Last M’Chigeeng trail hikers express regret at Island loss

To the Expositor:

While on holiday, my husband and I took the opportunity to explore many of Manitoulin’s great hiking trails, like Misery Bay and the Bridal Veil Falls. Last Friday, August 5, we decided to explore M’Chigeeng’s trail to the top of the bluff instead of our usual trek to the Cup and Saucer trail. The M’Chigeeng trail was challenging, but rewarding, with many different ecosystems and breathtaking views of the North channel. We particularity enjoyed reaching the top where the M’Chigeeng sign overlooks the town. We joked that it was the Hollywood sign of Manitoulin!

On our way down and exiting the woods we saw a man coming in a M’Chigeeng First Nation truck. I was anticipating sharing with him our favourable opinion of the trail and thanking the community for their hard work in its creation. Instead, the gentleman regretfully informed us that the trail was closed and that we were the last people who would get to hike it.

We were very disappointed to hear that some landowners in the area were disputing the trail on their property and since no agreement could be found it had to be closed. We discussed, as he posted the closure sign, what a loss this was for the community and how great the trail was for attracting tourists, promoting healthy living and respect for nature in the area. I have since learned from reading Willis John McQuarrie’s book True Tall Tales of Algoma-Manitoulin that Longfellow’s Hiawatha was based on the Ojibway legend of Nanibozho, who lived on the same bluff we hiked last week.

The M’Chigeeng trail, therefore, is not just another trail, but an area of cultural significance to the Ojibwe people, to Manitoulin Island and to Western literature.

I hope that the M’Chigeeng community can find a way to keep it open as it adds in prestige to the wonderful things that are already happening there like the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and many arts and crafts galleries in town. Perhaps next year when we visit we will not see a ‘trail closed’ sign, but a sign explaining the significance of the trail and a special plaque thanking land owners by name who kindly allow people to pass on their land to the benefit of the community and beyond.

Lydia Erwig-Straughan