Paradise Lost

 

Back in the early ‘90s, a client of mine bought an old lodge up on Crane Lake in Minnesota and spent a small fortune fixing it up. It became a go-to destination for my dad, my brothers, and me to spend a week together doing things we never did when we were growing up. Dad lived for those trips, and I’m convinced that they kept him alive for years.

When dad passed in 1997, I told my brothers that we should still go up North, but so long as I could portage a canoe, I wanted to go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which is a national wilderness area of several million acres of lakes, islands, and forests where motorized craft are prohibited, and all you get in the way of campsite amenities is a fire grate and a box latrine. Whatever you pack in, you have to pack out.

For over 20 years (with periodic interruptions) we would take a shuttle boat across Lac LaCroix and be dropped off on a rock just over the Canadian border and paddle our way into some of the most spectacular scenery in the country and which is listed on National Geographic’s 50 Places of a Lifetime “Paradise Found” list.

The trips always lived up to the promise (mosquitoes notwithstanding). A week of incredible quiet, where right at dusk the lake would turn to glass and you could hear loons calling to one another across miles of water. Nighttime shot full of stars, the Milky Way so bright it would cast your shadow, meteors streaking across the sky and the occasional thrill of the Northern Lights. One year we caught sight of the International Space Station hurtling across the heavens.

We were never great fishermen, but we always caught enough for supper (even if it was the occasional Northern Pike with its troublesome “Y” bones). I had a black lab that I’d take with me, and Jake would swim from island to island to keep track of us as we paddled around the lake. He was a great dog.

I just returned from the BWCA, and I learned that though the wilderness is constant and unchanging, I’m not. It’d been some time since I’d been up there, and that constant and unchanging wilderness showed me how much I’d changed since I was last there. The years are taking their toll, and I found myself struggling to do the simple things like climbing out of my tent. What was once easy had become an ordeal.

There were also a few cracks in the plaster of Paradise, as well. On three consecutive days, a guided fishing boat came through and parked itself in front of our campsite in complete violation of the prohibition against such vessels in the Wilderness area. I filed a complaint with the Forest Service with the hope that they’ll come down hard on these people. The ticket for each violation can run as high as $5,000, and we know who the culprit was.

One of the beauties of the BWCA is the total lack of cell service. You’re completely cut off from modern communications, or so I thought. I didn’t go up with my brothers this year, that’s a story for another day, but went with an acquaintance from Springfield. On the day we were to break camp, my traveling companion turned on his cell phone to take a few final pictures and 62 text messages showed up on the screen. It seems that even out there, we can’t escape the reach of technology if we choose to let it in.

I guess it’s time to move on.

Paradise Lost.

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There are 12 comments.

  1. Percival Thatcher

    Turn off the notifications (or the phone) and it will still be like you’ve fallen off the edge of the earth.

    • #1
    • August 15, 2019, at 8:29 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Nothing stands still forever, especially our age.

    • #2
    • August 15, 2019, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy Post author

    Percival (View Comment):

    Turn off the notifications (or the phone) and it will still be like you’ve fallen off the edge of the earth.

    Even better, leave it in the outfitter’s safe. No temptation to turn it on.

    • #3
    • August 15, 2019, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. SkipSul Moderator

    I spent 2 weeks there in 1992, when I was 16. The memories of that trip are still intense.

    • #4
    • August 15, 2019, at 9:45 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Beautifully written. I’ve never heard loons, either and delighted in their voices! Thanks.

    • #5
    • August 15, 2019, at 9:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. SkipSul Moderator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Beautifully written. I’ve never heard loons, either and delighted in their voices! Thanks.

    We spent 2 weeks this summer touring in northern Ontario, and they’re everywhere up there. I had played loon sounds to my kids before we went so they would know what to listen for, but the first time they heard them live, their long wails echoing distantly over the lakes, left them floored. When you are alone at night under the stars, just hearing the wind, the waves, and the chattering insects, that first loon cry is eerie and unsettling.

    • #6
    • August 15, 2019, at 10:06 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader Member

    Loons. One thing I will miss now that my mom has moved down here to Our Fair City. Even though she didn’t live on a lake anymore, it was right around the corner from her place, and we still heard the loons, late into the night, and early in the morning.

    • #7
    • August 15, 2019, at 3:14 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Bruce Caward Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Nothing stands still forever, especially our age.

    Dude.

    • #8
    • August 15, 2019, at 6:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    DrewInWisconsin, Thought Leader (View Comment):

    Loons. One thing I will miss now that my mom has moved down here to Our Fair City. Even though she didn’t live on a lake anymore, it was right around the corner from her place, and we still heard the loons, late into the night, and early in the morning.

    You mean Democrat presidential candidates? I know! There’s tons of them, everywhere, and they can’t shut up.

    • #9
    • August 16, 2019, at 3:23 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. Arahant Member

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    You mean Democrat presidential candidates? I know! There’s tons of them, everywhere, and they can’t shut up.

    Amen, brother.

    • #10
    • August 16, 2019, at 3:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Front Seat Cat Member

    Good for you for doing it anyway – you have fond old memories and you can cross one off your bucket list.

    • #11
    • August 16, 2019, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Thank you for taking us on this trip with you. Provided a nice get away for me, as this weekend I’m going through receipts for a possible IRS audit.

    • #12
    • August 16, 2019, at 9:25 PM PDT
    • Like