Boundary Waters Canoe Area 2016 Family trip

5 kids of varying ages, two adults; one experienced and one a complete novice, headed out for a week in the BWCA in August 2016. Working through an untested but thorough outfitter, we headed out early morning August 6th to the deepest reaches of the BWCA.

Boat ride to Black Robe Portage

1st Day

On the plus side, the scenery and weather were beautiful, we were organized, and had strong but light canoes. Having Jeff organize us on packing and the outfitters providing us with lightweight, but exactly what we needed in the gear department, we weren't overburdened with unnecessaries.

1st Day

On the downside, the biting flies were rampant, learning to canoe under fire is not the most favorable method, and first days are full of adjustments and compromises, that may or may not come easy.

Jeff - the seasoned professional, is a top notch campfire chef - and after the first day of traveling, portaging and paddling we had some hangry campers on our hands. Jeff saved the trip with his culinary wonders.

Katie and Jack had made a similar journey one other time ~ so they had adjusted their expectations accordingly. The rest of us had some adjustments yet to make.

Day 2 met with a slightly altered, less aggressive itinerary ~ and smiles all around. After an unseasonably cold night (in the 40's), leaving the first campsite behind along with the biting flies and freezing night was a welcome departure.

For the rest of the trip the water was warm and the nights were cool, but no biting cold. We all bathed in the lakes we paddled through - and I think a part of each of us felt like we were living in a different era. Although we didn't see many people, I don't think I would have been surprised to see a native American paddling by. The only noises we heard were our own, or those of the creatures in nature...where else can you go and be so alone?

Kids enjoying a refreshing swim/bath with shampoo and all.

Some of our modifications included reducing the number of hours paddling and increasing the number of hours swimming, fishing, reading, and horsing around. No one complained. While traveling the most miles may be a badge of honor for some ~ we were on a family vacation, not a race.

If we overpacked anywhere, it may have been camera equipment. We had a GoPro (with all the attachments), a 35mm DSLR with a variety of lenses, a handheld video camera, and a couple iPhones just in case ~ I wouldn't change it though ~ so many beautiful places that I wanted to bring home somehow.

More swimming/horsing around.

Fishing was the one activity that everyone loved. Whether from the shore or from the canoe, the fish were everywhere and grilled fish was always a welcome compliment to the outfitters selections. We caught Bass, Walleye, and many other types of fish - besides adding to our meals, catching fish made all the anglers stand a little taller - and eased frustration, boredom, and homesickness.... a cure all better than an apple a day!

The time we took away from paddling, we spent forging and celebrating relationships. I'm not sure we knew it was happening, but this trip helped blend our blended family. We still have moments of aggravation, but on this trip, we got to know a lot more about each other - and created bonds that had been missing.

Every campsite was beautiful in its own way. Whoever set foot first in a campsite got to name it. Some were bigger, some were smaller - but we made each home for a day or so. Each came with a place for a campfire - with an unwritten (or maybe it is written somewhere) code that compels each camper to leave wood for the next camper that uses the campsite. An Upside down Canoe was our chef prep area, kitchen table, and catch all for anything you didn't want in the dirt.. On the one or two days that we had rain, they made great cover for everything.

Andrew turned 13 the first day of our trip. With his primary focus being video games and computer time, I thought that this would be a challenging time for him, but he took to it. He had a great attitude, loved the fishing and paddling, and is excited to go back for 2017.

Katie and Andrew horsing around.

I'd have to say that this trip is the type that will either cause a relationship to sink or swim, especially for two strong, independent, confident bordering on arrogant people. Learning to compromise, let others lead, let go of things that aren't important are just a few of the lessons I took away.


Stacey Bullock Christman

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