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Casey Kelbaugh



We had a surgeon in both canoes. One brought his steadiness and precision to slicing open and carefully cleaning the walleye, small mouth bass and pike we caught over the course of five days. But as we stabbed our paddles into the lake with rhythmic repetition, the surgeon behind me was keeping time, counting beats – as if measuring one’s vitals.

“Twenty thousand,” he announced with crisp authority. To complete the 50-mile traverse of Quetico Provincial Park in northwestern Ontario would require 20,000 strokes from each of us.

But neither the measurement of days, of canoe strokes, nor the miles paddled-and-portaged could provide an accurate, reliable assessment of the journey the four of us undertook. We debated and charted our course across a remote stretch of the Canadian Shield on the map. We took turns scrawling missives in the Captain’s log. We used our cameras to try and capture the experience of that timeless Canadian tradition of setting out into the wilds with a canoe, some provisions and the desire to connect to something greater than the internet.

What follows was my attempt.

Casey Kelbaugh


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