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365 days in Quetico - Parks Blog

Gary Fiedler is a Minnesota-based photographer who is about to embark on a 365-day journey in Quetico Provincial Park. In this post, Gary shares his passion for Quetico and his underlying motivations for this journey of a lifetime.

On June 21, 2018, I will embark on the adventure of a lifetime solo canoeing and winter camping for 365 days in Quetico Provincial Park.

It is not intended to be a journey of conquest with impressive distances traveled, obstacles overcome or exploration to the ends of the earth. Instead, its purpose is to experience the transformative power of nature, find clarity in thought, and contemplate my connection to nature in quiet solitude.

Guy sitting in a camp chair wearing a beige Australian outback hat, life jacket, brown hoodies and gray quick-dry pants with water and trees in the background

Over the past 30 years, I have come to know and love the incredible scenic beauty and wide ecological diversity of Quetico, and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after a great trip. As each adventure unfolds, I learn something new about myself and nature.

I plan to use photographs, audio recordings, videography, and detailed journals to share my experience with seasoned outdoor enthusiasts and future explorers through articles, exhibits, a book, and perhaps a documentary film.

Quetico attracts outdoor lovers

Quetico Provincial Park has a unique combination of qualities that can satisfy a wide spectrum of outdoor enthusiasts.

A guy in a hat at sunset sitting in front of a fire with a sunset in the background

Beginning campers can enjoy easy hikes or canoe rides from camp, while braver and more determined explorers may find greater challenges and solitude in the backcountry.

majestic country

This is a majestic country with vast sprawling lakes mixed with quiet, intimate canals, picturesque rivers, beautiful waterfalls, fantastic camping and trophy fishing.

Interesting geological formations abound, with towering cliffs, glacially scraped bedrock, and a wide variety of twisted and folded rock types. Evidence of an ancient land that was shaped by tectonic forces.

These boreal forests are home to moose, bears, wolves, beavers, eagles, and grebes, to name a few that are commonly seen. For the botanist or the curious, the Wawiag River is one of many areas with rare and unique plants due to its ice age geology.

Warm bonfires on full moon nights

After the sun sets, the vast night sky is adorned by the Milky Way, millions of stars, and sometimes the dancing aurora on moonless nights. The warm bonfires on full moon nights are simply magical and have to be experienced to be believed.

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While Quetico doesn’t have the biggest mountains, the biggest trees, or the deepest valleys, it does have diverse beauty throughout the changing seasons, with historic, well-established canoe routes and transportation connecting it all.

Camping in all seasons

Each season has its own set of challenges and rewards that are remembered, remembered, and sometimes embellished in stories around late-night campfires. Some of the most cherished and valuable family memories include the thrill of discovery in the eyes of a child or loved one as they explore nature.

The park’s rugged charm continues into the winter as well. Adventurous people can go ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sightseeing, and winter camping.

A 365-day solo journey seems daunting and one cannot expect to undertake such a challenge without experience and preparation. Over several decades, I have enjoyed many canoe adventures, both on solo trips and accompanied by family and friends, ranging from long weekends to six weeks in length.

The transformative power of Quetico

In 2014, I completed a 221-day solo canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park. The following are two excerpts from the Fall 2015 issue of The Boundary Waters Journal transmitting the transformative power of nature that I experienced.

October 24, 2014 day 219 of 221, Ensign Lake BWCAW. It is here that I witness my last sunset as I stand on the rocky point at the water’s edge. The sunset is not visually spectacular, but it deeply enriches the time I spend reflecting on my adventure and my life. Looking back, the journey seems to have passed very quickly and seems somewhat unfinished. I wonder if I should have tried a little harder, overcome mistakes, and taken more risks. I may have created some more amazing photos and maybe even had some spooky stories to spice up my story. Perhaps I could have traveled twice as far and reached many more lakes and rivers. But then it would have been a journey of conquest, not one to experience nature in all its inspiring majesty, simplicity and tranquility. You can’t put a price on the beauty and tranquility that sparked my emotion. Nothing compares to the relaxing symphony of nature’s soundscape or the immense power of silence while watching a sunset. How could the value of challenges overcome that strengthen strength be quantified? These words only begin to portray the personal impacts of my adventure. The depth of my experience is beyond description and continues to shape the very definition of my consciousness.

My love for nature goes beyond beautiful landscapes. They are the unexpected surprises that I can see or hear at any time. I sit with my eyes closed and listen to the rich symphony of sounds that nature orchestrates. I lie on a three-billion-year-old green stone and reflect on the heavens in a sky full of stars, and I am amazed by the immensity of time that has created all the things around me. I respect and admire the wildlife that roams these woods, filling them with joyful sounds, playful antics, and the drama of life and death. I also love the scale of things here. The sky is vast and constantly changing, from calm blue reflections to dramatic storms; Everything unfolds before me from horizon to horizon.

Pink lady’s slipper on the forest floor

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There is room here to be free, to wander and see things no one has ever seen. It is a place to dream and be inspired. I am not alone in these ideas. Many writers, poets, painters, philosophers and photographers are inspired by wild places. We try to capture the essence of nature, romanticize it, express its beauty and interpret what it means to us as a way to inspire others. This work is never finished. Interpretations are as varied as the individuals. The world underfoot and the panoramic views are as vast and unique as the imagination. These reflections fill my dreams as I look toward the horizon at the beginning of each desert canoe trip. I will continue dreaming about canoe trips for many more years. I will take them and dream again.

Reflecting after the 2014 trip

Nature has the power to strengthen us, test us, and heal our broken spirits. He does not judge us, but embraces us, teaching those who stop and listen to him. Wild nature touches all of our lives in some way through inspired art, literature and photography. It provides us with clean water and air, recreation and emotional escape. All it asks in return is to exist as it always has, intact and beautiful.

Quetico is a true gem with easy access to all. Those who explore this world-class wilderness area will discover firsthand everything it has to offer.

To read the full 3 parts Boundary Waters Journal article about my 221-day wilderness adventure in Quetico in 2014, and to see more photos and videos shot by my wife and I, visit us on social media (@RadiantSpiritGallery) or Radiant Spirit Gallery online.

Quetico Provincial Park is one of three parks in northwestern Ontario that are part of the Northwest Wilderness Quest.