BWCA, Quetico, Minnesota, Canada- It’s all the Same

     When there’s water and woods everywhere you look it can be a little confusing.  The sky is up, the ground and water are down and when you’re in the middle of a lake in a canoe there’s water all around you.  These things are certain.

     Navigating the lakes in the canoe country and determining North from South is a bit more uncertain.  It helps to have a map, a compass and to always know where you are on the map.  Keeping track of islands, campsites and bays as you pass them is a good way to stay oriented.  But sometimes, no matter where you are when you’re mind tells you you are somewhere else then it’s difficult to believe that you aren’t where you think you are.  This is what happened to a group who ventured out into the Boundary Waters the other day.

     The group entered Saganaga Lake and planned to base camp and exit the same way they entered.  Only on their way out they missed the channel that leads to the Seagull River and ended up one bay to the east.  Thinking they were maybe in the bay to the North of Romance Lake they portaged and got into a lake.  The lake was shaped somewhat like Romance with a creek leading east so they figured they would follow it out to the Seagull River.  The creek they were on ended up going into a lake.  By this time they weren’t sure where they were but hiked to a high point and thought they could see the Seagull River still to the East.  They bushwacked and crawled through swamps and finally reached a dirt road.  Convinced they were still just a bit to the west of the Seagull River  they thought it could possibly be a service road so they decided to walk.  Luckily the met a man on the road loading a skidder.

     This man was from Northern Light Lake in Canada and the good men were also in Canada.  They had over-shot the channel and the Granite River to end up just to the east of the Granite River.  They had found a logging road/snowmobile trail and that is what saved them.  They spent the night in Canada before heading out the following day to trace their steps back to their canoe and gear.  Then they were brought to Saganaga Lake where they were picked up by boat and brought back to their vehicle at the Trail’s End Campground.  

     The mind has a strange way of playing tricks on you.  It’s happened to me before on Cache Bay in Canada.  I thought I was at the channel leading to Silver Falls when I was really just one bay to the South.  Thinking I was one bay to the Northeast of the channel I decided to paddle Southwest and entered that bay.  I twisted my mind to believe the shape on the map matched the shape of the bay that I was in.  I knew I could see the Ranger’s Cabin but somehow I told myself it looked right and I couldn’t be wrong.

     I’m not sure what those guys were telling themselves as they paddled and portaged but I bet it was something similar.  The good news is they were found, safe and sound.  Like every Boundary Waters Canoe Trip they have a story to tell.  It’s a great adventure story with a happy ending. Minnesota or Ontario it’s pretty much the same out there in the wilderness waters.  Until it’s time to go home that is.