Geocaches for trails west and north of Atikokan
Julia Bailey (Atikokan Progress*) - Path of the Paddle Association is preparing to combat cabin fever this summer with a new project to make the route more interactive.
The Dryden Regional Trail Committee has begun placing geocaches along the Maukinak Trail (which connects Atikokan with Dryden) and the Migizi Trail (west of Dryden) trails. The association plans to have thirty placed in total.
One of its purposes is to "give people a chance to connect with the trail in a completely different way," said chair Clara Butikofer. This, the association believes, will draw in more travellers.
The geocaches will also serve a navigational purpose on the route. There are areas where navigation to a portage requires a GPS and well as maps and compasses, and the geocaches will offer more waypoints along the route.
Ingall Falls is home to the first and currently sole geocache on the route. The project has been put on hold due to COVID-19, but a large number of other geocaches should be placed over the summer by volunteers, Butikofer said. Each one contains a logbook for finders to sign, small knickknacks for trading, and a Path of the Paddle patch for the first people to discover it.
The geocaches will provide year-round entertainment as the will also be easy to find in winter.
Path of the Paddle has other projects in the works, too. It received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to do trail work once the lockdown is over.
Workers will be contracted to go through sections of the trail to check on camps and portages that were used very little in the past year, Butikofer said. Contracted workers will also provide extra foot traffic to ensure trails will be in great shape for visitors. They will also report on the quality of the trails (and any problem areas) so maintenance can be done more efficiently.
Similar work was done in 2018 along the Path of the Paddle when blowdowns east and west of Atikokan blocked portages. The association put in a great deal of effort to clear the trail thanks to funding from The Great Trail (TransCanada Trails), Hydro One, and Souris River Canoes.
The Path of the Paddle ambassador program - in which the association hired adventurers to travel the trail throughout the summer, report their adventures online, and promote the trail in the host communities - is currently on pause. However, Butikofer said it could perhaps, in the future, run again as it did from 2014-2019. She said that with new advertising coming soon, more people will be interested in travelling the Path of the Paddle and it should see plenty of traffic.
With the pandemic, it became evident by summer 2020 that people were looking to experience outdoor adventures more than ever before. She said these travellers will be inspired to discover Atikokan and area through association marketing.
The Quetico Trail, one of six trails on Path of the Paddle, passes through Quetico Provincial Park. It even directs travellers down Main Street in Atikokan, where they can stop to eat and visit.
Two benches will be added along the Path in Nym Lake parking lot and Dawson Trail, giving "people a nice little place to rest," Butikofer said. Sign-in books will be placed with the benches for visitors to write their names and where their adventure started.
Overview maps of the Path of the Paddle and memberships are available for purchase at Quetico Headquarters on Saturn Avenue, the Dawson Trail gift shop, and online at PathOfThePaddleAssociation.com.
*This article has been reproduced from the original printing in the Atikokan Progress.