Quetico: Hard work and a surprising payoff

This summer, I had the blessing of quite literally getting away from it all. We journeyed to northern Ontario, past Thunder Bay and into Quetico Provincial Park, a remote and beautiful wilderness. But first came the hard work of getting ready.

There are special rules in the park to keep it from becoming polluted and so, after booking our entry into the backcountry (there are a limited number of permits issued each day) we discovered that no disposable containers–cans, bottles, boxes and the like–are allowed. I spent almost a week gathering a collection of Nalgene bottles, tea tins and even travel-sized shampoo containers.

Next there was the long drive: we left at 6 am and drove straight through. With a few stops for gas and bathroom breaks, we arrived just outside of Thunder Bay at 10pm. How strange to be tired from sitting day!

Finally, after fourteen years of dreaming about it and weeks planning packing for it, my husband and I found ourselves on the water again. We were thrilled! It was bliss! Except…

Wind greeted us that first morning and stayed with us for days. And while I love the feeling of a breeze through my hair, this was hard-core wind that made paddling across open water almost impossible. Waves broke over the bow and left me soaked to the skin. Our muscles ached. Hard work doesn’t begin to describe it. And that was just the first half hour!

Kristine portageWe stopped early and aching on that first day. Day two was the same (see me in that picture above? That was the end of one very long, muddy portage!) On day three we tried again but gave up when a cold, stinging rain dampened any hope of progress. The upside was a wonderful, leisurely day of reading, napping and hot chocolate.

On day 4, now halfway through the trip, with nighttime temperatures a chilly 5 degrees and our progress not nearly what we’d hoped, we turned and headed for home.

We were immediately  rewarded with the arrival of gorgeous sunny weather. The water was calm, which made us relax our pace. We spent a beautiful afternoon with a family of loons who let us sit close by as the parents fed their chicks an enormous lunch. We dug out the fishing rod, too, and discovered that bass were just waiting to be caught (we threw them back, and of course the biggest one got away).

sunset canoeAs we sat out on the rocks and watched the sun set at a beautiful campsite on our last night, something slowly began to dawn on me: perhaps the wind was part of a divine plan to slow us down. Because it was only after we gave up on our mileage goals that we turned our attention to our most important objective: quiet, rest, and time together in a beautiful and pristine corner of Canada.

In the end, I am grateful for the howling winds.

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About Kristine OBrien

Kristine O'Brien is minister at Trafalgar, Oakville, Ont. She blogs at The Blooming Reverend. Subscribe to this blog.