OK so as the title says, I'm a single dad with 2 girls ages 9 and 11. We are considering a trip to the BW in June or July 2010. This will be our first canoe and wilderness camping trip. Can someone suggest an outfitter or trip for a newbie family?
I don't have a lot of experience compared to many here :). I did a solo earlier this month from EP 38 and used Sawbill Outfitters. The route I did was easy and, imho, would be a nice start for a "newbie" family trip. There are several loop options from Sawbill. However, I'm sure there are many, many, many other opinions from others :)
Use the search feature and the entry point info. Read old threads, join us in chat and ask LOTS of questions - you won't be disappointed!
BTW - Welcome!!
THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. - Hunter S. Thompson
With a 9 and 11 year old, I think I would pick an entry point that you could travel in 1 to 2 to 3 lakes and camp there for as many days as you have planned. Then travel out the same way. Avoid big water, stay close to shore while traveling, do not paddle in wind. This would be a relatively easy trip. I would make sure I had great insect protection (i.e. permetherin treated clothes, head nets, and DEET). Good kid food- cinnamon oatmeal, mac and cheese, hot dogs, smores, etc. A practice trip down a local river with an overnight would help. EP 16 might be a good choice.
Have lots of fun!
Never criticize someone until you walk a mile in their shoes....by then you'll be a mile away and they will be shoeless!
I'd suggest going later in July when the water temperature makes swimming more appealing and fun. Having a campsite with a sand beach is a big plus. Alice Lake fills that bill, as do certain campsites on Insula Lake, ..Loon Lake, ..Agnes Lake, ..and many other locations.
I've always had great service with Canoe Country Outfitters, ..but there are many very good outfitters for you to choose from.
As Mort says, there are many good outfitters to choose from. I recommend Voyageur North. The owners, John and Lynn, are great outfitters, took their own kids on BWCA trips, and now take their grandkids. You can ask them, but I believe their grandkids are about the same age as your kids. I believe they will have great insights and advice for tripping with kids.
I agree with Mort, too, about later July though I'd push it into early August. Something to discuss with your outfitter.
Also something to consider and talk with your outfitter about, since this is your first canoe camping wilderness trip, maybe you want something outside the BWCA. There are some BWCA-type campsites outside the BWCA. These don't have all the regulations (such as the bottle and can ban) and generally have easier access. I took my son to one of these on his first "wilderness" trip. He didn't know we were not in the BWCA until I opened a can of Spaghettios and he called me on it. :)
Another option is to camp in a campground on the edge of the BWCA and do daytrips in. This has several advantages: you are right at your car in case of an emergency; no portaging gear; since you're not portaging gear you can take more luxuries, a bigger tent, different/more food and drinks, etc.; you won't get windbound; you don't need to filter water ... and so on.
Thanks to all for the good info. keep it coming. It all makes perfect sense, and i have requested brochures from all outfitters mentioned. One poster asked about amount of days. I was thinking between 3 and 5, probably base camp, since I would be the sole portager (is that a word).
We just returned from a really nice trip out of Sawbill Lake that could easily be done in three days. And it had options for additional loops for more adventures if you wanted a longer trip. See my trip report.
We don't use an outfitter, but I have heard good things about Sawbill Outfitters.
But I would think girls of 9 and 11 should definitely be carrying a small pack each of their own personal gear at the very least on every portage. Dad should not be the "sole portager". You want them to learn that a canoe trip is something that is a team effort. We took our daughter on her first trip at age eight and she carried a small pack with no problems, and we had a couple of pretty challenging portages.
My girls (and now grand kids) all have completely enjoyed these types of wilderness trips. Here are some other thoughts for the age group:
1) Get them involved. Paddling, portaging, cooking, making camp, building a fire, washing dishes, etc. This is a great chance to show them that they are NEEDED and VALUED in many ways.
2) Be very patient and instructive when they do not know what to do or how to do it. However, NEVER assume they don't want to know or cannot learn. The single biggest error would be to try to do everything for them. They will get bored instantly.
3) Make it fun! Work hard to find time to do fun stuff THEY like - S'mores, swimming, skipping rocks, watching stars, etc.
4) Take foods they like. Ask them what are their favorite foods (that can be made camping)
5) DEFINITELY get a Jello Mold oven (old aluminum jello mold with pie pan lid) This will allow you to bake brownies, cobblers, biscuits, fudge, etc. Lots of details on this web site. Use the search feature. Even cooking failures are fun in the woods!
6) Don't get in a hurry trying to cover too much ground (or water). Rest often, take time to "play" and just relax together.
7) Plan on rain, then hope it does not happen. Organize something to do if it rains all day. Books, games, cards, etc.
I think you will be surprised how much they will enjoy it.
It's pretty much universally accepted that the Lake One entry and paddle into Lakes Two and Three is the easiest route with regard to portaging. There are just two very short portages involved (assuming the water is high enough).
Thing is that entry is the most popular and you will have to reserve your permit early because that entry fills up fast. And if you're looking for solitude (as in not seeing many other people), then this is not the place to go. It's as "crowded" as the BWCA gets.
In addition, there's a full service outfitter right on the water at that entry. So there's no driving from the outfitter to the entry. Just park your car right there and load up the canoes.
Kawishiwi and Lake One Outfitters is also a lodge with a bunkhouse and showers, etc. I've only rented canoes from them (haven't used any other services). Rustic looking place, well kept, family owned, friendly, etc.
All in all, the combo of the easy entry route and having the outfitter right on the water makes for some simplistic logistics. My son is 4. When he's a little older, that's probably the place we'll take him first.
Do not base camp, no surer way to have whiney kids than to limit their adventures. You don't need to do 15 mile days, but girls this age should be able to pull their weight. Do a loop. As mentioned, involve them - they will have jobs and responsibilities.
Use a full three person canoe.
Edit their pack contents to keep the weight down - there are no fashion contests up there.
No iPods, no gameboys, bring books. My youngest at 7 in the wilds West of Quetico
"You're not serious about wearing sandals on this portage.... are you?"
They can definately carry a pack- my first trip was at 12, and I carried a Duluth Pack and was proud to do it! I'd agree with spartan, that short loop through Kelso/Alton is an easy 3 day trip, very pretty, and somewhat secluded for such an easy entry and route.
It has the added benefit of starting right from Sawbill, I've had good luck with Sawbill Outfitters although I've never used them for more than canoe rental.
Definitely get thm involved in planning route and meals, and teach them to safely cut/split wood, whittle, make fire....they will have a ball and so will you!
Remember: you are doing this for them. If it's not fun for them, they won't want to go back. There's a real great post on this board, I can't remember if it was this year or last year that talks about kids and the BW. Search for it if you haven't already read it!
I'm a full-time single dad and brought my 8 yo son on his first trip this summer. We went with my brother and a brother in law and their 8 yo old sons. Having his cousins along was great for him. We went in Fall lake onto Pipestone Bay and base camped for 5 nights. Personally, I think the basecamping is the way to go with little guys. They get to know a place and camp feels like home. It also gives them time to fish and explore and not spend all of their time paddling. Basswood is a big lake but the portages were very easy. I would agree with the Lake One entry point idea someone else mentioned. Easy portages and plenty of campsites and daytrip opportunities. I'm sure there are other entry points just as nice. A small lake makes good sense. Do they or you like to fish? Like to explore? Think about how you'd like to spend your days and that will help direct your trip itenerary.
Many have already suggested the Lake One entry, and a thought would be to enter there but go south down the Kawishiwi River rather than the Lake 1, 2, 3 route. If you have the outfitter drop you off at the Lake One entry and then pick you up at the South Kawishiwi entry (#31 I think) you would have a few portages but none long except the last one, some little rapids to portage around that are fun to look at, and no really large water to worry about. You could also come out at Farm Lake if you wanted a bit shorter of a trip although you do have to paddle across Farm Lake. We did a Father/Son Father/daughter trip on this route and it worked well for a short trip. You can have 2 (or 3 at the most) base camps and just a few hours of paddling between them. The folks at VNO suggested this trip for us with the kids and we really enjoyed it. My son was 12 when we did this trip, and my friend's daughter was 11 - the kids thought it was great. In any case, should be a wonderful time for you and your daughters...
Food is a biggie. Do some fun eating. For example, Cut the top off of an orange, pumpkin-style, and hollow it out. eat the insides. fill it with brownie batter , wrap it in foil, and cook it in the coals. Check out the recipes section.
We have brought little sketch books for drawing plants and insects that kids see. And like everyone else is saying, keep them busy, but not too busy, and give them jobs.
check out the information included in the website listed below.
There are also some great routes off the Gunflint Trail. a beginner trip to consider would be entering at Poplar, traveling to the Lizz lake entry, heading into Caribou, Horseshoe and Gaskin, then making a return loop back to Poplar. Another might be a Duncan lake entry, heading in at West Bearskin to Duncan, Rose and back out. Just two portages but one is the Stairway portage. Kids love this area because of Rose falls (you can sit in the waterfall on a warm day), plus the Border Route hiking trail connects here so you can take some short hikes to scenic overlooks. If your kids are into history you could have fun researching the voyageurs that traveled this route.
Bring disposable film or digital camera's. That way the kids can take photo's of their trip. When they get home, they can make photo albums. My girlfriend and I took her 2 young children over to Alton for a short 2 night stay. I brought disposable film camera's for the boys. They had a blast taking photo's of bugs and of each other portaging. We brought board games like checkers in case of rain and books. Each boy had his own pack to carry too. At night we made smores. Sawbill to Alton is easy. Plus from Alton you can take day trips to explore other area's. We made it to Grace one day and had a picnic at one of the campsites. The boys were 4 and 6. The boys are now almost teenagers and go with their mom to the bwca at least once a year. Their trips are longer and more challenging and they still bring disposable camera's to take trip photo's!