BWCA Noobs Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
 Forum Sponsor

Author

Text

06/03/2021 03:16PM  
I started typing this in Cyclones30's "Five medi-vacs in one week in BWCA" thread, but it gets its own thread now :)

I was thinking about this the other day after helping a group of nine folks from Georgia find the Kawishiwi river. They had just crossed Farm Lake and were paddling backwards into the waves because they couldn't turn the canoes.
It wasn't all that windy, but it was a little wavy on that side of the lake. They were using bent shaft paddles and everyone of them were backwards. Not a big deal, but you could tell pretty quick that their canoe experience was lacking.

Anyway, they were looking for a portage. There aren't any portages at all on Farm Lake. You could tell pretty quick that their map reading skills were lacking.

We stopped to help and gave them as much advice as I could think of. They were heading into Gabro Lake, and I told them that they should try to find a site on Clear lake instead since it was after 1:00 and then try to get a site on the lower triangle or Gabro the next day.

This sort of stuff happens often by our cabin. One year, a group made it across the lake and promptly turned broadside to the waves and flipped. They and their gear went over. They were so mad! They asked us to bring them back to the boat access. We talked with them and convinced them to stay one night in the BWCA. They did and then paddled out the next day and went home.

I get a kick out of first timers. I love to help them, but I always wonder how their trip was and if they overcame all of the challenges presented to them.

I understand how folks can find themselves in over their heads pretty quickly in the BWCA. It is a challenging and wild place, different than most places in the good ol' USA. With cell/sat phones, SPOT devices, etc., I would bet there will be more and more calls for help.

Also, outfitters need to do a better job telling their clients which way a bent shaft paddle is to be used.
 
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
schweady
distinguished member(7412)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/03/2021 04:03PM  
Thanks for the post. Got the biggest laughs. Actual LOLs. (Yes, sorry... all at the expense of these noob folks...) But only because it is so true. I think we tried to help those same "Are we headed to the river or to South Lake?" folks last fall. Same paddle grip... no map... And, oh the west winds came up something fierce that noon. Spent the day wondering how they were doing.
 
mschi772
distinguished member(666)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/03/2021 04:41PM  
Everyone was a noob at some point, so I'm glad you provide assistance when and where you can. Thank-you for helping them; it sets a great example for everyone.

I do wish that people with such limited skills and experience would find someone more experienced to go with and learn from instead of trying to figure it all out on their own. They'd be so much safer and learn so much more and faster. I can't help but think of how many groups are going out there so eager yet ill-prepared, and here I am with all my experience trying to get any of my friends to join me for trips like pulling teeth.
 
alpinebrule
distinguished member (238)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/03/2021 04:48PM  
Entertainment value aside, I have been more than once, at least three come to mind quickly, amazed (concerned) over the total lack of appreciation that some people have. The BWCA/ Quetico are not amusement parks but wildernesses areas that can kill you if given the chance. Perhaps this little tidbit needs to worked into outfitters/NFS interactions.
 
06/03/2021 04:56PM  
Before our first canoe trip together, my husband had two summers of experience as a counselor at Camp Easton for Boys on Little Long Lake (Ely.) This included a six-day canoe trip on the Namakan River Loop with five other counselors after the close of the camp season.

But I was a newbie. I had been in a canoe on the Red Cedar River, which flows quietly through the Michigan State University Campus. My camping experience was limited to a few childhood sessions at YMCA camp or scout camp and I don't think I was ever in a canoe then. I was blessed that my first trip was with a partner who had some experience, but I was also not really prepared mentally for what I was going to go through. I can still remember when we stopped at Camp Easton for lunch on the day before our trip and Doug Bobo (the camp owner and director) looked at the map of our proposed trip, and turned to me and said, "Lynda, this isn't like canoeing on the Red Cedar!" I began to shake in my tennis shoes.

We all have to learn how to do a canoe trip if, indeed, we want to do one. And if everyone in the party is a newbie, I just shudder to think about all of the things that can go wrong. To this day, many years later, I am still thankful that I had an experienced guide and teacher when I went on my first adventure.

And yes, the outfitter should SHOW those folks how to use their paddle correctly.

(Tried to add a link to our first trip, "How It All Began", but it didn't work.)
 
06/03/2021 05:17PM  
Sometimes you wonder how some people make it north at all. At the outfitters defense. How are they supposed to know if they don’t see the backwards paddle. Or as often the case people don’t believe you or just flip you off. Haha!
Gotta hand it to them for not breaching and flipping.
 
06/03/2021 05:33PM  
I try to help the noobs whenever possible, understanding that they didn’t spend their youth paddling the Quetico. Even with the experiences I had as a teenager, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned since I started tripping again in 2008.
 
missmolly
distinguished member(7308)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/03/2021 05:42PM  
Paddling a bent shaft paddle backwards is so hard. It keeps slipping to the side.
 
jillpine
distinguished member(643)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/03/2021 05:49PM  
Softest spot in my heart is reserved for beginners, especially those without the typical gateway experiences like a caring parent, scouts or an experienced friend.
 
andym
distinguished member(5079)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/03/2021 06:50PM  
Most newcomers probably have very little time to take in a lot of info at the outfitter. And if it is at all stressful for them, then their listening skills may not be as effective as usual. I wonder if outfitters tend to have some written materials that can be taken on a trip as a reference.

For helping beginners, I once did teach two newcomers how to hold their bent shaft paddles. They were sure the outfitter told them the other way. BTW, we were on Polly at the time. So they made it pretty far holding them backwards.

We had a lot of camping experience and a good bit of canoeing experience and we’re still glad to go on our first trip with experienced friends. And have had no greater joy than sharing what we’ve learned with friends and family on later trips.
 
dschult2
distinguished member (136)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 02:23AM  
We were all new at one point so honest mistakes really don't bother me at all. What really irritates me is that in this day and age of vast internet resources, especially YouTube is that some people won't bother to do the research of what skills they're going to need or the places that they will be going.
 
R1verrunner
distinguished member (116)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 05:18AM  
I encounter a group on the way in as we were on the way out moose river north.
It was very obvious that they had no clue.

Bent shafts backwards. some standing, some in the canoes at the end of one of the portages with a what do we do now look.

All their PDFs strapped to their packs. And yes they were not wearing or going to put them on.

I gave them some advice the women were very receptive. The men gave us the what do you know look.

What do a couple of old farts know.

Seem to take it better when we told them we had over 50 years of coming to the BWCA.

When they shoved off the PFD were still strapped to their packs.

I told them at least their packs would be found.

Deer in the head lights moment.

Wished them luck told them about some good camping sites.

Off we went.

We were all new at one point.
 
mjmkjun
distinguished member(2832)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 06:00AM  
It's curious that an outfitter would outfit newbies with bentshaft or bent blade paddles. Recommending straight, lightweight paddles for the inexperienced would be a no-brainer.
 
06/04/2021 06:04AM  
"We were all new at one point."

True, but we were also more respectful of others and of our surroundings.
 
outsidethebox
distinguished member (121)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 06:40AM  
Ignorance does not know it exists...but many times it is inexcusable. Personally, my intolerance of blatant, willful ignorance is quite low.

Information may be increasing but intelligence remains a constant-at best...actually, intelligence is likely on the decline.
 
06/04/2021 07:21AM  
dschult2: "We were all new at one point so honest mistakes really don't bother me at all. What really irritates me is that in this day and age of vast internet resources, especially YouTube is that some people won't bother to do the research of what skills they're going to need or the places that they will be going.
"


My thoughts exactly. Youtube is your friend - home repairs, outdoors, knot tying, literally anything you could want to research and learn how to do step by step - there is a video or twenty on it. Even browsing around on here helps me before every trip - I'm still learning tips and tricks
 
Northwoodsman
distinguished member(1627)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 07:58AM  
True, we were all new at one point. This is a wilderness, not a park. You are responsible for your safety and life, nobody went ahead of you and built docks, put up safety railings, stashed first aid-kits in the woods, installed signs, and the kiosks with the little blue lights and built in phones to call for help don't exist. Each individual entering this great wilderness most likely has access to the internet and the resources to learn about it before starting their voyage. It's a good thing that many of these people aren't taking up sky-diving with their unwillingness to listen to others, educate themselves, or to research it.
 
THEGrandRapids
distinguished member (306)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 08:14AM  
I agree and disagree with people sentiment. I wish I had the bravado of just embracing a challenge and going for it. Is it reckless? I've heard from more than one outfitter that as long as you don't get WAY off the beaten path, then you will likely see someone everyday. I don't use that as an excuse to be reckless and unprepared, but you don't know what you don't know. Research? Other than maybe the basics of canoeing if you haven't done so, I don't think you should "learn" from youtube. Let your experience teach you.

I grew up canoeing river systems, not whitewater, not float plane access only wilderness, just basic rivers that meandered no more than a crappy half day walk back to the nearest highway. My first trip in the BWCA I think I did get laughed at for how I packed. I loaded that sucker down. We were rocking an umbrella for sun as well as a little sail down wind. I had two groups pointing and taking pictures.

Don't be an elitist. Don't be a gatekeeper. Help when you can, you never know one of those "noobs" may be the one that finds your SOS and hits the button when you have a heart attack.
 
MagicPaddler
distinguished member(1401)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 08:47AM  
A few years ago while on a solo I was at the end of my second and last carry and at the landing was 9 aluminum canoe. They were all tight against each other with the bow near shore. No one could get out and they were discussing what to do next. I just turn and walked in the water down to where I could set my canoe down and dropped my small pack in and grabbed my other pack from shore and loaded it. With no solid ground near I spread my legs and pulled the canoe through setting down in the seat. Put my feet up on the gunnels to drain and started paddling away and from the crowd behind me I hear the several voices say in unison “So that’s how your supposed to do it”. They were having a good time and so was I so all was good.
 
06/04/2021 10:42AM  
Cc26: "dschult2: "We were all new at one point so honest mistakes really don't bother me at all. What really irritates me is that in this day and age of vast internet resources, especially YouTube is that some people won't bother to do the research of what skills they're going to need or the places that they will be going.
"



My thoughts exactly. Youtube is your friend - home repairs, outdoors, knot tying, literally anything you could want to research and learn how to do step by step - there is a video or twenty on it. Even browsing around on here helps me before every trip - I'm still learning tips and tricks"
True, but lots of people don't know what they need to know. It's usually the people who saw up with just money and clothes that don't do the research needed .
 
06/04/2021 10:58AM  
MagicPaddler: "A few years ago while on a solo I was at the end of my second and last carry and at the landing was 9 aluminum canoe. They were all tight against each other with the bow near shore. No one could get out and they were discussing what to do next. I just turn and walked in the water down to where I could set my canoe down and dropped my small pack in and grabbed my other pack from shore and loaded it. With no solid ground near I spread my legs and pulled the canoe through setting down in the seat. Put my feet up on the gunnels to drain and started paddling away and from the crowd behind me I hear the several voices say in unison “So that’s how your supposed to do it”. They were having a good time and so was I so all was good. "


I got a good laugh at that quote,
I’ve said “so that’s how you’re supposed to do it “ more then once in my life, in fact I’ve said it way too many times!
 
06/04/2021 11:02AM  
I had relatives that I explained how to use a bent shaft. They were paddling them right when we started, later in the trip they are so using them back wards?
Decided that I’m not paying extra for renting bent shafts for noobs anymore!
 
06/04/2021 11:02AM  
Double post .
Sad part is I still don’t know how to post after all these years!
 
andym
distinguished member(5079)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/04/2021 11:43AM  
Every once in a while, I like to commit the ultimate sacrilege on an internet site: suggesting a book. Because newcomers don’t know what to ask, a book can be really useful. Cliff Jacobsen has written some good ones. Reading one of his basic canoe camping books before our first trip helped me. While you can find everything online, a book is organized.

What could be interesting on a site like this is a pinned post with links to key threads for beginners to read.
 
THEGrandRapids
distinguished member (306)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 03:13PM  


 
06/04/2021 03:15PM  
Yeah, Andym that is a good idea. If I were an outfitter, I would make that suggestion when a reservation is made. Not force it on anyone but just let them know that if they have never been to the BWCA, their trip could be a lot better with a little pre-game reading.

Until you get to the part about putting a ground cloth inside the tent! Sheesh! ;)
 
MikeinMpls
distinguished member(893)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 04:14PM  
andym: "Every once in a while, I like to commit the ultimate sacrilege on an internet site: suggesting a book. Because newcomers don’t know what to ask, a book can be really useful. Cliff Jacobsen has written some good ones. Reading one of his basic canoe camping books before our first trip helped me. While you can find everything online, a book is organized.


What could be interesting on a site like this is a pinned post with links to key threads for beginners to read. "


To name drop just a bit...I was fortunate to go on two trips with Cliff Jacobson when I was in high school. Both were through school groups where Cliff was one of the science teachers. Of every one of my friends who went on those trips, I'll bet I am the only one who still trips regularly. Cliff was quirky, but he knew his stuff, and I am blessed to have knowledge instilled by one of the greats. I remember on one of the trips he was beta testing a Cannondale tent. Yes, a Cannondale tent. Those exist only on "vintage" photo pages now.

Incidentally, Cliff invited me to go on one of his Canada trips the summer after I graduated college. For family reasons, I was unable to go. I am still bummed about that.

I think reading his book is a great idea for newbies and outfitters should encourage it.

Mike

 
MikeinMpls
distinguished member(893)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/04/2021 04:21PM  
In re the above comments about bent-shaft paddles:

My guess is that outfitted clients find the bent-shaft paddles pretty cool, and outfitters find they are a good "selling point" so-to-speak. But I am just floored by how many people use them backwards! From a strictly logical "what-does-it-look-like" point of view, it would appear that "backwards" use makes the most sense. So I get it. I am always so tempted to offer just a wee bit of advice to paddlers using them incorrectly, but I keep my mouth shut. Instead, I hope that seeing two experienced paddlers (my wife and I) using bent-shaft paddles correctly might register. Overall, not a big deal.

As for other comments: yes, we were all noobs once, and I think that's a great perspective to take. My first trip ever to the Bdub I packed everything in an Army duffel bag. I was so cool: everything was labeled and organized and in really thin plastic garbage bags for protection. Everything got wet anyway.

I've seen a lot of people fall in the water on portages, and invariably it was because those people did not want to get their feet wet. It is fun watching newer groups' reaction when I walk right into the water, a la MagicPaddler, and put the canoe in with nary a ripple.

It feels nice when someone says "you look like you know what you're doing" and "looks like you've done this before."

Mike
 
jhb8426
distinguished member(1375)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/05/2021 01:01AM  
I go to Sawbill frequently. I see a lot of people in Sawbill canoes using a bent shaft paddle backwards. I've always thought Sawbill Outfitters could do a better job of demonstrating proper use.

I've also advised people not to venture to Alton when Sawbill was rough. Met a family of 5 in two canoes on a windy day on Sawbill. Mom and dad and a 6-7 year old in one boat, 10 to 12 year old sons in the other. They were having trouble on Sawbill. We got to Alton at the same time. I advised them that Alton would be worse, and it surely was. We both turned back after observing the Alton launch conditions. The waves into the Alton launch were a foot high or more and higher as you went out. Mom and dad might have made it but the two boys would not have. I was glad they took my advice.
 
andym
distinguished member(5079)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/05/2021 06:12AM  
Hmm, the couple I showed how to hold bent shaft paddles on Polly had rented from Sawbill outfitters. And they were sure they were doing it as told. But that was years ago and I doubt it is just a Sawbill issue. I see it with people who rent SUPs in California all the time. Maybe rental bent shaft paddles need a sticker on the blade saying which side faces toward the back of the canoe.

I don’t bother to correct people unless I have another reason to be in a conversation with them. The couple on Polly paddled up to our campsite to make sure they knew where they were. They did. Which is good because map reading is more important than how you hold a paddle.
 
06/05/2021 08:16AM  
Captn Tony: "MagicPaddler: "A few years ago while on a solo I was at the end of my second and last carry and at the landing was 9 aluminum canoe. They were all tight against each other with the bow near shore. No one could get out and they were discussing what to do next. I just turn and walked in the water down to where I could set my canoe down and dropped my small pack in and grabbed my other pack from shore and loaded it. With no solid ground near I spread my legs and pulled the canoe through setting down in the seat. Put my feet up on the gunnels to drain and started paddling away and from the crowd behind me I hear the several voices say in unison “So that’s how your supposed to do it”. They were having a good time and so was I so all was good. "



I got a good laugh at that quote,
I’ve said “so that’s how you’re supposed to do it “ more then once in my life, in fact I’ve said it way too many times!
"
 
colddriver
member (37)member
 
06/05/2021 01:12PM  
Love the quotes

Another good I herd was from a kid in the outward bound program,chatted to the kids on a portage, most of them broke the law and this was there punishment a few weeks in the wilderness. Anyway at the end of the portage the one kid asked me what I did (how I broke the law) I laughed and said I'm on vacation!!!!
He said you do this for fun?
He was dumbfounded.... lol!!!!!
 
Gaidin53
distinguished member (123)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/06/2021 12:16AM  
I was on my first trip back after many years but it was a Northern Tier trip with an awesome crew and a great guide. We were on day 3 and flying single portaging. Had already done Moose to Knife. Knife to American Point. We were on our way to Ogishgemuncie. We hit the end of a portage and we’re the third boat in our crew. We had 2 families I think in 2 canoes loading them up 2/3 on the land. They then got in the canoes and started pushing with the paddles to move them forward. It sounded horrible and to make it worse the one I was hearing grinding was a Souris River Quetico. We finished loading ours up in the water and I told my son to hold our canoe for a second. Our crew was already moving a bit. I couldn’t take it and walked back and pulled them out at least giving a little lift in the front and reducing the grinding. The young girl in the front was surprised and thanked me. I just smiled and said let us get on our way first!

My son and I still cringe and laugh about it! I probably walked a good 8 steps before the grinding stopped. Not sure if they were noobs and it wasn’t an outfitter rental canoe.

Ryan
 
06/06/2021 07:46AM  
I've certainly witnessed something like that on that first portage out of Popular. That portage is usually good for at least one traffic jam/pileup with canoes, kayaks and people wondering aimlessly trying to figure things out. I've waited with a canoe on my shoulders for awhile as folks untangled their stuff and got on their way. I always wish that I had my video rolling :)
 
treehorn
distinguished member(601)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/07/2021 12:19PM  
mjmkjun: "It's curious that an outfitter would outfit newbies with bentshaft or bent blade paddles. Recommending straight, lightweight paddles for the inexperienced would be a no-brainer. "

Why is this?

As long as you're holding it the right way, isn't it simply a superior way to paddle, beginner or not?
 
06/08/2021 10:38AM  
I find it quite entertaining seeing noobs on portages or on the lake. It is easily identified and I try to understand what they might be thinking. Sometimes I will offer an easier way or an idea to them and other times you can tell they are just determined and so I watch. You learn through mistakes and it is fun watching people learn.
 
WhiteWolf
distinguished member(4473)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/08/2021 12:00PM  
Everyone has been a noob one way or the other. I tip my hat to those from FL (and other states) that come to MN to do the Kruger Challenge --- and use a paddle board to get from I-Falls to Superior. With no experience in the BW or portages etc. That's a noob.
Respect all around.
 
06/08/2021 09:56PM  
LOL, I've been (car) camping all my life.
My first trip to the BWCA was in 2005 or 2006 and WOW did I make a LOT of mistakes. Definitely wasn't well prepared, good thing Soledad was part of the group I was in! It was a big learning experience for me (and my kids). Completely changed how I go camping. Must have liked it though as I have been on many BWCA trips since, even lead the Boys Scouts on a half a dozen or so trips up there. Currently planning on 7-1 trip to Lake Polly.

If I haven't said it before Soledad, Thanks for taking the time to help out the "NOOBS"
 
Stumpy
distinguished member(1756)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/09/2021 04:46AM  
working 7 years at an outfitter in the 70s & 80s, I think I've seen it all.
If I type all the stories, I want it in a book, and I want to get paid.
 
mjmkjun
distinguished member(2832)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/09/2021 05:00AM  
treehorn: "mjmkjun: "It's curious that an outfitter would outfit newbies with bentshaft or bent blade paddles. Recommending straight, lightweight paddles for the inexperienced would be a no-brainer. "


Why is this?


As long as you're holding it the right way, isn't it simply a superior way to paddle, beginner or not?
"

agreed, but my post was based on comments of many newcomers using those paddles backward. why is this? bcuz they were not shown the proper way to paddle with this new design, perhaps? one can't hold a straight paddle backward, eh?
 
andym
distinguished member(5079)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/09/2021 05:34AM  
Stumpy: "working 7 years at an outfitter in the 70s & 80s, I think I've seen it all.
If I type all the stories, I want it in a book, and I want to get paid."


There’s a great book about the dumb things customers say in bookstores and it sold a lot of copies. BWCA camping won’t have as big a market but I bet a book like that would find some appreciative readers.
 
06/10/2021 11:15AM  
Craig K: "LOL, I've been (car) camping all my life.
My first trip to the BWCA was in 2005 or 2006 and WOW did I make a LOT of mistakes. Definitely wasn't well prepared, good thing Soledad was part of the group I was in! It was a big learning experience for me (and my kids). Completely changed how I go camping. Must have liked it though as I have been on many BWCA trips since, even lead the Boys Scouts on a half a dozen or so trips up there. Currently planning on 7-1 trip to Lake Polly.


If I haven't said it before Soledad, Thanks for taking the time to help out the "NOOBS""


What a crazy trip that was! I remember your boys' sleeping bags were soaked and you gave them yours and you went without on the last night. Must have been a long night. You always remember your first!

 
06/10/2021 01:39PM  
colddriver: "Love the quotes

Another good I herd was from a kid in the outward bound program,chatted to the kids on a portage, most of them broke the law and this was there punishment a few weeks in the wilderness. Anyway at the end of the portage the one kid asked me what I did (how I broke the law) I laughed and said I'm on vacation!!!!
He said you do this for fun?
He was dumbfounded.... lol!!!!!
"

lol
 
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
Listening Point - General Discussion Sponsor:
Rockwood Outfitters