Remembering a Month in Quetico Provincial Park
It has been four years since I was lucky enough to spend a month paddling and portaging my favorite place on Earth, Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario Canada. Every fall I cherish those memories on the water more and more, and am grateful I spent the time to record my experiences so I can continue to revisit and share them.
October paddling can be some of the best of the year, and for the longest time it seemed I was the only one who knew. Over the past few years I have experienced the best canoe country has to offer in October. On average it is an unpredictable month. It offers splendidly crisp days, devoid of bugs and people. It can also offer cold relentless winds that hint at winter, and interminable periods of rain and snow. The last few have graced me with the former. Unseasonably warm temperatures, clear skies and light winds have dominated most days of travel the past few years, almost so often that I start wishing for clouds, just for a change in lighting. It’s hard to imagine the string of good weather I have had during this notoriously unsettled month. The last two Octobers seem like a blur of unnaturally sun-drenched days, rosy and golden twilights and quiet star speckled nights. These are a collection of perfect memories, some of the best of my life. Rarely are they broken up by dullness. The periods of gray do exist though; they stand out, because of their rarity. They seem worse in retrospect. One cannot probe the interior of a boreal wilderness late in autumn without running into periods of inclement weather. Seemingly I had avoided long stretches of nastiness, until now.
October 1, 2012
It’s the third October in a row I am staring at Gull Lake, theoretically equipped to survive a month of canoe camping in Quetico Provincial Park. Again the parking lot is desolate. The day started calm and clear, as our group of four prepares two MNII’s and seven Duluth packs, clouds and wind move in. As we make our way up the Seagull River and out into the vastness that is Saganaga Lake, I contemplate the next four weeks. Will a group consisting of two sisters and two couples make it out alive? How did we accrue seven packs? Will the weather hold? How long will it take us to reach Atikokan Ontario? After finishing up at the ranger station our progress slows as a North wind picks up. We crawl across Cache Bay. The roar of Silver Falls in the distance is a welcome sound. On our way back from the first trip across we run into another group. We also meet two men near the falls who are camped on Saganagons Lake. Already we have encountered more human life in one day than we did in 30 days last year. Is the secret out on October? Our foursome pushes into a stiff headwind; the dying light of the day keeps us scanning for campsites. We find a nice open site on the south side of Saganagons Lake, right where you start getting the feeling that it’s a bigger lake than you thought. The winds force us towards the back of the site for dinner. As we finish our “extra thick” pork chops the wind dies and the sky clears. My first night back in Quetico is a perfect one.