Boundary Waters Basics

Trees, rocks, water and sky.  And a canoe in which to explore it all.  That’s all it takes, and it’s all one needs.  Okay, a few extras like a tent, camp stove and freeze dried food come in handy.  But completing our fourth day in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area today really drove home how it’s all about simplicity and back to the basics.

I loved how we were able to reduce our lives to only the essentials that we needed and could carry on a single portage.  (No double portaging for this duo!)  Getting up in the morning consisted of wriggling back into the same clothes in the warmth of a sleeping bag.  A quick brush of my teeth and running a damp wash cloth over my face constituted my daily makeup routine.  Question: If my hair looks a mess in the Boundary Waters and there is only my son to see it, is it still messy?  Answer: It doesn’t matter!

Life’s biggest concern was weather.  Is it calm or windy?  Is it sunny or raining?  Is it warm or cold?  We had some of each every day.  And we enjoyed it all.  Our greatest decisions were selecting a campsite.  Requirements were 1) a good view, 2) nice environs, 3) a fire ring with ample sitting benches,  4) open to the breeze to keep the few bugs away, 5) a good sunning rock.  We canoed further if necessary in search of one that met our criteria.  Meals were easy –  which flavor bagel to have, or what dinner packet to open.  It all tasted fantastic.

Long periods would go by in silence.  That is the beauty of it all.  Conversation is not necessary.  It is enough to be lost in one’s own thoughts.  And there is plenty of time for thought when spending all day in the outdoors.  Silence also invited in nature’s sounds – the flapping of a hundred geese’s wings flying overhead in impeccable V-formation, the lapping of the water against the shore, the melodic cry of the loons, and even the howling of a lone wolf at dusk.

Sunsets were the highlight of our days, and the evening’s entertainment.  If our campsite didn’t afford a good view, we canoed to a spot that did.  Campfires were our bedtime stories.  Filled with movement, color, heat and a mesmerizing glow, they lulled us into sleepiness.  The only things that could draw us away were splendid showings of Northern Lights or skies filled with brilliant stars.  And we saw both.

The longer we were there the better it got.  Everything else melted away and assumed a status of insignificance.  The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a national treasure.  But more important is the personal treasure it gives in return.  Trees, rocks, water and sky.  And a return to basics.

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