Four friends, a historic route, 4,500 km, 130 days
By Lory Mitton
Posted 1 day ago
With close to 2,425 km behind them, four travellers stopped by Lac du Bonnet last Wednesday, but there are still many kilometres of paddling ahead of them.
Yes, paddling. Dana Fountain, Peter Gorman, Hugo Kitching, and Pascal Landa are on a mission to experience the Canadian wilderness like never before. Their canoe trip, dubbed Mountains2Montreal, first began on May 1 and will take them from the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, all the way to Montreal.
With a 240 lb. canoe and 80 km of portages, these guys are serious about retracing the steps of the early Voyagers and many past adventurers. The group touched off from Abraham Dam, south of Jasper, AB, and have been canoeing through the heartland of Canada ever since. Their historic route spans 4,500 km and is scheduled to last 130 days.
“The routes are historically significant to Canada,” Fountain said, explaining that before the railroad and modern highways, Canada was connected by lakes and rivers.
Both Canada’s First Nations people and the Voyageurs are an inspiration to the group, since they too forced their way through the unrelenting Canadian wilderness in search of adventure.
“These are well paddled routes and it allows us to feel like we’re part of the experience (of the Voyagers). We’re just the continuation in essence,” Fountain said.
He is currently a Masters candidate at York University studying climate change and environmental assessments.
Taking a break from outdoor living, the four adventures spent the night in Lac du Bonnet at the residence of Brian Jack, where they were treated to wine, pork chops, and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup.
It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the journey, meeting fellow Canadians, and these men have been met with warm hospitality time after time, in each new place they go.
“There’s great joy when we can connect to a whole variety of people—fishermen, trappers, farmers, First Nations, RCMP, everyone who has helped us along the way—we get to hear their story. It’s all part of being Canadians.”
The generosity the group has encountered throughout their journey has also been a highlight. New friends have sent them on their way with gifts and well wishes.
“We’ve met the most interesting people,” Kitching said. “It helps build your pride as a Canadian, meeting all these people.”
Since 2003, Kitching has worked in Algonquin Park as a seasonal naturalist and researcher, studying dragonflies, turtles, and birds. His interest in the natural world has also taken him to James Bay, Quebec, where he has spent many enjoyable months working and living with the Cree of Wemindji.
Sometimes weather conditions have made night paddling more desirable than day time travel. While travelling around The Pas area, northern lights would illuminate the skies while the group cut through the waters.
When conditions are favourable, the men try to make good distance. Travelling downstream, they’ve gone as far as 100km in a single day. Harder days, when paddling upstream in windy, rainy weather, means the team may only move 10km at a time.
There have been a few close calls along the way; the boat almost capsized once and a paddle or two was lost, as was a radio that offered some much needed entertainment. One day when the team first got in the water on Cedar Lake, waves escalated from one foot high to over a meter. Another time, after the fibreglass canoe hit a rock, Landa fell out and was almost washed downstream.
At 59, Landa assumes the role of writer and multimedia partner for the trip, intending to produce a regular photo/film journal of the trip as a means of communicating the adventure’s spirit and philosophy, as well as individual participants’ life perspectives.
The experience is rich and each team member has learned new lessons from the journey.
“I’m never going to leave my girlfriend for this long of time ever again,” Gordman said, shaking his head.
A lifelong musician, Gorman composes songs for the journey and is currently a Masters candidate at the University of Toronto, where he studies Book History & Print Culture.
With a respect for nature and a love for the environment, these adventurers are raising awareness and support for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). Their goal is to raise $1 for every kilometre they travel.
“We want to be a part of a movement that preserves the environment for future generations,” Fountain said of CPAWS.
To show your support, meet the team members, or track the rest of the journey, visitwww.mountains2montreal.ca.