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Pack Your Bags: Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area

As some of you may remember from past blog posts, I've been engaged and planning a wedding with my fiancee for the last two years. With much of our planning behind us and our special day in July rapidly approaching, it was the natural time for both of us to enjoy our respective bachelor and bachelorette parties. While my fiancee headed to the fun and historic city of New Orleans for her get-together, my good friends and I elected for something a bit less populated: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northernmost Minnesota. Sure - some may elect to head to Las Vegas, Atlantic City or places even wilder to celebrate and party, but six of my best friends and I chose to take what we believe to be the truly "wild" route by heading into the thousands of lakes, portages and forests of the Minnesota-Canadian border. The BWCA, as it's termed, is a renowned destination for both canoeing and fishing and spans well over one million acres between the US Superior National Forest and Canada's Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks.

BWCA map

The BWCA drop-in point that we used (Ely, MN) is about a four hour drive from the Twin Cities. So, in only a matter of a few hours, you can be on the water, paddling and reveling in the breathtaking beauty and peace of some of the thousand lakes.

With seven guys and three canoes, we were ready to hit the water and earn our relaxation at our first campsite later that day. So, we left Ely and drove a few miles to our put-in point at Fall Lake. From there, we headed northeast and portage (i.e., walk with all our gear and canoes on our backs) to Newton Lake and eventually end up in Pipestone Bay, a gorgeous wide-open lake with numerous small islands and fishing spot that would keep even the most amateur of outdoorsmen and adventurists busy for weeks.

Our route into the BWCA

Now, don't get me wrong, after spending 11 years in Minnesota for college and grad school, I know that the Twin Cities metro area offers all the creature comforts that anyone could want in a contemporary cosmopolitan city. However, traveling a few hours north provided some delightful separation from society and the typical distractions of daily life. Time on the water with friends paddling, laughing and engaging in typical "dude-like" antics provided the perfect level of perspective on life, friendship and the really important thing - a bit of balanced perspective that can be hard to come by in the tumult of our day-to-day lives.

Sound inviting?

Well, just be sure when heading-up to BWCA that you work with a reputable outfitter and guide. We had a couple guys that were very familiar with the area, so we could depend on their expertise as well as the equipment and guidance of the awesome team at Wilderness Outfitters. Make sure that you do some serious planning and preparation with the help of guides (if not, in fact, have them lead your trek!) as well as going over water safety precautions. This was vitally important for our group since it was (surprisingly) only a couple of weeks since ice had melted on these lakes and the water temperature was hovering between 50-55deg F. Only a couple of minutes in water like that and you're soon to be a goner. (Even jumping-in from the shore briefly was pretty dang chilly!)

However, lest that set the fear of the outdoors in you, it's a breathtaking and unique experience. The sound of only the breeze in your ears, the glowing warmth of the sun on your shoulders and, at night stars unsullied by light pollution.

It's an experience I'll remember forever and I recommend you consider giving it a try yourself. It may not sound like your typical "vacation," but it also delivers some amazing memories and photos that you just can't get anywhere else!

Here are just a few of the numerous fun moments on the trip...

Appreciation and attribution to my close friends for the photos used in this post.

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