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.
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.
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