Explorer Spirit - Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Explorer Spirit

Canada is unique. Different than most other countries in the world considering that most of its population is within 100 miles of its southern border. Mostly this is due to climate but also because of the inherent difficulties posed in building roads and rail lines in very rugged terrain.

In Ontario, the boreal forest stretches across the northern head of the province. Ancient glacial activity has formed the Canadian Shield and dimpled this vast forest with thousands of lakes and rivers. Some flow towards Lake Superior; most to Hudson and James Bay. There are so many of these waterways that most are rarely fished; some never. As I wrote in my book, Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide, the far north of Ontario has a greater population of bears than it does humans.

As an avid angler and hunter this remoteness is very desirable – in fact, magnetic. It draws me north every year for some kind of adventure. I make a point of trying to visit a different lake or river on every visit. Practically speaking this expands my knowledge base. But it’s more than that. It’s really the spirit of the explorer. Just like many before me, I have this thing about checking out new places. Perhaps some kind of innate wiring that revels in looking at a map and pointing to an obscure place where my boot once crumpled the moss.

There have been many explorers before me. Take Wendell Beckwith for example. A man who made his home and several outbuildings on an island in the middle of Whitewater Lake, part of the Ogoki River system. I’ve visited this place a number of times. Each time marveling at the workmanship that went into these structures; all hand-hewn from standing timber and shaped into things like hexagonal wooden floor tiles with nothing but hand tools. Imagine a day in a life like that. Hunting and fishing for food. Daily paddles to expand your knowledge of the surrounding waters.

The north is full of stories like this. Places that were first explored maybe 100 years ago. Places so remote that although you may feel like the last person on earth, once upon a time someone walked or paddled there before you.

I guess I’m spoiled. I’ve explored so much true wilderness that when I frequent the streams and lakes near populated areas I cringe when I see another vehicle or angler. Not because I’m some kind of hermit, but because I know there is so much unoccupied space in our country that there is no need for crowding.

Like I said in the beginning, Canada is unique. It has so many remote wilderness places; so vast, untraveled, unoccupied and unspoiled – that you can practically turn back the clock 100 years or more just by visiting.

Does the spirit of the explorer live somewhere in you? Does it need an awakening?


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