BY AARON BLACK-SCHMIDT

Elemental Forces

Experiencing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a bucket-list adventure, a definite notch to carve into one’s paddle. When Darren Bush pitched his idea to test ultra-light tripping canoes in the BWCAW we jumped at the chance. What better place to test the limits of these craft than the wooded trails and lakes of Minnesota’s Northwoods?

With camp set at Missing Link Lake on our first night, we listened for the only sound: a pair of loons drifting across the calm water. The surrounding forest was calm, save for the drip-drip-drip of recent rain falling from branches. Storm clouds drifted away into the distance, catching the last rays of sunset. Nearby, wood crackled as my father Alan knelt beside a ring of stones, massaging small flames into our evening campfire. My thoughts drifted to the next day, of the portages and lakes yet to come. With so many routes and options ahead, it was easy to see what made this place so special to paddlers. It was not hard to grasp why people keep coming back.

Over six days we paddled over 21 lakes linked by 20 portages – including the second longest in the BWCAW at 428 rods (1.3 miles). We encountered wind and rain, sunshine and clear night skies.  As our food bags grew lighter and our muscles grew stronger we reveled in the experience forged by the fur trappers and voyageurs who pioneered this watery landscape, if even for a short time.

Nightly bustle at camp.  Days of long portages and time on the water often moved dinner well into darkness.
Thankfully we had a fleet of lightweight tripping canoes on hand.  These boats weighed between 35-45 lbs and made the portages so much easier.  Stay tuned for an in-depth review in C&K Magazine.
Packing, unpack, repeat. Caitlin getting it down to a fine art.
Ellie and Rachel make tracks in the eastern tip of Little Saganana Lake.
Caitlin Looby overlooking the climb up from Virgin Lake. One could count on the portage trails being a unique mixture of mud, rock and elevation gain. 
We found the seasons changing all along the way.
Darren Bush going solo on Gillis Lake.