Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BWCA/Superior National Forest

Warning…this is a long one. We’re in Minnesota.Land of 10,000 lakes. You can hit pretty much any one of those 10,000 lakes by swinging a dead walleye. But that’s not where the REAL fun is. The REAL fun is up-north. It’s the BWCA. Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Part of the Lake Superior National forest and where probably 2/3 of those 10,000 lakes are. The BWCA is NOT for the faint hearted. I experienced the BWCA for the first time in the summer of 1999 (I think…there are SOME things that one really does block out), when my husband’s family, his brother and sisters AND FATHER (but no children) decided that we all needed to go up and experience the boundary waters. Now, I should preface this by saying…my idea of camping is staying at a hotel that doesn’t have HBO. (sorry dad…yes I stole your tag line). But we were lucky because my BIL has no trouble at all assuming the position of “THE BIG TOE”. Seriously, I think he’s done this so many times before that this is completely old hat to him. He planned it out. Luckily. Without our Big Toe, I’m sure it would have resembled something of a Three Stooges episode…in triplicate.

For those not acquainted with BWCA, a brief synopsis. One applies for a permit with the number of camping members in their party for a specific time frame. One gets the permit for a given time frame (in our case, a long weekend, going in on a Thurs and exiting on a Sun). We had to go to outfitters to rent extra canoes (Big Toe has his own), and Duluth packs (a large pack big enough to pack belongings in and waterproof such that in the event of a canoe tip, items stay dry…Big Toe has one of those too). Then you head to your “entry point” lake and load all your stuff into a canoe and you’re off. Now, we don’t usually stay on our entry lake, but we “portage” to another lake. Portaging is removing all your belongings from your canoe and carrying them and your canoe over what could be a short portage, maybe 10-15 rods (a rod is the length of a canoe) or it could be as long as a mile (yes one of our portages was that long…carrying everything. OY!). Now…here is the kicker. There are a finite number of campsites on each lake and there is NO reserving campsites, so it’s first come, first serve. It is entirely possible to enter a lake to find all the campsites taken and you must then portage to another lake. Been there. Done that.

I found out then that my assessment of camping was spot on.Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was breathtakingly beautiful.But, so is a good night’s sleep without a rock seemingly finding its way through a foot of dirt each night to stick right smack in the middle of your back…or feeling like Paul Bunyon himself was standing on your hips if you attempted to lay on your side (to avoid the aforementioned rock). The trip had its moment…like BIL#2 thinking the fire wouldn’t catch on his own and adding “boy scout” juice (that would be about half of our cooking supply of propane) to the fire and singeing his eyebrows off in the same maneuver. BUT…I persevered and 2 years and one child later, I repeated the experience. Most of the same group of characters, although this time we added a child, our 10 year old nephew…who was SO smart…it took him the whole trip to figure out that each time he set down his back pack, a large rock was added to it. When trip 3 was planned, I was less enthusiastic but figured, I am still young (bwah-ha) and I probably had another trip in me (but…I suspected this would be my last). THEN, the inevitable happened. EVERYONE bailed. Everyone but Big Toe, SIL and me. Oh, what to do, what to do? I HATE it when everyone bails on me so I refused to bail on all the effort Big Toe put into planning. So I went. And it was to be my last camping trip to the BWCA. Stay tuned...

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