Kingston2Ottawa Canoe Race

Less than a year later and PACT is at it again! We are beyond excited to announce PACT's participation in the Kingston2Ottawa (K2O) marathon canoe race happening next weekend, August 16-17th, 2024! This entails more than 32 hours of straight paddling through the night along a UNESCO world heritage site: the Rideau Canal.

Not only are we entering a voyageur canoe in this race, we are entering as THE voyageur canoe. PACT is representing as the flagship, the example, the demonstration to the world that racing a north canoe along this route is not only possible, but also competitive. PACT will be represented by returnee's Peter Vooys, Scott Graham, Marc Soberano and Hollye Ervine> They are joined by paddle and camping enthusiasts, Evan Woodley and Jill Zeppa.

Feel free to explore the website, follow our updates and share with friends - let's keep the PACT buzz buzzing! This happens to be the longest marathon canoe race in Ontario, and one we are thrilled to take on!


Check out the race website for more details on this event:

The Final Blog

This will be the final blog update for the 2013PACT expedition.  The blogs are primarily in chronological order, with the exception of a few that were added  post-trip, so if you want whole tale from the get-go, rewind to the start of the blogs.  Happy reading.  

 The Final Count

PACT is proud to announce that over $10,000 was successfully raised in support of outdoor education during our campaign.  We are hounored to assist in supporting three outstanding, non-for profit organizations.  


We are still sharing our story with anyone who will listen!  If you would enjoy a PACT presentation at your school, outdoors group, summer camp, church, community centre....or ANYWHERE, please email


And Now a Few Words of Thanks…

 Thank you for sponsoring and supporting our dream.  Thank you for donating to outdoor education in Canada.  Thank you for visiting our website.  Thanks for checking the tracker and joining us as we paddled.  Thank you for liking us on Facebook.   Thanks for reading our blogs.  Thanks for the Tweets...and re-Tweets.  Thanks for the sausage.  Thank you for the fan mail.  Thanks for breakfast.  Thank you for waving from your dock.  Thanks for asking us about our trip.  Thanks for the advice about the river. Thanks for honking as we paddled under the bridge.  Thanks for the cold beer on a hot day.  Thanks for the hot shower on a cold night.  Thank you for holding onto our resupply boxes.  Thank you for the fresh fish.  Thanks for helping us on portage.  Thank you for the music. Thanks for taking our picture.  Thanks for the maps.  Thanks for cheering.  Thanks for chasing us around Superior.   Thanks for serenading us with a voyageur song to keep us paddling in time.  Thanks for letting us stop at your dock and pee on your lawn.  Thanks for learning with us.  Thanks for the campsite.  Thank you for telling your friends.  Thanks for the pizza…PACT loves pizza.  Thank you for the boat repairs.  Thank you giving us a roof over our heads and on a few occasion beds. Thank you for the next round.  Thanks for the cookies.  Thanks for paddling with us.  Thanks for trumpeting O’ Canada as we paddled the lake. Thanks for fresh fruit. Thanks for the flat piece of ground to tent on.  Thanks for the big welcome home.  Thanks for celebrating with us.  Thank you for hearing in our story.

 To the hundreds of family, friends, friends of friends, new friends and incredible strangers who have changed six lives forever… Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 Love Hollye, James, Marc, Marissa, Peter & Scott

Peter’s Pastas, Parasites and Poops

A pasta dinner! I love pasta.

Through a relatively close connection - the sister of my university housemate's mother's friend- the PACT crew was invited to a pasta dinner reception and a flat piece of grass to sleep on when we reached Sault Ste. Marie. Squirrel Island, just outside the Soo, in the middle of St.Mary's River to be exact.

A real pasta dinner! With a last name like Stortini, and the hint of secret recipes, we could only expect the finest of Italian dining.

We were not disappointed. The Stortini's put on a feast of Caesar (salad) proportions. Not only did they cook for us, but invited the entire Squirrel Island cottager community. Bottles of white, bottles of red were passed around. Piles of pasta were plopped onto plates topped with a thick sauce from a family recipe. Homemade meatballs the size of softballs were delicately placed on top of spaghetti all covered with cheese, threatening to bring the song lyrics to life.

And lo in the corner, amongst the grandeur, I was not feeling up to eating my usual three plates of pasta.

Let's rewind.

Water purification is a big deal on canoe trip. Whether you boil, filter, or purify through chemical science means, you've got to be able to drink clean water. We chose to use Aquatabs, a popular and effective chlorine pill that is dropped in a vessel of water. It has a proven track record when used properly.

Perhaps I happened to drink the water too soon after tabbing, not allowing the chemical disinfectant to fully take place. Perhaps I tabbed and drank brown water from a small creek. Perhaps I drank water straight from Lake Superior without tabbing. Who knows? It doesn't really matter what mouthful of water carried the parasite. The fact is, by the time I had reached the Stortini's, I had been travelling 14 days with active Giardiasis. It's also called Beaver Fever.

Giardiasis is a parasitic disease that blocks nutrient absorption by coating the inside of the hosts' small intestine. Beaver Fever is not as funny as the name suggests. Nor is it anywhere close to having Bieber Fever.

I first noticed feeling sick the night we stayed on St. Ignace Island on the north shore of Lake Superior. My appetite was down and I felt gassy. Only the first symptom was truly odd. Over the next two weeks during our Superior push I experienced a continuing wave of symptoms whose presence would ebb and flow, but whose intensity always increased upon their return. Nausea, bloating, lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, exhaustion, diarrhea, vomiting, and particularly potent flatulence kept an unhealthy rotation through my body. Some mornings I was too weak to load the boat, some days too weak to keep pace with the rest of the crew.  I spent Day 88 alternating between sleeping in the canoe and puking over the gunwales.

The night we paddled to the Janveau cottage (see "Night at the Museum 2") my sickness and I put aside our differences long enough for me to consume a celebratory burger only to spend the remaining night and next day before departure in and out of the toilet. It was at the Janveau's that I realized how skinny I had become. By the time we reached Sault Ste. Marie and I had the sense to walk into a walk-in clinic, I had lost at least 15 pounds since leaving Thunder Bay.
That night we met the Stortini's and the rest of Squirrel Island.

The next morning after our glorious pasta reception I sadly stayed behind from PACT to rest, having a restless sleep complete with morning vomits and toilet trips. When the crew and canoe, my cross-country family and home, left the shore without me, I was too weak to protest.

 (For an excellent description of the crew's adventures while Peter recovered, see the blog post "The Adventures of Bert and Tommy ")

That day I spent alternating between the bed and the bathroom. By 5pm, it was clear that I was in no shape to catch up with my friends down the river, but instead made the call to attend the hospital for severe dehydration and exhaustion. Five hours and one intravenous bolus of saline solution later, I was feeling... stable.

Over the next two days I recovered at Sylvia and Jon Stortini's cottage. Sylvia happens to be a retired nurse, and made sure I had plenty of bed rest, monitored my diet, and asked to be kept up to date with all pertinent health related information.

Gratefully, yet embarrassingly, my parents rushed to join me at the Stortini's. By plane and automobile they travelled north as soon as the word got out that I was headed for the hospital. They were coming next week anyway, so what's a few days earlier?

Through a strict regimen of anti-biotics, sleep, bland diet and two mothers, I was soon able to walk across the room without a pause to regain my stamina. I recovered enough to rejoin the crew. Three days sitting and watching tracking device was enough for me. I was anxious to get back to the crew who would be camped near Blind River that night (a mere two hours drive down the highway). My parents dropped me off at the crew’s campsite beach and brought with them a feast of PACT proportions.

 Back in the canoe I took it easy for the next couple of days, finishing off the round of medicine and choosing the lighter loads. My appetite slowly returned so I was able to resume my role of scraping everything that looked like food from the bottom of the cooking pot. Though I was able to return to paddling speed, for the remainder of the trip, I never fully regained my pre-Giardiasis strength and form.

I can’t thank the Stortini's enough for their kindness and care. They opened their doors to my family, and took me in as their own. The Squirrel Island community continued their overwhelming support of our trip by closely monitoring our progress, and checking up on a certain recently released patient.

I will return to Squirrel Island, healthy, to say hello to the gang. I hope to be so lucky as to be invited to sit again at the Stortini's table, proper appetite in tow, and enjoy the secret family recipe that thick sauce is made from, and the pasta cooked to perfection and the huge meatballs teetering on top. I will be bringing a bottle of white and a bottle of red.


the Voyageur's Code at the Height of the Land

 Upon passing the Height of the Land for the first time, voyageurs were required to take the “Voyageurs Code” and to toast the landmark with a dram of whiskey. A set of guidelines passed from one crew to the next. PACT was no exception to the rule. At roughly 8am on July 29th, the crew crossed a small, nearly flat portage from North Lake to South Lake, passing from the Hudson’s Bay watershed to the Great Lakes watershed. From here, everything would be “downhill”.

Crew historian Peter Vooys marked the occasion by reciting the voyageur’s code to the best of his memory.

This is what the PACT Voyageur’s Code sounded like:

“Since Grand Rapids we have battled the mighty Hudson’s Bay watershed. Upstream the whole way in the high country! En français – le pays d’en haut.
Now we’ve crossed the Height of the Land, and in true voyageur fashion we will recite the voyageur’s code (at least the portions I can remember), and should take the traditional voyageur toast to congratulate ourselves on reaching the Great Lakes watershed. 
It’s all downhill from here.
We’ve come a long way, that’s really awesome.


A voyageur rises early and retires late.
A voyageur paddles hard in the day and eats heartily at night.
When the trip is done, they drink merrily.
A voyageur relies on his team to get from A to B (adlib there), but a voyageur also makes sure that the team can rely on him or her or cat (adlib there).
A voyageur works hard, plays hard and respects the land.
And a voyageur never sleeps with another voyageur’s spouse.

And this in the name of the North-West Company, say Amen.”

With that, Vooys called the rest of the crew up one by one to kneel while he poured whiskey down their throats.

What a way to start the day! 

Six Rooms for Six Paddlers - Chateau Montebello

Campsites tend to vary in quality. From night to night, camping trip to camping trip, every site has it’s own unique qualities – positive and otherwise. This was of course the same with our trip. Outside Edmonton we slept in not much more than a mud pit covered in stoneflies. In La Verendrye Provincial Park, we slept in blueberry bushes surrounded tightly by granite crags. On the Pigeon River, we were only able to find thick undergrowth to sleep in, arriving well after dark.

On the other side of the comfort factor, there was a campsite in the town of Montebello, Quebec on the Ottawa River that stands out.

We saw it through the setting sun on Day 118: a giant wooden structure rising above the trees of the Laurentian valley and the large yachts mooring in the harbour. Upon docking, we realised that it was an entire complex of giant wooden structures, architecturally unified by their Lincoln log style and green roofs. The main building boasted a grand entrance, immediately thrusting you into a large open concept lobby with a towering stone hexagonal fireplace in the centre. Chandeliers and table lamps filled the room with soft light. Wooden corridors of guest rooms radiated from the centre, named for famous French Canadians.

The clerk at the desk had heard of our impending arrival and had made all the proper arrangements. Six rooms for the six paddlers! Too much, we protested! Don’t be silly, they replied! Well if you insist, we accepted!

We hauled our dry bags and gear to our respective rooms, under the curious eyes of the desk clerk.  Promising to not get trapped in our private tents with full baths, we were to meet back in the looby for dinner in ten minutes.

One by one the Paddle Across Canada Tour arrived in comfy sweats back in the lobby. We moved slowly, slack jawed, digesting the architecture, oversize classic paintings, and air of sophistication. The lobby was filled with excellent sitting spots, and a debate as to which chair or couch was the comfiest took place. We ate and toasted our luck, and the pending completion of our journey. After a gourmet meal that did not include such items as quinoa, oats, lentils or peanut butter, not much was said. 118 days in close quarters with each other, we gladly retired to our private rooms at the Chateau Montebello.

As karma for our good fortune, the next two nights downstream were spent in the rain.

Thank you to the Farimont Hotel at Chateau Montebello and to Roots Canada for the stay in what must be one of Canada’s most beautiful hotels, and a very comfortable campsite.


From the desk of Office Jill: My 120 Day Journey Behind a Computer Screen

As long as I can remember I have been suffering from a (potentially) fatal case of FOMO.  If you haven’t heard, the number of diagnosed cases is growing with the rise of social media… our friends and acquaintances post their latest updates, and more people are left with a “fear of missing out”. 

I guess I should introduce myself; I worked for many glorious summers with Peter, Scott and Hollye on the shores of Moira Lake at Camp Quin-Mo-Lac. Last winter, my good friend Hollye told me something wild. Our ol’ pals Peter and Scott wanted her to canoe across Canada with them. CANOE ACROSS CANADA! That sounds crazy, right? Obviously we both knew she had to say yes! It was only a few weeks of getting the details organized when I started to learn more about PACT – the crew, their stories, their motivation to achieve this goal, and passion to make a difference in the process. The first time I met Marc, within seconds of shaking my hand he said, “So, this is Office Jill?”, to which Hollye replied, “She doesn’t know about that yet”. The fact that Hollye, Scott and Peter knew me well enough to know I would say yes must have meant it was a good fit, and better yet, it was something I was completely excited about. 

My role as “Office Jill” had no guidelines. After a few meetings, we still had some trouble defining my job. It wasn’t until the crew had actually set sail that I fell into a solid routine of editing blogs, posting pictures, updating with Roots, contacting media and connecting family members. I really can’t choose a favourite moment. I looked forward to and loved every minute of it. Receiving the blogs and watching the Dropbox fill up with new photos would keep me up late.  I was constantly reviewing, organizing and sharing.  My friends and family can attest to my excitement on a daily basis – I loved being the first one to see the pictures, read the news and get those calls. I couldn’t stop talking about PACT’s latest adventures and the stories were always captivating and contagious. Even from a distance, I always felt like part of the crew. I have to admit, it was the perfect cure for FOMO.

Over 120 days after being casually referred to as “Office Jill” this so-called favour I did for my friends became something huge for me. Since the final days of PACT’s voyage, I’ve been considering other ways to spend my now-free time, but I still haven’t found an experience to fill that void (I think Scott calls it Post-PACT depression).

To Hollye, Marissa, Scott, Marc, James and Peter:  I will always be your OJ and you guys will always be my crew!



The Pelican Case

A Pelican Case is a brand of a waterproof, hard-shell, protective cases.   On canoe trips this product is a safe home for items of delicacy (cameras or sunglasses, to avoid being crushed) or importance (money or passports, to avoid being soggy).  These cases were very abundant during our paddle across Canada.

That is the Pelican Case; this is a case for the pelican.  There are pelicans in Canada.  Over the trip I have developed quite an enthusiastic fondness for this bird.  I could ramble on…I will try to be pelican brief.

Back in February, while discussing this adventure with a colleague who had paddled Lake Winnipeg before, she informed me that on the lake we would encounter pelicans.  I remembered the pelican.  When I was five, the family went down south.  Disney was incredible, I finally met Goofy and there were pelicans.  From my memory- a scrawny, brown and dirty white, squawking, fishy-gross, undesirable nuisance.

To my surprise, just two days past Edmonton, the pelicans joined our canoe trip much earlier than expected.  Not at all resembling the nuisance recalled from childhood, the American White Pelican is the second largest bird in North America.  They are majestic, magnificent, stark white angels of northern rivers and lakes. 

Being a very big bird with a very big beak, one may assume the noise of hundreds of these species can be heard from thousands of paddles away, however in all of our encounters with the birds, not a screech was squawked.   The pelicans are amazing and abundant.  Feeding and flying in flocks of hundreds along the North Saskatchewan or gliding effortlessly alone along the Winnipeg lakeshore in the sunset, these beautiful birds became our spirit guides, joining us for over 75 days of our adventure.   


While our journey saw an abundance of animals; from moose to black bear, wolf to porcupine, tick to mosquito and everything in between, the American White Pelican remains my most memorable wildlife moment on the paddle across Canada tour.   

PACT Portaging- Loon Falls Portage

PACT was canoe-dancing between Minnesota and Ontario, along the boundary waters on the edge of Quetico Provincial Park.  They were excited to get into canoe tripping country- real portaging, real campsites, canoeists, pictographs and wild blueberries. But before they could get there, two portages stood in their way.  As they paddled towards the first portage, a set of railway tracks rose out of the water. 

The signs said; Loon Falls Portage. Portage Hours: Daily.  All Dogs Must Be Leashed. Current Portage Rates: Round Trip $40.00 One Way $20.00.   And underneath all that signage, there was the Bat-phone.  If you pick up the phone between certain times…daily, a man might answer. He sits in a hut atop the summit of the portage, looking down on Loon Lake to the east.    PACT requested a one-way ticket from the deep voice on the other end of the line and soon out in the distance the Bat-Trolley rolled over the hill and entered the water in front of the canoe.  The boat was tied securely to the trolley and one more phone call was made. “It’s ready sir.”

The PACT crew ran along side the tracks, taking pictures and giggling like idiots as the canoe was towed on the electric pulley along the railroad tracks.  After the boat was untied from the trolley and tied securely to the dock, PACT scrounged through their day packs to find one ten, one five, a twoonie and three loonies and walked back atop the hill to the little hut.  

Everyone was excited to meet Batman.  The Paddle Across Canada Tour is a non-for profit charity, crewed by six people without jobs, so the crew was hoping that with a little sweet-talking, Batman would wave the twenty dollar fee. ($20.00/6 crew members=$3.33 each, saved to be put towards student loan payments) 

Batman, although seemingly positive about the potential of “outdoor education”, said he could not support our cause due to his passion and commitment towards education indoors.

PACT happily paid.

It was time to leave, but Batman stopped PACT at the door.

“Just one more thing….”

 The PACT crew got back into the canoe with prizes! One Bat-soda and one Bat-bar each! For free….or at the cost of twenty dollars!!

Thank you Batman.



Pact Portaging-Turtle Lake Trolley

Whether opportunity, rarity or hilarity, on a few occasions PACT was able to take a load off their shoulders and experience some less traditional methods of portaging. 


If you find yourself paddling about twenty nautical miles south of Sioux Narrows, Ontario, lost in the sea of islands that creates the Lake of the Woods, you may happen upon the Turtle Lake Canoe Portage.  PACT did not.  PACT passed the canoe portage to locate the Turtle Portage Channel.  A canal created in 1963 to eliminate a 50 mile detour boaters would have to take to get from Sioux Narrows to Nester Falls in the south of the lake.   Recently however, it was realized that the pristine waters of Whitefish Bay, north of the channel, were being compromised by waters to the south and channel was eliminated.    In its place was installed PACT’s first experience in new-age portaging- a hand-powered trolley.  

After familiarizing ourselves with Trolley Operations and Safety Rules (Provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources of Ontario) we secured our vessel to the dolly and began to crank the giant red wheel.  About three minutes and 30 meters later our canoe dipped nicely into the calm, swampy waters of Turtle Lake.  An amusing episode that put the power of portage into our arms.


A Party Fit For A Voyageur

Talk about a show of support!

Last Thursday over a hundred PACT supporters packed into Roots on Bloor Street, as we celebrated the successful completion of our journey with a sensational evening of happiness, hugs, photos and cocktails.  We are incredibly thankful for the friends, family and representatives of our three Outdoor Education partners, CCI, PINE Project and Camp Outlook, who took the time to join us. Kudos to PACT member Peter for speaking on behalf of the paddlers and being able to successfully get through it. Thank you to all who joined us on this special night.    

To have a wrap party at Roots was very fitting for us. Without their support, our journey would not have been possible.  Thanks to the stores for continually sending us letters and art of encouragement, and to those lucky stores who had to hold onto our food boxes while waiting patiently to unload them onto the paddlers. We always looked forward to your warm reception.

We must also take this opportunity to thank Sue Kupka and Robert Sarner.   Sue’s cubicle was filled with boxes of beans, lentils, extra underwear and toilet paper for months while she arranged all of the PACT resupplies across Canada.  She was also dealing with PACT issues, emails and packages from loved ones.  Working alongside Office Jill, she too made our lives in the woods possible.  

Robert has been a huge advocate for PACT since beginning and spoke very kind words on Thursday evening and presented PACT with a donation from Roots customers and employees from all across the nation.

The evening continued down the road at the Quail and Firkin on Younge. Once again our social convener Anne Goad, who so masterfully arranged our going away fundraiser, organized a great time for all at the Firkin. She even involved her parents as photographers, snapping candids from the Roots store to the wee hours of the night. Thanks to the Goads for their involvement and support.

Great times and a late night had by all.

Thanks everyone. Just Thanks.

What’s next? There will be more picture sorting and the continuation of blog writing, with special trip reflections from each of the paddlers. We are currently in the planning stages of a speaking tour. Please email if you think our story would be right for your group.


an open letter of gratitude to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac

Letter written for the Quin-Mo-Lac Alumni Newsletter, Spring 2013. Three of the six crew members spent their formative years and met at the residential summer camp.

Dear Camp Quin-Mo-Lac


We all subscribe to the benefits that summer camp brings to children, and certainly the lasting impact of a particular camp located on the south shore of Moria Lake.  I would to present another piece of evidence towards this forgone conclusion.

Beginning this spring, three QML Alumni are embarking on an adventure that directly stems from the experiences and friendships that we garnered at Camp Quin-Mo-Lac. Hollye Ervine (AD 2009), Scott Graham (AD 2006-7) and myself are joining three others in paddling across Canada to benefit Outdoor Education organizations in Ontario. The journey spans from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, to Lachine, Quebec – a distance of roughly 5000km. In a nod to our Canadian heritage, our crew will be paddling in a 25’ voyageur canoe. We feel this is the ultimate Canadian experience, combining landscape, history and community – all things instilled in us during our formative years at QML. We learned how to canoe, learned environmental stewardship and the importance of team building and community living from our beloved and humble summer camp home.

We are thrilled that the QML Board of Directors have donated the paddles for our journey. We will be using long rectangle bladed voyageur style paddles, manufactured by Voyageur Canoe of Millbrook, Ontario.

On behalf myself, Scott and Hollye, I would like to deeply thank the Whites, Camp Quin-Mo-Lac and its community, for the years of guidance, compassion and for instilling a love for the Great Outdoors that have lead to our grand adventure.  

In Sincere Gratitude,

Peter Vooys

Camp Quin-Mo-Lac’er from 1993-2007

We Made It!

On Thursday, September 12th, PACT arrived in Lachine, Quebec, completing our 5000km journey across Canada.  After a night of thunder and lightning, we began day 120 in the pouring rain.  A few hours later, the sky was blue and the sun was shinning  as we arrived at the Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site. 

Thanks so much to all of our family and friends who came out for an incredible welcome! 

While our journey may be over, PACT’s mission is far from complete….



Please continue to check our website for new blogs, photos and events!

We have many more stories, photos and memories to share.



If you happened upon PACT paddling by this summer and snapped a good photo or two, we’d love to add them to our archives.   Please email pictures


PACT Finale Celebration

Our journey over and we can't wait to celebrate with all of our biggest supporters! Roots Canada is hosting a welcome-home reception, so come on out to see some photos, hear about our journey and give us a high-five! Snacks and refreshments will be provided, and the party will continue at The Quail and Firkin for those interested in making a night of it!

To attend please send an email to with your name and number of guests before September 24th.



6:00 - 8:00pm

Roots on Bloor

100 Bloor Street West

Toronto, ON

M5S 3L3


After 8:00pm

The Quail and Firkin

1055 Yonge St.

Toronto, ON

M4W 2L2




We would love to share our story!  If know of any schools, outdoor education centers, camps, community groups or ANYONE who would be interested in a presentation, please email us at


Too close to call?

We're a little behind on our blogs. Let me explain.
We've been pushing ourselves lately. As we have moved into more and more urban landscapes, our trip has taken on an 'Amazing Race' quality. There are still the challenges of a long distance canoe trip, plus friends and family checkpoints, resupply pickup checkpoints, and media/PR checkpoints. All of that sounds the norm for PACT, but we've added another twist - a deadline! We have picked an end date which has given us a great adrenaline rush to the finish in Lachine.

We are excited to announce our predicted arrival date and time. Come welcome us at the finish line at the Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site for September 12th, 2013, at 3pm.

This will put us at 120 days on trip.
We're currently in Ottawa with just under 200km to go.
Will we make our prediction?
The countdown is on!

The Adventures of Bert and Tommy

After an amazingly delicious and entertaining meatball-filled night on Squirrel Island, we had to say goodbye to the tightly knit community of cottagers and push on towards Montreal. Or so we thought.

Peter had been battling a stomach bug for just over a week at that point and he was only getting worse. His body needed rest and our hosts, John and Sylvia, had offered to give Peter some much needed TLC for the day and drop him off wherever we could get to that evening.

Thing is, it’s a 6 person boat. It’s a 6 person trip! Bert to the rescue. Amidst the Squirrel Island gang was a 75 year old legend named Bert. He built his own cabin from scratch. He can fix anything in the world, and he and his wife Ramona still paddle around the island every time they get the chance. Bert knows a lot about the old voyageurs and even more about the outdoors, so he volunteered to fill Pete’s seat in the boat. “WHY NOT?” he said.

He was welcomed with a huge headwind on Lake George that persisted throughout most of the day. He injected the boat with a new personality and 75 years of stories to share. He showed us shortcuts and kept the boat moving at a steady pace. It would be hard for anyone to jump in and paddle stroke for stroke with a team that had been doing it for 98 days but he never stopped pushing, until we got to his brother in law Tom’s cottage down the lake where we set up for the night.

Tom and his wife Sharon welcomed Bert and our team with caesars, pulled pork, homemade pie and inexplicable excitement and hospitality. As we continued to celebrate Bert’s accomplishment and share jokes and stories back and forth, it became obvious that Pete would benefit from another day of rest under Sylvia’s care.

Tommy had witnessed Bert’s day in our boat from his jet ski and after a couple of drinks he realized that he could do it too. From there ‘The Diesel’ was born. Tommy took the day off planning his 70th birthday to singlehandedly paddle the 5 remaining crewmembers to Thessalon - roughly 45km east of his property.

We woke up, regrouped from the party the night before, ate another delicious breakfast on their patio and started towards our destination with a full fleet in the canoe. Tom not only shared his gifts of accents and comedy with our team but he even showed us the area’s hidden gems. We got a chance to cliff jump off Whiskey Rock and used the day’s tailwind to sail right into a beautiful beach site for lunch.

At the end of our day together, Sharon met us in Thessalon with another delicious meal as we debriefed another memorable day in the boat. Bert and Tommy not only helped us get to where we needed to go, but they kept the conversations new and exciting and showed us that spontaneity and adventure are not just for the young. They fit in perfectly and treated us as equals. They made 70’s look like the new 20’s and truly inspired us all.

To Tommy, Sharon, Bert, Ramona, Sylvia, John, Gregg, Ilene and everyone else we got to meet over the past couple of days…THANK YOU! You treated a bunch of strangers like family and we will always remember you for it. We love you!

Night at the Museum 2 – Superior Push

Day 94. We’d heard big winds were in the cards for day 95 so we wake up with the plan to push. Big lake paddling is all about taking advantage of what the lake gives us so when Superior decides to give us calm waters, it’s time to go.

The day starts much like the rest. 5am hits and we pack our lives into the boat under the stars still glowing from the night before. We heat up some left over dinner for a big filling breakfast, pick our seats for the day and we’re on our way.

It is tradition to offer gifted tobacco to Superior at certain checkpoints along the way to score some extra brownie points with the man upstairs. Superior appreciated the gesture and the lake was flat as a pond while the sun popped up like it was the middle of July. In hopes of taking advantage of the calm waters, we make a big jump across the lake from Agawa Bay to the Montreal River Harbour. Being far from the shore during this stretch we also give an offering of fresh urine to the almighty Superior. The lake is into it!

A couple of snacks later we find ourselves eating lunch at Point des Mines. We are happy with our progress and begin to throw around the idea of pushing past our initial goal of Pancake Bay. Tuna Pasta has a way of lifting our spirits.

On we go. To our surprise the lake is getting calmer and calmer with every stroke we take. Kilometers continue to fly behind us as we enter a very quiet portion of the day. Every so often the banter dies down and everyone’s brains drift into our own little worlds.

As we round Mamonaise Point we see a motorboat approaching in the distance. It had been a while since we’ve bumped into a set of friendly strangers on the lake so we turn in closer and they began to direct their putt-putt back towards us. As we approach each other it becomes obvious that the passengers are not our usual wave partners. Hollye’s father Peter and Uncle Daryl had met up with their friends Mike and Mel who have cottage on the lake and they had somehow commandeered a fisherman’s boat in search of our team.

The shock of the surprise visit is accompanied with stories and drinks in the middle of the lake. SMILES GALORE. After a quick tow and a kidnapping of Hollye, Mike and Mel invite us for lunch the following day at his cottage 30km in the right direction. It was around 6:30pm at the time and it seemed like a lunchtime arrival the following day would be a natural fit.

NOPE! We unloaded our heaviest gear into their motorboat and decided we would get to their cottage that night. Why not? Family reunions and dreams of home cooked meals were enough to motivate us to put our heads down and go. Another night in the nature museum was on!

As she always seems to do for us, Old Mama Nature cooperates. The sun sets pinker than a family of flamingoes and the moon rolls out a perfect strip of light along the lake towards our destination. We didn’t stop our boat once. With a lighter load we cruise around point after point. When the wind picks up, it injects our arms with adrenaline and when it dies down we proceed to offer thanks to the lake in the form of more fresh pee off the side of the boat. It’s the least we can do.

Midnight hits and we round the final bend towards Papa Ervine and his fleet of enthusiastic welcomers. The whole shoreline was asleep but we saw a flashing light in the distance. It had to be them! Mike and Mel shined their high beams at us and we returned the favour with the dying batteries on our headlamps.

We hit their beach at 12:30 in the morning –  after an 18 hour day of paddling WE HAD ARRIVED. Mike, Mel, Peter, Daryl and Hollye greeted us with excitement and shock. Mel’s father Romeo, could hardly control his enthusiasm as he screamed, “I told you they’d make it, I told you they’d make it!” over and over. We made it! It was time to celebrate. Arguably our best welcome yet and in large part from complete strangers. Nothing says congratulations like burgers, beers, log cabins, cozy beds, saunas and GREAT company.

With a fresh breakfast in our bellies and an amazing sleep behind us we had the energy to put the last leg of Superior behind us. Thank you to the best hosts around and the family who made the drive, only to make for the best reward we could ever dream of. Night paddling is always an amazing ride but the way this one ended will make it an outstanding PACT memory forever. 




We get asked a lot of questions, but here are the most frequently asked questions for a voyageur canoe trip.

Q: Where are you going?
A: Our destination is the Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site.

Q: Where did you start?
A: Our departure point was the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.

Q: How long is your trip going to take?
A: We estimate to finish the trip on Day 120.

Q: What is your canoe made out of?
A: Fiberglass body, hardwood seats and thwarts

Q: How much does your canoe weigh?
A: 270 lbs

Q: Do you have to portage the canoe?
A: Yes.

Q: How many portages are there on your route?
A: We estimate there to be 40 portages. We try to line as many as we can, so a definite total will come after the trip.

Q: How many people does it take to carry the canoe?
A: Four minimum. Six is preferred for portaging on the shoulders as the uneven and tight trails cause the weight to be distributed unevenly. Six allows for the stability we need.

Q: Who sterns the canoe?
A: We switch every position in the canoe every day. This reduces muscle fatigue and boredom.

Q: Do you switch paddling sides?
A: Once a day.

Q: Do you all paddle at once?
A: Yes.

Q: What do you eat?
A: Breakfast: Oatmeal or quinoa with a raisin and nut medley.
Lunch: A rotating combo of quinoa, lentils, chick peas, pasta and spice.
Dinner: A rotating combo of beans, pasta, rice, tvp and spice.

A full menu will be posted soon.

Q: How did your group meet?
A: We met as staff at Camp Quin-Mo-Lac, Tweed, and Camp Tamakwa, Algonquin Park.

Q: Were you friends before the trip?
A: Yes.

Q: Do you still get along?
A: Yes.

Q: What is the total distance?
A: 4780km - with swerving we're bumping that up to 5000km.

Q: How much distance do you cover in a day?
A: We travel an average of 50km a day. Lowest kms travelled in a day: 10km
Highest kms travelled in a day: 84km

Q: What is your route?
A: Though we travelled many waterways, here is our route simplified:
North Saskatchewan River
Saskatchewan River
Cedar Lake
Lake Winnipeg
Winnipeg River
Lake of the Woods
Rainy River
Rainy Lake
Namigon Lake
Quetico / Boundary Waters
Pigeon River
Lake Superior
Lake Huron - North Channel
                  - Georgian Bay
French River
Lake Nipissing
Mattawa River
Ottawa River

Q: Have you seen any wildlife?
A: Yes. See the posted "Ranger Reports" for details.

The benefit of Camp Kooch-i-ching and outdoor education

By David Sieck (Marissa's Dad)       


Forty years ago was the last summer I spent swimming in the neighborhood pool.  George Simmons worked with my father and had insisted for the past year that my parents send me to a 600 acre island outside of International Falls, MN for my entire summer break.  George’s family had been going for generations and it would be a “perfect place for me.”  I was not sure if I was being punished or rewarded; I was TEN.

        Why was it “perfect” for me? I was all boy in a different world than the one we know today.  I would wake up, eat breakfast and head out on my adventure of the day.  This would include hiking through the woods on the other side of the bayou and rerouting a stream with rocks because the damn just would not hold back the water.  I got in my share of trouble: throwing rocks through the neighbor’s window and shooting water guns at a passing police car.  Even with my antics, Mom never worried because I always came home at the end of the day ready to eat anything and everything.  I was easy care- grab the hose, rinse me down in the driveway, feed me and I was out for the night.  How was I to know then that this island and the camp “Kooch” would become the backbone of my character development from a boy to a MAN.  Kooch gave me the opportunity to learn what I needed to be successful in life: courage, work ethic, honor, kindness and the ability to “seek the joy of being alive.”

        It was June 6th, 1974; eleven year old boys do not really have a grasp of the world and certainly are not aware that they are starting to make choices affecting their future character.  My role model, to that date, was my father; who spent most of his time working hard in the office and in the yard. To the man who had the wisdom to send me to Kooch and found the way to make it happen for 10 years, I am eternally grateful.  I always thanked him, but more importantly I have tried to honor him through my actions by being the son, husband and father of which he would be proud.  It was up to Mom to help me pack and guess what I was going to need during my adventure in the wilderness to the great north.  Living in Houston, TX does not prepare you for the very different world of the Boundary Waters.  For the summer, I brought sheets for my bed. (Really?! I only brought sheets for my bed!)  Houston in June, July and August has temperatures ranging from 100F that get down to 75F at night.

        I left the house at 5:30am to catch a 7:00am flight from Houston to Minneapolis where I would change planes and later fly to International Falls with a bunch of boys from all over the U.S.  So much for a simple trip, the plane to “The Falls” had a problem so we flew to Duluth where we caught a bus to the border.  We arrived at the boat dock at 10:00pm to catch a barge for the 1 mile journey to the Island.  Good thing I was exhausted, because I had NO idea where I was, why I was on a barge loaded with gear and what to do until they told me to grab my stuff and head to Cabin Four.  Thankfully, Simmy and Ole (my counselors) were there with flashlights to guide me over the rock outcroppings, through the trees, up the hill and into a cabin with a hand painted number four on the plaque next to the door.  Everyone in the cabin knew I had finally arrived when the spring loaded cabin door slammed loudly behind me.  They showed me my bunk and told me to grab my stuff to make my bed and hit the sack.  In 10 minutes I was covered in my sheets and in 15 minutes my teeth were chattering so hard that Ole immediately knew how to quiet the noise, three wool Hudson Bay 4-point blankets later and I was sawing logs.  It was an early lesson in the communal lesson of survival in the Great Northwoods.  I had pride knowing I actually managed to travel 1500 miles across the United States from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border in one day.  I arrived in one piece with everything on the packing list for the eight weeks of camp fun, wilderness adventures and all of my sheets.  

        The first step in my journey was complete. Time to grab the knife and matches! George was right- this was a place for boys.  In reflection, Kooch was a place where young men are given examples of honor and hard work then are provided with incentives and opportunities to put them to practice.  I was taught the proper way to handle, care for and use my new survival tool.  We all took the responsibility seriously and did not cut ourselves or each other in play. My matches were soon covered in wax to protect them from the elements and a canoe flip during our trips.  I am not aware of anyone ever burning down a cabin.  I was having so much fun that I did not realize I was learning these lessons.  The lessons were ingrained in my memory like the life lesson tapes our parents provide us: “go to the bathroom before we head out on a long drive” and “gentlemen always hold the door for a lady.”  At Kooch it was “The law of the woods” and it is amazing how many times in the past 39 years I have repeated the phrases over in my head.  During several key events in the summer Little Council and Grand Council a larger central fire was set  up with four arms each with 3 fingers to walk us all through;


From the Great Central Fire,

I Light This, the Lamp of Beauty.

Be clean- both yourself and the place you live in.

Be strong- understand and respect your body. It is the temple of the spirit.

Protect all harmless wildlife- and be ever ready to fight the wild of the fire in the woods.

From the Great Central Fire,

I Light This, the Lamp of Truth.

Speak true- word of honor is sacred.

Play fair- foul play is treachery.

Be reverent- worship the great spirit and respect all worship of him by others.

From the Great Central Fire,

I Light This, the Lamp of Fortitude.

Be brave- courage is the noblest of all attainments.

Be silent- it is harder to be silent than to speak, but in the hour of trial it is stronger.

Obey- obedience is the first law of the woods.

From the Great Central Fire,

I Light This, the Flaming Lamp of Love.

Be kind- do at least one act of unbargaining service each day.

Be helpful- do your share of the work.

Be joyful- seek the joy of being alive.

This is the Law of the Woods.

These words helped me through many incidents in my life when I was unsure how I should act.  They helped me in high school, college and business.  I was able to apply them on our wilderness trips and with my football teammates.  When I was introduced to the Honor Code at Princeton, it was already a familiar concept to me: “Speak true- word of honor is sacred.”  The Wilderness trips gave us many opportunities to apply the lessons.  There were times when the days got long, the weather was bad, the insects were devouring us and when we finally made it to the campsite we needed to dig down and find the will to find wood, set up the tents, prepare, serve and clean up the meal and finally stow everything for the possibility of foul weather passing through the night.  These were the times that tested our character, our ability dig deep and complete the task; help others who needed an extra hand (you can not finish a portage if one person is stuck in muskeg at the beginning of the trail) even though you finished your task you could “Be kind- do at least one act of unbargaining service each day.”  During one of my trips down the Bloodvein River we came across a tree burning from a lightning strike during the previous night, we did not hesitate because we knew we had to “Protect all harmless wildlife- and be ever ready to fight the wild of the fire in the woods.”  

        I wake up every morning, thankful for the many opportunities and blessings I have received.  Never forgetting my favorite Law from the Flaming Lamp of Love, remember to always:

        Be joyful- Sieck the joy of being alive!



As soon as we entered the Rainy River, we noticed something peculiar about our right hand shore line. The air was a little heavier and had a hint of fast food while bald eagles were stationed on every treetop watching our every move as if "robotically". The land was strangely devoid of a second official language, lacked coloured money, and was uncomfortable with anything foreign. We were in the shadow of America.

It's easy to pick on our two-party neighbour to the south, but being concerned primarily with wilderness travel, two differences need to be highlighted.

Portage Pronunciation - This is not a tomato - tomato debate. There IS a correct way to say the word that describes the act of hauling your canoe and gear overland between two bodies of water.
"Por- taage" pronounced with a soft "a" reflects the word's French root. This is the preferred Canadian and correct pronunciation. It's fun to say, and gets you in the mood to count the upcoming metres.
"Port-idge" the incorrect American pronunciation has a short and abrupt feel to it, not at all reflecting the gruelling action the word is meant to describe. What a gross indecency to the origin! Imagine our offence when we encountered the double harsh sound of Grand Portage! Sacrebleu! Gone is the history and romance of Le Grand Portage!

Rods - Having no need for the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and its worldwide adoption of standards, metric does not apply in the United States. In the US, complex systems of measurement still run rampant.
As good Canadians, we measure our por-taages in metres. (Note the "re" proper Queen's English spelling). A metre is a practical unit. It is equal to the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1⁄299,792,458 of a second. It can be converted into other metric units by just moving the decimal! You can easily visualise a metre from your grade school days of running the 500m in track and field and dividing by 500! All these reasons make it the perfect measure of distance over a por-taage.
The Americans measure their port-idges in rods. A rod is an antiquated imperial measurement handy in the calculation of a standard acre. They came into popular use when King Henry VIII wanted to know exactly how much land he had just acquired from dissolving the Catholic Church. Interesting, but where does this fit into canoeing?
A rod happens to be 16 1/2 feet long, also the length of a standard tandem canoe. So a port-idge of 35 rods would be the equivalent of carrying your canoe 35 times its length or translated into Canadian as 176.022m (0.352 of a 500m dash).

All told, we spent 11 nights in Minnesota, from the Rainy River to Lake Superior. We criss-crossed  "the longest undefended border in the world" with ease; lunch in Ontario, dinner in Minnesota, not once encountering a border patrol agent or experimental surveillance drone. We learned to forgive and then love mental math, with every portage containing the same equation: visualise carrying a canoe x amount of times, then convert the rods to feet to metres and then back to track and field visualisations. However, we never got over the non-French infused pronunciation of Portage.

the pine project

A series highlighting the good works of the OEE partners to which PACT will be donating.

the p.i.n.e. project

1) What is the PINE Project? What was the inspiration behind it?

pine is an organization created to deeply re-connect people to self, others and nature. we run programs of all kinds for children, adults and families, and aim to create a culture where connection to nature is inherent, helping support a more resilient future generation.

we use an amazing fusion of arts, song, handcraft, nature education and naturalist learning, and all manner of wilderness skills to help children become more inspired about adventures outdoors in any weather than they are about video games and TV.

wrap all of this together and you end up with a local organization empowering people to re-create community and culture with nature as a core component.

this leads to a happier, healthier, more creative and resilient generation of children, ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

2) How does it impact the community?

the on the ground research thus far is best told through a story i hear all the time:

when I ask people how they heard about pine, many of them tell me the same story, over and over again I hear it:

I was out with my kids and some friends of ours, and they got talking about this program that their children are participating in called p.i.n.e.

It sounded like my childhood: playing outside, learning cool things and exploring the parks and valleys.
When I watched the other families' children, I realized how different they were acting than my own... they were running all around, climbing on trees, very alive and sure of their bodies. They had so much energy, and were totally happy off in the forest just making up games and creating and solving problems. My children were sticking with me on the path, somewhat timid to follow the others, and it really dawned on me how this small element (outdoor nature time) was totally deficient in my kids life, and yet it was showing up in a big way in areas such as confidence, competence, creativity, imagination, physicality and so much more.

It blew me away to see the difference, and when I asked the other parents how their kids became so at home in the woods, they just said: "p.i.n.e."

3) What does it mean to you personally?

the p.i.n.e. project means the world to me personally. it's a manifestation of my gifts and passions, as well as the gifts and experiences of so many others that have come before me. our programs are influenced by the cumulative experiences that i've been lucky enough to have with skilled mentors in my life, helping me to learn and grow in ways that the modern education system never supported. with gifted and creative staff, we're able to add inspirational components to help these programs fit the children, adults and families that we work with, and add to the community many of the things they're asking for.

in many ways, p.i.n.e. is the opportunity i wish i had as a child, and it's based upon a model of education that i've seen work wonders time and again.

it's inspiring, fun, challenging, and somehow both light and playful as well as deeply transformational. our mentors and programs help kids to just become whoever it is they are hoping to be, while learning all about the impacts and consequences (good and bad) of our choices and actions on ourselves, each other, and the natural world.

i truly see it as a means to solve some of the significant problems that we face in the world.

the couchiching community initaitive

A series highlighting the good works of the OEE partners to which PACT will be donating. 

Ross McIntyre answers some questions about his work with The Couchiching Community Initiative in Orillia.

1) What is CCI? What was the inspiration behind it?

The CCI began over two years ago. Since 1946, Camp Couchiching has seen the transformative power of camp and outdoor ed. In 2011, we made plans to explore other outlets for these great experiences. Camp and Outdoor Ed. have an incredible impact on participants. It can boost self-esteem, increase attitudes towards physical health, improve environmental awareness, lower stress and anxiety, and help with socialization. Since the  camp and outdoor ed. experience is such a valuable one, we asked 'how else could we do this?' The answer was the Couchiching Community Initiative. 

A community focus made sense. Every camp is it's own micro-community and, typically, they are excellent examples of healthy and balanced communities. This thought was the seed for what we've grown here in Orillia.

2) How does it impact the community?

The impact on the community has been growing in scope with the CCI itslef. We focus on Programs and Partnerships. Regarding programs, we visit local schools as a cost-free way of engaging with camp, we're involved with initiatives like National Youth Week and the community gardens, and we also have taken a lead in founding a local organization called Stand Up! Orillia Against Bullying to localize and address the issue of bullying. Most camps are inclusive and bullying is a small or non-existent problem. We thought there was something to this that we could learn from and share and we were right. 

Partnerships have been another huge part of our community engagement efforts. There are always collaborative and reciprocal possibilities with other organizations so we've spent a lot of time finding those good fits. We are truly moving towards a more collaborative and less competitive society and non-profits and charities seem to be the first organizations really making use of this approach. We've had great success in partnering with Georgian College on several programs, both ours and theirs, and the Orillia campus is dedicating a great deal of resources to community education and partenrships. We are both on the same wavelength and are willing to commit to action, which is how the win-win situation emerges. The same can be said of the Orillia Youth Centre, Boys and Girls Club of Orillia, Couchiching Conservancy, Mariposa Songwriter's Club, and nearly all the local schools.

It has been great to have some successes over the last two year but, as we continue to grow, we hope the real impact will be seen 5, 10 , or 20 years down the road.

3) What does it mean to you personally?

There is absolutely nothing that I'd rather be doing or working on. Having worked with youth for over 10 years in a variety of capacities, I realize that I personally need to be in a role that involves creating social value. I tend to put a lot of time and extra thought into my work and, acknowledging that, I realized that I'd better be doing something that I was passionate about.

Camp Couchiching staff and directors at all levels are open to change and trying something new. This openness is key, especially in times where many camps, non-profits, or charities are plateauing or worse. I feel that if there's benefit to what we do in camps and outdoor education, we should actively be eliminating the idea of an 'off season'. This, of course, requires resources and people to champion the idea BUT it requires less resources than you think and, as far as champions of this cause go, there are many more of them out there than you think too.

So, for me the CCI is a rallying point for my passions: camp, outdoor ed, youth engagement, and community building.