Experiencing the joy of paddling the Boundary Waters and Quetico is hard to describe. However, one of our long-time customers has done a wonderful job of it. It is with honor and privilege that I present to you one family’s saga of their canoe country journeys over the years. Paddle On. Be Free.
Generational Right of Passage
by Scott Tully
There are few places left on earth today that are pristine and relatively untouched by man, where you can dip your cup in a lake and take a drink of pure, clean water. One of these places is Quetico Provincial Park in Southern Ontario, so-called “The Boundary Waters”. It comprises 1700 square miles of wilderness that can only be accessed by canoe and portage trails once used by the Ojibwa Indians and fur trading French Voyagers in the 17th and 18th century. No motor or mechanized devices are allowed. You have to carry the gear on your back and paddle it to where you want to go. It is a beautiful, almost sacred place of hundreds of lakes full of walleye and smallmouth bass that haven’t seen lures. Additionally, many bears, wolves, eagles, moose and loons with the addition of an abundant supply of mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, as well as leeches that grab your legs on portages and blowflies that remove chunks of flesh add to the experience.
This summer my sons Scott Jr. and John(affectionately known as “Big John”), plus Ken Kostenbader (an old friend from medical school) and our trusty guide Chuck went on an 80 mile journey into the heart of The Great North woods. This has become somewhat of a Tully man rite of passage started in the 1990’s when my Dad (Albert J Tully MD retired UCA ) and myself made several trips with friends. Many tales of Albert Tully came out of those adventures…The time Dad dove 15 feet deep into a frigid glacial lake to salvage a guide’s fishing rod or the time we caught a 14lb lake trout that we spent 30 minutes trying to resuscitate, eventually calling the code and eating the fish, along with many more tall tales. As I plodded along the trail this summer carrying fishing rods, ahead of me was Scott Jr. (first year medical student at UAB) carrying a canoe over his head and “Big John” moving along with a 60 pound pack on his back. I pondered the passage of time. Not a sad feeling but rather a feeling of satisfaction that life moves forward, our roles change and that there is beauty in life at all stages to be thankful for.
…So more stories were created, more fish were caught with appropriate embellishments concerning actual size and more whiskey sipped. We watched beautiful sunsets with eagles feeding on the fish we cleaned surrounded by vistas untarnished by any manmade structures and went to sleep to the ethereal mournful symphony of loon calls on the lake. It is God’s natural cathedral that restores one’s faith in the belief that there are things greater than ourselves. On July 4th we raised our glasses in celebration of our nation’s independence, pondering why we didn’t take Canada in the heady days of our country’s Manifest Destiny when our guide Chuck beat me to a toast. He said “I want to raise a toast for Albert Tully. He is a good man. We had some fun trips with lasting memories and I know he would be here if he could.”
And the legacy continues. My daughter Kathryn is expecting our first Grandson and Dad’s great grandson this September who will be named William Kennedy Oelsner III. I suspect someday William and my son’s sons will make their rite of passage to The North Woods and carry the heavy loads for their Dads. Sometimes we travel a long way from home to find out who we are and what is important in our lives. So we returned home and immediately went to see Dad with new stories, lots of laughs and pictures. The smile on Dad’s face made the trip complete.
Proverbs 22.6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
If you have a Boundary Waters story to share, please send it to me at [email protected]