“As members of the PSA, SBAFA, and SAA, you are extended the great privilege and opportunity to voyage by canoe into God’s country – no roads, no phones, no electricity, with only the few other humans who are willing to test their abilities. Worthy adventurers who seize this challenge will embark upon a grand adventure into the lands of the great north of this continent. Pierre Radisson, who dared to traverse these lands in the 1600’s, is reported to have said: ‘Out there we were kings, the richest men in all the world.’ You’ll find that a trail sauna followed by a simple dip in the cool lake or a shower under a great waterfall will make you feel as though you are king of all that you survey.
You will brave winds, hear the call of the loon, explore new territory, and experience and do things you have never imagined were within your ability. For those of us fortunate to have been there before you, it is a return home that calls us to lakes and waterways of the great north. For the new adventurer, it is an experience never forgotten.
Join us on this Voyage August 28 to September 4 and you will have memories that last a life time.”
~Patrick Cox, Sommers Alumni Association
Your day on the water
Hopefully, your socks are dry when you wake up. Breakfast is hot–oatmeal and coffee–maybe fish caught early and fried over a wood fire. Camp is struck, the huge Grey Whale canoe packs carefully packed and balanced. The food pack weighs 100 pounds. The gear packs are lighter, but just as hard to pack. Gear seems to expand a bit each day. The crew consists of a maximum of eight Voyageurs plus the Interpreter, three to a canoe. On a portage, one Voyageur carries the canoe, one Voyageur the gear, and one Voyageur the food or kettle pack.
When all is ready, a final look at the map and today’s route, and last policing of the campsite – Leave No Trace is the rule. Canoes are carefully loaded and checked for balance. Much of the day is on the water. The horizon is low, just a fringe of trees on the shore. The lowest point is usually a portage. A quick conference and study of the map: is that the right portage? Approach the shore carefully. Kevlar canoes are light, but easily swamped when one exits the canoe in too-deep water.
The shore is often rocky. Load and unload canoes in knee- deep water. Good wet boots are essential; jungle boots work well. The portage trail is measured in rods. One rod equals 16 ½ feet. Maybe the only contact you’ll have with another crew all day will be at a portage. The portage may be 50 rods, or 150. Some days there may be two portages, others 5. After a while, the crew develops an easy routine for portaging.
In the afternoon, paddle to shore to find a campsite. Most have a fire ring and open air latrine called a “grumper”. Set up camp and lay out clothes and boots to dry. Fish for walleye, northern pike, lake trout, and bass. Explore, swim, or hunt for eagles with binoculars. Cook a one-pot meal for dinner, clean up before dark. More time to explore or fish.
When night falls, stare at the stars, look out over the water…
The Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area is truly wild. It’s changed little since the glaciers melted. There are over 1,500 miles of canoe routes, nearly 2,200 designated campsites, and more than 1,000 lakes and streams. After your first portage out of Moose Lake the first day, you won’t see or hear an outboard motor. Even airplanes are prohibited from flying lower than 30,000 feet. You’ll see bald eagles, and maybe moose. You might hear loons, grouse, and if very lucky, a pack of timber wolves.
“Wilderness is more than lakes, rivers, and timber along the shores, more than fishing or just camping. It is the sense of the primeval, of space, solitude, silence and the eternal mystery.”