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02/24/2021 04:33PM  
Most of us are daydreaming of perfect days on the water. How about telling some stories of your worst days on the water? Unbelievable wind, days-long downpours, soul sucking mud and bugs...what is your most memorable "bad" time in the BWCA?
 
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02/24/2021 05:07PM  
A couple of years ago, I went with an older friend of mine from Sawbill to Cherokee and back. It started raining five minutes into the start of the trip and stopped as we were unloading at the Sawbill dock. The portages were slick and muddy.

The 180 going into Cherokee creek is known for having water, but we were literally portaging through a river for most of it. That's also the portage I had to triple because my friend was spent.

By the time we hit Cherokee, all we wanted was the first site available. Could never keep a fire going as the fire grate was in a perfect spot where all the water funneled. Could not get anything dry. My dog was miserable. We stayed three days and pulled the plug, but the beer and pizza we had at the hotel not far from Tofte was the best shower, drink and food I have ever had in my life!
 
02/24/2021 05:34PM  
After 10 days of paddling Quetico and BWCA with the last nite on Ogish I paddled out to Seagull Outfitters in snow squalls and wind. Nice thing, a Seagull employee watched me paddling up the inlet and met me on the dock with a dry towel!

butthead
 
brp
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02/24/2021 05:47PM  
Winter camping with my girlfriend on Kawishiwi, just south of Triangle. It was really cold, too cold to enjoy, -42f at night. We were hiking out, I slept with our Sony camcorder in my sleeping bag. I proposed to her on Triangle at -38f the next morning, at least that’s what the temp was in Ely a few hours later.

I tried to record my proposal, which did not work as the camera froze, it would have been so fun to have that.


Side story.... I was inspired to record my proposal by my HS government teacher...he was hands down the best educator I have ever had and he is now a MN state senator and BWCA lover, Steve Cwodzinski.

Side story #2....We had just gotten back from Hawaii. I wanted to propose someplace we could easily revisit. Everyone thought I was crazy for prioritizing a nearly anonymous lake in MN over a swanky place in Hawaii....I imagine most people on this board will think that’s pretty neat.

Thanks Cwod!!!
 
Gunwhale
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02/24/2021 06:11PM  
San Juan River, Utah, March 2004. Low water. Heavy wind turning to blowing sand, turning to blowing snow.
 
beanpole
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02/24/2021 06:15PM  
First ever trip, first day. September 2019. We entered on Poplar Lake at 10:00am to EP 47. It was 40 degrees and light rain. We had plans to camp on Allen, but by the time we got there (being newbies, we actually thought we could do this with an aluminum canoe), the site was taken. It was now a constant rain. By the time we reached Gaskin Lake, there were three foot waves. We passed two sites on Gaskin before we found one open. I really didn't know if I was going to make it.

My first time in a canoe had only been in March 2019. We didn't get to camp until after 5:00pm. We were cold, wet, hungry, exhausted. We ate and pretty much went to bed.

Day 2 didn't get any better, so we stayed put. Maybe TMI, but as a female, I was really hating the Leave No Trace rule when Aunt Flo showed up early. It really did add to the worst days on water because I was not in the mood to be portaging and hefting heavy gear.

Weather on Day 3 started dry, but as we pulled into camp to eat dinner, the rain started again.

The first trip was five days. The motto was "I'm having a good time". I'm pretty sure we immediately planned our next trip after returning home. I mean, it couldn't possibly be as bad as the first one.
 
KawnipiKid
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02/24/2021 06:20PM  
A Memorial Day weekend start to a Quetico trip with cold rain turning to wet snow at a not so great wind-bound spot on big Sag. I was with my wife-to-be who was pregnant unbeknownst to either of us and who was feeling really crappy. It was the early 1980s when we had plastic "rain gear" with cold wet cotton underneath. Every time I'm in snotty weather now and remain fairly dry and warm in good gear, I think of those days.
 
tumblehome
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02/24/2021 06:36PM  
I have a few real bad stories that only stir up bad memories such as paddling an injured camper out of Quetico, taking him to the hospital/clinic in Atikokan, getting him doped up on opiates, and then going back into Quetico with him on crutches to finish the trip with his torn ACL.

Not good days for me. And I've been going solo for a few decades since.

Tom
 
02/24/2021 06:58PM  
I am working on a trip report about our third canoe trip. I have always said if it had been our first, there wouldn't have been a second. The title of the report will be "The Rainy Trip" and that in itself would have been enough, but I was injured on the first shove off from Moose Lake landing. It was 1974. The only bright spot in six days was visiting Dorothy Molter on the Isle of Pines.

It was from this trip that I developed the mantra: There is no such thing as a LITTLE BIT DAMP!

Trip report coming soon.

 
Duckman
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02/24/2021 07:18PM  
okinaw55: "A couple of years ago I went with an older friend of mine from Sawbill to Cherokee and back. It started raining 5 minutes into the start of the trip and stopped as we were unloading at the Sawbill dock. The portages were slick and muddy. The 180 going into Cherokee creek I know is known for having water but we were literally portaging through a river for most of it. Thats also the portage I had to triple because my friend was spent. By the time we hit Cherokee all we wanted was the first site available. Could never keep a fire going as the fire grate was in a perfect spot where all the water funneled into. Could not get anything dry. My dog was miserable. We stayed 3 days and pulled the plug but the beer and pizza we had at the hotel not far from Tofte was the best shower, drink, and food I have ever had in my life! "

Had almost the same experience. Solo with the dog. Was planning to get to Frost from Sawbill but the wind and rain never let up. Got to Cherokee and hugged the shoreline until I got to the peninsula site that has the giant square rock by the water and the real deal tent pad by the fire grate.

I set up the tent. My dog immediately abandoned me and went in the tent and wouldn’t come out. I pretty much sat on that rock for 24 hours waiting for the rain to stop.

A long ways across the water another tripper like a mile away was doing the same thing. It was mid May. Just sitting on a rock in the rain waiting.
 
JWilder
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02/24/2021 07:28PM  
Years ago, on the first night of a four night trip. The sleeping pad of the older gentleman I was tripping with failed. I gave him mine. No, our group didn't have any repair patches. For 4 nights there was nothing in between me and the Canadian Shield.

No more needs to be said.
 
pastorjsackett
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02/24/2021 08:19PM  
First trip ever, my brother in law and I were heading out across Disappointment in a raging downpour and high winds. We were far off from our group of more experienced partners and could not figure out why they were hugging the shore. We determined to head straight across the waves. You can guess what happened next. A giant wave swept over us and I kid you not when I say that while sitting in front of me Mike simply disappeared over the side. I popped out of the water and grabbed for the canoe, flipping us. We pulled the canoe over to a flat rock, got things situated and kept going. The last portage to Snowbank and the trip across that water in such high winds and heavy rain ruined big water for me to this day.

In the same area, we stayed three days on Jordan a few years back when the ice had gone out the day before our Memorial Day trip. We caught one fish in three days. That was pretty sucky too.

Finally this little gem: my son and I went on "one last trip" on the week before he left for college. He was super stressed about the change and I was depressed to see my youngest leave. We got attacked by wasps, it was over 100 degrees and we spent the time alternating between arguing and giving each other the silent treatment. Fun.
 
bottomtothetap
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02/24/2021 10:35PM  
The time we got struck by lightning while 4 of us were camped on Ogish was probably the worst. One of our party got a small bruise/burn about halfway between his elbow and armpit on his triceps but no other injury. The rest of us were quite stunned but otherwise unhurt. I remember the sensation of being completely enveloped in light and for a moment or two after the jolt dead silence as I was briefly not able to hear anything. Overall we were quite lucky.
 
jhb8426
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02/24/2021 11:12PM  
Combination of bad weather and bad decisions. A boy scout trip with 3 leaders and 3 scouts. Two father/sons (13 yrs) and myself and another scout probably 17. We were on Clear Lake off the Kawishiwi River on a planned 5 day trip. Day 3 was very windy to the point of getting aggravating. Day 4 started out the same. Sometime before noon the (bad) decision was made to pull out. Wind was tough on Clear Lake with good size waves. Another bad assumption that once we got to the river we would be sheltered from the wind. Wrong. Also not even thinking about crossing Farm. Once we got on the river the waves were twice the size as on the lake, on the order of 1.5 to 2 ft. And it started raining. Heading towards Farm Lake we could hear and see trees crashing along the shore. Periodically we would pull in to shore to rest, grabbing a tree branch or bush to stay in place. We encountered a number of people along the way who opted to wait it out where ever they were able to land, over nite if needed. When we got to the entry point on Farm we realized we could not go on as the waves on Farm were 2-3 ft. so we made the decision to stay at the entry point to wait it out, staying over nite if needed. It turned out there were 2 other groups stranded there as well. One of them had a cell phone and called the outfitter to come get him. The same outfitter we used. He showed up in a big john boat and took us all back to the base, leaving the canoes and most of the gear. The trip across Farm was harrowing given the wind, rain and waves. A bit scary at times. Strong lesson in observing the weather conditions and dealing with it responsibly, which we obviously didn't do. The upside was a dry bunk house to sleep in.
 
dustytrail
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02/25/2021 08:17AM  
Around 10 or 12 years ago, My wife and I took a couple with us. We started at ep 37 on a Saturday. On Sunday it started raining and when we came out on the next Saturday it was still raining. Now I don't mind rain but it perty much did not stop the whole week. Not a hard rain but steady. To top it off when we got back to the entry a bear had made it self know. All the vehicles had been hit some more so than others. Our hood was starched up and from and back wipers tore off. A paw print on the sky light. I guess if there was a bright side to this was that was all the damage for us. Several of the vehicles had windows broke out. The bear had got inside and torn them up and it was raining into them. I guess those where the ones with food inside because the bear left plenty of litter on the hoods and tops.
 
02/25/2021 08:46AM  
First trip ever, about 7 years ago, just me and my 8 year old son.

We did the Granite River route. Back them I'm inexperienced, not having done any serious canoeing with gear. I'm a big guy, about 260 lbs, and my son weighed about 80. Despite trying to balance the load in the canoe and putting most gear up front, the bow is still riding higher than the stern.

We get dropped off at the EP, nice sunny day, load the canoe and head out. The first 10 - 15 minutes are wonderful. Sunny day, no wind, about 75 degrees.

As soon as we go through the narrows that separates Gunflint from Magnetic Lake, there's about a 20-25 MPH wind coming straight out of the north, funneling through the narrows. We couldn't feel the wind earlier because we were hugging the north shoreline, which was blocking the wind. Then the clouds appear, sun disappears, and rain starts. Try as we may, we couldn't make any headway at all, the wind kept grabbing the bow of the canoe and turning us around.

So 15 minutes into our first trip ever we spend 2-3 hours, miserable sitting on the rocks at the narrows, in the rain, waiting for the wind to die down.

Finally, the wind lets up just a little, and we make it about 1/3 of the way through Magnetic, when some locals in a motorboat saw our troubles, came over and towed us the rest of the way through Magnetic lake to the first portage. They told us this happens 2-3 times per year, and said it was extremely unusual for the wind to be straight out of the north like it was.

Luckily, the rest of the trip went much better, despite 1 capsize from running a small rapids.

 
Bobaaa
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02/25/2021 09:01AM  
A few years ago we left camp on a sunny morning for a day trip to fish a different lake. Got lulled into complacency with the beautiful weather and left the rainfly off the tent. Well of course a thunderstorm rolled through while we were gone, so not only were we fishing in the rain, but knew what we'd be coming back to later... which was a fair amount of standing water in the tent.
I used a spare tarp as a 'sleeping bag' that night.

Thankfully the next day the sun returned and we were able to dry everything out.
 
trstuck
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02/25/2021 10:20AM  
tumblehome: "I have a few real bad stories that only stir up bad memories such as paddling an injured camper out of Quetico, taking him to the hospital/clinic in Atikokan, getting him doped up on opiates, and then going back into Quetico with him on crutches to finish the trip with his torn ACL.


Not good days for me. And I've been going solo for a few decades since.


Tom"


Of all the 'bad' things that can happen in the wilderness, I can imagine injury as the worst. Sorry, Tom.

In all honesty, though, for me, a 'bad' day in the BW beats a good day in the office any day. Most of the time some trial is expected in the wilderness. I guess that's why you entitled this thread as 'Embracing' the suck.

While I wouldn't call it 'suck' or even a bad trip, I had an injury on the 4th day of our 5 day trip whilst jumping off the cliffs at Fishdance. A group of 8 dads/sons were here on a day trip from Malberg, and I happened to be doing a (second) simultaneous jump with one of the sons. The countdown caught me off guard and I was a bit off balance the whole way down. My left elbow was sticking out just enough that the force of the water jolted it upward giving me an unintended chiropractic adjustment. It didn't really hurt, but I knew something wasn't right. By the time we were paddling the 6 miles back to camp, every stroke was a stab in my back and shoulder. I wasn't looking forward to the paddle out the next day, but I managed to self-adjust while laying in bed that night and made it through the next day back to the car and long drive home.

Edit: In fact, I am remembering a few more injuries that trip - I fell (one of about 5 I can remember in all my years) while portaging into Polly, injuring my arm, and I foolishly burnt my thumb on a hot stove. Guess that was my trip of injuries.
 
02/25/2021 11:37AM  
My first trip was my worst by far. So bad that one guy never went back and the others were surprised that I, as the only other first timer, wanted to go again. It was a 2 night trip from Sawbill, and we stayed on Phoebe. The first day was awesome, even though the portages were rough and I was getting tired from paddling. It started raining that night though and didn't stop until we got to Alton on our way in.

I was the only one in the group with actual rain gear, the rest had ponchos. I had to convince my buddy, who had only ever gone with his family before, that the 99 cent trash bag poncho was a bad idea. The other 2 weren't there for that conversation only had those ponchos, my buddy bought a slightly better poncho. In the weather though, the ponchos were next to useless and the cheap ones tore without even snagging.

None of us had anything to wear except cotton and maybe a fleece jacket or two. The guy that never came back had a sweatshirt that got soaked on the bottom of the canoe on the first day and it never dried out. In the end he resorted to wearing it over the poncho to hold the poncho together.

On the way out, we had the light canoe, 65lbs, and it wasn't too bad. On the way back though we switched and we had the 95lbs canoe. It was also storming from halfway to the first portage until we reached Alton. The wind was against us the whole way, I thought we were going to capsize multiple times, and we even had to seek shelter at a portage for about an hour to wait out the peak of the storm. No one was willing to carry an aluminum canoe with all the lightning. Phoebe to Sawbill during a storm remains the worst travel day I've ever had, even 8 years later.

Let's just say that because of this trip, an extra day is always factored in at the end of the trip so we don't have to push through rough weather to get home on time and go to work.
 
tumblehome
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02/25/2021 11:49AM  
Wow, There are some real bad stories!

And yet, we yearn to go back.

Tom
 
02/25/2021 11:50AM  
A fishing lure hook got imbedded in the thumb webbing of my son on Rebecca Lake in the Q when the other son walked past and the line caught in his shoe and the pull resulted in the accident. A quarter of mile and the hook was cut and out came the hook from each side by pulling on the ends of same. A little hydrogen peroxide and much real and perceived pain expressed by the patient and things settled down.
 
02/25/2021 11:50AM  
Years ago, before Internet, we decided to do a day trip on the kettle river. It’s an easy drive from the cities and we had paddled most sections of it. It was a beautiful day in Minneapolis and the spring thaw was on. We arrived at the section below 48, the weather was nasty in hinkley, just above freezing. It was one of those brutal late seventies winters, 30 felt like summer. The deep snowpack from the winter was rapidly melting. As we put in we weren’t aware how high the river was. The section above where the river meets the st croix is usually class 1 riffles, on this day it was miles of 6 foot rollers, in our big aluminum canoes I thought this was a riot. My wife and friends thought differently. There was panic in my crew. A swamping would be a disaster, walking out in the two feet of snow wasn’t an option. We were fine. After that trip I got more choosy in who I invited on trips. My wife was fine with that.
 
Speckled
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02/25/2021 01:58PM  
Some years back, first weekend of October trip up to Winchell for 4 days. We put in at Brule and about the time we got to our intended camp at Winchell, the wind picked up...to the point where we thought there was a tornado or something...you get the point, super windy. I had a fairly uncomfortable nights sleep listening to the wind and the trees creaking all night. The next day, along with the wind, came the rain. It was so windy, that you couldn't even fish from shore. Trying to cast was impossible. Going out in the boat would have been immediate swamping. That rain would occasionally turn to snow or sleet.

That weather stayed the same for the entire trip, rain and wind like i've never experienced before in the BW. The day of our planned departure was the same thing...we sat there looking at the huge rollers and white caps off the top of the rollers and just thought...there's now way we can go out there in the canoe...not this time of year.

That evening, just as the sun was setting the wind let up...we looked at each other and said, this is our window, lets go. We packed as quickly as possible and shoved off. Somewhere between Winchell and Brule we found ourselves in complete darkness...no moon, just black. We hit Brule and breifly debated setting up camp at the site near that last portage, but decided to go for it. We've been on the winchell to brule trip numerous times and felt we knew our way pretty well, at this point hadn't looked at the map yet. Half way across Brule, we get into a disagreement on our exact location...where's the map, ya at the bottom of the pack. I'm in the stern, so we're going the direction I think is correct. We paddle into the bay where the landing/EP should be and we can't find it. Bow paddler is convinced it's further into the bay. I'm not paddling further into the bay, because from what I remember, there were a bunch of deadheads at the end of some of these bays. I don't want to hit one and swamp in the pitch black october water. I'm convinced we're in one of the bays just to the east of the EP. At this point, we can't come to an agreement on what to do and are just floating in the bay. We decided to go to shore, set up a makeshift camp as best we can and figure it out in the morning, we turn the canoe and take two strokes towards shore and like it just appeared, we see the landing. We were floating 20 yards off the landing and it was so dark we couldn't see it.

 
PineKnot
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02/25/2021 05:02PM  
I have had 2 days that were my worst ever in canoe country over 40+ years of trips. One was with my 6-yr-old son on the numbered chain in the mid-1996. The other was worse--a day on a solo trip in 2011 in Quetico. It was during a 17-day loop from PP to Yum Yum, Kahs/Sark/Cairn, Baird, Camel, Delahey (Death March), Suzanette, Burt, back to PP.

Imagine a portage in 90 degree, humid, windless conditions that lasted 6 hours. It's called the Death March for good reason. It almost killed me. In retrospect, I was quite lucky. I finally reached Suzanette and spent a very long night of headaches and restless sleep. A veteran paddler once asked me after reading my story, "Why do you do it?" I had no good answer.

My trip report summary from that day read, "Today was a bitch. Hardest damn day I've ever had canoeing. Easily. I'm 2/3 thirds of the way done with this tough physical trip...not sure I'm enjoying it that much. I'm very achy, shoulders and back. Not sure I'll ever do that Death March again without the boys or a partner."

This part of the report is here if you want to read it:

Death March Recap


I've told my kids the only way I'd even consider tackling this portage again is if they came with me....so far they haven't accepted my offer, even when I tell them the chances are low they'd face those humid conditions of 2011.....go figure....
 
02/25/2021 06:36PM  
Kudos, OP. Fun topic & lots of good stories so far!

No torrential rains or incredible wind battles, but here's two that sucked:

One: WCPP, some years ago. Group of 4 had a long travel day to get to the destination lake for a float plane pickup. Got going early and by mid-afternoon we felt really good about our progress - just one little stream and a couple short portages left. The stream was marked 'seasonally' shallow on the map. It meandered heavily, doubling the effective distance.

That traumatic, mostly water-free 2+km took many hours in the blazing August heat. Mud, sweat, rocks, pullovers, more sweat, much cursing...very little time in the canoe...more like taking it for a long drag. For the last few hundred yards the "creek" was seriously one foot wide and 3 inches deep.

My teenaged son dubbed this mud road "Shit Creek", and the name is still whispered with reverence and fear (mostly fear, and possibly some PTSD) amongst the group.


Two: BWCA last year. Took the Angleworm challenge, solo. 2+ miles in, single portaging. Had a series of wild and incredulous encounters with a crazy-lost soloist (I nicknamed him Charlie) over a two-day span. (Details in a trip report - worth the read, title = DeWormed.) Charlie just kept turning up like a bad penny.

But on my second day I got a cell signal, connected to the real world, and had to immediately head out. Covid was shutting down campus, and our son needed a pickup from out east. Crushingly disappointing - and sucky - on multiple fronts.

It was a memorable 47 hour trip, between Covid and Charlie on the MTA...and the Very Bad Ratio: Eight Miles of single-portaging to only Seven miles of paddling. Ugh.
 
Duff
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02/25/2021 09:39PM  
Brutal cold on a winter trip sucks..........but you are usually prepared for that.
Even in March. But other nasty things happen in March.

On the last day of a winter trip it started to rain late afternoon. 6 of us did not fully fit under the tarp, so we all turned in quite early, each in our own cold tents.
At least it was comfortable in there. Listened to the rain get fainter and fainter as the night wore on. When I awoke the next morning it was still raining, but I could barely hear it........something was odd about it, so I touched the wall of my tent and smiled, knocked on it and then laughed.
"Duff, what are laughing about?"
Touch the ceiling of your tent, I said.
"OMG IS THAT ICE!?!"

Taking down camp was a big challenge with everything and I mean everything covered in ice. But the trek out down the lake was the easiest trip out, with a tailwind, my toboggan got turned sideways and actually overtook me a couple times and almost took me out with the caboose sled.

I was worried all morning how the drive home was going to be, but it wasn't too bad, just had to take it slow. And the road was fine by the time we reached the North Shore, the trees on the other hand.......




 
bpaddle
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02/25/2021 10:11PM  
I would say the worst for me was a solo out of Moose River North in May. I knew from the forecast that it would get nasty later that first day, but I thought I could beat the worst of it....bad idea. I started the initial portage with rain and temps in the mid 40's. That would be the high for the day. I have been on enough trips in cold conditions to know you need to balance clothing and effort and temperature, but despite this I was pretty soaked with sweat by the time I got paddling. Oh, and did I mention I took this trip knowing I had a back issue but thought I would be fine? Bad idea #2. With the rain, falling temperatures, growing wind and a mishap of going over a boot at a portage, it was getting more miserable by the mile. Oh, did I mention the back not only didn't get better, but got worse with each portage? By the time I was on Nina Moose the wind had completed it shift to the north early (of course), and the rain started to seem a bit more solid as it hit my face. Then, in the middle of the lake, I experienced something I never had before, a cramp in an arm. What the heck???? As I was nearing Agnes, because of my back not feeling too good, I thought I would eliminate the longer portage from Agnes to the Oyster River and take the river directly. I luckily found the entrance to Oyster River easily enough, but the wind was now a headwind and going upstream on a narrow winding river means you are paddling a bit harder than on a lake, so that added to the feeling of rotteness (is that a word??). Oh, and during this time the sleet changed to snow. So I made it to the portage into Oyster Lake, but it was around 1:00 or so, and since I hadn't really eaten anything all morning I thought I should have something to eat. I am diabetic so I need to keep vigilant about that. So I had a quick lunch at the portage. Well, up until that time I had been moving all day so I wasn't really cold. That all changed pretty quick. I started to get chilled, and my hands were freezing when I started the portage. I wanted to go further, but I decided I needed to stop on Oyster. When I got there, the wind was howling and the snow was almost blowing horizontally. The campsite closest to the portage didn't look too good as the wind was blowing right into it. Luckily the nice site on the peninsula (the one you can access from both sides) was open so I gladly took it. I got things set up in the wind and snow, and got in the tent, changed into dry clothes (by that time I was soaked on the inside and out), and got into the sleeping bag shivering. I laid there for a while getting warmed up before venturing out to get dinner.

That was one of the more miserable travel days I can recall, but now I look back and think that I got through a lousy day and some other things shouldn't seem so bad. And I also think, "You idiot, why didn't you just stop on Nina Moose?".
 
mgraber
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02/25/2021 10:48PM  
There are so many! Don't know that I could choose just one, and as bad as they were, I cherish the memories of them all. Hmm, I guess the one that sticks out in my mind the most is a 7 day trip with 5 1/2 days of solid rain, highs of 40-50 and plenty of wind, everything soaked, everyone cold, fish wouldn't bite, fires were very difficult to build, everything and everyone moldy, stinky, and wet. It truly sucked and we were glad it was over, but still talk about it and did find some fun and humor amidst all the suffering,lol.
 
Chuckles
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02/25/2021 11:51PM  
Haven't been on enough BWCA trips to experience the true suck, but on our first one (first weekend in October) it was windy and rainy the whole trip Fishing sucked. Canoeing in waves sucked. Upon out return, outfitter looked at us expecting doom and gloom and we told him we loved it.

Worst trip was a winter trip in the Adirondacks my freshman year in HS. It was terrible and affirming at the same time an definitely a coming of age moment for me.

I used to trip with a buddy, his Dad and friends and we always brought too much stuff. This year he'd built a giant pulk we dubbed 'the sledge'. Huge plywood box screwed to xc skis, it held approximately 1 million pounds of gear. Trail was hilly, poorly maintained and had literally hundreds of trees down across it. Each one was perfectly situated at the bottom of a slight hill. So you'd have to get over the tree (in your own XC skis) before the sledge crushed your ankles. Then the sledge would get the tips of the skis wedged under the tree. You'd have to pick yourself up (from diving over the tree to save your life), back the sledge up, lift the sledge (including 1 million lbs of gear) over the log, guide it back onto the level and the drag that son of a bitch up the other side of the valley.

I ended up ditching my xc skis and putting on my pac boots. I was the worst skier and the most willing to fight the sledge. Some pure skiers from different groups were really angry my boots were destroying their trails. They chirped at me and in a first for me, I chirped right back like an equal. They complained to a ranger who happened to be on the trail that day. He chided me and we had perhaps an hour long conversation as I struggled along where I advocated that these were multi-use trials and not dedicated skiing trails. After an hour of impassioned oration (fueled by my frustration) he eventually conceded that I had every right to pac boot the hell out of these trails. It was very affirming to have essentially defeated an adult in a position of authority into submission.

We had woken at about 5 am and driven up. Hit the trail around 10 or 11 am. By about 7:30 pm it was just getting dark and we were almost at the end of the forest and had only the lake to cross. Everyone was spent after 9:30 hr of exhausting travel. We were still navigating downed logs and in the dark it was nearly impossible as you needed two hands to work the two ropes of the sledge to get it over the logs without flipping.

I think this was 1989 and it was my first trip with a headlamp. No one on the trip had ever seen one. It literally saved the trip as you could navigate the logs with two hands free. Without it, I think we might have laid down and given up and been found in the spring. I've never taken a trip without a headlamp since.

Even with this, we hit the lake with about a mile to go somewhere around 10pm and everyone was smoked. Even with the smoother surface, the sledge was a bear and even those pulling regular sleds were spent. I remember taking 100 steps and resting. I think we rolled into camp around 11:30 or midnight. We skipped tents and fires and even supper and just laid in our sleeping bags in the lean-to. I got into that bag in sweat soaked clothes, too tired to change.

I was having leg cramps that hurt like hell, but remember giggling about the craziness of them. If I bent my leg, my quad spasmed and if I straightened it my hamstring spasmed. So I was constantly moving both legs, going from spasm to spasm. I've been in a lot of situations where I pushed my body too far. Many years of military training and some tough days in Afghanistan, but I've never pushed as hard as that day.

The rest of the trip went fine. I assume we took a different trail out, but honestly don't remember.

And to the 'embracing the suck' theme. There were two good points. Firstly, despite the suck, we were all in pretty good spirits. I woke everyone up bitching about my leg cramps and we shared a laugh at my dance. We laughed about the epic failure that was 'The Sledge'.

There was also a previous 'hell' trip that happened before I was invited. I'd grown tired of hearing of the 'Puffer Pond' trip that was terrible. Everything was compared to the trip that I wasn't on. We went on a trip earlier with highs at -15 F (which is cold for anywhere, but insane for 3 days in NY) and they all said, "Well it least it wasn't as bad as Puffer Pond". So I took great solace in the fact that FINALLY there was a trip worse than Puffer Pond and I was a veteran.
 
02/26/2021 01:43AM  
July 4th, 1999.


In 50 years, there have been a handful of pretty shitty trips. But they make great stories later. The blowdown is probably the most eventful, but it was really just half a day of suck, trying to get our gear semi-packed up so we could go home.

My dad used to take us up there for 18 day trips every year, and one year, it rained 16 of the 18 days. Most of those days, it poured all day. Not what you would expect in August. It was pretty miserable.

I recall one year, we were supposed to go in August, but a fire in the sag corridor pushed us back to Sept 7th ish. The first couple days were 70 degrees, but there was one of those all night electrical storms that wouldn't move. Lightning strikes for hours. It was terrifying. Then the weather changed, and it dropped into the 30's the next day, for highs. If memory serves the low was in the high 20's. It was really cold, and windy. We were miserable. We got really lucky though. We were going to base camp in Zephyr, but someone was already in there, so we camped in 3rd bay. The next morning after all that lightning, we thought we better go check on the Zephyr campers, because there were some really big pines in that campsite. As it turns out, they were coming out, when we got to the portage. There was a huge limb that fell across their tent, but missed them. it ruined their tent, so they had to head out. We have camped at Z so many times, we wanted to go look, and as it turns out, the way we normally position our tent, that limb would have caught us in the head/chest if we had been camping there. I think God may have been looking out for us.

My wife and i had a bear take our pack back in like 1987, but I don't think that one even ranks in the worst 5 for us.

For a while there, I was on a streak of something bad happening almost every year.

1985 ish. We had mounted canoes on top of a trailer, and the aluminum rack broke free. Both canoes went flipping down the gunflint trail, about 10 miles from the end.

1987. Bear took our pack.

1988. I borrowed my brothers car, went on a solo trip to the boundary waters, but fell asleep at the wheel near beaver bay. Started into the ditch on the right, swerved up out of the ditch, and smoked the rock wall on the opposite side of the road, spun the car completely around, and smoked the other side too. I had a hand made kayak, that snapped in half. The rear axle came off the car. I was fine, but all of my gear was toast. Called my dad to see if he wanted to go fishing. With no notice, he left work, packed up, and headed north to pick me up in Silver Bay. One of the better fishing trips I've had. There's ton more to that story, but another day.

1992 I borrowed my friends vehicle. The wheel bearings fried, the spindle burned up and the wheel laid down about 3 miles from Seagull. There's a cool story that goes with that one too. I just tell it quick. So I was split up from my wife at the time. She had the car. I was living with my buddy, and needed a break, so I went on a solo to the BWCA. When his tire laid down, I wasn't sure what to do. I called a tow truck, and they came and got the car. I said I was going fishing, and would catch a ride to their service station when I got back. Well, they charged like $40 dollars for the tow, and a buck a mile. Well it was 57 miles up, and 57 miles back. Add in a tire, spindle, and wheel bearings, and it was a $407 bill. I didn't have $407. I don't think I had $50. I wrote them a check, but wasn't sure how I was going to cover it. At the time, I had just gotten a job as a black jack dealer at Treasure Island. The first day back from the BWCA I was working the graveyard shift. Towards the end of my shift, on break, I went thru the buffet. When I looked down, there was some money on the floor, folded over. I could see a $10, but there was more than one bill. We're not supposed to have money on us. Just enough for a meal. We have to sew our pockets shut, so we can't steal chips. We can put a little money behind our badge, but that's it. So I took the folded up money, and stuck it behind my badge. There's only one place that isn't on camera. The bathroom stalls. So I went to the bathroom to see how much money it was. When I peeled it back, there were four $100 bills, and one $10 bill. $410. Just happened to be enough to cover the $407. The day after I wrote that check. Coincidence?

1993 We went to the boundary waters for our honeymoon, with my sister and her boyfriend Jay. Jay capsized his canoe going for water. My sister lost her fishing rod in the lake.

1999 we had the blow down.

About 10 years ago, we borrowed my brother in laws Durango. It overheated and we lost the engine about 1/3rd of the way up the trail. 0-3 borrowing someone's vehicle for the bwca. i think I'm done borrowing vehicles. My other brother actually came to the rescue. There were 6 of us. We were heading north on 35, near North Branch, when another passing vehicle waved us over. We were hot, and steaming, and didn't know it. We pulled into the way side rest, and could see we had blown the radiator hose. That durango had this goofy deal, where the radiator cap, is actually built into the top hose. Where it "T"s, the fitting had a cut in the hose, and leaking antifreeze. We duct taped it, as well as possible, and limped up to Pine City. There we used some creative mcGivering to fix it with hose clamps. We called the dodge dealership in Duluth, but they didn't have the part in stock, and we stopped leaking, so we just drove on up to Grand Marais. It didn't get hot anymore, and I forgot all about it. If I had topped off the Antifreeze we might have been ok. But completely forgot about it in the morning. Well, as you know, the Gunflint, is all up hill for the first 15 minutes or so, and with 6 people, a trailer, 3 canoes, and all our gear, it was a bit too much for the durango. It suddenly started overheating, but we were on near the crest of a hill, with no shoulder, and no passing lane. It would have been a really dangerous spot to pull over, so I tried to limp over the top. With an aluminum block, that was a bad idea. She started knocking before i could get to the top. We limped back to GM, and had no idea what we were going to do. I walked to a dealership to see if we could rent an van with a hitch, but he didn't have anything. Then I considered buying their Grand Caravan, but he wouldn't come off his number (he could see he had me by the balls), and i didn't want to pay 4k over blue book. So we couldn't agree on anything. Now what? So i called my Brother. He lives in Woodbury (Twin Cities suburb). He rented a trailer, put his wife's blazer on it, and hauled it up to GM on the spot. Traded with me, and drove back. This man drives over the road for UPS, and had just gotten back from a week long trip, and turns right around and puts in an 11 hour day for me. Incredible. We headed up the trail at 530 pm. Put in on Sag about 7 or 730. It was dark by the time we got to 2nd bay. We were heading back to Zephyr, and were absolutlely screwed if it was full. We could see 3rd back campsite was taken. So there we are, portaging into Zephyr at midnight... and God came to the rescue again. We get to the portage, and there is yellow tape across the portage? it's June 2nd, and the portage is closed, due to the pagami creek fire (I think that was the fire, from the year before). I don't know if that's the correct fire. Its the one that burned right up to the edge of Zephyr, and took out red rock, and alpine etc. I think they used Zephyr for a firefighters campsite, and helipad. Either way, they forgot to take down the yellow tape. So it was like God reserved a campsite for us. We had a full moon, there was not the usual chill that normally comes at night, and there were NO mosquitos!! It turned out to be an incredible night. We were really really lucky (not to mention stupid). We set up camp between midnight and 1:30 and was eating steak dinner, by moonlight, at 2 am. Lol. June 2nd was my daughter's birthday. She spent the day, with a pissed off father. I was at a complete loss with the engine failure, and didn't know how to save the situation. The last time my daughter came to the boundary waters was July 4th, 1999, so you can imagine what she was thinking about BWCA trips. But my brother, and God came to the rescue. I'm forever grateful to both.

There's more, but it's 230 am. I'm tired of writing, and you're tired of reading. Love ya.
 
missmolly
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02/26/2021 07:37AM  
Like Analyzer, I've experienced considerable suck, most of it coming from my dad, who doesn't believe in research and planning. So, we'd go into the northwoods with crappy gear and find ourselves in over our heads, one time literally:

We hooked and landed our first big pike and sunk the boat, which was overloaded with nearly no freeboard because we didn't bring enough boats for our crew.
 
RatherbeDuffing
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02/26/2021 08:05AM  
Went on a trip with my 3 buddies when I was 25. We camped at a site on basswood and as the day went on I started feeling like shit. Figured it was just from dehydration so drank plenty of water and followed that up with a (very) generous amount of whiskey later that night. Woke up the next morning with the worst hangover of my life. Problem is it didn't get better, it got worse. Spent two straight nights without sleep shivering uncontrollably. By the last day, just standing up was a chore, I could barely move. Somehow I carried an aluminum canoe on 4 of the portages out. I distinctly remember my friend looking at me after a portage asking me if I was alright because I looked absolutely terrible.

Got back home and I kept getting worse. Woke up 2 mornings later and my fever had reached 104.2 and finally decided to go to the ER. They initially thought I had meningitis so I got a spinal tap and put me into a quarantined room for 3 days. After a couple of days of antibiotics, I started feeling better and they let me go. Test results were all inconclusive, still don't know what happened. Figure it was a tick thing, but never got a bite mark and lymes disease test came back negative.
 
02/26/2021 10:09AM  
Had similar bouts of fever after a trip (sans the whiskey, but plenty of ticks taken off). Also had a negative Lyme test, but the doctor put me on a dose of Doxy anyhow. He said the Lyme disease test not entirely reliable.... Anyhow, no more bouts of fever, since.
 
RatherbeDuffing
member (25)member
 
02/26/2021 10:17AM  
rtallent: "Had similar bouts of fever after a trip (sans the whiskey, but plenty of ticks taken off). Also had a negative Lyme test, but the doctor put me on a dose of Doxy anyhow. He said the Lyme disease test not entirely reliable.... Anyhow, no more bouts of fever, since."

Interesting. My inital Lyme disease test came back as positive but they sent my bloodwork to the U for confirmation and it came back negative. Did you get a stiff neck? By the time I went to hospital I couldn't turn my head at all (another reason they thought I had meningitis)
 
trstuck
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02/26/2021 11:59AM  
analyzer: "July 4th, 1999.



In 50 years, there have been a handful of pretty shitty trips. But they make great stories later. The blowdown is probably the most eventful, but it was really just half a day of suck, trying to get our gear semi-packed up so we could go home.
...


I was wondering when someone would post about the July 4th blowdown. I was in and out a week before and thankful for that!
Good stories!
 
scat
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02/27/2021 03:17AM  
Funny thing is the suckiest is the most memorable.
Embrace your sucky memories, and make many more. If there isn’t a little suck in your life you’re not trying hard enough.
Cheers, scat
 
02/27/2021 10:47AM  
RatherbeDuffing: "rtallent: "Had similar bouts of fever after a trip (sans the whiskey, but plenty of ticks taken off). Also had a negative Lyme test, but the doctor put me on a dose of Doxy anyhow. He said the Lyme disease test not entirely reliable.... Anyhow, no more bouts of fever, since."


Interesting. My inital Lyme disease test came back as positive but they sent my bloodwork to the U for confirmation and it came back negative. Did you get a stiff neck? By the time I went to hospital I couldn't turn my head at all (another reason they thought I had meningitis) "


No stiff neck that I recall... and fever was not that high.
 
02/27/2021 12:26PM  
So one year, by brother in law, wasn't certain which week he could go, so we reserved a friday thru tuesday, and then next Friday thru tuesday. When the time came for the first trip, he couldn't go, so just my son and I went. We headed to Zephyr to base camp. It was mid july, and Sag was empty. I think we saw one group of campers from trails end, to Zephyr. We had 5 straight days of perfect weather, and great fishing.

So now we're exiting on Tuesday, and we are coming right back to Zephyr on Friday. I can tell you it was VERY tempting to just leave our tent set up. But highly unethical, so we didn't. There's also logistical issues with doing something stupid like that. What if you can't make it back 3 days later, and now you're in St. Paul, and your gear is in Zephyr. We didn't really seriously consider it; it was just one of those moments where you think "ya, know, it would be really cool, if we could just leave our stuff here".

So anyway, we come back on Friday, and it's a disaster right from the get go. We had to fight very heavy wind to cross Sag. We almost turned back. We use alumacraft aircraft carriers, with 5 horse motors on the back to get to American Point, then hide them in the woods, and paddle the rest of the way. It normally takes about 45 minutes to paddle from American Point to First Bay, but in this case it took us about 3 hours, with a stiff wind, and rollers right in our face. It doesn't help that we pack heavy, and are low in the water. Feels like I'm paddling a dang barge.

While the previous trip, everything was empty and available, not this one. I think softball and baseball must have ended, and it was the family onslaught. Every campsite was full from Englishman's Island to 3rd bay. We were exhausted paddling across that stretch of wind blown sag, and now made our way through 1st, 2nd and 3rd bay. All full. We portaged into Zephyr, that was full too. Over the years, I've learned that if Sag is windy and treacherous, all those campsites in 1st, 2nd, 3rd bay, and Zephyr will all back fill quickly. People who are heading out, don't want to cross in those big white caps, so they back fill the campsites.

So now what? Having gotten up at 1:30 am in St. Paul, and only getting an hour and half of sleep the night before, we were all exhausted. We were facing an ugly decision. We are geared for base camping, and have 95 lb canoes, and we either have to portage across Monument portage, or paddle back at least to Munkers Narrows. All the campsites are full, but one of us mentioned they thought the westerly campsite in 1st bay may have been packing out. So we paddled back.

That group had left, but another took their place. We kinda slumped our shoulders and debated what course of action to take. No one wanted to paddle back across Sag, and even if we portaged into Ottertrack, it's a long way, against the wind, to the first campsite west of there. As we sat and contemplated our bad luck, my son goes "see we should have left the tents set up in Zephyr". He was half kidding. So weird that a few days earlier, everything was empty and available, and now everything was full.

No one noticed the dark black, low hanging clouds rolling in.

We were kind of out in the middle of 1st bay, the wind had lightened up a little, but now it came on fierce. The type no one dares paddle in. The type you struggle to move if you're going against wind. We got caught without our rain gear on, and barely made it to that big island, before the deluge came. And it came hard. We had no chance to dig out any protection. We just landed the canoes, and made our way up the hill, to stand by a very big rock. There the 4 of us stood next to the rock, kind of out of the wind but definitely not out of the rain. It came down really hard for about 15 minutes. I think the canoes had a few inches of water in them. It rained so hard, the dollar bills in my wallet were soaked.

As we stood next to the rock, no one said a word. We were just standing there in the miserable SUCK! First day of the trip, no sign of let up of the rain, no camp options, we're soaking through, it's maybe 55 degrees, we're cold, wet, and shivering, and really have no idea what were going to do. As we stood there saying nothing, thinking about how miserable we were, suddenly my nephew Cory blurts out...

"It's reached my balls".

That broke the mood. Everyone knew exactly what he meant, as that trickle of water that was running down our backs, etc, had made it's way to the neatherlands, and we were all in the same pickle. We just lost it. Everyone was laughing their ass off.

The rain eventually let up a little, but not the wind. We didn't really want to, but we felt the safest option was to take a canadian campsite (I know, but what are you going to do). It never quit raining that night. We had to set up in the rain. But we will forever have that moment to look back on.

Now every time we pass that island, one of us will invariably yell out, "It's reached my balls"... and we all get a good chuckle.

 
02/27/2021 12:26PM  
rtallent: "Had similar bouts of fever after a trip (sans the whiskey, but plenty of ticks taken off). Also had a negative Lyme test, but the doctor put me on a dose of Doxy anyhow. He said the Lyme disease test not entirely reliable.... Anyhow, no more bouts of fever, since."

I am so glad my primary care doctor (he is also an infectious disease specialist) knowing I spent a lot of time in the western UP of Michigan suggested I consider getting the Limerix vaccine back when it was still available. Despite picking up ticks on trips and at the local nature center I have never had any problems unlike others I know.
 
pastorjsackett
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02/28/2021 06:07AM  
On our first-ever trip when my son was 13, I was cooking us some food on a rented stove. Small one. We had no gear of our own at that time to speak of--everything was either rented or borrowed. I could not get the stove going so I assumed it must be empty. I opened it up to take a look but there was a small, unseen flame burning on the stove so when that flame touched the open reservoir of gas, a ball of flame blew out of that tank, up my arm and into my face. My arm was discolored for the rest of the trip and one eyebrow went missing. That's a good look, let me tell you! Mrs. Pastorjsackett could not wait to marry me all over again.
 
afromaniac
member (39)member
 
02/28/2021 11:41AM  
Last October coming off of winchell on the way out toward poplar we got treated to a nice, cold soaker of a day. Thankfully the wind was at our backs...for most of the time. I second guessed myself and missed the portage out to the east. Turning the canoes into the wind was no fun for either canoe party. Then to top it off, I got one of those cloth maps for this trip. Seems great! But instead of a good waxy paper map I had a essentially wet towel to carry around. Couldn’t put it in my pocket because my rain coat pockets were open mesh to my shirt. So I did the best I could on the portage, hung it around my neck, and moved fast on portages. Toward the end of the day, as we got close to our destination on caribou, I asked the guys if we could just bag it out and paddle all the way to where our van was parked at rockwood. They talked me down, but as we stood there and talked, I realized I was soaked through and only getting colder. I winter camp too so I’m very much aware of the signs of hypothermia and here I was, in 40 degree weather, soaked to the bone. ****

We compromised- no lunch and chat at the portage, and a serious beat to caribou. We got to caribou and as soon as we got there the sun came out. Great! I changed my clothes and dried stuff out on the rocks. The site that is due north of the portage into caribou has a rock peninsula that we all sprawled out on. It was here that I stretched out my sleeping bag in the sunlight. The breeze and sun were doing their job....until the breeze picked up my bag and tossed it into the lake! Spent the evening drying it over the fire!

Importantly, I was able to pull myself together and sleep dry and warm with my buds, It is these moments where you find yourself and learn your limits. This is why I do it - the self discovery is just so valuable. Also, put some damn rocks on your bag if you’re going to dry it out by the water.

**** it was only later that I realized that the cold, wet map was draped around my neck - both exacerbating the drift to hypothermia and exaggerating my cooling experience.
 
straighthairedcurly
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02/28/2021 08:52PM  
Love reading all the stories. I've had problems that might be considered the opposite of rain...forest fires.

1981 Wabakimi - We came around the bend of a large lake and the whole shoreline was on fire for as far as we could see. We turned the canoes around and headed for one of our emergency exit points. A float plane landed nearby to ask if we had seen another group of paddlers they were trying to find in order to evacuate. We exited the area safely, but now were faced with 6 days of waiting for our trip to be done with nowhere to paddle.

We had the brilliant idea of leaving our canoes at a nearby resort and going on a hiking trip with our Duluth packs down some old fire roads on our map. We hiked for hours in the summer heat, down some abandoned roads to what looked like a lake on our map. It was more of a swamp than a lake. Getting water involved swimming/wading through muck out to a small area that was reasonable water. We didn't carry any type of filter or water treatment in those days so we just hoped for the best as we slugged the foul tasting stuff. The bugs were INSANE back there, of course. We didn't dare ever take off our head nets, even to eat. We just carefully slid our spoons up and under. We retreated to our tents as soon as we were nourished and high tailed it out of there the next morning. Lesson learned.

1989 Northern Manitoba Three days into a 34 day trip we were told the area had been evacuated due to forest fires. We spent 3 days struggling to get a ride out of the evacuation area and then 5 days trying to fly farther north only to be turned back by thick smoke. Finally left Manitoba and went to Ontario to continue our trip, but had more crazy disasters just trying to get there. At least once we were back on the water it was event free. The stressful 10 days of trying to get back on trail caused me to lose 10+ pounds from not being able to eat...never in my life had I ever been so stressed out that I couldn't eat.
 
WhiteWolf
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03/01/2021 04:22AM  
Embracing the suck?
The joy of tripping with BeaV when a challenge is in order.
I-Falls to Superior in 94 or soo hours with a crew of 8. Some of the 8 pure rookies in BW style travel. More an addiction, than a suck when it's all said and done. Kruger Challenge 2021 looks to really embrace the suck without BeaV leading our team!! Go Team BeaVless!!!
 
Canoearoo
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03/01/2021 10:25AM  
I guess my worst trip is different than others. Weather, sickness, injury, nothing like that happened. We went in on a Thursday at 8 am and every campsite was full. We paddled all day and every sight was full. We asked people coming from the north and they reported the same thing. At 4pm we decided to turn around and head back out. When we were out we found several groups that had had the same problem. We ended up camping in the national forest campground and doing day trips. So the worst trip was the trip were we couldn't camp inside the BWCA.
 
03/01/2021 11:53AM  
Good topic and lot's of learnings from others here. What comes to mind is my first trip with no "real" adults with us. Just after graduating high school, three of my buddies and I did a 6 day trip to Ogish. We had 15 minutes where we could see clear sky the whole time time out. Day after day of rain, hail, storms and no fish caused us to stay up the whole last night of the trip and pack our soaked tent, soaked sleeping bags, and soaked clothes while finishing up what remained of our booze and bud (weren't we smart?!). At dawn, we set out for the entry point and in our impaired state, we didn't consider that after nearly a week of rain, the rivers that we lined our canoes up on the way in, had risen considerably. Our canoe overturned on some rocks on the first river and I snapped 80% of my paddle blade off. We recovered the gear but we and the gear were soaked and heavy. We quickly fatigued and had to push through on the trip out. I paddled 3 times faster, in an attempt to help my canoe partner but it was a phenominal slog, only to arrive back at the truck with a flat tire. Luckily, we had a can of fix-a-flat and were able to get to a gas station. We made it back to my friend's cabin in tofte and slept for 14 hours before making the final trip home.

We were very lucky we weren't hurt or worse on those rivers. Many MANY lessons learned that trip.
 
johno
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03/01/2021 02:38PM  
Luckily these 2 friends are good friends and have forgiven me, but I doubt they'll ever join me on another trip.

WTIP Podcast 38
 
merlyn
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03/01/2021 03:20PM  
The worst or best trip for me was in 1964, our first wilderness trip. The plan was to drive from the Chicago area in our Corvair ( I was the one stuck in the "back seat") to Way of the Wilderness outfitters pick up our fully outfitted gear and head out to catch countless fish and toast marsh mellows over a perfect camp fire before retiring to our warm sleeping bags for a great nights sleep.
Things did not go according to plan.
#1 a Corvair has no back seat only a torture chamber disguised as a back seat.
#2 My brother and I were clothed in white jeans, madras shirts, and low canvas sneakers with cotton sox ala Beach Boys. It was black fly season.
#3 Remember those orange cans of Off? You know the one flies and mosquitoes use to flavor their food. We had one for three people for 6 days.
#4 None of us had ever paddled a canoe before, we sashayed our way out into a brisk 20+ mile an hour head wind. Oh yeah, it was raining, a lot. Our ponchos flapping in the wind we paddled appox. 8 miles in the first 300 yards.
#5 We misjudged the distance we traveled and somewhere on Saganaga lake we turned up a dead end bay, we could see a campsite but the wind ( no longer brisk but typhoon level) was broadside to us. We tried three times to get to the campsite but the waves just spun us around. This would be a good time to mention none of us had a PFD only a gizmo clipped to our belt that inflated to about basketball size when emerged for a few seconds.
#6 We set up camp on a large rock about 15 feet above the water (the only semi level spot we could get to) The three man (HA!) canvas tent was staked-tied down with with rocks and we had a tiny area to make a fire the only way we had to cook. It wasn't really a fire more of a smoky smudge but allowed us to heat to luke warm canned beef stew and make a pot of cowboy coffee (a first for me)
#7 It rained all night, the tent leaked, Dad's sleeping pad went flat, it got down to 26 degrees and the rain changed over to sleet. End of day one.

I loved every second of it!! We had 5 more days of large and small disasters but it was the single most memorable time of my life. I can't thing of a reason to not hate camping after that first trip but somehow it instilled love of the outdoors in me to this day. 77 days till my next trip to the BWCA.


PS: we weren't stupid back then but looking back we were real damn lucky that our ignorance didn't bite us on the butt.
 
03/01/2021 06:48PM  
I recall one trip, late 80's, I went to the BWCA with my brother n law Marty, and his friend Dave. We took Marty's mom's (yeah, that's my mother law), station wagon north from the twin cities about 230 am, headed for Grand Marais, and the end of the gunflint trail. We passed this car on the side of the road, somewhere near Cloquet. There was a man slumped over the steering wheel. We thought we better pull over and check on him. He had a little too much to drink, but was otherwise fine. As we walked back to the station wagon, much like that scene in planes, tranes, and automobiles, the underside of the station wagon, burst into flames. We had about a 40 yard walk back to the car, and were far enough back, that we could see the flames, under the car.

We quickly grabbed one of those little army shovels, and shoveled dirt on the fire to put it out. Turns out the rear seal on the engine was leaking oil on the Catalytic Converter, and when we stopped to check on the man, the heat from the CC started the oil on fire. I think we would have been ok to continue on, but Marty insisted we drive back to the cities. It wasn't our car, and he didn't want to be responsible for it if it burned to the ground. None of us had slept, and we turned around and drove the 2 hours back to town.

So now what? There we stand in Marty's mother's driveway, looking at our options. There really was only one:



Marty's little Chevy Chevette. We all kinda looked at each other, looked at all of our gear, looked at the two giant aluminum canoes, and said, "we can make it work"... lol.

We put a couple two by fours across the roof, and stuck both canoes up there. With a bit of creative rope tying, and gear stuffing, we were headed back north. It was a bit like balancing a cookie sheet on a grapefruit, but we were off.

That's where we had to Embrace the Suck.

See there were two problems. Problem 1, Marty is a big man, and 45 degrees feels tropical to HIM. He was driving, and he had control of the temp, and his window. He rolled it down, and left it down the whole 6 hour ride up the north shore, and the gunflint trail. Dave and I thought we were going to freeze to death.

Problem 2. Marty thinks he's Mario Andretti. We're behind schedule, and Marty wants to make up for lost time. I swear the tires were dragging on the fenders, and we were top heavy with those two canoes precariously perched up top. Problem is, that poor little chevette, has more weight in it, than it probably ever has, and that pour little 4 cylinder is working way too hard. Top heavy with those two giant canoes on top, there's Marty, drafting behind one semi after another, so he can get a good run at a pass. He'd bob out, take a look, duck back behind the semi, and wait for another peek. In the mean time, the wind coming off that Semi is buffeting us all over the road. Eventually Marty finds his opportunity, and gets out in the other lane, and punches it down.

Nothing.

errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr here we go errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr were almost there errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr we're going to die errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr OMG!!!!! I'm going to kill you Marty.

It was terrifying. Time and again, he passed vehicles, with zero acceleration. It would take us an eternity to pass someone. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it took a full minute sometimes. That's a long time to be hanging out in the wrong lane, on the north shore of lake superior. As you know, there aren't that many long straight stretches. But Marty was undeterred.

And there was finally that pass, that he couldn't get it done, and every one was headed for the ditches. Except, there really isn't any ditches. Somehow we avoided a head on collision and no one died. Even that didn't stop him. I swear the guy is a brilliant man; he's an aerospace engineer, but he lacks common sense sometimes. And we hadn't even gotten to the fun part yet. The curvy Gunflint Trail. There we got to experience Marty taking curves at 10 mph over the speed limit, that aren't meant for chevettes with 2 canoes on top. I swear I thought we were going to tip over. We made it, but I think Dave and I looked like Lloyd and Harry after their minibike ride in the mountains.
 
03/02/2021 07:45AM  
Today's Calvin & Hobbes (yeah, I know these are reruns, but I love the cartoon) would seem relevant to this thread...

TZ
 
cmanimal
member (31)member
 
03/02/2021 08:30PM  
Its a bit lame compared to the great stories already posted, but I include it for the soul sucking mud portion. South fowl to Pigeon river 1 mile, 2 hours. At one point near the end my wife had double backed to find me. I had left the small/day pack on the trail to focus on the canoe and at the time having dropped/set it down while off balance in the knee deep mud and water asked her if there was any water ahead. kindly she said I was almost to the river, while I was realizing all I could see was water ahead of me and none of it was the river.

Thankfully she went back for the other pack.
 
Portage99
distinguished member(553)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/02/2021 09:05PM  
After days of rain, rain, rain, I fell asleep in a hammock on a sunny, bugless afternoon. It was complete heaven. I woke up to my ear puffy. Black flies had been snacking on my ear while I slumbered (I must have been tired). My ear kept swelling until it hurt and was ringing. I was actually nervous about how bad it was going to swell and how bad it was going to hurt. Benadryl took care of it and the swelling began to go down. Such a wonderful slumber before the ear swell. Damn flies. : )
 
allfish
senior member (61)senior membersenior member
 
03/05/2021 11:26AM  
Labor Day weekend, 1993...we went into Q on the Tuesday after the long weekend, no Q permits needed. We take the Anderson's shuttle out of CL to Bottle, made it up into Middle Roland to camp. The wind started blowing HARD Tues. noon, blew hard all day Wed., hard all day Thurs., laid down Thursday at dinner time. It was dicey even to paddle out to get buckets of water, fishing was a non-starter. We set up a tarp vertically for a wind-break! Friday morning we get up, see it's calm, and haul-ass down to Iron and camped near the portage, wanting make sure we had moved in case it started blowing again. That Fri. night on Bottle, we even got a lil' snow flurry ahead of another cold front! We said "NOPE", went down to Bottle portage a day early to see if the Anderson's were coming by to pick anybody up? They showed-up that morning to pick up another party, there was room for us in the launch boat, and we were outta there. The Anderson's knew it had been an adventure for us, they said the peak wind gust in CL that week was 53 mph! We returned to CL with our tails firmly planted between our legs. the Anderson's were way cool, they cut us a break on our outfitting fee, they knew we didn't get to fish much, and they had a boat out at the portage anyway. Cool people...cold trip!!!
 
03/05/2021 04:00PM  
I do a two week solo trip in June every year and I’ve had all kinds of weather trying to force me out, but a positive attitude has always got me through it. One year the first two days were perfect, but one evening I could see those dark grey clouds moving in from the north west. The temperature dropped, the wind picked up, the rain started and it lasted until my second to last day. I had to do everything to stay dry and keep warm. I ran into the Forest Service and reported many groups heading out because of the weather. In these situations I ask myself would I rather be at home working or be out here. I always say, “I’d rather be out here.”
The other memorable time was the year after the last major tent caterpillar outbreak and the so called “friendly flies” were everywhere. These flies landed on everything. Imagine 20-30 flies landing on your arms and crawling around. You’d kill 5 and 10 more would land. They’d swarm and buzz between my tent and fly and it was enough to drive you crazy. Plus the temps were in the 90s with no break at night. I was ready to call it and head out when I heard a family singing and paddling across the lake. I met them at the portage and they were having a blast, this being their first time in the BW. They really put things in perspective. I, being a veteran BW paddler, was ready to exit because of a few flies and this group was having the time of their lives. I decided to change my attitude and ended up having a great trip.
 
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