Enter the Canadian wilderness

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

They tell of Canada’s wild spaces in picture books. Legends speak of its remoteness, its untouched beauty, a size that will dwarf you. No one can really grasp these things until he enters the backcountry.

I did so for seven nights last month at Quetico Provincial Park, heading out from Atikokan, Ontario, about 20 hours from Columbus. It was the greatest trip of my life -- even when it felt more like a quest than a vacation.

North of Minnesota’s famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Quetico's 1.2 million acres cover part of the Canadian Shield, a primordial blanket of bedrock shredded ages ago by glaciers into a series of dense forests, drinking-water lakes and stone outcroppings that would take you a lifetime to explore.

Five friends and I opted for a portage trip, in which you canoe around and then carry gear over small trails to access new lakes. We paddled 65 miles, mostly with a driving wind and whitecaps, eastward from the Beaverhouse Lake put-in to Nym Lake.

These trips aren't for weekend warriors, but a bunch of outfitters rent gear, help plan routes, suggest jump rocks and fishing holes and drop off your party at a park entrance.

Quetico Provincial Park Location: Atikokan, Ontario Size: 1,853 square miles Distance from Columbus: Gearing up:Canoe Canada Outfitters, based in the small town of Atikoken, is a great resource for trip planning, canoe and gear rental, guided excursions and fly-in vacations. Minus basic camp gear and food, you can outfit a six-day portage trip for about $300 per person. Check CanoeCanada.com for rates and services. Park homepage

Plenty of photos after the jump...

(Photos by John Ross, Derek Braun and Emily Guzzo, who all survived the trip as friends.)