The Calm Between the Storms
Lesson #1 - Taking your father and three 12- and 13-year olds is work, not rest.
Day One - After meeting up at my home in Shakopee, MN and distributing gear, we got a good night’s sleep for an early start north. Rain was in the forecast so our early start on Sunday was accompanied by intermediate showers as we drove north through the Twin Cities. An hour north of Minneapolis, the rain began to break and we drove with a magnificent rainbow to the west.
After picking up our permit and grabbing lunch in Ely, we hit the trail at about 1 pm. A half mile carry to the water got us excited as we found blueberries and raspberries. My eldest got a small pike while waiting for the rest of us at the end of the portage. It would be our biggest fish of the trip.
The rain began again almost as soon as we were on the water. It came down hard for short spells, causing us to hide beneath cedar trees on the bank. We passed the first few camp sites and found one on a nice, rocky outcrop. As we were landing the rain broke and we were able to get our gear set up and a fire started. Of course, as soon as we started cooking our steaks and potatoes, it came down again. As the cook, I had to dodge the drops and feed a hurried dinner to our hungry group hunkered down under the tarp.
At about 7 pm, the rain started to come in hard. The wind was whipping hard from the west off the lake and rather than dodge falling trees in the woods by our hammocks, we put on our rain gear and braved the weather in the open. The rain came in so hard, one of our canoes was picked up and thrown thirty feet, thankfully without any damage. A couple decent size spruce trees fell near our hammocks so we were glad we stayed outside.
After about thirty minutes, the rain broke, the sky cleared. We hauled out our wet sleeping bags from the hammocks to dry and did a little fishing. Just a few small bass and walleye. Nothing worth eating.
One of our hammocks was soaked through so I slept underneath the tarp. Morning couldn’t come soon enough.
Lesson #2 - Keep in the open during windstorms. Lesson #3 - Sleeping on the ground under a tarp isn’t fun. Hammocks are good.
Days Two and Three - We paddled north through a short couple portages into Clear Lake. Most of the campsites were taken so we grabbed an open site on an island. It turned out to be a great site for our six hammocks. We spent the next two days exploring the lake and day tripping to fish, pick blueberries, and try to beat the 90 degree heat with lots of swimming. Evenings were spent striking out with the fish, but enjoying amazing sunsets and a spectacular full moon and its reflection on the water. The boys spent their time fishing, exploring the island, and messing around. The sunset on night three was one of the more spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was spread out over the top of the trees like a wildfire. One of the more amazing scenes I’ve ever seen in my time outdoors.
Day Four - Our original plan was to go back to the first campsite, but after listening to the weather report’s warning of severe thunderstorms that night into the morning, we elected to head all the way back to the car and shorten the trip by twelve hours. We spent a lazy lunch swimming in some mild rapids. Our decision to come out early turned out to be a good decision. That night’s windstorm killed two people not to far north of us when a tree fell on their tent.
We had a great, but wet trip. Wished we caught more fish, but the blueberry haul, the great swimming, and the beautiful sunsets and moonrises will be in all six of our memories.
Lesson #3 - Be safe. Lesson #4 - Swimming beats the heat in the Boundary Waters.