Algonquin Outfitters

If a Canoe Could Talk

Routes of ChangeIf the Algonquin Outfitter’s fleet canoe, Swift Prospector SP7.6 could talk, what would she say? She would tell you that she is the only AO canoe with a name. She would tell you she was named Margaret Rioceain by a fellow named Markus Pukonen. He paddled her on the earliest stage of his around-the-world fundraising tour called Routes of Change. And then, she would tell you that recently a new story has been added to her cache. On June 25, 2017 she carried my family and I for a historical event on Canoe Lake, connecting us with 149 other canoeists and one of Canada’s oldest traditions.

I paddled this very special canoe for the 150 For 150 event – a celebration of Canadian Canoe Culture and Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.  Algonquin Outfitters were huge supporters of 150 For 150, and continued their generosity by loaning me Margaret Rioceain to paddle during the celebrations.  As we joined 149 other canoes on the lake to form a circle around a specially designed flag and sing Oh Canada, I was overwhelmed as I tried to take in the unforgettable moment. Here I was with my little, outdoors family. We were surrounded by an incredible community of paddlers, in a canoe that had helped launch a journey of epic proportions just a two years ago, on an iconic lake in a national treasure of a park. I’ve had a few days to absorb this, and I am still awestruck. In fact, I’m struggling to find the right words to explain how important and wonderful the 150 for 150 event was for everyone involved.

Canadian Canoe Culture is permanently infused into my family’s lifestyle.  We’ve paddled lakes and rivers close to our home in Guelph, and we’ve explored the waterways of several Ontario Provincial Parks and crown lands.  Algonquin Park has a special place in our heart and our journey as we raise our daughter to be a paddler and have a deep appreciation of Ontario’s outdoors.  Algonquin Outfitters has been a big part of  that journey over the last few years, providing us with gear and services to help us explore the iconic park, so I was thrilled when they enthusiastically came on board as a 150 for 150 event sponsor. I was even more thrilled when they asked me to paddle the Margaret Rioceain. You see, I was more than a participant in the event. I was also part of the official Canoe Crew – the organizing committee who worked diligently to pull together something that would celebrate Canada’s anniversary and the canoe as an essential component of Canadian history….. a history that extends far beyond the 150 years we’ve been together since Confederation.

The 150 for 150 event was a vivid display of canoe love and brash patriotism by everyone involved. There is no question that a few tears were shed as we banged our paddles against the gunwales in unified applause, and sang Oh Canada as we floated on the lake, holding our boats together in a circle. Clearly, Canadian canoe culture has a permanent place in the hearts of many families across Canada. (It even has a place in the hearts of a few US friends who joined our circle of canoe love. We deemed them honourary Canadians for the day. I think I even heard one of them say “eh?”.  And I know for a fact that a couple of them sang our national anthem just as loudly as the rest of us.)

If the Margaret Rioceain could talk, I think she would tell you that her roots are firmly planted in Canada’s history. She would quietly acknowledge that she has had her photo taken many times for the sake of raising money for a cause, for awareness, and for celebrating historical moments. I think she would proudly tell you that she has carried more families and friends than she can count to places of big and little adventures in the outdoors. She might confess that she’s held some freshly caught fish. Definitely, she has carried kids and dogs and kilos and kilos of gear. Most importantly, she will tell you that she is simply a canoe who has always held the promise of connecting with nature, experiencing the outdoors, and travelling our waterways in Canada’s most traditional way.

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Gayle Labuz

“Get Outside. Go Explore. Do Stuff!” Gayle is an outdoor/lifestyle blogger who wants to inspire people to get outside, go explore and do stuff. She’s a hiker, camper, paddler, snowshoer and geocacher who loves to get outside with her daughter and husband. Gayle’s blog, Sometimes Eventful is all about her adventures with her family in Ontario’s outdoors. Gayle is also the host of the #WeGetOutside Twitter chat, which runs every Tuesday from September to May.

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