A couple of weeks ago I went on a Great Adventure with a couple of friends. We went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). We started this trip last year, and it seems like we are going to try to make it an annual trip. Nothing like being in the solitude of the wilderness to "reset".
The trip started on Friday, August 12, 2016. The guys came up from Chicago and crashed at my place in Madison, so we could get an early start on our trip on Saturday. Saturday morning, we left Madison and made the 8, or so, hour drive to Tuscarora Canoe Outfitters. They are located on the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, MN. We arrived at Tuscarora and got our permit, and went over food and some gear, and then talked about our route. Since it was late August we knew it would be busy in the BWCA so we decided to take a route less traveled. It is less traveled because it has the 3rd longest portage in the BWCA. After going over everything we headed to our bunkhouse and then to the Gunflint Lodge for a last dinner and some drinks. We had some great food and drinks and then went back to Tuscarora to get some sleep.
Sunday morning started with a french toast breakfast at the outfitter. We got the rest of our gear together and we were ready to go. We got our food and canoe and loaded up. A quick selfie, then we were on the water. We had 4 portages this day. The first was 142 rods (about 1/2 mile). I was struggling with the food pack on the front of my body because I couldn't see the trail. I also had my backpack on my back. Brian had the gear pack and his pack, and Ben took the canoe and his pack. After the first portage, we had a short paddle on Missing Link Lake to our longest portage of the trip. A 452 rod portage to Tuscarora Lake. We loaded up, same packs as before, and headed out. I really struggled with this portage. I couldn't see the trail and twisted my ankle and fell a couple of times. I decided to leave my pack, at about the halfway point, and come back for it. It took a while, but we all made it. Brian and Ben did great, I seemed to be the only one struggling. And at this point, my ankle was starting to swell so I was glad the hard portage was over. We decided to stop for lunch after that portage and take a break. Then, time to move on. After a short portage into Owl Lake, we had one more for the day. Another short portage into Crooked Lake where we would set up camp. We came across a great site and left Brian, in case the others were taken. Ben and I paddled to a couple other sites and they were taken, so we went back to Brian and made that campsite our home for 5 nights. It was a great site. We set up camp and took some photos and had some dinner, then a fire. I think it was an early night, everyone was pretty tired.
The next day started with some coffee. Then a swim in the lake. We were near an island and I decided to swim out to it, about 1/4 mile round trip. The next day, the guys joined me and that is pretty much how we started every morning. Most of the days we would take naps, read, eat, take more naps, maybe swim a bit. We went out fishing a few times, but mostly just hung out at camp and had a super relaxing vaca. The weather was perfect. It was in the upper 70's and mostly sunny every day, and in the 50's at night. Perfect. So, not much to report for these 5 days as it was mostly chillin at camp. We would watch the local beavers make their morning and evening commutes and watched the loons swim and hang out.
On Friday, August 19, we took down our camp and made our way back towards Tuscarora Lodge. We decided to get all but one of the portages out of the way on Friday. This would leave us with one portage and a short paddle on Saturday morning, before we would get back to the outfitter and start the drive home. Coming back the same way was a bit easier. We had lighter food and gear packs. This time I took my pack and the canoe. It was easier on my ankle. So we made it to Missing Link Lake with no additional injuries. We found a campsite (which wasn't the greatest, but it was only for 1 night) and set up camp. It was early enough so I went out in the canoe fishing while Brian hung out in his hammock, reading, and Ben went with me and read most of the time. It was a super relaxing last night in the BWCA.
Saturday morning, we woke up early and broke camp. We headed out and were at the outfitters by 9:30. After showers, and clean clothes, we talked with the outfitter a bit, about our trip. Then we headed out. We stopped at Windigo Lodge for some breakfast and celebratory drinks. Met a super interesting bartender/manager/cook of the place then we were back in the car. Made a stop in Grand Marais and Superior, then the long drive back to Madison. We got back to Madison a little before Midnight on Saturday. We had some whiskey and took a sauna, then everyone crashed for the night. The next day the guys headed back to Chicago and I prepared for the new work week and cleaning up my gear. It was over, just like that...
I love the BWCA. I think maybe everyone should try to take a trip there. Maybe it's not for everyone, but if you like canoeing, camping and wilderness solitude, you will like it there. This trip was a bit hard on me both physically and mentally at some points. I love it there so much, so I will just suck it up and make it happen again. I want to continue to go every year, so I'm hoping that it will happen again in 2017. It is a place that takes me back to some happy memories in my childhood with Boy Scouts, and the great times we had. So...until next year!