I’ll never forget my first trip into the BWCA. A good friend from Texas had come up north and we planned on paddling in about six lakes off the Gunflint Trail. The canoe was still heavy with food on that first day, so we decided rather than portage we’d pull the canoe through the shallow river connecting Seagull and Alpine lakes.
A summer storm was brewing and we could hear thunder rumbling in the near distance. We felt we could beat the weather and began pushing and dragging the old alumacraft canoe upstream. In an instant, KaBoom! Lightning stuck a tree along the bank thirty yards upstream and we were knee deep in the river grasping a metal canoe. To this day I cannot remember how we ended up on shore waiting out the storm while our canoe sat jammed up on rocks in the middle of the river filling up with rain. I’m guessing fear had something to do with that!
There are many reasons why this pristine wilderness along the shared border of Minnesota/Ontario is important. Feeling alive, like that first experience on the portage mentioned above is one of them. A close encounter with nature can turn into a tremendous learning experience. The fair price for wilderness travel is awareness.
And the BWCA/Quetico is just that. A place where people can enjoy the wilderness experience without being too technical. Mountain climbing, whitewater rafting and others require a specific skill set. The BWCA is a place where families can introduce wilderness to their kids with minimal risks. Is it any wonder why the BWCA is the nation’s most visited wilderness? Seeing stars so bright it feels like watching an outdoor movie. The musical echo of the loon calling its mate, a beaver slapping its tail on the lake, and the squirrel at night rummaging around camp so loud you dream it’s a bear. Lessons of camp organization, chores, wildlife viewing, or catching your first scary northern pike all plant a seed in the soul of the intrepid paddler. We tend to love those trips we hated most in the end. We learned something about ourselves. For many like my family, memories become traditions.
My wife and I have raised three kids all of whom have been paddling these wilderness waters now for more than two decades. It warms our hearts they have taken the initiative and responsibility of introducing this amazing water laden wilderness to their friends. They have become stewards of our border wilderness. To protect it, we need more to experience the wild and value its lessons.
This is one of the reasons the BWCA is so important to me. It’s an accessible wilderness open to all. The takeaway of delighting in darkness, wildlife, reflections, sounds and aroma build a kinship with man & nature.
Layne Kennedy - Photographer
Layne Kennedy is an internationally known photographer who lives in our home state of Minnesota. He has captured the lifestyle and culture of the northwoods for years. Educated in fine art photography, Layne is known for his editorial photography that conveys a strong sense of place. His images are featured in magazines worldwide.All content courtesy of Layne Kennedy. Article originally published here.