I spent last week in the immense solitude and quiet that can only be found in the over 1 million acres of wilderness known as Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). My friend Justin and I paddled long, hard, fun days through the middle of the BWCA where few people ever paddle. For Justin, it was his first visit to this place I love, and after the trip we had, I highly doubt it will be long before he visits the BWCA again. Some of the amazing experiences that we had could never really be explained in words or photos, but maybe the combination of the two can leave a small impression of how awesome this wilderness area is. (since Justin is a photographer, the images will speak louder than my words) In just four days, we paddled our canoe and gear across 21 lakes, 2 rivers, 2 creeks, and 29 portages totaling 2,033 rods (a rod equals 16.5 feet, roughly the length of a canoe and 320 rods equal a mile) That is over 6.25 miles of carrying our 60 pound canoe and 60+ pound portage bag between lakes. (Editors note: I travel fairly light in the backcountry, unless my paddling partner is Ansel Adams. Two camera bodies, a carbon fiber tripod, 247 AA batteries, and one porn star of a lens made my palms sweat fearing tipping the canoe at any time.)
The BWCA is always a reminder of just how calm and amazing wilderness can still be. Many things change constantly and rapidly in our everyday lives, but places like this are always the same. Life slows to a primitive pace you enjoy everything on a whole different and heightened sensory level. The BWCA is a place that I am always disappointed to leave at the end of my trip. Tired shoulders from paddling, dirty clothes, rain and cold can all be bumps in the road, but the solitude and quiet is extremely hard to leave behind for the business of daily life in the city.
You don't get to wake up, on a normal day, early in the morning and paddle across an absolutely glass lake listeneing to the birds and hearing only the sound of the bow of your boat breaking the calm water. We called this "silent mode." Silent mode was not just for viewing wildlife, it was also for entering a trance like state of wilderness enjoyment. We saw almost no other people on this trip with the exception of the entry lakes on both ends of the trip. What we did get to see was virgin pine, a Bald Eagle snatching a lake trout from the water, moose grazing in the early morning silence and Loons diving, floating and calling in the evening hours. It's absolutely too much to process unless you have been there. Places like this are why I have the love for the wilderness that I do. It is also why you learn to cherish the moments that you have in these wild places each and every time you visit one. I highly recommend that you click on the photo below to view Justin's gallery from our trip.