An Ely man who works as a guide and canoe outfitter arrived home after completing a grueling 80-mile trip that, apparently, no one else has ever completed.
The Duluth News Tribune reported that Jason Zabokrtsky walked (and swam) from Atikokan, Ontario, across Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and then walked into Ely. The paper says the 39 year old, who began his trip October 11 and ended on time, is believed to be the first person to make the trip solo, on foot during open-water season.
In a post on the Facebook page of Ely Outfitting Co. Zabokrtsky wrote, “Thanks everyone for the warm welcome home and great hugs. I really appreciate the kindness, and all of the good wishes and prayers sent my way along the journey."
He used a satellite phone to file updates. During the 80-mile trip through rugged terrain, the weekly Timberjay papers in Northern Minnesota printed updates, including his confession that the cold and damp weather at times made the adventure downright miserable.
“My feet suffer the most in these conditions," he wrote. "My wet wool socks inside of soaked hiking boots work to conserve toe warmth. However, the wet snow cakes to the top and sides of the boots acting with an icebox effect."
In a profile of Zabokrtsky in the Pioneer Press, the trekker, who owns Ely Outfitting Co. and Boundary Waters Guide Service, said he wanted the challenge.
"I have a pretty solid understanding of the region and what's up here," he told the paper. "But virtually everybody sees this part of the world from the portages and the campsites and the trails and the lakes. The real mystery is what lies beyond the trees. In modern times, nobody goes back there."