Boundary Waters Canoe Trip, Minnesota

Boundary Waters Canoeing - From the Lake

Ligeia and Mindy flew to St. Paul, Minnesota as a jumping off point to a 4-day canoe trip with our Aunt Elizabeth and two friends, Ann and Sarah, both of whom we met for the first time an evening before the beginning of our canoe adventure. We packed things up and had a nice dinner together.

Boundary Waters Canoeing - Canoes

The next morning we drove north to a place called Duluth where we picked up the second canoe. The next stop was at a bar where it had been arranged we would pick up our permit for entry into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. While waiting there a man at the bar looked at us and said, “Just you ladies? You’re going in alone?” Given that there were 5 of us, the word “alone” hardly seemed appropriate and clearly this guy didn’t know us or he wouldn’t have referred to us as “ladies”. This became an on-going joke for the rest of the trip.

Upon our arrival at the put-in point at Lake Isabella we realized that EB’s pack never got loaded, meaning that she had no tent, sleeping bag and other important camping items. We all pitched in though and figured out how to provide EB with everything she needed. Besides, it meant we had one less bag to carry on our portages. 🙂

After a 71 rod portage (1 rod = the length of a canoe) and a short ride, we located a camp site where we stayed for two nights. Mindy enjoyed hanging the food bag in a tree to avoid bears from getting to it. Our first meal was home-made pesto from EB’s garden and quinoa and corn pasta.
Boundary Waters Canoeing - CookingOur first full day was one of lots of canoeing, which included approximately 12 portages round trip. Our destination was to see a pictograph on the side of a rock face. A highlight of this day included being gobsmacked watching Sarah pick up the heavier canoe like it was a box of cotton balls onto her shoulders and portage it away. We other “ladies” needed at least one other person to hoist the canoe up.

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, which had been provided by Sarah, on a small island. Upon our arrival we saw this turtle basking in the sun:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - TurtleHere we are about to eat (Ann, EB, Mindy and Sarah):
Boundary Waters Canoeing - The CanoersWe enjoyed wonderful scenery that day, like in the shot below:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - From the LakeHere’s Mindy deciphering the pictograph:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - HieroglyphsThe next day was very windy when we crossed Lake Isabella in the opposite direction, having the destination in mind of a canal in what looked to be a canyon on the map. The wind was so strong, which created sea-like waves and caused Mindy to feel sick. The addition of dark clouds, heavy with rain and sore muscles made the decision to change our canoe plan for that day rather easy. We explored boggy parts of the lake instead and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in front of the campsite and enjoying the refreshing water.

Because our tent was big enough to hold all five of us, it became known as the “party tent”. That night we all piled into the tent and enjoyed each others company playing words games and talking. (Mindy, Ann, EB and Sarah)
Boundary Waters Canoeing - TentThe following morning we broke camp and loaded everything up in search of a new campsite. Having slept on the ground for 2 nights in a row, Mindy decided to soften our “bed” a bit by creating a floor of soft pine boughs:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Softer GroundEB, Sarah and Ann set off for a canoe ride and came back having found an even better campsite. Not wanting to lose the comfortable soft floor addition to the tent, we all packed up the boughs and wrapped them in the tent, bringing the whole thing. Here’s Mindy proud that she successfully climbed over all the stuff in the canoe to her seat in the stern: (Perhaps you can see the tent up front with pieces of pine tree poking through.)
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Mindy in CanoeThe new campsite has a nice rock with a really beautiful look-out:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Beautiful CampsiteHere’s Mindy in the kitchen making us all a wonderfully delicious meal:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Mindy CookingThe final morning we awoke early and broke camp. We were all amazed at a) how quickly we accomplished this and b) the good timing of it starting to rain only after we packed up and loaded everything into the canoes. The rain gradually became harder and harder and this was it at its peak:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Canoe through the RainEverything we owned had become soaking wet but again this was good timing since it was at the end of our trip.

Animals we saw:
Turtles – mostly found on rocks taking in the sun
Chipmunks – who came around at meal times
Bald eagles – we learned that it takes about 5 years for the white head to appear. Here is a juvenile:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Juvenile Bald EagleBeavers – one slapped the water with its tail right in front of Ann and Ligeia
Mergansers – that we nicknamed “80’s rock star” or “mullet head”
Boundary Waters Canoeing - MerganserLoons – we heard them at night and saw them during the day
EB like a bear – the second morning the rope holding the food bag got stuck so EB turned into a climbing bear before our eyes:
Boundary Waters Canoeing - Bear-Proofing

Things we Learned:
1) the cross bow draw stroke
2) how to hang food – it’s not as easy as you might think
3) a variety of portaging techniques
4) horse tail clouds mean rain in the next 24 hours
5) perfecting the technique of squatting over a Biffy (toilet) while simultaneously swatting mosquitoes
6) jeans feel really yucky against your skin when they are soaking wet
7) how to recognize a white pine (thanks Ann)
8) Minnesotans put the stress on the first syllable of the word “portage” making it sound like “por-tige”

Back to Civilization

Mindy and Ligeia spent an additional two days relaxing with EB at her home in St. Paul. Ligeia became particularly enamored with a family of bald eagles who had been unofficially adopted by the neighborhood. Two adults had built a huge nest on the top of a white pine and two babies were hatched at the end of March. The kids are now the size of the parents which means they will be leaving the nest any day now. Ligeia really enjoyed watching the activity in and around the nest, especially when the juveniles practiced flying, sometimes going from branch to branch and other times impressively hovering over the nest. Here are some pics of the family:

All in all we had a terrific time visiting the lovely state of Minnesota. We hope everyone is enjoying the summer in their own way.

5 thoughts on “Boundary Waters Canoe Trip, Minnesota

  1. Anonymous

    hi Ligea & Mindy,
    Thanks for the tip on how to leave a comment. It's fun to see how you re-capped our trip! I don't know about “a box of cotton balls” I could swear an even heavier Grumman was a lot lighter than this canoe when I was 22!! Earth's gravitational pull must have been slowly getting more powerful over the last 34 years 😉 It was great sharing the trip with you in the beautiful BWCAW!!
    thanks. Sarah

  2. Cheryl A Barger

    Thank you so much for sharing your trip ladies. I really enjoyed it. It would have been better if I was there too. Lol.

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