Western Living Magazine
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Feeling patriotic? Get in touch with Canada's rich history and explore the legendary voyageurs trail. Think northern pike fishing and drinking Quebecois wine while taking in the beautiful Prairie scenery.
I’m in the middle of our country (Aikens Lake , in Eastern Manitoba to be exact) landing a boat on a rocky shore channeling my inner Courier de Bois—if I was any more Canadian I’d be the recipient of multiple Heritage grants. From the moment my boat touches the rocky shore, I’m in motion: leaping over the gunnels, scrambling up the granite slope, hustling down a barely-there wilderness trail, zigzagging around windfall and basically booking it toward the body of water that lies at the other end of this historic fur trade portage.Portaging— a verb we all know but scant few of us have done.My journey to Canada’s past began three days ago in Winnipeg, on the shores of the Assiniboine River, with a stick shaking in my hand. Cameron White, my canoe guide, is encouraging me to poke a disk in the middle of a small, but serious, metal contraption.The violent snap of the device makes me jump. “That,” says White, “is the sound of the cash register.”Beaver was once considered the most valuable fur in the world (thanks to European high society’s obsession with hats made from the pelts) and traps such as these were the tools of a trade so valuable that our country pretty much has those goofy looking hats for its existence. Watercraft, like the hefty eight-person canoe I’m about to climb into, were the delivery vans of this precious cargo.Ever since my grade-four teacher, Mrs. Hartley, entertained our class with dramatically told tales of the fur trade—and brought in beef jerky, lard and blueberries so we could mix up (and gag on) a modern day version of pemmican–I’ve dreamed of following the watery pathways of the voyageurs, travelling as they did in a canoe. Well, not travelling exactly as they did because their lives were hard and I don’t do hard. Days of soft adventure and a soft bed at the end of those days are more to my liking.