In this day and age, family tends to get pushed aside. I’m as guilty as the next guy. I let work and other “more important activities” get in the way of family time. Heck, I’m not even sure the kids mind. With all their hand-held device habits, I think they would rather interface with an iPod than me, their father.
In order to get into their world, we often sacrifice what we would like to do for family time. This results in us (me) learning to play Barbie, MindCraft, or worse, watching Sponge Bob or iCarly. Although this junk food family time is well and good, it is lacking some of the nutritional value that I would like to see. So, when I get the chance, my wife and I take the kids with us on trips and adventures geared towards what I’d like to expose them to.
Last summer, my family and I shared a few of our family mottos and a special trip with another family. My family, a seasoned crew of such adventures, consists of my wife, Kat (the right woman for me), my daughter Mary, a typical 12-year-old girl, and my son Ricky, an athletic 11-year-old fisherman. Our family friends the Furrs were our unwitting victims. Master Craig, a hunting buddy of mine, his wife Lisa, a best friend of Kat, and their daughters Abigail and Lauren, who are 12 and 9 respectively.
Our destination, the Quetico, is a provincial park in Ontario Canada. The duration of the trip was fifteen days, with 11 days on the water! The plan was to cover 100 miles, experience the longest portage in the park, the Death March Portage, to see the Olive Jar and put a note in it, to pursue and catch a life-time walleye of 30-inch for Ricky, and baptize a few souls along the way!
The Quetico is a 1.1 million acre wilderness park established in the 1960’s as a sister park to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. Both parks are known as world-class wilderness canoe areas, the Boundary Waters receives about 100,000 users a year and the Quetico about 20,000. The Quetico is more remote, more rugged and as a result offers more solitude, better fishing and is a bigger challenge for any group. I do not always wilderness canoe for my vacations, but when I do, I go to the Quetico for the aforementioned reasons given that I have to drive for 24 hours to get there.
Our method of travel was pack and paddle. We would canoe four to a boat with four packs squeezed in. In my younger days, I carried an 84 lb Grumman canoe and a 50 lb pack.
At 41 years of age, my body really appreciates the 55 lb 18-foot, 6-inch Kevlar Bell Northwoods canoe. I still have not figured out how to pawn the 50lb pack off on someone else, but the pack I carry today has a full suspension system, which is much better than just a trump line and leather straps of the original Duluth Packs. Craig’s load was much the same. Kat and Lisa carried the 80lb food packs, and each of the kids had packs of their own.
Even though Minnesota is known for their lakes, the water doesn’t go on forever. Whenever a lake would end, we would simply portage over to the next lake. I always aim to at getting everything across in ONE trip. This requires willingness of the group to leave a few “essentials” behind.
I request that each member of the group packs in a single ONE GALLON Zip Lock Bag. I put Under Armor long underwear, dry camp socks and a raincoat in mine and suggest others follow suit. Yes, I wear the same shirt everyday for those 11 days! This gives rise to our first family motto: Same Shirt, Different Day.
The first and last parts of a portage are special things. I’m sure you can imagine traversing a muddy rocky portage trail would lead to dread and fear at the beginning followed by elation and joy at the end when you can set down the 80 lb food pack. But that is not what makes the beginning and end so special. It’s the water!
The trade off of using ultra lite Kevlar canoes is that they do not fair well when they come in contact with land. Thus, we off load the canoe in knee-deep water, which leads to perpetually cold and wet feet and the second Seume motto: Get Wet and Be Happy!
Once the canoeing and portaging is done for the day, we set up camp. With kids, I usually shoot for the 5 star campsites when possible.
A five star campsite has a suitable landing to safely unload the canoe, a nice fire pit complete with seating on a few downed logs, at least two large flat tent pads, close proximity to good fishing, and a bear bag tree. For those of you that just realized that a 1.1 million acre park in southern Canada has bears, let me explain what a bear bag is and what it is supposed to do.
A good bear bag tree has a suitable limb that you can throw a rope over and pull 160lbs of food packs 10-12 feet in the air. Hanging a good bear bag takes time and great skill, not to mention a good throwing arm. For this reason, I always start early selecting trees, limbs and rocks, and I hang my bear bag right after I get the tent set up. If you do not hang a bear bag early, you will have to do it at dark thirty, which is when the Minnesota State Bird, the mosquito, comes out en mass. This leads to the third and final Seume motto: Hang your bear bag first, Ask questions later.
So you might ask, how did you do on your stated goals? Pretty well. We covered 120 miles, 10 of which were on portages. The Death March was a solid 3 miles but very beautiful. The Olive Jar, it is still there, the only disappointment was that the campsite where it lives was occupied by nine 20-something girls who beat us to the site. I did get to deposit my note in there, The Paddlers Prayer. After losing one 30-inch walleye at the net and having the next one wiggle free from my hands before Mr. Craig could snap a picture, Ricky landed five fish “in the range” including one that taped 31-inches. As far as baptizing, there was plenty of that going on the entire trip. However, I must say that Lauren, Abigail and their father Craig did take the plunge in Louisa Falls in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
If you would like to hear more of Dr. Seume’s family adventures or if you have a tooth question, you can always call or come by the office in Hitchcock at 8022 Hwy 6, 409-986-6018 or visit him on the web at hitchcockdental.com.