Quetico | Ontario Provincial Park

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We’re so lucky. So lucky to have such beauty in our backyard.

In some ways, I have Covid to thank for the experiences I had this summer. Which, I know, we all hate to admit. In truth though, the only reason I stayed put long enough in my hometown and had time to explore the beauty and resources it has to offer is because I had a lighter work schedule for the first time….well, since I entered the work force.

Quetico Provincial Park is an absolute gem to which I’ve barely scratched the surface. Two trips this summer (only three days each) was nowhere near enough time to really explore the depths of these rivers, islands and their bountiful wildlife. For that, you’d need weeks. What I had, was the perfect extended-weekend-getaway that was just enough to unplug, relax and recharge.

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Entering once through the French River to Pickerel Lake, and once with a small portage access through Stanton Bay – I’d hands down recommend taking the later access point (just pack light). Here, you enter further up the lake, which means you’re already closer to more plentiful clusters of islands and rivers to explore on a daily paddle.

In terms of the campsites – there are some SERIOUS gems to be found. I got extremely lucky both times in finding the most perfect set-ups with built up “kitchens” aka stone-walled fire-pits, spacious flat areas to pitch the tent, and the perfect spots for quick dips to cool off post-paddle.

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You can pack up and switch spots each night, or find a place to call home and set-up camp. Keeping in mind the campsites are first-come, first-served, if you find one you love, it might be worth setting up shop and taking day trips to paddle around the area before returning each evening to your cozy resting place.

The one thing I’ll warn against when paddling Pickerel Lake is WIND. This is not a small lake, and the wind is seriously no joke. So, make sure you know what you’re doing or at the very least be prepared that you may need to pull over at some point if things go sideways (literally).

Okay, two things I’ll warn against – wind and BEARS. We thought we’d be safe(r) off the mainland because the threat of bears would be less on a tiny island…until we saw one swimming swiftly and easily between islands with such speed and agility I honestly didn’t know was possible. SO – when you leave for your daily paddle leave nothing in reach. Hoist it all up (including garbage) in your bear barrel and retrieve it once you’re back for dinner, or, just do what we did after seeing that Olympic performance and take everything in the canoe with you, haha.

That being said, as long as you’re smart and respectful that this is their home, not yours, you shouldn’t have many issues with wildlife.

Without further ado, are a few photos from my two stunning trips, which I have to say were the easy highlights of my 2020 covid-summer.

Park Access and entry is all very straightforward on the Ontario Parks website. You can purchase your permits in advance online, or retrieve them when you get there! Pricing varies depending on the day of the week (with weekends being a touch more expensive), but the information provided on arrival will give you everything you need to know once you get there.

If you’re a first-timer like I was though, here is a simple suggested packing list of all the items I found to be most useful on these trips…

Suggested Packing List:
– Canoe + Paddles (one extra if you’ve got it)
– Tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and pillow if desired
– Life-vests
– Seat Cushions with base-zip pocket (to store go-to items like sunscreen, bug-spray and snacks)
–  GPS device
– Waterproof Map
– MSR camp food + cookware
– Collapsible bin for dish-washing
– Tea towel and compostable wipes
– Bear Barrel
– Water Filtration
– Axe to breakdown fallen wood (do not cut live trees)
– Waterproof Matches
– Waterproof clothing/shoes
– Tarp to cover items that aren’t waterproof
– Fishing gear including barb-less hooks (mandatory if you’re fishing)
– Minimal clothing to keep your pack light (shorts, t-shirts, one pair of pants and one sweater) and I’d suggest a lightweight long-sleeved shirt for the paddling days to help protect from sun, but not overheat.
– Bug-spray!
– Hat + Sunscreen
– First Aid Kit
– Rope/Bungee Cords
– Entertainment such as beach bocce set, cards, instruments
– Camera – it’s stunning and you might get lucky with wildlife!

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