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Minnesota Boundary Waters
Sept. 26th to Oct. 11th, 2010
by John Rich
On Sept. 26th, four HCC members headed out on the road for a 2½-day drive to Minnesota, the beginning of a 16-day trip. The participants were Ken Anderson, Joe Coker, Dana Enos and John Rich. Ken and Dana took their solo boats, and Joe and I went tandem in Ken's big kevlar canoe.
The main thrust of the trip was to spend a week in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) wilderness, paddling and camping. The BWCA is a national park that covers a million acres of land, containing 1,000 lakes, and 1,500 miles of canoe trails, in northern Minnesota up against the border with Canada. The woods are full of moose, bear and wolves, and the lakes are full of loons, beaver, pike and walleye.
The temperatures ranged from freezing at night, to about 65 during the day. So the nights were chilly, and one night we had a hard freeze which froze water bottles left outside overnight. Fires were allowed in the campsites, so we kept one going in the evenings before retiring to our tents, and stoked it up in the morning, to ward off the chill. Good firewood was scarce on our little island base camp, so every few days we would take a canoe out on a wood-foraging trip, to scrounge wood from the shoreline. The leaves were at the end of their fall season color change: reds were scarce, but yellows were in abundance.
The original plan was to hop from lake to lake each day, camping in a different location each evening. But then we kept hearing that the campsites were mostly all taken, because it was the beginning of moose-hunting season. So, fearing that we would be unable to find unoccupied campsites at the end of each day, we instead made a base camp three lakes in from the starting point. It was a beautiful camp site, and we didn't want to give it up. So we just maintained camp in that one place, and then ventured out on day trips from there.
Some of us went separate ways each day, on our own adventures. Dana would hit the lake early to fish all morning. Joe, Ken and I would go explore other lakes. During the week I paddled a total of 11 lakes, covering 40 miles, with 20 portages. My portages totaled two miles, with the longest ones being 400 yards. Ugh!
After we exited the BWCA, we spent some time in the outdoor towns of Grand Marais and Ely. We hiked to the High Falls waterfall on the Pigeon River, which comprises the border with Canada. We visited the Grand Portage National Monument, a museum which is dedicated to the history of the nine-mile portage used to get goods from and to the wilderness from Lake Superior. We walked the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. And we visited the International Wolf Center, and the North American Bear Center, learning everything there is to know about those magnificent creatures. The highlight of those sites for me was the observation of a nighttime feeding of the wolf pack with a roadkill deer carcass. We camped one night across the lake from the wolf center, and laid awake at night listening to their eerie howls.
| The author, John Rich