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HomeNL-2013-11 BWCA

Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Northern Minnesota
Sept. 9-19, 2013
by Natalie Wiest

This trip occurred in two segments; the first one a week long with four paddlers, and the second one four days with three paddlers, followed by several days of sightseeing and playing tourist in Ely, MN.

One of our party had to return to work after the first week, thus Bob Scaldino, Marilyn Kircus and I soldiered on without Andrew Looker for the second week of paddling. We were blessed with wonderful weather, cool nights and pleasant days with the only negative weather happening when we were under permanent roofs between trips or on our tourist days. Two days we stayed in camp with high winds and cool temperatures but we had gone to relax and enjoy the outdoors, so no complaints here.

We rented lightweight Kevlar canoes from Blackwood Lodge outfitters. Week one we had two tandems which weighed only about 45 lbs. each; week two three of us went in one 20’ triple that was 53 lbs. Marilyn and I were incredibly thankful the guys did the boat hauling – even at that light weight, the trails we portaged would have been very difficult for the short blondes among us.

Our put-in point was from the front doors of the lodge on the Gunflint Trail, north of Grand Marais, MN. We had anticipated the arrival of rain and sure enough got thoroughly rained on our first day out, with a near-river running down portage #4 of the day as we carried all our gear and food to our campsite on Gaskin Lake. We made that our base camp and day tripped from there. We were a bit annoyed with the rotting remains of fish at our camp’s canoe landing – but a lot less annoyed when a pair of bald eagles joined in for cleanup duty and we got a good close look at them as they made short work of what the fishermen had left behind.

Bob and Marilyn are quite the gear-accumulators and it was interesting to see them pull out and use the high tech stuff they’d brought with them. Love those flyweight camp chairs, and the Jet Boil cookware. Amazing. Marilyn had spent some time preparing and dehydrating our dinners; I way overpacked on breakfasts and lunches but I’ll know better next time. The wilderness character of the area is very protected. The silence was wonderful – even airplanes are restricted from flying overhead. Loons calling across the lakes were what I’d come to hear, and I was not disappointed although the oddity to me of this wild area was an apparent scarcity of wildlife. We didn’t see any beavers, bears, or moose; all of which I believe are on the decline in the area. At least one pine marten came through camp and we had some marvelous views of a loon mother feeding its hungry offspring – practically as big as the mother and loudly calling for more and more food, which was delivered still squirming to its mouth. A momma mink swam circles in front of us to distract us from its halfgrown baby, beating a path for home.

I loved the cool fall air and the colors just starting to turn. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story, it was lovely to be there and I hope I’ll return.

Blackwood Lodge
on Poplar Lake
    Marilyn sorts food
for repacking in the
blue bear barrels
    Our gear and boats
ready to head out
   Marilyn and Bob


A typical campsite
with fire ring and
easy access to the
    View from a
day paddle
    Camp setup with
tarp for a rainy day
   A beautiful still calm
morning, view from


On the water for
a day paddle
    Day paddle     Loon    A misty morning
from our base
camp, week 2

Sun breaking
through the morning
mist with paddlers
passing by
    Boarding our
triple-seat canoe
    Fall colors
just beginning
   Map of the Gunflint
portion of the
Boundary Waters
Canoe Area

The author, Natalie Wiest