The Way of the Wolf: A Day’s Paddle on Lake of the Woods

In Frank's words, "Lake of the Woods is beautiful—the best spot since we paddled through the North East section of Superior."

Flipping through my old, beaten-up journal from a cross-Canada canoe trip I completed in 1995, I came across an entry from our time on Lake of the Woods that I hadn’t read since I first wrote it. We were moving quickly that summer, trying to be the first people to canoe across the country from coast to coast in a single paddling season. Though we only spent a couple of days on the lake, my scribbled lines brought memories that rushed over me like a tsunami. Reading the enthusiastic, eager writing of a guy almost half my age brought me back to youth… to summer… to wilderness. It was a time of utopian dreams, and the beginning of a lifetime of adventures.

July 9th, 1995

55 kilometres

Bigsby Island to Clearwater Bay


We headed off this morning from Bigsby Island and cruised up Tug Channel to East Long Island for lunch. The terrain in this upper area of the lake is much rockier than the south, lined with white and jack pine, but still has plenty of beaches. A few eagles soared above, and flocks of pelicans flew in ‘V’ formation.

The day was warm—real July weather—and our shirts were off to work on tans getting deeper as summer builds to its crescendo. On East Long Island I had a great nude dip. Lolling in the warm, clear water, I bathed in a freedom only found on a canoe trip in the wilds of Canada.

As the day moved on and we passed through the beautiful islands and channels of Lake of the Woods, massive billowing storm clouds developed in the north. Soon we were hit by heavy rainfall and surrounded by chain lightning and the crack of thunder. One bolt hit just a hundred metres away from us on shore. Finally, the storm let out one last gasp in the form of a torrent of rain that pelted down so hard and dense I could only see 10 metres in front of the bow of the canoe. This surge of wind and rain lasted a good 15 minutes, then suddenly stopped. At the end of it all, we were left with a beautiful rainbow set against the darkness of the passing storm.

Our campsite this evening is on a small, unnamed rocky island with a stand of tall white pines. We’re in the middle of the lake, surrounded by large nimbus clouds coloured pink by the setting sun. A gibbous moon overhead completes the scene. Lake of the Woods is beautiful—the best spot since we paddled through the North East section of Superior.

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