Members of the 1984 Rendezvous Fort William Brigade reconnect on the steps of the Great Hall at the world's largest reconstructed fur trade post
A band of rough and tumble outdoor rec'cers gathered at Thunder Bay's Fort William Historical Park in July to celebrate the 30-year-anniversary of their grueling 12,000 km trek over land and water along Canada's first true highway.
In 1984, close to 40 adventurous Lakehead students, faculty, and staff joined the Rendezvous Fort William Brigade. The brigade was organized to mark the bicentennial of Ontario and the mighty Northwest Company – one of the dominant forces of the fur trade during the 1800s.
For Eric Cline, a student expedition member and now a technologist with Lakehead's School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, this journey was an unforgettable period of his life.
"We spent two months paddling 36-foot-voyageur canoes following the traditional fur trade route. We started in Lachine, Quebec, and arrived at Old Fort William on July 1, 1984," he explains.
In the midst of long days paddling and portaging, the brigade made time to give presentations to thousands of schoolchildren and the general public.
"It served as a recruitment tool for potential students and dramatically raised the profile of Lakehead University and the outdoor recreation program in the parts of Ontario that we travelled through," Eric says. "It also provided a lasting legacy in the form of a fleet of voyageur canoes that are still with the outdoor recreation program."
The 1984 expedition – made possible through a partnership between Ontario's provincial bicentennial committee, Fort William Historical Park, and Lakehead University – was so successful that it led to four more trips by later groups of Lakehead students.