Adventures... West of Quetico
by Bryan Whitehead
The sudden sputtering of the straining Johnson 3 1/2 horse snapped me out of my sleepy daydreams. I fumbled for a premixed fuel bottle, carefully opened the fuel tank and poured the contents into the empty tank. Our canoe drifted slowly sideways in the current on an endless Canadian Muskeg under vast cloudy skies. I fired the little engine up and continued heading East. Was there an ever an end to this stream? My son and I had been motoring upstream for over two hours and still the Muskeg wound its way through the awakening Spring marshes.
This Spring fishing trip had begun the afternoon before when we left Minneapolis with several heavily laden vehicles. All afternoon we headed North, finally stopping at a tiny motel in International Falls, sleeping 5-6 to a room.
Dawn came early as we backed the vans and canoe loaded trailers out of the motel parking lot, a quick stop at the local McDonald's had us juggling coffees, cocoas and McMuffins as we crossed the Canadian boarder. We pressed on another 75 miles until we got to Nestor Falls, Ontario on the far Eastern shore of Lake of the Woods. My buddy, a veteran Camper and fisherman directed our ten person party of dads and sons of a range of ages into the local bait shop to buy our Provincial camping permits, fishing licenses and leeches. We parked the vehicles down by the water and began unloading the gear and packing the canoes.
A total of six scratched and patched war horse Grumman canoes, a collection of assorted aging boat motors, numerous bottles of premixed 2 cycle fuel, uncounted Duluth packs, artillery sized fishing pole transport tubes and kids all got affixed or loaded into the old canoes. The canvas packs were incredibly heavy - at least to my mind. (I was a confirmed backpacker and who had once cut off the handle to a toothbrush to save a few grams on a hike.) The sheer volume of gear these guys took for what was my inaugural Canadian canoe fishing trip was simply mind boggling. We looked more like an invading third world army than a group going camping.