Now that we’ve made it to the dark month of November, I’m starting to catch up on a few things from last summer. While I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked to in the mountains, I was lucky to make two trips into our local Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The trips were so different from each other and they illustrate how there is no “one” or “best” way to enjoy the wilderness.

Before continuing to share these trips with you, I want to acknowledge that the area called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the homeland of the Anishinaabe people and has been for generations. I appreciate being able to access this protected area of land and I want to recognize the cultural importance of this area and the sovereignty of the tribes. I truly am a visitor there, and since I am part of the oppressing culture, I don’t take my presence there lightly. A few sources that I found helpful in working to educate myself so I can be a better advocate are here: Native Land Digital, 1854 Treaty Authority, and Save the Boundary Waters.

A canoe in a small river. The canoe has a woman in the front with a gray braid and two huskies (dogs) riding along.

On the first trip, I went with a dear 72-year-old friend and her two huskies. We spent four nights and five days traveling approximately forty miles. For those of you who haven’t been on a wilderness canoe trip, in addition to paddling, one also portages boats and gear from one lake to another. On this trip we were able to make a lot of the portages in one or 1.5 trips – with me being the main gear, paddles, and dog wrangler and my friend often taking the boat.

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of me loaded up with a pack on both my front and my back, the dogs hitched to a waist belt, paddles in hand, with a bug net over my head. I’m sure I looked pretty silly! I was a slow wide load moving down the portage trails. Since the trails often are rooty and rocky and sometimes steep and slippery I was extra careful with every step (as careful as I really could be while so loaded down).

For this trip, I made a bit of an audio journal. Fell free to take a listen if you want! Some pictures from the trip are shared below.

Night One

Night Two (blooper)

Night Two (take two)

Night Three

Night Four

Night Four continued

End of Trip

Trip # 2

This trip is listed second merely because it happened later in the summer, but it was not less spectacular. Again I was lucky to share it with really wonderful people. We had a group of four: me, two people who are very dear to me, and one new friend who I actually just met when we were in the parking lot ready to put in! It was truly a time of a lot of trust. I trusted my friend that her guest was going to be great. I was even more impressed by our newest member: that she was ready to hop off a plane in Minnesota (her first trip here) and drive straight up and enter the wilderness with strangers, all in the same day. And she had never canoed before! She jumped in feet first, all rooted in the trust she held for our mutual friend. Fortunately our mutual friend is awesome and incredibly trustworthy! It was such a fun and competent group.

On this three night trip we covered less ground but covered it more completely. Rather than moving camp every night, we took two days to paddle into our “final” campsite where we stayed for two nights before paddling all the back way out the last morning. We fought the wind on those first two days, so it actually wasn’t too long of a paddle on that final morning when it was calm and the wind was behind us! Our layover day involved swimming, berry picking, and a read aloud of a bit of a silly novel.

Wind. This trip had a lot of it, which played a role in our decision to keep our mileage lower. We also had the random, intense, short-lived cloud bursts that sometimes catch paddlers on the water. It was a little bit higher adventure than I’d prefer for someone’s first canoe trip! But, despite the weather, our small flotilla managed it well and we had incredibly lucky timing, sometimes managing to land our canoes right before the heavens opened up!

This trip really highlighted why the Anishinaabe people called Minnesota Mni sota Makoce (Land where the water reflects the sky). It was just magical! Here are some picture of our adventure. Unfortunately there aren’t too many from our time on the water – it was just too windy!

Once again, I want to express my gratitude of being able to go on these two trips and share these experiences with wonderful people. Even though these trips couldn’t have been more different as far as the itinerary, personalities, weather, and pace, both were lovely in their own right. Next summer is a long way off (after all, our Minnesota nights are still growing longer at this point) but my mind is already wandering to next year’s paddling possibilities.