Looking like a 19th century pioneer about to complete his westward journey from the east, Montrealer Pierre Cloutier and his horse drawn wagons rode into Greenwood last Thursday, much to the delight of numerous residents enjoying their morning coffee at the Copper Eagle café.
Invited for breakfast by proprietors Joanne Marien and Vanessa Chartier, Cloutier spent several hours posing for photos and accepting wishes of continued good luck as he makes his way north.
A trek that began in November of last year is now nearing completion, an epic journey of more than 4,000 kilometres that has seen Cloutier make hundreds of new friends and experience the great hospitality that Canadians are known for.
Asked why he undertook such a challenging excursion, the 41-year-old smiled. “I wanted to show people that you can always make your dream come true,” he said. “This trip is something I dreamed of since I was a boy, and it has been even better than I’d imagined.”
Cloutier was prepared for a solitary expedition, but he soon discovered that toughing it out alone was going to be more difficult than he’d expected.
“I realized that I needed a lot of help,” he explained, “and that has been happening the entire trip. That’s been my biggest surprise, people help, people open their door —I’ve never been refused anywhere.
“I was surprised that people helped me… I know it worked like that 200 years ago when you (could have) knocked on a door (and asked) for a piece of bread… now, in 2015, it’s exactly the same way,” he said.
“That’s touching my heart very much, for the first couple of weeks, I cried a couple of times.”
Cloutier’s rig is comprised of two covered wagons, which he constructed himself, drawn by four sizeable draft horses ranging in age from seven to 14. Travelling 18-20 kilometres per day, the wagons are equipped with brakes to help the horses more easily navigate hilly terrain, along with emergency flashers and the standard slow-moving vehicle sign.
Surprisingly, the horses have been re-shoed only a handful of times along the way, and one quick glance at the heavy-duty steel shoes worn by the animals explains why.
Cloutier notes he has had absolutely no complaints from the police regarding his vehicle throughout the nine-month trip.
The affable Québécois plans to end his journey in the vicinity of Williams Lake, where he hopes to continue life as a farrier and an auctioneer, while pursuing his second dream of starting a country music band.
For Pierre Cloutier, this has been a journey of a lifetime; for the Canadians across the nation who have shared his experience, it has been a reaffirmation of the spirit that helped form this nation. Because of his courage and endurance, as well as an unflappable sense of humour, Cloutier seems destined for a long and prosperous life in the Cariboo.