BWCA Solitude Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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07/05/2021 07:40PM  
So let's get to the bottom of this question or concept - what does Solitude mean to you? Seems to be a highly sought after quality of a wilderness canoe trip. So what exactly does this mean?

If in the BWCA and you are able to spend most of the day and evening with nobody in sight is that solitude? If you run into a couple parties on a portage and spend 20-30 minutes in their sight or hearing does that ruin your solitude? If you are in camp and see half a dozen canoes go by in a day, is your solitude lost? Can you experience solitude if you see a few folks during the day but in the most important hours of dawn and dusk you are blissfully alone, is that solitude?

In the BWCA, or more likely Quetico if you go two days without seeing another party is that solitude? Why is that important?

What is the number of people/canoes that you see in a day that ruins your solitude?

Why does an interaction or viewing of other people paddling or portaging for a half an hour or so ruin your idea of solitude - if it does? If you are on a lake with a handful of campsites but everyone is respectful of your space and quiet can you still find solitude? Does knowing you are alone for miles around you define your idea of solitude? Why?

Trying to get at the amount of traffic that is acceptable to the majority of hardcore wilderness paddlers, a challenge in the current times. Personally seeing a few other folks a day doesn't bother me a bit. As long as my peaceful hours of dawn and dusk are quiet I am happy. I used to paddle far into the Quetico a lot back in the 70s and we would routinely not see anyone for a few days at a time. That was cool but looking back I am not sure that seeing a couple canoes paddling by or another group camping on our lake would have ruined the experience for us.

I still believe an acceptable level of solitude can be had in the BWCA, depending on where and when you go and what your tolerance for seeing others is, despite the current situation. What are your thoughts?

 
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JWilder
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07/05/2021 08:32PM  
I like this question because it causes me to really think about “solitude” and what it really means to me.

In short solitude, I feel, is subjective and the following posts will reflect that. Solitude to one individual will differ from the next individual.

I look forward to what this thread will reveal!

JW
 
DRob1992
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07/05/2021 08:36PM  
My idea of solitude has evolved quite a bit in recent years. Since I met my wife, we have lived in places where there is very little privacy during the best times of day and zero privacy for the rest of the day. So, for me, solitude is going to be far easier to achieve than many other BWCA forum members. Just being in the BWCA would be solitude in my eyes. That's whether I, hypothetically, saw 100 people or 3 people during any given trip.
 
HangLoose
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07/05/2021 08:38PM  
Solitude to me is spending the majority of the day without seeing another human being.

Solitude to me is having that lonely campsite in that quiet bay far enough away from my neighbors so that I can't hear their pots and pans banging.

Solitude to me is watching the sunset without a group of fishermen sitting stationary 20 feet directly in front of my campsite for 45 minutes.

Solitude is not having anybody approach my campsite and ask me when I'm leaving.

I anticipate and expect to encounter other groups on portages and while on a travel day. Passing other groups occasionally on the water or on portages doesn't seem to disrupt my feel of solitude since the encounters are usually short and sweet and expected. A group of paddlers quietly paddling by my site also doesn't disrupt my solitude at all.

I don't think everyone is looking for solitude in the BWCAW to the extent that I am. I also don't think that those folks understand that many of us are indeed seeking solitude. I also don't think that some people realize how well sound carries on the water.

I work in a high stress job that requires me to be around crowds of people for long periods of time. I work in the public eye. I think that is one reason that I crave alone time.

I deeply engage with nature and wilderness on my trips. To me it is meditative and at times almost a religious experience to have solitude in the wilderness. It is difficult to describe, but having that solitude disrupted might be comparable to someone disrupting a Sunday service while someone is praying.

You are correct that if I am solely seeking solitude, then I can still find it within the BWCAW. But if I want that 5 star site near a waterfall on a popular walleye lake with 15+ campsites nearby, then I have to expect that my solitude will be disrupted.

 
HayRiverDrifter
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07/05/2021 09:47PM  
According to Webster: Solitude definition is - the quality or state of being alone or remote from society : seclusion.

Solitude for me is a state of mind. Peace of mind. I work to find solitude in the moment, if even for just a moment. Life is full of distractions physically, mentally, and spiritually. Physical solitude is not hard for me. I am fortunate to live in a place where I can just walk out my door and be alone with only the sounds of nature around me. Mental solitude can be more elusive. To be able to quiet your mind and be only in the moment. Spiritual solitude is a bit different and for me, it is the prize. To be remote from this world and feel the presence of God.

I think solitude for a moment can be achieved anywhere at anytime, but sitting in my solo canoe with only the sound of nature, a bit of mist coming off the lake, the warm sun on my face, ripples angling off my bow, my mind fixed on the moment, and feeling the presence of God. That's where it's at. That's why I go.
 
07/05/2021 10:27PM  
I like running into other people. Solitude isn't a priority for me. Paddling, is and I can get plenty of that in the BW. A campsite is just a place to stop, rest, and refuel between paddling.
 
Basspro69
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07/05/2021 10:54PM  
I think that going to a popular place like the BWCA that is renowned world wide by canoeists, and expecting to not see other human beings, is a little suspect to say the least. If you want to go in mid to late October you have a much better chance of that happening then you do in the middle of August. If your truly looking for that, there are many lakes that border the BWCA that are beautiful , that you can go an entire trip without seeing anyone else. It comes down to expectations in my opinion, if you expect to see other travelers and you end up not seeing them, then you probably won’t be disappointed, but if the reverse is true you are setting yourself up for disappointment. My criteria for solitude is hoping people are respectful of each other’s experience especially during the early morning and evenings into night .
 
Basspro69
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07/05/2021 10:54PM  
 
outsidethebox
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07/06/2021 06:32AM  
Clearly "solitude" holds much subjectivity-an individual response/relationship. For me it involves a connection to the natural world that strikes deep into my soul. Here-deeply within us, I believe there resides a profound, DNA based response to "nature".

Again, for me, there is something very unique and special about sitting out in the middle of Rainy, as a child, with my father...in the middle of all that beauty-all by ourselves...pulling in walleye hand over fist. Or climbing Pikes Peak and getting way up above the tree line and being able to see "God's" world on a forever sight-line. Or hiking along a mountain stream that is sometimes gentle and soothing and other times is thunderous. There is simply nothing that is so deeply spiritually moving as this. And then there is the call of the loon...you know you are in a special place-it is palpable.
 
OldTripper
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07/06/2021 07:19AM  
Lots of very good responses here. I'll toss in my 2 cents.
For me, solitude is not seeing other people while I'm out. I used to do a lot of trips in early and mid-October. Occasionally I could do a 9 day trip and not see or hear another human being. It was awesome. It gave me the feeling of being the last person on earth. Or the first person to explore that area. It was just a state of mind and I liked it. But, if I were to run into people it didn't ruin my trip, it just reminded me that others were out there too. Now, with that being said, if I were to run across a group that is shouting from canoe to canoe or a noisy group were to camp near me on a lake, that would be cause to pack up and move on because I'm out there to hear the sounds of nature, not people.
 
07/06/2021 08:07AM  
Solitude. It is an intriguing concept.

We live in the country and I take walks almost daily since my heart surgery. I have several trails that I use (I seem to get bored easily if I go on the same route every day) and I also walk in the cemetery which is across the road from our home. Now THAT is solitude! :-) My nature trails here at home give me solitude, but not always silence, as I can sometimes hear trucks or cars on the road. But I also hear birds, occasionally surprise a deer or a rabbit, and at this time of year I particularly enjoy seeing black damselflies and smelling the different wildflowers.

God is with me wherever I go, so I have never needed to get "out into nature" to feel a connection in that way. But I do love being alone in a quiet space, and sometimes even being by myself at home, or at our lake cottage (where I often go for a few days of "alone time") serves the purpose. For me, solitude is more the absence of the world's constant noise: television, phone, music, radio, household appliances, just general chatter.

We just returned from a cabin week at Rockwood Lodge with our granddaughter. On the second night of our stay we were admiring the "super-moon", the "strawberry moon" as it rose over Poplar Lake, and Anna and I stood on the deck of the cabin together. Quietly. Suddenly there was a conversation between two or more loons that filled the night sky with breathtaking sound--an eerie, almost haunting song that went on for a very long time. At that moment I didn't wish for silence. I wished for it to go on and on and on. And I was so glad to have my beloved grandchild beside me to share it with. She felt what I was feeling.

I have never gone on a solo canoe trip. Rarely with more than one person, and always with people who appreciated the beauty of getting away and enjoying peaceful silence. But I can only imagine the joy of being on a lake totally alone, and just soaking up the silence, feeling one with the sounds of nature and the absence of the sounds of humanity. I would enjoy that. When I was younger I wasn't strong enough or brave enough to even think of doing it, and I certainly will never do it now.

That's OK. We never minded seeing people on our trips. The only times I can remember being bothered by seeing people was when they would fish right off our campsite. I was more often bothered by hearing people, and many times I was annoyed by noisy, rude people who shared a lake with us. We had trips where we didn't see anyone else for several days in a row. Spartan1 could tell you how many days, but I cannot. It didn't matter. The solitude, when it was available, was beautiful. And when it was not, being in the BWCA, or Q or Temagami, or Algonquin. . .etc. was still a really satisfying experience. Most of the time.

So, can you have "solitude" if you are with another person? Can a couple experience "solitude", or is it simply, by definition, a singular concept? If you go on a canoe trip with eight other friends, can you find "solitude"? I would say "it would be difficult". You might disagree. Is "silence" or "peace and quiet" or "hearing nature" the same as "solitude"? Not to me. Solitude is being alone.

Perhaps I am overthinking this. I need to go be alone. :-)

 
missmolly
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07/06/2021 09:14AM  
Solitude for me is sharing a lake with no one. I'm a greedy pig and I want my own damn lake.
 
Bobaaa
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07/06/2021 09:39AM  
My son who's now in his 20's, and I, have been going on 1-3 trips a year since he was 10.

As far as I'm concerned solitude isn't necessarily the absence of all other people... I rather enjoy the brief and polite interaction with others, whether it be a 'Hello, nice day isn't it?' on a portage or a 'Hey, how they biting? out on the lake'.

It's more the absence of crowds, rudeness, traffic, being in a hurry, of being bombarded by advertising, the absence of electronic devices and the 24 hour newsfeed, and just spending quality time together. That's what heals my soul.
 
Banksiana
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07/06/2021 10:06AM  
missmolly: "Solitude for me is sharing a lake with no one. I'm a greedy pig and I want my own damn lake. "


Ditto.

In 2019 I set up camp on Ted and was relaxing near the water when a group arrived late in the day to occupy the popular message jar site. I lasted about twenty minutes before decamping and taking the portage back to Earl so I could have "my own damn lake".
 
BearBurrito
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07/06/2021 10:41AM  
HangLoose: "Solitude to me is spending the majority of the day without seeing another human being.

Solitude to me is having that lonely campsite in that quiet bay far enough away from my neighbors so that I can't hear their pots and pans banging.

Solitude to me is watching the sunset without a group of fishermen sitting stationary 20 feet directly in front of my campsite for 45 minutes.

Solitude is not having anybody approach my campsite and ask me when I'm leaving.

I anticipate and expect to encounter other groups on portages and while on a travel day. Passing other groups occasionally on the water or on portages doesn't seem to disrupt my feel of solitude since the encounters are usually short and sweet and expected. A group of paddlers quietly paddling by my site also doesn't disrupt my solitude at all.

I don't think everyone is looking for solitude in the BWCAW to the extent that I am. I also don't think that those folks understand that many of us are indeed seeking solitude. I also don't think that some people realize how well sound carries on the water.

I work in a high stress job that requires me to be around crowds of people for long periods of time. I work in the public eye. I think that is one reason that I crave alone time.

I deeply engage with nature and wilderness on my trips. To me it is meditative and at times almost a religious experience to have solitude in the wilderness. It is difficult to describe, but having that solitude disrupted might be comparable to someone disrupting a Sunday service while someone is praying.

You are correct that if I am solely seeking solitude, then I can still find it within the BWCAW. But if I want that 5 star site near a waterfall on a popular walleye lake with 15+ campsites nearby, then I have to expect that my solitude will be disrupted.


"

I could not have said it any better than this.
 
07/06/2021 10:52AM  
This is a lot tougher subject to address then I first thought. My solitude is not affected by seeing a canoe passing by or waiting my turn at a portage or sharing the lake with other campers. I will say that I prefer lakes with fewer camp sites or sites well spaced out. The sound of a paddle thumping on the side of a canoe or the "tock" sound of someone splitting wood doesn't bother me. Loons, squirrels and beavers slapping the water with their tails are all welcome. Radios, Loud voices, people yelling and screaming or drunken laughter late at night are really not welcome!
The essence of solitude for me is not the absence of people but the absence of distractions.
 
IowaFishinGuy
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07/06/2021 01:08PM  
My idea of solitude depends on where I'm at.

On our Ontario fly in trips, solitude is felt after the float plane drops our group off at the outpost cabin, and it's just the 6 of us on the lake for the next 5 days, knowing that no matter where we go or what we do, there will be nobody else around to see it. It doesn't matter what we do or where we go, we are the only ones there. But with the boat motors, you don't get the full effect of being alone, because the noise drowns out everything goin on around you.

In the BWCA, solitude is a bit different because its almost inevitable that you will see other people or groups at some point. I don't mind running into groups on the portages, or passing another canoe travelling across lakes during the day, it gives me someone to talk to while on a solo. But when it comes to picking out a campsite, I like to choose one that doesn't have another site within view, or within hearing distance. I really enjoy the "witching hours" as Sigurd Olson referred to them as, in complete silence, to listen to the woods come alive, and to paddle across a peaceful and still lake, and take it all in.

PS Lindy-I took my wife on her first trip last summer to Crocodile Lake after reading your reports and your many good things to say about the lake....it was the perfect first trip for her, she fell in love with the BWCA. We are driving up tomorrow morning for her second trip, going out of EP 14. It will be a yearly tradition for us now. Thank you
 
JWilder
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07/06/2021 01:16PM  
BearBurrito: "
HangLoose: "Solitude to me is spending the majority of the day without seeing another human being.


Solitude to me is having that lonely campsite in that quiet bay far enough away from my neighbors so that I can't hear their pots and pans banging.


Solitude to me is watching the sunset without a group of fishermen sitting stationary 20 feet directly in front of my campsite for 45 minutes.


Solitude is not having anybody approach my campsite and ask me when I'm leaving.


I anticipate and expect to encounter other groups on portages and while on a travel day. Passing other groups occasionally on the water or on portages doesn't seem to disrupt my feel of solitude since the encounters are usually short and sweet and expected. A group of paddlers quietly paddling by my site also doesn't disrupt my solitude at all.


I don't think everyone is looking for solitude in the BWCAW to the extent that I am. I also don't think that those folks understand that many of us are indeed seeking solitude. I also don't think that some people realize how well sound carries on the water.


I work in a high stress job that requires me to be around crowds of people for long periods of time. I work in the public eye. I think that is one reason that I crave alone time.


I deeply engage with nature and wilderness on my trips. To me it is meditative and at times almost a religious experience to have solitude in the wilderness. It is difficult to describe, but having that solitude disrupted might be comparable to someone disrupting a Sunday service while someone is praying.


You are correct that if I am solely seeking solitude, then I can still find it within the BWCAW. But if I want that 5 star site near a waterfall on a popular walleye lake with 15+ campsites nearby, then I have to expect that my solitude will be disrupted.



"

I could not have said it any better than this."


I absolutely concur.

JW
 
DRob1992
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07/06/2021 01:52PM  
merlyn: "This is a lot tougher subject to address then I first thought. My solitude is not affected by seeing a canoe passing by or waiting my turn at a portage or sharing the lake with other campers. I will say that I prefer lakes with fewer camp sites or sites well spaced out. The sound of a paddle thumping on the side of a canoe or the "tock" sound of someone splitting wood doesn't bother me. Loons, squirrels and beavers slapping the water with their tails are all welcome. Radios, Loud voices, people yelling and screaming or drunken laughter late at night are really not welcome!
The essence of solitude for me is not the absence of people but the absence of distractions.
"


I like that last part. "The essence of solitude for me is not the absence of people but the absence of distractions." Well said.
 
07/06/2021 03:59PM  
To me, solitude is like taking away a safety net. Instead of being in a park where you do your own thing, solitude is truly being on your own to the point where if something went wrong, you can't call for help. I'm not referring to a PLB in any way, just to be clear. The idea of solitude to me is a mentality where you realize that you haven't seen anyone in days. It really helps you take a step back and re-approach things in your life from a fresh perspective instead of just going along with the flow. Just getting out can help do this, but true solitude is far better at giving you a chance to re-center yourself.

For an example, after my last trip, I could see more clearly how some actions of my kids that I used to be annoyed by, were harmless and cute, yet others were unacceptable and I had no idea it had gotten this bad before. I think everyone should get some true solitude once in a while so they can stop just going along with what everyone else just expects of them. Or maybe figure out that some things that they have neglected are important.
 
SunrisePaddler
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07/06/2021 08:19PM  
HayRiverDrifter: "I think solitude for a moment can be achieved anywhere at anytime, but sitting in my solo canoe with only the sound of nature, a bit of mist coming off the lake, the warm sun on my face, ripples angling off my bow, my mind fixed on the moment, and feeling the presence of God. That's where it's at. That's why I go."


I really appreciate this thought-provoking thread and find myself identifying with HRD’s response.

Before I did my first solo last October, solitude has been, somewhat paradoxically, a group endeavor, at least with my fall group of four guys where we generally travel less popular routes at a less popular time (late sept) in part to minimize traffic. In that group context, I’ve enjoyed the feeling of remoteness (group solitude?) when we’ve gone a day or two (or longer) without seeing others. And within the group, we value and respect each members’ desire for some solitude away from the group (for just being alone, or for spiritual practices, journaling, solo fishing, or whatever) when we’re not needing to function as a group.

As HRD suggested, I find I can enjoy being in solitude just about anywhere, even with others around. But I’m sure there’s a limit that I’ve never had tested that will someday challenge me there (noisy camp neighbors, intrusive passers-by, etc.). But just knowing there’s another group on the lake, or seeing someone paddle by, hasn’t yet intruded on my sense of solitude on my group trips. Then again, solitude has been something to appreciate on those trips, but has never been the main priority.

In contrast, I intentionally sought solitude on my first solo last fall. And aside from one brief, pleasant conversation with another member on this site on my paddle in, I didn’t see or hear another soul on that trip. There was absolutely nothing to challenge my sought-after sense of solitude. It was a meaningful trip, fulfilling and challenging, and has me yearning to do more frequent and longer solos.

I consider myself fortunate to be relatively untested on the solitude-interrupted front, at least on my trips where there’s an expectation of solitude (the family trips to the number chain and other superhighways are a different ball of wax).

So this thread really has me thinking. Particularly with soloing, I wonder if my definition of solitude, or sensitivity to the presence of others, might change with more experience.

 
mjmkjun
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07/07/2021 03:42AM  
HayRiverDrifter's "According to Webster: Solitude definition is - the quality or state of being alone or remote from society: seclusion."

The solitude episodes I like best are those with the humming of inner contentment often caused by outside stimuli as those scenes in the BWCA, watching animals be animals, sitting on a boulder on top of a mountain in Colorado listening to the wind, a quiet snowfall without wind. Alone, no humans companion(s) near, but it doesn't feel solitary.

 
jillpine
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07/07/2021 07:15AM  
To the extent that solitude brings quiet, I guess I seek solitude. I would say I seek quietude more than solitude.
 
07/07/2021 07:33AM  
jillpine: "To the extent that solitude brings quiet, I guess I seek solitude. I would say I seek quietude more than solitude.
"


There you go. I think this is my view.

To me, solitude means "alone". I don't think you find solitude traveling with a group.
 
Savage Voyageur
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07/07/2021 08:05AM  
Solitude definition to me is having a fishing spot all to myself.
 
07/07/2021 08:58AM  
I think Merlyn's statement is a good start:

"The essence of solitude for me is not the absence of people but the absence of distractions."

Although I would add that it needs to be in an uncrowded place with few to no people/distractions in your sphere of awareness(within sight and hearing).

Most of the time I trip with my buddy Jim, an old friend and we've been hanging out for 48 years. He does not need to entertain me nor do I need to entertain him, and we both allow each other plenty of space when called for. I have no trouble finding solitude in the BWCA or other wild places even with Jim in the vicinity. I guess I have learned to not let him distract me:)

Solitude seems to be a state or mind precipitated by the right physical situation of a quiet peaceful place with little to no human impact...at that particular moment anyways.

I guess I disagree that being alone is a prerequisite for experiencing solitude but to each their own.

Great insights and responses so far.
 
07/11/2021 03:49PM  
Basspro69: ""




Now there’s a response of solitude! I agree we all enjoy our degrees of solitude. Being alone has its rewards. But also meeting up with or traveling with another person or small group with respect of being in the moment. I like my alone time, but equally enjoy seeing others enjoying places like the Boundary Waters. It was so nice just to be able to paddle in places you potentially could be alone and away from the noises of society. At home I enjoy hearing the sounds of mostly kids enjoying the beach nearby, then just quiet when all are gone. And when people are visiting the quiet conversation that is had. Solitude to me is peacefulness... even when being on my own damn lake isn’t possible. Haha.
 
07/15/2021 10:56PM  
This is one of the best questions ever asked here. So many variables and things to consider. By the way nice job on giving us things we may not have thought of in answering.

I don't mind seeing people. I think it adds to the scenery honestly. Nice background with a canoe gliding through the water.

What i don't like is hearing people. My last trip all I heard was some yahoo chopping the entire campsite down.

Solitude for me would be a quiet bug free trip with my wife.
 
Minnesotian
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11/28/2022 10:49AM  

Bump
 
PineKnot
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11/28/2022 11:28AM  
Solitude for me is being alone. Not lonely, just being alone. Seeing and hearing nature by myself. Not seeing or hearing human voices, music, the clunk of a paddle on a gunnel, the drone of a small aircraft.

Also, for me, solitude is not ruined by encountering people or hearing them in the distance. As long as these encounters don't last too long.....
 
11/28/2022 06:33PM  
It seems we are waxing philosophy earlier this winter...
I firmly agree solitude is a state of mind having to do with the ability to manage boundaries only giving attention to those things we invite. Generally considered a safe place, it can become a fortress of solitary confinement.
I find it easier to create and sustain desired boundaries in nature with trees and water and sunsets and the howl of a wolf pack...ok you get it.
 
cburton103
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11/28/2022 09:40PM  
Solitude to me means my trip not being impacted by humans - no one else fishing the rapids while I’m there, no one in the campsite I’m shooting for, minimal to no waiting at portages. Even clean, well cared for campsites improve my subjective experience of solitude.

Seeing a group paddling by in the distance and waving doesn’t interrupt my solitude, although I prefer days seeing no others outside of my group.

That said, I do enjoy occasional interactions with other campers on portage trails, etc. A few years ago, we were planning on a fish dinner the last night of our trip, and we couldn’t buy a fish that afternoon - 90 degrees and still. On our way to look for camp, our preferred site was taken as we paddled by it. When the two gentlemen camped at that site saw us paddle by, they invited us to dinner, which they had just finished eating and had plenty of leftovers. We accepted their gracious invitation, and greatly enjoyed their company and their extra food. It didn’t increase the solitude we experienced, but it definitely increased our enjoyment of the evening and how memorable the day was.
 
KawnipiKid
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11/28/2022 10:23PM  
To me, solitude is being alone and quiet so that you experience the environment without humans or human activity in sight or hearing range. My preferred paddle partners value solitude and traveling with one of them does not wreck my solitude. Solitude is interupted but not ruined seeing or hearing other people briefly who are quietly moving through or quietly in their camp.

This is a great post for personal reflection. Two things I realized while reflecting. First, I can kill my own solitude. I’ll start up my stove or the weather radio when it can wait. Maybe I could be more solitude-focused instead of task-focused in camp. Second, solitude isn’t the same as silence. Part of the magic of hearing moving water or the wind in the woods and whipping up normally flat water is that natural noise increases my sense of happy solitude.

 
scotttimm
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11/29/2022 08:58AM  
For me, solitude is not being alone, because I've always got someone with me...usually the whole crew. It's the quieter moments. It's that feeling when I'm the first one up, making coffee, staring out over the lake before the hubub begins. It's when I ask one of the kids if they want to go fishing after dinner and we drift out on the lake together and the sun is setting. It's a special time for both of us. Even in solitude, there's always that warm moment between humans - a big smile exchanged between me and whoever I'm with...handing my wife her coffee when she rolls out of the tent and the kids are still sleeping.
 
11/29/2022 10:55AM  
missmolly: "Solitude for me is sharing a lake with no one. I'm a greedy pig and I want my own damn lake. "

agree, when in Quetico I like to have my own private lake-just for a few days.
 
TuscaroraBorealis
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11/29/2022 05:36PM  
Fr. Thomas Mertons book, New Seeds of Contemplation resonates profoundly with me. A few snipets ftom chapter 8...

- If you go into the desert merely to get away from people you dislike, you will find neither peace nor solitude; you will only isolate yourself with a tribe of devils.

- The need for true solitude is a complex and dangerous thing, but it is a real need. It is all the more real today when the collectivity tends more and more to swallow up the person in its shapeless and faceless mass.

The great temptation of modern man is not physical solitude but immersion in the mass of other men, not escape to the mountains or the desert (would that more men were so tempted!) but escape into the great formless sea of irresponsibility which is the crowd. There is actually no more dangerous solitude than that of the man who is lost in a crowd, who does not know he is alone and who does not function as a person in a community either.

- There is no true solitude except interior solitude. And interior solitude is not possible for anyone who does not accept his right place in relation to other men.
 
straighthairedcurly
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11/29/2022 09:29PM  
For me, solitude is not having to have multiple parties vying for the same portages as me and not having noisy people camped near me. If I see people paddling on the same lake that doesn't break my solitude. But my husband and I had a blissful trip traveling thru the BW this past summer when we didn't encounter any other groups for 5 days! That was sweet!
 
ockycamper
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11/30/2022 08:23AM  
Pinetree: "
missmolly: "Solitude for me is sharing a lake with no one. I'm a greedy pig and I want my own damn lake. "

agree, when in Quetico I like to have my own private lake-just for a few days."


We are close to this same definition. We work hard to go late enough, "north" enough to be able to base camp on a lake and not see or hear anyone other then our group the entire week. If we simply wanted nature we would go to a state park. We come for the stars, the quiet, and the only sounds we hear are the loons and the moose crashing through the marsh around us.

You have to work at this. You won't find solitude in the summer, or during the peak fishing times. You won't find solitude in lakes off of the Ely area where all the shops and outfitters are. That's why ten years ago we moved to Gunflint area and late in the season.
 
DanCooke
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11/30/2022 08:56PM  
Solitude washes over me when I am paddling out of sight and sound of others and not anticipating the presence of others.

This past summer I had the good fortune to solo paddle 3 days and was windbound another 2 days for 5 full days of not seeing anyone. While paddling the solitude is different than when you are involved in activities like cooking or route finding or camp activities.

Solo paddling sets up to be one paddle stroke followed by another, there are times when there is not a thought or care occupying your mind, just the breathing in of all that surrounds you. That is solitude. Paddling alone in the darkest phase of twilight on big water puts solitude into sharp focus, when land is but a shadow. That is solitude.

To be offended by the presence of others only steals from my solitude. I like to quickly wish for them the best so that I do not steal from my resting in solitude.


 
missmolly
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12/01/2022 05:22PM  
Well written, Dan. I like the way you think, paddle, and live.
 
Michwall2
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12/02/2022 08:05AM  
I come to the BWCA for the silence. I want visual and aural silence.

This is not the absence of sound or sights. It is absence of man-made aural and visual noise. (Read "One Square Inch of Silence" by Gordon Hempton)

Examples:

I was sitting on Horseshoe Lake enjoying watching the morning mist retreating from the lakes. Then I heard this sound that I instantly knew and it instantly destroyed that morning wonder. What was it? The back-up alarm/beeping from a truck out on the Gunflint while they were rebuilding the road. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!

I was on Finger Lake (Just south of Lac La Croix on the west end of the BW). We were having breakfast on a beautiful sunny morning. All of a sudden there was the blare of engines running up on the Canadian side of Lac La Croix. Two-stroke boat engines and float plane engines. I loved traveling through those lakes. Very scenic and a great place to paddle. Just can't handle the man-made noise. Same thing happened on Alpine Lake on the other end of the BW.

I have been awakened out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night by screaming jet engines (not those at 35000 feet either). Wherever they were going it was in a hurry. This happened two nights in a row north of Sawbill Lake.

I try to keep my visual footprint in the BW low as well. Muted forest tones, greens, browns, greys, etc. (except for my pfd, somehow I decided on red for that). Those with the bright red, yellow, orange, electric blue, neon green, etc. gear interrupt my enjoyment of the scenery. I know that these colors have probably saved me from unnecessary paddling to see if a campsite is occupied, but, I guess I would rather paddle a few more strokes and enjoy the unbroken scenery more.

Even though I know that I am likely not "alone", I want to at least protect the illusion (suspend disbelief?) for a few days that I am miles from civilization and alone in the forest.
 
missmolly
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12/05/2022 07:17AM  
Tagging "Love Story" here, Solitude means never having to say, "Do ya wanna...?"

Interesting, Michwall2, about visual noise. I appreciate your point, but prefer an orange tent to facilitate finding my campsite as light conditions change.
 
Hammertime
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12/05/2022 11:17PM  
Seek and ye shall find.

I have been on long loop trips where I don’t see another human for multiple days. Also basecamping on lakes near entry points where several other parties are camped on the same lake.

Oddly enough the feeling of solitude for me is often the same. The encounters I have with other groups are so brief it doesn’t seem to matter much.

With that said I would never drop my anchor to fish within earshot of campers and would only take a campsite near another group as a last resort.

True solitude is always available in the BWCA if you are willing to work for it. If you want a prime campsite on a dynamite fishing lake near an entry point some compromises will need to be made.
 
LindenTree
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12/06/2022 11:33AM  
Hammertime: "Seek and ye shall find.
"


Nice,

My wife always said.
"Adventure is not in the guidebook, and beauty is not on the map.
Seek and ye shall find"
 
Minnesotian
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12/06/2022 02:25PM  
Hammertime: "Seek and ye shall find.

True solitude is always available in the BWCA if you are willing to work for it.
"


Couldn't agree more.
 
12/07/2022 10:01AM  
I guess solitude for me is variable and depends on expectations.

If I am in a busy area and see tons of groups all day but then have a fairly quiet evening even if it is on a lake where all the camps are full I can fee solitude. The contrast creates a feeling of solitude for me.

Many times my wife and I have been on a lake like Suzannette…on a high cliff camp over looking almost the entire lake with no one in sight. That is true feeling of solitude. I definitely don’t expect it, others have just as much right to be on lakes as I do…but when moments like that happen it is really nice.

I don’t mind seeing people…seeing more people is less solitude but doesn’t hurt the experience for us.

The only thing I do mind is people coming into camp unannounced as I travel with just my wife or my wife and kids…I think that is socially unacceptable and outside accepted social norms so it is worrisome….has never turned bad/dangerous but it does ruin the experience or solitude. OR people acting as portage police…only happened once where we landed a lady all by herself said we couldn’t portage because her group of nine was still portaging (coming back for their gear)…I ignored her and we single portaged on by them. I think she was concerned we would “take their spot” on the next lake…which we weren’t interested in…as she lectured us on the portage we see her group lounging on the other end eating… so I gave her a lecture back :)…but yea…that didn’t feel like solitude to me.

T
 
papalambeau
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12/07/2022 11:13AM  
I think we've run into that same person timatkn. We did the same thing since we always single portage, just kept going with big smiles on our faces, put the canoes in and loaded up and away we went with their mouths wide open with nothing to say.....

In regards to solitude, just being in the BWCA does it for me. We try to pick lakes with a low number of campsites and that keeps the intrusion to a real minimum. If it does get a little busy we day trip to lakes with zero, 1 or 2 campsites and enjoy a day of fishing with a quiet shore lunch. When we get back to our camp it's either hammock time or if it's later we lounge around the campfire and soak in the real solitude. It is what you make it.....
 
ockycamper
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12/07/2022 11:45AM  
Having been on the other side of the portage issue. . . once in the Ely area we had a large group that had landed 3 canoes and we were trying to unload them and get the gear off to the side when a group drove their canoes right through ours saying we were going to slow and they were single portaging. Really? Do peope seriously have to get somewhere that fast in the BWCA? So we moved to Gunflint. When we were on the portage one year into Aline there were several guys portaging through from the opposite directly as well as our direction. Everyone was polite and we moved over to let them through. Politeness and waiting one's turn goes a long way in the BWCA. And at the end of the day. . .in a thread about solitude. . .is it really that important to drive through the portages and landings? Our group will often set our gear down and help a struggling group get their gear through before we go back for ours.

Not having to be anywhere at any given time. . . .or having to get in a certain amountof miles in a day. . .that is solitude.
 
mjmkjun
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12/07/2022 05:10PM  
HangLoose nailed it!

 
12/19/2022 06:52PM  
Somehow, in reading over this thread in the past I missed this from Iowafishinguy.


PS Lindy-I took my wife on her first trip last summer to Crocodile Lake after reading your reports and your many good things to say about the lake....it was the perfect first trip for her, she fell in love with the BWCA. We are driving up tomorrow morning for her second trip, going out of EP 14. It will be a yearly tradition for us now. Thank you.

This makes me very happy. I hope you continue to enjoy your BWCA trips...and find solitude.
 
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