Winter Camping ~ Take 2

After my first successful winter camping trip last year, and pouring over plans with my friend Bre for several months on another trip this year my husband also became highly interested in the idea of winter camping and suggested we go winter camping ourselves this winter as well! Two trips in one year? I’m in!

So – on Wednesday February 15 we schlepped the kiddo off to my moms and the dogs off to Jason’s parents, and took off for the north woods – Ely area to be exact on an overcast Wednesday morning.

When we arrived to Ely we stopped by Piragis first to pick up our negative 30 degree sleeping bags and a Nemo Moki tent. We set it up at the store to ensure we knew what we were doing. It was a little clunky, but got it figured out fairly easy.

After we checked everything out  we drove by Whiteside Park where they had these amazing snow sculptures! I walked through, snapped some photos, and marveled at their creators handy work.

Next we checked into the Adventure Inn, a divergence from our usual bunkhouse lodging. It was a basic, but snug hotel with the most delightful (elderly) host Louise.  She was a doll, and was always so excited whenever she saw us. We promptly decided this would be our new go-to place when we stayed in Ely.

FINALLY, we ended the night by having dinner at Insula. I ate here twice with KC back in 2015 and fell head over heels in love with the joint, but hadn’t made it back since. After an a great hamburger (with Ghost pepper cheese) we went back to the hotel, got settled, and snuggled in for a night of RoboCop while I read my (William Kent Krueger) WKK book, Blood Hollow.

Deciding where to go on this trip was quite the challenge. I longed to see any kind of pictographs, so I had been thinking a nice and easy trip to Hegman Lake – with camping over on Little Bass Lake to provide a bit of solitude might be nice. After all – we probably wouldn’t do this trip in the spring/summer/fall months, so this was really interesting.

Another thought was Wood Lake – this was an easy one with the plethora of Northern available in the lake and we hadn’t been there before.

Finally the idea of heading to Snowbank and camping on Parent or Disappointment was also really intriguing. With Snowbank being a popular trout lake and us not having fished for trout before this was really really interesting.

All in all – we decided on Snowbank to Disappointment.

Thursday February 16

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So – our alarms were set for 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at Britons,  and were on the road by 9:00, and crossing Pickerel Bay of Snowbank by 10:00 a.m. The crossing proved mostly uneventful, but more tiresome than we expected. We finally found an ice road which was much easier to walk on since the snow was all packed down. I decided against wearing my life jacket when I saw cars on the lake, but still had my ice awls around my neck as we tromped across with my Frost River Isle Royale Jr pack strapped to me, and Jason pulling our sled.

We decided to take the shorter portage from Snowbank to Parent, and give up on Disappointment all together. In the future we agreed we’d both take a sled to spread out the weight a bit more. It was piled high, and heavy.

Crossing over by the portage to Parent we noticed a plethora of houses. Something new that we haven’t experienced before (houses so close to a portage). We got on the portage and immediately took in all of the devastation from last July’s blowdown.

There were trees down everywhere. Some of the pines were only blown over at the top making them look like they were straight out of Whoville and a Dr. Seuss book.

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The portage was a bit up and down, but manageable.

Once we arrived on Parent we were completely alone. No boot, ski, or animal tracks. We were alone.

Jason wanted to camp on the ice, but I wanted the bathroom nearby since I was a bit shy to just – go on the ground. (Perhaps Quetico wouldn’t look good on me…) so we settled for a campsite taking care to not disturb it too much.

The site was full of blown down trees, including one that fell over right over the… modified fire-pit/kitchen area.

Someone had gone to great lengths to create a full size bench that could easily accommodate 6, and carved in the back to make it look more… luxurious. We were taken aback quite honestly.

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Then we saw on the tree that had fallen across the fire pit folks etching their initials in the wood. This made us sad, and equally less guilty feeling for camping at this summer site.

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Jason went to work drilling some holes nearby to get some tip-ups in and I organized our supplies.

The wind had picked up something fierce, and I started getting very – very cold. I made the very silly mistake of putting on too many tight layers, which is exactly what you DON’T want to do. There was no room between layers to warm me up. Luckily we had a bunch of handwarmers.   Jason and I started looking for firewood, and it appeared that down the shoreline there was a good deal of downed deadwood, so we hauled it back over, and started to get a fire going as we got our tent ready to set up.

This tent, while somewhat “easy” in the store to set up, is a total a$$hat in the field. The internal poles would not set up where they were supposed to. We had no trouble in the store, but they kept popping out of place in the field. Eventually we got them to stay after taking a little break, and trying again.

The fire was a bear to keep going. It was starving for oxygen, and the wood would not catch. We got it started enough (or rather threw enough small stuff at it) to boil some water and heat up our food and that was about it. While tending to – said “fire” we heard a mans voice behind us. We turned suddenly to find an old man and a dog in our camp thanking us for blazing a trail. He was on a day-ski to disappointment with his very large black Sheppard.

He was a local guy, and warned us that with the warm up, the whole area could be a nasty slush field. We shot the breeze a bit, and he was on his way.

Dinner was a super easy Prego Ready Meal, and enjoyed some hot cider with it. After the dishes were washed we went to bed around 6:00 p.m. since keeping a fire going was futile and listed to the wind howling as we tried to get warm in our sleeping bags. I definitely need to get different mittens. My hands, and frankly entire body was dangerously cold, and it was thanks to hand warmers that kept me going. I put some down on my femoral arteries, and the others in my armpits, and I was golden!

We both agreed that winter camping wasn’t exactly for us. Perhaps too much effort for the reward… No fish, no fire on day 1.

Friday February 17
After a fairly amazing night sleep in the woods (the best so far) we slept in a bit, and woke up around 8:00 a.m. which is crazy for us since we’re always up early in the field. Perhaps no kid- no dogs really did the trick! I read my WKK book and waited for the sun to come up higher and warm us up.

I noticed some frost on the ceiling of the tent, and it wasn’t until it started dripping on us, that I realized it was inside from condensation.

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Shortly after our little “condensation rain shower”, we got up, loaded the sled, and went to the other side of the lake to do a little day fishing. Thought I heard some wolves howling. It started out as one. A long howl. Then eventually more, and more. Strangely I was not scared. Not even at all. I was curious. They were getting closer. In the end we decided it was most likely a dog sled team.  Out to the middle of the lake we brought our stove, some wood, and our breakfast out with us.

This. Was. Awesome.

I read my WKK book, and we enjoyed some coffee, and a Kind Breakfast bar in the middle of the lake while Jason worked the fishing.  Brilliant blue skies, and a silence that was the biggest comfort of the entire trip.

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As the day lagged on – and fishing proving futile, and our stove which was a pistol to boil water (never had such a hard time in our lives).. we decided to actually head back to Ely around 4pm, get a hotel room at the Adventure Inn again, and call this trip good.

So. That’s exactly what we did. We bused everything down, loaded everything up and headed back. The slush was getting pretty significant by now after a 50, or near 50 degree day on the lake, and we were glad we pulled the plug early. Peace out Parent Lake. May you give the spring and summer anglers better luck than us. And folks  – treat your campsites better.

We got back to the car with no trouble, and luckily Adventure Inn had one more room. A last minute cancellation! We took it, and actually got the same room we had two days before. From there we walked up to the Ely Steakhouse, and enjoyed a nice meal with some adult beverages.

We spoke at large about our summer trip, and our keen interest and excitement to get into the world of Hammock camping! This will be a good way to distribute our tent weight which is currently 12#, and will be very helpful for me in the summer as I hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Lots to explore here, but we’re about 97% sure we’re going this route starting this spring!

The service at the restaurant was pretty poor/slow, so we will probably not be back. We were there on our first trip with the same issues. O’well.

After we got back to our room we promptly fell asleep and set no alarm.

Saturday February 18
Woke up leisurely around 8:30 a.m. grabbed the hotel coffee and pastries, and headed up the Echo trail to the Hegman entry point. Pulled in and two other cars were parked. A leisurely day trip out to the pictographs.

We walked along a very packed, very noticeable trail from the parking lot, all the way out to the pictos. It was a gorgeous walk, and I immediately regretted wearing my jacket, and hat. My wool sweater was plenty, so I took off my coat and carried it like a baby.

Finally got to the pictographs on the north end, and it was amazing. I was surprised at how high they were up and marveled at the artists drawing. To me – it was God the creator, or the Gitchi Manitou looking over his creation.

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Finally we turned back, and saw scores of people walking in to see the great pictographs too. We estimated about 20 more people were hiking in after us. Definitely busting the rules and regs in the BWCA. The parking lot was completely full so people were parking on the Echo Trail!

Lastly we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Grilled Cheese Emporium with amazing service, dropped off our gear at Piragis, and headed home.

While winter camping may not be for us, the BWCA and wilderness adventure definitely is.

See ya in the summer Ely! See ya in the summer!

Keep Calm & Paddle On

 

Truth be told, I kind of hate these, “Keep Calm & _____” fill in the blank posters that were going around Facebook last year, but when looking back on our trip  the sentiment was just about perfect and I couldn’t think of a better title for our trip report!

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Pre-Day Friday May 20:

Technically, this is pre-entry date, so I will call it pre-day.  My husband took the day off, we shuttled the kid off to school for half a morning, and I did some final work for my employer before “shuffling off to buffalo“.  We blazed out of the Twin Cities around noon on Friday the 20th and began our 3.5 hour journey up to Ely, MN. Saw lots of “Flying Moose” stickers on cars, and swung into Spirit of the Wilderness to talk with Steve! His enthusiasm is always infectious!

Realized we forgot the kennel so my dreams for eating at Insula that night were completely dashed since we didn’t trust our dogs in the Bunkhouse by themselves. To say I was not disappointed would be a lie, but decided to eat on the patio deck at the Chocolate Moose and the dogs could be just off the deck next to us. The food was alright. I had Thai Lettuce Wraps trying to be GF still. Husband had a burger, and MiniMN had a hot dog. The wine was lovely on the deck along with the pleasantly warm weather, which really elevated the place and experience.

The waitress even gave us some water bowls for the dogs! A nice touch indeed.

After dinner I convinced Mr.MN to head out to Kawishiwi Falls for a night hike. We brought the fishing stuff with us, but had no luck. The waterfall was bursting with water, and my heart was set in the right spot.

It was very hot out. Unfortunately we packed a lot of long sleeves, and pants, but I did have a tank top on – so I wore that most of the night, and now I think I actually have a sunburn! ha.

Later on I talked with Lynn at VNO. She has to be one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever encountered. She gave us lots of great tips, and recommended the longer 40 rod portage from Upper to Lower Pauness. She also practically assured us we’d hear wolves howling in the area. This terrified me, but I knew they don’t eat humans… 😉

The dogs slept like rocks,and I was kept awake by bunkhouse neighbors who were all excited for what laid ahead of them on their trip. Around 11pm there was a stampeede of people upstairs of us. It was highly annoying, but I knew that VNO was housing several Hot Shots for the Foss/Crab Lake fire – so I tried not to be too mad.

Saturday May 21 – Day 1:
I’m no dummy, I know the Spirit of the Lord is everywhere, but oh how I feel it so much stronger in these pine stands, balsam, granite outcroppings, and tannic waters. A combination of no cell service – so the phone goes instantly into airplane mode to conserve batteries, and Gods amazing creation so immersed in your every being its hard to not recognize the Spirit of the Lord directly in front of you.

We had a quick and easy breakfast in the car this time of cereal bars, coffee from the gas station, and donuts, and blazed up the Echo Trail. We passed by the Mudro access and I remembered fondly our trip last year. This time we had a much longer treck up the Echo Trail to the Little Indian Sioux River – North.

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I thought of my bwca.com friend Kanoes. He died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 57. I thought how weird life is. How we’re here one minute, and just like water flowing over the rocks with rapids – gone the next.  I couldn’t help but think about my dad dying suddenly at 64.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but today I get to witness creation in the flesh.

Told Mr.MN about this trip report I head read on bwca.com and how they had forgotten their paddles and life jackets had to drive all the way back to Ely! We both agreed that would be maddening!

Got unloaded quite a bit quicker than last year despite having more things. The morning was a little chilly, and realize I had forgotten a regular coat for MiniMN but had an extra coat myself – so I gave her that, and it wasn’t too too big.

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Saw another van pull in of 3 soloists. Suddenly heard a loud F bomb. Followed quickly by several more F bombs…. Apparently they too had mis-matched solo paddles and had to drive all the way back to Ely!! I would be irate.

Grabbed the Frost River pack and headed down to the river. This FR pack is decidedly not fun to carry. Its heavy, and my pots and stove are gouging my back. The dog is pulling me on the leash, despite having the gentle leader, and he keeps stoping to try to shake it off. I’m already annoyed and we’re not even on the river yet.

Paddle up the LIS is a nice, quiet,  meandering river .Saw lots of Red  Wing Blackbirdsd and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. Settled in and my mood brightened!

Saw the Elm Portage clear across the river. The entry for it was very obvious. Walked the first treck over and Crosby is constantly pulling on the leash ripping my arm off or stops abruptly as we’re going downhill.

We are double portaging this time, which I wasn’t too excited about, but everyone assured me, the walk back is usually pretty nice.

Saw a man on the portage, Crosby stared at him incredulously. I noticed this, but thought the man seemed really nice so I wasn’t sure why in the world he was so freaked out. Suddenly, Crosby bolted backwards nearly tearing my arm or dislocating my shoulder in the process. Now my mood is soured again.

Grab my CCS pack, which is decidedly more comfortable, but all that it has in it is clothes, and sleeping bags etc, so its a treat to portage. Crosby continues to be a pain on this portage, and I ended up having a bloody nose on the portage. Of course I don’t have a kleenex on me, and the last thing I’m going to do is wipe my nose on my sleeve.

So I try to tip my face upward and keep it in. The waterfall on Elm portage is gorgeous and stunning. Trying to look on the bright side of things.

At end of Elm portage we were met by couple of guys daytripping that told us about the shorter portage to LP and some beaver dams ahead that we have to strong arm across.

We decide, even if we have to tripple portage, the shorter portage was the way to go. I hadn’t really researched this one, so I didn’t know if the portage was on the right or the left. They both looked plausable, but we chose the left. We hiked up a steep hill and at the top saw a campsite that was unoccupied. The treck back down to the lake was like a billy goat portage! Short, but really steep. I kept Crosby on a short leash, and we all did okay. We didn’t have MiniMN portage anything on this one, since it was technically difficult.

The paddle through Lower Pauness was pleasant. Saw a husband/wife that were camped at the lower site just north of the short portage. It looked nice, and they gave us a wave.

Began looking for Shell portage on our right. The guys we met on the Elm Portage said it was a sandy landing, but kind of tucked behind some trees. We didn’t see it. Kept consulting the map, but didn’t see anything that resembled the portage.

Someone had a red canoe and we found it! Praise Jesus! Thank you Red Canoe man for helping us spot the portage!

This portage was beastly. The entrance was a total muck field.  Lost of people on it, so we all shared glances of misery and “oh yay – downhill now” commentaries. We passed the Sioux Hustler Trail (SHT) and MiniMN announced how badly she had to go to the bathroom. Her and I hiked down the SHT a bit and took an off trail potty break.

Finally came to the Beaver pond very annoying. Second part was nice but longer than I thought.

 

Guys from the parking lot (that had to drive all the way back to Ely) caught us. WTF. Made me feel like we are the slowest people in the world, but they don’t have two dogs and a kid with them right? 😉 One of the guys were impressed with MiniMN as she did the 220 rod portage and stoked her up a little bit. He then asked how much longer and I said just over the hill….

Mr.MN went back for last pack & I rewarded K with Thin Mints.

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Shell is a beautiful lake. Lots of people were paddling around, and we decided to try and make it to Lynx.

Passed between Con Island and the smaller island and made our way East. Consulted the map but didn’t know exactly which way to go. Suddenly this floating rock appeared and I knew after watching all of the SHUG videos that this was the way to go. It was now referred to as the Shug Rock.

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Just to the left of this rock you come to a little bay with a campsite, and the portage is directly at the end of the bay. We saw a group camped there of 6 in Hawaiian shirts, swimming having fun. They paddled out to the glacier rock and were jumping into the lake. They said it was slightly warmer than Lake Superior.

Found the Little shell portage easily. The portage itself is not hard, and probably our favorite. This would be the last portage we’d have to do before arriving at our camp on Lynx.

Passed the Sioux Hustler Trail again on this portage.

Little Shell is beautiful! Very clear water. Would consider camping on this lake in the future. The pathway was  open to paddle to Lynx so we didn’t have to do the 4 rod portage. Took the lower east campsite after knowing it had good reviews. Lots of folks said it was a beach site, but I’m not sure what “beach” they were talking about. Slight sandy bottom so maybe that’s what people were talking about?  Sprawling multi-level site with a grand view of the lake. Fished a bit off shore, drank 2 gallons of water.

We made the mistake of not having full water bottles and were practically dying of thirst. Definitely were dehydrated. Saw a crayfish swimming right by our boat landing.

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Got things set up lazily, and found the toilet. This one had no lid, but there was a nice tree next to it to bungee our toilet paper to.

For the size of this site, there was really not many level root free tent pads available, but it would more than do for our family of three.

Entertainment for kiddos in the northwoods:

Eventually decided to get dinner out. Tonight was supposed to be Steak, baby red potatoes, and asparagus. Opened the stuff sack and dinner was an absolute mess.  Potatoes and asparagus were dripping in blood, our lemon for fish was burst open, and ruined. The steak bled over everything. I’ll never do this again. I was very parinoid, but we got things cleaned up, or burned some of our food. It was sad. Had just steak for dinner.

I definitely want heliniox chairs, or some kind of chair option.

Compared to last year’s trip, the bugs are horrible! These little black flies are mean. They land on you and bite you!

We are the only ones on Lynx from what we can tell which is odd for the size of the lake.

After we got our steak mess cleaned up, we went to hang the rest of our food. Couldn’t find any good places to hang our bag. MiniMN had an idea so we let her try to help us find a tree. Had to walk 1/4 mile away from camp, but alas, this would do. Now I want URSACK bags too with odor proof stuff sacks so we don’t have to worry about hanging our food.

Enjoyed our fire and the sunset. Even at dusk it was still hot out.

Mr.MN leaned into me…. “What does it do for you…tripping in the BWCA?” One look over the lake said it all. Part of it is the planning which I absolutely love, and part of it is the challenge and learning to overcome. Not having any cell phone service, and relying on what is right in front of you. Plus it is so darn quiet.

After we had enough of the night sky, we retreated to our tent. MiniMN begged us to play yatzhee, so we did. Mr.MN won.

Head lamps went off, and the wheels started turning. Suddenly looked around the perimiter of our tent and began worrying about bears and wild life. Dreamed a pack of Lynx (who are solitary animals) would tear into the tent as well.

Tossed/turned in my 5 degree bag. Definitely too hot for this trip. I was in a full body sweat around midnight/1am as the full moon rose across tent.

A nearby Loon couple was going absolutely berserk in the moonlight for over 20 minutes.  Prayed I wouldn’t hear any howling wolves, and drifted off to sleep.

Sunday May 22 – Day 2:

Woke up to a quiet world. Sadie snuggling MiniMN in a deep sleep.

Arose to no Mr.MN. I climbed out of the tent and looked around. He must be out fishing. Wrote in my journal on the rocks.  MiniMN really sleeping in. About 45 minutes later spotted Mr.MN by the Little Shell portage/path fishing in peace.

It was a quiet beautiful morning on Lynx.

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I was in much better spirits today.

Didn’t want to leave camp to get the food bag and have MiniMN to awake to nobody in camp, so I waited. She finally woke up, we got bag down from tree to get breakfast. Hot Cocoa/Coffee/Oatmeal. It was good. Instead of the regular Instant Quaker Oats we did last year, I made up these packs from this website.  I even added raw almonds to mine which gave it a nice crunch.

Here is a quick video from the perspective of a child in the BWCA:

Cleaned camp. Went fishing in E. Bay just north of the southern campsite. Forgot our anchor bags, so we paddled back to camp get them as there was a nice breeze on the lake. Thanks Ducks for the tip! Works wonderfully!

Fished nearly the whole bay with all that we had, topwater, spoons, Gulp on bobbers, nothing. Had a snack in canoe, and just sat for a while and enjoyed each others company.

We were going to fish the west side of lynx but the wind was getting so bad, and the dogs were growing restless, so we decided to head back to camp and make up Mac & Cheese. Relaxed under my CCS tarp & listened to pair of loons romance each other and MiniMN  entertain herself. She was talking to her imaginary friends and pretending she was a singer song writer at a book store.  She announced to everyone said she had to sing about “The Strawberry Patch” because her manager already promoted the song…then said, “alright everyone, will you help me sing this next song?” and proceeded to make up some words to the Strawberry Patch song. MR.MN took our rainfly off the tent and took a nap in there, and the dogs were splattered about camp in a mid-afternoon slumber.

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I studied the map for a bit to see about possible ideas for moving or day trips. Definitely want to eat a little more before we move to lighten the load. Maybe Tuesday…. We will discuss once Mr.MN wakes up. The girl and I try fishing off shore and not a bite.

Mr.MN wakes up, we discuss going out to Lake Agawato for some SMB fishing. The water is still way too whipped up to go anywhere so we decide to prepare dinner which is Tacos tonight. We get to lighten the load of jalapeños and onions at least. We make the tacos, which was freeze dried chicken & Trader Joes seasoning. One bite & MiniMN’s mouth is on fire! We had never used TJs taco seasoning before and it was hot hot hot.

Luckily I packed extra freeze dried chicken and its  super easy to reconstitute. I could just kick myself for trying something new in the boundary waters.

The wind settles down so I go to get some water & check out the portage to Lake Agawato. I sat backwards in the bow seat and paddled to the middle of the bay – but man I got hit by the wind at the front of my canoe and started swinging and came dangerously close to tipping.

I paddled & dug deep with all my might. Finally scooped up some water & abandoned checking out the portage. Kept trying to get to camp, but I could not get back to the landing so I shouted for MiniMN to get Dad… he comes to shore with a puzzled look and says, what do you want me to do and I say I don’t know but I’m getting blown all over the place.

Eventually a small path away from camp before some huge boulders I spot a landing & dig. Mr. & Mini run over and got me safe. Mr. paddled back to the real landing just fine.

We will defnitely want to wait until aflter dinner to go anywhere.

Later after didnner the lake was like glass. A strong contrast to the whipping waters of earlier.

We paddled south from our campsite all along to the western shore of Lynx .We tried wounded minnow, spinners, fishin’ off the bottom & fishing with a bobber and not a single bite! A gorgeous sunset was painted on the night sky!

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The dogs were getting restless which interrupted the peace however. Once we got back we had a roaring fire as the moon rose. Went down to the boat landing and went hunting for crayfish. Saw frogs, toads and a wolf spider. That sucker was HUGE!  Eventually fell asleep. Sadie (Our Jack Russell Terrier) was snuggled in with MiniMN in her sleeping bag, laying on her back and snoring logs!

Monday May 23 – Day 3:

Arose to the sound of the wind and the sweet elixer of sleep tempted me to rest longer, but once I’m awake I find it tricky to fall back to sleep. Across the lake the sky fell grey and threatened our chance of moving. Mr.MN wanted to stay put, but we were giving this lake all that we had without even a nibble. The clouds blew north and Mr.MN made the announcement, “Pack this shit up – lets move.”.

We got camp busted down & ready to go in 1.5 hours and we were off. The wind had really picked up and we were paddling directly into the wind. Like my friend Canoearoo said of her biggest pet-peves, no being a fake paddler today! We were digging hard but made it over to Little Shell unscathed. We found the portage and made it over. Shell looked pretty darn wavy but no whitecaps we were hoping and praying one of the Con Island sites were available but nobody else was paddling today so we weren’t too hopeful.

As we rounded the corner near the glacier erratic to the right towards Con Island our hearts sank as we saw the south site was taken. Almost assuredly the north site would be taken as well since that’s often noted the best site on the lake.

The waves really kicked in and soon we were paddling white caps! I prayed so hard to make land safe and thought how dumb it was to move at that moment. Father keep us safe. Do not let us tip and oh Lord let one of the other two island sites be open or we have a strong paddle into the wind and waves.

Phew, the middle site was free – in a pinch we could stay there, but it didn’t look very nice. As we paddled north, I prayed fervently the north site wouldn’t be taken. I kept expecting to see a tarp or tent, but never did. We docked the canoe to get a look & I jumped ashore to ensure it really was free and sure enough, it was ours for the taking! PTL Thank you Jesus! Its free! its ours!

The site was gorgeous and tucked back into a little cove making the lake feel small.

We got set up.

After some searching found the toilet, which the FS really needs to address as it is almost full. At least to ground level!

Lunch, was summer sausage, nuts & cheese, but we were still hungry so I made up some Cous Cous & Vegetables with soy sauce. That hit the spot!

Fished from shore and saw a whole nest of frog eggs in the water!

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The water on Shell is dirty and more tannic, but not as much as I expected.

A lovely bench seat by the fire

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Saw a few wrapapers of tootsie rolls/tea bags by the fire, so that lost a little of its magic. Packed them up in our own garbage bag.

Under the bench we found matches & cigars which Mr.MN helped himself to.

Got our tarp hung beautifully over old an log.

It was much cooler today but still in tank top. I’m noticing that I’m getting sunburned I look like I spent a week in Mexico instead of the Northwoods of Minnesota.

Saw storm clouds rolling in to the west so we decided we better get dinner going. Pad Thai. It was very good!

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Got in a panic trying to find a tree as the storm pushed in Con Island N has zero trees for bags. The rain came in huge drops, just as we finished and darted for the tarp as we watched the rain pour down.

Decidedly at this point in our lives 6-7 day trips aren’t for us. We think a 4 day or 4 night trip is about perfect and will plan for that in the future. After the storm passes we get out in canoe & fish the ^ shoreline near Heritage. Crosby lost his balance sitting up in the canoe, and almost tipped us over. Hearts are pumping.

MiniMN is working on casting lures and has a spoon she likes casting.

The lake was like glass. Jason gets a huge fat northern,but I can’t figure out the net so it gets away! I did get a video on the GoPro though.

 

We came back to camp & got a fire roaring. We tell stories about Elanore the man who sells coconuts…. as we grow tired.

We cozied up in the tent and fell fast asleep.

Tuesday May 24 – Day 4:

Felt like we really slept in today. Mr. MN woke up with a horrible headache, and burning eyes. Took some advil and slowly felt better.

Crosby ran off into the woods, and had to hike around looking for him. Trip has been stressful and not too relaxing with him. He is officially uninvited from future trips. His food is heavy, pulls on the leash too much, running off, restless in canoe.

Try to hike the trails on the island with Sadie, but they all peter out. We have a lazy morning to try and recapture our spirits.

We decide to cut our trip short and leave tomorrow to meet up with our friends and family for dispersed camping in the Chippewa National Forest. (CNF)

I definitely want to hit up Heritage Lake before we leave though and on our way out tomorrow I want to see Devils Cascade.

Portaged into Heritage. Portage was pretty flat, rocky in some spots. Landing kind of tricky. Muddy, but not too bad. 3/10. Heritage lake is beautiful. One of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. Fished like heck with NOTHING. Storm clouds rolled in and we headed back to camp.

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Noted some guys fishing on Peninsula next to our campsite. Said they’ve been skunked on the fishing too.

Read BWJ under the tarp and watched the rain fall. Garbanzo Bean size hail. The CCS tarp held up like champ though.

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Had Mac & Cheese for lunch. Sorted out our dinners/food bags for CNF.

More relaxing around the tent & look at maps & plan future trips. Definitely want to plan shorter trips, and less portaging.  Snowbank to Parent & Disappointment, or  Little Gabro to Gabro to base all look like good options, but also really looking forward to going to the Gunflint, or Sawbill.

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Got everything packed for the hike/paddle out. Everything loaded into Frost River Pack much smarter and it is so much more comfortable now without my pots & stove gouging my lower back. Dare I even say I really like this pack now!

Had Tuna Alfredo Parmesan with Frenches Fried Onions. Thought of Kanoes from bwca.com as it was his tip to make this and was one of his favorites.

Head to the tent and play 2 games of yahtzee. I got 222 on the first round, and MiniMN got 307 with a bonus Yahtzee on round 2.

Alarm is set for 5:30 a.m. for an early morning break down since we want to make a quick pitstop to Devils Cascade on the way out.

I’m excited to get to the 220 rod beast portage out of the way right away! After that we’ll do the 40 rod to Upper Pauness, and back down the LIS to the car where I have an entire roll of Thin Mints waiting for us as a reward!

Wednesday May 25 – Day 5:

Alarm goes off and everyone wants to stay asleep. I read the Falls Chain article in the Spring 2016 issue of BWJ while I wait for my family to arise.

After I finish reading I woke them up and we got on the water by 7:30 a.m.

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The paddle to Shell was uneventful. We didn’t have the strong waters, but there was a light breeze.

The portage sucked as bad as ever. Its very very muddy on both ends, and the beaver dam is damn annoying. MiniMN had a positive attitude on it, and carried her pack, and the Thwart Bag/Map Case across.

We swung to the right to check out Devils Cascade. We could hear the rushing water, but the landing was very obvious. The landing was a beautiful sandy beach landing, which was nice. We pulled everything up on shore, and left lots of room for others if they were going to be arriving or taking out.

The hike/portage was very well maintained and had a few ups and downs. Maybe because we weren’t carying anything I thought it was pretty easy. We hiked to the campsite that over looks the cascade and the rest of the LIS to the North. It was a gorgeous campsite, but had a severe drop off which would make me nervous with exploratory dogs and kids.

Back to the canoe we went. The peninsula campsite was occupied but looked very nice on Lower Pauness. It had a great view, and just across was another campsite. It didn’t look too special, but would do if you needed to.

We found the portage over to Upper Pauness and it looked steeper than my notes had made it sound. It really wans’t bad though, and we were across in no time. Rocky on both sides. We were exited to get paddling for a little while instead of portaging.

As we came towards the Little Indian Sioux River though the wind picked up from the south, and the current seemed much stronger than before. We paddled like the dickens, and within 15 minutes I thought my arms were going to fall right off.

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We paddled with all of our might over the beaver dams, and only rubbed the bottom on one once.

The wind picked up and we were digging! The way the sun was shining on the river though we missed a big submerged boulder and before we knew it we were stuck right over the top of it like a teeter totter! I prayed so hard that the dogs, and kiddo would be calm….. keep calm I kept thinking, keep calm. Slow, and calculated movements were key. The river was about 10 feet deep in this location, and we could not push off the rock which as best we could surmise – was right below the bow seat.

We had MiniMN move to the packs behind her seat, and tried to carefully wiggle backwards… nothing. Finally, I too moved on the packs behind me and we gently wiggled backwards, and we were FREE!!!!!!

I was never so thankful in all of my life.

I was actually happy to see the Elm Portage so I could give my sad arms a rest. The portage was met with happy spirits, and we commented that Elm Falls looked like Root Beer bursting over the brink!

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Back into the canoe we went, but I knew there weren’t rocks south of Elm Portage that we had to be concerned about. The wind settled some, but it was still a paddle.  Finally as we came close to the LIS entry portage the wind died, and the river was glass. Figures.

We hauled everything up to the car, and left the Little Indian Siox River behind us.

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Got a shower at VNO which felt like royal spa treatment,and loaded up on some groceries for the CNF.

Post:

Spent the next 5 days over in the CNF with our family and friends. Caught lots of crappie, sunnies, and LMB on topewater lures. It almost wasn’t fair how much fish we were catching.

We enjoyed our time with them, but we were also excited to get home. Sunday we finally crawled into our own beds. I was never so thankful to get off my Exped, and see running water!

Sunday night, I booked our BWCAW trip #2 of this season! We’ll head up to the Lizz | Swamp entry point, and basecamp on Caribou Lake, taking day trips into Horseshoe, and Vista. All of the portages are short, and easy, and it should only take us 2 hours or so to get to our campsite.

Looking on the horizon to the next trip!

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❤ Linds

Mom + Daughter | Retreat

From the moment I found out I was having a girl – I had wanted to go on a retreat so to speak with her once she got older/old enough for an annual mom/daughter weekend – to grow our bond especially during those tween/teen years.

Because I have become obsessed with Ely – that’s where we were headed off to!

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On the docket of fun:

Because I am a shade of crazy for Ely, and Northern Minnesota that I can’t quite convay to you on this blog – we got out the door by 5:30am {Why yes- I did pack everything into the car the night before!}! I had made a super fun playlist with hits from the Oakee Dokee Brothers, Jose Gonzalez, and Kruger Brothers.

We were off! Except a few miles into our trip I realized that our connection road to I-35 was closed down and I had planned on stopping for gas! Well finally after some twists and turns we found a gas station filled up on coffee, cocoa donuts and gasoline and we’re officially off!

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Took the typical 35 to 33 to 53 to 169/1 that I had taken for the third time now this year! I could drive up to Ely in my sleep I swear!

Little miss slept most of the way up since it was still fully dark out and the miles ticked by. Finally we stopped at Bearhead state park for a bathroom break and to check out the campsites. A few of them are quite nice and I wouldn’t mind staying there. I’ve heard the group site is legendary!

Once up in Ely – we stopped by the Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters to pick up a map of Lake One. Little miss were headed to the end of the road of 169 to the Lake One entry point.

We paddled around for a bit. I had been warned that the Lake One entry point could be confusing, and true to form the twists and turns on the Kawishiwi River left me feeling a bit confused and little miss was freaked out in the Kayak! Oh vey! I made her paddle around with me though for an hour or so since I hauled the Kayak all the way up north.

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After we lived it up on the river – we took out and drove back towards Ely to go hiking out to Kawishiwi Falls. We were the only car in the parking lot. It was sunny out and the leaves were in peak color on both the birch and the tamaraks. The walk was easy but a little errie since we were the only ones out there. I kept imagining a wolf to come by and snack on us like we were breakfast cereal, but all we encountered was a squirrel gathering nuts.

Miss K loved the view of the water falls. She wanted to get closer, but closer meant falling down a ravine – so I make her stay backed up. I was eager to get back to the car, but she was loving the private views of the waterfall.

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Later that day we at lunch at the Grilled Cheese Imporium, shopped at Piragus, and visited the Kawishiwi River Ranger Station!

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Dinner was at Insula which is by and far my new favorite restaurant of Ely. I had the ghost pepper cheeseburger (and a nice glass of Pinot) and little miss had chicken tenders.  Later we headed back to the bunkhouse to watch Big Hero 6 and go to bed.

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The next morning we woke up to pitter-patter rain – and we were headed to the North American Bear Center. We spent quite a bit of time there taking in all of the sights – and then had a spot of lunch and headed back to the bunkhouse for a nap!

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After naps it was still raining but too early for dinner so we headed to the Piragus Bookstore! We spent hours pouring over books until we realized they were closing, and ended up buying a few of them to take with us.

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Dinner was at Sir G’s which was not as good as Insula – but the customer service was very nice. Miss K and I split a plate of spaghetti and salads.

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Friday we spent the day at the International Wolf Center! I had been told not to get too “excited” about seeing the wolves as they are often alusive, but they were right up by the glass for the entire day. They had wolf hunting game, and several seminars which we stuck around for.

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Then we headed off Hwy 1 to hike at Gabro. Again – the eerie feeling came back so we only hiked in a little while. Over my research last year I came to know of a large pack of known wolves in the area – so again I let fear get the better of me and took miss K up the Echo trail to Slim Lake.

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That hike was absolutely GORGEOUS as snow flurries poured down on us. The area suffered a burn a while ago – so the blackness of the chared stumps along with some vivid colors were eye popping. The lake as always was breathtaking! We skipped rocks for quite a while and I had none of that fear that I did on the other hikes.

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We headed back to town eventually and went back to the Wolf Center until they too closed.

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Dinner was at Insula and it was a hit again!

Later that evening I met up with my cousin and her husband and headed to their gorgeous log cabin on Burntside Lake. It was absolutely wonderful and their hospitality was lovely.

The next morning – around 5:30 a.m. we were packed in the car and headed to Grand Marais for Moose Madness!

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Watching the sun rise over Hwy 1 was beyond epic! I was listening to a lot of Hillsong United so it tied in perfectly with the majesty of the moment. The twists and turns of the road were a blast in the dark I can hardly imagine how great they’d be in the light. I hope to take the Harley up on these roads some day!

We arrived in Grand Marais early in the morning and promptly stopped by Java Moose for a BWCA Mocha and Hot Chocolate for the little miss. Actually ran into someone I knew and after some hellos and have a good trips we finished up and drove up the Gunflint Trail for a bit and I determined we will be BACK on the Gunflint next fall for our Fall BWCA trip! It was so beautiful! After some time we went  to the visitor center to hit up Moose Madness.

Miss K earned some moose bucks and got a few fun items.

On our way back home we hit up nearly every State Park along the way including a trip down the Alpine Slide at Lutsen.

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Finally on our way back home we hit up the North Shore favorites of the Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls.

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It was great getting back home to my own bed – but valued each and every moment with my daughter. We had an amazing time and definitely grew closer in our relationship!

Daytrip into the BWCA

This past Labor Day Weekend  we took a trip up to Fenske Lake group site off the Echo Trail just north of Ely – and took a few day trips while we were there!

Our first daytrip was into Mudro last Saturday (9/5) for a bit of fishing.

Since we had already been to Mudro we knew what to expect. We got there around 4pm in the afternoon – filled out our day permit and headed down the portage path to Picket Creek.

The water seemed lower than when we were there in May – so we made extra care around the rocks.

We fished the north side of the lake up towards the outlet up to Fourtown- but did not make that final turn towards that first portage as we didn’t want to have to battle the current/drifting etc. We ended up having quite a bit of luck on that last bend before going to Fourtown.

We fished until 7:45 or so when the sun had gone down. Caught some SMB (Small Mouth Bass) and very nice looking sunnies. We didn’t keep anything though since the only keepers were three sunnies and we didn’t feel like cleaning them.

Dusk across the lake was a bit eerie – and once we got to Picket Creek we were met by two beavers who splashed us as we went by their home. The whole way on the creek felt a bit odd since it was so late at night and we were happy to see the car again.

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The next day (9/6) I was eager to get back to some more EP’s but my husband wanted to relax and try his luck on fishing Fenske – so I threw on my Keen’s, packed up the dogs and decided to go to several EPs to check out their initial portage path in – knowing [sadly] I couldn’t go any further without a canoe and paddle.

My first stop was Angleworm. Filed out another day permit and set off! I saw my co-workers car in the lot – since I knew she was out hiking the entire loop – so that was kind of neat.  I knew this was a 716 rod portage in – but man – after 20 minutes or so of a small – shady buggy path I ended up getting a bit spooked being out there all by myself after running into some fresh bear scat and a print that I was convinced was bear – regardless of the fact that I had dogs with me – I turned around and walked back to the car. I heard something up ahead so I started singing and was relieved that it was just a couple and their own dog! My imagination is out of control sometimes!

Next up was Hegman Lake. Again – another day permit – since you need one for each EP… This was definitely more of my jam with its towering trees and pine needle flooring! I made the pleasant hike down to the lake and enjoyed the beautiful views! I had none of that spooky feeling with me – and I will DEFINITELY be back with my family on our next canoe trip! The lake reminded me of Gun Lake – with its crystal clear water – though the structure definitely looked different. It had a nice large landing for room to get situated with portage packs etc.

I would highly recommend this EP for folks with families! Not only are the portages pretty simple – there are pictographs one lake and a carry over – over! (my daughter is super excited to see them!)

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Last but not least – was Slim Lake EP.

I took a right off the Echo Trail towards the North Arm. I didn’t see a sign for Slim Lake as I had with Angleworm and Hegman – so I drove all the way down to Camp Du Nord and saw a sign that said Superior Forest Hiking Trails and thought – hmm that must be it.

I hopped out of my car when I saw a sign for Slim Lake Hiking – “more difficult”. I thought that seemed odd since everyone said that the portage path into Slim was a piece of cake – AND I didn’t see the brown sign with the day permit box. I figured the sign must be at the lake… so I set off.

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While hiking I thought it seemed rather difficult from what I read over at bwca.com – and wondered if I was on the wrong path. After 30 minutes of hiking with no compass, and more difficulty bushwhacking and questioning if I was going the right way after many twists and turns –   I decided I best turn around before I became lost in the forest. Luckily I had packed plenty of water for my dogs and I.

I made it back to my car [thankful] – and was annoyed that either everyone over exaggerated how easy this was – or that I clearly wasted time on the wrong path. I was driving back to Fenske when I saw a tiny little sign that said Slim Lake on it – so I took a left and went down the dirt road.

WALA – there was the REAL entry point into Slim. I filled out another day permit and headed on in.

This portage was a cake walk in comparison to all other portages I had ever been on and certainly easier than the original path I was on. Met some super nice people at the landing – and they stated the path I was on would have lead me to Slim, but I would have been hiking for a very very long time before I ever reached the lake!

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All in all – I am also interested in trying out Slim Lake. While I’m not shy of doing more arduous portages like those from Mudro to Fourtown – the easy ones will be nice for my daughter as well!

Stay tuned for my “Camptober” trip report! It is TBD on if we do our traditional State Park trip – or if we try Hegman Lake!

10 Tips for Canoe Camping with Kids & Dogs

Recently my family and I have really gotten into canoe camping! We fell in love after this spring’s first trip into the BWCA. We realized that there are a whole bunch of sites throughout Minnesota – that offers canoe in campsites! So this past weekend we headed up to Savanna Portage State Park and canoed in on Wolf Lake.

Here are my 10 Tips for Canoe Camping with Kids & Dogs
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1.) Everyone – and I mean everyone wears a life jacket at all times! – Even the dogs!
All of us have life jackets on! Our JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) decided to swan dive out of our canoe in Boot Lake in the BWCA – and missing just one paddle stroke in the stern my husband picked her up by the handle on her life jacket and put her right back in the canoe. Our new GSP (aren’t these initials fun? German Shorthaired Pointer) puppy also fell out of the canoe this past weekend, and while my husband again was on the cell phone with one hand, paddle at waist picked our Crosby up with just one hand and put him back in the canoe. Yes. Dogs can swim. But yes, they can also get tired, and having a handle on them [literally] is invaluable.

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2.) Easy meals are key!

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I mean seriously. Who wants to be slaving away at the camp kitchen all day? I love easy meals that taste great! For our 2 day trip to Wolf Lake I was a bit more laxed on the cooler department and we ended up brining our big cooler – but we had brats, foil dinner, and pre-made (homemade) breakfast burritos that were wrapped in tinfoil that were an absolute breeze to whip up in the morning! Want breakfast… okay – pop one on the fire grate. Bam. Done!

Now on the otherhand – when in the BWCA – we don’t bring any cooler. We found foil chicken packets + Knorrs rice sides to be super yummy! We tried some of the soup options but they usually serve 8 – so a lot usually gets spilled on the fire and wasted.  Chicken, Rice & Veggies that travel well are key for us.

3.) Everyone wears a whistle – (esp in the bwca or wilderness) and the dogs have excellent recall – or they’re on a leash.
When we were in the BWCA – EVERYONE wears a whistle. At wolf lake we did not. When we go back to the BWCA – EVERYONE will have on a whistle. There are too many incidents of lost travelers and yelling will only last so long. Our dogs have been trained on the clicker. When I click – they come a running and they get a treat.

4.) Water proof – water proof – water proof – did I mention water proof?
Even bilge water in the canoe can put a damper on your day if any of your belongings NOT inside of your pack that is lined with contractor bags gets wet right? Right. And kids – while usually resilient to the cold etc – can become miserable in a hurry if their stuff is wet! So your argument may be – start a fire and dry it on the fire right? Well thats great if you’re at a site with an abundance of dry firewood, but our stay on Fairy Lake was void of ANY dry firewood so starting a fire was tough stuff.

5.) Wool sox and great shoes!

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Oh man. Can I even preach more on this!!!! I had a pair of amazing Keeen Targhee’s and a pair of Bog Boots. The Bog Boots were absolutely AMAZING around camp! We camp shoulder months so its usually pretty cool when we camp. Also… wool sox – wool sox – wool sox! I stepped into ankle deep water on more than one occasion with water spilling into my boots while wearing wool sox and want to know if I was miserable? No… I wasn’t.

6.) Remain Flexible
I had this absolutely amazing idea of paddling hardcore and straight through up to Beartrap lake – which is a simple 11 miles away – for my husband and I… but I forgot to factor in my daughters actual skills – not the skills I hoped she would have. So we make it up to Fairy Lake… got snowed in – which was an adventure all in itself and never stood foot on Beartrap lake [yet]. So I had a few choices. I could be sad and sullen that my read: 8 months of planning didn’t go exactly as planned… but instead I decided to embrace what the new trip had become and I cannot wait to get back!

7.) Dog food and our food goes in singular zip lock bags marked with the meal and the day.
This just makes everything super simple to find! What I do it put each “meal” into a quart size bag. So I put four packs of oatmeal into a quart size bag and label it “Thursday Breakfast” if we are bringing Mac and Cheese – I spill the contents of the box into the bag – and mark on it “Thursday Lunch” or whatever… and same with dinner. Then all of the “Thursday” meals go into a large gallon zip lock and I label it “Thursday”. I also made up a few extra bags for extra hungry days – or if anything were to happen. The nice thing is that the empty zip lock bags can be used for trash to seal in all of that… smell 😉

8.) Do not overpack
Because obviously then you will have to carry it – or double or triple portage. Any of which we’re not interested in.

9.) Practice Canoeing
This is definitely more for the dogs than anyone else. Paddling frequently helps the dogs understand proper canoe etiquette. (re: Stay in the canoe and sit or lie still)

10.) Bring along some fun and easy games!

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There are going to be some days when the weather does not cooperate – and you’re stuck under a tarp or in the tent. During our first trip into the BWCA we encountered a snow storm – so we all hunkered down in the tent and played pictionary. We had brought along a coloring book with colored crayon sticks, a water proof deck of cards, and nature yatzhee. These three items proved to be invaluable on our trip.

Some other amazing tips from my friends over at bwca.com
* Be careful around the fire, little ones (and dogs) can get burned easily

* ID tags for both the dogs and young children on the off chance you get separated. If dogs get separated people can call your phone number to be reunited. Older kids may know your phone number, but younger kids in a scared situation may not or may have forgotten.

* Cut the dogs nails or leave the tent open a hair for emergency exits by your dogs. Nobody wants a torn tent!

* My dad always stayed on Islands. He’d put a life jacket on us, and let us rome the island. He figured he could limit how far we could get lost that way. His rule was go where we want, but stay on the island. It was great for us. It allowed us the freedom to explore and enjoy the adventure.

* allow the kids to help in the planning, the packing, the navigating etc. Let them own it. Even the car ride up, see if they can tell you when to turn.

* s’mores or some other dessert for night

Countdown to the BWCA ~ The Trip

Our first trip into the BWCA was kind of like becoming a first time parent. You can do tons of research and get loads of advice but until you actually experience it – you have no idea what you’re doing! I was humbled many times out there – but that too is good for a person! The lessons learned:

First: I loved the immediacy of everything. You didn’t think about three days from now, or next month – but what did you have to do in the next five minutes. For an event planner – who is always planning a year or more in advance this was a much needed break for my tired brain!

Second: I love solitude and peace and quiet! – I had no idea I was such an introvert until you put a super talkative person in the BWCA for a week with a husband who is very introverted! I actually loved it! 

Third: You can plan for this life – and have the perfect idea of what and how things will go – but then something changes and you have a new life (that is – my life after my Dad’s unexpected passing last year) – and to realize that though its not what you planned , the new life – or adventure can be beautiful too! (How our trip actually played out).

Friday May 15, 2015
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock  you will know that I have been planning our first trip into the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) or BWCA – or even B-Dub as some call it. Friday May 15th finally appeared in sight, and the countdown on my phone finally switched from numbers to “BWCAW TODAY”. By 10:30 a.m. the car was loaded, our gear was packed and we were headed to Ely, MN.

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Just north of Forest Lake we saw a billboard that read, “Phones and Emails going unanswered, and the world isn’t over!” ~ Ely Minnesota.

I knew again this trip would be awesome.

As we got closer the scenery changed with cathedral high pines and ridges that boomed up from the earth.

As we got onto Hwy 169 north of 53 my new favorite song “Stay Alive” came on and we pulled into Ely.

Our first stop was Canadian Waters Outfitters to purchase our 2013 Wenonah Boundary Waters Canoe and pick up our permit to enter the wilderness. Dan Waters is a class act guy so we knew that we were in great hands. After we got our canoe strapped to the roof we were headed for Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters on the other side of town to pick up our SPOT. We were all gung ho and were going to walk down there, but it seemed kind of far so we went back and got the car. Picked up an emergency map and a few more Cache Lake food treats, and Jason got some leeches. We were fully outfitted now, and I wanted to head out to the Echo trail to see where it was and get a look.

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As soon as we turned right on to the Echo Trail my heart sang, and my soul was touched. The sights were unlike anything I saw before – even though some of the scenery is similar to Voyagers National Park, or Lutsen MN, but this was different. Jason didn’t want to go to far so we headed back to Ely, and dropped Sadie off at the bunkhouse so we could get some dinner.

Dinner was beef tips in Teriyaki at the Ely Steakhouse, and a lovely glass of Malbec! Later we walked along the shops of Ely and stopped into Piragus to get Kay some new rain pants since we couldn’t find hers at home.

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It was hard to sleep that night, tossing and turning, tossing and turning thinking what lied ahead the next day on the trail to Beartrap Lake.

Saturday May 16, 2015
The alarm sounded at 4:45 a.m. and we woke up. We threw all of our stuff in the car, went to the bathroom in a flush toilet for the last time, and headed over to Brittons Cafe. Even though I didn’t really want Oatmeal for breakfast I was way too excited to eat a real meal, so we threw the food down the hatch and busted out of there ready to blaze our path into the wild. It was a quiet, still, and foggy morning with the sun peaking out and casting haunting spiritual light onto the road. The Echo trail was once again gorgeous, and once we turned onto the dirt road it was nothing short of enchanting.

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After some time, the entry point appeared out of nowhere due to all of the fog, and sun in our eyes. It was a magical, quiet, beautiful moment.

We unloaded the car which took about 20 minutes or so to get situated. No one else was there so we parked in the middle of the road near the portage path. I brought Kay to the vault toilet in the parking lot, parked the car, and then several more cars arrived including some folks I had seen in Brittons Cafe.

They unloaded their vehicles like it was their jobs, and I instantly felt like a novice.

Once we were ready to go I tried to get my pioneer pack on and almost fell over! I was offered help by a very nice gentleman, but politely declined knowing that they wouldn’t be near us to help me the whole time.

The first 30 rod portage to the river/creek that leads to Mudro was a breeze. Flat, wide and hardly any roots and rocks to contend with.

Finally we were off! There were a handful of submerged boulders that we worked hard to avoid and in the process we were passed by “Olympic Canoists” as though we were just drifting in the creek. But then again we have zero paddling/canoeing skills.

It was a nice and beautiful paddle through Mudro Lake and I knew right where we were going from my copious hours doing research over maps. It was difficult to determine where the portage path was but I knew that it was on the right hand side. Jason wondered if the rushing water was a waterfall and Kay started freaking out so we pulled to the right shore while Jason & Kay got out and scouted for the portage path. Just then we were passed by more “professionals” at the real portage so we went up there to an exceptionally rocky & tricky footing portage.

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Kay got her feet all wet and was quite pouty about it, so we changed her shoes and sox.

We were all thankful to be back in the canoe but it was just a blip and through my research I knew the longer and steeper portage was upon us. This entrance was significantly easier to find. We were locked and loaded and decided to portage without our lifejackets on which was much more comfortable. We traversed the sometimes steep and rocky ridges and after about 1/4 mile or 80 rods we all took a break just off the portage path and downed a bunch of water. Jason left the canoe off the portage path, and we finished up the portage and waited for Jason when he went back for the canoe.

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Miss K got some girl scout cookies I had for her, and I was looking all around like a paranoid person because I was nervous about the wild life.

Jason came back in no time and it seemed laughable at the short distance of paddling before the next 10 rod portage. Thinking it would be an easy one, but boy was I mistaken! The rocks were like sheer ice and the portage into Fourtown was downright treacherous! I had no idea how we were going to get down this rock face. There wasn’t much footing and you basically had to jump to a very small landing below. After “rock climbing” and starting to load the canoe we were passed by more people. They had portaged a bit further down trail and their way seemed a lot easier with no rock climbing involved! We will definitely remember this for the way back!

After these three “tougher-than-we-thought” portages we decided our new destination would be Fairy Lake – 4 lakes short of our goal.

We got onto Fourtown which opened up into a much larger lake, blissfully reminding me of Lake Namakan in Voyagers National Park. We paddled towards Boot Lake and were passed by a flotilla of 3 canoes and were told that our daughter/dog looked pretty well behaved! (Why, thank you!)

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The paddle to Boot was easy & it felt good to get my paddling arms. We came up to the portage near the brooke that drains from Boot to Fourtown. Finally no rockside boulders and a chance to stretch! After we got our composure a man appeared from the portage by himself. Our daughter was really interested that he was paddling all by himself. We made our way towards Boot on what was a very easy path and thought Jason was behind us, but it turned out to be the man I later found out was JJ from bwca.com! I moved over so he could get the rest of his stuff and waited for Jason over on Boot.

Boot lake was very nice. We passed a few sites that looked really good as we made our way up to Fairy.

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This portage was mostly good but was filled with chipmunks so our JRT was in heaven! Fairy lake was not too large, but not too small. Just right. This would be home until at least Monday or Tuesday after the rainy Sunday and cold Monday passed. I filled our Platypus Gravity Works filter up with water which had an orange tint. We scoped out the E. Campsite which JJ said would be free. It was very large and nice. After pulling everything up on shore, Kay and I looked for the toilet and found it without too much work.

We got the tarp set up in preparation of tomorrows rain and got our tent on a nice level(ish) area near the lake.

We threw our fishing lines in, put on cooler clothes and waited.

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Kay caught a northern, but we threw it back to grow a bit bigger.

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Dinner was steak, asparagus and sweet potato. It was so delicious, and we ate like we were starving.

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We got our food bag hung in a tree about 1/4 mile away from camp using the PCT method and got a fire going until about 10:30 where we climbed into bed to an orchestra of frogs.

My mummy sleeping bag was tight but really warm, and my Exped 7 was like a dream! The Tempurpedic of the north woods!

Happy would have been 45 year anniversary Mom & Dad!

Sunday May 17th
I woke up while it was still dark to something wondering around camp. I fully convinced myself it was a moose. Yes. I could hear its hoofs on the rocks. “Please don’t trample us, please don’t trample us.” I prayed to myself. Then SLAP – SPLASH – LOUD! Again – 2 or 3 more times! The moose must have jumped in the water! I laid there shaking in my sleeping bag praying to God to keep us save and keep the wolves away. After some time I began silently laughing to myself fully realizing that was a BEVER!!!! Not a moose.

I fell back to sleep until light to torrential rain and lightening! Man I had to pee, but I wasn’t getting out in this crap. Luckily my daughter was still sleeping.

After an hour or so the rain stopped, so we got out and went to get the food bag down, but had trouble. Pulling on the rope we ended up breaking the branch and it fell down on top of us, but we were all okay! We need a new hanging method!

Had oatmeal & coffee. It was very good.

Intermittent rain throughout the morning, then it stopped for a while, so we decided to head up to Gun Lake for a quick trip. The portage to Gun was easy to find, but it was super muddy and lots and lots of puddles! Very rocky at both landings! Once we passed the trees into Gun I was IN LOVE! The water was exceptionally clear with none of that orange tint, and had the feeling of home to me! This is what I was looking for!

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Gun is larger than fairy but absolutely beautiful. Yes! I definitely want to move here on Tuesday but we will see how things go!

It was very windy so there were rollers to contend with so I dropped to my knees to paddle, which gave instant stability.

Tried to fish in the narrows up into the barrel of the lake, but it was far too windy. We saw 3 canoes out fishing as well who obviously had anchors – probably the ones who passed us the day before. We gave a wave and they waved back.

I brought the Playtypus with and got super clean water.

We fished the bottom towards the portage and it was much better away from the wind. The rain started back not long after so we headed back to camp.

We had chili-Mac from Mountain House and it was wonderful! Having a fire was futile so it was a wonderful thing we brought the Biolite stove. That thing ROCKS!

We all headed to the tent to play Yahtzee, but we were so tired that we all fell asleep and napped until 5:30 p.m.

Sadie was NOT the typical Jack Russell Terrier and wanted to sleep the entire trip. K was also pooped out and had a nice long nap too.

We had Chicken Wild Rice Soup for dinner which was good, but way too much food for us, so we threw it on the fire. We discovered Sadies harness was causing a bad raw spot so we took it off and now Sadie is in a much better mood!

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Our new hanging method is a breeze! Throw the rock/rope over a tree limb 6 feet away from the main trunk, tie the food bag on with a caribeener, and hoist it up 12 feet in the air and 4 feet from the branch and tie off on another tree. We don’t even remove the rope anymore – just hang up and lower the food! A pulley system would be nice for next time.

Over dinner we decided that if its not raining tomorrow we are going to abandon our origional plans of going further north and try to move to the east towards and into Horse Lake. I was a bit sad to leave the idea of Gun Lake, but know I will be back and can try for it next time! Got our boots and shoes dried on the fire before going to bed in preparation of tomorrows travel. No luck fishing today, not even a bite. Maybe we’re in a funky weather pattern?

We all laid out on a dry rock and stretched our sore muscles. After we got camp cleaned and put to rest it started sprinkling so we headed to the tent to play yahtzee. I won! Kay colored and I wrote and read the spring 2014 issue of the BWJ before we closed our eyes and drifted to sleep to the sounds of planes overhead.

Monday May 18th
Woke up to freezing temperatures and pouring down rain! Finally got the courage to get out of our warm sleeping bags and get our rain gear on to go to the bathroom and get our food bag down and have breakfast. I guess we aren’t going anywhere today. After a breakfast of oatmeal, turkey sausage sticks, coffee & hot cocoa we charged up my iphone on our biolite stove! It worked pretty well.

After dishes and hanging the food bag etc we all headed right back to the tent to play yahtzee and get warm. We all slept until 3:30pm! It was still raining but again – I had to pee! Finally got the courage to go out and pee and realized that it was not raining but SNOWING out!!! It was actually kind of epic and made us feel super hardcore. Ate an early dinner and cussed I didn’t buy Kay Bog boots. Whoever said that kids should just wear old tennis shoes never took a 7 year old on a trip where it rained and snowed the whole time. Despite wool sox her feet were constantly wet! I am DEFINITELY buying her Bog boots!

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Dinner was light, but filling – Chicken Curry but was physically a heavy package so yay for a lighter pack! We tried fishing again but not even a bite. Spirits started getting a little low while trying to get our fire going. Fairy Lake is home to NO firewood to speak of! Contemplating packing up and getting a hotel, but today was supposed to be the worst of the days! We just have to get through today and then hopefully move to Horse Lake tomorrow!

We dried and warmed up by the fire after we finally got it going and my Bog boot started melting! Word to the wise – don’t get too close to the heat with them on! K and I headed to the tent where Sadie already was and got some new warm clothes on and hopped into our 5 degree sleeping bags to warm up while Jason finished drying our gear/clothes by the very smokey fire.

Our daughters patience for the BWCA was wearing thin and our patience for her lack of listening skills were also wearing thin!

Father God, Continue to keep us safe from all harm and please let this weather break up so we can move tomorrow!

Once Jason got back in the tent we played Pictionary to lift our spirits, read the map and the BWJ. We are hopeful!

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We fell asleep to the hard cold wind.

Tuesday May 19
Slept in until 7:30 a.m. or so to clear and quiet skies! YAY!!! No more rain. Our canoe however was covered in snow where our daughter promptly decided to play in it thus getting wet hands again, but we are all hopeful we can move today!

We made the decision last night instead of portaging our crap all the way into Horse Lake we would stay on the east side of Fourtown.

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We bid farewell to Fairy Lake and got on the portage to Boot. It went pretty good. A few wet spots, but the paddle on Boot was beautiful! Sadie decided to fall/jump out of the canoe, but she had her life jacket on and Jason missed just one paddle stroke and scooped her up by her handle. The portage to Fourtown was a breeze! We single portaged both times. Saw two girls heading towards Boot and one was named Kay also! My Kay was pretty impressed that two girls were out by themselves! I told her once she turns 13-14 that maybe we can do a trip by ourselves!

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The first two sites on Fourtown directly out of Boot on the left were taken by what appeared to be boy scouts. The wind was blowing strong and there were lots of white caps. I had become a “professional” knee paddler so I felt ok with the waves. We got to the other side of Fourtown Lake straight across from Boot to start looking for a new site. The first few sites were okay but didn’t really ike them and decided to keep going south and saw another free site high up on some rocks. Paddled to the other side and I got out. It was okay, but still didn’t feel perfect.

The next site was taken, and finally tucked in on the way to Horse Lake was a beautiful site with a sandy beach to boot! Beautiful, multiple flat tent pads, and a new non-broken potty! (The one at Fairy had a screw loose).

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Yes she has her pants up!!!

Yes she has her pants up!!!

Not as many nice trees for hanging but TONS of dry dry wood for a fire! The site was right on some rapids for nice white noise and was on an unmarked portage. We can see why some people rated this only 3 stars on bwca.com – but I think mostly because of the foot traffic, but we didn’t mind seeing other people.

We had mac and cheese for lunch and tons of it! We ate like ravishing kings! Mac & cheese is definitely a great mood builder!

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We tried fishing and again, no luck! Grrr. Fished the entire mini lake/pond between Fourtown & Horse. Came back to camp to make dinner – Mountain House – Beef Stroganoff and a Cache Lake Garlic Bread. Kay said her stroganoff wasn’t good, and I told her to suck it up and eat it – until I took a bite… and then I said, um, Kay – you don’t have to eat this! The bread was a little tricky so we ended up having pudding for dinner! Kay thought that was great! Luckily we had so much mac and cheese at 3pm we weren’t that hungry anyways.

Garlic bread from Cache Lake foods

Garlic bread from Cache Lake foods

After dinner chores were done we got a nice roaring fire going and stayed up until the stars were in full swing. I laid out on the rocks and called it a star party. The song Oceans by Hillsong United were playing in my head as clear as day as if it were actually playing! Looking up at the skies I knew this was exactly where I was meant to be. I had never seen so many stars in my life due to the lack of moon.

Tonight – we go to sleep to an orchestra of loons, the rush of the rapids below, and the beaver fishing and slapping his tail.

Wednesday May 20
Time is flying! We woke up to a dolby surround sound of birds! The low rush of the rapids and grouse taking flight – puh – puh – puh – puh – puh. Thinking we might take out tomorrow instead of Friday.

Had a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and were greeted by our neighbors at the next site over – since of course we were on the portage. They were headed to Horse Lake to fish and gave us a Johnson SilverMinnow to try! We cleaned up camp and got on the lake with several people coming up behind us.

There is a small set of rapids but we couldn’t tell where the portage was – so we asked the guy and gal behind us and they said the portage was another block or so up and that they always run these rapids. We saw several more people run the rapids and get banged up a bit and one other couple took the unmarked portage like us.

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There were two more portages afterwards and the 80 rod was actually quite the lovely hike!

We got to Horse and I was instantly in love! It was Lake Superior meets Lake Namakan meets the BWCA! Fashioned an anchor with some rope and rock, and we fished the west shore bank from the inlet from Fourtown up to and across from the Horse River then drifted back down the middle and were skunked again!

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We decided finally to take Dan Waters advice and fish on the inlet towards Fourtown at the bottom of the rapids by the portage. Soon Jason caught a 1.5# Northern with a jig and some Gulp. I was determined I needed to get a fish. I had the Johnson Lure and was casting everywhere! Just as I got it close to the boat I saw a good size northern following but missed, but Jason picked him up on the other side of the canoe with a wounded minnow lure! We guessed about 5#.

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The lure was stuck tight but Jason’s pliers were back at camp! Just then a group of guys in their 20s we guessed and and they had pliers. It was too much fish for us on our last night, so we offered it to the guys and they were super excited since they had 8 guys and it sounded like they would really enjoy him for supper!

On the way back we saw several turtles sunning themselves on a log.

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View of our campsite

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Once back, Jason gathered some more water and Kay and I put on shorts and t-shirts. I met Jason on the rock chairs which was like a natural love seat and we officially decided to take out tomorrow morning. We loved this trip but are heading straight to another campsite to camp with Jasons parents/family and about 20 other friends. We had a yummy dinner of Knors Chicken Flavored rice & a foil chicken packet. We got everything packed up and ready for tomorrows departure. I could tell I was developing a sunburn but didn’t really mind to get a little color on my winter skin.

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Later I laid out on the rocks by myself and listened to Your Glory by All Sons & Daughters & Oceans by Hillsong United. It was a wonderful – and Holy experience looking at Gods nature. His Glory is so beautiful. Your glory is so beautiful I fall onto my knees in awe And the heartbeat of my life Is to worship in your light ‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful Your glory is so beautiful. I realized that my dad is seeing this – and so much more. He is seeing true beauty and I finally got the peace I took this trip for. I let go. I let go of any anger that I still had in me and had a peace about me that transcends all understanding. I sat at the rapids and looked towards Fourtown and saw an eagle soaring and the skies and clouds were amazing. It was like the bow on the present I was given.

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We had our last BWCA fire for the trip, played cards & more Yahtzee and everything about the rest of the night was absolutely lovely!

Thursday May 21
Woke up and busted down camp. Had again some oatmeal and coffee and hung out by the rapids one last time. We hopped in the canoe and headed towards the portages leading to Mudro. The wind was high and so were the waves, but we felt comfortable in our canoe and the wind was at our back so we made pretty good time.

This time we did not go rock climbing – but took the “easier” portage and single portaged the long one as well! After all – perhaps we’ve become professionals this week!

The last portage was a wet one as we guessed the water came up near the fall down right at Mudro lake and flooded the portages. We didn’t even mind and I saw Jason portaging his pack, Kay’s pack, and Kay claiming Super Dad! Evidently she gave up on the trip on the last portage! Haha!

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We paddled through Mudro and it too was bitter sweet. I was excited for land and civility, but was also so sad to leave the peace of the wilderness behind.

We came up through the creek river, and took our last portage to to the road.

After we got the car loaded I walked by myself down the portage to give a prayer of Thanks to God for this trip. For our safety and the wonderful experiences and flurry of emotions.

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We will be back! Hopefully this October – but I guarantee… we will be back before long.

Countdown to the BWCA ~ Part 6

The packs are packed, the straps are tightened and all but our frozen steak, tortilla shells and gorp have been purchased. A dream –  265+ days of pure obsessive bliss in the making.

I’m feeling a bit like a bride just before the wedding. Knowing that soon all of this endless planning will be put into action and will be over before I know it.

But unlike a bride – if I love it as much as my heart and soul are telling me I will – I will get to ride that horse of planning for the next trip soon! [Oh yes – we are planning on hitting up Mudro or heading far east to East Bearskin & Caribou Lakes in October!]

I laid out under the stars two nights ago around midnight. It was a very clear night and I saw a few shooting stars and reflected what this trip has meant to me, and for me so far.

A trip of distraction. A trip of happiness. When my life had been turned on its axis last July, I’ve had something real and tangible to be genuinely excited about. Instead of being quagmired in the day to day sadness that comes with loosing a parent, unexpectedly, at an early age I poured all of that emotion into planning for this trip. Was God and my dad leading me towards this trip as I’ve said many times for the end result – or for the planning? After all – as my dad has ALWAYS said – planning is half the fun!

Regardless, I laid under those stars the other night and felt deeply connected. Connected to this earth, connected to God and connected to my dad on a level I haven’t felt in a while. The tears came, and I let them. I let myself feel everything I’ve wanted to feel, but have been too terrified to feel. The only thing wrong with the entire scenario was the neeeaaawwwmmm of the cars going down the road and highway. I imagine myself on the far north lakes along the Canadian border in pure silence. Perhaps a splash in the lake of a Walleye getting comfortable for evening, or chipmunks trying hard to figure out how to eat through our food pack… but those are the sounds of the earth.

I cant wait to lay out on the ground in the night and stare at the heavens and let them speak to me without all of the distractions of society.

Last October I had started the countdown to the BWCA as a way to express my excitement, list off my laundry items of what to do to prepare for such a trip. 265 days ago I had visited the library to get a few books on Indian Lake,  a place that we were going camping for Labor Day in the southern arrowhead region. Next to those books were a few books on the boundary waters. I had no clue what the boundary waters really were besides being in a canoe and portaging in the woods. I had no interest in forgoing luxuries for a wild trip into the woods with minimal gear. Plus I didn’t even think anyone would be up for it.

Then I started to think about it constantly. I tried to use fear to “scare” the idea out of me, and imagined rabid wolves and bears coming into camp, or getting terribly lost in the woods, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that was being stirred up inside of me urging me to go. Finally mentioning it casually to my husband – like, “hmmm… I guess the fishing is pretty epic in the Boundary Waters…” My husband replied something to the effect of, “yeah – why not, check it out!” all nonchalant. I couldn’t believe it. I expected pushback, but instead I was met with open door after open door.

I began researching everything you can about the boundary waters. My first introduction ever into the bwca was a book Lost in the Wild last June by Cary Griffith which is about two lost people in the BWCA and Quetico. Determined I was not going to be unprepared like Jason Rasmussen from the book, I began relentlessly pouring over information on gear, fishing, location, wildlife, and maps and maps and maps. I watched You Tube video after You Tube video, and went to numerous expos in the process.

My biggest help has been the website bwca.com. Without it I would be dead in the water. The fine people on that website and on those message boards welcomed me with open arms, and provided me with top notch, kind advice. Never once was I made to feel stupid, or inferior, and the people I have met along the way want truly nothing more than for you to have an amazing experience.

I can’t wait to share a top notch trip report with you next month! Thanks to all of you who have helped with this journey! I’ll see you on the other side!

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