, pub-2049694213563730, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Find Your Way Back #BWCA 3 - myownplace
Breaking News

Find Your Way Back #BWCA 3

A video for you if you want to hear the story of how I fell off the dock. The volume is soft so you might want to turn it up on your device.

Now on to todays BWCA adventure, our first day of paddling was Tuesday September 1 and it was a beautiful calm morning on the Seagull River at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. After drying out the canoe we loaded all the packs from the shore and got off about nine in the morning.

Our destination was the opposite side of Saganaga Lake to a small island called Englishman Island. There was supposed to be a nice campsite there on the southwest corner which would have a nice sunset. Saganaga Lake is a large lake on the MinnesotaOntario international border. It is protected by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the United States and by Quetico Provincial Park and La Verendrye Provincial Park in Canada. It is both the deepest and largest lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with a maximum depth of 280 ft (85 m) and surface area of 13,832 acres (5,598 ha).[1]

Our day should have been about 7 miles of paddling, but of course my worst fears materialized about an hour into our morning. Right away on the river I realized I was having trouble correlating the maps with the real life islands and shoreline. A point on the map didn't really look like the point on the map and all the islands looked the same. To make matters worse, small islands which are essentially rocks sticking out of the river are not noted on the map. We also did not pull out the maps immediately and start getting familiar with the terrain. But we kept paddling and paddling, acknowledging how it wasn't really that much harder to paddle with a fully loaded canoe than it was when it was empty. The water was like glass, smooth and clear. You could see to the bottom except when it got very deep.

So we're paddling along and pull out the map. We've been out here a while and none of the islands seem to match our location. We had seen some motorboats and followed their direction. But then Scott decided to pull out the compass and realized we were headed North instead of West. We had missed a turn and were totally lost. There are two things we learned while lost in the BWCA, first if you think you are lost (which we were everyday) just go a little farther and maybe you'll reach your destination. Second, if you really are lost you must go back the way you came before you change your direction.

Luckily or unluckily, I had made a last minute purchase at REI and got a handheld GPS while in Minneapolis, the Garmin eTrex 10. I did happen to have some waypoints for portages and campsites, but no maps were loaded. So it wasn't really that helpful, but it did pinpoint our exact coordinates and we realized we were less than a half mile from the Canadian Border. We had seen a boat that looked like the border patrol going back and forth. On the map photo below you can see where we started is marked VCO and follow the blue line. Our destination was the first island with the blue circle around a campsite. The other circles were our alternate campsites. The red dots are campsites. Somehow we ended up on the North side of Munker Island where there are a bunch of smaller islands to confuse us.

So we managed to go back south until we could see big open water and start going west. We ended up doubling our miles paddled that day. The worst thing was I hadn't had any breakfast, and all our food was packed deeply in the middle of one of the big Duluth packs, so we couldn't snack unless we stopped and unpacked.

You know, it's been a long, long road
Since I packed up and left on my own
And I carry a heavy load
Just trying to get back

-Lyrics from song by Jefferson Starship

So, its after noon and we've been paddling three hours and we're still not sure where we are. We have not seen any people or sign of any campsites, and there were supposed to be a lot of them on this big gigantic lake. At this point we didn't even know what to look for to identify a campsite. So we were starving and paddling, me pulling out the GPS to get a new bearing every so often to make sure we were going south west. I had long ago lost my map reading duties to Scott.

We never really were sure of our location until we came to the end of Long Island and found Englishman Island and saw a fire grate surrounded by log benches, the first campsite we saw all day! And it was the one we wanted, how about that. Joy o Joy, we made it and it was only early afternoon.


Just joining us in the adventure, read previous posts using links below:
Toggle Footer