BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE AREA WILDERNESS — Sometime between the first portage and several miles and hours later at our campsite perch on the sturdy shoulders of a granite rim, a thought came and then took full form:
I hadn’t escaped the real world — as the cliché goes. Rather, there was something native to my being here.
I’m not offering anything profound, I know. But this BWCA first-timer’s sentiment is as authentic as the bald eagle that made its territorial declaration in a close flyby one afternoon, or the arcing, shooting star that lit up our night for an instant — and seared into our memories for eternity.
It was an intoxicating, tiring, wet and full five days in mid-August with my sons, Nathan, Nick and Patrick, and a cousin from western Connecticut, Dan, no stranger to a canoe. He has put a paddle in the Androscoggin River and Lake Umbagog in New Hampshire and Maine, and elsewhere out East.
The appreciation of our trip only has deepened since we drove away from entry point 14. We encountered beauty however you define it at every turn.
We were humbled by the thought of the wild fury that left blowdown as calling cards at our campsite and others we saw along the eastern shores of Loon Lake.
We constantly watched the sky, brushed with clouds that were sometimes high and billowy, sometimes angry and foretelling rain.
We marveled at the beavers’ prolific work as we drifted up and down the Little Indian Sioux River. One morning, Dan and I brought coffee and watched a beaver the size of carry-on luggage work in a bay near our site. Rustling in the nearby brush, emerging with limbs twice his length. Busy, indeed.
We awoke in the middle of the night, its heavy quiet pierced by the haunting but beautiful call of a loon.
We salivated at fields of water heavy with wild rice to harvest.
We laughed at our camp mouse as it boldly skirted up, around and through our rainy day gatherings under a canopy of red pines.
And, we did nothing. The kind of nothing that cuts through the clutter of thoughts, quiets the mind and gives a little opening into our essence and place in the real world.