The Wild Bunch

Things went so well last year, Andrew and I thought it would be a good idea to return to the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota again this year. Instead of taking church friends as we did in the past, this time we decided to take the guys who showed the most serious interest in going. I’m calling this post “The Wild Bunch” because it was possibly the most diverse and eclectic group of individuals ever assembled. Joining us were Kevin Smith and his 40-year-old Jewish friend. We had Kevin Miller, a coworker for Centennial Beach and his teenage friend named Chris that also worked with us. African-American Charles Davenport, also a co-worker from the Beach came along and he brought a football teammate with him who in turn brought a foreign exchange student presently staying with his family. Overall, we all got along – most of the time!

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Disclaimer: This year I only brought along a cheap underwater disposable camera. Therefore the pictures are few and of poor quality.

We left work in the afternoon and embarked on the ten hour drive from Chicago to Ely, Minnesota. Andrew and others were waiting for us at his parent’s woodland cabin. Just to make sure we wouldn’t miss the final turnoff in the pitch black darkness, Andrew made it clear where we needed to hand a right. How could we miss the massive poster with my name on it that they duck-taped to the stop sign? We took the picture below as we departed for the lake in the morning.

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The Boundary Waters represent an area in the far north sector of Minnesota that is composed of thousands of lakes. The goal is to pack your canoes with all you’ll need to survive in the wilderness and make your way though the woods paddling from lake to lake as you primary means of transportation. All your campsites are designated and primitive locations situated and scattered along the water’s edge.

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In the picture below you can see one of the guys left deserted on a rock island and running into the water.

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This was the foreign exchange student that joined us. Together we left the canoe and climbed a rather large mountain with a couple of the guys. In this birds-eye view you can see just how beautiful this location is.

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We are fishing here (below). Thankfully we brought enough food backups because in other than one occasion, we were very unsuccessful in this endeavor. You’d think with the limited human population and the fishing reputation of Northern Minnesota that we’d hit it big. Maybe it was the tackle. Maybe it was us. Either way, we barely had a bite!

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As I mentioned in the post from last year, the continual debate we encountered was the best way to portage from lake to lake (each day we’d have five to ten of these to make). Is is by land or is it by the little streams that connects the lakes? The land route can be a killer and tedious procedure. Unloading and then reloading the boats. Carrying the canoe and all your gear (often taking three trips apiece) over the hilly and rocky terrain. On the other hand, pushing the boat up (or down) the streams was a piece of cake – that is if the water wasn’t marked by rapids, depth or waterfalls. Yet unfortunately the thing about this was that you couldn’t discern it from the start. You’d learn the kind of stream you needed to navigate only after you were committed. I was always up for the risk. Kevin, my canoeing partner for most of the trip, preferred the more conservative and traditional approach.

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Andrew in his kayak and Charles floating on his sleeping mattress enjoying a beautiful August day!

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These were the same cliffs we jumped off last year. Though it is hard to see from the picture below, a few of the guys are up on the top and I’m taking the leap some 40-50 feet into the water.

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We had a blast in this waterfall. We climbed to the top and enjoyed the rushing current of the water on us. We were having such a good time, none of us noticed as our bodies were accumulating with leeches. No biggie – they made for good fish bait.

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Hitting it big! Enough smallmouth bass to feed the entire group for dinner!

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We took this final picture of the whole gang just as we docked the boats and concluded our trip!

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Now for some meat at the local A&W and the ten hour trip back to Chicago!

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