BWCA Reflections on a May trip Boundary Waters Group Forum: Solo Tripping
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06/07/2022 11:41AM  
I had planned all winter on a loop from EP 50 TO EP 47, 10 to 14 days but crazy high and fast water made me modify the trip to a base camping 5 or 6 day trip out of EP47. Setting the scene: It rained every day but one with steady NW winds and the temps stayed in the 40's and 50's except one afternoon it got about 60. The campsite was the last available on the lake and was at best a 2. Age and an arthritic back made me sore and gimpy and restricted some activities.

I did not have a good time.

The trip wasn't all bad, all trips have their ups and downs but I really had a hard time shaking the negative vibes and mad at myself for not enjoying the trip more.

The question I have for the solo tripping community is How Do You shake off the blues, change your frame of mind, turn that frown upside down etc etc.? Tricks, games, rose colored glasses? Any advice no matter how silly it may seem is appreciated.

I have another trip scheduled for late August.
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distinguished member(1340)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/07/2022 02:43PM  
Hey, I recognize that weather! Being in at the same time and same area as you, I can say that the weather was not the best by a long shot. It wasn't that bad, it just wasn't very good. But we stayed out after you came in and it did not get any better.

I guess I look at it this way: whatever I'm doing on a solo trip is less stressful than whatever I would be doing at home or my office. When I've gotten down on solos, I need to move my body. If nothing but a very short walk around the site or the trails around the site, going in for a swim, or taking the boat out. If it's raining, and the rain appears to be socked in, I usually eat dinner early, tidy up my camp underneath my tarp, take a shower back in the woods, and retire to my tent early. In there I will read and play puzzles, have a finger of Jack Daniels, and perhaps listen to the radio a bit. All of that tends to get my mind out of a funk.

I think it's easy to get mad at ourselves for not enjoying our trip more. I've been there, and I understand it. Again, some trips will be better than others, but all trips are better than none, and I do my best to refocus. Think of how lucky you are: you get to be out in the woods, in nature, by yourself. You get to do your own thing on your own schedule in your own way. It doesn't get much better than that. To me, that in and of itself is enough enjoyment to turn my mood around.

Lastly, there's nothing wrong with journaling. I don't do it myself, but I know some people Journal especially while they solo. You can write anything you want. You don't have to show it to anybody. Heck, you could even burn it before you leave if you want.

I don't know if this will help, but it's what I've got.

distinguished member (260)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/07/2022 05:08PM  
Few rules I practice...
Be prepared. Try to avoid bad maps, bad partners and bad weather when possible.

Nothing is forever. The rain will stop, snow will melt, boggy trail will end, dry creek get some water, mosquitos go to sleep. Wait for sunset and the wind will slow down, or if not by sunset then by the morning.

Nothing is too difficult as long as it's doable. Take rest stops as needed and the uphill portage will turn downhill eventually.

Enjoy everything thrown your way. There's no poor campsites or nasty portages, as long as you treat them with respect.

Bring something for days of forced inactivity. I carry a Kindle with plenty of reading.

Of course, one nice day one gets stuck on a treeless island in the middle of a storm, but hey - rig your tent with rocks and imagine how you'll remember that adventure tomorrow.

For me it works and I never had a bad day in the wilderness. Plenty of tough ones.
distinguished member(2020)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/07/2022 05:51PM  
I really dislike trips and weather like you describe, and it's happened more often the older I get. Years ago, when the weather was too wet, cold and windy to enjoy a campsite and too crappy to fish, I'd simply travel...of course, this ensures I had the right gear to do this. As I got older, doing that in bad weather became less and less the norm.

How to shake off "bad" vibes today? Cut the trip short. Come back when the weather is better, like later in the summer, or better yet into September for better weather and less paddlers....btw, in 40 so years of paddling solo, May weather after ice out generally sucks way more than June-Sept....
06/07/2022 06:44PM  
A number of good suggestions mentioned.

As a long time tripper I have learned that if I can sleep at night, I can tolerate just about anything during the day.

I will admit that I try to time my trips for decent “weather windows” and increasingly I basecamp and just enjoy my time in the woods. I am a long time retiree so I have a lot of flexibility as to when I go. And I think a big part is just accepting what comes your way and making the best of it.
06/08/2022 07:24AM  
The older I get, the more of those days I have . . . even at home. Good advice given, try to focus on something besides the negatives, distract yourself. And Tylenol, more Tylenol, and . . . Tylenol PM.
06/08/2022 09:31AM  
I did the Hunters Island loop a few years back solo. I was planning on 14 days, but I completed the route in 11. It rained every day, my fishing rod broke on day 1 (my fault!), and my kindle was dead on day 2.

Journaling did help, as did moving every day regardless of the rain (did not have to contend with wind, and that was a blessing).

I cannot stay in one site more than two nights unless I am with my wife; they are too small and I get really stir crazy. For me, it is a matter of moving.

I have cut many solo trips to the BW short due to being unable to find sites-tis one reason I rarely go to the BW any more as I find it too damn crowded.

That said, I have a trip upcoming on June 29 entering at Kawishiwi, and with my new job, I only have a week. I have not been to this area in over 20 years, and I know it is going to be busy. I have a loop planned, and if I cannot find new sites daily, I paddle until I am back at the EP.
distinguished member(2313)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/08/2022 11:51AM  

I have had a similar trip to what you described. It was supposed to be a 14 day solo through Quetico. After day 9, when I had experienced only 1 day of sunshine and no rain, I pulled the ripcord, left early, and came home. I also had negative vibes during that trip and found myself standing at lake shore's in my campsite and staring off into the distance.

I did read a lot, fished, listened to some music. I also bring some funny podcasts along to listen to. Those really helped.

But I think the best solution for a bad vibe trip is to get out and do another trip, hoping for better weather.
06/08/2022 08:21PM  
I've been there before. Nasty weather, exhaustion and especially if the wind is up. Here's a few things you may consider.

Go with a dog. Yes, not for everyone but I find it to be very enjoyable to have a good dog along, especially one who loves to portage and go for hikes in the woods and fetch a tennis ball from shore.

Get into a good book or two. I can get lost in a good book while the wind howls out on the lake.

Bring a camera and go exploring and just take pictures of cool stuff. Making a timelapse with a short tripod is pretty neat.

So basically, it's doing things to get out of my head. And journaling for yourself is always therapeutic. Just write down all that you're feeling. If you decide it's too personal, then burn it! LOL

Louisa Lake 2013 Luna's maiden trip at 2 and 1/2 years.
distinguished member(1938)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/08/2022 09:56PM  
So sorry to hear it was an unenjoyable trip. That can be really hard when you have been planning and yearning for the experience. I haven't yet experienced what you went through on this solo, so I don't have a solution. However, I have had times when I was just not in the right frame of mind to continue a solo for its planned length and have left a bit early...guilt free. Take care and I hope you get some sunny days in August.
06/08/2022 10:33PM  
I'm glad to see this thread because I have had a lot of similar challenges on previous solos. More often than not I leave a day or more earlier than planned, since looking at routes, looking at time off, all of the planning seems so glorious and wonderful and I put in and paddle and portage and eight hours later set up camp and make dinner and sleep, and then I wake up the next morning and think .... okay, NOW what?

And I know what to do, I've got books and journaling and fishing and podcasts and moving to another site and everything that we all love to do to fill time up there when we're not moving, but nothing really seems to satisfy. Ten minutes of something and I'm restless and switch to something else, and then I get mad at myself for not enjoying it, then get mad at myself for getting mad at myself, so on and so forth.

I've found that as long as my hands are occupied, my brain is occupied, and I don't start stewing on the !@%! wind or the rock under my tent or that I should be enjoying it more, but the best way I've found to keep my hands occupied is to have a paddle in them, and when I'm windbound that takes away the best tool I've got.

TomT's advice of doing things to get out of your head is spot on, and journaling (and burning it all before I go) is also spot on. I just need to make it work consistently for me, too.
distinguished member(1440)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/14/2022 10:31PM  
Hey Merlyn,

Sorry to hear you had a rough trip. Thank you for sharing your frustrations and posting your question. It helps me both reflect and prepare. Hopefully, you get some good suggestions and you can prepare for your next trip to be more enjoyable.

We were in the same area during the same time. It was cold and windy for most of our 12-day trip. Since it was my dad and me, we could work through some of the colder, wetter, and windier days a little bit better than if I had been alone.

When I am alone and get to feeling crummy I make kindling. Forces me to pay attention to something I'm doing with my hands. I also believe I'm doing something nice for the next person as I leave most of it behind. It usually leads me to think about people close to me in my life and I journal about nice things I can do for them when I return. I usually end up writing about the beautiful things I see and hear while in the wilderness. One other idea that I just started this year when I was alone in early May...macro photography. It was fun to look for details in very simple things right where I was. Since I only have a cell phone camera, most of the pictures didn't turn out great when I got back to a computer...but it did change my perspective and give me something enjoyable to do that helped me look at things differently. I also discovered the slow-motion video record and made a bunch of short and silly videos of things in slow-motion. Fun stuff! My kids enjoyed them even though they are now even more convinced I'm loony!

Those things help me anyway...

Again, I hope you pick up some good ideas from the folks who shared their solutions. I know I learned a few things and will try listening to a favorite podcast, preferably humorous, and maybe a couple of my favorite songs. Good luck to you on your next trip...hopefully it will be the best one yet!

distinguished member (156)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/07/2023 08:59PM  
Hi Boonie, just wanted to say "Hello"

distinguished member (420)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/28/2023 09:58AM  
I set up my tarp over the fire grate and start a small fire. The labor to process the wood (saw and split), helps warm me up and get the blood flowing. Having a fire and a warm space with a hot drink cheers me up.
I also will retreat to my sleeping area and get comfortable, warm, and dry. I read or work on my list of improvements for my next trip.

Honestly, I will take a cold wet day anytime over a 95F humid one.
distinguished member (361)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/28/2023 10:59AM  
I ran into that last year. Drizzle on the way to the lake (Wood) drizzle on the lake. I decided to grab the first open site and wait it out. Well, I ended up staying there. There were a few breaks in the weather, but every time I went out, after a couple of hours, the sky would darken, and the rain would follow. Frustrating, to say the least. I did make it up to Good Lake, and got drenched on the way back. My rain gear got more use on this trip than on any other. To make a long gripe short, I read the book I brought along, did shorter exploration trips looking for wildlife, and tried to make the best of it. I realized that the weather was out of my control, and to just go with the flow. Disappointed ? Yup. Frustrated ? Yup. Bad mood ? Eh, not really. I was where I wanted to be, and that was the important part.
05/28/2023 06:51PM  
Wife got sick and spent 5 days in the hospital so I canceled my May 31,2023 entry at ep 50, cross bay . Will try again June 6, same ep. If all holds up as planned, will do a reflections on a June trip. I should have served cheese with my whine on that original post last year.
05/28/2023 09:19PM  
MossBack: " Hi Boonie, just wanted to say "Hello"


Hi, MossBack
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