Our adventures began on August 12th, when the kids and I headed north, through Wisconsin, and up into Duluth, MN. We had only driven for about an hour when Ben asked me if we were there yet (still over 6 hours to go!), and I was afraid it was going to be a really looooong trip, but then he didn't ask me again. Whew! :)
We had wonderful weather for the drive, and the scenery was just beautiful. When we stopped at a gas station in WI, we spotted this cool moth by the gas pump:
Despite being crammed into the backseat of our little car for hours and hours, the kids behaved themselves for almost the entire trip, only bickering when we were about 15 minutes from the hotel.
We met Dad and Christine at the hotel right around 5pm, walked to the nearby Country Kitchen for supper, and then swam in the hotel pool for awhile before bed.
On the 13th, we woke up early and headed out by 8am. The drive along Lake Superior north of Duluth is just gorgeous! I was wishing we had time to stop and take pictures along the way, but we didn't. It was Benjamin's first trip up there (really his first vacation ever, other than going to Ames), and he was very impressed with the big stone "mountains" along the way! Finally we stopped in the town of Grand Marais for some pizza lunch at the world famous Sven and Ole's:
(Okay, so maybe it's not world famous, but it is famous in northern MN, at least. LOL!)
After lunch, we got onto the Gunflint Trail, and headed over to Sea Gull Lake. This area of Minnesota suffered from a large forest fire a couple of years ago, leaving many of the tall trees looking like they were just big "sticks" coming up out of the ground. Lots of new vegetation has grown up since then, however, so it wasn't completely desolate in most spots. (Also, inside the BWCA, fire fighters had dumped water on the campsites, so that the trees were spared in those areas.)
Finally we arrived at Sea Gull Outfitters, where we picked up a second canoe, and then loaded both boats with all our camping gear. Since we did not do any portaging (walking from one lake to another while carrying all our stuff) on this trip, this was the only time that Benjamin actually wore his backpack full of clothes:
He was SO excited to begin camping and canoeing!
Here Christine, Emmalie, and Ben take things down the dock to the canoes:
Finally around 3:30pm, we finally climbed into the canoes and started paddling. It was sunny, hot, and humid. This was Ben's first time in a canoe:
Christine and Emm:
Notice the clouds in the pictures above. Shortly after we got onto the water, we heard some thunder off in the distance. It was moving towards us pretty rapidly, so we paddled as fast as we could, looking for a good place to get onto the shore. (Not a wise idea to stay on the water in a lightning storm!) We finally came to a campsite right as it was starting to rain. We sent the kids up on land with a tarp to sit under while Dad, Christine, and I quickly emptied the canoes and then brought them up on land so they weren't blown onto the rocks in the wind.
Ben, Emm, and the rest of us sat under the tarp for quite awhile, listening to the rain and thunder:
When the storm passed (but it was still raining) we went ahead and set up tents. We'd decided that we didn't really have enough sunlight left to find another campsite farther in. Later on, we realized, looking at the maps, that we weren't even IN the Boundary Waters yet, but on a part of the lake that was just outside it. Ben and Emm resting in the tent:
Not too long afterwards, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We made supper, and then the kids enjoyed some quiet time along the lake:
And I snapped this shot of the beautiful sunset:
As we snuggled into our sleeping bags at bedtime, Ben sighed, "It's been a long day!"
On the 14th, we had breakfast, then packed everything back up in the canoes and headed out once again:Soon we passed a sign announcing that we were (finally!) entering the wilderness. We passed several campsites, but they were all occupied, so we continued on. We stopped on this rock outcropping for some lunch:
and then paddled some more until we found this empty campsite on Miles Island. We decided to make it our home for the next several days:
There was a steep climb up from the water, and then a flat area for tents and the fire grate, and then some even steeper rocks behind:
We had to climb uphill to get to the latrine, as well, but the view was worth it. :) :
We set up camp and then had time to play. This was Benjamin's favorite area of camp, a shallow part of the lake, just perfect for standing in and throwing rocks out into the water. He literally spent hours doing this over the next several days:
The rest of us went "swimming", otherwise known as floating in the lake in our life vests. The water felt so good on that hot day!:
This picture was taken up at our camp, looking down to the big rock where Emm and Christine were relaxing:
Nick took the canoe out for a spin:
Later on, Christine found a way to climb up the rocks behind camp. (She's standing up there, yelling, "I'm king of the world!"):
The rest of us soon joined her (Ben called it mountain climbing!), and we were treated to a beautiful view of the lake:
(The dark blue among the trees is one of our tents.)
Here is Nick up on the rocks:
Christine and I were not too surprised when Dad decided to pitch his tent up there on the top!
You could tell that fire had once raced across the top of these rocks... there were all kinds of charred trees up there, places where rock had split from the heat, and the only living vegetation is low to the ground:
We climbed back down, and Ben returned to his spot in the water:
We enjoyed another lovely sunset before heading to bed:
and roasted a few marshmallows, too!:
Overnight, a storm rolled in with lots of lightning and wind. When we got up the next morning (the 15th), we found one canoe in the lake:
(Luckily, Christine had woken up in the night and heard the canoes blowing around on the rock and tied them to trees; otherwise, who knows where they would've ended up!)
Our campsite was FILLED with raspberry bushes, and Benjamin soon became known as Berry Boy... he absolutely loved picking berries and eating them all day long! Here he is picking some with Grandpa, for breakfast:
Dad made us raspberry pancakes... YUM!:
It started sprinkling during breakfast, so we ate with our ponchos on:
We discovered that we had a camp squirrel! He came around several times a day, mostly during meals, hoping for a handout. We were glad to oblige! :)
I took these pictures for my friends who don't believe me when I tell them my dad always finds some big rock to sleep on whenever we're camping. Here is his tent at the top of the island:
Dad took Nick and Emm out fishing for awhile:
and then we had lunch. This tree frog hopped along while we were eating. He's on a tarp in this picture, but he actually jumped up and clung to my dad's leg for awhile, then later hopped onto a tree where he blended in with the lichen quite nicely:
Later, Dad and I took Ben out fishing. He was quite the little fisherman... very excited for his first time fishing, but he didn't give up when he didn't catch anything, and kept saying, "Maybe next time!" EVERY time we went back in the boat the rest of the week, he wanted to fish again!:
While we fished, Nick was out by himself in the other canoe. A big wind came up, though, and we ended up having to "rescue" him. (He wasn't in any danger, but was too worn out to fight the wind anymore and get the canoe back to shore by himself.)
Back on land, I took some self-portraits:
and then some shots of Christine and Emm relaxing on the rocks:
It rained off and on all night. On the 18th we woke up and had some oatmeal for breakfast:
I wasn't the only shutterbug in camp:
We fished a little more, and then it started raining again, so we played cards in the tent:
After lunch, Dad showed us some choke cherry trees, and we all enjoyed picking the little cherries and tasting them (tart, but good!):
Our squirrel friend again:
The sun came out for awhile in the afternoon:
but once again, it was windy:
More rain clouds rolled in before supper:
so Dad set up this fly to help keep us dry:
By dessert time (we have pudding every night), it was raining pretty good and the wind was blowing the fly enough that we put on our rain gear to keep from getting soaked:
It was very, very windy that night... Dad said it even blew his tent sideways ~ with him in it!
On the 17th, we woke up to sunshine, yay!:
There was some wind, but not a whole lot, so we decided to go on a day trip and see some other parts of Sea Gull Lake. These high cliffs were very cool!:
We wished we could stop and walk around here for awhile, but there was already a large group of people there, rock-climbing, so we just paddled past:
We went into some quiet areas of the lake, hoping to spot wildlife. We didn't see much, other than loons and some other birds, but we did spy a couple of beaver lodges:
We'd hoped to find a good spot to stop and eat lunch, but again all the other campsites were occupied, so we decided to go back "home". Unfortuately, while we'd been out, it had gotten much windier, and it was pretty much impossible to canoe upwind, back to our campsite. We ended up stopping on some rocks on the opposite end of Miles Island for lunch.
We decided to try a different route back to our campsite, but any time we came out into the wind, it was too strong, and we kept getting further and further away! (Ben LOVED the big waves, however, and said it was just like we were on a rollercoaster!) Finally we ended up at this deserted campsite over on Threemile Island:
We waited and rested here for a few hours, hoping the wind would die down. The kids fished in the bay for awhile, too:
We were beginning to worry that we would not make it back before nightfall, but FINALLY the wind died down enough and we made a beeline for our campsite. Christine, Emmalie, and Nick were about 10 minutes ahead of Dad, Ben, and me, and made it back to camp just fine. However, just as they were landing, it started to rain and get windy again.
We were still out on the lake, and got poured on. We had to paddle HARD around a rocky point, to keep from getting dashed on the rocks, and then had to end up stopping at a neighboring campsite to rest and wait for the wind to die down again. Ben was upset until he found out that the other campsite had raspberry bushes, too, LOL. We munched a few berries, and then finally it was calm enough to continue. This picture is of Nick, Emm, and Christine, waiting to welcome us home:
We woke up on the 18th to c-c-c-cold temperatures, so we bundled up good before coming out for breakfast:
It was another really windy day, so we stayed at camp all day:
Dad by his tent:
We played several more rounds of cards in the tent. (This photo taken by Ben.):
Later Ben and I explored the island a bit, finding some places that were out of the wind:
and later Ben fished off the rock:
In the afternoon, we decided to build a bonfire to help keep us warm. We roasted a few marshmallows, and played some games around the fire:
In the evening, it warmed up and cleared off. We decided to climb up the rocks toward Dad's tent to watch our last sunset in the BWCA (for this year!). It was quite a treat!:
Later that night, when Benjamin was asleep, the rest of us went outside to look at the stars. It truly was an awesome sight! We could see them so clearly there, far away from city lights. Nick said, "Wow, I can almost see the whole universe!"
We woke up on the 19th to sunshine and calm water! We were SO happy to see that! (We'd been a bit concerned about how we'd get back if it were still so windy.):
We packed up all our gear and headed back towards civilization. Ben and Dad fished some more, and all of a sudden, they both caught fish at the same time! Dad's fish ended up jumping off the line, but we were able to reel in Ben's bass for a few pictures:
He was so excited to have finally caught something!!
Just as we were in sight of the docks at the outfitters, it started sprinkling on us. We unloaded the canoes:
packed up the car and truck, took some wonderful hot showers, and then drove down to Grand Marais where we had pizza at Sven and Ole's again. (Nothing tastes better than pizza when you've been camping for a week!) We then drove back to Duluth in the rain, stopping briefly at Temperance River State Park to see some waterfalls:
We were very grateful to have soft hotel beds to sleep in that night after a week of sleeping on the ground!
On the 20th, we said goodbye to Dad and Christine, and then the kids and I drove back through WI and home again, filled with wonderful memories of our adventures in the BWCA. :)