Northern Lights

Some of my best friends from the church came up with a great idea as to how we could spend our final week of the summer. It was a trip up to Northern Minnesota to a place known as the “Boundary Waters.” The Boundary Waters are located on the “boundary” between Minnesota and Canada. They are a collection of pristine lakes closely connected in the remote and wooded wilderness. The plan was to rent two canoes and two kayaks (between the six of us), bring along all of our necessary gear and food and live in the woods for five days. Far from being a static trip, we’ll be on the move the entire time as we paddle from lake to lake. Overall we will be covering dozens of miles in the water. Each night will be spent at a different campsite on a different lake.

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Our first day was met with rain. Thankfully we were prepared with some tarps to provide the necessary shelter. There’s not much to do up in this area if you simply want to keep dry from the rain. We had a bite to eat (as seen in the picture below), put on some rain gear and then moved on despite the elements.

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Bears are frequently seen in this location. Thankfully they are Black Bears and easily scared off by making loud noises. Nevertheless, they are still a powerful animal and intimidating sight when confronted in close proximity. The greatest threat they posed to us was their incredible ability to detect food and pursue it. Since they can climb trees, it was necessary to hang all our food in-between two trees, high enough above the ground where they can’t reach it. In the picture below you can not only see my embarrassing tent, but also Jon a considerable height up in the tree stringing up the line.

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You can go days out here without seeing a single person. We had no form of communication and our travels took us out to significantly remote parts of the wilderness. Many fear the thought of getting lost in the deep woods and maze of lakes. Actually, it not as bad as many people believe. Detailed maps are available that show the scaled geography in great detail. It’s rather simple to not only to plan and track your journey, but also pinpoint your location based upon the land masses and shapes of the lakes.

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What’s the best way to portage?

As we exit one lake and enter another lake on our journey, it was always necessary to traverse over a portion of land. This is commonly referred to as a portage. Some portages are smalls (perhaps several yards) others can be rather lengthy (we did one that was a mile). The traditional way is empty your canoe of all its gear and carry it to the beginning of the next lake, the empty canoe itself being supported and transported on one man’s shoulders. Since the canoe is packed with so much stuff we would on occasions leave everything in the canoe and drag the vessel to the following lake. One time we were carrying the full canoe when we were warned that such an action might cause the boat to bend in half – definitely not something you want dozens of miles away from any replacements or alternative mode of transportation! Our favorite way, again looking for the easiest option, was to paddle or walk our canoe up or down the stream that connects the respective lakes. It’s always a risk because once you start you’re committed, unaware of the water depth or swiftness of the current. If it works you’re thankful. If it doesn’t you’re regretful!

You can see this experience in the mosaic below. Some boats looking good and others after being capsized refilled with the wet gear after being fished out of the water.

We found this massive waterfall and had a great time climbing it all the way to the top. Though the pictures can’t represent it, the force of the water coming down the hill was intense!

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So once in a while you come across these large rock cliffs. As an bold idea, I suggested we climb to the top and jump off. The water definitely appeared deep enough. In the pictures below you can see me climbing and and performing two different jumps. I was feeling pretty cool until Terry climbed to the very top (picture below my pictures – you can barely see him in a yellowish top) and performs a perfectly executed “one-and-a-half.” We were all in awe!

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Beautiful sights of God’s creation everywhere you look.

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Below is a picture of another one of our campsites. Not only were thimble berry bushes scattered all over this site, but also were our clothes as they hung on make-ship clotheslines. This was an attempt to dry them out after all of our gear was soaked due to the mishaps in the channel connecting the lakes earlier in the day.

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Seen below is departing one morning in the deep fog and then the setting of the sun after another great day! Later in the evening after we made camp we went for a late night boat ride in the lake. The loons were out (not crazy people but a duck-like creature that made a great noise) and stars in the billions. Another new treat was being able to experience the Aurora Borealis, or as they are commonly called the “Northern Lights” for the first time in my life.

This picture was taken not long after we concluded our paddling and returned the boats to the outfitter. You can see most of the guys jumped in the shower and cleaned up. I was just ready to get going and enjoy some real food!

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