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bottomtothetap
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09/12/2019 12:58PM  
For those of you who have "retired" from BWCA canoe trips, I'm interested to hear how you arrived at the point where you no longer went and when did you know "it's time"?

I just returned from my most recent outing after dozens of trips over the last 30-some years. On this excursion, some of the "How much longer do I want to do this?" thoughts started to enter my mind. I have SO MUCH enjoyed almost every BWCA trip I've done and I still do like it. At age 60 I would hope to have more canoe tripping years ahead of me. Indeed, I know many of you have done it well into your 70's or even 80's.

But in recent years I am noticing more of a physical challenge and am starting to shy away from the routes that have lengthy portages. The getting down to, and up off of the ground regularly each day along with makeshift seating and lack of some other creature comforts has annoyed me more now than in years past. Last year, for the first time I ended a trip early because the weather was making it quite less than fun for me and my trip partner. This year, again for the first time, a sudden and nasty fall caused me to go home with an injury. We completed the trip as planned but I had to gut through some of it on a bum knee and thankfully my awesome (and at least 25-year younger) crew stepped it up for me when I was less able to do my share. Some of my favorite and ol' reliable gear is now getting rather worn and due for replacement as well. Do I re-invest in and re-learn new equipment for only another trip or so?

I've already talked to guys who are eager to put a group together and trip again in 2020 but after that, I'm not so sure.

Just want to hear how others got to and recognized "the end".
 
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09/12/2019 01:50PM  
I'm not there but have an idea for you. Make a list of pros and cons. The pros should always outweigh the cons. As far as equipment, yes buy new stuff and buy stuff that will make it easier should you continue. You can always sell it on here or another place to make up for some of the cost. Maybe consider less prime time trips and do easier trips where you can bring some luxuries like good chairs...hell even a cot potentially. October can be cold but it is by far less crowded and can have amazing weather. I don't know just some thoughts for you.
 
jillpine
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09/12/2019 02:01PM  
If the fire is still in the belly, three things will be game-changers:
shed the weight (on self and on gear)
new gear
new approach as opposed to tradition

If fire isn't in the belly, OK to seek a change of venue



 
nofish
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09/12/2019 02:08PM  
Instead of stopping I'd be looking at the things that bother me most about the trips and look for ways to mitigate those discomforts. Maybe you start doing easier routes or do more base camps with day trips. Bring a nicer chair to sit on. Their are a lot of different options out there now that pack small and are very light. Maybe even consider a small foldable table that gives you a place to work up off the ground so you can work in a more comfortable position. We all have our ways of doing things and they tend to become routine and somewhat tradition. If you start looking at different ways of doing things and all the new gear out there that makes life more comfortable you very well could extend your BWCA travels many more years.
 
straighthairedcurly
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09/12/2019 03:34PM  
Allow the focus of the trip and the comfort gear you take to evolve. I love my Old Town Tripper canoe and miss having it on trips, but I know that carrying it is no longer reasonable for me. Bring a chair that is comfortable to get in and out of...there are lots of lightweight options now. Trim out unnecessary weight (ex. I refuse to haul around an axe just because my husband likes having one...it is unnecessary). It is fine to travel shorter days and avoid long portages...plenty of younger people do the same thing.

I agree with the shed weight off yourself, assuming there is a need. I dropped 52 lbs in the past year and I was like a whole new person on the trip this summer, able to do things I thought were in the past.

My husband is 66 and he realized that his hips and legs just aren't as flexible as in the past so we shortened the days and on portages with downed trees, we left the canoe carrying to me. I also love bringing our teenage son, because traveling with younger folks gives you a lot more options.
 
09/12/2019 03:36PM  
jillpine: "If the fire is still in the belly, three things will be game-changers:
shed the weight (on self and on gear)
new gear
new approach as opposed to tradition


If fire isn't in the belly, OK to seek a change of venue



"


I couldn't have said it any better that Jillpine. I can't imagine my fire ever burning out. Though I have a feeling my body will tell me when my tripping days are coming to an end. Like others on this site that have reached that point, I will be finding a nice, hopefully quiet cabin to rent where I can satisfy my yearning for nature. I think when I reach that point it will be just as awesome as tripping albeit more expensive I'm sure.
 
yellowcanoe
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09/12/2019 03:54PM  
We retired to bigger lakes with no portages.. Specifically Lake Superior and the Atlantic Ocean ( technically not a lake).
In old age we find that some rivers are beckoning us back locally like the W Branch of the Penobscot and the Allagash .. neither have hard ports

We have had moose crash into our camp on all our venues ( save the ocean, which has its own marine delights).

Not changing the activity but changing the venue.
 
justpaddlin
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09/12/2019 04:27PM  
I'm a couple years older than you. One of the best things that ever happened to me is having some physical problems finally force me to take better care of myself (better diet and regular exercise). You're young enough that there is probably plenty of opportunity to improve your strength, flexibility and endurance. I think it's way more important that you don't give up on yourself than immediately going to crutches like lighter gear or shorter trips. If you focus on yourself then all the other stuff like lighter gear and shorter or different trips will be "gravy" (and all are great ideas) and you'll be tripping with the wind at your back again before you know it. I'm no diet and exercise fanatic and don't spend that much time on it but I do have a routine. I swam a mile today and outlasted a couple of young-uns and did just fine on a few strength machines relative to some young men that were mostly staring at their phones.
 
Northwoodsman
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09/12/2019 04:41PM  
When I came back to the BWCA after a 20+ year hiatus I started gearing up with that "end" in mind. I purchased lighter equipment and splurged on the comforts. After my first re-introduction trip I put together a least of things that I wanted to improve and change so I would commit to the next 20 years of tripping at least once a year.

Sleeping Shelter - crawling out of the tent was difficult, and even more challenging when it was raining, or the ground was wet - so I purchased a couple different sizes of CCS Leans. I can stand up inside, I can enter without worrying about dragging crud in on my shoes, also plenty of room to spread out your gear and keep it organized and dry. I find it easier to get dressed when you aren't laying down.

Sitting Area - logs are not comfortable to sit on - Helinox chairs were the answer.

Sleeping Equipment - the ground is often cold, lumpy, and uneven - Helinox cots are great (although seldom brought along) and good quality insulated air mattresses that fit into a sleeve in your sleeping bag so you don't roll off are a must. I tried (and still have) every camp pillow ever made - I love the Thermarest ones that are made with chunks of foam. A good quality down sleeping bag that is non-constrictive (very large) completed this category.

Paddling - I would get back aches from sitting and my legs would fall asleep and go numb so I found the perfect seat cushion and back rest (Backsaver by Cushgear). I would be tense all the time because most canoes felt tippy to me until I found the Wenonah Boundary Waters. I can stand up in that thing.

Portaging - I HATE wet feet. I found two solutions. Muck Boots Wetland model for early spring and late fall. Chota Hippies and Caney Fork boots for any time.

Bugs - my #1 deterrent to BWCA paddling. I fixed this by shoulder season trips or a Nemo Bugout for June - August trips.

All of my solutions came with a cost, namely added weight. The easiest place to cut weight was in the food area. My paddling partners and I have found really good FD meals. These also save weight by using less gas to heat. You don't have to simmer rice, noodles, or grains. Some really good ones are cold water rehydrated. Planning is the key. With each trip I get more and more comfortable in all aspects, yet each trip my pack and body get lighter and lighter. As I get older I am appreciating the BWCA even more.

Edit: I forgot to mention basecamping really helps. I like to travel about 4 - 5 hours into the BWCA and pick a site to call home for 4 - 5 nights.
 
09/12/2019 04:53PM  
This is an interesting topic for me. And I know my answer won't be brief, but please bear with me.

I just told a friend this past week that I am surprised at how my life has turned out. I was one of the ones who was rock-hard sure that I would still be canoe-tripping (in the BWCA, not the Q) when I was in my mid- 80's. Now I have developed mobility issues that are partly my fault (from a lifetime of carrying too much weight) and partly not my fault (due to genetic tendency for severe arthritis and bad spine). And recently I have been diagnosed with a genetic heart disease that will probably mean I won't even LIVE into my mid-80's. Sobering, indeed.

Most of you know that we gave up wilderness tripping in 2013. Our 2013 trip has a trip report on this site, but it wasn't a fun time. We were just a littile bit short of age 68. Spartan1 overdid the carrying and the work because of my limited mobility. He became ill. We didn't like the cold weather in May, and we ended up just calling it quits early. Disheartening.

The year before that we took a wonderful trip with HoHo and David. They were my heroes, carrying my big packs so that all I had to portage was once with my camera backpack. Helping me in and out of the canoe in rough places. Loaning me a set of trekking poles so that I could make it, painfully, to the latrine and back. And slowing down their own pace to fit ours. There is a trip report about that, too. (Return to Cherokee.)

But I learned something on that trip. I learned a fact about myself that I hadn't realized was even a fact--I had an awakening. I realized that, for me, tripping is the whole package. If I cannot carry my big pack over the portage, feel the pain and also the sense of accomplishment, enjoy that wonderful moment when you see the new lake and realize "I have made it!", then it just isn't what I want to do anymore. If I cannot cook over the fire because my back is too stiff and sore, if I cannot sit on a warm rock and then get up again, if I cannot get in and out of the tent without help. . .I would rather not go. For me, I would rather remember it the way it was and treasure the precious memories.

It was hard for Spartan1 when I broached making this decision. He said "I will carry your packs." Unrealistic. He isn't in top physical condition and he is managing type1 diabetes, and a couple of other health issues that make wilderness travel difficult, or even perhaps dangerous for him. But he was willing to keep making the effort, in spite of not doing well in 2010 and 2013.
(Unintentional Basecamping Trip and Disappointment on Brule.)

We have had offers from people on this board and also QJ to help us get "back out there." But I think, shivering on the shore of Brule Lake, and trying valiantly to just WALK the Vernon portage in 2013, for me it was that moment when I said, "We cannot keep doing this." I think it was the correct, if nevertheless heartbreaking decision and I think now, more than six years later, we really don't have any huge regrets. We had over 40 years of canoe-tripping, and it was just a part of who we are. Now we are "emeritus", and we live a bit vicariously through your trip reports sometimes. It's OK.

We still return to the canoe country every summer. We are blessed that our lovely sixteen year old granddaughter loves to accompany us. She and I swim and float in Poplar or Clearwater Lake, we go out on shorter trips in the canoe sometimes, we have campfires and we also have traditional places, like Trail Center, where we return every year. We try to get a night or two at Naniboujou Lodge every couple years, and we also make side trips to Ely. Anna has been doing this with us since she was four, and I do believe that these trips have taken the hurt out of our decision to retire from canoe-tripping.

But sometimes, when I read one of your reports, or look at your wonderful photos, the old ache returns. It always will. I miss it, and I know Spartan1 does as well. It was a spark in our relationship, a bonding between the two of us, that was very precious. My fire has never gone out, it is just coals with a slight glow now.

Enjoy it while you can, but also realize that life does go on when you decide to call it "done". There are many fun and interesting ways to travel besides canoe-tripping, and those lakes are still there if you are sleeping in a cabin on the Gunflint or the Echo Trail, too.
 
mpeebles
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09/12/2019 05:00PM  
Can't add much to the good advice already given. I think we all know what we need to do to keep going. One of my motivators is my love for the outdoors. I'll take the bumps and bruises and I consider the portaging/work free exercise with a great view.

Old saying ......."Whether you think you can or think you can't either way you are correct".

Safe travels.......
 
09/12/2019 05:13PM  
I have been lucky so far health wise, which still enables me to do physically and mentally challenging trips. I approach my trips with the same enthusiasm and excitement that I did 50 years ago. I have thought about when the day comes that will end my more challenging trips. McAree will be one of my spots. Get a tow to Black Robe one small portage and a 5 minute paddle I’ll be at a campsite with some world class fishing close by. I will boat camp on Lac La Croix, Sag, Vermilion, Burntside, and hopefully many others. When the time comes that I can not do this I will be happy to sit on a deck of a cabin somewhere and listen to the sounds of the woods and think about the 100+ trips I was fortunate to experience in magical canoe country...
 
RetiredDave
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09/12/2019 06:21PM  
I've read each of these wonderful responses with interest (and bittersweet empathy for Spartan 1). I am 69 and I just returned from a solo on the Gunflint side. It was a really nice, uneventful trip, but I did have to keep telling myself, "Be deliberate!" every time I made a move over rocks, stood up by the fire, etc. Once, while collecting wood away from the campsite I was returning with an armload to the canoe, and as I was stepping on the rocks by the lake I suddenly went down. Hard granite met, flab, a little muscle, and bone. I had to sit a bit to see if all my pieces were together and working. Got me wondering.

I think (as mentioned by others) that whatever you can do to lighten your load, add comfort to your trip, and avoid killer portages will make the transition from teenage hormonal invincibility to your present physical state much easier. I guess, as others have said, it doesn't have to be all or nothing for most of us. Just ease off the gas pedal a bit.

I hope you find your sweet spot!

Dave

 
riverrunner
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09/12/2019 07:47PM  
Just one more please.

The last two years have been tough health wise.

This years BWCA trip was camping at Baker lake in my Truck camper and doing day fishing /exploring trips.

My tripping partner wants to do a across the BWCA trip west to east planned it this year then heart trouble for me. Just didn't recover in time.

Just one more time please .

Hopefully next year the June fishing trip and a later in the year across the BWCA trip.

When it is no longer any fun to dangerous health wise or just to much trouble I will do something. I have plenty of other fun stuff to do
 
09/12/2019 08:13PM  
riverrunner: "Just one more please.


The last two years have been tough health wise.


This years BWCA trip was camping at Baker lake in my Truck camper and doing day fishing /exploring trips.


My tripping partner wants to do a across the BWCA trip west to east planned it this year then heart trouble for me. Just didn't recover in time.


Just one more time please .


Hopefully next year the June fishing trip and a later in the year across the BWCA trip.


When it is no longer any fun to dangerous health wise or just to much trouble I will do something. I have plenty of other fun stuff to do "


Baker Lake campground is super nice. If you haven't been you should check out Kawishiwi Lake's campground as well. You can even make the portage to ....can't think of the name but just east of the parking lot. It's just a day trip area but really cool area.
 
09/12/2019 08:49PM  
Try and stay as active as possible. I too am 60 years old and try to get in at least an hour of physical activity daily. It pays off.
 
09/12/2019 08:49PM  
Looks like you are in need of reading the Basecamping Basic section on this forum. I used to go all out for a nice long loop. Could not sustain that by the time I reached 66, so went shorter and shorter and now no portages work for me or just one if needed to find a decent camp. Many of your concerns can be eliminated or adjusted to an acceptable level. The creature comforts needed can be handled with little or no portaging. I like to say we carry 2 kitchen sinks. I am perfectly content to sit in my fold up rocking chair and read as the world goes by. For me, the little chairs are too low for extended use, so I take 2 chairs and the small one is used in the tent for evening reading before sleep.

I often walk a mile in camp for exercise on any trails several times and to and from the latrine as well. I stop at the end of twenty minutes or so with an average of 3 miles/hour. Adjust the time if you must walk slower or wish to go two miles or more. If you can get to a decent portage for your walk, you will not see the trail as much as if you have only a latrine path to walk and repeat.

Only you can decide to end the tripping and that decision will be made by or for us at some point or by the Creator. Good luck.
 
SaganagaJoe
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09/12/2019 09:58PM  
In 2016, I took Grandpa (then age 75) for a basecamp trip on Saganaga. He paddled stern, as he always did. While he had to take afternoon naps, I succeeded in getting him to Ester Lake on a day trip, to swim at the sand beach on the south end. This was a moment I had planned and prepared for since my first trip in 2013.

Paddling down the channel on the way out, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling that this was Grandpa's last canoe trip. I think we both felt the weight of the moment when we pulled the canoe out of the water.

I believe that that trip was Grandpa's last trip. While he is still healthy and likely still could take a trip, it would wear him out. I don't think he has the energy to handle a longer canoe trip anymore, especially sleeping on the ground (even with a very thick air mattress).

I hope that someday I can grab a motor permit and a motor boat and take him back to Saganaga or Seagull. I think Grandpa has good memories from his canoe trips, and I have memories of traveling with him that will last a lifetime.





The sunset picture of Grandpa is not from the BWCA but up at our cabin.
 
HangLoose
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09/12/2019 10:17PM  
Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences. Wilderness canoe tripping is my life's passion. It is something my wife and I do together and something I also do solo. I'm 47 years old and I have done 50+ wilderness canoe trips to BWCAW and to Quetico and to other wild places further to the north over the past 35 years. I've always imagined myself tripping as an old man even if it meant simply doing day trips with no portages. But as I read many of your posts, it wasn't the loss of passion for the wilderness that caused most of you to quit. Sometimes the human body just doesn't cooperate with our passions. I'm having a bit of a reality check while following this thread. I've already experienced some lower back issues that have slowed me down a bit. Hopefully I'll still be doing canoe trips when I'm 75 years old. But odds are probably against me. I managed to do a record 3 wilderness canoe trips this summer. I'm going to enjoy every trip while I still can because one day I might not physically be able to anymore. Thanks again everyone for sharing your experiences
 
Savage Voyageur
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09/12/2019 10:37PM  
My buddy Pikehunter and I have said when we get old we will take the tow to Splash portage and camp on Splash. Then paddle over to the portage and get the tow back to Moose.
 
Portage99
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09/12/2019 11:31PM  
I agree with everyone, especially working out and lifting weights! Also, good pain control. Pain makes everything not fun.
 
mjmkjun
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09/13/2019 04:24AM  
Pain as a constant companion for the duration of a trip is a game-changer. That was my experience during last June's trip. I've been completely fatigued and have had the body aches from the day's toil in past trips. This is different. It's like LIFE itself is saying, "Here's some serious Humble Pie for ya!".
Last year, I did discover a hammock is as a godsend. For the first time in my life, I slept on my back through the whole night. I slept well and the familiar soreness of crawling out of the tent was diminished considerably. Not quite ready to throw in the towel yet but no longer the enthusiast I considered myself to be. Like Spartan2 explains so well in her post...if I suffer throughout the various aspects/chores/joys of canoe camping then the experience is lacking satisfaction/reward I have always sought. A pampered experience wouldn't be of equal worth.
My spirit remains adventurous but my body is increasingly weighty. I'll figure some compromise and adjust. Nothing new under the sun, eh?
 
bwcasolo
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09/13/2019 06:07AM  
your thought's are real and it's quite ok. you can enjoy the north-woods and not do the canoe trip you just experienced. us older paddlers go thru moments during our canoe travels where we think the same thoughts as you and wonder what's next.
i went thru a half dozen years scaling back on the length of my trips. i always continued to look at way's to lighten my load for easy portaging and paddling. i then started car camping at forest service campsites. going solo, it was easy for me to just pack up and go. i was able to have comforts and enjoyable times in the north-land.
going solo for 25 years changed for me as i missed the company of others, or my wife.
now i try to hook up with another solo paddler as i am doing next week.
i slow down, don't try to do big loop's or miles anymore, just go with the flow, and i discovered i can, and am enjoying it so much more. triple portaging, so what, it makes the trip safer and easy. what is the rush.
turning 64 in december, my time in canoe country will continue with the senior approach that i have implemented in my travels, your's can also.

 
riverrunner
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09/13/2019 06:16AM  
Yes staying in shape is a great idea but stuff happens.

I ran 3 to for times a week did bicycle races. Did all kinds of outdoor activities my whole life.

It took the "doctors" 4 years and coming to close to dying before they decided to do a angiogram and but 3 stints in.

Last year I fell off a roof and lost the whole summer.

You can do everything right then life can still hit you with a brick.
 
09/13/2019 06:54AM  
bwcasolo: "your thought's are real and it's quite ok. you can enjoy the north-woods and not do the canoe trip you just experienced. us older paddlers go thru moments during our canoe travels where we think the same thoughts as you and wonder what's next.
i went thru a half dozen years scaling back on the length of my trips. i always continued to look at way's to lighten my load for easy portaging and paddling. i then started car camping at forest service campsites. going solo, it was easy for me to just pack up and go. i was able to have comforts and enjoyable times in the north-land.
going solo for 25 years changed for me as i missed the company of others, or my wife.
now i try to hook up with another solo paddler as i am doing next week.
i slow down, don't try to do big loop's or miles anymore, just go with the flow, and i discovered i can, and am enjoying it so much more. triple portaging, so what, it makes the trip safer and easy. what is the rush.
turning 64 in december, my time in canoe country will continue with the senior approach that i have implemented in my travels, your's can also.


"


Triple portaging :) I am 35 and I triple portage sometimes. I like to take it all in and not rush through anything whether in the city or out there.
 
09/13/2019 07:10AM  
As others have said. Go slow, go deliberate. More base camping in the shoulder seasons.
 
mutz
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09/13/2019 07:14AM  
A lot has been said, for what it’s worth my thoughts.
Base camp, take the extra luxuries, comfortable chair 4-5man tent for two people. Double portage and don’t be in a hurry, repeat (don’t be in a hurry). You don’t have to travel 100 miles in order to have a good time. If your a fisherman camp on a lake with short portages to other lakes, (canoe fishing equipment and shore lunch very simple). If you like to read, a chair with a view is very relaxing.
If you still have the urge to travel fast and far, hire a Sherpa to carry your gear and set up camp.
 
missmolly
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09/13/2019 07:45AM  
I like this line: "My spirit remains adventurous but my body is increasingly weighty."

bottomtothetap, you wrote about being deliberate in the woods, but I try to practice deliberation out of the woods too. I don't hesitate to get down on the ground because doing so forces me to work my muscles to rise again. I walk a faster pace when I'm out and about. I climb stairs two at a time. I use small plates and bowls for portion control. And so on. My everyday living is my exercise.

Also, consider simply driving to a wilderness lake. Park your vehicle beside it, unload all the creature comforts you want, and enjoy the entire lake to yourself. There are only about a guhjillion lakes like this in Canada. Heck, there are lakes like this in Maine. I'm going to go fish a couple brook trout lakes in the coming weeks and I'd be shocked if anyone one else was there or if there were any sign that anyone had been there in a good, long time.

 
09/13/2019 09:14AM  
bottomtothetap: "On this excursion, some of the "How much longer do I want to do this?" thoughts started to enter my mind. I have SO MUCH enjoyed almost every BWCA trip I've done and I still do like it. At age 60 I would hope to have more canoe tripping years ahead of me.

I've already talked to guys who are eager to put a group together and trip again in 2020 but after that, I'm not so sure.

Just want to hear how others got to and recognized "the end". "


Many of my "this is the last _____" (fill in the blank) thoughts starting creeping into my mind after I attended my 50th high school reunion in 2018. On last year's Quetico trip we rented carbon paddles and discovered that our shoulders weren't tired after a day's paddling, and we added carbon paddles to an already light gear collection. We just returned from our 2019 10-day Quetico visit (August 25 thru September 3--hope to post a trip report soon) and are already discussing 2020. We each turned 68 earlier this year, but still were able to single-walk all portages (45) of our ~100-mile route. I'll do more upper-body conditioning before next year's trip because shouldering the canoe was tougher in windy conditions than in previous years. The solitude and peace of a canoe country trip ensure that we'll always WANT to do another, but our physical conditions will require some route, gear, and technique changes. I hope to recognize "the end" by simply not waking up some morning!

I hope you continue to WANT to do trips for many years and are able to make the necessary changes in routes, etc, that allow you to visit BWCA/Q many more times.

TZ
 
RetiredDave
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09/13/2019 09:53AM  
RetiredDave: "I've read each of these wonderful responses with interest (and bittersweet empathy for Spartan 1).

Dave


"


I meant to add Spartan 2 to this sentiment!

Dave
 
OtherBob
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09/13/2019 10:12AM  
Maybe we need a new forum - "Geezer Paddlers" ??? At 76, my joints and strength are OK, but my stamina is minimal, especially on hilly portages, so I am looking at "low portage" trips. Last year, two of us took a tow to Snow Bay at the west end of Lac La Croix, paddled the big lake over several days, day tripped to Curtain Falls, and got picked up at Bottle Portage at the east end. Lots of paddling, little carrying.
My wife doesn't want me doing solo trips anymore, but I still crave that solitude and quiet for soul care. Next week I will camp at Trails End and do day trips into Sea Gull and Saganaga for the spiritual experience. Whatever it takes to stay close to the BW and Q for as long as I breathe.
 
missmolly
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09/13/2019 11:07AM  
OtherBob is my hero!
 
09/13/2019 12:06PM  
Do you have a younger relative that you can trip with?

My father will be 60 this fall, and I've only recently introduced him to the BWCA. We're on year 4 of annual trips, and there should be many more to come.

He doesn't portage well; but I make sure he has a light backpack, and I double back to grab the rest of the gear. He usually gets a light walk through the woods, and never double portages.

I also paddle stern and he's able to paddle when he feels like it or rest when his arms are tired.

I think this is a pretty sustainable approach.
 
missmolly
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09/13/2019 01:58PM  
Remember when kanoes quit canoeing? He said that all the lakes looked pretty much alike, which is pretty much true, and he wanted to try other things. I found that as brave as OtherBob.
 
09/13/2019 02:19PM  
Paddling gave me such pleasure I would paddle 3-4 times a week on local waters and spend most of the year planning or going on a trip here or there. I recall Kanoes comment about lakes looking so much alike and realized his words expressed my feelings. I tried exploring areas I had not visited, but found that the lakes there were pretty much the same, too. When on a trip I was still pumped about going, but soon after arrival it felt blah, done this enough kinda feeling and I did not like that idea. The BWCA is special.
I expanded to back packing and hiking in the mountains of Colorado and at first that was so great, but that newness faded after only a few trips. Plus the Rockies are trashed by folks with no LNT ethic.
I hardly paddled this year. Life got busy for awhile, but in reality my drive to paddle was gone. I grieved that a little and then realized taking a break was actually a good idea. The 60's idea of let it go and if it returns...
I felt the urge a couple weeks ago and had a great time. While not strong as it once was, and by no means am I as strong as I once was, it is still there. There is fire in the belly and the urge is returned.
The suggestions about lighter gear, a chair, staying in shape and all that are invaluable and adjusting to life is a critical skill. I do not jog portages with an aluminum boat, wooden paddles, canvas packs front and back wearing jeans and sneakers anymore and never should have. My 50th college reunion is the last weekend in September so a late trip will be my only hope. I have refined the gear to a pretty tight system and lost over 20 pounds in the last year. I am really getting pumped about an October trip and will be paddling this weekend to get those skills honed.
Message to the OP. Thanks for this post. It helped me reflect on a similar issue. Perhaps a little time away, try some other things, adjust your plans and gear to accommodate the lessons from experience and the price we paid for it. That's what worked for me. Where there is smoke there is fire and your post supports some embers at least. See you out there sometime...doing it your way.
 
bottomtothetap
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09/13/2019 02:31PM  
Wow--Thanks for all of the thoughtful response!

I think this will go for me kind of like the MN State Fair. I LOVED the MN State Fair and for decades I'd go very year--some years more than once. Then one day I just didn't care any more and stopped going so in the last 20-25 years have been once or twice with not much desire to ever go back.

Think that's where I've decided I'm at with the BWCA: Loved it but now caring less--been there done that. May have some (well used) gear for sale soon. We'll see...
 
quark2222
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09/13/2019 07:34PM  
I'm "starting" to look kind of old, and I have a more difficult time portaging 60 lb gear packs. One thing that I've noticed is that younger people I meet on the portages seem to ask if they can carry my pack that I leave at the origin during a double portage. I always tell them that is OK with me, but tell them it is kind of heavy. 90% of the time, they carry the pack for me. I'm always very, very appreciative. Try having less hair or more gray hair, and a white beard. Works for me! Although I'm not faking anything.

Tom
 
bwcasolo
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09/14/2019 05:31AM  
OtherBob: "Maybe we need a new forum - "Geezer Paddlers" ??? At 76, my joints and strength are OK, but my stamina is minimal, especially on hilly portages, so I am looking at "low portage" trips. Last year, two of us took a tow to Snow Bay at the west end of Lac La Croix, paddled the big lake over several days, day tripped to Curtain Falls, and got picked up at Bottle Portage at the east end. Lots of paddling, little carrying.
My wife doesn't want me doing solo trips anymore, but I still crave that solitude and quiet for soul care. Next week I will camp at Trails End and do day trips into Sea Gull and Saganaga for the spiritual experience. Whatever it takes to stay close to the BW and Q for as long as I breathe."

great plan, one of my favorite camping area's during off season!
 
mjmkjun
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09/14/2019 05:41AM  
riverrunner: "
Last year I fell off a roof and lost the whole summer.
"


Ouch! Reminds me of an incident, in much younger years, when I began slipping off a steep-pitched, 3-story roof. I can still recall vividly the pins & needles throughout my body from a sudden adrenaline rush it caused. I regained a grip but it was a close one.
 
BWPaddler
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09/14/2019 08:11AM  
Great posts and topic.

Spartan2 thanks for sharing all along your journey. You always give me much to think about.

Missmolly, thanks for reminding us of kanoes change in thinking...

The world is full of adventure. The United States is full of adventure. Minnesota is full of adventure. My town is full of adventure. I think canoe-tripping is a special kind of adventure that uniquely speaks to my soul. But I get quite fulfilled from other kinds of adventures also. I hope I never lose that overall spirit and hunger for new sights and sounds, and I plan to seek those in nature any way I can... Forever.
 
missmolly
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09/14/2019 08:48AM  
BWPaddler: "Great posts and topic.


Spartan2 thanks for sharing all along your journey. You always give me much to think about.


Missmolly, thanks for reminding us of kanoes change in thinking...


The world is full of adventure. The United States is full of adventure. Minnesota is full of adventure. My town is full of adventure. I think canoe-tripping is a special kind of adventure that uniquely speaks to my soul. But I get quite fulfilled from other kinds of adventures also. I hope I never lose that overall spirit and hunger for new sights and sounds, and I plan to seek those in nature any way I can... Forever."


^Love this.^
 
09/14/2019 09:32AM  
bhouse46: "Paddling gave me such pleasure I would paddle 3-4 times a week on local waters and spend most of the year planning or going on a trip here or there. I recall Kanoes comment about lakes looking so much alike and realized his words expressed my feelings. I tried exploring areas I had not visited, but found that the lakes there were pretty much the same, too. When on a trip I was still pumped about going, but soon after arrival it felt blah, done this enough kinda feeling and I did not like that idea. The BWCA is special.
I expanded to back packing and hiking in the mountains of Colorado and at first that was so great, but that newness faded after only a few trips. Plus the Rockies are trashed by folks with no LNT ethic.
I hardly paddled this year. Life got busy for awhile, but in reality my drive to paddle was gone. I grieved that a little and then realized taking a break was actually a good idea. The 60's idea of let it go and if it returns...
I felt the urge a couple weeks ago and had a great time. While not strong as it once was, and by no means am I as strong as I once was, it is still there. There is fire in the belly and the urge is returned.
The suggestions about lighter gear, a chair, staying in shape and all that are invaluable and adjusting to life is a critical skill. I do not jog portages with an aluminum boat, wooden paddles, canvas packs front and back wearing jeans and sneakers anymore and never should have. My 50th college reunion is the last weekend in September so a late trip will be my only hope. I have refined the gear to a pretty tight system and lost over 20 pounds in the last year. I am really getting pumped about an October trip and will be paddling this weekend to get those skills honed.
Message to the OP. Thanks for this post. It helped me reflect on a similar issue. Perhaps a little time away, try some other things, adjust your plans and gear to accommodate the lessons from experience and the price we paid for it. That's what worked for me. Where there is smoke there is fire and your post supports some embers at least. See you out there sometime...doing it your way."


You go Ben! I haven't done much since June, but am inclined to get the Magic back on the water as autumn approaches, at least, locally!
 
09/14/2019 09:52AM  
I'll soon to be 72 and still enjoy tripping, particularly in Canada. But for sometime before the Wabakimi Project ended (2018) I was tiring of the portage clearing work. Much enjoyed the trips, especially the campsite camaraderie/scenic beauty/solitude but not the arduous clearing work. I miss the WP trip experience but not the work.

I find tripping with younger guys energizes me. I try to stay in reasonably good shape by incorporating physical activity into everything I do. I prepare for portaging by carrying canoes of similar weight at home for several months before a trip. This has been very beneficial since it is activity specific exercise. I also accept that I am less sure footed and will fall on trips. For comfort sake I always take a small chair with backrest and comfortable sleep gear. I find if I can sleep at night I can tolerate almost anything during the day. So at this time in life I try to prepare myself for continued tripping physically, gearwise and attitudinally. So far it is working so I will keep going.
 
SaganagaJoe
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09/14/2019 10:45AM  
Decided to start a new thread based on this idea:

missmolly: "He said that all the lakes looked pretty much alike, which is pretty much true, and he wanted to try other things. "
 
moosewatcher
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09/14/2019 07:08PM  
You need to look at the adventure a little diferently Jim.Base camps and day trips are much easier on the body. I might never see Curtain Falls again but still enjoy the peacefulness of the dawns first light, hearing the coffee perk, and watching the world come alive. A good chair is a must.
I'm lucky enough to have found some canoeing partners that make things easier. We all know what is needed and what needs to get done amd our relationship goes back over 20 years. Over 40 trips together and they all have been good. Some are just better then others. The fact that my partners are 15 years younger than me does help.
 
BearRaid
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09/15/2019 05:08AM  
.Very good and thoughtful thread
 
Bearpath9
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09/16/2019 01:22PM  
This doesn't have to do with me nearing the end, though I am staring my 61st birthday in the face. I have always been pretty active, played baseball until I was 20, then went to softball until I was 45. I have a fairly physical job, lots of lifting, pushing and pulling heavy stuff. Weight has been pretty much the same (I did balloon up to about 20 lbs. more than I usually weigh, but I was working out and I lost gradually when I stopped). My diet is good, I think, lots of fruits and veggies, no sodas or fast food for about 30 years (but keep the ice cream away from me). But I have noticed that I have a lot more aches than I used to, and I seem to heal a little slower. But within the last month and a half, I had one friend drop dead, and another diagnosed with liver cancer(not a good prognosis either-maybe a year left) and it got me to thinking. So, I am going in for a physical, my first one in over 30 years, partly because I should, and partly because I am nervous with the not knowing. That means I will probably give up the butts, which is really my only physical vice (quit drinking back in'89). The thing is, I still do everything I used to when I was younger, up on the roof, getting up in our trees to trim them, still shovel the snow, but we now have a blower for the upcoming winters. I have got some compressed discs in my back, a little arthritis, and an achy left shoulder, due to 3 dislocations and surgery to to fix it. But I am not ready to stop. Unless something drastic happens, I plan to be doing trips for at least the next 10 years. I think this is a decision that each one of us has to make on their own. Whether it is easier trips, just base camping at one lake, or giving it up altogether. I respect the folks who say its time for something different as much as I respect those who keep going. That's my two cents worth.
 
Takya
Guest Paddler
 
09/16/2019 03:31PM  
There is a time and season for every purpose. When an activity no longer interests or challenges me, or I am physically or financially unable to enjoy it I replace it with another that gives purpose. As life evolves stay engaged, enjoy the past, and embrace the future.

 
Basspro69
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09/16/2019 08:18PM  
I’m 55 and have been going since my early twenties and over the years I’ve changed some things to keep me going . I’ve never been a looper I much prefer to find a good base camp location and then check out surrounding lakes while traveling light. I really dislike breaking down my camp once it’s set up and it really is a to each their own thing. The main thing I’ve changed is going almost exclusively during the shoulder seasons if I’m camping I hate black flies and mosquitoes with a passion and going when those little bastards aren’t around significantly improves my experience. The only time I will solo anymore is when I want to be on a small brook trout lake by myself . I use to like to solo in the past but I just don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I used to . Those that say all the lakes look alike , I say nothing could be further from the truth if you take the time to slow down and really take in what’s around you , the lake has many faces throughout the day and it’s awesome to just take it all in . Will I always go in as I get older I’m not sure but I know I will always be drawn to the north whether that’s in a tent or a cabin canoe or a boat .
 
09/16/2019 11:14PM  
The biggest problem many face is staying fit. This is the extreme but they took a nurseing home put them on weight training and in over a month the average person had a 100% increase in strength. One of the things needed to accomplish this tho is staying healthy and avoiding injury and sickness setbacks. Too many people getting older also get lazier. You have to do more to maintain strength because your hormone levels won't help as much.
I think the big change for my strength was around age 62.
 
schweady
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09/17/2019 12:58PM  
When I first realized the topic here, I immediately scrolled down to see where Spartan2 chimed in. Of course it's there. Thank you. Your words are poignant, as always.

I, too, (at 65) hope for many more trips ahead, but that 'last one' increasingly becomes a topic of conversation. Trip mates not much older than me have made their decisions to make this trip or that trip their last trip. A close friend (age 70) who collapsed and died on one of our recent canoe trips made us all brutally aware of our limits. And our mortality.

We have long since moved to base camping. And double portaging. We keep ourselves reasonably fit with day hikes and bicycle outings. I no longer run on the portages; I have trained myself to carefully look ahead to each of my next footsteps.

We have re-doubled our efforts to lighten our load. A friend's advice sticks with us: "To be able to do what you enjoy in the outdoors long into the future might depend on your willingness to upgrade to the best equipment you can afford. Sure, you might wind up bringing in some additional items that you poo-pooed in your youth, but newer upgrades may still translate into lighter weights to carry and a lot more comfort while out there."

Though we have found wonderful new-to-us opportunities that have fewer portages -- the Clearwater and Poplar entries for example -- it is bittersweet to recall the deeper interior destinations to which I'll probably never return. Next summer might have to include a push to make it to the LLC pictos one last time... the highlight of our first trip some 42 years back.

Thanks, bottomtothetap, for launching this thread.
 
emptynest56
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09/17/2019 02:31PM  
I made a bad mistake in taking the Granite River route for the first time this year with my 67 year old brother (I am 63). At two days before we were to leave, he announced that this was his last trip. It was time for him, and that route killed both of us. He has health issues and I have knee and back arthritis issues also. Our last night there was really bittersweet. We had done maybe 25 trips together.
I will go a few years more. I have had some stem cell(autologous) therapy for the knees and prolotherapy for the back. They have helped, but it isn't the same of course. We look at every rock landing with dread and cherish the softer ground that is available. Balance issues are a real stealth thing. For the first time this summer, that piled on. Fortunately I also have some younger family members. Growing older is something that takes grace and fortitude. I would not have been able to deal with these limitations when I was younger.
 
09/18/2019 04:26PM  
schweady: "When I first realized the topic here, I immediately scrolled down to see where Spartan2 chimed in. Of course it's there. Thank you. Your words are poignant, as always.

Though we have found wonderful new-to-us opportunities that have fewer portages -- the Clearwater and Poplar entries for example -- it is bittersweet to recall the deeper interior destinations to which I'll probably never return. Next summer might have to include a push to make it to the LLC pictos one last time... the highlight of our first trip some 42 years back.


Thanks, bottomtothetap, for launching this thread.
"


You are very kind with your words, schweady.

It was a long time ago, (the Elephant Trip) back in 2006, that we had the goal of reaching Adams and Boulder Lakes one more time. We didn't make it that far, due to some health issues that came up unexpectedly. I didn't think, at that time, that we were nearly to the end of our canoe-tripping days; we just got medical help and regrouped. It was after that by 2 1/2 years that Spartan1 got his transplant. But, perhaps a harbinger of things to come, it was my health issues that were issuing the warning, not his.

I think several people have said it here already. Do what you can to lighten your load, make it easier. Enjoy each experience, each day, each moment for what it is, and adapt to what life gives you. Canoe-tripping people are good at that anyway. . .and "the end" isn't something to anticipate or dwell upon. When it is time, you will know.
 
09/18/2019 05:13PM  
Sometimes like deer hunting you can have the young folks do the heavy hauling. Some are fortunate to have some young bucks and gals carry the load across the portage.
Also instead of single portaging,slow down and make as many trips as possible. By now you should heed to the "what's the Hurry"call.
 
RedLakePaddler
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09/19/2019 05:49PM  
My wife, Barbara, made her last trip to the BWCA last summer. It was a trip to South Kawishiwi Campground.
Barb had congenital heart defects but still made many challenging trips in the BWCA. On the portages she was like a steam engine, slow but steady and having to stop and build steam.
The later trips were simple, across Fall lake so we couldn’t see the landing or around the corner at Lake One. Our trips were alway planned according her abilities. She never quit, just changed how we did it. We carried the load for her so she could enjoy it.
She loved telling other how her brother would say she would never get to go there, how she showed him!
Because of her faith in the Lord Jesus she now paddles on calm heavenly water.

Carl
 
09/19/2019 07:38PM  
RedLakePaddler: "My wife, Barbara, made her last trip to the BWCA last summer. It was a trip to South Kawishiwi Campground.
Barb had congenital heart defects but still made many challenging trips in the BWCA. On the portages she was like a steam engine, slow but steady and having to stop and build steam.
The later trips were simple, across Fall lake so we couldn’t see the landing or around the corner at Lake One. Our trips were alway planned according her abilities. She never quit, just changed how we did it. We carried the load for her so she could enjoy it.
She loved telling other how her brother would say she would never get to go there, how she showed him!
Because of her faith in the Lord Jesus she now paddles on calm heavenly water.


Carl
"


Sounds like many GOOD memories.
 
09/19/2019 08:03PM  
"Just want to hear how others got to and recognized "the end"

Personally wanted to keep out of such discussions. But I have changed why and how I go about my hobbies, and that is what this is about. Enjoyment of time spent in an optional activity.

I have been retired for over 5 years. Still have many interests. Have not indulged several interests for quite some time. Have rediscovered the fun of vehicle modification and am customizing a 2017 turbocharged V6 Ford F150, intending a medium high performance street driver and forest service trail runner. Also took up small-bore bench-rest shooting. Used to skip some local vintage races for planned canoe trips, but that priority has been swapped around. Grand-kids getting older and involved in local sports. Since retiring Cathy and I found mutual enjoyment in month long sight seeing road trips all over the USA.

The end, hell no just a shuffling of priorities. Have not paddled in a year but will in the future. Yes interests and limitations have changed, so what! I can adjust and will, happily.
I'm alive and enjoying it!

butthead
 
bottomtothetap
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09/19/2019 08:05PM  
RedLakePaddler: "My wife, Barbara, made her last trip to the BWCA last summer. It was a trip to South Kawishiwi Campground.
Barb had congenital heart defects but still made many challenging trips in the BWCA. On the portages she was like a steam engine, slow but steady and having to stop and build steam.
The later trips were simple, across Fall lake so we couldn’t see the landing or around the corner at Lake One. Our trips were alway planned according her abilities. She never quit, just changed how we did it. We carried the load for her so she could enjoy it.
She loved telling other how her brother would say she would never get to go there, how she showed him!
Because of her faith in the Lord Jesus she now paddles on calm heavenly water.


Carl
"


RedLakePaddler, sorry for your loss. It sounds like you are now missing one heck of a paddling partner!

Thank you very much for your heartfelt and inspiring contribution to this thread!
 
GraniteCliffs
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09/24/2019 08:03PM  
I just returned from my fourth Q trip again this year. I often thought of this thread while I paddled. Did the lakes all look the same? Definitely not to me. They were all beautiful but each individual bay was different in rock formation, trees, moss, fall colors, etc. I was very glad I still felt that way.
I also thought of Sparten2's observation when she said "My fire has never gone out, it is just coals with a slight glow now." What a quote, what a thought. It made my feel sad for her and for what was coming for me.
I ran long distance for 40 years and thought I would die when I had to give it up. Funny, I adjusted and found new pursuits. It all worked out.
I grew up a portage away from the BW and started camping and canoeing there when I was in Junior High in the early to mid sixties. I have not stopped since and for many, many years have been able to go 3-4 times a year. What a blessing to have been able to satisfy my passion for paddling all these years.
When the time comes it will be painful, very painful. Until then it is enjoy every trip. And when the end comes I will rejoice for the decades of canoe travel, the campfires with friends and family I love, the wind in my hair as I paddle and the peace and serenity I have had immersing myself in the woods and water.
 
09/26/2019 09:03AM  
You are richly blessed, GraniteCliffs, that you have been able to make multiple wilderness trips each year. We live too far away to do that, or to do even a quick weekend trip. We have never been people to drive long distances nonstop, and our canoe trips started in 1971 with "every other year" as the goal. From Kentucky, from central Illinois, from Michigan. After Spartan1 developed the kidney disease, we made a pact with each other that we would go every year for as long as we were able. And we did.

But in our 40+ years, we only managed something like 25 or 26 trips, and a couple of those were short ones in Algonquin, and one foray into the Temagami Area. I cannot imagine having the memories that you have from four Q trips in one year!

Don't feel sad for me. Or for Spartan1. We have had some wonderful world travels that have nothing to do with the canoe country, and some beautiful canoe trips. We still manage to get up there each year for our quiet time, and we have fun. Life changes, people age, and sometimes they develop health issues that aren't as easy to solve as some others.

We had a wonderful time on our canoe trips, and occasionally a crappy time. That is how it should be, and I don't regret a thing.

Sometimes I get a bit impatient when men in their 50's and 60's tell me that if I would just exercise more, if I just get in better shape, if I have the mental fortitude to push on. . .etc. But then I think back to myself when I was in my 50's and I probably would have said the same thing. In 2000 I had rotator cuff surgery in late March and went on a canoe trip in July--paddling for miles and carrying my big packs. Nothing was going to hold me back.

Life goes on and it's all good. Every day is a gift. If you can still go, go as often as you can, and if you can't, thank God that you have the memories.
 
bottomtothetap
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12/31/2020 01:33PM  
Reading a recent thread where Spartan 2 explained her need to decline the offer of an assisted trip and how she and Spartan 1 have "transitioned" to another way to enjoy and appreciate wilderness, inspired me to re-visit this thread and the eloquent contributions she made here.

Also an update here from your OP to this thread:
I did take the 2020 trip and really throttled back from the longer outings of the past. Four of us entered at Sawbill and grabbed a campsite on the north end of the lake and base-camped there the whole time. ZERO portages! I did invest in some newer gear including a low cot to get up off of the ground while sleeping (awesome!!!!) and a Helinox chair (for me, sits too low to the ground!) along with a few other creature comforts we had along that I would not normally bring so as to not have to haul them over a portage.

The trip was different than past trips but in it's own way no less enjoyable. I'm not a solo guy since part of the fun for me is the camaraderie and bonding with trip mates that takes place along with the wonderment from "newbies" I bring as they discover this amazing wilderness experience. That part was certainly still there--enough so that I am eagerly planning and trying to organize another trip with a few first-timers in 2021.

The routes we are considering won't go in any more than a short portage or two--if any portages at all. I'm saying up front that this is so the newbies won't be overwhelmed with something too strenuous as their first trip but I think it's really just as much for me as I've now experienced the BWCA about as easy-peazy as it gets and know first hand that it can still be a ton of fun!
 
lindylair
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12/31/2020 07:03PM  
Felt the need to respond to this as I am facing a milestone birthday in 3 weeks at 65. Perhaps to clarify my own thoughts but hopefully to also add something to the discussion. Lots of great words, thoughts and perspectives already. To me it boils down to whether or not you still have the urge or desire to go back to the BWCA or not.

If you do there are myriad ways of modifying the trips, the routes, the equipment and the physical and mental readiness for a trip as mentioned above. I started tripping at 16 years old and I think I still get as excited now as I did then, maybe more. My main tripping buddy is just 5 months younger than me and we have changed our trips pretty dramatically from years ago but I don't think we enjoy them any less. We now pretty much go in a half a day or less and set up basecamp, spend more time in camp fishing, drinking coffee, playing cribbage and relaxing. But we also try to do some kind of daytrip every day for fishing and/or photography purposes. We try to pick entry points that have minimal portaging in terms of numbers and length but aren't too afraid of a little challenge. There really are a fair amount of entry points that you can go in and have a decent experience with an amount of effort that matches up well with older and physically challenged folks.

We also go heavier than we used to and don't skimp on the comforts - that's the beauty of short trips in and minimal portaging. Although we haven't done this yet, it may come to the point of bringing in a 4 man tent that I can almost stand up in, and a cot of some sort so that I don't need to lay on the ground.
To this point it's not an issue but when we car camp, which we also do a lot, believe me we have gone to bigger and taller tents and cots to keep us off the ground.

This year I took two trips and as my buddy and I are both facing likely retirement this year we have talked about wanting to go more, rather than less. I guess I will know when it is time to cut back or stop when I no longer spend the winter months reading every post I can about tripping and looking at maps endlessly looking for an interesting route for the coming year.

Although I have my own physical challenges as most of us do at this point, none of them currently prevent me from doing the type of trip I describe. That could change, I am well aware of that. Which adds even a bit more urgency of continuing to do it while I can still do it comfortably and safely. We have talked of doing one more longer trip, something like 8 or 9 days which I would love to do - most of our trips are now 4-6 days. It would be at a slow pace for sure and still have a couple nights basecamping and probably not a lot of travel on the moving days. But that would be cool and i suspect we will put it together this year or next barring unforeseen issues.

I can still portage carrying a kevlar canoe or a 50 lb pack for extreme lengths on relatively flat ground - it is the steep inclines that get to me physically. But we have adopted a "no hurry" philosophy on our trips and are not opposed to a triple portage if that's what we are feeling(although I hate to admit it).

My physical situation at the moment(subject to change) and my genetics are not in favor of a long life for me so I am hoping to continue to trip until I am no longer here. I don't see my desire to continue tripping going away. If it becomes necessary to stop wilderness canoe tripping there are so many wonderful options in northern MN to car camp with many more comforts and much less physical effort and I enjoy this immensely so that wouldn't be a huge sacrifice. Different but still very good.

To the OP, if you no longer have the desire that is okay for sure. We don't need to prove anything to anyone. And there are lots of good options for comparable experiences that work better for many of us as our priorities change. But if you still have the desire to trip it can be done with a change in expectations, planning and outlook.

In my 20s my buddies and I would enter at Moose Lake and go deep into the Quetico, often not seeing anyone for days. We would have days of paddling 20 miles and taking 20 portages and to my recollection we loved it and suffered no ill effects. I treasure those memories but that is so far from the way I experience canoe country these days and in my opinion, that is just fine.
 
Freddy
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01/01/2021 01:37PM  

I think years of backpacking have taught me that whenever you think you can't do any better, you're wrong. That being said, I believe that when the reward is no longer worth the risk or effort, it may be time to reassess to regain perspective. I will be 67 in April and find myself reassessing a bit more.
 
01/01/2021 05:13PM  
I retired from longer loop routes due to increasing difficulty in taking them as well as taking young grands. Never more than two short portages. This allows me to take a tent for each or each family group. One for myself. No longer than 3 to 4 hours away from the exit, I take a cot, a fold up rocking chair, and some other gear which did not make the loops. If I want it, I take it. Day trips can be taken each day and fishing can be as much or not as desired. If you still like to go, this will keep it possible for some time when you will have postponed the inevitable as long as you can.

Read the base camping forum for many ideas you may use to have a good easy trip into the BW.
 
01/01/2021 06:00PM  
jillpine: "If the fire is still in the belly, three things will be game-changers:
shed the weight (on self and on gear)
new gear
new approach as opposed to tradition


If fire isn't in the belly, OK to seek a change of venue



"
If you can, you use the winter months to do some weight training, aerobic work outs, and tons of stretching . It will be a game changer. I'm 61 btw
 
mjmkjun
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01/01/2021 06:18PM  
It started cuz I hurt more and the hurting lasted longer. I have had to cut back on distances (portages). That was and is upsetting. The zest of BWCA adventures is in the exploring. Take that away and the 'shine' is dulled.
 
lindylair
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01/01/2021 07:17PM  
I would argue that basecamping allows for more time for long daytrips that actually offer more thorough "exploration" of cool looking areas on the map that you might not have the opportunity to see on a moving everyday trip. To each his/her own but I find that a half day to a full day in and set up camp in an interesting area with some things on the map that look like they are worth checking out is so much easier physically and more rewarding because you get to see things you wouldn't have otherwise seen and you can take your time about it. Unlike you I have no remorse for the old days when no portage was too much and paddling 7-8 hours was no problem. Just can't do it anymore, nor do I want to. I like the way our trips go nowadays just fine.
 
GraniteCliffs
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01/01/2021 07:22PM  
Funny this thread has just popped up again. For Christmas my son gave me a gift card to buy a new carbon paddle since my current one has been taped together the last few years. I wondered if I should buy one since I turn 70 in May and did not know how long I would be able to use it. I had three thoughts right out of the gate:
1. My son is gifting me a carbon paddle so he can use it soon!
2. I thought of this thread since it has rolled around in my head the past few months.
3. Full speed ahead and paddle on!!! That is where I landed pretty quickly.
I still get excited before each of my trips. I have younger friends and family to trip with on my different trips each year which helps. My solo every year is always a pure joy.
Despite bad knees, a pacemaker and AFIB I still function pretty well. I still like to paddle and portage most all day long but try not to push myself as hard. Well, I say I am not going to push myself as hard as I used to but it never really works out that way. Multiple portages every day are still my preference but looking ahead I have already thought of routes I should be able to take for quite a few years that will minimize portaging.
But with each passing year the portages get rockier and longer. The body gets colder or hotter. The ground gets further away every time I hit the tent. And, of course, getting up during the night a couple of times must make me look like Frankenstein lurching about the camp, feeling lucky if I don't just topple over.
But I am not at the finish line just yet. I have my trips lined up for 2021. God willing the border will open by summer.
The excitement lives on and the body hangs on.
Paddle on!!
 
01/02/2021 02:25PM  
GraniteCliffs: "Funny this thread has just popped up again. For Christmas my son gave me a gift card to buy a new carbon paddle since my current one has been taped together the last few years. I wondered if I should buy one since I turn 70 in May and did not know how long I would be able to use it. I had three thoughts right out of the gate:
1. My son is gifting me a carbon paddle so he can use it soon!
2. I thought of this thread since it has rolled around in my head the past few months.
3. Full speed ahead and paddle on!!! That is where I landed pretty quickly.
I still get excited before each of my trips. I have younger friends and family to trip with on my different trips each year which helps. My solo every year is always a pure joy.
Despite bad knees, a pacemaker and AFIB I still function pretty well. I still like to paddle and portage most all day long but try not to push myself as hard. Well, I say I am not going to push myself as hard as I used to but it never really works out that way. Multiple portages every day are still my preference but looking ahead I have already thought of routes I should be able to take for quite a few years that will minimize portaging.
But with each passing year the portages get rockier and longer. The body gets colder or hotter. The ground gets further away every time I hit the tent. And, of course, getting up during the night a couple of times must make me look like Frankenstein lurching about the camp, feeling lucky if I don't just topple over.
But I am not at the finish line just yet. I have my trips lined up for 2021. God willing the border will open by summer.
The excitement lives on and the body hangs on.
Paddle on!!"


+1 on the Full speed ahead and paddle on option! (And the carbon paddles we got for Christmas a couple years ago make a major difference in how the shoulders feel the first couple days of a 10-day trip.) We both turn 70 early this year, and I'm kidding myself when I say "it's just a number", but we hope to continue the long trips for several more years. Here's to Quetico opening to US citizens this summer.

TZ
 
01/05/2021 09:22PM  
Time for many of us to cherish the people you go with and relate to them more around a campfire or a nice daytrip.
If your getting up there you also are losing your friends around you. Go to the BWCA and a nice paddle for whatever distance brings back good memories.
Many of us are now limited in our trips due to caring for love ones and it is worth every minute of it.
 
Speckled
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01/18/2021 03:09PM  
I can't comment on the physical piece of that decision, but do have some thoughts.

I moved from farm county to Duluth to go to school. I fell in love with the woods and spent most weekends up and down the shore, busting brush to chase brookies. There was as much joy in the journey as the catch. The more remote and harder to get to the more magical the fish I caught.

I graduated college and that first summer - 1999, I was invited along on a BW trip with a number of other first timers. We entered at Brule and did a loop through Cherokee, Long Island, Muskeg, Kisk, Winchell and back down to Brule. It was amazing, the woods, the water as far as the eye could see and as far as the imagination could wander. We were hooked, we started taking at least annual, sometimes 2 or 3 trips per year.

Shortly after starting that pattern of two to three BW trips per year, I was loading up my stuff to go brook trout fishing, one spring morning, I got to my truck, tossed in the waders and fishing pole and just stopped...I didn't feel like going. It was the weekend and thats pretty much what I did on weekends, was chase brookies and here I was and I didn't want to go. I walked back inside and went back to sleep.

Some years later, career taking off, we purchased some wooded acreage and built a home - out in the woods, trout stream runs through the property and I found myself wandering the woods, picking agates in the creek and enjoying the outdoors right at home with my son...with that my passion for the BW trips waned, I came back early from a few trips and just didn't have the desire anymore. Now most weekends, were spent picking agates, tapping maple trees, or grouse hunting on the property.

Then we bought a cabin on a private lake in the SNF and now I don't pick agates as much, I go the BW or chase brookies once every 3 or 4 years.

I discovered for me, it wasn't the BW, it wasn't the brook trout, it wasn't the agates, it was about being in the woods and that need was being filled by the each subsequent activity and with that the desire for the previous waned.

For me it wasn't so much of a decision, I just didn't feel like it, so I didn't do it. If you're not feeling the BW - find something you are feeling.
 
nctraveler
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01/18/2021 06:28PM  
I'm approaching 70 (I'm as surprised as anyone) and finding that I just don't have the desire to make the BIG TRIPS anymore. I live in NC, a 20 hour drive from Duluth, any trip past there is a BiG TRIP. Over the years I have certainly enjoyed my share of canoe trips, mostly in Quetico, and have great memories of introducing my sons and even my dad to that part of the world. My dad made his last trip with us when he was 75 and I remember on that trip he said "I don't think I will do this anymore" He said this while carrying a canoe over a portage with mosquitoes swarming around him. So, for the rest of his life, he and I would go up to fishing camps with cabins, boats etc. I still made the occasional canoe trip with friends, but the trips have become less frequent over the years. Friends have passed and moved away, etc. This covid thing has seen me spending more time closer to home, I live 1 hr from the GSMNP, and I still fish the backcountry streams there, but still think about the canoe country. I hate to think I won't be back, but I just don't know. Lots of unknowns, border closings among others. I'm guessing that I am not alone with these thoughts?
 
Grandma L
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01/19/2021 09:25AM  
I am now 72 years old. Due to "structural defects" (knees, back, shoulders....) I can no longer carry a canoe or even portage a pack over 10 pounds. Some mornings, I even need a little help getting out of the tent. In addition, my balance is compromised in a variety of ways making uneven ground tricky, though I can still paddle pretty well! I suspect carrying those old heavy Grumman canoes for more than 35 year and 60+ trips might have had an impact on my old body. So, I only get to go when the "kids" are willing to be sherpas and carry my share too. We make a trade-off. I totally outfit the trips, prep all the food, cook and do dishes in camp. That all being said, I would go on a BWCA trip in a minute, if I had the necessary help.
I did compromise and purchase property in northern MN (5 acres on a small minimally populated/wilderness style lake) with a great lake home and bunkhouse so I would have an alternate escape. My "cabin" property is heavily wooded and has the BWCA feel with birch, white and red pines and the rock outcroppings. I think it is all about compromise - for me. Get my wilderness fix - one way or the other.
 
Basspro69
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01/23/2021 03:33AM  
lindylair: "I would argue that basecamping allows for more time for long daytrips that actually offer more thorough "exploration" of cool looking areas on the map that you might not have the opportunity to see on a moving everyday trip. To each his/her own but I find that a half day to a full day in and set up camp in an interesting area with some things on the map that look like they are worth checking out is so much easier physically and more rewarding because you get to see things you wouldn't have otherwise seen and you can take your time about it. Unlike you I have no remorse for the old days when no portage was too much and paddling 7-8 hours was no problem. Just can't do it anymore, nor do I want to. I like the way our trips go nowadays just fine." +1
 
01/23/2021 08:41AM  
Another ++ to this thread and comments shared. I pick up more responses from those of us who are "over the hill" and would hope younger readers appreciate the wisdom. I also pick up Darwin, those who do not adapt perish, and I too am more into base camping and taking time to really be there more than passing through.
I had good spirits supporting my fall trip. Light winds at my back both ways on Brule! I also strengthened my understanding of adapting. Habit in putting on my pack is start with right arm and shoulder. Injury to the right shoulder requires more use of the left and I now load from the left. But I forgot that portaging from N Temperance to S Temperance and paid the price cutting the trip short. Paddling back across Brule kept it lose, but once it started getting stiff...ouch. Learning curve.
 
Stumpy
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01/23/2021 07:54PM  
walllee: "I have been lucky so far health wise, which still enables me to do physically and mentally challenging trips. I approach my trips with the same enthusiasm and excitement that I did 50 years ago. I have thought about when the day comes that will end my more challenging trips. McAree will be one of my spots. Get a tow to Black Robe one small portage and a 5 minute paddle I’ll be at a campsite with some world class fishing close by. I will boat camp on Lac La Croix, Sag, Vermilion, Burntside, and hopefully many others. When the time comes that I can not do this I will be happy to sit on a deck of a cabin somewhere and listen to the sounds of the woods and think about the 100+ trips I was fortunate to experience in magical canoe country..."

& write a book ?
 
ockycamper
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01/24/2021 02:42PM  
I am 65 and have taken multiple teams of men and boys to BWCA for many years. Once, about 5 years ago I came home exhausted after a week of particularly bad weather, multiple portages trying to find an open camp site, and cooking for a larger group (8 men). Came home and gave away most of my gear.

Then one of my friends pointed out that I had just returned three weeks prior to that trip from an Northern Forest Canoe Trail 65 mile trip that invovled serious portages. In other words, I over did it.

So now I plan trips that involve base camps and only one portage or no portages. This past year we took a shuttle to the Red Rock Lake portage (only 9 rods) and paddled to our base camp. Had a fantastic week. We had three groups of men this past year at three different sites on Red Rock. Some liked to portage so they portaged through Alpine and Seagull. Others like to spend max time fishing to they took the shuttle. Other years we stay on Seagull and base camp with no portages.

My point is that the "BWCA experience" for us is not how many portages we can do, how far we can paddle, or how deep we can go. It is about spending time as men with each other in God's wilderness with no jobs, cell phones, or agendas.

All of our guys are over 50 with many in their 60's, a few in their 70's. We go every year the last week of September. We have had great weather some years, others it has snowed and sleeted on us. One year that it snowed and sleeted, we built a super shelter around the fire grate, turning it into an oven. We had a great time and kept warm the whole week while others were coming off the lake early.

In other words, its all about adapting to what you can do. In bicycle trips, you set the pace at the slowest guy in the group. In BWCA trips we plan the route and base camps based on the physical abilities of the oldest guys in the group. Once at the camp, everyone can paddle, portage, hike, etc to their hearts content.

Frankly, too many people "give up" on the joys of life way to early. You are only "too old" if you embrace and limit yourself as such.
 
01/24/2021 03:08PM  
Oh how nice it would be to be a Rookie Senior Citizen again at age 65. Those were the days.
 
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