Braving the Canadian Wilderness – Pukaskwa National Park in Ontario, Canada

Canada — By on January 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Dock on a Lakeby Ceri Houlbrook
Special to Lost Girls World

Everyone likes a little adventure. Everyone, including me – a born and bred city-girl – craves the occasional escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the opportunity to find some hidden corner of wilderness. But true wilderness is surprisingly difficult to find these days: Most of the world’s national parks come complete with gift shops, multi-story hotels and, no doubt, a Starbucks. This isnt wilderness. It’s nature-made-easy, pruned and groomed for our convenience. But I wanted the real thing; I wanted some genuine pocket of undeveloped land, where civilisation feels so far away that you could be on another planet. And where did I find it? Pukaskwa National Park in Ontario, Canada.

Pukaskwa is the only wilderness park in Ontario and it is 1878 square km of pure, untouched nature. This rugged landscape of the Canadian Shield is home to the shoreline of Lake Superior, one of the world’s largest lakes, and ancient boreal forests so deep that they’ll swallow you whole. To call it ‘off the beaten track’ is an understatement. There’s no track at all, beaten or unbeaten; if you want to enter the park, you can either walk or canoe, but there’s no access by road. So ditch your car, strap on your hiking boots, grab your tent, and step into the wild.

Camping in the park is the perfect option, especially if you’re looking for cheap Ontario accommodation. For just $15-$18 you can pitch your tent in the Hattie Cove campground and enjoy waking up the following morning greeted with beautiful views across the park and a lungful of fresh air. If, however, you can’t live without electricity, running water and a comfortable bed, then there are a number of places to stay in the nearby town of Marathon. If you want some warm Canadian hospitality then Pic River Guest Suite is the perfect place; it’s situated right on the banks of a river which runs straight into Pukaskwa. Hiring a canoe and paddling downriver from your guesthouse is the ideal way to enter the park.

Pukaskwa National Park Whether you enjoy hiking, canoeing, kayaking, winter sports or simple wildlife spotting, it’s impossible to get bored in Pukaskwa. There are dozens of trails, meandering through the ancient woodland or along the shoreline of Lake Superior, and in the warmer months, the plethora of beaches offer stunning vistas across the water, shimmering bluer than blue under a crisp sky. You may even be tempted to take a dip in the lake itself, and there is a protected bay for those of you who, unlike the coward that I am, are willing to brave the icy waters. And in the colder months, Pukaskwa transforms itself into a real-life winter wonderland, cloaked in snow and perfect for skiing or snowshoeing.

The park also offers an abundance of flora and fauna, home to several different species of rare Arctic plants, as well as foxes, muskrats and otters. But it’s the bear that is considered the park’s most exciting resident. Although I wouldn’t recommend getting too up close and personal with a grizzly, there is something uniquely exhilarating about spotting a bear, fresh out of hibernation. Feast your eyes on this beautiful, powerful animal as it lopes through the snow-dusted trees, with the rugged emerald hills and the turquoise shimmer of Lake Superior as the backdrop. Picture-perfect.

And you know what? There isn’t a single Starbucks in sight.

Ceri Houlbrook is from Manchester, England – no, she doesn’t support United – and her passions include reading, writing, hiking and travelling the globe in search of some adventure!

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  • Trice says:

    Great post! There’s not so many people who know about this fantastic place (even though it’s probably beneficial for preservation of its unspoilt nature), nor about its Native culture.

    We’ve just returned from weekend-long vacation there and I was surprised by numerous possibilities the national park offers in summer as well (thanks to this inspiring guide to Pukaskwa). We also saw some of events held within Cultural Week, aimed to promote culture of the Anishinaabe people. We also did a lot of hiking – the park offers fantastic and differentiated opportunities for passionate hikers but also for those who are not very keen on long distance tours. I am sure to come back again, and can highly recommend this place for unforgettable family vacation.

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