HACC canoeists greet the arrival of the Ontario Northland train at Moose River crossing near Moosonee. They loaded the canoes on and started the trip back to Toronto in June 1981. (Photo - Michael Peake)


Riding the Rails with Via

By THE HIDE-AWAY CANOE CLUB

The Hide-Away Canoe Club and Via Rail have a long and cherished heritage. In fact, northern wilderness canoe travel and Canada's railways are linked in many ways. For more than a century, trains have led Canadians to the limit of the wilderness and served as an unparalleled jumping off point for northern travelers. The phrase 'North of Steel' conjures up a romantic era of dark, impenetrable forests and rivers raging ever northward.

For Winisk to The Bay, our last canoe trip, we used Via Rail from Toronto to North of Steel in Savant Lake, Northern Ontario, and back again. In fact, we began with a portage through Toronto's Union Station, right to the train!

There is only one train in Labrador -- and we used that for our first on-line trip in 1997, North to Ungava. The famed Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway has been a route to the pristine Labrador interior for nearly half a century. But it's not the train for us this year, since we were heading to the northern Labrador coast. But we had to be a bit creative this year to shoehorn the train into our plans because we're beginning this trip at CJ'01, the massive Scouts Jamboree in P.E.I. So, we're taking the train from Toronto to Moncton, via Montreal, where we will drive the short distance to P.E.I. Our principal sponsor, Woods Canada, will meet us there with most of our trip goods including our three Old Town tripper canoes.

We will relish the relaxing 24-hour break to Moncton, enjoying the fine hospitality of VIA Rail on their wonderful eastern train -- The Ocean. The months leading up to this trip have been filled with planning and preparation (like what you're reading now). It's a safe bet you'll find us in the Park Car, in the Bullet Lounge at the very end of the train -- no doubt regaling some poor soul with endless canoeing stories. But, hey, the drinks are on us!

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