Mr. Draski & Quetico: Why He Keeps Going Back

There are not too many constants in life. Technology, school, popular music, work, and even friends, all change. In a world of change, there are not too many things that we may call “our rock.” There is someone that does have a solid rock though, and his is literal– Mr. Draski. For the past thirty-four years, Mr. Draski has made the trip out to Quetico, sometimes even more than once a year. Quetico, just like Mr. Draski’s attendance record, has remained unchanged for a very long time.

Quetico, located in Canada, just north of Minnesota, is a pristine park untouched by modern machines. Quetico has a complete mechanical ban, which is why it  is rated by Yahoo as one of the top ten quietest places on Earth. Since no planes are allowed near the preserve, those traveling to Quetico, or the “Voyageurs,” must take a bus to the edge of the 2,000 square mile preserve, and hike in to one of five camp locations. The Voyageur program is modelled after the lives of those who first traversed the American wilderness. This does not include Mr. Draski. Instead, Mr. Draski leads a Fenwick group out into the wilderness that he so loves. Since boyhood, Mr. Draski has felt a deep connection with nature, and a sense of adventure that keeps bringing him back to Quetico. Since camping as a teen with the boy scout program, Mr. Draski has not strayed for too long from that untouched, beautiful place called the wilderness. Mr. Draski has gone to the Quetico preserve at least fifty times since 1980. How is this possible? Well, there are multiple opportunities to experience Quetico during the course of the year, and sometimes Mr. Draski has gone to Quetico thrice in the same year. However, Fenwick kids usually go for only one week– July 18 to July 27. Notably, July 18th is the day summer school ends, so going to Quetico would be a nice segue into summer, although you are still ironically directed by a teacher (but no worries, Mr.Draski is actually a fun teacher). Thanks to Mr. Draski, others with a sense of adventure may enjoy the wonders of Quetico as well. As Jack Hendricks, a Quetico attendee, explains, “It was nice to see what nature is and to become closer with friends, and to get away from things. And I thank Mr. Draski for that.” The week-long experience is one of independence, and ultimately, it is a quest. Quetico pushes people to the limits– you must become attuned to nature, or the experience will not be enjoyable. Not to fear, though, a M.S. in biology is not required, Mr. Draski just likes to be prepared.

The majority of the day consists of adventuring around your assigned area of the park in your canoe, the most efficient means of transportation. Wherever you go, your canoe must come too. The voyageur definitely develops a special connection with their canoe. As Mr. Draski profoundly puts it, your canoe is “the vehicle which transports you around great distances that you would not be able to cover on foot. It carries you, and sometimes, you carry it.” Mr. Draski ensures that those under his guidance are well provided for, so that there is no scavenging necessary. This is the regular menu: for breakfast– cereals and blueberry pancakes, for lunch– ham sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, and salami and cheese, for supper– chicken and rice, beef stroganoff, chili, lasagna, vegetables, raspberry cobbler, mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding. Then, at the end of a tiresome yet rewarding day, there is no bedtime! That is, you may stay up and stargaze to your heart’s content. It is no wonder that Mr. Draski loves Quetico. In the morning, you awake to a beautiful sunrise over a crystal- clear lake. The former glacier water is actually so clean, that it is drinkable– straight up. No leaving wrappers allowed. Voyageurs must not leave a trace of their presence, after all, it is the wilderness. This means that there are animals to be in sync with at all times. Whether it is a moose, beaver, or haunting loon (Mr. Draski’s favorite), all life must be respected and taken good care of.

The physical, mental and spiritual leaps that one makes at Quetico are astounding. In Mr. Draski’s experience, this is how Quetico pertains to one’s development:  “It is first of all a great physical challenge. How much can you do? Can you do more than you ever thought you could? Size will not matter when you answer these questions, only your heart. Mentally, it is a great place to throw all crazy thoughts away and serene enough to be able to solve the biggest of problems. There is a lot of time and quiet to sort out your mind. Spiritually, it’s like a retreat, as one is able to better understand their place in God’s big picture. You can sense the presence of God and God’s beauty in the forests and on the lakes.”

Today, there are increasingly fewer and fewer areas that are truly “wilderness,” that is, in the pristine condition in which God created it. Quetico is how God intended nature to be– gorgeous, perfect, and awe-inspiring. Quetico is a place to quench a thirst for adventure (with the lake water), take a deep breath, and relax. By going to Quetico, you accomplish something that few on Earth can– be in an untouched paradise. It is a chance to experience a simple, yet meaningful life, away from the distractions of the outside world. Quetico is a place in nature that can be your rock. For Mr. Draski, Quetico is simply “a little bit of heaven on earth.”