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Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing: Seeking a connection to the place (5 photos)

This week's Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing is about Seek Adventures and Tours, a new business organizing walking tours in and around Thunder Bay.

THUNDER BAY -- A lifelong adventurer and wilderness guide, Sue Hamel opened Seek Adventure and Tours in the spring of 2018. Although she spent her life traveling and working as a guide in British Columbia, Yukon, Utah, Kenya and Botswana, Thunder Bay always remained her home base; the place she would come back to. “The landscape, the water, Lake Superior - there’s a powerful pull from the lake,” she says.

Seek Adventure and Tours offers many tours; most of them on foot. There are a variety of walking food tours and guided hikes in nearby locations such as Kakabeka Falls and Sleeping Giant. While Hamel has extensive experience whitewater canoeing, sea kayaking and dog sledding, she decided to focus on walking tours when she started her business.

“It’s accessible,” she explains. “It can be low to no carbon, and as much as I love traveling by water, [walking] is just more accessible to more people.” Walking tours are also available year round, unlike some outdoor sports. “The Big Lake Taco Fiesta tour runs all four seasons, from +25 C to -30 C,” she says.

Seek’s office is located on the second floor of the Finlandia, and many of her tours are in the Bay/Algoma neighborhood or Waterfront district. She partners with 25 local businesses in the area, including the Hoito, Rebel Salad and Sweet North Bakery, which caters the picnic lunches for guided hikes. There are coffee-themed tours, tours about art, food and wine, and a very popular “Treats and Haunted Streets” tour that dives into local lore.

“I want to connect people meaningfully to the place,” says Hamel. “We do that through stories and food and experiences. Stories about the neighbourhood, or building, or the chef behind the meal.”

She collects stories by combing through archives and books, but the best way is through talking to people, she says. Her sources range from Indigenous elders to members of the Finnish and Italian communities, as well as farmers and professionals in the field, such as researchers from Lakehead University studying Lake Superior. “A lot of our guests have stories, too,” Hamel adds.

Future plans include a vegetarian walking food tour, and she also hopes to expand to the Fort William side of town by next summer.

One thing that surprised her since she launched her business was that over 75 per cent of her guests are local. “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that, but I love it, because it’s much more meaningful, because they’re sharing their stories with me. I’ve really enjoyed the fact that locals have been loving it, and they’re becoming repeat customers. It’s been a real treat!”