Backpacking it in Algonquin Wilderness Area
A quartet of local women recently completed a rather rigorous hiking experience. Peggy Mercer, Kay Clouse, Cheryl McGrath and Sibyl Smith came together for their sixth trip, having previously tackled Manistee River Loop, Jordan Valley Loop, Pictured Rocks, Porcupine Mountains, and last year Isle Royale.
“There’s nothing like a good bonding experience, depending on each other in the remote wilderness of Canada,” said Peggy Mercer.”It took trust and teamwork to tackle 3300’ of elevation gain backpacking in the Algonquin Wilderness of Ontario, Canada.”
“We all agreed “this was the hilliest, most rugged and challenging trip yet. Plans are already underway for next year.”
We at N3 World Headquarters were intrigued and set out to ask the foursome about their experience on these hikes. We were able to catch up with 3 of the 4.
It seems Ms. Mercer was off on yet another hike.
This is your 6th trip. How did these begin and what was the motivation to do this?
Kay: I introduced Cheryl to Peggy’s Wander Women group in about 2017, and she asked me if I’d ever consider backpacking again. I had done Isle Royale as a young woman and she had done the Wind River Range in Wyoming. I really was, though I was concerned about sleeping on the ground again at my age! We checked with Peggy and Sibyl who had similar concerns- but as we explored options and equipment, we decided to try a couple of short trips to see how we liked it. We all loved the outdoors and hiking, and the challenge it provided to be totally on our own!
Cheryl: I backpacked 100 miles in the Wind River Range, Wyoming, in 2015. I enjoyed the adventure and challenge and wanted to use my equipment again. In 2018, I asked a few hiking friends if they would be interested in backpacking and Kay, Peggy and Sibyl said yes. Our first trip was the NCT/Manistee River Trail loop to see if everyone could sleep on the ground…and we did. I like to spend time with friends, explore new areas of the country, get out into nature, soak up beautiful scenery, listen to the sounds of silence, and take on new challenges.
Sibyl: I am the only one of the 4 who had never backpacked before, . On Wander Women hikes I would listen to women talk about past adventures and think that sounded like fun but obviously, something that I had missed out on in my youth. Then, I heard Cheryl and Kay discuss their plans to backpack (I believe I heard Isle Royale mentioned, a life long dream of mine), and wanted a couple more women to join in. I jumped in with borrowed gear for the first trip to the Manistee River loop. The rest is history.
What have been the challenges?
Cheryl: Dealing with unexpected difficulty of a trail, carrying 36 pounds on Day 1, and setting up tents during a huge thunderstorm.
Sibyl: We have had to adjust distances and routes based on our specific abilities, taking into consideration the weight we are carrying and our ages.
Kay: There really have been few. We work well together as a team and all share in the planning and responsibilities. One challenge this year was learning a new technique to hang our food bags to keep bears out of them at night!
What have you learned about yourself?
Sibyl: The others I have learned that I am pretty tough and have the grit to keep going when the trail gets rugged. Participating in challenges like this is self enhancing in body , mind and spirit. When we began these trips I was just an acquaintance of these women. Now, they are dear friends. I feel blessed have been included.
Kay: I have learned that I am strong and capable of learning new things. I’ve learned that when my body hurts I probably need to work on getting stronger or stretch, and not give up on it! I’ve also learned to deal with my fears about wildlife by learning about their behaviors and habits.
I’ve learned that Cheryl is a spread sheet guru, Sibyl is a mapping whiz, and Peggy is a great logistics organizer, with all being willing and capable to put in the time to get conditioned and be ready to go. They each have many more strengths and are totally dependable.
Cheryl: I’m capable of doing more than I realized. Also, I’ve learned to be more flexible than in the past. We make a good team! We’ve learned how to communicate effectively and work through issues together. No one is a “chief” and everyone has a voice in solving problems.
What do these trips mean to you?
Kay:These trips are one of the highlights of my year. I love the friendship, camaraderie and laughter we all share, as well as the planning process and anticipation. There is also a lot of satisfaction in looking back at our accomplishments.
Cheryl: The memories we’ve made together are priceless. Backpacking on Isle Royale had been on my bucket list for many years and, in 2022, we made it happen.
When I look at pictures from our adventures, they always bring a smile to my heart. Kay, Peg and Sibyl are special friends and I count on them - on the trail and in my life.
Sibyl: These backpacking trips are a highlight of the year, The anticipation builds as we meet and make plans throughout the year. The sense of pride and accomplishment that I feel afterwards is worth all of the sore muscles.and tired feet.