Getting back to the woods - 2013
I'm trying to recall this trip 6 years later, so keep in mind it is subject to all the fallibility of the human memory. But I wanted to get it down on *paper* before I truly forgot it all.
I did not really plan hardly any of this trip. I just remember stirring up a hornet's nest of "let's go camping!" amongst the fellas I wanted to come with me. Lo and behold, I got my brother Keith and 3 others (Wade, Andy, Trent) to agree to go, and Wade took the bull by the horns and actually planned the EP, contacted an outfitter, and bought some maps.
That was about all I knew going into it. We were going camping in the Boundary Waters and I was stoked. We were also bringing some true greenhorns. For Andy and Trent, this would be pretty much their first time paddling a canoe, and first time sleeping in a tent in any sort of remote place. But they were game, and we figured we had it covered.
Since it was planned fairly last minute, we were trying to squeeze the trip into the shortest possible time away from home/work as we could. I worked a full day on Wednesday then drove up to Andy's house in Milwaukee from mine in the Chicago area. I crashed with him that night, then woke verrrrry early Thursday, picked up Trent and headed west & north. This was our entry day.
That's right, we woke up in Milwaukee on our entry day. I had no idea this isn't how it's normally done.
But, we made hay and booked through Wisconsin up to Fenske Lake Outfitters, where we met Keith & Wade. I'm not sure what time it was, but doing the math, it's at least 8 hours from Milwaukee to Fenske....maybe we left at 5am...that puts us there at 1pm at the very earliest. Normally, this is the time of day that we start panicking if we haven't found our campsite yet, but didn't know any different this year.
We had to pack bags and get situated with various rental equipment at Fenske Outfitters, then eventually they drove us to our EP...#29, the North Kawishiwi River, and we set sail.
The interesting thing about that EP, which none of us had any idea was interesting or different in any way at the time, is that you have to paddle through 2 entire lakes (not exactly small ones either), and take a pretty damn long portage before you are even in the Boundary Waters. You go through Ojibway Lake and Triangle Lake, then a 200 rod portage before emerging onto the North Kawishiwi River.
So, that we did.
I honestly have a hard time recalling what I was thinking or what my emotions were like at the time. I do remember sharing a canoe with Trent (the first timer), who remarked almost immediately as we launched our boat onto the first lake..."yeah, this is sweet..." So, he was sold already. That peacefulness and remoteness sets in quick, and we were digging it.
So we get to the Kawishiwi and start heading south. And the sun starts to get low. And we start to notice all the river campsites are taken.
Panic did not set in, but we started to realize the reality of what we were up against. We needed to find a vacant spot before the sun went down. Eventually we did find one in a bay on the river. I don't remember it being a great site, but it certainly fit the bill for our first night.
It was unseasonably warm (hot) and the mosquitoes were still out in full force even though it was September. I jumped in the lake to wash off accumulated grime from the day's travels, and we cooked up a fish I caught on the way to the site and some other food for dinner.
And then enjoyed our first night as a group in the woods. Had a nice fire, some cocktails, and tried to get Andy good and scared of the bears that were going to be haunting his tent at night...he was solo, and it was his first night ever camping, so we made sure he knew it wasn't safe and that those sounds he'd be hearing laying in his tent were definitely malicious critters out to get him.