Long Time Gone Photos and Words by Kristian Olauson
My lifelong friend and tripping buddy Mike told a pretty good story about his 30-day solo canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Days and nights of profound silence, epic storms that put the fear of God in you, weeks with no human contact, the frenzied howling of wolves celebrating a fresh kill, and ribbons of color dancing starward. These were just a few of the alluring details that had me reaching for the calendar to block off 20-plus days. I had to experience this wild part of Northwestern Ontario.
Covering more than 1,700 square miles, the park is a land of primordial old growth boreal forest and Canadian Shield, with a network of connected waterways providing more than 1,000 miles of maintained canoe routes. It is a place where you are more likely to see a bear, moose, or woodland caribou than a human being. And if you like fish, you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as the lakes are full of Walleye, Northern Pike, and Trout.
So, after months of dehydrating food and poring over maps to determine a route, Mike and I departed for Red Lake, the small mining town just east of the park. After three solid days of driving and one last night organizing gear, we were ready for action. We awoke the next morning to dreamy conditions for flying and paddling: blue skies, no wind, and warm temperatures. We strapped
our canoe to the pontoon of a DeHaviland Beaver floatplane, and by 10 a.m. we were airborne, en route to our starting point in the west end of the park. For the next 18 days we would be unplugged, living simply, and traveling under our own power. The slow pace of canoe travel and the absence of city noise, devices, and time constraints was transformative. We felt connected with our surroundings.
18 days and 65-plus portages and plenty of high-protein meals that the Woodland Caribou Wilderness provides
All leading to one of the most incredible experiences of my life.