Since 1991 – VQ celebrating 25 years!
2016 is a special year as Voyageur Quest is celebrating 25 years leading Algonquin Park “wilderness adventures for the inquisitive spirit.” The journey to date has been more than we could ever have imagined.
Starting out in August of 1991, we had a strong desire to build a life around the wilderness. This desire translated to a deep conviction that the outdoor life is exciting and good for for the soul. Mixed with solid outdoor instructor experience, this conviction helped us navigate the early years. Like any great adventure, the Voyageur Quest ship forged ahead with energy and enthusiasm but with an ucertain outcome and no fixed destination. Our early years had us leading trips all over Ontario, Utah’s Canyon lands, and even as far away as Ecuador. We learned invaluable experience running our first season of dog sledding in Temagami, hiking in Pukaskwa, and running 14 day canoe trips to the old growth forests of Obabika. Since 1992, Algonquin Park has been our cornerstone for winter dogsledding and backcountry skiing – initially out of Camp Pathfinder and later Bartlett Lodge.
Our unique wilderness experiences were a hit with schools and corporate groups loved our tailor made approach to outdoor fun and outdoor education. From day 1, our customers have been the best any business could ever ask for. Imagine doing what you love to do every day with amazing people. Meeting and sharing Algonquin with such interesting people from all over the world – this is really our gift and the reason why we continue to do this great work.
Moving beyond a one man operation, our first guide teams in the early 90’s included industry superstar studs Scott Kress, Andrew Parsons and a collection of friends of friends (Andre Pepple, Peter Whaley, Linda Leckie ). Our first full time employee was Eric Liphardt who guided trips to Algonquin, Pukaskwa and the US canyon lands. Joining Eric, Joey Morin, Nicky Pollack and Chuck Harris were instrumental in helping us grow and were key players in operating our large corporate and incentive special events with voyageur (war) canoes and first nation speakers, dancers and drummers. Chief Larry Leong, we miss your big sense of humor.
1997 marked the year we moved from a mobile operation to having our very own base. Dustin Davis came on board and quickly became our Mr. Everything awesome. Dustin, brought in his best friend Eric Johnson, was a budding Architect with plans to design a dream lodge. The Algonquin Log Cabin was built in the fall and we opened in January 1998, operating 3 – 5 winter snowshoe, ski and dogsled trips. That same season, the Canadian Tourism Commission selected our 3 day winter log cabin adventure as the “best winter package “ in Canada!
Dustin helped develop our first lodge based summer programs, built trails with the help of Graeme Mitchell, Olivier Girard, Jenny Hutchinson and Greg Padulo. This team was really special. Always learning, growing, challenging their knowledge – they quickly became the best guide team we’ve had to date. Awards, Media, and TV stories soon followed.
Our foray into lodge operations continued with later acquisitions of the Algonquin Cottage Outpost ( 2000) and the Algonquin Island Retreat (2009). The latest stop on the journey has been the addition in 2013 of a full service canoe trip outfitter, Voyageur Outfitting. Now owning and operating our 4 off-the-grid Algonquin locations allows us to offer a complete range of Algonquin Park adventure experiences – in all 4 seasons.
Our growth was not always smooth. Back in 1994 , my first ever site inspection had me paddling an important VIP to an Algonquin island, a paddle that was cut short by dumping the canoe with said VIP a few feet from the dock.
In 1999, we had a major scare and survived a New Years fire at the log cabin. In 2003, our determination to get the right canoe to an event had us paddling a Montreal canoe across the Toronto harbor in Hurricane force winds. A tactic made even more exciting when done by the office team!
Kris Shaw came on in 2002 to help manage Project Pope – a massive project involving hosting hundred’s of international youth on adventure trips throughout Ontario. Kris’ incredible organization skills and passion for campfire roasting (think beer can chicken!) made her a massive hit at VQ. Our growing company became uber organized and our trip food best in class. Other notable staff included Mike Bibby, Trevor Eby, Scott Caspell and the incredibly talented Abby Pond.
Some of our adventures have been weird and wacky. Some memorable one’s include: CSNY “humble and Fred” wilderness connection for singles trips, rubber boot weddings, meet market adventures, wild game and win , “red neck” amazing race, helicopter dogsledding, floating sauna, and Maple martini corporate bonfires.
Other notable staff that need mentioning here are Tracy Dalgleish who took care and organized our office systems for years to come, and Raeanne, our faithful bookeeper for the last 10 years. Special mentions to Johnny Milne, an amazing guide and chef on the trail; the late Joe Strub, our cook at the Algonquin Log cabin for many years; Rick Harris, Mr. Ringer; and Matt Rothwell, who has been our all season all-star for much of the last 7 years.
We feel humbled and honoured, and we thank you for your continued support. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of our guests, guides, staff and wilderness friends who have been a part of this great ride.
This wild dream would not be possible without the incredible love and support of Eva and my family. From helping instruct our first corporate trip in August of 1991, Eva has been with VQ for all 25 years and the cornerstone behind our growth.
To live and work everyday in Algonquin, sharing what we love about being outside, continues to be a dream come true.
To see more pictures of the people behind Voyageur Quest 25 year journey – head to our page on Pinterest.
And check out this video celebrating 25 years.