Quetico Past and Present

The Taylor Statten Camps have been sending campers to trip in Quetico Provincial Park since 1965. For 36 days trippers go without basic necessities often taken for granted in the modern world: a roof overhead, a comfy bed, a shower, a microwave, cars, electricity, stores, the list goes on. For this time a cabin group becomes a completely self-reliant unit of nine – seven teenaged campers and two staff members. The bonds that are formed on a long canoe trip like Quetico are not just teenage friendships. Eight lifelong brothers are made who will go to any length to support you because you would do the same for them. They say that it takes 30 days to form a habit, and being on trip for 36 days I would say it becomes more like a lifestyle.

I was fortunate enough to go on Quetico in 2009. I had never met any of the people I was planning to spend the next 36 days with in the wilderness. I wasn’t sure if Quetico would be a good choice for me that year because after finishing our camps’ 50-Day trip the year prior, most of my friends went on to be counsellors in training. Since I was still a year too young for a staff position, I decided to go for it and do Quetico with eight people I had never met before; it was the best decision of my life. The boys that I went on canoe trip with that year are now my very best friends and I am blessed to have the opportunity to lead a Quetico this year with one of the guys I met on Quetico 2009.

Although, there are so many great places to experience in this beautiful provincial park, it is not why I go on canoe trips. It is for the sheer pride I feel when the canoes roll up onto the beach of a campsite after a long day, for the friends I make, and for the personal values it has taught me. Coming from a private school living in a privileged neighbourhood of Toronto, I did not have to earn my privileges. On canoe trip it is nothing but you and eight other guys who you rely on to make it through the day. I have portaged through some of the most forgotten areas of Ontario through thick brush and mud and I cannot say that I loved doing this at the time. What I love about the hard days on trip is how a group of trippers can forge ties so strong and have something to be proud of accomplishing together. It is an experience like none other, nothing like any school or competitive sports team can teach a boy leading into manhood. I can say with confidence that without having gone on long trip as a 15 and 16-year-old boy, I would not have grown to be as well rounded as I am today. I have learned many intangible skills that can be applied to life in the city. I have learned to be able to put stressful situations into perspective, to make composed, rational decisions under pressure, the value in hard work and perseverance, and how to be a team player.

After spending over a month in Quetico it is easy to see why it has become TSC’s most popular canoe trip. It is an experience filled with incredible destinations and landscapes, along with a truly unique opportunity for independence, tranquility, and personal growth. I am looking forward to my second chance to explore this beautiful area of Ontario, this time as a co-leader of seven teenage boys. In the weeks leading up to trip, the many stories we’ve shared with TSC’s Quetico alumni, along with our campers’ enthusiasm has only confirmed what we’ve known since 2009: these boys are going to have the best summer of their lives.

-Andrew Irwin