Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Gals Trip + Riley
by TreeBear

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/15/2021
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
This is a funny trip to look back at now. We had three former guides and one friend that hadn’t been to the BWCA before. The trip taught us all a lot about pride, the importance of clear communication, and the necessity of expressing everyone's different expectations for a trip ahead of time. Leading up to the trip, I was discussing the routes with one of the former guides, let's call her D, that was bringing her friend (let’s call her T) along. D and I had guided together and were pretty good friends. It’s funny now that we’re dating since neither of us had any thoughts or intentions then. Discussing routes over text, it’s also amusing to trace how guiding brains work. Between the three guides in the group, we had say eleven guide BWCA guide seasons between us at the time, enough to mostly know what we were doing. It was also enough to get us really excited for a friends trip where we could seemingly go wherever we wanted, as far and fast as we wanted. The only variable was the well-being of the extra friend. I am definitely the route planning geek of the group, so I put together a few possible routes. When presenting them to our “group leader” she infamously said “let’s do all of them.” So with that can-do attitude, we set out to see how things would go.
Day 1 of 6
Saturday, May 15, 2021

This would be my first trip with my “brand new” canoe. It was a gorgeous, very-well preserved 1982 Mad River Explorer Kevlar. This would come up a couple times on the trip as a theme since I think we saw three other antique Mad River whose owners complemented mine! The second canoe in the lot was a Wenonah Tuff-Weave Boundary Waters. Side by side, neither canoe is what one would call “fast.” They are both nice expedition hulls, can handle a decent cargo load, and do a lot of things pretty well, but none of them are mileage makers per se. We put in at Snowbank lake and made the crossing north. The weather was really nice, especially for May, as this year I had snuck in an April canoe trip into the BWCA with early ice out. We made great time to the Boot portages and into Boot (where we ran into our first Mad River admirers.) The goal for this first stretch of the route was to see some lakes we hadn’t been to while guiding. Knife is an obvious destination with a group as is Kekekabic, but none of us had split the difference through the middle which would be our goal for the day. The portage into Ensign can be a tough one and was the first real portage experience for our fourth group member. The far side of the portage was a little busy with one or two other groups hanging around. We were having a snack when I spotted a dark dot in the marsh on the far horizon. It’s a moose! Too far away to really appreciate it, but always neat to see on day one of a trip! We made the corner when I put the first scratch in the Mad River. Sigh..... invisible rocks beneath the surface get me every time!!! Step out, back up, gently lift it off the rocks, and carry on into the back bay where the portage to Vera is. By now, we were all reflecting on past trips through here, groups we had led, challenges we had faced, and memories we had made. We made the crossing to Vera. Then it was a nice paddle down Vera, a portage into Trader, then a portage into Missionary. The decision was made to camp on Missionary for the night. Now this is where I begin to relearn self-control. I have learned about myself that I can be quite the pain in the butt early in the season. Those first canoe trips are tough for me because I get so excited that I can’t stop. In fact, at every staff training trip, and the first few trips into the season, I get what I call “trail energy.” I’m usually uncontrollably shaking/bouncing at breakfast before the trip (discouraging, I think, for the new guides) because I’m just so excited to be going on trail again. That carries over unfortunately because, once on trail, I don’t tire, not on those first trips of the season. By the time the group makes the decision to stop, I can be a little testy because I still have so much pent-up energy ready to travel forever and ever, and I don’t like the feeling of a group “tapping out on me.” I have gotten better and tried to work on tiring myself out after the group is done with tasks or side ventures. It’s especially bad on staff training when folks are trying to learn things too. Anyways, the when we would stop or where began becoming a point of contention. This first night though, we made decent mileage and were on a unique lake I hadn’t visited before.

~Snowbank Lake, Boot Lake, Ensign Lake, Vera Lake, Trader Lake, Missionary Lake