Lakes Can Be Amazing
After weeks of preparation and logistics, as well as hours of travel, my father and I, along with 7 other members in our Boy Scout troop, arrived at the Charles L. Sommers canoe base in Ely, Minnesota for a 7-day canoe trip in the boundary waters between Canada and the United states. This base is part of the Northern Tier High Adventure Program. We had watched the movies, and seen the wallpapers, but now it was time to experience nature for real. Charles L. Sommers was in the middle of nowhere; there was nothing but crisp pine trees and lakes for miles around. After we checked in, the staff members handed us our gear, gave us a short orientation, and showed us our cabins for the night. We would leave early in the morning.
My dad said the packs we were taking were heavy, but I never thought how heavy. Each crew of 9 people get around 6 large packs to carry all the personal gear, food, supplies, and cooking utensils needed for the trip. Everything was carried with you, including the canoes. This worried me a lot, especially since the 90-pound burden almost made me fall over immediately. By the time we launched our canoes into the lake, our whole crews’ backs were already aching. We would be experiencing that feeling a lot throughout our trip.
Paddling on a crystal clear lake is probably one of the most peaceful things to do on the Earth. The water stretches for miles, and the only sound you can hear is your paddle dipping in, then out. Bald eagles skim the surface of the lake, hunting for the large fish swimming in the shallows. However, the land approaches as the water ends, and the weak of heart go back to the canoe base. Our crew had other ideas…
There is an opening in the evergreen forest, with a narrow, rough trail lying inside it. If we wanted to get the miles on this trip, it all started at this portage. Taking up our packs, and lifting the canoes over our heads, we trekked past the point of no return and struggled to the next lake. I came to dread these “portages”, carrying all our heavy gear and canoes on land, but it was necessary to get to the places we wanted to go to. Step by step, I carried my pack down halfway through the trail before I stumbled, slipped on a rock and fell backwards. Dazed, yet determined, I used all my strength to get back on my feet and continue onwards. The only driving motivation in a portage is the water you can see at the other side.
Since these lakes are hard to reach, and isolated, the fishing there was probably the best you can get this side of the Western Hemisphere. We caught 20-30 inch Pike, Bass, and Lake Trout as easily as those fishing toy games. On the second day, my friend Seth had a 31-inch Northern Pike on the line as soon as he had reeled in another fish! I was surprised, because the lakes are so vast and deep you would think the fish would be spread out far and few in between. There were no complaints, though, as fried fish was the best remedy for an aching body.
The third day was one of the longest and hardest days of the trip, especially for my dad. While doing a rough, steep portage, my dad, who was carrying the canoe, stumbles and shouts in pain. He had torn one of his upper groin muscles! This didn’t injure him to the point of calling off the trip, but he had to take ibuprofen every day after. It would take a good month after the incident for him to fully recover.
On reaching our fourth day of the trip, we paddled to Lake MacIntyre, the halfway point in our canoe route. By then, our crew had travelled over 40 miles and portaged around 13 times. To make it back to the canoe base in time, we took a route around one of the large lakes and started heading home. The weather was perfect for five days straight, until a huge storm hit us early in the morning. As soon as the first drop fell, I woke up my tent mates and rushed to put the rainfly over our shelter. Lightning flashed over the lake at around 100 times a minute. It was like someone was shining a strobe light over the whole world! Not to mention the pouring rain and screaming wind. None of us slept well that night.
Finally, we found our way back to the lake where we started and I reflected on everything I accomplished throughout the trip. Our crew travelled over 75 miles by canoe, caught countless fish, and bonded well together in only 7 days. We woke up every one of those days and paddled, rain or shine, and really experienced what it’s like to be with nature. Not only that, I got to test my limits and see my potential. After this trip, I went home and knew how hard work and effort really do pay off.