The Road to Quetico

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May 20th 2019
Published: May 21st 2019
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Sunday 19th May 2019

We left Thunder Bay and Lake Superior behind us this morning and travelled to the Quetico Provincial Park, North West Ontario where we are spending a few days. Quetico is known as one of Canada´s great wilderness parks and most of it can only be reached by canoe; Quetico forms part of the “Path of the Paddle”, 1000 km of linking waterways in NW Ontario. A message to our son Dan, “This is the place for you!”. We are now staying in a lodge for two nights on the edge of the park by Lake Eva and hopefully tomorrow we shall have a little paddle! It is said that Quetico is where people who love canoeing “go to dream”!

From Thunder Bay we visited the Kakabeka Falls, the largest and most powerful we have seen so far, apart from Niagara! The Falls started forming about 10,000 years ago with the retreat of the last glaciers. The Ojibwe were the first people to see the Kakabeka Falls, “Kah-kah-pee-kah” means “sheer cliff, thundering water” in Ojibwe.

To get to Quetico we had to leave the Trans Canada Highway and take
a higher route which took us up to the watershed (1660 feet elevation). What a wonderful thing, like standing on the Equator as we did in Ecuador; we stopped at a picnic spot where one side of the line was in the Atlantic Watershed, i.e. all streams from that point flow south to the Atlantic Ocean and the other side of the line was the Arctic Watershed, all streams from that point flowing north to the Arctic Ocean! Just before this we crossed a time zone as well, from Eastern Canada Time to Central Canada Time. We are now six hours behind the UK and seven hours behind Spain.

The Trans Canada is not a busy road but compared to the road to Quetico it is rammed! We started to think that we were the only people left in the world, it was so quiet! We shall be re-joining the Trans Canada in three- or four-days’ time. For now, we are way off the beaten track and loving this remote land of lakes and waterways. We are staying in a lodge in the Quetico Centre, it is an outdoor education centre, that lets rooms out to travellers, covers a huge area and only a couple of other people here (or so we have been told but haven’t seen them yet)! We are right beside Lake Eva, have a lovely room, very cheap, a shared kitchen (but only us using it), canoes and kayaks to use on the lake (no charge). Idyllic place, beautiful setting! It is a bit windy to canoe this evening but we hope to do so tomorrow, as well as tackle one or two of the hiking trails. We are staying here for two nights. Actually, we are lucky that Quetico is open (only since Friday) because so many places have notices saying “not opening until the Spring”. Do you know, we really did think that 19th May was Springtime! Wrong! In Ontario, May is definitely still Winter!

We thought that yesterday it was warming up a bit but the cold descended on us again today, 4 degrees most of the morning! This is why we are not in the tent but in the lodge! Toasty and warm in here….AND there is an electric blanket on the bed! So, we shall sleep well tonight, especially since we have a few bottles of wine to help! We fuelled up the car and bought provisions before coming here. There is nowhere to buy anything here of course, on the road today there were no petrol stations or anywhere to buy food or drink, as we were warned. It really is the “back of beyond”. We have plenty of provisions to last us until Tuesday when we shall get back on the road. Meanwhile, we are enjoying the tranquillity of this Paradise! Quetico is beautiful!

Monday 20th May 2019

We had such a good day today in the Quetico Provincial Park! We did two hiking trails and had a paddle! First, we walked along the Piceral River Trail, which is quite short, very easy being mostly boardwalk and only took 45 minutes. It is known as the Poet´s Trail, with little plaques along the route with poems, Ojibwe prayers and sayings written on them. Delightful!

“May the Great Spirit send his choicest gifts to you

May the Sun-Father and the Moon-Mother shed their softest beams on you

May the Four Winds of Heaven blow gently on you

And those who share your heart and wigwam”

Ojibwe Prayer

Secondly, we drove to the trail head of the Whiskey Jack Trail which leads on to the Pines Trail and Baptism Creek Trail. This was much more strenuous with some steep pathways and quite a few fallen trees that have not been cleared yet after the snows, making progress rather difficult at times. We completed Whiskey Jack but didn´t go up to the Pines, it was very boggy and waterlogged on the low bits by the creek and the mosquitoes were in abundance (guess who left the Deet spray back at the lodge)! We walked on this trail for about an hour and a half then sat by French Lake to have our picnic. Brilliant!

Back at the lodge, after making a warming cup of coffee, we got out one of the Canadian canoes and ventured out on to the lake, all on our own, nobody else in sight anywhere; we have never been in a place so devoid of people! At the trail head there were only about twenty names signed in (since January) and they were all local apart from us. It seems that Ontario simply does not attract tourists. It should do, it is a magical place. We have only met one non-Canadian couple in two weeks (English). The canoeing was great, so tranquil.

Tomorrow, sadly, we are leaving the Quetico; we need to move on. We have only driven 1,774 kilometres so far so we need to push on a bit. We are now nearing the north western end of Ontario and shall soon be in Manitoba (probably on Wednesday or Thursday). Westward Ho!

“I was born when people loved all nature and spoke to it as though it had a soul”

Chief Dan George, Ojibwe Nation

Additional photos below
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21st May 2019

Hi, the weather at Lake Eva looks bright and inviting. Shame it’s still so cold. Peaceful and evocative images photographed from the canoe - what a lovely interlude before you hit the road for Manitoba. How does Canada compare to N Zealand? Love 2 u both xx

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