Canoing to Climb on the BWCAW

I have been on many canoe trips in my life and just as many, if not more, climbing trips.  Combining the two into one cohesive experience, however, was a rare first.  This wasn’t an elaborate trip.  The plan was simply to paddle in, get a camp site, climb for two days, and paddle out.  But if that is all there was to the story, the best parts would be overlooked.


You know the parts I am referring to.  I would call them moments of magic.  It is the beauty only found in the remote places protected for such magic to occur.  I find these experiences come at the most unexpected times.  While searching for a campsite and fighting a strong headwind, Lindsey looked behind us and blurted out, “What kind of a duck is that?”  I turned just in time to see an otter’s head slip under the surface of the water.  Three of those furry little critters popped up to check us out as we made our way through their home.  I don’t know if they were as excited to see us as we were to see them, but I like to believe that maybe they were.


The magic moments often include a totally new or novel experience, like climbing in a totally new place.  Rock Climbing is an endeavor in problem solving from start-to-finish, especially when that place has never been visited before.  Finding solid anchors comes first, then setting up the systems, and finally the most exciting part: the climbing itself. The added magic of having the wilderness lakes all around can be almost overwhelming to the senses.


One more bit of awe and wonder came after continually hearing the loons making a ton of noise.  We speculated as to what the sounds may be intended to communicate.   Eventually, we came up with a pretty fare interpretation by watching the loons making these noises.  It looked as though the young loons were attempting to fly for the first time.  The noise sounded like that of excitement and fear mixed with great effort.  Although we never saw one of those young loons successfully take off, it was so special to share in such a special moment.


I really hope these moments of magic are felt by all the creatures we encountered.  Maybe the loons, otters, and other creatures are as excited to live in the BWCA as we are.


— Matthew