I wrote this last week, but I didn’t have internet access, so here it is now:
My second northern Ontario artist residency – this time at Quetico Provincial Park – has been really amazing so far. Travis and I spent 5 days canoeing in (a small part of) Quetico’s huge interior of hundreds of lakes connected by portages and at least one shallow, sketchy, lilly-padded swamp river. This wilderness park is hardcore about not putting signs by the portages or anywhere and otherwise minimizing traces of humans. Quetico is a little over 80% of the size of the whole province of PEI, so that’s pretty cool. I think this was the most remote wilderness I have experienced, including canoeing on the Yukon River and backcountry hiking and camping in Tombstone in the Yukon. It was really beautiful and fairly strenuous – one 1km portage and several at around half-three-quarters of a km, sometimes in succession.
In the interior of the park there were islands covered in blueberries and a new lake to swim in every day. I am gushing, but it’s been a really special experience. The last night in the interior, we camped on a small island between two rapids, with ledges of lichen-covered rock to perch on and watch the water.
Now I am back in this luxurious artist studio on a lake near a park ranger station, and nature centre log cabin, etc. I have another week to work on art stuff inspired by my time here, host an open studio, and lead a workshop. So, yeah, I am having an incredible time, and I want to come back. And I think I have gotten over my childhood aversion to portaging, (it’s much easier as an adult than as a 7-year-old) even if I still prefer paddling.