French Canadian adventurers Jennifer Gosselin and Pierre Pépin captured our imagination when they sold all their possessions and made a 15-month, 6,840-mile canoe journey around eastern North America. When they finally finished the trip last summer, the couple promised this was only the first leg of the Wild Raven Adventure NorAm Odyssey.
Now, Gosselin, Pépin and their dog, Jasmine, are set to embark on a two-season expedition that will see them paddle across northern Canada twice, including an extended leg on British Columbia's Inside Passage and a transit of the northern Great Lakes. The expedition kicks off in Winnipeg this week, when Wild Raven team will drag their canoe up frozen Lake Winnipeg to get a head start.
We caught up with Gosselin and Pépin to learn more about their 8,800-mile, 200-portage odyssey:
Pierre Pépin, Jennifer Gosselin, and Jasmine. Photo Julius Titak
CANOE & KAYAK: Tell us a bit about the route—why you chose it and your interest in the canoe as a traditional vehicle to explore Canada.
Wild Raven Adventure: From Winnipeg, we will ice-canoe and winter camp on Lake Winnipeg towards the town of Grand Rapids, Manitoba. Thereafter, we will paddle the Saskatchewan River, Sturgeon-Weir and Churchill rivers. We will continue our adventure to Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan, to Peace River, Prince George, B.C. and the Pacific Ocean. After paddling the coast to Vancouver, we will begin a complete west to east crossing of Canada in 2017, all the way to Moncton, New Brunswick.
Canoeing gives us the opportunity to really get back into nature and use all our senses. It gives us the time to see, smell, and hear the wilderness, and to feel and taste our effort to travel. It is a green way to cover distance. It is also an historical means of transportation. Canada was developed one paddle stroke at a time by the voyageurs. We will have to privilege to retrace the paddle strokes of many great explorers, including Alexander Mackenzie.
Upcoming route for the Wild Raven Adventure NorAm Odyssey marked in orange. Route completed in the summer of 2015 marked in yellow.
What are you most looking forward to on this trip?
We are excited to be able to retrace part of the old route used by the North West Company, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and the voyageurs. Even if portages don't seem to be appealing, we are looking forward to do them. Just thinking about walking in the same path as the voyageurs gets us excited. We are also looking forward to seeing different Canadian provincial and national parks, like Wood Buffalo National Park, Clearwater River, Pukaskwa National Park and Georgian Bay.
Your last expedition was through a more "human" landscape. Are you looking forward to more a wilderness trip?
We are definitively looking forward to journey into the wilderness. We know that we will still meet some people and that those encounters will be fascinating. At the same time, there is a big part of us that wants to witness nature at its best. Canada is vast and most of it is wild. We hope to see all kinds of wildlife and to witness the change of seasons.
Do you feel hooked on long-distance tripping? Can you explain how these mega-trips have taken hold of your lives?
We are totally hooked on long-distance tripping. For us, it is a style of living. We are nomads. We sold everything, so our canoe and our tent are our full-time vehicle and home. On trips like this we have the minimal impact on the planet while covering a lot of distance. It is hard to explain how we feel about it, but freedom, inner peace and accomplishment might be the best words to describe our feelings.
Pierre Pépin at home. Photo Jennifer Gosselin
Are you looking forward to trying out any new gear on this trip? What do you think will be critical to your journey?
On this trip we will need to use dry suits on many occasions. Thanks to Kokatat, we will wear the Radius model, a two-piece Gore-Tex dry suit.
We'll also need a freestanding tent that will allow us to make camp easily on any type of landscape. Hilleberg offered us the 3-person Saivo model. It is a very well made tent. We loved using a Hilleberg Keron 3GT tent on the previous expedition, and we're looking forward to using a different design.
Finally, we've diversified our food, because on this trip we won't be able to shop for groceries very often along the way. We're using food drops, with meals sponsored by Happy Yak and Clif Bar providing our snacks and energy bars. It is going to be yummy!
Learn more about the Wild Raven Adventure NorAm Odyssey:
— Follow Wild Raven Adventure on Facebook
— Watch a promo video on YouTube
— Stay tuned to C&K for expedition updates this June and September