Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Isaac's first trip to BWCA for his 8th Birthday
by campnscrap

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/24/2010
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Day 1 of 3
Day 1, Thursday June 24, 2010

For Isaac's 8th Birthday (June 23) I decided to introduce him to wilderness camping - my favorite camping place - BWCA. He's been car camping since he was a baby and I don't want him to wait until later in life like I did to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the BWCA. He already loves nature and respects it so it was time to take him.

We booked the same Langford Northwind from Mike @ The Canoeist - an easy tandem with sliding front seat. That worked well to get his weight as far forward as I could and then he was able to paddle without having to reach as far over the sides. He had a nice kid’s size Sawyer paddle and I tried a bent blade one for the first time. I think I liked it. They told me that you lose a little bit of control with it but that it's more efficient.

Originally we were going for an entry date of June 25th. Had planned on camping at Sawbill campground and practice paddling today. But after thinking about it I decided that if we're already going to be there we might as well add an extra night to our trip so I went online and changed our entry date to the 24th. Surprisingly there were no permits booked for that day. He was excited - we'd have an extra night in the B-dub for our trip - and thought it was a fantastic idea.

Wednesday was his actual birthday and of course the night before any trip no one can get a wink of sleep. I think he finally fell asleep around 10:30 and it was almost midnight for me. The alarm was set for 5:00 am. One short night + one long drive = one tired mama by the time we'd get there. We were up at 5:00 on the nose as planned and of course the van was loaded except for a few last things. We got ourselves ready and were on the road by 6:00 am as planned.

A quick stop in Hinckley (a mere 17 miles from home) to gas up and we were on our way north. As I was waiting to turn out of Holiday a dark colored car carrying an Old Town with stickers turned in towards Burger King or Hardees. I'm so curious to know who that was! I ALWAYS look at every vehicle I see carrying a canoe for those stickers but have never seen one. I'll have to post when I get home to see if anyone will answer or admit - I'm so curious - or perhaps just plain nosy :)

After that, Northbound we were with an appointment to pick up the canoe in Two Harbors and to meet up with Dan and Lauren for breakfast at Betty's Pies. We met about 9:30 and had a great visit. The kids fed off each other and got along fantastically. Isaac had his coloring stuff with which he shared with Lauren. She told me that she was going to draw a picture of nature because nature is so pretty - that was so precious. What a dad she has to be guiding her like that - I've said it before, she's one lucky little girl to have a dad like that. In between "shushing" the kids Dan and I were able to visit and go over the Quetico maps for my upcoming trip. I can't believe it's less than a month away! He was so helpful and gave me some great tips on the portages, campsites and optional routes if we decide to not do the entire loop. Thank you so much, Dan, for all that information!

After breakfast we said our good-byes, have fun, be safe blah blah blah and both set off on our northward journeys again. I was headed to Sawbill so didn't have quite as far as they had to go. They were headed to Seagull. There was road construction on 61 that was really pissing me off - I was a woman on a mission and they were getting in my way! FINALLY we got through the construction zone - which was probably about 5 miles but seemed like 50 - and were able to drive a normal speed. Isaac napped almost the whole way to Sawbill. He had slept most of the way to Two Harbors as well so by the time we reached Sawbill he was raring to go.

As soon as I parked the van to get unloaded the first thing he had to do was run down to the canoe landing to check it out. I let him look for a bit as I unstrapped the canoe - enjoying the fresh air as I was "working." Though I don't consider it working. As I was still unstrapping the canoe, a van drove by slowly and a guy said "hi" - he had a hat and stickers on his canoe and van! He didn't stop to chat but it was fun to see another fellow paddler. Two in one day - I was pretty excited.

It didn't take long to get everything unloaded from the van and re-loaded into the canoe. I was a little concerned because there was a pretty stiff north wind blowing. There weren't any big rollers on the lake, but I knew that basically paddling solo in a loaded canoe wouldn't be easy in that wind. We shoved off and my concern was completely warranted - the wind was very strong and it was hard going. Isaac was such a trooper and he tried so much to help out. He was such a little man, doing exactly as I asked him to do, not complaining and paddling his little heart out.

As we first started out he said to me, "Mommy, this is just how I imagined the Boundary Waters to look like." That was such sweet music to my ears. I hope that I have another paddle partner for life. The girls are getting so busy with their lives right now with college and such that I fear our trips won't be as often as I like. I like my solo trips but also want to continue paddling with my children - as I wish I would have been able to paddle with my dad.

That wind was turning into a battle that I did NOT like at all. Isaac worked so hard to do his part helping - what a trooper! After we'd been paddling for a while we discussed it and decided that the first open campsite that we found we would take - even if it was the "perfect" one or the one that we were aiming for. We "hugged" the shoreline to watch for those campsites though there aren't many along there. The first campsite that we came upon was the one by the portage to the fire lakes - but it was taken so, onward we battled the wind. The wind was so strong that a few times it spun us around 180* and as we were trying to "hug" the shoreline we had a few shore rubs - I wouldn't call them crashes because we didn't actually hit anything, we just needed to push off with our paddles. There were no hard hits, no damage or anything. It was just pissing mom off - big time - and Isaac heard a few words that he doesn't ever hear mom say.

We paddled onward, and were close to the campsite that I stayed at on my solo last year. We entered the cove and Isaac kept calling out "hello?" with no answers at all. I pulled up to shore, he got out, ran up the campsite and excitedly hollered back to me, "It's open!" He was ecstatic because this was the campsite that he had originally wanted in the first place. I had prayed the whole time paddling that it would be open and, yeehaw, it was. We got the canoe unloaded and as I was in the water getting ready to haul it further ashore, I slipped on those slime covered rocks and down I went. Good grief. Two trips out of Sawbill EP and two times I get wet. At least this time it wasn't a canoe dunk. And thank goodness I didn't get hurt. But boy, oh boy, that water was COLD! BRRR!

It took a while to get camp set up and organized. Isaac was so excited to check everything out. Of course the first thing we had to find was the latrine - he didn't have any clue as to what a latrine was or what it would look like. He's just been used to pit toilets at the State Parks. He wasn't too fond of how it looks and I'll be surprised if he actually will even use it.

We set the tent up on the same tent pad that I used last year.

Since there was a chance of rain all weekend I put up one of the ugly blue tarps over my tent just because I know that he won't be as careful as I am getting in/out of the tent when it's raining - and I'm glad I did that. I also set up my new Guide Gear rain tarp - it didn't have any directions with it so I improvised. It isn't the best job, but it's up and it'll keep us dry. And, holy crap, it's freakin' huge!

While I was doing that Isaac was busy gathering fire wood - he was so excited to have a fire. I wasn't really paying attention to what he was gathering but he had found a downed pine tree by our tent and was getting dry sticks off there (such a good boy! all that birch bark available and he didn't touch it). He asked me to come look at his campfire that was ready to be lit and low and behold he got a teepee style set up. We had discussed at breakfast that usually the teepee style campfires don't work in the fire grates in the BWCA - he didn't get it that it wasn't a fire pit that he's been used to all these years State Park camping.

After admiring his work I went back to getting things organized and put up the mosquito netting thing I had purchased at REI - it had little key chain rings and i was able to hook those right onto the tarp - it worked perfect - wasn't exactly "square" but it was a place for him to sit without bugs getting at him -he doesn't like mosquitoes and was complaining about them. It was a good $15 spent. And actually the bugs weren't that bad. What there was a lot of were slugs! I don't know why, but ewwwww, they're so gross.

Once everything was set up and organized he decided that he wanted to go for a swim in his own private swimming area. Actually swimming for him there was wading and trying to catch minnows.

So, on went the swim trunks, water shoes and PFD and into the cove he went. The water was crystal clear and filled with rocks. I reminded him that some of those rocks are very slippery and he knew because of my slip earlier. He took a bowl and silently hunted them - standing still and striking just when he thought it would work to catch one.

As he was minnow hunting I sat on one of the rocks and pumped water. But I had to stop just to watch him a take a few photos. The sun was shining on his while head of hair and sparkling like millions of diamonds on the water. Watching him in this setting was so enchanting to me. Hi sun-kissed, brown skin set off his white hair. You'd think by looking at him, as fair as he is in the winter, that he'd burn in the summer, but he doesn't. Gets that from his mama - daddy burns. He had such fun I only wish that I had taken the girls when they were younger. However, I didn't have the confidence that i do now to take such a camping trip.

I'm still amazed at how well he did paddling in that head wind today. He even said to me "I wish we were going the other way so the wind would be pushing us!" My smart boy. I also showed every ounce of my inexperience in that wind, but still learning as I went.

The sun is still shining with a few clouds brewing and there's thunder in the distance. I think it'll probably rain later, but for now we'll enjoy the sunshine. We both got quite warm paddling in that wind so a swim for him was a good thing. He got cooled off and burned off some energy from sitting so long. And, now, FINALLY, success - he caught his minnow. There's just something about not needing any toys to be entertained. He is so good at that. This time it was a bowl, lake water, "fishies" and the thrill of the hunt - that’s all it took.

Supper was Mountain House Spaghetti. It's labeled as serving for two but it would feed three. Between the two of us we only ate half the package. It was pretty good but next time I'm going to look for meals that serve one. Of course, I know that he'd also been snacking so I suppose that didn't help matters either. He loves his Gobstoppers! We did light the campfire that he built after supper was cleaned up - I couldn't deny him a fire on his first night in the BWCA even though I was dying to go to bed. He really did a great job getting it ready to be lit. Added a fire starter and it took of great. We sat "around" and I let him have free reign with it - though watching him closely. It wasn't a big fire and didn't make enough coals for marshmallows, but he was so full from supper he wouldn't have been able to eat one anyway.

For most of the late afternoon and evening we heard thunder off in the distance though it was sunny for us - with a few clouds. I couldn't tell which direction it was coming from or if it was coming towards us. I hoped that it wouldn't storm as I knew that would make him so afraid - he doesn't like thunderstorms and being in a tent in one will NOT be a good thing for him. Time will tell.....

Isaac is so busy and enthralled with everything there is to see - rocks, trees, detritus, bugs, plants, even water - just nature in general. If he can handle camping without his bike, friends and numerous toys then we'll be doing good. I should have someone teach me how to fish, clean and filet because he does like to fish. I just don't. He would spend hours casting from shore I bet and have fun just trolling along in the canoe. Only problem is I hate raw meat and guts and such. Icky.

Just as our fire was dying it started to sprinkle and though it was still plenty light out he headed to the tent. The thunder kept rumbling in the distance but it never did reach here. As we were getting ready to head tothe tent we could hear wolf howls far in the distance - that was cool! There was rain off and on all night long, no downpours, just nice soft rains.

In the tent we played cards and I taught him how to play Yahtzee the real way (he's played it on the hand held game).

We read (or I should say I read to him) a book. Then we decided that we would make up and write our own story. We took the Doodle Pad and he made up the story with just a little help from me. I wrote it down for him and then after a few paragraphs he would add the illustration. We did this for quite a long time - he really enjoyed that.

As it got dark out I pulled out the glow sticks that I had purchased for him as a surprise. He played with those as I journaled. I’m glad that I got them - he really had fun with them. He strung one of them up to use as a night light - it was so cute. By then it was dark, not sure the time - I tend to not look at my watch much when on trips. We were both bushed and ready for bed. One last potty and off to dreamland we both went.