Vermont Canoe Paddlers Complete 1200-Mile Voyage to Canada's James Bay
Local Matters Year-End Update
file: Paul Heintz
Apr 25: On Easter Sunday, 10 summer camp counselors took off from Salisbury’s Lake Dunmore on a 1200-mile canoe trip to the shores of James Bay in northern Ontario.
Their goal: to paddle five handcrafted wood-canvas canoes into the northern interior along ancient trade routes. Also, to raise nearly $220,000 for scholarships to Keewaydin Dunmore, a 102-year-old Vermont camp known for its epic canoe trips into the Canadian interior. Many attended Keewaydin as campers before they graduated to counselor status.
When Seven Days caught up with the crew of “Expedition 2012” to canoe alongside them for a few days, the group was 200 miles and 13 days into their spring journey. Having paddled up Lake Champlain and down the Richelieu to the St. Lawrence Seaway, they were working their way west along the Ottawa River. Spirits were high. Many camp songs were sung.
Update: It took 67 days, but all 10 members of the Expedition 2012 crew made it to James Bay and back to Keewaydin in time for the summer camp season.
“It was pretty awesome most of the rest of the way through,” reports crew member Bill Souser, who’s now back at Penn State University, where he’s completing a doctorate in history.
The boys encountered bear, moose and countless beaver — and paddled through an eighth of an inch of ice on one northern lake. The hardest stretch, Souser says, was a remote section of Ontario’s Whitefish River, which was obstructed by numerous logjams — some six or seven feet high — prompting them eventually to portage to another river entirely.
“We worked and worked and worked that day and only got three miles done,” Souser says.
In spite of the occasional hardship, morale held up — particularly as the group reached the larger, open waterways leading to James Bay.
“It became more and more likely that we were going to make it to the Bay and we were going to make it back for camp,” Souser says. “Everybody was super stoked about that.”
Where are they now? Three crew members are traveling the world, five are living and working in New York City and another is teaching in New Jersey. Group videographer Kyle Sauer is culling footage of the trip for a film, and Souser himself is working on a book about the voyage.