University students paddle the historic route of the Voyageurs
By Don Norman with notes from Leah Boulet
Five Winnipeg university students landed and spent the night in St. Georges for a rest on Saturday September 19. It was 46 days and about 1200 km into a 50 day canoe trip that began in Thunder Bay on August 5 and ended in Winnipeg on September 24.
Jesse Scheffelmaier, Jessica Ruggles, Gilles Lessard, Aubry Bosc and Joey Delaquis started their journey on the Pigeon River at the International Border near Thunder Bay. From there, they spent the next 15 days paddling their way to Quetico Park then northwest following the traditional voyageur route to Atikokan, where they had their first supply drop. The next supply drop was ten days west to Wabigoon. The third supply drop was 11 days later at Rushing River, near Kenora. And from there, it was another 10 days down the Winnipeg River to their final supply drop in St. Georges. They arrived in St. Georges mid-afternoon on Saturday, September 19th at the home of Mike and Rita Boulet. This had been pre-arranged with David Boulet and his father Denis.
When they spoke to the Boulets in St. Georges, they said aside from those hiccups, the trip had been pretty smooth so far.
The group had meticulously planned out the trip from paddle schedules to meal plans.. Of course on a trip where carrying your own food, you have to pack light and that had a big impact on how they were sustaining themselves. Porridge with toppings like nuts, dried fruit and raisins was eaten every morning; lunch was bannock with same toppings as breakfast. The bannock was always prepared the night before over the campfire. Supper was usually dehydrated meals prepared in the months before the trip. They supplemented their meals by doing some fishing and foraging. The prepared food supplies were dropped off at the designated points by family/friends.
Most days they would travel between 30 and 35 km, but that would mainly depend on the weather and terrain for portaging. Their longest they paddled in a single day was 50km. During the early legs of their trip, they went though some pretty remote areas where the trails needed to be cut by hand.
But the biggest obstacle they faced were high winds and large waves. They had to hunker down a few times and make up time by logging in extra hours on the good weather days.
After leaving St. Georges at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday Morning, the crew headed south to the mouth of the Winnipeg River. On this final leg, they were joined by Liam McLeod who met them at the Boulets They stayed in Albert Beach that evening before heading into Netley Marsh, down the Red River, through Selkirk and finally arriving at the Forks on September 24. Jessica left the group in St. Georges, because she had to return to school. She re-joined them in Selkirk.