We are running into so many Loopers on the waterways and it seems we see the same faces for a few days then lose contact. Then new faces (along with familiar faces) appear. Some folks have been boating for years, some are on their very first boat. Some plan to boat forever and some plan to sell their boat at the end of the journey, moving on to something else.
We were fortunate enough to meet a couple that have been on the Loop for 7 years and haven’t completed it yet. Some people leave the boat for a month or two, or the winter, and then plan to start again in the spring. While we were in Peoria we had heard stories of a couple canoeing the Loop.
We happened to meet them in Peoria, and then again in Grafton. I found their story fascinating and exciting. The couple – Jennifer Gosselin (34) and Pierre Pipen (55) – met when Jennifer was enrolled in an extended outdoor leadership course. The course was taught by Pipen. Having the same interests, love blossomed and the two became a married couple. They lived in Quebec City, Montreal. Jennifer was raised in the area while Pierre was raised, in his words “all over Canada”. Pierre joined the Army when he was 17 and became part of a joint venture between the Canadian and U.S. Army special forces. He did his first guide work in the wilderness at the age of 18.
They both enjoy all types of outdoor activities, from snow shoeing, wilderness survival, back packing, hiking, and canoeing. While on a Christmas holiday canoeing in the Everglades they met a local guide who spoke of the “Voyageurs”. Historically these mainly French Canadian people engaged in the fur trade, moving furs from the wilderness to populated areas. All this done by canoe. Jennifer told me that while in school the only mention of fur trade was about the Hudson Bay company. Not much, if anything, was taught on the Northwest Fur Company, which was very active at the same time as the Hudson Bay Companies, and a chief rival. The Northwest Fur Company was established in 1783 with its wilderness headquarters in Grand Portage, now Minnesota, on Lake Superior. Jennifer and Pierre became interested in the travels of the Voyageurs and decided that they would like to follow their route from Grand Portage to Quebec City. The first long distance canoe trip of 2300 kilometer was planned to take 8 weeks. They paddled the distance in 8 weeks, with a 2 week hold up due to poor weather conditions.
They returned to the everyday work scene, Jennifer was employed by a Canadian Software company as an Operations Manager. Pierre worked in construction, with his specialty being theater stage construction. Both Jennifer and Pierre grew disenchanted with everyday life and spoke of the stress of work, the problems with dealing with other people stressed about their lives, and the negativity that they dealt with on a daily basis. Pierre and Jennifer decided to sell everything and begin a “NorAm” Odyssey trip down the great rivers of North America. They had not heard of the “Great Loop” until after they started their adventure. Now members of the AGLCA they have posted on the site and met a number of the members.
Starting from Ottawa, Canada, the two have paddled through Canada to the Georgian Bay, the North Channel of Lake Huron, down the West coast of Michigan and currently, into and down the Illinois River. So far the trip has covered 1500 miles. Joining them on their adventure is their dog Jasmine, a Karelian Bear Dog. Jasmine joined the team as a pup and has been with them ever since. When I approached the campsite Jasmine met me prepared to defend the camp, but soon found that I was not a threat and became quite friendly. She desperately tried to play with Toots and got our old girl moving a little. Being from the Montreal area Jasmine is used to commands solely in French. There has been a lot of interest in the “NorAm” Odyssey and their campsite has an almost constant stream of people asking questions and chatting about the adventure. With French as her primary language, Jennifer speaks English but does not consider herself fluent. However, guests find she is more than capable in communicating. Pierre also speaks primarily French, as well as English and Spanish. Both are very easy to talk to and Dearest and I were lucky to be included in a couple of evening get-together around their campfire with snacks. We wish them the best of luck and safe travels and hope our paths cross again. If you want to learn more, or follow them on their adventure, go to their website and blog at www. wildravenadventure.com. We both feel so fortunate to have met these people tackling this amazing adventure.
Until next time, follow your dreams and make it happen.
I just wanted to let you all know that this post is a joint venture between Cynthia and myself. So, when you see that the text is laid out better than usual you can thank Dearest for her efforts.