Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

In Our Minds It's Still There
by Spartan2

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/05/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Kawishiwi Lake (EP 37)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
This is my report on our September trip on Kawishiwi, Square and Kawasachong Lakes. We were there during the Pagami Creek fire, and exited shortly before the fire burned into that area. It is a pictorial report; perhaps these are some of the last photos taken of these sites before they burned.
Part 1 of 8

This is not a short trip report, so if you are looking for something terse and concise, you should just quit and go elsewhere. I am wordy, and I do not apologize for it. I take a lot of photos, and I am sharing more this time because the places that we visited on this short trip are now altered forever. There was a wildfire that came through this area two days after we left. I may have been the last person to take photos of these places when they looked like this. I have memorialized them, and I want to share them.

If you read this report, you will go on our trip with us. So I want you to know some things about us. We have been married to each other for 43 years; we are 66 years old. We have been canoe-tripping together since 1971, which means that this year marks forty years. I didn’t start out with a wimpy trip, I started out with a six-day trip that had lots of miles, a bunch of portages, and quite a few challenges, and we broke camp every day. It also rained several of those days. I knew, back then, how to pack light and how to get along with just the bare essentials; how to sit on a log, how to squat by the fire, and how to carry a Duluth pack. Spartan1 could eat whatever he wanted to eat, and we did our first trip with one of those little metal snap-open boxes of aspirin (does anyone remember those?) and no other medications.

Those days are gone now. Spartan1 has had a kidney transplant 2 ½ years ago; he is a type1 diabetic with a few of the other complications and cautions that that entails. He is on a daily handful of anti-rejection meds that have side effects, the most notable of which are ease of bleeding under the skin and risk of skin cancer. I have been battling some serious pain issues with bursitis in my hip and lower back area for the past two years and can no longer carry my packs on anything but the shortest, easiest portages. My mobility is less than it should be and my balance isn’t as good as it once was, making me afraid of falling on slippery rocks. I am overweight.

So we have changed a lot of things from the “old days”. I have a pad on my seat. I have a large Sealine bag behind my seat that I can lean against from time to time to rest my back after paddling. We find this works better than a seat back. We have to carry a big bag of medications. We have had to change our diet. We both can no longer have caffeine; our coffee is decaf. Spartan1 takes insulin in pens, and I carry glucagon injections in case he has an insulin reaction and I have to deal with an emergency. We take camp stools.

We started out in a Grumman Canoe. In 1999 we bought a Bell Northwind in kevlar with a green composite layup. It has wood trim that is badly in need of refinishing, partly because I put the wrong kind of Watco finish on it a couple years ago and it gave a very bad result. I keep thinking I will sand it down and do it again, but life seems to get in the way. The canoe is in about the same shape we are: old and beat-up. Maybe that is appropriate. But it floats, and it gets us where we want to go. Since we don’t go very far anymore, we don’t baby it and we don’t care as much what it looks like. But we don’t dry-foot, either.

This year we even bought a folding chair, so that there would be a seat with a back in camp for me to rest in. It was wonderful, but it was a change that I resisted.

But the main difference is that he babies me. That has been very difficult for me to accept. Because you see, this wasn’t really a canoe trip for me. My mind is still set on the old definition of “canoe trip”: I carry my packs, I do my share of the work, I am a full partner. And now he is doing for me. Carrying the camera bag and the tripod, pulling the canoe through the shallow stream while I wait on the bank, pulling over the beaver dam while I take a picture, doing the bulk of the effort so that I can still be there, still feel like I am a part of it all. Carrying my packs. That’s just wrong, somehow.

For me, this was a camping trip. I was taken along, and I am glad for it. I know he doesn’t mind, because I know he enjoys having me there with him, but it is still hard not to long for the days when it was different. I want to do my share.

We enjoyed this trip. The weather was warmer than we would have liked, but it was very pleasant. We had no medical crises, no injuries, and no problems that challenged us. We were disappointed not to see more wildlife, but we also didn’t see a lot of other people, and we savored the quiet time together.

I have written this report from my journal, and if you read the report and see the photos, it will be very much like you were on our trip with us. There are a few personal things that are none of your business, but you get most of it. There are more photos than needed, because, it was hard to leave anything out. This place was enjoying its last burst of beauty before it was changed forever.

That isn’t to say that it won’t be beautiful again. Just different.

And I liked it the way it was.