This trip back to the midwest conjures up memories…..some very fond memories. Al and I have always enjoyed the outdoors. We even had an outdoor wedding, complete with horse and carriage, but I’ll save that story for another post.
During the early years of our relationship Al worked as a Commerical Airline Pilot and I a Flight Attendant (yes, we met at work, go figure). More than half our time was spent in airplanes, hotels, eating in restaurants, and living by the clock. So when it came time to recreate, we wanted nothing to do with planes, hotels, restaurants or clocks. Thus, we discovered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The BWCA is located in northeastern Minnesota located within the Superior National Forest and encompasses more than 1,000,000 acres. This wilderness area also expands into Canada and is known as Quetico Provincial Park.
What is unique about the BWCA is it’s natural, untouched beauty. The “wilderness act” restricts logging, mining, and most motorized access. No motorized access means no boat motors, no roads for vehicles, and no float planes allowed. Therefore access to this pristine land is restricted to hiking and canoeing. There are over 1200 miles of canoe routes and 2000+ designated remote campsites. Camping is restricted to these campsites and are clearly recognizable by the Forest Service fire rings. Maps are a must. Don’t count on a GPS. Maps will help find portages, trails, and campsites.
Every summer Al and I looked forward to our two weeks vacation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and that did not change once we had children. The kids just went along and had a great time. Some years we tented it and other years we would splurge and rent a cabin at one of many resorts available, especially when the children were young. Even on those years we rented a cabin, we would still do a one or two night tent excursion into the wilderness.
After many visits at varying times of the year, we discovered the end of July, beginning of August was most enjoyable for us. The mosquitos were the worst in June. However, in July we did have to deal with those pesky biting deer flies….still preferable to the mosquitos. September can be beautiful and the fishing good, but be ready for any kind of weather, after all this is northern Minnesota.
The end of July is also blueberry season. Yummmm……blueberry pancakes become a regular staple. Our first Brittany Spaniel, Dallas, always accompanied us on our blueberry picking mission with bells on her collar. Ya see, black bears love blueberries, but they don’t like dogs. Dallas camped, hiked and canoed everywhere with us. We put bells on her collar so Al and I could keep track of her while she ran around the dense woods. The second purpose; so she wouldn’t accidentally startle a bear or other wildlife.
The two main communities with visitor services near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area are Ely and Grand Marais, Minnesota. We always went to Grand Marais and up the Gunflint Trail. FYI….the drive from Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Marais, Minnesota should be savored. The scenery along Lake Superior is beautiful ….. lighthouses, waterfalls, cliffs and rock. Allow plenty of time for stops along the way. We so loved the Gunflint Trail, we returned year after year even though we had intentions of exploring the Ely area. Somehow there was never enough time for both.
Ah, yes what fond memories. As Al and I swap stories, a family member asks, “What’s so special about the BWCA?” Well, there’s lot’s of things that make BWCA special, but first; the BWCA is a place visitors can canoe, portage, and camp in the spirit of the French voyageurs of 200 years ago. It’s quiet, remote, and wild. The lush, dense forest and crisp, clean waters are like no other place I’ve visited. I’ll keep looking though 🙂 Oh, how that bucket list grows!