Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wilderness Travel

On the 14th of June, my son and I flew to Minneapolis, and on the recommendation of a friend, enjoyed a "Juicy Lucy" burger at the 5/8 Club. The following day, we drove 280 miles north to Grand Marais, MN, then turned left, and traveled another 50 miles down the Gunflint Trail.

Seagull Outfitters had our food, equipment, and canoe ready for us. Early Monday morning, they took us by motorboat to Hook Island, in a wide channel that defines the U.S./Canada border. After offloading our gear, they reminded us that they would return to the same spot on Friday afternoon to pick us up.

Our cell phones lost service just after we left Grand Marais, and we chose not to take a GPS. We did have a topographical map, and a compass. We were now on our own with two paddles, some food and clothes, and a tent and sleeping bags.

After checking in with the Ranger station, a 30 minute trip west, we headed Northwest to the first portage at that entrance to Quetico Provincial Park, a 2 million acre wilderness preserve in Ontario. At this portage, we saw two father/son teams from Chicago, who were also headed in. Those were the last humans we spoke to, except for each other, until we got back to the same spot on Friday morning.

For the balance of Monday, as well as the rest of the week, we saw sunshine, blue skies, large rocks, and old growth forests of hardwoods and evergreens. We also saw moose, a bald eagle family, beaver, and more misquitoes than we could swat.

With most of us living within constant earshot of a car engine or the hum of a server, it was fascinating to be so far removed from daily life, and to simply listen. It occurred to me that much of the world continues to operate, in fairly fine fashion, without our constant oversight and involvement.

The sun and moon both rose and set, right on schedule. The animals got the food they needed, the beavers continued to build their homes, the moose foraged, and all was pretty alright in their worlds.

So what do we have to be worried about??

If you ever have the opportunity, find a way to hear a loon in the wild, especially about 11pm. You'll never forget the sound.

Until next time...