Prepare to be inspired! Gerry and Celine from Ontario are paddling across Canada by canoe starting May 2015, following in the footsteps of the original Canadian Voyageurs of the 18th and 19th centuries. I met Celine and Gerry via Twitter, while taking part in their excellent #mywildcanada chats. Now so close to their departure date, I decided to catch up with Celine to get the answers to our burning questions about their incredible five month-long trip!
Gemma – How did you plan this trip?
Celine – We have always loved going on adventures. We are originally from Ontario and have spent 8 years out west, 4 of which on Vancouver Island. When we flew back over Canada three years ago, we were awed by how vast, how beautiful and how much wilderness Canada has. An idea starting forming in our heads. We want to document all this to show the world what an amazing country Canada is. We feel it’s very important to protect this wilderness – the more people who experience and fall in love with nature, the more people will want to protect it.
Our first thought was to walk the Trans Canada Trail. When we researched it online, we saw that many people had paddled across Canada (1967 Cross Canada canoe race, Paddle Across Canada Tour) and then we came across Mike Ranta who paddled solo with his dog across Canada – twice.
That was it. We had found true inspiration in Mike – he went through all kinds of horrible weather, had all kinds of tests and problems – but he ALWAYS stayed positive. We are following part of his route and have even stopped in at his place on the way out west to go over the route with him.
For the past year and half we have been planning and saving for this trip. We bought a Kevlar expedition canoe and supplemented our gear with the items we would require for this trip. We went on social media and spread the word – the support and following we are getting is outstanding. People are as excited about this as we are, if that’s even possible!
knowledge and know-how
How much canoeing and backcountry experience do you both have?
Although we have not yet gone on a five month expedition, we do have extensive backcountry and wilderness experience. We actually live off grid in the wilderness and much prefer it to being in a city, by far. We both have Advanced Wilderness First Aid Certification and have paddled canoes all our lives. Previously working as kayak guides leading trips off Mayne Island (Vancouver Island), we have ocean and whitewater experience as well.
In 2010 while living on Vancouver Island, we spent 180 consecutive days out in the wilderness, living off the land, sleeping under the stars. It was the best time of our lives. That is where we learned how little you need to survive, it is where we became one with nature.
One of our best and most memorable trips was a 2 week kayak/camping trip on the mighty Athabasca (Alberta) in 2008 with friends of ours. It was April and the river was at its peak; she was fast!
Gerry grew up in the wilderness of northern Ontario – he spent his childhood in the bush. I, on the other hand, grew up in Ottawa – but I spent weekends at our family cottage on the Ottawa River where I found peace and tranquility, where I felt truly at home.
What is one experience you are particularly looking forward to?
Just one? Hmmm…. Tough one. There is so much we are looking forward to – just getting out there and getting away from it all is one thing. When submersed in wilderness, it is where we feel the most alive and the most at peace. Spending time in nature is like recharging your battery.
We are all born with an inherent sense of adventure; crossing Canada by canoe is an adventure of a lifetime. We are also very much looking forward to crossing Lake Superior despite it being the most challenging (and dangerous) part of our journey. Lake Superior is a force to be reckoned with, it’s true, but after hearing how spectacular the scenery is from Mike Ranta, it is the part of the trip we are most looking forward to seeing and conquering! I like facing my fears, we like challenges.
How will the logistics of the trip work?
As Inreach Canada Explorer GPS ambassadors, finding our way and staying in touch is a breeze. We can send and receive texts anywhere along our route. The Explorer uses the most powerful satellite system. We can also post live to Social Media from anywhere – we will be taking our #mywildCanada Twitter chat on the road…uh the river….with us. We can call for help if needed at any time – we have great piece of mind with the Explorer from Inreach Canada.
All of our friends and family will be able to follow our journey on Mapshare; this feature is very reassuring to our children. There is a tab on our Facebook page linking to it.
We have lots of high-tech gear that will make our journey much easier than the original Voyageurs who used to travel this route trading furs for decades. We have a lightweight (54 pounds) Kevlar expedition canoe built for whitewater, ocean, and large lake crossings. We have a Biolite stick stove, so we don’t have to haul fuel for 5 months and can charge our electronics while we cook! We have a lot of electronic equipment (cameras, GPS, tablet, Iphone) so we also have solar panels to charge them.
Our tent is a nice big four season one, for those days when storms or high winds ground us. Our clothes consists of quality drywear and lightweight fabrics which are designed to perform in the conditions we will encounter. We have an extensive first aid kit, lightweight sleeping bags, air mattresses, Osprey backpacks with liners, wet bags for our clothes (only a few changes).
We are bringing lots of dehydrated food with us (over $1000 worth) and have prepared delicious meals and snacks ourselves, saving lots of money. We have a 30L food barrel which will come with us – we will have food mailed to us, as needed by our son – we will just text him ahead of time with the name of the town we want him to ship to.
Mike Ranta has told us to expect lots of amazing people offering to feed us and put us up for the night, we have lots of invites already to stay with people along the way. We will occasionally stop at hotels or lodges, mainly to upload media, respond to emails and of course have nice long hot showers!
What do your family and friends think about you going on this trip?
Hahaha! It’s quite funny the different reactions that we have gotten. At first everyone pretty much thought we were nuts. Not until recently did people start to believe us; people thought we were just dreaming. But now as the trip approaches and they have seen the preparations we have made and the seriousness with which we have attacked this, they are excited for us, and also quite envious. We have received lots of encouragement from people wishing they could do the same. Our goal of inspiring others is already working!
Are you bringing some personal or luxury items along that you cannot live without?
We have been living the “less is more” lifestyle for a long time now. Not always though; we have lived extravagant lifestyles in the past. Everything we are bringing on this trip is either for safety or survival. I don’t think we even own any luxury items anymore! We don’t have the room or the need, for that matter, for non-essential items. Oh, wait a minute… I thought of something! Gerry is bringing real maple sugar for his coffee – 9 (250g) bags of it. It will also serve on our pancakes and in our bannock. It is a pure and natural source of energy – so technically it is a necessity!
Is there anything you will particularly miss while on the trip?
I highly doubt it! The one thing we would miss is talking to our kids, but we can do that everyday via text. We will not miss any of the “modern conveniences” of life, because we gave those up years ago. We absolutely love being out in nature; it’s where we feel the most at home. In fact, when we go out for long periods of time, coming home is always the hardest part. No, we won’t miss anything at all. We will be in our element, taking in all of Canada’s beauty. We will have the chance to see lots of wildlife – that’s what we have missed – from our silent and stealthy canoe. We will see bears, coyotes, wolves, moose, all kinds of birds, catch all of kinds of fish…. And we will document it all – so the city people can see what they are missing!
Celine and Gerry’s aim is to inspire people to get outside, connect with nature, live their dreams! They want to teach that “less is more – the less you have, the less you need to work for and the more you can enjoy life!”
Thank you so much for this interview, Celine! You two are such as inspiration to us.
Read Next: A Week On Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit.