Our First Boundary Waters Adventure
A Learning Experience
By: Becky Davis
Day 1 - We had prepared everything on the day before our scheduled entry. We broke camp early and headed to Snowbank Lake. Dave & Raymond (age 10) are together in one canoe, towing a second canoe with the gear, while Mom, Danielle (age 11), and Zachariah (age 8) are in another canoe. A couple of hours later we found our portage to Disappointment Lake. Our compasses were acting funny (both gave different readings) but with a little guidance from an informative camper we found our way. The scale of the map was deceiving also, but once we got a feel for it we were navigating like pros. The worst problem was that the lake had started to get choppy toward the end, this made keeping three kids calm & towing a canoe interesting. We ended up tying the canoes together to make better time.
Now for the portage. The lids were a help but not as much as we had thought. Their little legs tired very easy. More trips for Mom & Dad. (We soon learned why all the pictures of canoers portaging shows them with the canoes on their shoulders). OK the canoes are packed again. Here comes the rain. A down pour. The ponchos are buried somewhere in the gear canoe, but wait we found the trash bags. Tarp the canoes. We are wet & cold & scared but luckily we didn't see any thunder and lightening. We had seen pictures of the July 4th storm.
When the rain let up we headed for the first campsite on the map. It was close and empty, first break of the day. Split chores. Tents are up, meal is simple and quick, burgers over the fire and Lipton noodles. Get some smores, hang the food and off to bed.
Hard to sleep though. Tired and sore. Loons are hollering all night long. Think we heard a wolf.
Day 2: Thursday morning. Sunny, time to dry everything out. At least some things stayed dry, we had put garbage bag liners in all our sacks. Time for fishing. Saw beavers and learned how loons protect their little ones when eagles fly in. Lake was calm & beautiful through the afternoon. Fish were biting. Bass for dinner.
Rain again tonight. More fishing. Mom has decided paddling the canoe and taking pictures is more her cup of tea and the sunset is beautiful.
Day 3: Saturday was cold, rainy and miserable. Danielle and Dave braved the lake in ponchos and fished most of the day. Boys and Mom hung out at camp staying warm and reading, etc. Began to get worried because they were gone in the canoe so long on choppy lake. Came back in time for dinner of course.
Day 4: Sunday was the best day of all. We had originally planned to portage to several other lakes on this trip but decided to stay put in this campsite. Got word from exiting canoers that campsites were hard to come by on the other lakes. We decided to explore as much of Disappointment Lake as possible today. Went from end to end and into most of the inlets. Had lunch on a beautiful rock outcropping and found sign of moose. Drifted and fished most of the afternoon. Stopped to fish from a "cliff", stretch and explore. Saw a mink. Lost track of the number of fish we caught and released. Best day of all. Glad we did this. Camp was invaded by little rodents after dark. They had big ears and tended to hop around.
Day 5: Monday, time to head out. Relatives in Minneapolis are expecting to hear from us today. Off to the portage. Load is less, but still time consuming. A special thank you to the boy scouts that helped. All that Zachariah can say is Pizza Hut. We've got a new strategy across the lake. Mom and Dad in one canoe, towing the gear canoe. All the kids in the other canoe. This worked much better. All the power where it was needed and the kids proved they could handle themselves when necessary. Few more gray hairs for Mom though (my babies all alone in a canoe, on a big deep lake frequented by motorboats). Snowbank Lake is once again choppy near the end and we encountered a couple of motorboat wakes, but all in all a better trip out than in. We had mastered the map.
Mom and kids unpacked the canoes. A quick stop at Canadian Border Outfitters for souvenirs and then off to Ely for Pizza Hut.
Are we glad we did this? YES. Will we do it again? YES, but, not until the children are older and more able to "carry their load" (teenagers). They were the only young children we saw while we were in the Boundary Waters. We'll go with lighter weight gear and less of it.
We enjoyed talking to other campers (hello, retired couple from Nebraska), got some great photos, and some terrific memories. We couldn't change the weather. Sunday was the only day it didn't rain at least part of the day. We learned to manage the mosquitoes (DEET). It became a terrific group effort, from choosing and packing the food to take, to paddling across the lakes and helping each other untangle fishing lines. Everyone should do this at least once with people they can trust.