Part 1 of 4
“Dad took me here”. Katie said that at the campfire on our second night in on Seagull. But her dad passed away last August and this is July, 2012, a little over eleven months from that event. So why did she say that? Let me introduce you to Katie Palmer. Her dad was Phil and known as “Amok” on the north country canoeing bulletin board known as bwca.com. Amok and his family, including Katie, lived in Minneapolis. He loved the Boundary Waters and even though he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, he was an inspiration to all the people who posted on the board, including me. He was determined to live and beat his disease. But he didn’t. Amok’s passing touched us all and when his family discovered his engagement to that internet community, they were deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support. A fund was set up. People from the board went to Amok’s funeral. One member, bojibob, posted a video in remembrance. Another, tremolo, painted a beautiful watercolor in his honor. I wrote a song in his tribute based on his photograph from his last BW trip that was labeled “The Morning Fog Has Lifted” in his photo journal. Many others posted poetic thoughts about Amok. Several went back and re-read his last trip report of his final voyage into the BW. The report was titled, “I’m Alive!” and was filled with many pictures, descriptions of his daily adventures and all interwoven with a positive attitude and a feeling of being blessed. That trip was a 4 day, 3 night solo paddle to where we are now – Seagull Lake. When Katie and Amok’s brother, Ken, posted on the board to express their gratitude for all of our support, I saw that Ken wanted to learn to paddle so that he could experience what his brother loved so much. It was then I discovered that Ken lived in Nashville, TN, my home town. We met. Then last Thanksgiving Ken, Katie, Amok’s wife Becky and Amok’s mother and father came to visit. Sometime during that visit Katie said to me, “I want to go to where dad was on his last trip.” I remember my reply: “I can do that”.
Amok's pic looking from his site:
Amok's tent pad:
Part 2 of 4
The planning began ever so slowly and everything fell into place easily. I met up with Amok’s family – Ken and his wife, Felicia, Amok’s cousin Stephen and his wife, Rebecca and of course, Katie in Grand Marais. We set out to retrace Amok’s last paddle and camp on his site. We came with our gear along with Amok’s trip report, pictures and his personal journal that he had on that trip. Katie had her dad’s paddle, PFD, tent and pack. The night before our put in, we had a fun evening at Tuscarora Lodge where I did an “unplugged” concert for staff, lodge guests and friends. The Divas showed up to put on their harmonies and wonderful magic to the music. We put in the next day at EP 54, Seagull Lake. Several people believed Amok’s campsite was the one at the south end of Fishhook Island, so we first paddled there. Once we got there it was obvious that it wasn’t the right site. The famous “Morning Fog Has Lifted” photo that Amok took of the landing site didn’t match and even more so, the notched and knarled tree that he tied his canoe to wasn’t there. We moved on. We headed west. The second site was at a narrows just north of 3 mile island and it didn’t fit either. The famous tree wasn’t there. Okay, we are now not only on a quest, but an adventure. Where is that site? We spent the rest of the day paddling Seagull looking and investigating 8 sites and got nowhere. How could it elude us? We were worn out and finally settled on a wonderful site with an awesome sand beach north of Mile Island. We spent that night by the campfire pouring over maps, trip report pics, Amok’s description of his journey in his personal journal. Reading, re-reading, conjecturing, theorizing and more re-reading. Stephen and I both agreed that the second site we visited fit the trip report best. Mabe we looked it over too quickly the first time and didn’t see the obvious. We decided to go back there and investigate.
Here I am singing with the Divas:
Katie entering the BW
Looking over maps trying to determine Amok's site:
Looking through Amok's journal
Katie making sure we had a dinner fire:
Awesome grilled kebob dinner!:
Part 3 of 4
On our second morning, we set out to that island. Katie and I approached the site first, with Ken and Felicia just behind us. I felt my heart beat pick up. The scenery coming from a different direction looked right. The missing pieces were starting to fit. We go up to the fire grate and cautiously saw the landmarks exactly as they were in Amok’s pics. This had to be it. But where was that tree? Then we saw it. A stump. Someone had cut it down. It was exactly where it was supposed to be. We were here, at Amok’s last site. A few tears fell. I was glad I was wearing sunglasses. I was with a family who wanted to walk, paddle and immerse themselves into Amok’s spirit here. I backed off to let that happen, but I found myself doing the same thing. Katie set up her dad’s tent on the same pad her dad had. She slept where he slept in his sleeping bag. We camped at Amok’s site two nights and rejoiced in being there talking about him, his spirit and his love for family, friends and the BW.
Ken and Katie (compare with Amok's pic above):
At Amok's tent pad:
Ken and Katie with bwca.com Amok patches.
Part 4 of 4
Last night at the campfire we all were talking about this trip, and how its great weather, scenery and paddle mates all fell into place so easily. Katie mentioned that after her dad returned from his trip to this place, she was hoping that someday he would return and take her there with him. There was a pause in that thought and then she said, “Dad took me here”. Yes he did. He took us all here and I am proud and honored that I got to come along.