This has been an interesting summer for me in that I have spent 20 nights in the BWCA guiding this year but have yet to do a personal Boundary Waters canoe trip. I decided that I needed to remedy that, so with very little forethought I decided to pick a route and hit the water.
Just like anyone else, I still work 40 hours a week when I’m not out on trail. So, I waited for my weekend and decided to take an impromptu trip. Even more exciting was the prospect of taking my 10-month-old cocker spaniel Harvey (see photos) out for the first time. He has been bouncing around between friends and family while I go out and have all the fun, and to be honest I was starting to feel a little guilty. Seeing him hop up when I said “come” instead of “stay” with a pack on my back was such a joy.
On Sunday night after work I looked at available permits for the Boundary Waters. It was unfortunately slim pickings. Most of my normal go to entry points (#23 Mudro, #30 Lake One, #14 Indian Sioux) were booked up. But I did see that #37 Kawishiwi Lake was wide open. In fact, I would be the only person going in that day. It is really a beautiful lake with a nice campground right on the edge of the BWCA and you can drive right up to the water. So, I set an alarm for 4 am to make the 2-hour drive from Ely to entry point #37.
BWCA entry point #37
Driving there I experienced a gorgeous sunrise. One of my favorite parts about this drive is once you turn off Highway 1 you have miles and miles of unused roads and trails; and a high probability of seeing wildlife (Moose, Wolf, or Bears). In fact, on previous trips in this area I have been lucky enough to see all three including a bobcat for good measure. This morning without fail I saw a small gray wolf on the side of the road.
Harvey and I arrived at the water at 7am. The water was glass and the air was cool. A blessing after the last few days of storms, wind, and unbearable humidity. This wasn’t Harvey’s first time in a canoe but it had been a while, so I was a little nervous about how he might react to being in a canoe. I was pleasantly surprised as to how well he did. I am excited to have a new paddling partner!
Our first day we traveled through Kawishiwi Lake, Polly, Koma and Malberg lakes and into the Kawishiwi River. We stopped at a beautiful campsite on Boulder Lake for lunch, then swam and took a nap on a classic Boundary Waters rock. After a couple more lakes and portages that evening we set up camp on Makwa Lake, which is home to a set of cliffs that are a true Boundary Waters landmark.
The next day involved a lot of puddle jumping through some truly overgrown portages. Six portages in 2 miles. I can’t imagine many people have been through there this season. There were several downed trees and lots of undergrowth to contend with. There also was a lot of dew so by the time we came out the other side, both Harvey and I looked as if we had taken a swim. The rest of the day we had a beautiful high sky with just enough breeze to keep the bugs off and cool us down. Often canoe trips in the Boundary Waters are a mix of conditions all in one day.
Our route was no cake walk; with a total of 28 miles on 21 different lakes and 37 portages, in a part of the BWCA that isn’t used very much. We contended with overgrown portages, downed trees, hot sun and more. But we both came out smiling on the other side. I would say Harvey’s first Boundary Waters canoe trip was a rousing success and I can’t wait to share the next one.
See Photos of Harvey and I our his first canoe trip