In 1967, Lt.-Cmdr. Fredrick Jones, then CO of HMCS Shelburne, led a group of seven other hikers known collectively as the Shelburne Trailblazers from north of Keji to Shelburne through the woods. They did so, at the time, to commemorate Canada’s 100th birthday and to highlight the trail’s part in the country’s history.
“It was built in the 1700s so that if Shelburne was attacked supplies could come from Annapolis or vice versa,” says Daniel d’Entremont, whose father was a part of the original eight hikers. “It fell into disuse and became so overgrown it’s impossible to find the whole trail.”
Daniel and a friend Scott Veinot began their walk on the trail in Annapolis and partway through Shelburne resident Roger Burrill joined them.
In 1967, Burrill’s father had acted as a guide to help the men through the thick and obscured trail in the woods and similarly Burrill, having a camp along the path and having spent a lot of his life in the woods, acted as a guide.
“He talked about it a few times,” says Burrill, about his dad. His father had hiked the walk before Burrill was born, but the stories were shared.
“He said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, meaning he never would want to do it again,” says Burrill.
Bugs, no clear trail, nothing marked and boggy areas were some of the challenges that were faced both 50 years ago and again this time.
“In some ways they had it harder, in some ways we did,” says Burrill. He says the original group was resupplied several times along the route with food and clothing.
Everything this group needed for their July 2017 five-day trek they carried in packs on their backs.
“I brought way more than I needed,” says Burrill. On his back was a large square pack. His father wore one just like it in his photos of his hike and Burrill made sure to stop and recreate some of the same photos 50 years later.
The men averaged about four kilometres per hour. Their feet were sore. They had the sun beating down on them.
The original group of hikers took eight days to cover the trail but because of work commitments, this crew needed to do it in five.
A detailed journal of one of the original hikers spoke of the group’s daily experiences, what they did and where they stopped. On the top of Indian look-off each of the original hikers carried a rock and placed it in a pile.
“When we got there, the rocks were still there,” says d’Entremont. “I stood there 50 years after where my dad stood and placed our own rocks.”
Today’s hikers had the same sentiments about the journey as their fathers. They were glad they made the decision to do the hike, but it is one they would never repeat.
“I remember Dad talking about this as the worst experience of his life,” laughs d’Entremont. “I’m really glad I did it but I didn’t understand what they did until we did it ourselves.”
The original Trailblazers
To mark Canada’s Centennial, Lt.-Cmdr. Fred Jones, commanding officer of HMCS Shelburne, led a group known as The Shelburne Trail Blazers overland on an arduous eight-day journey from Annapolis to Shelburne.
In addition to HMCS Shelburne personnel Petty Officer Frank Robertson, Leading Seaman Ralph Veinott and Fire Prevention Officer Lorne Varner, the hikers included Flying Officer Ron Hatton, RCAF Barrington, Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests Ranger Richard Burrill, Father Gaston d’Entremont, St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church, and the Reverend Peter MacDonald, Christ Church Anglican.
The current Trailblazers
On Aug. 12 at 11 a.m. family members of the original hikers will gather and invite the community to join some of the original hikers and themselves at the corner of King Street and the Annapolis Road, east of Hillcrest Academy, for a commemorative walk. A reception will follow at the Osprey in Shelburne, where there will be an exhibition of historical photos and artifacts.