Monday, August 06, 2007

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildrerness

The highlight of the last week has to be the trip to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Northern Minnesota. As it's name suggests its a huge area of wilderness accessible only by canoe or occasionally on foot. Access into the wilderness area is controlledl by permit but we got lucky and managed to get one for Friday night. We didn't have much idea where we wanted to go or what our options were but we turned up at the permit office in the small town of Ely and spoke to the Ranger about all our options. In the end there wasn't a lot of choice (these permits are available more than 6 months in advance due to such high demand). We were heading for Angleworm Lake! We organised canoe rental and the following morning strapped 2 huge canoes to the top of the RV and headed off. First up was 10 miles on a paved road. Then 4 miles on a gravel road (always a chore, never a pleasure in the RV!) before we got to the trailhead. Then the fun started....a 2 mile portage!! (we get the impression now, hindsight an all that a 2 mile portage is pretty hardcore!, espeically for us beginners!). This is when we realised this was why the permits were still available for Angleworm! Gosh - SUCH HARD WORK. We all carried large rucksacks and we started out with 2 people at a time carrying the canoes aswell (44lbs a piece!). The way you carry them is balanced precariously on your shoulders and only possible for one person to be carrying the load. After a mile in it became too much and progress was slow - we were swapping every 0.1 of a mile!! We dumped the canoes on the side of the trail and heading off to the edge of the lake to drop off the bags first. After a lunch break Chris and I headed back for the canoes. MUCH easier without rucksack straps digging in your shoulders and almost comfortable! We managed the 1 mile with only 2 stops! FINALLY the idea of paddling was sheer delight! Angleworm Lake was beautiful. It was glacier formed so it was quite steep sided with dramatic rock right down to the shoreline. We paddled for another 2 miles along the length of the lake before we found a vacant campsite. After setting up camp we paddled another mile or so to the far end of the lake where we spotted a beaver (but unfortunately no moose!). Bangers & BBQ beans for supper cooked on the fire and a peaceful evening sat by the edge of the lake under a crystal clear night sky aswash with bright stars, a vivid milky way and several shooting stars - does it get any better?!

Next morning Chris and I got up for sunrise paddling silently around the lake looking out for wildlife. We didn't get lucky with seeing any but we heard several WOLVES! What an amazing sound. We knew there was a pack in the area and once we heard them they're so obviously different to Coyotes. It sent shivers down our spines! Truly amazing! The paddle back to the far end of the lake was tough - the wind was against us and at the end of it all?...another 2 mile portage - erghhh! Managed it all a bit quicker this time - shuttling back and forth with bags and canoes. Callum was on form the 2nd day after taking a fall the first - he did over a mile with 2 rucksacks and paddles. Chris and I managed the canoes for most of the way - easier without the bags and once I got stuck into it I just kept going - it was easier than trying to get the darn thing off my head!! By the end of the day we were exhausted and achey, but happy with a huge sense of accomplishment. After dropping off the canoes and gear at the outfitters we ate in an Italian restaurant in town and camped out in a carpark in town!

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