Back today from eight days in Quetico Provincial Park. What an extraordinary canoeing destination. It’s not my first trip to Quetico, but my first in several years. I had forgotten some of the nuances that distinguish it from the BWCA. The abundant groves of mature Red Pines, the towering White Pine Giants, powerful rivers with some runnable rapids, thundering waterfalls, long sandy beaches,  lakes that you paddled all day long.  Despite everything seemingly like the Boundary Waters on a larger scale, Quetico receives far fewer visitors than its next-door-neighbor the BWCA to the south, and empty five-star campsites were the norm.

My route was a loop of well over 130 miles, and some blog readers may be interested in the details: Beaverhouse Lake – Quetico River – Quetico Lake – Conk Lake – Jean Lake – Burntside Lake – Rouge Lake – Jean Creek – Sturgeon Lake – Maligne River – Tanner Lake – Andrew Creek – Darky River – Darky Lake – Darky River – Brent Lake – McIntyre Lake – Sarah Lake – Side Lake – Kahshahpiwi Lake – Keefer Lake – Sark Lake – Carin Lake – Kahshahpiwi Creek – Shelley Lake – Snake Falls – Keats Lake – Split Rock Falls – Chatterton Lake – Chatterton Falls – Russell Lake – Russell Rapids – Sturgeon Lake – Halliday Lake – Elizabeth Lake – Jesse Lake – Oriana Lake – Quetico Lake – Beaverhouse Lake…there were 43 portages in there too, some more bushwhacks than portages.

The most peculiar site was a red squirrel swimming across a lake. It was not a small lake, and the rodent was over 100 yards from shore, and vulnerable to raptors, jackfish, and snapping turtles, and yet he took the plunge. No doubt that little guy was born beneath a wandering star.

I leave for Alaska Tuesday morning. Quetico was a great tune-up for my arctic expedition, and more than that, it was a grand adventure.

Rob Kesselring

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