“There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace.”
~ Sigurd F. Olson
Beyond the sounds of a small bustling tourist town (Ely, Minnesota). Beyond the distractions of ‘to do’ lists. Beyond the reminders of certain realities, we can find ourselves in the middle of a lake. A dot on a map, a place beyond and yet amidst the woods.
Carrying 40 plus pounds of a canoe and loaded packs on our shoulders, we’ve hiked and paddled to get to each lake. Sweaty and bug bitten we find accolades in the middle of the water. Shimmering like glass the lake produces fish playing on the surface, their bodies an amazing glittery vision. A little farther away a mother loon quickly gets her baby on her back, hiding it under her feathers for protection. Her red eyes are keeping us in sight. She may produce an eerie call to summon help from another loon, and like magic they will surface near her. The power of a parent’s love in a feathered creature is inspiring.
Our paddles break the stillness of the lake's water, producing subtle swirling currents.
Every lake has its own mystery and its own array of life. Eagles soar above treetops, calm and sophisticated. Turtles sunbathe on rocks, their shells reflecting the warm sun. We paddle forward and portage on for miles. Lily pads cover the surface and pull at our canoe, demanding we ease up a bit. At last we reach our destination for the night, on an Island, where we set up camp. The fire is built, our dinner is cooked, and we sit in serene silence. The campfire crackles, the loon’s songs echo across the lake, somehow compelling our weary muscles to relax. A jack rabbit with ears to the moon hops out from a bush and inspects us. When he stands to eat a leaf, he looks like a kangaroo. Somehow he is stranded on this Island, until Old Man Winter comes again and the lake ices over. This is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, this is a spiritual place of refuge. If we are lucky, we will hear a pack of wolves howl or even see the Northern Lights dance across the vast night sky.
All these wonders are what bring thousands of people to this area each year, and we are lucky enough to experience it in this moment.
As the sun sets, it shoots stunning colors of oranges, reds, and yellows across the sky. Its beauty is enough to turn off our worries and allow us to just sit and watch in stillness. This will be the image engraved in our minds when we return home, after the trip. It’s a vow to us that, whenever we desire we can return to the place where the water is like glass and nature like a gripping novel. We’ve been promised that we will see something new each time. A moose, a bear, playful chipmunks, or an array of blooming flowers. There is never a lack of creation or an insufficiency of beauty in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area; and the advice nature offers there, will forever follow you after you leave.
“Surround yourself with beauty.” Loon
“Stay full of Wonder!” Northern Lights
“Pack life with good Memories.” Wolf
“Slow Down.” Turtle
“Go outside…..amidst the simple beauty of nature…..and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” Anne Frank