Friday, January 24, 2014

Quetico Provincial Park : A Hermit's Haven, A Canoeist's Cornucopia and A Wild Mushroom Wonderland

Welcome to Quetico Provincial Park, the Algonquin of the north (or Algonquin is the Quetico of the South) and the park you should plan for.  In this trip, Beverley and I planned to stay for 3 nights and that wasn’t enough, period, dot the i and cross the e, because the t is already a cross.  Similar to Algonquin you could spend a lifetime exploring this park, but if you only have three days – you shouldn’t only have three days.  When we arrived early September 2013, there were more cars parked in the canoe launch than there were in the rest of the park and that is because Quetico is a canoeist’s paradise.  "We spent three days, living in a canoeist paradise," thanks Coolio.  Lake upon beautiful lake abound in this northern park and the fishing, I hazard to say, is better than Algonquin, just not for us.

Why didn't we get a canoe?  Oh Yeah 3 days.
Our site was the best in the park (always a good first step, #11 in Chippewa) and nightly we went to bed listening to the water and the lovely loons. All of the sites next to the water in Chippewa Campground have a private canoe launch, where you can tie up for the night or tie one on as the canoeists say.  Everyone talks about the fishing here, but because we didn’t have a canoe all we caught were a couple of babies close to shore.

From Left to Right: Tyler Whale, Robert Fidler, Korb Whale, and Derek Fidler.
Looks like Tyler has been out of the water for too long and Korb looks exactly the same 38 years later.
If you want to hike, the trans-Canada trail travels over 90 km south through this park to the U.S. border, but there are also four family friendly hikes you could do straight from the campsites. I promise not to talk too much about mushrooms, but I can’t guarantee anything.  Teaching Trail (3.4 km) was the first of the three hikes we attacked during our stay and here was the first time I have found Chanterelles (Cinibar Chanterelle).  Bright orange, they stick out in the forest like a hermit relieving themselves.

Cinibar Chanterelle; cook with butter and salt and pepper, sweet, earthy and solid.

O.k. not about mushrooms.  This moderate hike was a length and a loop following the water and joining the two campgrounds. Gorgeously overgrown forest and abundant wildlife surround this trail. 

Quetico, Quetico, Quetico, it's the campground for me.
Mushroom hiking or fishing or just beating Beverley (in Cards).
Can you guess the song? Answer at the end of the Blog.
Second the Whiskey Jack Nature Trail (1.7 km) is a partially boardwalked trail that takes you through marsh, rock and forest.  Again a moderate trail it is a bird, blueberry, and mushroom cornucopia.  

Now Beverley and I originally wanted to do some back-country camping but it would have meant a 5km hike on The Pines Hike in and out with all of our gear.  I’m glad we chose to forgo it, but we did hike in to the first backcountry site to see what we were missing.  We found more boletes than two people would ever be able to eat. There were easily 30 different varieties of mushrooms along the trail, we literally stopped every two minutes to check out a different variety.

Strap Shaped Coral Mushrooms getting ready to attack.  Fun Fact under each of these mushrooms is a worm trying to escape.  (Inedible)
Wait, STOP! Remember no mushroom talk.  The backcountry campsite was as nice as we’ve seen since Algonquin.

The spacious back country site with seating and a fire pit.  Washroom? -- dig a hole.

And we found this extremely strange mushroom;

Blue Tooth Hydnellum Caeruleum,  I put my ear next to this mushroom and I swear my computer was talking to me.


Then we found the private beach.

Life styles of the rich and famous camper... where's Robin Leach when you need him?
The third hike we did is simply called Boardwalk (1.6 km).  It was a really easy length and loop hike following the Pickerel River from the day use beach to the information pavilion. There were quotes about nature all along the Boardwalk mostly from naturalists and First Nations sources, that I found really cool.  And we found Studded Puffballs!  Smaller than the giant puffballs of southern Ontario in my opinion they are similarly bland.

Edible, but only great when soaked in butter.

Man I think I have a problem with mushrooms.  The last hike was The French Falls Hike (6.8 km) a meandering stroll with a wide path, a beaver dam in the middle and a falls at the end.  Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (I assume) swam around their pond as if we were not even there.

It felt like a real Hinterlands Who's Who.
The falls were water descending over rocks and a fine destination but the highlight of the hike I really shouldn't mention. Here's what the falls looked like.

I wonder what make these falls French?  Maybe the river just wanted another crossed e?

Ah screw it -- There were Bolete's over 20 cm's tall and at least that wide. The slugs had gotten to them so we only took a couple, but I'd never seen them that big before. Fun Fact: Bolete's are any mushroom that has a sponge like underside and all of them are edible in Ontario apart from one that will turn black within minutes after its cut. This one is an orange Bolete.

I don't blame you if you've quit reading the mushroom Blog.
Quetico turned 100 years old the year we visited and was originally formed to save waining moose populations from being shot for food.  It is a gem, it is a jewel, and it is a place I recommend everyone to visit -- Newfoundland first, Quetico second.

On our last night, a couple pulled in just before dark and the rain and in true Beverley form she invited them over to our site to hang out.  Well, before I knew it we were playing euchre with our new friends, Robin and Louis, until it was past the time to sleep.  Camping is such that it is soo easy to make new friends, then it's just up to you to keep the friendship going.

Beverley showing off the fives she never got to use when Robin and I skunked them.
Bev wants me to add that they lost every single game of euchre and crib and she blames Louis.
The best sites at Quetico are in Ojibwa campground 55, 56, 79, 80, and 100 are the best, 50-54 and 90,92, 94, 96, and 98 are all beautiful, but very wide open.  At Chippewa campground 11e*, 13-16 and 21 are best but everything by the water is great, but not as private.  Here's our site.

A car park above your site.
Down the stairs to the eating and sleeping tents (yes we have an eating tent). 
And once you're set up with a fire going...
The view from the fire. It doesn't get better than this.

Site Cleanliness: Perfect.  It really doesn't get better than this.

Privacy: We could barely see one site before we set up, but after setting up the tent it was just us and the lake.

Hiking and Activities: If you had unlimited time you would have unlimited hikes.  They actually have a "Birds of Quetico" book you can get from the park office so you could go on a bird treasure hunt throughout the park.  There was also a mushroom program they held right before we got there -- darn.

Park Class:  This is a wilderness park -- of course.  But I also thought it could be a nature reserve and a natural environment park.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: Beach.  There is one for the regular campers and it's o.k., but the one at the back country site was amazing.  Ease of getting to the water was excellent, but not necessarily for swimming, even though Beverley did.

Recommended Length of Stay:  Two weeks is my recommendation because I don't think most people will get here more than once in their lifetime.  There are canoe trips lasting 30 days, fishing for at least two weeks, hiking for a week and relaxing forever.

Overall Impression: I love Quetico, it's just how long it takes to get there.  If only it was in Oakville I'd be there every weekend.

Rating out of 107: #3 for Jason Hannley and because I want to keep my options open.  Jason Hannley is a friend of mine who loved the number three and because I think that this park has everything in three's.  1. Oh Lord this is beautiful.  2. Thank Jesus this is in Canada.  3. And if only the ghosts of this place could tell you a story.

Again if you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#3 Quetico
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Neys
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#29 Pancake Bay
#33 Chutes
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point

The answer is "Finland" by Monty Python.