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Off The Beaten Path: The journey of Les Voyageurs

By Lucy Perkins, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 15, 2012

Despite the lack of privacy everyone kind of has their own space — bookshelves serve as makeshift walls separating beds.

Though the cabin was empty at the time, special events attract active LVs over the Broadway bridge and through the woods to Habe Mills Pine Lodge.

Old Timers’ Night brings people back to the lodge, honoring Les Voyageur alums with dinner and usually involving a lot of storytelling. The Huron Hustle, a canoe race from the cabin, up the river to the dam and back, along with ski weekends in Northern Michigan are a few of the annual LV expeditions.

Bonadonna also mentioned Thanks-caving, a November event where LVs go caving for the weekend.

On a larger scale, The Paul Bunyan Ball has historically been a large event for Les Voyageurs.

“It was typically a square dance with callers,” said Jim McNair, an Ann Arbor native and Les Voyageurs alum who still attends meetings every Sunday. “We’d decorate the place in Paul Bunyan-style, with Babe the Blue Ox, a real plaid shirt event.”

Before Les Voyageurs became a co-ed society, the ball gave LV men an opportunity to bring women to society events. When McNair was an active in the early 1980s, the ball was held on campus in a Union ballroom, drawing a crowd of more than 200 students.

Now, the ball is somewhat smaller, but everyone still dresses up and has fun, Alexander said.

Last week, actives met to package the Les Voyageurs 2012 Annual. The little black book edited by the Keeper of the Legends is essentially a yearbook for the society and has recorded the last 100 years of the society’s projects, stories and updates.

Every year, current LVs send out annuals to more than 500 alums around the country and abroad.

This year’s edition includes updates from alums and actives, as well as poetry, stories and photos. Flipping to the back of the book, LVs can find a geographically organized directory of all living alums, the current actives and new members inducted that year.

“If you’re ever traveling, you can take this along with you and look people up in the back and see who’s in what city,” Alexander said.

Into the future

The 2012 annual includes significant updates on the cabin itself, which recently received $130,000 worth in renovations funded by LV alumni. Completed last summer, renovations included an expansion of the entire cabin to create more floor space accompanied by new hardwood floors, new heating systems and a brand new kitchen.

McNair was a huge component in the renovations. He is one of the two members on the society’s advisory board, overseeing the officers and providing support with upkeep of the lodge and ensuring the continuity of LV traditions.

When the lodge transitioned from serving solely as a meeting house to becoming a home for members, indoor plumbing and an indoor kitchen were added, but those were the exceptions — the cabin hadn’t really been updated since it was built in 1926, McNair said.

The alumni-funded renovations hearken back to the principles former LVs supported as actives, many years ago.

“Les Voyageurs is not something you do for four years and then graduate,” Bonadonna said. “You’re a voyageur for life.”

From financial contributions to tutorials on how to use a compass properly, LVs are always around.

McNair is still very active outdoors, and sees alums at many LV events who he has kept in touch with.

“We want to maintain a huge family,” Bonadonna said. “If you need something they’re there for you.”

The everlasting, idiosyncratic friendships specific to Les Voyageurs are felt when members come together, especially when alums are around, Alexander said.

“It’s one big friendship,” she said.