In 7th grade my best friend introduced me to camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) on the border of Minnesota and Ontario.We signed up for a 10-day session at YMCA Camp Menogyn and spent 7-days with a small group of like minded adolescent girls learning how to camp and canoe.I was hooked and went back every year on progressively longer and more remote trips.The summer before my senior year in high school, three other girls and our guide completed a 35-day, 500 mile river trip (yes we carried all our food and supplies) on the Fawn and Severn rivers in Northern Ontario.A couple years after that I spent two summers guiding canoe trips in the Boundary Waters for both Menogyn and another camp based out of Ely.
Besides spending time at the cabin and cross country skiing, canoeing and spending time at Camp Menogyn was one of the best parts of my adolescence and undoubtedly one of the most potent influences in my teenage development.Together with the friends and guides I met each summer, the wilderness was my mentor, teacher, church, therapist, advocate, challenger, and coach.What I learned in the woods and on the water is some of the most invaluable education I’ve had.The summer syllabus included wilderness basics and more importantly perseverance, gratitude, conservation, play, confidence, strength, risk, simplicity, adventure, laughter, and teamwork.Our trip this summer was no different, except that I got to share it with the love of my life!
Being such a huge part of my life I wanted Ravi to get a sample of what I experienced growing up and selfishly wanted to do another trip up in the BWCA as it had been years since I’d been in a canoe up North.I found an outfitter off the Gunflint, Hungry Jack Outfitters, got an entry permit, and we were off.We had about a week of relaxing at the cabin before we headed up so we were ready to go.
We started our trip with a mile long portage into the first lake.Most people try to avoid long portages, but this was the best entry point available and we were up for the challenge.I like challenging portages.Like a good run, weight session, hike, or bike, carrying the packs and the canoe is a moving meditation for me.I love the feeling of navigating over muddy trails and rock beds with a hefty canoe on my shoulders or or a pack on my back.The reward of stepping into the cool lake at the end of the portage is worth the work on the trail. So… with a slightly overgrown trail and thunder clouds brewing in the background we hit the first portage.Duke was loving it already and Ravi was a trooper for trekking a mile on his first ever portage.I felt like I had come home.
For the next five days we paddled and portaged our way through beautiful lakes and forests, cooked over the campfire, watched moose, loons, and beavers, ate handfuls of wild raspberries, slept under brilliant stars, dried out after drenching thunderstorms, and relaxed with a good book by the campfire.Ravi and Duke loved it, learned the ropes, and decided we would be back.
The following is a progression of Duke finding his place in the canoe…