 4:30 am, I get dressed, wake up Beth, and start getting breakfast ready.  That morning we were making Red River- AKA bird food.

Later in the morning in the canoe, I was at the back with Jeremy –who was being Jeremy—and [he] broke my paddle….This made me a clear winner for the broken paddle award, which is a necklace that has to be worn by anyone who does something stupid that day.

This summed up my day.  Goodnight my Loves.”

-Amilia DiChiara (Toronto)

Short Story:  L’Avant

early daysL’avant is the term given to the voyageur who sits in the front of the canoe; his or her responsibility is to set an even pace for the paddlers at approximately 50 strokes a minute.

One evening Jeremy the canoe guide chose me to be L’avant.  At first I was very nervous, and maybe even a tad reluctant.  However worried I was that I would make a fool of myself (I lack rhythm you might say) I was not about to argue with the boss:  Challenge accepted!!  During that night’s de-brief, the time we discuss the high points and low points of the day, I mentioned that my low point was the nervous feeling I had when Jeremy called on me for “leaving”.  What can I say! I chose to apply for “ground support” for a reason.   I could tell Jeremy was disappointed when I mentioned that point as my low point for the day:

“Jeremy let me finish! The best part of my day was after we finished paddling.  Not because it was over, but because I paddled my heart out for an hour and now I am left with a wonderful feeling of achievement.  Thanks for picking me as ‘L’avant’ today; I was thrilled to learn my physical potential and accept such a challenge.”

I paddled approximately 42 strokes a minute for about two 30 minute bursts.  It might not seem like an impressive stat, but thankfully I applied to the position “Ground Support”.  Our real heroes of the journey are the canoe-ists:  Jeremy, Emily, Kyle, Amelia, Josh, Gen, Gerald, and Heather; who all paddle about 50 strokes a minute in eight hour days!

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

May 23, 2014

Week Three: Return to Midland Training

Icon"By day we organized our trip, purchased supplies, and fixed up our 10 year old vessel.  Our canoe is approximately 700 lbs, made of fiberglass and painted and shaped to resemble a traditional birch-bark voyageur style canoe.  The 5 am wake up times were difficult to get used to, but as I write this I can say we may finally be used to it.  At any rate, no matter how tired we were in the morning, after an hour of paddling-usually from 6-7 approximately, we would be fully awake! There’s nothing like an intense paddle session to get the day going.

During our final week of training, an Aboriginal man named Everett AKA “Soul Thunder” spotted our canoe.  It was fairly obvious that he was intrigued by our massive vessel, as he parked his car and blasted pow-wow music for all to hear.  He let us listen to his music for a few minutes, and spoke briefly with our canoe guide, Jeremy, concerning our voyage no doubt.  I couldn’t help but dance to his music and was admittedly a little sad when it faded as he drove away.  Later that afternoon, Everett returned to our sites with gifts and stories to tell.  He presented Jeremy with a large eagle feather, which we perceived as a sign of excellent luck.  Everett asked us to build a fire so we could do a prayer by the fire.  Once our crew and Everett gathered around the fire, he spoke first in his language and then translated his prayer into English.  It was very special to witness, and I admit this was the first Aboriginal ceremony I have ever taken part in.  We asked The Creator for safe passage and gave thanks for our amazing opportunity.  Everett gave each of us a small cloth bag of traditional tobacco to offer to the fire following a brief internal dialogue with The Creator."

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

May 16, 2014

Week Two: Thunder Bay Training

tb training"We spent the week at Fort William Historical Park wearing the same dirty historical attire throughout.  I think acquiring a bad odour over the course of the week in a single outfit was good preparation for the Métis Canoe Expedition folk as access to showers will be limited once we enter the bush.  I enjoyed wearing my historical attire for the first couple of days at least- until the smell kicked in.

I’ll never forget playing traditional games in the evening because they were all very intense.  We played stick-ball, shinny, and lacrosse.  We became very physical during the course of each game, and I drew blood on one occasion.  These games are really something else….they brought out the warrior in us all.  I really wanted to play a little more physical especially after getting body checked to the ground, but fortunately for the other team I’m especially peaceful when my boss is watching.  Don’t worry folks, no participant was badly injured during any historical match; it was all in good fun."

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)

May 9, 2014

Week One: Midland Training

Launch"The first week of training consisted mostly of cultural and heritage related lessons.  I remember drawing a huge (embarrassing) blank when Scott Carpenter asked me during the interview what I know about my Métis heritage, and I thought I surely would not be hearing back about my application after that interview session.  Yet, despite my limited knowledge of anything Métis; here I am!  I realized shortly after arriving to Midland the importance of educating the public about Métis culture because there is so much misinformation concerning the third Aboriginal group of Canada –and even myself was previously misinformed on some topics.

In particular we learned traditional crafts such as finger weaving, embroidery, beading, and kapote making.  We learned more about the chronology and historical aspects of our culture.  I had a feeling the amount of information I previously knew about Métis culture would pale in comparison to the remaining information to learn; and this was partly why I was so enthused to take this job opportunity.  Indeed, we all learned a lot in Midland."

-Elizabeth Clapin (Manotick)