Most of my canoeing as a youth was on the waters of Michigan like the Au Sable, Huron, Pine, Manistee, Rifle and Clinton rivers, as well as several inland fresh water lakes. In recent years I have spent many hours on the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and a little time on Goose Creek in Northwest Virginia. Being active in scouting most of my life I have always had the itch to experience a voyage in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park.
Last fall while attending a BSA National Capitol Area Council Goose Creek District Fall Camp-O-Ree a local troop mentioned that they had reserved a slot for the summer of 2002 to experience National High Adventure at Northern Tier. They indicated that a couple members of their crew had dropped out and that they had openings for three people. Upon hearing this information and then discussing it with two youths in senior leadership roles in our troop we decided this was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse. We immediately offered to fill the openings.
Over the next eight months we prepared for our voyage by reading what we could find, acquired our CPR, Safe Swim Defense, Safety Afloat certifications, completed medical examinations and swim test, requested our Canadian Remote Area Access permits, procured essential equipment and clothing, developed customized exercise and eating programs to ready for the trip.
And when it was upon us, off into the wilderness we went. It was then I quickly realized that paddling in northern Minnesota and Canada is a bit different than what I was use to. In Michigan and Virginia, we would find a body of water, put in a canoe, and stay there. We may travel all day down the river or around the lake but we never needed to exit the water unless it was time to pull out and go home. It is not that way in the BWCAW and Quetico. We spent as much time portaging that first day as we did paddling, and we were all exhausted by days end. Our voyage lasted nine days and eight nights in the wilderness, living on fresh fish, purified water and dehydrated food.
We all survived through the portages, the humidity, the mosquitoes, the biting flies, ticks and leeches. We saw the beauty of the wilderness, heard the haunting calls of loons, flushed many a wood duck and paddled under a dozen bald eagles and around a few moose. We witnessed the Northern Lights, beautiful sunsets and rises, caught fish, swam and observed the pictographs of the Indians.
In all this solitude we purged our minds of the daily hustle of careers, traffic, technology and even population thus allowing each of us to take the time to reflect on the things that are of real importance; family, friends and loved ones and bring a greater appreciation for the priority they hold in our hearts and lives.
We have learned to draw strength from within to pull us through the day and are much better individuals for the experience. I only wish I could have experienced this with my parents, for I know that they would have found the journey to be a challenge yet pleasure in the thought that they were in heaven on earth. I thank them for exposing me to nature, canoeing and scouting as a child, for with out their encouragement I may have never realized the opportunity for what it was when it was first presented.