Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Canoeing the boundary waters between Minnesota and Ontario
For Shannon's big birthday (3-0), we planned a big trip!

We spent a few days canoeing and camping in the boundary waters area between Minnesota and Ontario.

We first read about the Boundary Waters in an article in Backpacker Magazine last spring that described the area as prime for viewing the northern lights, which peak this fall.  We were smitten. We put our trip on the calendar and patted ourselves on the back for the perfect destination for Shan's big birthday. Wilderness? Check. Canoeing? Check. Camping? Check. Wahoo.

Fast forward to last month when we realized we should probably start making some plans! We did some research and found a great outfitter, checked the weather (brrrrrr!), and subsequently did some last minute shopping for thermals, etc. and then we were on our way! 

Day 1: We  nonrevved from Atlanta to Minneapolis to Duluth, where we found the tiny airport hosting an airshow! We got a sneak peak and hit the road, passing beautiful Lake Superior on our way. We arrived in the lovely lakeside village of Grand Marais just in time for an amazing sunset dinner on the marina with delicious fresh fish, wild rice and chowder at the Angry Trout. That evening we settled into our bunkhouse and prepped for our canoeing and camping trip. 

Day 2: We awoke to freezing temps and as we took our last showers before entering the wilderness, our outfitter began to get a little nervous about how we would handle the weather and sleeping outdoors in said weather. I think my flip flops might have startled her? ;) After talking it out and assuring our very kind and knowledgeable hostess that we were up for it (read: couldn't wait to get out in it), we hit the road, er, lakes. The weather shifted just as we were putting our canoe in the water and we got the most wonderful burst of sunshine... which was almost immediately followed by alternating bursts of snow, hail, sleet and a few rays of sunshine in between.

Given our late start and the ever-changing weather, we cut our canoeing portion of the trip short and decided to set up camp early, which ended up being very wise of us as the sun set just as we finished setting up camp. We cooked a yummy dinner of chicken and potatoes (bonus: in freezing temps, you can pack SUCH yummy food - chicken, steak, eggs and cheeses... yummmmm). We snuggled up in our cozy tent for the night and enjoyed a decent night's sleep.

Day 3: We awoke to a beautiful day of sun and clouds, but no rain or snow or precipitation of any kind! We cooked a yummy breakfast and spent a leisurely morning around our little island camp site exploring what we didn't have the time/daylight to explore the night before. We got organized and got our water purification system down and then hit the water again, exploring nearby lakes and islands, hoping to spot a moose or two. We had lunch on the go and patted ourselves on the back once again for our excellent navigation and food preparation skills. Before long, it was time for another beautiful sunset back at our camp and another delicious dinner (this time steak and hashbrowns!). We slept even better the second night, Mary even famously getting too WARM. Ha!

Day 4: On our last day at camp, we plotted the course for our return trip over another fabulous breakfast and then set to work packing out our tent and supplies to make our way to the take-out point (which was different than the put-in point, but master navigators that we are, we found it no problem;).

After our first portage, it became painfully obvious that wind was going to be an implemented to our voyage 'home.'  Winds were gusting us head-on at 20+ mph and we found ourselves exhausted after crossing short distances that had been no problem on the way in with little to no wind, and none in our faces. A glance at the map confirmed that our course back meant facing lake after lake of gusts straight in our faces. We took our time and frequent breaks behind clumps of land and eventually made our way to the take-out point.

Once back at the bunkhouse, our trusty outfitter recommended just the place to celebrate our successful trip and after hot showers (the best ever!) we made the 18-mile drive to the Gunflint Lodge which overlooks Gunflint Lake, right on the Canadian border. We were greeted by the world's friendliest ducks, and a well-deserved hot and delicious meal. The perfect end to a fabulous trip!

Day 5: We woke up before the sun to make the 145 mile drive back to the airport in Duluth and made our connection in Minneapolis one-at-a-time, but made it back home in plenty of time to pick Riley up from her new friends' house in McDonough!

You can see photos from our adventure here. We'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Northern Minnesota was an absolutely gorgeous setting for an outdoor adventure! 

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