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Sierra Club Wilderness trips and expeditions
   Chapter: Michigan (Mackinac)
   Group: Central Upper Peninsula (CUPG)
   Leader: Michael Neiger, Marquette, Michigan (Web site; e-mail; bio)


Sierra Club Special Canadian Expedition:
18-Day Algoma Highland's
Montreal River Ski Expedition

On this 18-day expedition, we'll pull cargo sledges with skis through 200 klicks (km) of unspoiled Canadian bush. Wild and raw, much of this remote area remains just as the voyageurs, trappers, prospectors, miners, and loggers found it centuries ago: picturesque, awe-inspiring, and unforgiving.

January 20 through February 6, 2006

Expedition info:

Type of trip:

Extreme winter camping manhauling expedition-size cargo sledge with skis

Review journals and photos from similar wilderness trips and expeditions


Southwest of Chapleau; northeast of Sault Ste. Marie; southeast of Wawa
Algoma and Sudbury Districts
Ontario, Canada


8 a.m. January 20 (Friday) to 6:00 p.m. February 6 (Monday).

Host club:

Trip leader:

Michael Neiger, Marquette, Michigan (Web site; e-mail; bio)

Experience level:

Expert-level--this long-range expedition is only suitable for the expert-level winter expeditioner who is in peak physical condition and who is fully equipped and experienced in sledging and bivouacking in Arctic conditions: down to minus-50-degree F standing temperatures and up to 6 feet of snow.

Participants must have prior, long-range, Canadian, winter-camping experience with the leader.


Extremely strenuous--only suitable for the expert-level expeditioner who is in peak muscular and aerobic condition. 18 days worth of fuel and rations combined with Arctic-grade gear will require the expeditioner to man-haul a sledge weighing upwards of 120 to 140 pounds.

Due to the remote nature of this expedition, it will be unsupported with no intermediate resupply possible.

Additional participant requirements:

  • Notice: please review the home page on this Web site for general wilderness tripping requirements
  • 18 years old or older
  • non smoker
  • non drinker
  • drug free
  • adventurous spirit
  • proficient swimmer

Specialized equipment required:

  • In-pocket survival kit (knife, matches, firestarters, compass, whistle); Sierra Club survival kits can be borrowed free of charge
  • Expedition-size sledge (five, first-come, first-serve,  $5-rental, club sledges available by prior arrangement)
  • Ice-rescue picks
  • 50-foot of floating rescue rope in throw bag

Rations required:

  • Breakfasts--18
  • Snacks--19
  • Lunches--19
  • Dinners--19
  • Backup rations--included in above

Rations and stoves info

Bivouac advisory:

This is not a basecamp trip. We will move each day and bivouac in a different location each night, often deep in the bush and far from roads, dry & level campsites, potable water, toilets, and fire rings.

Fees and costs:

  • Sierra Club fee: $25
  • Rental of club sledge: $5
  • Crown Land Camping Permits: $160 Canadian per person (Nonprofit waiver to be applied for from the MNR by leader should eliminate this fee)
  • Northbound Algoma Central Railway Train fee: $35 Canadian
  • Southbound Algoma Central Railway Train fee: $63 Canadian

Sign-up info:

  • Sign up by November 20 required so specialized equipment (backcountry skis, arctic bindings, expedition suits, and sledge modifications) can be purchased, modified, and tested out on a pre-trip sledge outing in the eastern Upper Peninsula
  • Contact trip leader to sign up


165-km Expedition itinerary:

This signature, expert-level, Sierra Club Wilderness Expedition will involve up to 18 days of skiing with expedition-size cargo sledges in tow, much as the Ojibwa traveled for 100s of years before us. Our 165-klick (km) route will take us through some of the wildest bush Ontario, Canada has to offer.

Along the way, we'll visit Lake Superior-watershed rivers such as the Batchawana, Montreal, and Agawa. We'll pass near the foot of Mount Baldy--a 2005-foot peak--as well two old growth areas: the Ranger North Conservation Reserve and the Tik Lake Conservation Reserve

The starting point for our expedition will be Mekatina, an old, long-abandoned Algoma Central Railway (ACR) station located at Mile 64. To get to Mekatina, we'll board the ACR's historic bush train in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and relax in a rugged box car with our sledges, or in a heated passenger car where beverages and snacks are served, as the train rumbles northward.

From Mekatina we'll sledge eastward along the Mekatina Trail, an old, unplowed bush road used used by trappers, fishermen, hunters, and camp owners traveling on skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles.

From the Mekatina Trail we'll begin working our way northward along the Point Lake Trail as well as the Hydro Line Trail, Cow River Trail, and Wildcherry Lake Trail, parts of which also serve as a remote snowmobile trail connecting Sault Ste. Marie with Wawa.

Eventually, we'll depart the Wildcherry Lake Trail and work our way westward along the Agawa River Trail, which leads to the old, long-abandoned ACR Millwood Station at Mile 132.

Once we arrive at Millwood, we'll flag down the first southbound ACR train headed for civilization in the Sault.


Day 0--Thursday, January 19:

Day 1--Friday, January 20:

  • 8:00 a.m.--Purchase boarding passes at Algoma Central Railway (ACR) Station in the Sault
  • 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.--Ride ACR No. 631 Train north from the Sault at Mile 0 to Mekatina at Mile 64
  • 2:00 p.m.--Sledge 5.7 klicks (km) from 165 km to 159.3 km
  • Route--Mekatina trail
  • Bivouac--Gavor Lake

Day 2--Saturday, January 21:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 159.3 km to 147.9 km
  • Route--Mekatina Trail
  • Bivouac--Hanes Creek/Lake

Day 3--Sunday, January 22:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 147.9 km to 136.6 km
  • Route--Mekatina Trail/Ranger North Road West/Point Lake Trail
  • Bivouac--Alice Lake

Day 4--Monday, January 23:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 136.6 km to 125.2 km
  • Route--Point Lake Trail
  • Bivouac--SE of North Chub Lake
  • Note--An old-growth area, Ranger North Conservation Reserve, located along west side of trail

Day 5--Tuesday, January 24:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 125.2 km to 113.8 km
  • Route--Point Lake Trail
  • Bivouac--NE of Emerson Lake

Day 6--Wednesday, January 25:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 113.8 km to 102.4 km
  • Route--Point Lake Trail, Ranger North Road East, Hydro Line Trail
  • Bivouac--SE of Batchawana River

Day 7--Thursday, January 26:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 102.4 km to 91.0 km
  • Route--Hydro Line Trail
  • Bivouac--SE of Cow River

Day 8--Friday, January 27:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 91.0 km to 79.7 km
  • Route--Cow River Trail southwest of hydro line
  • Bivouac--East of Brutus Lake
  • Note--Lower Montreal River Falls 3 klicks west of kilometer 80

Day 9--Saturday, January 28:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 79.7 km to 68.3 km
  • Route--Cow River Trail southwest of hydro line, Hydro Line Trail
  • Bivouac--Pewee Lake, east of Montreal River
  • Note--Upper Montreal River Falls 3 klicks west of kilometer 74

Day 10--Sunday, January 29:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 68.3 km to 56.9 km
  • Route--Hydro Line Trail
  • Bivouac--1 klick north of Jeep Lake
  • Note--stop for feast at the remote Halfway Lodge on Jeep Lake at kilometer 58

Day 11--Monday, January 30:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 56.9 km to 45.5 km
  • Route--Hydro Line Trail
  • Bivouac--Shanty Lake
  • Note--An old-growth area, the Tik Lake Conservation Reserve, located along west side of trail

Day 12--Tuesday, January 31:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 45.5 km to 34.1 km
  • Route--Hydro Line Trail, Wildcherry Lake Trail northeast of hydro line
  • Bivouac--West of Wildcherry Lake
  • Note--Heated shack may exist at kilometer 38

Day 13--Wednesday, February 1:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 34.1 km to 22.8 km
  • Route--Wildcherry Lake Trail northeast of hydro line
  • Bivouac--SW of Berry Lake

Day 14--Thursday, February 2:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 22.8 km to 11.4 km
  • Route--Wildcherry Lake Trail northeast of hydro line, Agawa River Trail
  • Bivouac--Agawa River east of Zero Lake
  • Note--2005' Mount Baldy 1.5 klicks north of kilometer 22

Day 15--Friday, February 3:

  • Sledge--11.4 klicks from 11.4 km to 0.00 km
  • Route--Agawa River Trail
  • Bivouac--Agawa River at Millwood, ACR Mile 132

Day 16--Saturday, February 4:

  • Half or full backup day
  • Board ACR No.632 Train at Millwood Mile 132 at 2:00 p.m. for ride south to Sault Ste. Marie at mile 0

Day 17--Sunday, February 5:

  • Full backup day (No southbound ACR train)

Day 18--Monday, February 6:

  • Half backup day (2:00 p.m. southbound ACR train; no further trains until Thursday)


Destination info:

Tourism and travel info:

Emergency contacts:

  • Ontario Provincial Police, 1-888-310-1122, or 9-1-1
  • Ambulance, Wawa, 705-856-4203
  • Hospital, Wawa, 705-856-2335
  • Algoma Central Railway, 1-800-242-9287
  • Sierra Club Outings Department 24-hour help line: 1-888-outings


Land Nav Team Info:

Topographic maps (required)

  • 1:50,000 Blackspruce Lake 41-N/9
  • 1:50,000 Batchewana 41-N/1
  • 1:50,000 Welcome Lake 41-O/4
  • 1:50,000 Bulley Lake 41-O/5
  • 1:50,000 Grey Owl Lake 41-N/8

Topo map ordering information
Topo map waterproofing & GPS prep

2006 magnetic declination specs:

  • Magnetic declination for Lat 47° 20' 00"N, Lon 84° 00' 00"W: 07° 57' west
  • UTM easting grid line to meridian line deviation: 02° 01' east
  • UTM easting grid line magnetic declination: 09° 58' west

GPS configuration specs:

  • Grid coordinate system: 1000-meter Universal Transverse Mercator Grid (UTM)
  • UTM grid horizontal map datum: 1927 North American Datum Canada (NAD 27 Can) or 1983 North American Datum (NAD 83), depending on edition of map
  • UTM grid zone(s): Zone 16 and 17
  • UTM grid hemisphere: northern hemisphere
  • Unit of measure: metric
  • Battery type: lithium for deep cold or long-range use; alkaline for 3-season use
  • Battery-type setting: select type of battery (lithium, alkaline, or Ni-Cad); battery discharge-rate differences affect meter accuracy

Misc nav setup:

  • Roamer UTM plotter scale(s): 1:50,000
  • Ranger pacing beads: metric--9 100-meter beads; 4 1-kilometer beads
  • Magnetic declination setting on compasses: 0° of offset

    More land nav team info


Wilderness skills and resources info:


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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

 — John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

Content Copyright © 1984-- 2006-03-26
by Michael A. Neiger

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