The Sharpe’s Take on the Quetico (Hunter Island Loop) – Part One

There was no time for tourist stops because we had 2 days’ worth of driving around the Superior Coastal Highlands and then west of Thunder Bay.  That was a little disappointing, but I was more excited about embarking on our Quetico Provincial Park expedition paddling the Hunter Island Loop!

The last time I drove around Lake Superior is when my husband and I moved back from the Yukon in 2013. I pine for Lake Superior and it’s mightiness. My heart can be in so much ache driving through the landscape. I didn’t see much of it our first day of driving because we reached Sault Ste. Marie around sunset, so I just caught a little bit of the lake views before it turned dark. We stayed at the White Fang Hotel south of Wawa our first night.

Ouch my heart. 1st view of Lake Superior, the mightiest of them all.
My husband made us a reservation at the White Fang Hotel… because he knows I love wolves. #besthusbandever

My husband had us up at some asinine time the next morning to continue our drive. I just barely got to sleep before it was time to get up when he jumped out of bed and turned all the lights on in the room. Ouch, my eyes. You can compare the sensation with living in a cave for 3 years and suddenly the sun shines inside.


When we reached White River we treated ourselves to some gut rot coffee.

The drive was so wonderful. It was hard sitting for that long, but worth it.

Ontario is SO beautiful!
Sorry for the bug splatter.

After we drove through Thunder Bay, spirits were high. We both remember seeing the Quetico Park sign on our drive home from the Yukon when we stopped in Atikokan for gas not knowing the significance of the area, just that we thought it would be neat to get back there to explore. Well, here we are!

First we passed through the Arctic Watershed, so now all streams were flowing north to the Arctic Ocean which is pretty cool, and we entered into the Central Time Zone.

When we saw the park sign, we were amped.

Quetico is a wilderness park, meaning it is real wilderness tripping country. For thousands of years our paddling predecessors have gotten along just fine without painted signs in the wilderness to indicate portages, campsites or thunder boxes. – Quetico park map

I’m always pushing myself and my skills, so navigating through land that is unmarked is exciting and really gives me a lot of confidence when I’m in the wilderness. We don’t need portage markers. Thunder boxes? Well they’re not so nice either, but without them in populated parks there would be an awful mess.

Finally, a 3-year dream come true!

We picked up our permit at the Dawson Trail Campground and talked with the Park Warden regarding our route (Hunter Island Loop). Not much to report on our chosen loop, just that the water was up because of the amount of rain received during spring, he was jealous we were going to be paddling through that much of the park and that he really loved the Maligne River section, which ended up being my least favourite…

Quetico’s history is rich with stories and routes paddled by the voyageurs through traditional First Nations land.

With permit in hand we headed into Atikokan for some exploring.

Canoeing Capital of Canada.

We stopped by XY Company to introduce ourselves to Spencer Meany. He made my husband’s racing paddle for the Algonquin Outfitters Muskoka River X canoe race last year. His family has a history in the area of making beautiful paddles and canoe racing.

My husband standing with the 2 paddles he and his canoe partner had made for their Algonquin Outfitters Muskoka River X canoe race last year.

Along the same stretch of highway is Souris River Canoes.

It wasn’t long before we started seeing Mike Ranta‘s name popping up everywhere. It isn’t hard to tell how proud Atikokan is of Mike and his paddling coast-to-coast accomplishments and the causes he raises awareness for.

We stopped for some food in town and then headed back to the Dawson Trail Campground in Quetico Provincial Park  to organize ourselves and gear in a beauty cabin for our last night before we began our epic canoe trip.

It’s weird not seeing my husband with an IPA. It’s like he’s not even the same person.

At the campground, my husband found a plaque with an Ojibwe prayer that I held so close to my heart.

These words meant so much to me while we paddled through the wilds of Quetico.

to be continued…

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  1. Great post and photos! That cabin in Atikokan looks awesome – who rents it out? (I am seriously interested in going back to Quetico, and this cabin looks like my cup of tea) Thanks for also posting on-the-road stuff – Aguasabon gorge looks spectacular. Did you use a straight paddle or a bent shaft for your trip? Yes Ontario is magnificent! Can’t wait for more of you Quetico posts!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • Thanks for the comment, Colette! The cabin is located in the Dawson Trail Campground at Quetico Provincial Park. It was awesome! We both used straight paddles. One day I will be able to afford a new paddle! Thank you so much for the comment! 🙂


  2. I was very lucky to spend my teen years in that community and paddle Quetico. The Maligne River section can be dangerous depending on the water levels. Looking forward to your next post.


  3. I really enjoyed that Cobi. Thanks for sharing all your stories and pictures. Loved the picture of the gorge!! I admire those who do these adventures. Strange that I wouldn’t do them but I love to read about them….LOL


    • Thank you so much for reading this Frances! It truly was the most difficult trip I’ve ever done. But by the end of it I felt amazing. There were moments where I was scared as hell. I hate moving water (rapids, swifts, etc.) so I struggled a few times and even cried when I completed the most difficult section of the loop, “the falls chain” which was portaging around 7 waterfalls, all of which people have died at, sadly. I will blog all about it and have made videos to go along with it. I appreciate your comments so much! 🙂


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