Thanks to the SUP guiding skills of ML Contributing Editor Scott Parent, we circumnavigated a remote Great Lakes archipelago last week—fighting headwinds but embracing the lonely beauty of this uninhabited place.
We don’t want to name the islands.
They’re designated provincial crown land so the public is allowed to visit but due to the Covid-related surge in high-impact visitation to wild places, we’d like to keep them off-radar. We retrieved lots of plastic flotsam from the shoreline and packed it out, so we’re confident we left the islands cleaner than we found them. But we’re aware that if successive groups of paddlers arrived, their impact would begin to show—particularly on the extensive (and fragile) dune ecosystems.
The geography of the thickly forested islands is the key to their preservation. Not only are they far from any boat launch, they’re also surrounded by shoals. So only the most intrepid sailor would seek anchorage here. Meanwhile, kayakers or paddleboarders can’t count on favourable winds. (And it’s always windy here.) The prevailing winds are westerly so they’re coming at you sideways, which continuously throws off your steering.
In any case, we saw no other paddlers or boaters. Living as most of us do, surrounded by vehicles and constant human stimulus—not to mention an abundance of jet-skis and powerboats on our waterways—the Nameless Islands’ soundtrack of wind, surf and birdsong was both calming and humbling.
Regular life seemed as if it happened a couple of planets ago, when humans ran amok in their 24/7 struggle to subdue nature. Out here, we caught a glimpse of the landscape before it became something only to buy and sell. The paddling was arduous but I left the islands with a profound feeling of fulfillment and gratitude that such places still exist.