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Wendy's Story

Hiking Through History and Scenic Splendour: A University of Toronto chancellor takes on the Canol Heritage Trail.

Chancellor of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, Wendy Cecil discovers a challenging trek through 350 km of historic trail and stunning landscapes.

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Wendy and her crew pose with the Mackenzie Mountains looming behind them.

One of the most challenging aspects of the Canol is its many un-bridged rivers. This is a relatively simple crossing, but there are three particularly tough ones along the way, including one which must be crossed by raft.

Built at the height of the Second World War to ensure an oil supply to Alaska, the Canol was abandoned after a year of operation, as maintenance proved impractical. Still, the route offers glimpses of rusting vintage trucks, abandoned pumping stations and old Nissen huts.

But as much as the history intrigues, the real thrill of the Canol is still the stunning scenery.

Despite the occasional slide and washout, the original “road” is still visible and easy to follow for the most part.

An idyllic scene: for much of the year, the Canol is snow-covered. The prime hiking season is from mid-July to early September.

Doing the entire trail is recommended for experienced, physically fit hikers, and will take a minimum of 20 days. But the trail can be done by fly-in to various sections, and can even be aerially toured from Norman Wells.

It’s a tough, physically demanding trek: sometimes a massage break is necessary.

At the end of the trek, a direct flight to the nearest hot bath.

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