20 July 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part1

The trip began at French Lk
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico.

I had been eagerly awaiting this canoe trip to the Quetico for over a year. I had never been on a canoe trip before so I jumped at the invitation to join a friend of mine, Neil, on his annual trek to the Canadian boundary waters. The opportunity to get into the “real backwoods” thrilled me. Joining us were Neil’s wife, Ruth, and David, an adventurous college student [ed. To regular readers of the blog David is the Man of 3 Names.] We started out from Morris, Minnesota at dawn. For eight hours David and I sat in the back of Neil’s Mazda pickup equipped with an old bus seat that smelled like pigs. Our only view from the rear window was of the trailer that carried our supplies and two aluminum canoes. However, this inconvenience seemed minor compared to adventure I expected in the Quetico.


I did not know much about the Quetico. I knew even less about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. In my mind I envisioned pristine forests and lakes all easily accessible by short and upkept canoe portages. I also expected to stay clean and dry. Well I was partially right.


Quetico Provincial Park is just north of the B.W.C.A in Ontario. The major difference I am told is the people- there are less of them canoeing and camping in the Quetico wilderness. I would also add that the weather, although above normal on our trip in late May, is a bit cooler. The lake water felt nearly ice cold as all of us discovered by falling into the lake (most by accident and one intentional.). Long sleeves and pants were worn most of the trip.


We arrived at our entry point on French Lake at about three in the afternoon and set off shortly thereafter. About a half-mile from our launching point, we entered Baptism Creek. The slim slithering switchback stream went on forever it seemed. Left then right, left then right—this creek was getting a bit tedious especially when Neil and Ruth got 40 canoe lengths ahead of David and myself. Neil and Ruth were efficient paddlers and knew how to take the turns and navigate the current. My arms were feeling the tension of having to paddle against the strength of the creek. [ed. Who knew I'd be doing this by myself in a few years time.]


Our first obstacle came with a small set of rapids. Neil and David walked the canoes through this section as Ruth and I followed on shore. I unfortunately lost track of Ruth and the creek. I then found the creek but no one in sight until Neil and Ruth came paddling by. I had missed David and the canoe by 200 yards. I hurried back to where we disembarked and bushwhacked as near the creek I could until I saw the canoe.

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