A trip into the wild turned out to be beautiful, rewarding, relaxing and sometimes exciting in an unexpected way.
When we arrived at the outfitters place, the owners, Quinten and Lori, welcomed us at their domain about 20 miles west of Atikokan. It was located on a little peninsula in Banning Lake. Our canoe was already prepared and ready for us at our camping spot. Quinten said we could take it out for a spin on Banning Lake if we would like to. So after we set up our tent we went for a little tour, enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Quint and Lori informed us we could use the bathroom and shower in one of their cabins. Since it was used before by other guests and not cleaned yet we could even spend the evening there to watch some television and sleep in the beds without being charged extra money. Considering the bugs outside we gladly accepted the friendly offer. We had a chat with Quinten about the dangers of a bear encounter as Nina was pretty worried about that. He assured us that as long as we payed attention, chances were very slim something would happen. They didn’t have bad bear encounters in the park for years, the only time some bad stuff happened, was when a tree fell on a tent and killed two persons some years ago.
In the morning we enjoyed a very nice breakfast before Darcy brought us to our starting point in Quetico Provincial Park: Beaverhouse Lake. Darcy, an employee of Quinten and Lori, was amazed about our hitchhiking trip and we had a fun chat along the way.
Close to Beaverhouse Lake Darcy dropped us off and our trip could begin. I carried the 60lb (30kg) aluminium canoe and our bag with food while Nina took all our other gear. Luckily we could leave a lot of our stuff with Quinten and Lori, otherwise it would have been impossible to carry everything at once.
Once in the water we started paddling away. In the beginning we encountered some other people but all in all we could enjoy the silence of nature. The paddling went pretty well and soon we arrived at our first portage, from Beaverhouse Lake into Quetico Lake. Luckily this one just consisted of two short passages, carrying a canoe is not as much fun as paddling one. 🙂
At some point in the afternoon the wind started blowing relatively strong from an easterly direction (we were going mainly east, so this meant more work for us) and we decided to take a short break, hoping it would pass. Eventually the wind calmed down, but instead we got some rain, which wasn’t too bad, it was warm anyway.
Eventually we found a nice camping spot. Nina had to chase away a snake so we could set up our tent but no other unwanted animals appeared to be around. The funny squirrel could stay. We made a camp fire and cooked our delicious meal (mashed potatoes, carrots and a real steak) provided by Quinten and Lori. Later we got our “bear bag” with all smelly stuff up in a tree and enjoyed the evening until we were forced into our tent by the mosquitos.
Next morning we had a long day ahead of us. We would go from Quetico Lake to Oriana Lake, Jesse Lake, Maria Lake and finally search for a camping spot near the beginning of the Pickerel Narrows. This would mean a lot of distance and 4 portages, including 2 long ones.
But it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed it very much! The long portages were pretty heavy but in the end it all worked out. An extra towel on the shoulders proved to be much more comfortable.
When we finally found our pretty camping spot we were happy with our day. The next days would be more relaxing, less distance to cover and no more portages. Hopefully we wouldn’t encounter heavy easterly winds on Pickerel Lake as that could turn out to be challenge, being out on a large stretch of open water.
At this point we were approaching the moment of biggest excitement during our trip. Both in a scary and a good way at the same time. When we got to bed, clouds appeared, wind got stronger and lightnings flashed in the distance. In the middle of the night we were woken by a thunderstorm, raging right above our heads. Heavy rains, wind and lots of noise and light. Eventually we fell asleep again when worst was over.
Early morning we woke up when our alarm informed us it was 6 in the morning. Weather was still pretty bad so we weren’t in a hurry to get up. A bit later the wind became very strong and I prepared to get out of the tent, to tighten the lines and check the canoe. As I was getting out I heard a loud cracking noise and immediately suspected a tree or at least a large branch was coming down close to us. I screamed something to Nina and wanted to get my head out of the tent in order to see if we were in danger. Before I could do so there was a lot of noise and chaos right in front of our tent. A big dead tree came down right next to our tent. It hit the front line and pole outside of our tent but miraculously didn’t scratch any of the fabric or more importantly Nina or me inside it.
I got my head out of the tent and assured Nina everything was okay while I assessed the situation. Slowly we started to realize how much luck we had had. We don’t know what did the trick, the lucky puppets we got from our colleagues of the photography course back home, good karma we earned along the way, the lucky traveler stone Mike gave us, pure luck, anything else or a combination of these things. The fact is we got out of this situation without a physical scratch or even material damage. We had some food for thought however!
When we came to our senses we packed our stuff and left the place. Strangely enough the wind calmed down completely just minutes after the tree came down.
The day was a mixture of enjoying a beautiful and easier day on the water and some nagging thoughts about what happened in the morning. When we arrived at our camping spot, a very nice little island, we were extremely careful choosing a spot to set up our tent. We watched the trees anxiously and weren’t feeling comfortable with the thought we had to sleep in the tent that night. At some point in the late afternoon we were both doing something on ourselves and when we got back to each other I said to Nina, “I decided not to be scared anymore! We will have to sleep in the tent and we did everything we could to make sure it is safe.” “Wow!” said Nina, “I just thought the same!” Afterwards we were a lot more relaxed, the fact the wind calmed down during the evening helped.
Besides all these thoughts about falling trees we also enjoyed the day. Since we arrived at our camping spot early in the afternoon we had some fun playing “Loot Letter” and “Zombie dice”. While exploring the little island we also found a dead, but pretty fresh fish, floating near the shore. To make sure the fish wouldn’t attract a bear to our island we decided to throw it a bit further in the lake so it would drift away. A couple of seconds after Nina threw it out a seagull appeared at the scene, clearly having a good meal in mind. Very soon it flew off without the fish, we were still watching the scene wondering why he would leave when a majestic bald eagle appeared on the horizon, closing in rapidly. He picked the fish out of the water in front of our noses and disappeared again, leaving us and the disappointed seagull behind.
In the end we got a calm night with a good sleep. Next morning we woke up early and enjoyed sunrise.
With a little pain in our heart we left our little island with it’s funny squirrels behind. It promised to be a hot day! It wasn’t even noon when we reached the end of Pickerel Lake. We found a very nice spot to take a long lunch break and relax during the hot day. The pancakes with maple syrup were just delicious!
We both made an impression of our little beach and couldn’t decide which one to put on the blog, so we put them both below. 🙂
In the afternoon we continued our way to French Lake, our end point of the trip. We still enjoyed the river and marshes in silence, hoping for some wild life we didn’t encounter.
Quinten picked us up at the shores of French Lake. We could stay again at the cabin for free (I suspect they didn’t clean it on purpose so they could let us sleep there again 🙂 ). We enjoyed the evening very much, and we noticed how tired we were! Quinten en Lori had another surprise for us in store, they gave us another breakfast next morning and Lori drove us to Fort Frances, because she would go shop there anyway (again I suspect they bent their schedule a bit in our favour). This was a big help for us as the road to Fort Frances is pretty desolate.
With this adventure behind us we craved for some rest which lay ahead of us in Winnipeg.