Friday, September 2, 2011

The Quetico Experience

The Quetico experience even included a beach
campsite. Didn't expect that!

The first hot shower, a comfy bed or even the first fresh meal is always a treat when you finish a long trip. However, if I could take it all back to continue tripping in Quetico, I would do it all in a heartbeat. I may be a bit biased since I obviously love canoe trips, but hey, this just summarizes my feelings about the 2 weeks I spent in Quetico. The experience was amazing and I can't wait to go back.

I've never seen so many large red and white pines together.
I was in total awe and often found myself tripping
on portages while looking up.

Temagami is one of my most favourite places to paddle in Ontario due to its rugged landscape, old growth and challenging routes. So of course when I heard that Quetico is much like Temagami, I was ecstatic. Part of me was a little reserved to think there was another locale with features that rivaled Temagami, but the other side of me was screaming to go there to find out for myself. The opportunity finally came and I can whole-heartedly say, I love the place. I really did find Temagami's twin!

These weren't new shoes, but the portages in Quetico
definitely finished them off. I actually had
holes in them!

When I think of an operating provincial park, I normally think of a place that is somewhat tamed and groomed. I find most parks have that feeling its been a bit pampered. However, canoe tripping in Quetico was much like what I would experience on a crown land route. Trying to locate portages, rough portages, (including take-outs and put-ins), rugged landscapes that include fire ravaged areas, wild storms, old growth, and oh, even trying to locate campsites! To me, these challenges and circumstances align more closely with what I'd expect to experience in the wilderness untouched my man. Sometimes there is a price to pay for these qualities, but the rewards are simply unmatched. Yes, we all sported bruises, scrapes, and had aches. Yes, we all got stuck in muck, had spills, blurted colourful words. Yes, we were at times exhausted, frustrated, and even miserable. But as one member of my group said after the trip, we all came away with wonderful memories - that was indeed the Quetico experience.

The combination of some great campsites and rest days
meant baking was going full tilt! Scrumptious!

Two weeks in Quetico is enough time to fully immerse yourself in this great park with lots of history. Personally, I would have preferred something more like 4 weeks, but sometimes, experiencing a bit and wanting more is much more gratifying. The route I picked tried to take in some of the highlights of the park, while at the same time trying not to overly task my fellow paddlers. (They may have slightly different opinions on this one.) We covered roughly 240kms in 12 days (with 2 rest days), which I thought was a fair mix of travel and leisure. In any case, I feel I only barely scratched the surface and would love to go back for more. My only issue with Quetico? Its sooooo far! Its a tough swallow to lose 2 days at either end of your vacation to travel there, but honestly, it is definitely worth the drive. Am I going back, definitely! Should you go, absolutely! Bottom line, you just need to go there and experience Quetico yourself. You won't regret it!

Andrea and Jennifer helped me at the Heritage Pavilion
to set me off on my way with the beautiful
Centenary Nova Craft Cronje.
Photo: Anita DeVries

It was a real privilege and honour to paddle the Centenary Nova Craft Cronje in Quetico and take part in the Artist-In-Residence program. The Cronje was a delight to paddle and light on the shoulders while portaging. I tried so hard to keep the pristine canoe from scratches, but within days it started in earnest. Oops! We left Quetico with many scrapes as memories and the canoe was no exception. As my fellow paddlers stated, at least the canoe now has character and has even 'experienced' the park itself! We can't have a 'Quetico canoe', if it hasn't even been on a canoe trip in the park, can we? Many thanks to the great staff at Quetico that helped me on my way when I got there and when I left, particularly Susan Bourne, the park naturist, Jennifer Lukacic, assistant park superintendent, Andrea Allison the park librarian and Robin Reilly, the park superintendent that got the whole ball rolling! It was a pleasure meeting them all and hope to see them again soon.

Not much a fisherman, I was ecstatic to not only catch my
first walleye, but also the biggest one!
Photo: Fred Kodjayan

Later in the year, I will blog on our groups experiences and share some more photos. It was hard to come back to the real world, but there is no time to sulk. In just over a week, I'll be headed back out again. Yup, its my favourite month to paddle and I plan to take full advantage of it!

Hope you've all been out paddling!
Its been a great year for it so far!


We had lots of time to relax,....oh!, that's the picture below.
Oops, this is Cristof after a portage!

Ok, that's more like it! Taking in the Quetico experience!