What's Your Story What's Your Story

In 1975, 53 people, 42 horses and 13 wagons went on a cross country trip. I was there.

Canada 2017

October 18, 2017

'The trip was to take four months but instead it took eight months spread out over two years covering a distance of 3,200 miles.' Barbara Houghton (pictured in the middle). (Barbara Houghton)

On April 1, 1975, 53 people in 18 covered wagons headed west from Ontario in what was meant to be a four-month adventure. Seventeen months later, only two people made it to the intended destination — brother and sister John and Barbara Houghton. 

Throughout 2017, we're asking Canadians, "What's your story?" Barbara Houghton, of Scarborough, Ont., shares hers.

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It was 1975, and I was part of the Great Canadian Wagon Train Adventure leaving Kleinburg, Ont., to finish in Peace River, Alta. The concept: take 13 wagons, 42 horses and 50+ people, leave the city behind and travel by teams and covered wagons like our forefathers.

'Readying the wagon on our home street, Toronto.' (Barbara Houghton)

I was thrilled at the chance to finally see the west and those Canadian Rocky Mountains.

The trip was to take four months but instead it took eight months spread out over two years covering a distance of 3,200 miles.

'Northern Ontario — long, lonely roads.' (Barbara Houghton)

We had more misadventures than grand ones. We had runaways, crashes, injuries, tornadoes, loss of members, long lonely stretches and the constant drive to complete the trek. We were told we would never make it, and that made us more determined to prove them wrong.

'Locals gathering to wish us well.' (Barbara Houghton)

We made friends that will be with us forever due to their help and encouragement along the way. We would wake to find food for man and beast and offers to stay on their farms. We stayed with original homestead pioneer families and learned the real truth of how the west was won. They told us about their family's history of coming west to a new land and way of life that wasn't by any means easy — they were happy to have been given a place to call home once again and were proud to be part of a growing Canada.

'Invited for rabbit dinner, Joussard, Alta.' Barbara is second from the left. (Barbara Houghton)

On August 17,1976, our lone wagon pulled into Peace River fairgrounds in the pouring rain, soaked to the bone with mud up to the horses bellies.

We did it!

'Viscount, Sask., calm after the storm.' (Barbara Houghton)

I learned so much about the Canadian spirit, past and present and am very proud to be a Canadian.

All persons along the way of our journey treated us with nothing but kindness. That was a treasure beyond words. We were strangers yet they made us feel welcome even a part of them by the time we finished.

Barbara disassembling the wagon for the trip home. (Barbara Houghton)

Fortunately, Canada is much the same today: a wonderful place to live, a country of opportunity, of kindness, of open possibilities only limited by one's own determination.

On that wagon adventure, I followed my dream, saw the west and the Rockies and made a lot of new friends. So follow your own dreams and make your own grand adventure!

'Like the pioneers who went west 100 years before them, Jon Houghton, 21, and his sister, Barb, 23, left graves all along their trail. But these graves house the dreams and money of 53 people who headed out with the Houghtons on April 1, 1975 in 18 covered wagons.' (Barbara Houghton)