The SASSAW 2021 expedition to Temagami in Northern Ontario was a tremendous success. After cancelling the trip in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, SAC was committed to running the trip, “come pandemics or high water,” both of which we dealt with on the journey.
The 15-day expedition was taxing, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The variety of terrain we covered was incredible: large lakes, small lakes, up and down streams and rivers, short, heinous, and unmarked portages, and one of the highest points in Ontario. All in all, the trip highlighted the beauty of our home province.
In total, we paddled 250 kilometres, portaged 30 km, and hiked 10 km. We lived out of tents and did all our cooking over fires. It was one of the most challenging SASSAW trips in recent memory. The trip was beautiful and rewarding for the eight hardy souls from SAC – two staff members and six students.
We experienced two weeks of warm and dry weather in August, allowing us to swim each day during lunch and at the campsite, keeping us clean and refreshed. Along the way, we cleaned and improved each campsite and portage trail we encountered. As we travelled through the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Mr. Gate led a discussion each night from the book 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act.
A highlight of the trip was spending a day with Indigenous elder, Alex Mathias, in the old-growth red and white pine forest of Lake Obabika, a forest that was nearly cut down in the 1980s.
Moments of great learning and spirituality were abundant on the trip, and we are committed to bringing greater awareness of Indigenous and reconciliation issues back to SAC. Not only were we able to learn from an Indigenous elder, but we also had the privilege of witnessing powerful impressions of the people who roamed the Temagami Lakes region for thousands of years. From rock paintings to red pine trail blazes, the remnants of Indigenous culture were intensely powerful. We all left the trip with a new understanding of what being a Canadian means.
With new perspectives (and tired arms), the focus remained on leadership throughout the entirety of the trip. We work directly as hands-on leaders, learning and practicing valuable skills like selflessness, enthusiasm, and precise communication. These skills had to be on point to power through tough days on the water, bog, and river.
We have walked away from the trip stronger mentally, physically, and spiritually and with a great sense of accomplishment. The values instilled in all of us as a result of journeying through the challenging Temagami wilderness will last a lifetime, and so will the memories of an excellent 15 days spent together as a team.
Story by Spencer Thomson ’22, Deputy Head Prefect
Staff: Angus Murray and Kevin Gate
Students: Aaron Mizrahi, Ashton Hunter, Colton Phillips, Qayson Kara, Spencer Thomson, and Theo Mirkopoulos (Noah Green did the class and pre-trip)