With two lake crossings and two dog expeditions under his belt, and Victim Services Toronto being the beneficiaries of nearly $55,000, Superintendent Heinz Kuck is contemplating his next bold outdoor trek.
“I am just sitting back, thinking about what is going to challenge both me and the public to open hearts and minds to support Victim Services,” he said, a few days after completing an arduous nine-night, 10-day, dogsled expedition through the Northern Ontario wilderness.
Starting in Fraserdale, near Timmins, the 11 Division unit commander, along with Welsh outdoor adventurer Phil Jones and their guide Jamie Sands of Chocpaw Expeditions, traversed 265 kilometres of rugged snow-covered terrain to James Bay.
“It was one of the most difficult and physical challenges I have endured because of the cold, distance and isolation and the fact that we were fully reliant on the gear we took,” he said, of his latest trek. “Most days, the temperature was -25 to - 30 degrees without a wind chill and, on a few days, it got to -40 degrees. Over time, the cold weather, physical activity and sleep deprivation took its toll. With the passing of each day, your resilience, energy and capacity to deal with cold weather shrunk.”
Kuck said he has surpassed the $7,500 target for VST.
“We blew the goal away and the fundraising website is still operational until the end of March,” he said. “I am optimistic it will cap out at around $11,000, which will be fantastic.”
They travelled an average of 30 kilometres daily, reaching average speeds of up to 9-10 kilometres an hour in perfect trail conditions.
“The trail conditions and the depth of snow had a lot to do with how much distance we covered daily,” said Kuck. “Whenever we had to contend with a hill or deep snow, we had to jump off the sled and push it.”
With six dogs pulling his and Jones’ sleds, and seven attached to Sands’ sled, the group also had to cope with waist-high snow, reaching almost four feet off-trail and a rigid daily regimen.
“We got up at about 7 a.m., fed the dogs and ourselves, took down the tents, packed up the gear on the sleds, then mushed for about six hours,” he said. “When we were finished sledding for the day, we would set up camp off the trail. To do that, we had to take shovels and dig through three to four feet of snow to create an imprint for the tents.”
The dogs were each fed an average of three pounds of frozen ground chicken daily, electrolyte powder and a broth created from snow melted in a pot.
“Our food was pre-cooked frozen solid in containers,” he said. “When we got to the camp, we would melt snow and put our frozen bag meals in boiling water to melt, thaw and heat before cutting the bags open and eating.” Along the trail, Kuck and his group encountered foxes, white owls, wolves and moose tracks.
Despite the physical challenges, he was completely amazed by the extreme pristine beauty of the wilderness and Northern Ontario’s vastness.
“We went from heavily forested pine trees to pine scrubs and tundra and flat lowland and icescapes when we hit James Bay,” he said.
Kuck, who last year covered 120 kilometres over four days with Sands and 13 dogs in Algonquin Park, raising $8,800 in the process, said his latest adventure was gruelling. In 2012 and 2013,
Kuck and 53 Division officers raised $35,000 after completing a 55-kilometre outrigger canoe journey over open water, from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Mississauga Sailing Club. This summer, he paddled around the Toronto Islands, a 22-km journey that raised 7,000 pounds of food for 11 Division food banks.