Boundary Waters

June 2023

Mel and I just returned from a five-day canoe trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. I had no idea just how immense, remote, and picturesque this area of our country was. According to the Explore Minnesota website, it is “…one of America’s most beautiful and remote places. Its vast wilderness extends 150 miles along the U.S.-Canada border, covering approximately 1,098,000 acres with over 1,100 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes…” What a wonderful place to explore!

Sheril and Scott on a misty morning paddle
Sheril and Scott on calm waters

When our friends Scott and Sheril asked if we would like to join them on their canoeing adventure to the Boundary Waters, we were eager to give it a try. Mel and I both had previous experience canoeing (albeit leisurely), and lots of experience hiking, sleeping outdoors, and going without creature comforts for months on end. (In 2015, at ages 68 and 61, we had spent four months hiking 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail.)

Mel and I ready to launch
Mel and I cruising along

I am now 76 years old, and Mel is 69. We are in good health, and in reasonably good shape, but this trip called for one or the other of us to carry a 17-foot, 45-pound canoe over our head along portages that could be a mile long. I was quite sure that it wouldn’t be prudent for me to carry that canoe, but I also worried about Mel. My balance isn’t as good as it once was, and Mel has been experiencing periodic back and shoulder pain. So, before leaving on our trip, Mel hefted Scott’s canoe over his head to see if it was within the realm of possibilities. It was!  But, Mel was standing on flat ground, and only for a short time. The trail conditions we later faced along the portages were rocky, mucky, long, and sometimes steep. Plus, there were hordes of hungry mosquitoes! It was a lot harder than we expected!

Mighty Sheril (age 64!) carrying one of our canoes (photo by Scott)
The mighty explorers dressed for mosquitoes!

After portaging the canoes from point A to point B, there would also be two or three more trips back and forth to fetch our heavy packs loaded with clothing, tents, and sleeping bags; plus a huge bear canister stuffed full of food and cooking equipment– and all the paddles and life jackets. It was a bit of a challenge!

Mel carrying the food canister
Sheril and Jeanne canoeing in style!

Once we were back on the water, the views were spectacular! Mile after mile of crystal-clear water with thousands of magnificent trees hugging the entire shoreline. No cell towers. No houses. No motorboats. When we stopped paddling, the sound of silence was profound.  

Sheril and Scott
Mel and I heading out

In the early morning hours, and late into the evening when we sat around the campfire, that profound silence would periodically be broken by the haunting, evocative call of the loons, or the sweet, melodic whistle of the white-throated sparrows hiding in the nearby trees. 

Common Loon
White-throated Sparrow

There were many things about this trip that were difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge, and the sense of accomplishment when we finished. I particularly cherished the time we had to spend together around the campfire; to sit and visit, to read, or to just listen to the quiet. I loved stepping outside my tent on the darkest of nights to find a million of the brightest stars I have ever seen. It took my breath away.

An all-day read by the fire
Scott, Jeanne and Sheril

Many, many thanks to our dear friends Scott and Sheril who not only planned this adventure into the wild but also had the experience and the skill-set to guide us through the Boundary Waters safely; to portage our canoe for us when needed, and to creatively change course so that there would be fewer portages and more time in camp.

Mel, Sheril, Scott and Jeanne before our adventure
Mel, Jeanne, Sheril and Scott at the end of our journey

What an amazing trip!


One of our campsites
The bathroom facilities!
Scott sending a message to our kids using a Garmin Inreach mini to let them know when we were safely in camp each night. It also had an SOS feature if we needed it.
Morning Yoga!