Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Single mother, 6-year old, 5-year old Lake One Trip - HUGE success!
by tanyabindernagel168

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/14/2013
Entry & Exit Point: Lake One (EP 30)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
My dad introduced me to the BWCA when I was 3 years old. We went every year until we moved to California when I was 7. When I was in college I planned a "reunion" trip with my dad... and it started a new tradition. That trip was in 2000. We then did trips in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, twice in 2010, and 2011. In that time, I added a husband and two kids to the trips. Took kids as babies. In 2011, I went with the family during my R&R from Afghanistan. Sigh, but in late 2011 I found myself as a single mother. 2012 I couldn't find any other adults to do a trip with me and the kids. 2013 same problem... so 2013 I decided to just do it anyway. So... I did a ton of research, created an obsessive packing list, and took my 6 and 5 year old for a week-long BWCA adventure by myself...
I posted on here a few months ago asking for advice about my trip as a single mother with two fairly young children. I got a mix of responses... some saying "don't do it", some saying "go for it", and some in between. I was on the swing... back and forth for awhile. And then decided to just go for it.

July 12 - In the wee hours of the morning (230am), I piled our gear and the kids into a rental car and began the journey from Oklahoma to Minnesota. It was an uneventful drive and we arrived in Minneapolis pretty much on schedule around 4pm. We checked into a KOA campground... I have discovered the KOA camping cabins are perfect for trips like this... inexpensive, fun for the kids, camping feel, but still comfortable.

July 13 - Continued our drive north, stopping along the way at a grocery store to pick up the last minute perishable items we wanted for our trip. We arrived in Ely around 2pm and went to pick up our permit. At the forest service station, the lady was very apprehensive about my plans. She seemed a little reluctant to release the permit. She gave the kids a LONG quiz about safety. They got almost all the answers right... only thing I hadn't talked to them about was rules about gathering firewood. The quiz seemed to make her feel better and we got the permit. At 3pm, we checked in to our hotel and did a last minute check of our gear and food. Then continued our tradition with dinner at the Chocolate Moose, a stop at the playground, and then ice cream. And then an early bedtime.

July 14 - We were up by 6am, packed up in the car by 7am and on our way to pick up our canoe. My kids are never that efficient but I guess they were really excited because we were at the Lake One entry point by 830 ready to start paddling. I was a little worried because the wind was a little strong but figured we would stay close to the shore and take it slow. I put both kids in the front seat with me in the back and had them both paddle. My daughter (the 5-year old) never did quite get the hang of it, but my son (the 6-year old) quickly mastered paddling. And the wind didn't end up being that bad. About an hour in, my son had to stop to go potty. We pulled in to one of the campsites and both kids wanted to stay there. I was reluctant since it was the first available campsite and we really hadn't had a chance to see what else was there. They agreed to look at at least two more before we choose where we would camp. Good thing we waited because we found an island campsite that was absolutely perfect! We pulled in there and got the tent set up just as rain moved in. We spent the afternoon in the tent while it rained. About 3pm it cleared and we were able to start exploring. We walked the perimeter of our island and my son claimed it as his "island paradise". Then we tried some fishing with no luck. A fire, some dinner, and suddenly it was 8pm and the kids were actually asking to go to bed.

July 15 - I woke up to find my son studying the map. "Mama, I want to go over to the river today!" I looked where he was pointing... three short portages around rapids to the river looked doable. So that's what we did. We packed a lunch and headed for the river. First portage was a little rough for me... wasn't sure how my bad back was going to handle a canoe over my head but it was fine. Second portage was easy. The third portage... we pulled in to it but then looked at the rapids... they were really really really gentle... so we ran them. The kids were absolutely delighted. We paddled along the river for awhile, ate lunch in the canoe, fished with no success, and then paddled back to portage back to Lake One and our campsite. We got back to our campsite just in time for the rain to hit... so into the tent for another afternoon. And again it cleared in time for dinner. While we were eating we were treated to TWO bald eagles flying over and then perching on trees on the island across from ours. Only bad thing was the ridiculous amount of mosquitos. Oklahoma has made me forget how miserable mosquitos can be.

July 16 - We tried to take another excursion but it was too windy. I discovered very quickly that the kids and I weren't heavy enough to keep the canoe from whipping around in the wind, so we took the day to explore our island. The wind got rid of all the mosquitos so we were free to enjoy. We "hiked" to the back side of our island where rocks sprawled out into the water about 20 feet... there my son and I swam and climbed. Then we had a picnic lunch under some trees up on top of one of the rock cliffs farther down on our island. And then we went back around to the front by our camp to a little sandy/rocky beach where my kids spent the rest of the day swimming and playing. It was sunny and warm and a lot of fun. Was perfect until we found a five inch long leech swimming in the water... never seen my kids evacuate a pool so quickly lol.

July 17 - My kids were up early! So we got in the canoe while the water and wind was still calm and paddled west toward a marshy area. We followed the creek for over a mile until we hit a beaver dam. We could have kept going but kids were ready to go back to camp so we paddled back to our island for swimming and lunch. After lunch, the kids wanted to canoe over to the portages that go to Lake Two and try to go there. I agreed but only about twenty feet away from our island realized it was too windy for that. So we decided to go back to the island... walked to the back of the island and realized the lake on that side was somewhat sheltered from the wind. So we got back in the canoe and paddled to the back side of the island just in time to get drenched by a freek rain cloud. Me: "you guys want to head back to camp?" My son, eyeing the portage toward the river: "no Mama, we're already wet... can we run those rapids again?" Me: "That means I have to carry the canoe all those times again." My son: "Plllleeeeeeaaaaaassssseeee". And so we did that... portaged twice, ran the rapids, fished the river, and then portaged back. Saw lots of turtles and saw some northerns below the surface but couldn't catch any. We got back to camp just in time for a fire, quick dinner, and an evening thunderstorm.

July 18 - We woke up to rain. All morning! We ended up eating leftovers and snack foods for breakfast because the kids refused to go out in the rain to cook. About 10am, the rain stopped so we got out. The kids wanted to try to go to Lake Two again. It was fairly calm so I agreed. We paddled over to the portage, ate a quick lunch in the canoe, and portaged the two trails over to Lake Two. We got in at Lake Two just in time to hear a crash. Thunderstorm! We headed for an island and waited the storm out huddled in a little pine grove. It only lasted about ten minutes but we ended up soaked and the kids had lost all interest in fishing, exploring, or anything else on Lake Two, so we headed back. By the time we got back to camp, the weather had cleared so the kids went swimming on our little "beach". Our original plan was to stay out until July 20, but the kids started to ask if we could come in a day early on the 19th so we could spend a night in Minneapolis on the way home. I was reluctant because I wasn't ready to leave the BWCA yet... but after some pleading, I finally agreed. So we packed up our non-essentials and made preparations to canoe out in the morning. We were so focused on that we didn't see the black clouds moving in. Before we knew what hit is, it was pouring and blowing and storming. We ran for the tent. It stormed ALL night! Someone said it rained over eight inches.

July 19 - We woke up early to dry but very dramatically clouded skies. We quickly packed our gear and by 730am were in the canoe paddling our way toward the entry point and our car. By 9am we were docking our canoe and unloading our gear into the car. The trip was over. It was too short, went by way to fast, but was an absolute blast and just about perfect!

LESSONS LEARNED (especially pertaining to a 1 adult, 2 kids trip):

- the farkle dice I packed, and the travel battleship game my son smuggled into his backpack were absolute lifesavers!!! these games provided adequate entertainment for all of us for the hours we spent rained in our tent. - i splurged and bought a collapsable "kitchen sink" for the trip. I'm opposed to gagets like that but this time it was money well spent. allowed the kids to wash the dishes away from camp in a way they could manage! - i brought a bug bottle with a net and tweezers... A HUGE HIT!!! they spent hours trying to trap ants and spiders and flys. - the campsite with a beach... a must with kids who want to swim but who can't handle the deep yet. - the island site... with places to hike and picnic... was perfect - I brought a solar charger I use here in sunny oklahoma... even with the rain and clouds in the bwca i was able to keep my phone charged enough to take pictures... highly recommended - dehydrated ice cream!!! I bought two packs of the space mint-chocolate chip dehydrated ice cream. On the two "hot" days we had, the kids thought this was the best treat ever (and so did I)!!! - I should have kept the food simple. I'm used to doing camp food for picky adults. My kids would have feasted on pb&j, mac and cheese, and hot dogs all week with no complaints. the fancy stuff I tried to do... they ate but it was a lot of extra work for something I could have kept super simple. - no fishing unless another adult... kids wanted to fish but it was too hard to paddle, supervise them, and fish at the same time.

NEED ADVICE: - mosquitos... made the kids miserable. they don't like spray so they just let the bugs bite... but their poor ankles and arms look like they had a bad case of chicken pox. anyone have any suggestions for future trips on how to keep the mosquitoes at bay???

Overall a great trip! I understood the risk but took a lot of precautions and didn't have any issues. I was very cautious which paid off. Kids had a blast and already asking to go again just like we did this time.