Power Down for Your Best Vacation Ever


So you say you need a vacation, eh?  You need to get away and recharge those batteries?  Well, I know a few days floating around in a canoe may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hear me out.  This could be just what you need.  With a little planning and organization, you can really unwind in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW, or as we call it, The BDub).

Portage up Heart Attack Hill

If you’re unfamiliar with this area of the country, it’s a pristine million-plus acres of wilderness between Minnesota and Canada.  It’s rustic and the terrain is very rugged, requiring campers to get out and “portage” their canoes over trails and islands to get to the water on the other side.  Where we go, it’s one of the few places where a handy dandy set of portage wheels slips nicely under the boat and it can be walked across.

Ron, Fish, and Fritz

There are lists available online to help you pack, because you’ll want to take as little as possible.  Remember, the idea is getting away from it all, not having it all stuffed into a canoe that you have to paddle.  Oh there are a few areas in The BDub where you can use a small motor, but if you want to go where it’s peaceful and the fish are plentiful, you’ll want to opt for manpower.  And if you need guidance, businesses like Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely, MN are wonderful.

Gilligan's Latrine

As hardcore as we like to think we are, we do still have the luxury of a latrine.  It’s a very spacious bathroom, yes, but private?  No.  Hey, it’s better than a log, so I’m not complaining!  We do have a running um…discussion about how much toilet paper is really necessary on the trip.  I’ve learned to quietly hide an extra just-in-case roll in my pack.  Don’t tell.  Another luxury is small bottles of water frozen solid.  They do double duty, acting as ice in the cooler then drinking water when melted.  Genius.


We also stick extra rope in the bag and clothes pins to dry our gear.  When it gets hot you could swim several times a day for relief.  But no one’s complaining as they dive into the cool, clear sparkling waters.  The kids like to paddle over to the falls to swim and hike to the top of the nearby peak.  On a clear day you can see forever, I swear!

Mike msrng fish

Never opting for the dehydrated pouches, The Hub and I make out a menu, figuring breakfasts and dinners but leaving lunch-time munching to meats, cheeses, and crackers.  Dinners like steaks, fajitas, and spaghetti are cooked in advance and frozen solid to help keep the cooler cold.  The final dinner of fish tacos is caught there.  Nothing better than walleye right out of the lake and into a tortilla!  Breakfasts like pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, bagels, and of course sausage and bacon are sure to get the kids up out of the tents.

The sunset from campsite 68, AKA Gilligan's Island!

The sunset from campsite 68, AKA Gilligan’s Island!

Two of my favorite things about camping up there are early mornings and watching the sun set.  We build the fire after supper, everyone grabs a mug and a treat, and we watch as the sun slowly slips behind the horizon.  You won’t be bothered by phones, computers, or televisions.  You’ll have time for conversations with the people you have chosen to share your experience.  You will recharge like no other vacation.  You may not want to leave.  But remember to plan ahead; there are no stores or room service in The BDub.


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