by Joe Friedrichs
Janice Matichuk first set foot on her island in Quetico Provincial Park in 1985. Located near the end of Minnesota’s iconic Gunflint Trail, this remote park is the heart of North America’s “canoe country.” Decades later, and enduring beyond her untimely passing in the summer of 2020, Matichuk’s legacy includes being the longest serving interior ranger in the history of the park. Over the course of three decades, Janice raised two children on the island. She saved the lives of canoeists who tumbled into the frigid border lakes of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Ontario’s Quetico. She had been charged by moose, canoed nearly every inch of the 1.2 million acre park, and watched many young paddlers grow into adults. This is a story about life inside one of North America’s most remote places. It is also a reflection of a woman who broke through barriers and refused to conform to societal norms. At its heart, however, it is an examination of the challenges that life presents. It is a testament to the fact that people’s experiences—good, bad, and on idyllic wilderness islands—all have much in common.
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