By Katie McKy
Pete Swiggum, 55, a national sales manager buildings products manufacturer in Appleton, Wisconsin, canoes Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park, fishing for walleyes with his buddies. He also canoes with the Boy Scouts, leading trips across the same rocky, lake-laden area. However, his Kevlar Mad River Lamoille 184’s most interesting application might be love, for it was in his canoe that he wooed Debbie, his wife, on the Waupaca Chain of Lakes in Wisconsin. Since then, their Lamoille has carried them into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, as well as myriad area lakes. They like its speed and stability, as well as its 50-pound weight on portages. They also appreciate its seaworthiness, cutting through white-capping waves when the wind rises on big water. It doesn’t have much rocker, so it’s not an aquatic Mazda Miata, made to corner, but it does reach the far side of large, blustery lakes.
C&K: Tell me about a time your Lamoille ferried you safely across big water:
Pete Swiggum: My 20-year-old son and I were crossing Beaverhouse Lake in Quetico. It’s a long lake that picks up a lot of west wind. We were paddling against the wind with high chop. It was one to two feet with whitecaps. We had to quarter the waves to reach our exit. The thing that really stands out with the Lamoille is that it’s a very dry boat. Very little water comes over the bow. The bow splits the water so well even in heavy chop. We didn’t take on water. We were feeling secure and dry because it’s such a stable ride. In all the miles and hours we’ve spent in that boat, we’ve never come close to tipping. If I ever had to replace it because it’s no longer made by Mad River, I don’t know what canoe I’d buy. It also has very good initial stability, which makes for a good fishing boat.
You like to reach deep into the Quetico for prime fishing. How else does it perform as a tripping boat?
It holds a ton of gear, but we don’t pack it full. Just two Cooke Custom sewn pioneer packs. When we’re tripping, we are packed pretty lean: The two packs and a few peripherals like fishing poles.
What’s the appeal of the Quetico?
The immaculate beauty of the place, the smell of the air, the wildlife, and the great fishing. There are very, very few people that we see. Yes, there are wilder places, but it’s as much wilderness as I need. I’ve done it for 30 years.
How has it changed in 30 years?
I think it’s used less, perhaps because it’s somewhat pricey, but some of the portages have gotten better. I’m thinking the new generation isn’t getting the same number of outdoor opportunities because they’re so busy with sports and computers and are missing out on wilderness camping. I was a Boy Scout leader for many years and have had the good fortune of taking Boy Scouts to the Quetico and to a person they’ve love it, but I don’t know how many have been back. They’re so busy with jobs too.
Do you have a favorite Quetico trip?
In 2010, I did a cross-Quetico trip with my son, Kyle, and a friend and his son. It was about 100 miles over eight days with about 30 portages. We paddled and portaged northwest to southeast from Beaverhouse Lake to Saganagons Lake and then went southwesterly down the Man Chain and came out at the Moose Lake, landing in the Boundary Waters.
Good trip! Now where haven’t you paddled that you want to?
Deb and I would like to do the Wisconsin River south of Sauk City. I would like to paddle the Thelon and the Kazan Rivers. They’re in northern Canada up near the Arctic Circle. Any northern river would work. The Bloodvein in Manitoba would be a dream trip. Any lake I haven’t reached in the Quetico is a dream trip. Heck, anything I haven’t done is a dream trip. I still want to do my first solo trip. I just bought a Wenonah Prism. That might be the ultimate trip. I grew up in Scouting and canoeing. I’ve done it for thirty years, but a solo trip would be the ultimate in self-reliance. I want to use my outdoor skills that I’ve developed over the years by myself.
—Check out the last installment on Kara Petrich Kalaus’s Delta 14.5 Sport