Many years ago when I was a teenager, my family along with a couple of other families that we were friends with, all went on a camping trip in the boundary waters reserve in Minnesota. It was an amazing time that I still remember to this day.
The astonishing boundary waters wilderness area is over 1,000,000 acres in size, and spans 150 miles along the US-Canada border. This nature reserve has over 1200 miles of canoe routes, a dozen hiking trails and more than 2000 designated campsites for its yearly visitors who come there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life and recharge their spirits surrounded by nature.
As I was saying, I had an unforgettable experience: we set out very early in the morning about 4 AM on a summer day and headed for a park office where we rented kayaks and canoes from the outfitters and left the cars behind for the next two weeks. We packed our bags into canoes, put the dogs in and set sail. At the time we had a beagle she was ecstatic about the trip, at times we wouldn’t see her for hours (and even days) on end because the hunting instinct takes over and she would just chase squirrels and mice all day long with that whimpering sound that beagles make.
I remember we picked a secluded island on the park map and traveled there for three days straight. Obviously we would camp at night and travel by day, going through creeks and lakes and portages. Portages were my favorite (can you tell?) especially the ones where we had to carry the canoe for a good mile or more, and then go back again and drag the backpacks, camping tents, and food coolers, which at least got lighter by the day.
Once we made it to the spot that we set out to, we camped there for over a week swimming whenever we pleased, fishing, making campfires, making bows and arrows, exploring the wild islands and everything else that you do when you’re surrounded by nature and enjoying every minute of it.
Luckily we had some experienced campers with us who knew what they were doing, they showed us how to keep food above the ground in the trees, to keep it away from bears and other rodents and animals. They taught us the importance of stringing a plastic tarp above your tent in case it rains, and to keep your tent on higher ground when possible. Not to mention to keep the firewood dry unless you want to starve, or be forced to eat your cracker supply.
We tried some (minor) whitewater canoeing and kayaking which was fun but also dangerous, we were pretty close to tipping a couple of times. In fact one of the other families that were with us had their canoe tip thanks to their German shepherd while it was trying to get on board. Everything they had was soaked including the sleeping bags luckily it wasn’t raining that day so they could dry their clothing.
At night we would gather around the fire and watch the stars, what a view! With the light pollution in the city you don’t get to see such beauty. I realize how important it is to travel and get away from our busy everyday lives in order to stay happy positive and energetic.
On our camping trip we had two very long canoes and a few smaller canoes and kayaks. We were a relatively large group, since most people we met along the way were just couples. If I’m not mistaking the long kevlar canoes were 16 or 18 feet long and I must have been almost 14 at the time and yet I could actually carry one by myself, but not too far mind you.
These kevlar canoes were very strong for their weight, I remember they took a beating in shallow waters with sharp rocks and survived the trip.
Once our time was up we had to pack our bags and tents again and head for another couple of days to another park office where we were going to be picked up and driven back to where we started. It was an awesome experience and I was sad to leave it all behind, but I’m still at the boundary waters park whenever I close my eyes and think about it.