For well more than a year, the guys in the hiking group had tossed around the idea of taking a trip together to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Since Phil had experience there and it was his idea to start with, he organized a plan and started taking names.
On August 19, we began arriving in Duluth. Those of us who were there early got to check out the equipment at Gander Mountain and the books at Barnes & Noble, relax and talk, and do some birding in the parking lot behind the Days Inn. When all eight guys were assembled, we went to supper at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. Our adventure was underway. Late night conversation with the Olympics on TV finished the evening.
Early the next morning we loaded into two vehicles and headed out along the north shore of Lake Superior. Our destination for the day would be Seagull Outfitters, near the end of the Gunflint Trail, but along the way we would stop several times to enjoy the territory, Minnesota being a new state for several in the group, myself included. We ate smoked fish from a roadside vendor and had a late lunch at Sven and Olle’s Pizza in Grand Marias.
We arrived at the outfitter after 4:00 and began the orientation. After getting reasonably settled for the night in the bunkhouse, Don Germain, a long-time friend of Phil’s, came to talk to us about his vast experience of paddling, guiding, and outfitting in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He shared lots of helpful insight into what we would soon be facing.
After a night of rough and restless sleep (for me, at least), we woke up, finished loading our personal gear into the large packs, had a quickstart breakfast, and gathered at the Chevy Suburban with the trailer of canoes behind it. We were fitted for PFDs and paddles, endured more of the orientation guy, and finally hit the road back down the Gunflint Trail to our put-in.
Beyond the dry facts of these few paragraphs are eight personal and constantly reshaping perspectives about the moments of the week as they rose and fell, like waves beneath the hull of a ready canoe. Next, I’ll attempt to express some that were my own.
[Additional pictures of this trip are posted on my Flickr site. You can see them by clicking here.]