Day 1: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The day after The Relatives Came we drove up to Ely, Minnesota for the first big adventure of my family’s week and a half visit. We were going to backpack and canoe through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Boundary Waters are up on the North edge of Minnesota, near the Canadian border (hence Boundary Waters). It is an area of land so full of lakes that one can hardly make it through a stretch of land without seeing a few. My family has done many backpacking trips in Utah, but adding a canoe added a new and exciting challenge.

We spent the night at an outfitter bunk house but woke up early to eat and get a head start on our adventure. It was a perfect day; slightly cool and sunny enough that the water was sparkling. We were driven to the port site and given our three canoes, pointed in the right direction, and off we went. As soon as we got used to our canoes, we made good time across Farm Lake and up the connecting river. We rowed over 6 miles in, traveled across a mile of different portages (where we carried the canoes on our shoulders), and soon came to find our destination campsite. All the while we carried an American flag to celebrate the day; the 4th of July.


We quickly settled into our campsite, setting up tents and hammocks. Then it was time to play! Andrew, Marissa, and Camren tried “sailing” by using a tarp to pull them while steering with a paddle behind the canoe. They were actually successful. Most of us swam, and the boys fished. Andrew caught a beautiful bass that we cooked up and sampled. It was turning out to be the perfect day.

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That is until I looked down and noticed that my middle finger on my left hand was beginning to swell. I didn’t think much of it, after all, I had been bitten by a horsefly and it was a tad itchy. Then, the swelling started to go into my other fingers and finally down into my hand. It got to the point where it was so puffy that it looked like a blown up surgical glove had replaced my hand. I couldn’t even move my fingers (the picture doesn’t do it justice and was taken before it got really bad). We tried using an emergency ice pack and soaking it in the ice cold lake but neither brought the swelling down. I was definitely having an allergic reaction.

At this point we started getting worried about what to do. After all, we were about a 7 mile canoe from any help and it was starting to get dark. If we were to wait any longer to act, we would have to wait until morning to get help. We decided to have my dad, Andrew, and Kyle give me a blessing and then row around to the other campers to see if they had any anti-histamine medicine. Thankfully, the camper closest to us happened to be a wilderness first responder and had all the medicine we needed. Within an hour of taking it, the swelling decreased and our camping continued as normal.


My hand remained a bit swollen but I didn’t let that stop me from playing games and spending some quality time with my family. As the day faded away, we watched the sunset and listened to the sound of fireworks going off in the distance. That sound soon became replaced by the howling of far off wolves and crickets chirping. It had been a beautiful day and a lovely way to spend our 4th of July.



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