Man Bushwhacking The Boundary Waters, No Trails On 80-Mile Route

Jason Zabokrtsky

A Minnesota man will attempt to cross about 80 miles of rugged wilderness in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park on foot, alone and off trail beginning on Oct. 11.

Jason Zabokrtsky of Ely, Minnesota, may be better suited than most people for the task. A guide and owner of Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service, he spends much of his time on the lakes in the region.

Thousands of people visit the BWCA and Quetico each year, traveling almost exclusively by boat in the summer or skis in the winter.

Zabokrtsky said he too has also rarely ventured far from the lakes or trails that serve as highways in this water-filled landscape.

“I was sitting looking at the map on the wall and thought, ‘let’s see something I have’t seen yet,’” he said. “Most visitors see the area from the water, the portage trail, or camp. Nobody sees behind that. I’m going to see behind the curtain of the trees to have a better understanding of the wilderness up here.

The hike will begin in Atikokan, Ontario and finish in Ely, Minnesota.

Jason Zabokrtsky will cross lakes wearing a dry suit

Zabokrtsky will wear a dry suit and swim necessary water crossings with his backpack stowed in a dry bag and floating beside him. The anticipated route has about a dozen significant swims.

While crossing the BWCA and Quetico by land is not unheard of, the vast majority of crossings take place by skis and in the winter. Zabokrtsky said he did not know of anyone else ever undertaking this summertime trek.

“This journey will definitely provide me with a deeper understanding and better appreciation for this exceptional wilderness area that I love dearly,” he said.

Jason Zabokrtsky; photo by Paul Skoraczewski

Zabokrtsky will navigate with paper map and a compass, but also use an iPhone GPS app, MotionX, satellite imagery and electronic topo maps.

A satellite phone will allow Jason to make occasional updates from the trail. Follow along at Ely Outfitting Company. —Sean McCoy

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Managing Editor Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in Denver, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.