This summer has been filled with moments where I’ve been so happy to be injured and unable to run as much as I’d intended: the day I paddled a small, narrow creek full of perfect little pool drops; climbing granite in Hatcher Pass; a new-friend-to-be taken off the back burner and turned into a for-real friend; time picking berries and storing up jam for winter; a rediscovery of the joys of a playful bike and the spontaneous laughter it brings; and, most recently, a week where I picked up a canoe and hoisted it over my head approximately 62 times (yes, we counted) without having just run 100 miles.
I’ve wanted to canoe in the Boundary Waters for years. It’s within a few hours drive of where I grew up, with an important role in the history of wilderness preservation in the U.S. that’s always intrigued me. Hilary and I were talking after our trip to the Brooks Range this past spring about trips we’d been wanting to put together, and somehow this place came up. And somehow, we decided it’d be great to do right after I ran the Superior 100 this September. My reasoning, at least, was that I’m not the best at mellow trips (and how can canoeing be anything but mellow?), and it’d be perfect if I was real tired first. While it was still a mellow trip, and there’s a whole lot of easy living to be had there, I’m pretty sure my body would have fallen apart had I tried to wrangle a canoe after running for 30+ hours.
Anyhow, the Boundary Waters. The quiet is striking. It’s probably one of the more peaceful places I’ve ever been. With few airplanes overhead, and generally still water, when our conversations would die down, the only sounds came from the loons, beavers, and otters. The practice of slowing down and taking it all in — without the aid of first physically destroying myself — was really good for me.
After meeting at a campsite to start our trip off right (with pancakes, obviously), Hilary, Pat (her fiancé), and Trapper (their friend from graduate school, now living in Minneapolis), and I drove to Sawbill Lake where we rented the canoes and carried them down to the lake. Then, the trip settled into the gentle rhythm of paddle – portage – repeat.
I’m not sure I’ll go back soon, but maybe someday. After six years in Alaska, I find myself preferring a little more wild, a little more exposure, in my personal trips. But I’m happy for the week of reflection and quiet time. (I do think the perfect trip there would be to try to catch the conditions just right and go on a big nordic skating trip. There’s just so much terrain to cover, and I think skating over those lakes would be pretty amazing.)