im sure this has been asked in some variation in the past...
whats THE most memorable moment for you on a canoe trip? what moment do you remember like it happened a minute ago? there just HAS to be one for all of you.
even though ive had some fantastic trips my most memorable moment doesnt involve beauty, humor, or anything like that. in fact, it happened the first day on what was to be a 7 day solo. it ended up being a terrible trip but one ill never forget one single detail about for that 3 day mental spiral into hell.
THE moment for me was coming to the end of the gaskin to hensen portage, with canoe and pack on my shoulders, viewing a bear ripping apart my main pack.
That would be falling face-first with a canoe on my head on the portage leading from Caribou to Clearwater. Portage was just a big puddle. Rocks were as slick as ...well you know. My girl was behind me, maybe 14 at the time. After she made sure I was ok she continued on with the pack she was carrying and then passed me again on her way back to get the food pack. I was both proud and embarrassed. Looking back on it I wish it had been video taped. I think I could have won a prize on America's funniest videos. I was totally uninjured by teh way.
without the bad times: the good times wouldn't seem so good
Two sharp memories popped into my head immediately; both too intimate to share.
The next one I can share. 1992. It was the 18th morning of our 22-day "trip of a lifetime". We had spent the day before rain-bound and cold on Juno Lake, hoping for a Nor'Easter storm to pass so that we could cross Brule Lake the next day. On Day 18 we decided to give it a try anyway. Made the portage, paddled up to Jock Mock Bay where we were met with whitecaps and waves that were beyond anything I had ever seen from the bow of a canoe. When we passed the point and headed out to cross the lake there were rollers that were just plain terrifying.
I remember shouting "Hey, I am NOT ready to die up here! I am NOT doing this!! We have to get off this lake!"
We turned back, discovered that the first campsite along the shore was occupied, but there was a site right on the point that was available. It had an eastern exposure, so had very little shelter, but we managed to somehow get the canoe to the point and made the wettest, windiest camp we have ever made, at the height of the storm, and hunkered down to wait it out. Actually put up the tent (wet tent, obviously) and huddled in it. The wind became much stronger after we stopped, and we were thankful that we weren't out in the middle of Brule Lake. We snacked for our lunch, and ended up actually cooking supper on the stove IN the tent! Slept all night, and in the morning discovered that it was a really pretty campsite. But by then we were ready to leave and cross the lake before it became a nightmare again.
I have been scared at a few other times, but never more so than that time.
Whenever I have been wind-bound since, I compare the wind and waves to Brule Lake on that day. Nothing has ever compared.
this is the one i tell everyone when they ask..i wish i had a photo. first trip,BW 1983 and i'm on La Croix in the middle of the lake off the mouth of the "spooky bay".that's the one just north of the Beatty Portage.it's early evening and i'm making for a camp on Sandbar Island. all at once the entire scene opens up to me as the Loons start calling. the lake is calm,not a ripple and to my right the lowering sun has lite up the bay in a red-orange light on the pines.eagles are soaring above the cliffs and tall pines,the loons are really going at it and i look up and see the high ice clouds are shot with rainbow colors.the vastness of La Croix over the bow is as blue as i have ever seen. i was,if not overwhelmed,really taken in by the whole expanse of it all and tossed my hat to the bottom of the canoe and leaned forward on to the gunwales...."oh my god....." the ice clouds were the front of a two day rain that held me up at Dome island under a tarp,no tent back then,but that moment on La Croix is burned right into my brain cells..
The one that haunts me is when My wife five year old daughter and I were on the 211 rod portage from West pine to Clearwater. At the start of the trip I gave my daughter a Fox whistle and told her not to blow the whistle unless there was danger. She was a trooper the whole trip helping with everything. She had her Kid sized Duluth pack filled with toys and Beanie baby's that looked like the forest animals. I remember that she did not take the bear out because she did not want to get a mother bear mad that she had a baby bear, too funny. At the portage I hoisted the food pack and a canoe on my back and started off on the portage. The plan was that my daughter was to stay with my wife on the portage because I did not want them in my way with my heavy load. Well about 170 rods into the portage I heard a blast of the whistle. I threw off the canoe and pack and ran back yelling what was wrong. It was my five year old daughter walking ALONE. She said that I was walking too fast and was falling behind. I asked where is Mom. She said that she was not going to walk with Mom because she thought I would protect her better and ran ahead to me. Everything was fine with my daughter but she followed a portage trail for a long time alone. When I say alone I mean unsupervised. Yes she could see me but what would happen if I would have not heard the whistle,or she wandered off on a game trail. We waited for 20 minuets for my wife to catch up. Boy did I get a talking to from Mom.
5 days of rain sitting a lot in the tent coloring and drawing with my then 5 year old son. Did some fishing in between the downpours. On the way out I asked him "tell me the truth did you have fun" and he said "Dad I always have fun with you" 15 years ago and still remember it like it was yesterday.
The permit was for Angleworm Lake. Pete was one of two rookies on that year's trip. We had talked quite a bit about the length of that first portage, but somehow Pete didn't want to believe it. He had figured that it had to be some sort of rookie hazing, and he wasn't about to fall for it.
We pulled up to the Angleworm access parking area and had most of the stuff unloaded. He shouldered a pack and asked, "Where's the lake?" When he heard, "About 2-1/2 miles... that way," he gave us the look, and still not wanting to believe the words he was about to say, asked, "You guys weren't sh-tting me, huh?"
We knew we needed to single portage, and so we were more heavily loaded than usual. But all of the regulars bucked it up and made like this was just the regular burden. Thank goodness that it's mostly just a very long walk on a relatively easy path. We were going down, down, down toward the creek, and I asked Pete to stop. "You'll want a picture," I said. "Come on, next to the sign." "What's it for?" "It means that we're entering the Boundary Waters... Here's where the adventure begins." Look Number Two, and without a lot of enthusiasm to mark the occasion, "So, is there some reason that we didn't just drive the truck down to here?..."
Pete wound up joining us every year after that for six summers until health problems kept him from going. He misses it terribly.
"You can observe a lot by watching." -- Yogi Berra
DAY ONE, on the water very early, down to Stanton Bay by 6:30 with fresh coffee from Doug. The bay was smooth as glass, with gray, cloudy overcast skies, loaded the canoes and headed out. The solo had less stability than my MR Slipper, but was a little faster. Coming out of Stanton Bay we stopped at one of the small islands and got our bearings and stretched our muscles. The wind was picking up from the north so we were happy with the wind to our backs, especially when it was getting stronger all the time. Heading across Pickerel Lake waves were getting big but we were at the point of no return, we headed south to tuck behind the island, just east of Emerald. I don’t have my maps, so much of this is from memory. Less than half-way across the wind suddenly switched and big waves started crashing into the waves from the north. The pucker factor was raising, going from 2 to a 8 very quickly. I have paddled big lakes in strong winds with my Slipper and never had a problem. I quickly recognized the SR did not handle as well in big waves and did not have the stability of my MR. We were close together and paddling hard, we would be behind the island in 15 minutes. Little did we know that things were getting worse. The waves crashing into each other were causing what I call peak waves, waves with a top and 4 sides, 3’ high. There was no way to turn that wouldn’t put you sideways in the troughs. Pucker factor a 10! Just 5-10 more minutes and we would be out of the peak waves and behind the island. I don’t claim to be the best paddler, especially in whitewater conditions, which was probably my undoing. I suddenly found my self on the top of a peak wave, and found I could reach the water with my paddle. Pucker factor off the scale, heart was competing with my Adams apple for space in my neck. I then slid down the wave being turned sideways with the east waves. Unfortunately , that wave was big and had the height to take the whole canoe over into the water. Bracing I was trying for as hard as I could, there was no denying the inevitable. Over I went, RUBBER BOOTS and all.
Going under water, I noticed how clear it was, damn my “Cuban cigars” were floating away. I reached for them, but they were to far away, well now to take care of other priorities. The rubber boots were like anchors, trying to go up they just drug water, so I kicked them off to a watery grave, may the rest in peace. Gary was very close, I grabbed the upside of his canoe and threw a few small bags in his canoe. The boys at that time decided to disappear and I don’t think they came out for a couple days. It was that pins and needles feeling, not being able to breath, but knowing this was not the time to panic. My canoe was close so I dog paddled over and brought it close to Gary, he had no idea what I was going to do. Turning the canoe upside down, with the gear bags floating happily down the lake, I started a canoe over canoe rescue. Shoving the canoe over the top, Gary was then able to dump the remaining water out and turn it over and slide it back to me. With him holding one side I pulled myself up and over the side and sat in the bottom of the canoe.
Gary said he was going to get my big blue pack it was close and he would meet me farther down the island wherever the wind took him. My spare paddle was still lodged in the front of the canoe. My back was to the island, so I started to back paddle with all my strength to the island, with adrenalin going I had plenty of torque and quickly reached shore. There was one minor problem, The waves were crashing on shore and so big I could hardly get out. Kept losing my balance, being pushed away from shore and banging on rocks. I finally found a spot a little shallower close to shore and just rolled out and pulled the canoe up. The water hadn’t warmed up a bit even with the sun being out.
I turned to look for Gary and there was no canoe visible! Finally I spotted his hat bobbing in the water. They say you should never compound a disastrous situation by endangering yourself, better one dead than two. I thought about that and decided that was BS. Either we were both getting to shore or we would both be floating across Pickerel Lake and not in a canoe. He was to far from shore to swim in that cold of water, I paddled the last stretch in maybe 5 minutes. I don’t think he could make that paddle in less than 30 minutes minimum. I knew that I must get him or die trying, I would not be the one to tell his family I stood on watched him float away. Grabbing the canoe I had a hell of a time getting back in with the waves crashing into me. Finally I got in and sat in the bottom for the most stability and paddled like never before.
Getting to Gary I found he was clutching two bags to keep floatation, staying out as far as he could and one bag was big blue. We worked both bags into the canoe, knowing that having dry clothes were a necessity. I told him to hold on to the back of the canoe and try to provide some stability and I would pull him to shore. I then engaged the turbo, turned on the high octane and back paddle for our lives. Given the amount force needed to tow Gary, I was making good progress. Approximately 80-100 yards from shore another big wave hit just as Gary needed to switch hands from the upwind side to the downwind side. Over I went for the second time.
Then Mother Luck gave us a hand. Big Blue was stuck under the front of the canoe, Gary had the other bag in his grasp. I told him to swim to shore and I would bring the canoe, with no canoe we may have been in a bad situation. There was a point that I was so cold that just letting go and letting the numbness and hypothermia take me was an option. But I decided there was no way in hell someone was going tell my special lady that I died in Pickerel Lake. Suddenly my higher power and I were having a discussion, mostly one side, with me doing all the talking. Then I felt a warmth come over my body, my sense of panic and fear went away and I started to shore. I held onto the canoe with my right arm and power stroked with my left. I really don’t know how long it took, but I finally felt boulders and rocks beneath my feet. They were very slimy and slippery, so I kept going until I was on my knees with the waves picking me up and slamming me down. I finally got to a spot where I could get out of the water. Looking down the shore Gary was still on his knees but out of the water. Pulling the canoe and pack out of the water, I headed to Gary.
He couldn’t get to his feet, I don’t know if it from exhaustion, slippery rocks or hypothermia setting in. I did know that we needed to get out of the wet clothes immediately. Going back to the canoe I quickly dumped the contents of BB out. Helping Gary pull his wet clothes off, I then threw him the heaviest long johns, wool sweater, wool socks and extra rain suit. I then started changing into dry clothes and planning on how to get warm. Were smack dab in front of the wind now coming from the north. With no dry wood for a fire if could get one going. Then I had an ephany(sp), the big Menard tarp I brought. Remembering how they will absorb heat and increase it, I unrolled it and found a spot in the sun, laying down we both out of the wind, dry clothes and had solar heat. Its hard to tell time in those situations, but I eventually felt warm and Gary expressed he was also. Neither of us was mad or upset, things happened and no one died. Heck, everyone should have the opportunity to try new adventures.
Gary decided to walk the shore down to the bay and see if by chance anything had pushed in there. He was going to go in his stocking feet, but I found my Teva’s and he then headed out. Walking to a small point 30-45 minutes later, I viewed a bag that was sitting on shore a long ways away. Then I started wondering where Gary’s brand new purple SR solo was, in the bay or missed the bay and headed to Emerald Island or beyond. 30 minutes or an hour later Gary was back in camp with the food pack.
I had built a shelter with tarp and getting out of the wind we brewed coffee and ate beef jerky and soup. Gary said he found everything but my tackle box. He remembered it floating for awhile but the 3-5 pounds of jigs wanted to go fishing, after all they had the wireless transducer with them. I wonder how long it sat on the bottom and sending out a signal, must have been lonely. He said his canoe was hung up on some rocks off shore and he could see the front end. I wanted to put in at the bay and paddle across while he walked around to get his canoe. He said no its ok and will get it tomorrow, a tragic mistake. Curling up under the tarp with rain starting again with the wind howling we hunkered down for the night. It was a good day, not one that I want to repeat, but hey no one died and I found out that swimming in cold water can happen when you don’t panic.
I hear ya Spartan 2 on the Brule Lake wind. Once last year and both times this year I was in some of the nastiest waves I've ever experienced. On my way in in august I battled a head wind with driving rain. The rain would drive right up my rain jacket sleeves and I got very wet. I couldn't quit paddling because I needed to keep control. It took 4 hours to paddle what usually take an hour and a half or so. Then coming out of the cones... The wind was fierce again. The campsites were full or one I couldn't find. I found one around a bend and spent the night. Got up to a rising breeze and took off and got across before the winds returned.
One fond memory of years past was after picking a pot of blueberries from the opposite shore of a nearby narrows on Eugene Lake. After returning to the campsite nearby we heard a huge splash, and without hesitation, four guys and a big dog jump into one 17ft canoe and paddle around the corner to watch a big bull moose swim to an opposite shore and without missing a beat run off into the trees.
Crossing Lake Winny. High winds and waves all day. Had to beach my kayak in the breaking waves without breaking the boat's back. There was a guy there watching me with a trailer/pickup truck combination. Made me honeyed tea. We sat in his tiny trailer and drank his tea until it was gone. Thanks, guy. And thanks to all the folks who shared their version of honeyed tea.
Making fun of all my dry footer friends always stands out. I was chiding them for not wanting to get out of the boat. When they wouldn't, to show how awesome I was, I stepped out of the canoe into what looked like a few inches of water and immediately sunk up to my neck in muck. It took quite a bit of both rope and time to pull me out.
I cannot make my days longer, so I strive to make them better.
quote jb in the wild: "5 days of rain sitting a lot in the tent coloring and drawing with my then 5 year old son. Did some fishing in between the downpours. On the way out I asked him "tell me the truth did you have fun" and he said "Dad I always have fun with you" 15 years ago and still remember it like it was yesterday.
JB" Ive had some truly fantastic moments on my many trips to the bwca, some very personal that I dont really care to share, but nothing ive ever experienced out there will top this one you had JB, this brought tears to my eyes, because Ive had a moment like this with all 3 of my children and it cant possibly get any better .
" I want to know Gods thoughts , The rest are details " Albert Einstein.
There have been bad days and good days on many of my canoe trips. But, one day stands out and always brings a smile to my face and great laughter from my family even now, 20 years later. 20 years, where have they gone? It was just like yesterday.
August 9, 1991. It was day 9 of our family canoe trip into the Churchill River Country, north of Otter Lake, Saskatchewan. We were on a pretty little lake called Ducker and the day was a wonder of blue skies and puffy fair-weather cumulus. We were after lunker northerns that lurked in the waters of a place we named “Lunker Cove”. The goal was fish-for-supper, but at 4 PM we were coming up empty. It was time to troll back to camp at a leisure pace……. maybe, just maybe.
My son, Matthew, paddled bow with my wife and my daughter Jessica, Smudge (our dog) and I were in the second canoe. Soon, Matthew laced into a good one. He was using one my Dad’s favorite Maine fishing lures……. a Mother of Pearl Mooselook Wobler….. and from the look of the pole bent over the bow, he had a lunker. Connie called for the net, but I figured I’ll just net it from my canoe.
Each time I make my approach, the northern raced off to the opposite side of Connie’s canoe. This seemed to be the strategy of the fish. Finally, I got a chance, and on my first attempt, I botched the job with the fish ending up back in the water. Kneeling on the bottom, net in one hand, and paddle in the other I maneuver in for a second attempt. It was amazing that we couldn’t seem to do a simple job like getting a stupid fish into the canoe. Jessica and Smudge were just holding on as I leaned way out……… way out…… way out…… just a bit more. With that move, I flew out of the canoe in one direction and Jessica and Smudge flew out the other.
Jessica and Smudge made their short swim to shore (maybe 40’) with Smudge in the lead. I swam after the northern net in hand. The northern was tired and right on the surface. I thought for sure we would get it. But, with one more flip, the weight of the fish finally opened the split ring and the fish headed for the bottom. We were left speechless and then finally looked at ourselves and the laughter began.
This was a real Key Stone Cops operation. We must have been a sight. Emotions were running high and the fish was so close to being ours. For Matthew, this was the one that really got away and it got away with our only Mother of Pearl Mooselook Wobler. The canoe never did swamp. No tackle was lost. On shore we squared things away and then paddled back to camp. We picked up a smaller northern for supper, but the memory of the “one that got away” has lasted us a long, long time.
"Boredom, Tyler - that's what's wrong. And how do you beat boredom, Tyler?... Adventure...(Never Cry Wolf, 1983)
One of the most unforgettable trips of my life was when I was 14, taking our first "Father/Son" trip. This trip had many Life lessons involved in it.
Starting on the trip up from Omaha, Ne. After Dad drove the first 8 hours and we were so close to Ely, Dad decided it was time to "Learn how to Drive". After a couple of quick tips he crawled in the back to catch a couple of winks. Unfortunately I was only 14 and heading north on the dark highway to Ely. Although I did hit the gravel sides a couple of times (hearing Dad from the Back seat ask if everything was OK) we finally made it, at this point I was white knuckled and definitely NOT tired.
But the most memorable and Learning experience during this trip (did I mention that it was a very late October Trip) happened when we were portaging (don't remember which one). For some reason that portage we decided to double trip it and took the packs first, leaving the canoe at the top. After the first trip and returning to the top we found that there was NO CANOE THERE. Before I realized what had happened I see my Father stripping down to his Birthday suite and dive in the water and start frantically swimming (water temp probably in the upper 30's). I look at the path that he is swimming and see the canoe floating to the entrance of the rapids. Even though Dad looked like he was in slow motion and the Canoe on a fast track to doom, Dad finally reaches the canoe and swims it over to shore. I then realize that I am watching my father slowly walking up shore in the buff with the canoe roped behind and he is looking a very "Blue". I quickly dig through the last pack and luckily find our camp towel and hand it over to him.
He was before, but at that moment definitely became my life long hero. Much of what I have learned about Camping and surviving (both the wilderness and life) I learned from him.
From that trip I learned two very important things. 1. that not only should you never try to push yourself while driving ( It's not a good trip to the BDub if you don't ever get there). 2. But more importantly always make sure to thoroughly pull the canoe up on shore when portaging, especially when at the top of a set of rapids.
Thank you Dad for all the lessons.
Courage is being scared to death... but saddling up anyway....John Wayne
For me, it was early June 2006, the first time I had been back to the BWCA in over 20 years. I went in with one other adult, my son, and three other teens from our church. It was the trip on which I broke my leg, but that's not the memory about which I'll write here (though it played a part).
The "just as if it were yesterday" moment occurred on our last day. The other adult had plenty of paddling experience, and the eldest boy had some. The other three had no experience. The trip had gone well overall (other than my leg). We got up and broke camp in the pre-dawn light, then paddled out into the mists from Ima, heading toward the EP on Snowbank. The early morning was perfect for paddling. There was no wind in the early morning light, but the it started to pick up as the morning progressed.
As we finished our last portage and prepared to set in on Snowbank, the other adult and his partner set off to reach the landing first (since he was going to run or catch a ride back to the Lake One EP where his van was parked). That left four of us, my son and me in one canoe, and the eldest boy and his partner in another. As we got out on the water, there was a light chop.
Having been on big water many times before, I knew that conditions could change quickly. My son and I were wearing our PFDs already, but I saw that the boys in the other canoes were not wearing theirs. I called over to them, told them how conditions could change quickly, and told them to put their life jackets on. The stern paddler, the older boy, put his on immediately. The boy in the front did not.
I called out again, telling the boy in the front to put on his life jacket. This time, he put it on, but he did not clip it or zip it.
Now, remember, I broke my leg on this trip. I was sitting in the stern of my canoe, with my leg in a wilderness splint made with beaver chewed sticks, t-shirts, and duct tape. I was paddling with that broken right leg up on the thwart in front of me.
Sitting there like that, I called to that bow paddler by name, and in a stern voice I said, "[Name], look at me." He looked. "See this," I continued, pointing to my leg, "If you go in, I'm not going in after you."
He looked for another brief moment, and then zipped and clicked his PFD.
Not five minutes later, the wind picked up significantly. We went from a light chop to whitecaps, and from whitecaps to swells that were around three feet, tip to trough. It was a real fight to stay upright on our way back to the landing, but we made it. The look on that boy's face when the reality of my words sunk in will stick with me forever.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
? J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I will remember it forever, my son's first trip this year. Bad week of fishing, tough weather week, but my son caught his first fish on the paddle out on the last day. I'll never forget because I captured it in a picture.
I've loved all the stories (THANKS for sharing!) and can understand why they were burned into your memories.
I can't find one. They all kinda jumble together and thinking about one, leads to thinking about the next, etc. I'll summarize THIS year's trip highlights I guess and leave it at that:
TRIP#1, LIS: it starts raining and we five are paddling in 2 canoes. Oldest kiddo says "That's funny, it was sunny just a portage ago!". Then middle kiddo says "It's pouring!" and I explain how this is "just plain raining"... until 2 minutes later, Ma Nature opened up with a huge deluge and I had to eat my words "yes son, THIS is pouring!".
TRIP#2, Granite River: too many to count, but recall swimming near Devil's Elbow. Little dd wanted me to check out the bottom near a rock so she could jump off. I swam toward it, only to get freaked out by the dark still water. I apologized and told her I'd check it out with one of our paddling partners later. After I was out, we saw a HUGE snapping turtle near where I was swimming... whew! But I still went back in later and confirmed it was safe to jump, which she did - over and over and over.
TRIP#3, Slim Lake: first campsite trail we followed led to a "retired" latrine; son peed on the remaining wood foundation and said "The latrine works!"
TRIP#4, Slim Lake: two teen girls giggling up a storm playing in a hammock together... then using fireplace ash as makeup. Later when we were home, daughter says to me. Well, OK, I like camping - but I still don't like hiking!
Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe. -Thoreau
There was one "Most Memorable" memory that had been the most memorable for many years, however, it lost top billing on trip number two of this year. It's a toss up as not enough time has passed to determine which is most memorable. -Sitting in the alumacraft with my newbie girlfriend at the end of a little point while lightning cracked and came down all over and very close to us. It was raining off and on and we were soaked. I nearly ended that trip because she was there. I'm glad I didn't. I had seen lightning like that only once before in my life. -Seeing and hearing my girlfriend's reactions as we watched a moose for about a half hour as she played in the water about 40 yards from our campsite. It was amazing. Not sure which was more amazing, the moose or my lady and her reactions to the moose. She loved it. Being able to share that with someone that had never seen it before probably is more memorable. That half hour of her life may just be what has hooked and sucked her in to what I have been loving for decades. It was awesome. I think it trumps the lightning.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson...and...“Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading".
Gunflint Tornado in September in the late '80's or early '90's. We were on a little lake called Tern Lake, off of Jasper. Never forget how ugly the sky looked as we paddled back to the portage to Jasper. We huddled under a Mad River Explorer next to the little stream while we heard trees crashing down. Thought we were going to die! When the weather let up, we finished the portage shakily and paddled back to camp and made a big fire. We were wet, cold, and had that jittery, "Adrenalin hangover" you get after having the crap scared out of you. We came out next day, as I recall. I remember Dave at HJO telling us both our wives had called since Dan Rather reported the rare event on the CBS Evening news. He assured them we were "Big boys" and could take care of ourselves (LOL)! I remember all the trees on the road and having to wait while guys with chainsaws cleared the way in a few places. Funny, I can't remember the year, but the "Storm" part of the trip is etched into my brain with a permanent marker!
"Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." Mark Twain
My first trip into any wilderness...Aug. 16, 1978, approx. 5:30 am...drifting in a canoe just below the eastern most part of Basswood Falls..everyone else in my party was asleep...it was my 21st B-day...it was quiet...the mist on the water was just deep enough that if I sat up in the canoe I could see all around, but if I lay day down I was enshrouded...as I sat up and saw clearly my surroundings I also saw clearly my actual situation...and realized that I had done nothing with the last 5 years of my life...got back after the trip, signed up for college... yadda, yadda, yadda here I am, a reasonabley succesful husband and father of 3 great kids...
LNT - The road to success is always under construction.
I love your recollection, jcavenagh, and I am glad to hear that it turned out that way. :-)
fitgers1, as I read that I was taken back yet again to 1992, to our campsite on Weird Lake (just recently was posting about Weird Lake in the trip planning section) when we had a young female moose that joined us for breakfast one morning. She ate her meal right offshore while we were enjoying ours, and she stayed for more than a half-hour. . .I am sure my delight was much like your girlfriend's. It remains, to this day, one of the most fun memories I have of canoe-tripping. She was so close it actually did feel like she was eating breakfast with us!
(We had so many moose sightings on our two days on Weird Lake it was just unreal. I didn't want to ever leave that place!)
Sorry. . .I have already shared my "just one" memory, haven't I?
These are very interesting, and quite the recolection's.
Mine was Thursday, August 4, 2011 at the beginning of 100 meter portage, in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Solo trip (with Lab Molly) To preface this, I had pushed myself a little hard on this trip. 18 miles the first day, getting up at 4:30 am and quitting at 7:30 - 9 pm, etc. So I was more than likely a little worn out. I started the portage and went about 30' and had a real sharp pain in my chest. So I laid my big pack down, in the shade, and rested for a minute. Got out the first aid kit and dug out five of those Big Tums. I ate all five in one swoop. You see, I have acid reflux, and a hiatel hernia, so I thought it was acid reflux. I loosened my belt and lay in the shade a sipped a little water. I was having a spasm in my back and a shooting pain all the way through from the center of my chest to the center of my back. So I was thinking I was having a Heart Attack. I got the Sat Phone out of the pack (like that would have done any good in a hurry) and decided after 15 minutes to take my second prilosec of the day. I had one at 5 am or so, and so I took another, this was in early to mid afternoon. So I took a Prilosec and layed there in the shade thinking, "Boy is my wife going to be pissed if I die here" And I thought, "man if I use this phone and call out, everyone will say, I told you so" And if I die they will all say, "I told you so" So I just lay there, then I decided after about a half hour or so to take some Advil (It's all I had) So I took 3 Advil 500 mg. Well after 45-50 minutes, I still had the pain, not as severe, but it was there yet. I got up and tried on the pack and SLOWLY did the portage. Then I came back and got the other pack and stuff, and the third time the canoe. The pain did subside some, and wasn't a shooting pain but it was there. I got to Donald lake and set up camp, and the next day would be a layover day, but that evening, I started to get the pain again. I took another Prilosec. Now this was being alone, so to speak, with my dog, and I was not scared, but concerned for sure. I did say a prayer, when this all happened, and asked for help from the Lord. So anyway, I did my layover day, and rested ALL day. I was now starting to "worry myself". Paddled out on Saturday, to my pickup point for the float plane, and flew into Red Lake, drove home the next day. Told Charlene about this when I got home, in live and in person, (didn't want to worry her, when I was out on the trail) Lined up Dr appt, had an EKG and Stress test, heart turned out fine, blood pressure excellent, ACID REFLUX ruled the culprit. Well I want you to know I am now on a Asprin regiment, and the Cardiologist said that Advil wouldn't have helped a whole lot. So now pack ASPRIN also. I will have you know that in that 50 minutes laying there with Molly, a lot went through my mind. This day I will never forget. I have started a diet last Monday, and am exercising some to get into better shape. So I thought I would share my memorable day. SunCatcher
Dad Always said "We don't Always catch fish...but we ALWAYS have a good time"
quote Basspro69: "quote jb in the wild: "5 days of rain sitting a lot in the tent coloring and drawing with my then 5 year old son. Did some fishing in between the downpours. On the way out I asked him "tell me the truth did you have fun" and he said "Dad I always have fun with you" 15 years ago and still remember it like it was yesterday.
JB" Ive had some truly fantastic moments on my many trips to the bwca, some very personal that I dont really care to share, but nothing ive ever experienced out there will top this one you had JB, this brought tears to my eyes, because Ive had a moment like this with all 3 of my children and it cant possibly get any better ."
Brad that's one of the good one's. When you show up for one of our get together s (slam:) I'll share some of the embarrassing things he's said in public. Those are just as memorable.
At bog in the Q after a short bushwhack from Sheridan Lake… I can remember every detail of dropping a mosquito on a leaf of a sundew plant, and watching it give up its struggle as the hunter became the prey. It was quite satisfying after being chased to the tent night after night and falling asleep to the drone of a million wings.
June 1st 1988, we entered at Lake One, and pushed into Insula lake. We stopped at the first open site we could find, #1358. It had a couple of nice tent pads, but I told my buddy that we were taking the one set back in the trees a bit, it was the best one, and had nice soft grass on it. The others, who happened to be my wife, the mother in law, and one of the kids, took the other pad which wasn't as nice. Greedy huh? In my tent it was, my buddy, and 2 of my sons, who were little boys at the time. Supper was good, but it had been a long, warm, sticky day, so we all retired to the tents early. About midnight, I woke up to a howling wind, with lots of thunder, and lightning. I sat up in the tent, and I have to admit, it really scared me. I thought the tent would blow down, the wind was so strong. I haven't experienced anything like that since, at least not in a tent. I sat there worrying, about the storm, and wondering what to do, when I heard branches coming down in the woods behind me....not cool. It's funny what drives you to your knees, but there I was pleading with God to spare us, and that none of us would be hurt, or worse. :) True! I could hear a loud cracking, and popping noise to the left of me, it was really loud. Then a single loud crack, and the next thing I knew I was pinned to the ground, just above the knee. I remember the wieght, but no pain at all. A tree was literally in my lap. I managed to pull my legs free, and got too my knees. The others in the tent were unhurt. I started yelling for my wife in the other tent, at first there was no answer, but then I heard her yell back. The tree missed them. I told her what happened, and she was there in a second or so it seemed. The door of the tent was on the otherside of the tree, so we were trapped. I told her to pull the stakes out of the ground so I could pull the tent under the tree. I got it pulled free, found the zipper, and handed the boys out through the door to my wife and her mom. Then I got out, still not feeling pain, I ran down to check the canoes, and pulled them up on higher ground, and tied them off. We all piled into the other 4 man tent, and tried to make the best of it. After about 30 minutes the winds calmed, and the storm moved on. I fell asleep, but woke early in the morning with a lot of pain. I was unable to get up, and walking was out of the question. I spent 2 days laying around in camp, periodically forcing myself to walk. After a couple of days we moved our camp to that really nice beach site on the south side of the lake, and enjoyed the rest of the trip. I was very lucky, all I got out of it was a football sized bruise on my thigh. To this day, whether camping, or at home, I never sleep through a storm.
"I am haunted by waters"~Norman Maclean "A River Runs Through It"
I really have way more than ONE event, but this one comes to mind:
Many years ago while running the Albany River in Ontario in early June, my partner and I misjudged a rapids, buried the bow in a hydraulic, and dumped. I remember squirming to get out of the spray deck, riding out the rest of the rapids, and then swimming the canoe to shore before the next rapids.
The temp was in the low 40s, and it had been snowing in the morning, so we were pretty cold and soaked. We scrambled to build a fire to warm up and dry out, and after a couple of hours were back on our way.
I think the only thing lost was my stocking cap, but I'll never forget the event.
It was 1983 and me and my girlfriend were having a spaghetti dinner at our very first campsite in the BW. We were on narrow Juno Lake and it was one of those incredibly quiet evenings where only the hum of the earth can be heard.
As it approached dusk we heard a large tree branch crack from across the lake. One minute later we heard another large branch crack and fall. Fast forward to us laying in the tent. It's completely dark now. Then I heard it. Our aluminum canoe was being thrashed around on the ground. I bolted out of the tent and shined a light on a big round bear butt as it foraged inside our canoe.
It was very casual as it strolled around our site sniffing things. This was a very large bear. I remember him stretching up on a tree to sniff a dishrag I hooked on a branch to dry. He walked to the firepit and did not appreciate me shining the light in his eyes. He found a log with ants in it and I watched as it licked them up.
All the while my friend, still in the tent, was crying. I began banging pots and cups together and yelling. The bear was mildly amused at this notion. He walked up to our tent and took a whiff.
Now I was scared. I banged and yelled harder. It finally had enough and slowly ambled into the forest down the latrine path. As we lay in the tent about 15 minutes later we heard a loud crash from the forest. Yep, that was our very full food pack hitting the ground. Sorry, no heroes to be found here folks. The next morning we inspected the damage.
The new cordura duffle bag was ripped to shreds. Everything was gotten into. Opened zip lock remnants were scattered nearby. The food was gone. It only left the coffee which it sampled with a gooey tongue but apparently didn't enjoy. Our large plastic jar of peanut butter was nowhere to be found. Not even a trace. The two fuel bottles sit now as a reminder on a shelf behind me. They both look like they were shot up by a .22 cal rifle. I'll try to post a pic later of them.
Well, that effectivly ended our trip. We canoed out and spent the week at the campground in Grand Marais. It was still a great time but that is one night I'll (we'll) never forget. I did end up marrying my partner who went through that experience with me. She only went once more to the BW after that. Nope, bears just ain't her thing. :)
Kanoes, thanks for the memories. Posts like this trigger lots of thoughts and too many to cite here. Adrenaline and awe and bonding, some of my favorite things and all associated with these posts. jc's coming of age story stands out, what a better place than the wilderness to realize you are a man.
I have many great memories of many trips which are each rewarding and relevant in their own regard. One I would like to share is something that is always very rewarding to me of seeing the joy and enjoyment of a first timer. I have brought many to the bwca for their first time-some with success and some not. I could tell my buddy’s girlfriend was not enjoying the 1st day of a trip-I felt poorly and hoped she would come around. We (my gal and I in one canoe and my buddy and his gal in another) portaged in a lake or two, set up camp and went out for the ‘golden hour’ evening fishing. We fished some narrows near camp and in short time she caught her first walleye and each caught a dozen or so that evening. I will always remember her hooting and hollering as she reeled in one after another. When we returned to camp she thanked me for the experience and I saw the thrill and gratitude in her face. The next winter the four of us drove to the Tetons and I again got rewarded with sharing an experience with a 1st timer as she and we ripped 15” of powder. She looked at me with that same look on her face (I had no idea something could be this fun) and thanked me for the experience. I will always remember her smile on those 2 occasions.
We battled very strong headwinds coming out from Lake Insula all morning when we got separated from our traveling companions (long story) on Lake Three. We waited for them at the Lake Two portage for nearly two hours, but they didn't show up. We wrote a note in stones for them at the portage, turned around and searched for them on Lake's two and Three, checking every campsite. Headed back to the Lake Two portage and saw that they had answered our note: "Meet you at the car"....How did we miss them??
It was late at this point, not knowing if we'd make it before dark. Long story short, we went from that point to the Lake One entry in 1 hour 25 minutes (double-portages, whitecaps and headwinds). Paddled the last stretch by moonlight, but was so tired I couldn't keep the canoe straight. Luckily our friends had their truck lights on, so we could see where we needed to go. Beached our canoe and slumped over, exhausted after a 13 hour day. We clambered out and hugged our friends, never so happy to see each other.
Listening to the weather reports in Ely, winds were sustained at 23-30, with gusts to 55. In our face for 13 hours straight.
The thing that comes to my mind the most often is when my group went to the ranger station to pick up our permit to angelworm.The group consisted of myself,my dad,and his two brothers.They were all over 60 years of age at this time.The ranger asked us were we were going to,and we told him our destination for that night was beartrap lake.He looked at the group,and tried to suggest that we were to old to do such a hard trip.He said we should think about making it a two day trip to get to beartrap.The old men just laughed at the young man,and guaranteed him they could do it better then he could.Needless to say we were camped on beartrap that first night,and had already ate dinner by dark.
quote arctic: "I really have way more than ONE event, but this one comes to mind:
Many years ago while running the Albany River in Ontario in early June, my partner and I misjudged a rapids, buried the bow in a hydraulic, and dumped. I remember squirming to get out of the spray deck, riding out the rest of the rapids, and then swimming the canoe to shore before the next rapids.
The temp was in the low 40s, and it had been snowing in the morning, so we were pretty cold and soaked. We scrambled to build a fire to warm up and dry out, and after a couple of hours were back on our way.
I think the only thing lost was my stocking cap, but I'll never forget the event."
Wow! Did you run it to Hudson Bay? Hydraulics scare me. I've had friends who were sucked in and churned about and never do whitewater above Class III since.
Very early June 2007 late start up moose river 16. Just portaged from NinaMoose and loading up on the South Shore of Agnes. Right where we were headed NNW was a Black cloud over maybe West Boulder Bay or just NW of there. We were trying to make Iron that day and gambled to go for the portage on N Agnes. About a third of the way acroos the middle it became very dark and still; then headwinds picked up and the sky emptied a brief violent downpor with lighting striking nearby. It may have been 5 minutes or twenty.....I'll never know but the wind did a U-turn and pushed behind us from the South or SSE. We had been on our knees digging in for dear life.....then suddenly it felt like we had been lifted a few inches and added a planed-out outboard motor. Every stroke seem to move us a full canoe length. it was a strange yet good feeling...like we were surfing and riding a roller to the north shore. We reach the portage and it broke loose again and poured. We were so glad to be ashore we didn't mind the rain. The MOMENT was the brief tailwind paddle where it felt like we were doing 8-10 MPH and each stroke seemed to move us 20 feet. We had a whole night of 60 mph winds later that week, but the moment was "The Tailwind Stroke!"
An excerpt from one of our newsletters: After along day of fishing we reached camp, Jeremy & Ellen had a fire going, always a welcome sight. We were all settled and sitting around the fire when we heard a faint howl, we all walked out from underneath the tarp and realized the wolf was on the beach. Then we heard another howl that was so close it sounded like it was on the island with us. Then we heard another pack far off in the distance. Along with the howls, we heard loons wailing, beavers slapping their tails and barred owls hooting. Then if it couldn’t get any better the Perseids meteor shower started. We all laid on a rocky outcropping drinking hot chocolate and staring into the heavens watching the meteors streaking across the night sky while the wildlife chorus unfolded before us.
quote thecanoeman: "An excerpt from one of our newsletters: After along day of fishing we reached camp, Jeremy & Ellen had a fire going, always a welcome sight. We were all settled and sitting around the fire when we heard a faint howl, we all walked out from underneath the tarp and realized the wolf was on the beach. Then we heard another howl that was so close it sounded like it was on the island with us. Then we heard another pack far off in the distance. Along with the howls, we heard loons wailing, beavers slapping their tails and barred owls hooting. Then if it couldn’t get any better the Perseids meteor shower started. We all laid on a rocky outcropping drinking hot chocolate and staring into the heavens watching the meteors streaking across the night sky while the wildlife chorus unfolded before us."
It was a morning on McIntyre a few years ago. We had gone out for some fishing early in the AM and it was pea soup. I was in my solo and we all just kind of split off from one another after a short distance. I was on a calm strange lake in a thick fog not really knowing or caring where I was going. Just trying to catch some fish and get wowed by the beauty of canoeing in a cloud. So still...so quiet...so peaceful. By mid morning I stumbled upon mooseplums fishing a channel. The fog had lifted and it turned into a sunny morning. He had a nice laker on and there was much joy. Don't know why that day sticks with me.
I took this picture when the fog started to lift a bit. I had stopped for a nature break and liked the view.
My second solo trip camped on Rose Lake. I was sitting by the fire ring making dinner and out of the corner of my eye I see some movement. In walks a 1-2 year old bull moose with the antlers in velvet. He walks by about 15 feet away and almost trips over my tarp ropes. He continued down the shore and out of site. I am sure glad he didn't step on my canoe, he was only 5 feet away from it. And of course I didn't have the camera out.
1.Tornado on Jap lake in 97, I honestly thought we were going to die.
2.Going to the BW in 05 when I was 8 months pg and the looks I got from people lol
3. Taking our 3rd when he was 7 months old, we were in about 5 lakes in and were catching up to some boy scouts who were going on and on how about amazing they were; when we passed them in our spirit 3 with our 3 kids and dog along with 5 packs.. the oldest boy scout says.. Gee, maybe this trip really isn't that hard.
4. Same trip as above, I had youngest on my back and was carrying some gear. At the end of the portage I stopped to talk to a guy who was going the opposite way. He was really impressed that we had our 5 and 4 year old with and I said..well you forgot the baby on my back! He almost fell over and said he thought that was gear on my back! It was SO FUNNY.
5. This last summer we were on loon lake and people thought we were so interesting they were taking our pics while we canoed across the lake lol
I know dh's favorite memory was when He built a sail out of my hammock and we sailed across the lake only to get wind bound on the other side lol
The most memorable moment occurred on my second BW trip, which had several memorable firsts.
But first a little background.
I was enthralled by the BW on my first trip and immediately began planning a second trip, which would include my brother and/or sister. They were interested, but work and family commitments made it impossible to schedule, so I took a couple of solo trips to the Adirondacks (ADK's). I had discovered on my first BW trip that my paddling skills needed improvement and my first solo trip to the ADK's impressed on me the fact that solo paddling was a different animal and that I had no solo paddling skills.
After three years of aborted attempts to organize a trip with the others, I decided I was just going to have to go solo. My trips to the ADK's had not involved extensive travel and portaging, but I could at least make the canoe go more or less straight most of the time, so I decided I was ready.
I decided that I'd take a few extra days off, do some sightseeing on the way up and back (it's 1200 miles one way), and have a week in the BW. My first trip had been in EP#16, Moose River North and after exploring several options I decided to enter at EP#14, Little Indian Sioux River North, and do the loop through the small lakes south of Lac la Croix. I secured a mid-September permit for it in the lottery and the plan was set. But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray.
I became ill around the beginning of May. I had intestinal problems - dairrhea, etc. - and lost over 10% of my bodyweight. I was totally fatigued. The few hours a day that I wasn't asleep, I was too tired to even read. I just sat in the chair and stared. It was attributed to some sort of virus, although no definitive diagnosis was ever made. It lasted until near the end of June. By that time I was able to mow the yard - a 45-minute job - with only one rest break. Things seemed to be back to normal by the end of August and I was determined to take my BW trip.
I put in at EP #14, LISN, around mid-morning and paddled against a headwind out onto Loon Lake. The wind increased in the afternoon on Loon and I took a campsite there. My headlamp quit working that night and I was never able to get it to work for the rest of the trip, which was spent in the dark of the moon.
I set off the next morning and reached South Lake before a storm forced me off the water. I did not feel well and stayed on South. I don't think I had fully recovered from my illness and certainly had not regained my previous strength and stamina. After continuing on, I saw my first moose in the wild. I was lunching at the narrows on Eugene when a bull just walked into camp. Wind forced me off the water on Finger Lake and while camped there on the western shore, I saw the northern lights for the first time. Later that night wolves howled from across the water and beyond the ridge to the east toward Gebeonequet Lake. This was another first.
I became windbound again on Gebeonequet. I was awakened from a sound sleep at 3:23 A.M. by the bark of a wolf mere feet from my tent. I was instantly awake and alert and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. These are not just figures of speech. The first wolf was followed by a chorus of others as a pack ran right past my campsite. Definitely my most memorable moment in canoe country.
I became windbound again on Oyster Lake on the day I had planned to exit. I would not being calling my wife tonight and she would worry. I worried that if I did not get out tomorrow, the outfitter would begin to worry. I finally decided that I'd have to leave at first light in the morning if possible, exit at #16, Moose River and walk to my car at #14, about 8-10 miles out the road.
That's what I did. I paddled against the wind - again - all day and arrived at #16, mid to late afternoon. After changing into my old running shoes, I set off out the road. I was fortunate enough to be offered a ride after about 6 miles. Thank you. It was early evening by the time I reached Ely and the outfitter's and made some phone calls.
A very memorable trip and a true learning experience.
great story boonie, it sounds like it was worth the 1200 mile drive. i guess my most memorable moment was at the end of a trip down the bloodvein river, starting in woodland caribou park where we flew in to the river headwaters and ended at the town of bloodvein, manitoba, where we were to catch the ferry that crosses lake winnipeg to the village where our car was parked. both my brother and i had done plenty of trips in the canadian bush and were well prepared for the chaos of an isolated native community. these towns are very scary. as we canoed into the town of bloodvein it looked like a typical native community, most of the houses had plastic covering the windows where the glass had long since been broken, many doors were off the hinges. wild dogs barked at us from the river bank which was lined by cast off refrigerators and the like. we pulled our canoes up on shore and went down to lake winnipeg to check on the ferries schedule. the captain was at the waters edge, as the waves were gigantic he said that the days ferry run may be cancelled, and could be for days as the lake could remain very dangerous for days. that news sucked. the thought of spending time in this god forsaken town just depressed me. we went "downtown" to the "store". at this point i noticed the smell of paint and i just knew no one was painting their dwellings. at the store, the only one for 50 miles, there was a big selection of cupcakes and twinkies, i noticed a huge native, easily 6 foot 6 inches, handsome as a movie star, his hair in braids, with feathers, in case the point wasn't made. of coarse i had to stare, this dude was awesome and i was thrilled to see a native full of pride when i really expected none. apparently tourists are fairly common in this town, he knew how to deal with my type, he looked at me straight in the eye and said "how", and held his fist up like in a john wayne movie. at this i was in hysterics and lost my interest in twinkies. that was it for downtown, time to go back down to the lake and watch waves with the boat captain. i noticed now that we were no longer the only non natives in town. all sorts of european and canadian tourists were now at the landing watching the waves. for my brother and i it was not a huge deal as we had camping gear but many of these people were obviously here for just the day and to spend the night was incomprehensible. now things got interesting. i noticed a gorgeous indian girl swirling her way down to the lake. i thought that maybe she was Mr feather braids sister, or wife. but she was swirling, and high and started puking in the bushes behind me. no one looked or even noticed, just me. the fact that she was a gorgeous indian woman and i grew up in love with the woman on land o lakes butter may have had an impact. my brother was working in the emergency room in a large duluth hospital at the time. his spirit had been crushed by dealing with this situation everyday. now the spinning indian beauty swirled her way down into lake winnepeg. the waves quickly swept her off her feet and she was gone, under. of the thirty or so people standing with me, watching the waves, not a person moved, or even expressed any interest. i was astonished, i have found bodies several times in my life, but i had never watched anyone die. i guess since i smelled like a fourteen day canoe trip it wasn't a big deal for me to run into the lake and find this girl. but to hell with everyone who watched and never did a thing to help. i get her on shore and she smells like the inside of my canoe when i was varnishing it. at this point several older women come to help me with the girl. they take her away and the ferry leaves with us on it.
to me canoeing is a spiritual matter. i cannot begin to explain what that may mean. and i cannot pretend to understand what the native american may have felt about this land or the use of the canoe to travel this land. i paddle a canoe that was once used by a native trapper north of thunder bay. this canoe has spirit, i can feel it. i can also feel the spirit of a big pipe organ in a Lutheran church. my mother was a church organist, it is the same spirit.
i pray for that girl in manitoba. my rescue efforts were minimal but she did survive that day. if i was not there i really question what may have happened. and my brother just watched with the rest of them, it could be that he understood, and the many others, understood, the immense, hopeless pain in the canadian north woods.
Our first BWCA trip was in 1991 when we were in our mid 20s. I had started car camping in college with friends, including my boyfriend (who was a husband by 1991.) We loved it so much, we actually went car camping for our honeymoon. A group of friends had been to the BWCA several times and invited us to join them on their trip one summer.
We had no idea what we were getting in to. They told us about this great lake with sand beaches. Sounded pretty and fun. Sure. Why not. Which would lead to a story our children are tired of hearing. But we never tire of remembering it and telling it.
The lake – Alice.
Our entry point – Lake One.
Trip length – I think it was 5 days. But I am not positive. Hubby thinks so too so we might be right.
We spent a couple of days, off and on, packing our food and gear in the living room of our small house. Being directed by the “experts” in the group who had packed and paddled before. I recall that the food consisted of spaghetti with frozen fresh meat for the first meal. Lots of snacks and dried food for the rest. Pancakes. Jerky. PB & J. cheese and crackers. Powdered beverages. Vodka. Marshmallows. We brought our huge car camping tent. Air mattresses. Cotton clothes. AND WE PACKED A VOLLEY BALL SET. POLLS, NET AND BALL.
We left the Twin Cities in the evening, after picking up canoes around town and one of the trip members in downtown St. Paul at the end of his 3-11 work shift. Drove all night to Ely.
The trip in took ten hours…through the numbered chain to Hudson and Insula and on to Alice on our first day. Beautiful weather to start the day. Heavy winds and white caps to end the day as we frantically paddled across Alice Lake to get that beach campsite our friends had targeted.
We were a party of 7 with three canoes.
We mixed and matched our canoe crews.
I hadn’t canoed since going to camp as a young teenager. And was never the stern paddler. (still am not)
I had never navigated lakes or the wilderness. And neither had my spouse.
Much of the first travel day is a blur, because I was just along for the ride. I just did as I was told – paddle in front, grab a pack, time to stop for a snack, your turn to sit in the middle, Potty break in the woods. OK. This is fun. I remember enjoying myself immensely. But also feeling tired. And finding out later that my spouse was amazed at what a trooper I was the whole time. He didn’t think I was that tough. Especially as the winds kept picking up.
When we hit Insula the wind picked up enough that we crafted a make-shift sail to move across the water. Not sure what we made it out of (tarp? Clothes?), we have one picture but we can’t tell what the “sail” is. We get lost among the islands and had to stop on one to get our bearings. I recall that my hubby and I were the ones who ended up being right about our location when we got re-oriented. But we may have helped get us lost too!
By the time we were heading off of Insula, there were whitecaps aplenty. The quieter waters of the Kawishiwi River felt like a treat. I remember briefly thinking… what have we gotten ourselves in to?! When we came out of the mouth of the river and saw the 2-3 foot swells on Alice, I don’t recall being scared. I think I would be now. I just waited to be told what to do! There was another group right ahead of us. We wanted that campsite straight across the lake with the sand beach (not sure which one it is now when I look at maps, we’ve never been back to Alice) So we put our two best paddlers in one canoe without any gear, to lighten the load and fly across the lake to get our site. Me, my hubby and another female friend took one of the canoes – donned our life jackets (young and stupid, we hadn’t been wearing them most of the trip), put our heads down and just paddled. I remember not looking up much. And when I did, the waves seemed huge. We got our sand beach campsite. We were so exhausted that we could barely set up camp. The wind was howling so much it was hard to pitch tents. We got them set up and we all went to sleep. We did get up and eat some dinner. Don’t remember what. The wind had lessened but were too tired.
We ended up moving our fire ring, around a corner a bit on a point. where someone else had set up a ring or perhaps it was an older one? Not sure but we didn’t dig it ourselves, it was already there.
The next morning the wind was strong as when we arrived the previous day. The tarp set up to block the wind just kept getting blown down. It was nearly impossible to cook and eat. The wind blew the sand into the pancake batter as we were mixing it. It blew onto the batter as it was cooking. And when we ate them… THEY CRUNCHED. But no pancakes had ever tasted so good. And none have tasted as good since. THE BEST PANCAKES EVER.
It’s what I think of when I think about the joy of the BWCA and the rewards for hard work and beauty there. It was our first trip. And we couldn’t wait to go back the next summer. It felt so isolated and secluded. Because I was used to camping at places like Itasca State Park.
We made a few more trips in our 20s. Then came kids and work and somehow 15 years went by. We took the kids car camping but never to the wilderness until a few years ago. We now choose to put in off the Gunflint Trail, where there are fewer people. We haven’t been back to the numbered lakes since the mid 90s. I have talked about taking the kids in through Ely. But the Trail keeps drawing us back
We took the kids to a state park over MEA weekend for a quick trip. We hadn’t been car camping in three years, choosing instead the BWCA. They both kept saying that the campsite was small and the park was crowded and there was too much garbage around. They love their wilderness camping and I couldn’t be happier.
Guess this turned in to a mini - or not so mini! – trip report. It is fun to look back at our first trip. Eating those sand pancakes summed up the trip so well. Now I have to dig out my old pictures. Thanks for reading my long-winded memory!
Wow, this is a great thread. I thank everyone that has shared so far. I'd still like to see Tom T's pics of the bitten fuel cans. I can't imagine a huge bear ambling right up to my tent on a destructive stroll through our camp.
My worst: On our first trip my son (6'5" 240+lbs) and myself (6'3" and 230lbs) were seriously over-packed and the only canoe available was my Coleman green monster. The other canoe with us, an old Grumman warhorse, held three people and was crammed to the gunwales so we ended up with the heavy food pack also. We left Jordan Lake under gray skies and stiff wind. The protected and quiet trip through the Jordan/Ima channel belied the winds we met when we entered Ima. With westerly winds throwing whitecaps I was uncomfortable from the start. I thought we were going to hug the shoreline but our other canoe took off southeast toward the Hatchet Lake portage. My first reaction was, well, we're at least going with the wind. Reluctantly we followed keeping both canoes together. Right off the bat it was obvious neither canoe could move with the same speed as those waves. Both canoes struggled with amazingly little free-board. I do not remember any other time spent in the BW where I was so focused every second of the trip - and scared. The bottom of the Coleman oilcans on smooth water and at this point it was dancing as we were roller coastering along. Both canoes were wallowing as our winds were getting worse. We absolutely missed the portage entrance since it's hidden behind a huge rock and we sickeningly realized we were well past it and had to turn around and now battle back while still trying to find our goal. The Grumman, with three people, was taking on water faster than we were at this point so headed for shore and as luck would have it stumbled on the portage. I've had people tell me this is a hard portage to find on a good day and I'll admit to being thrilled to finally step out of that canoe and be able to sit on solid ground.
Best: While leaving Cherokee Lake early on morning we were headed west on Cherokee Creek. I was in the second of two canoes paddling bow seat. Our lead canoe disappeared for a moment around a grassy corner so we pushed on to keep up only to have to slam on the brakes because they had stopped dead in the water with this guy standing like a statue on the shoreline about 30 feet away. It was an electric moment when you come to realize the massive size and power you are witnessing - that he is just mere feet away - and that if he doesn't like us there is nothing we can do. Fortunately he took a while to stare us down and then turn and melt away into the woods. Of all the beauty and majesty of the wilderness I've experienced on my trips this moment still stands out.
May waters rise to meet you.
May wind and current be always at your back.
May the Good Lord paddle with you,
And may yours be the lightest pack.
1.Tornado on Jap lake in 97, I honestly thought we were going to die." I wonder if it was the same tornado we experienced? I remember ours was in that time frame, and Jap Lake is the right area (we were on Tern Lake, near Alpine and Jasper). Was "Your" tornado in September? Just curious to know if we were in the same one, thinking we were going to die!
"Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." Mark Twain
quote ozarkpaddler: "quote Canoearoo: "I have a few:
1.Tornado on Jap lake in 97, I honestly thought we were going to die." I wonder if it was the same tornado we experienced? I remember ours was in that time frame, and Jap Lake is the right area (we were on Tern Lake, near Alpine and Jasper). Was "Your" tornado in September? Just curious to know if we were in the same one, thinking we were going to die! "
I honestly don't remember the time of year. We were camped on the island and the tornado came in the evening passed over the top of the camp sight on the west and touched down on the lake and when right between the island and the land. It was really bad.. so bad that after all the storms were done our camping neighbors paddled over to make sure we were still alive.
But don't ask dh about it.. he was so tired he slept through the entire thing. We went to bed that night at 7pm, I heard the tornado, woke him up and said whats that noise?! He rolled over and said..its just a tornado, go back to sleep; if we die we go to heaven. Lucky for him I had set up our tent on the south side of the campsite where all the little trees were and the tornado passed on the north side of the island. I have some wicked pics of that storm
quote bapabear: "Wow, this is a great thread. I thank everyone that has shared so far. I'd still like to see Tom T's pics of the bitten fuel cans. I can't imagine a huge bear ambling right up to my tent on a destructive stroll through our camp.
Thanks for the reminder. I totally forgot to post it. Here's the cans. You can see we haven't dusted them in awhile. I remember I took pics of the food bag and mess but I didn't have a flash on my camera and it was too dark in the forest to really see anything. It was quite the scene though.
quote Canoearoo: "quote ozarkpaddler: "quote Canoearoo: "I have a few: 1.Tornado on Jap lake in 97, I honestly thought we were going to die." I wonder if it was the same tornado we experienced? I remember ours was in that time frame, and Jap Lake is the right area (we were on Tern Lake, near Alpine and Jasper). Was "Your" tornado in September? Just curious to know if we were in the same one, thinking we were going to die! " I honestly don't remember the time of year. We were camped on the island and the tornado came in the evening passed over the top of the camp sight on the west and touched down on the lake and when right between the island and the land. It was really bad.. so bad that after all the storms were done our camping neighbors paddled over to make sure we were still alive."
Would love to see the pics. I took a few, but I just had an 'el cheapo for many years. Looks like we were huddled about 2 miles to the northwest of you! We never saw it, just heard it and the trees crashing down around us; it was a very "Humbling" feeling huddled under that canoe!
"Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." Mark Twain
After doing some CSI on them to determine what method said bear used to punture these I came to the conclusion that he bit the red one. It is "pinched" together with holes on both sides. The silver can has a few large holes but is not pinched so maybe a sharp claw was his weapon.
BTW - why were the cans in the food pack?? Rookies... *shakes head
quote ozarkpaddler: "quote Canoearoo: "quote ozarkpaddler: "quote Canoearoo: "I have a few: 1.Tornado on Jap lake in 97, I honestly thought we were going to die." I wonder if it was the same tornado we experienced? I remember ours was in that time frame, and Jap Lake is the right area (we were on Tern Lake, near Alpine and Jasper). Was "Your" tornado in September? Just curious to know if we were in the same one, thinking we were going to die! " I honestly don't remember the time of year. We were camped on the island and the tornado came in the evening passed over the top of the camp sight on the west and touched down on the lake and when right between the island and the land. It was really bad.. so bad that after all the storms were done our camping neighbors paddled over to make sure we were still alive."
Would love to see the pics. I took a few, but I just had an 'el cheapo for many years. Looks like we were huddled about 2 miles to the northwest of you! We never saw it, just heard it and the trees crashing down around us; it was a very "Humbling" feeling huddled under that canoe!"
back then there were no digital cameras. These are the only 3 have I found time to scan in. These were before the store hit, it was around 5pm when I took that dark pic. We knew were were in for a pounding: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v370/reddcin/2003/2003%20camping%20and%20fishing/1996storm.jpg
I have so many memories. Memories of peace, physical challenges, solitude, and beauty.
But the one that wakes me up, completely panicked in a cold sweat a few times a year is this one:
We did the uphill portage from Thomas to Kiana. Before heading to the Insula portage, we had a quick lunch. The first pass over the portage was uneventful. We dropped our stuff, and four women went back for the rest of the gear. I stayed with Dixie and one other woman. About 10 minutes after the group left, we decided to go halfway back so that I could take the “stupid heavy canoe.” We got halfway, and stopped to wait. Our friends were coming, so we started walking to meet them. We realized that Dixie was gone. We assumed that she ran to the end of the portage to meet the group. She didn’t. We split up on the portage and called for her. We went through the brush looking for her. She didn’t come. Two women went to find a campsite around 6. We kept the tarp and the lunch pack with us at the portage. It started pouring rain. We huddled under the tarp. It was starting to get dark, so we left the portage and went to the campsite. I was a mess. I took off my wet clothes and boots and went into the tent. Our plan was to take 4 of us back to the portage by 6am, and continue to look for her. The other 2 would take notes in zip lock bags to campsites. They would try to find someone leaving today to let outfitters, etc. know so they could pass on the info. We really weren’t sure what else to do. It was a horrible feeling. Spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with Dixie had created such a strong bond. I felt lost without her. I had a fitful night of sleep. Waking to pray and hope that my dog wouldn’t die alone in the woods. Knowing that I might have to leave the BWCA without her.
The next morning came, and I tried to eat something. I ended up throwing up my pop tart after forcing myself to eat it.
We got to back the portage at 6am, and split up along the trail to call for Dixie. 3-4 hours went by and the two women who were delivering notes paddled up to the portage where we stood. They had Dixie!! Lost for 20 hours, but we got her back!
They told us the story. The last site they pulled up to had a dog at it. A leader from Voyageur Outward Bound had been cooking breakfast in Cache Lake and saw Dixie swim across the lake to her site. (If you want to see her journey… look at Fisher map F-11. She was recovered at the site just southeast of Cache Lake. Look at the elevation lines between the portage and Cache Lake) She tied her up, and was waiting for someone to come looking for her. No one came, so she took Dixie and paddled to the portage to Insula. She portage across and walked to the closest campsite. My friends saw her waving her arms and paddled to the site and picked up Dixie. It was an emotional reunion. Many tears.
Fortunately, Dixie was relatively healthy, except for extreme exhaustion. She had some deep cuts on her back right foot, scratches on her belly, and swollen paws. We lifted her in the canoe and took her back to our campsite. I fed her and wrapped her cuts. We decided to pack up our stuff and paddle to the end of Insula, so that we could get up early tomorrow and portage to Hudson, then out as planned. We started paddling around noon. Fortunately, it wasn’t windy on big Insula and we made it to a site. Being so worn out we just didn’t have a lot in our reserves for a big paddle. We were so completely exhausted. Dixie slept, and slept, and slept. We relaxed in the shade for the afternoon.
It was an early night. We were grateful for a clear night and everyone’s safety. We crashed in the tent, content to have Dixie back in her spot.