I consider myself a backpacker and climber. Not a paddler. But for years the BWCA in Superior National Forest has been high on my list as a way to try something new. I have no regrets.
If you live near or plan to visit Minneapolis, I highly encourage a visit the BWCA for a few days. It provides an incredible opportunity for wildlife viewing (moose, bear, wolf) and some world class fishing and paddling. Plan for a 4.5 hour drive from the city to get you to the edge of the Boundary Waters (almost to the border of Canada). Split the drive up with a stop in Duluth for some smoked fish from the Northern Waters Smokehouse, and definitely stop by the notable Duluth Pack store for a last minute gear stop
There are several places to enter the wilderness area, but we chose Sawbill Lake in Tofte because there is a campground and outfitter located there. Renting a canoe from the Sawbill Outfitters was fast and easy. They also helped us with permits and booked our campsite. Be ready to experience the friendliness of Northern Minnesotans.
Portaging was a new experience for our entire group, but we became experts quickly. Here's a few things we learned:
1. Keep a sharp eye for the trailheads. They aren't officially marked, and its easy to paddle past them, especially in the wind. Keep your map handy.
2. Bring a big pack. You don't want to make trips back and forth to carry your gear.
3. Research your portages ahead of time. Know the distance and the conditions that you'll be traveling.
4. Invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses. That much time on the water and you'll be fighting reflections and wind. Stay comfortable, and keep your retinas happy.
I believe the best time of year to experience the Boundary Waters is in early October. It may be cold, but I'm particular to off season travel. You'll avoid the mosquitoes and the crowds of people, and be present for the fall colors and lingering wildlife.
When you get back to Minneapolis, reward yourself with a stop by Sociable Cider Werks, a small local taproom that makes their own hard cider. Just around the corner from there is Sightglass Coffee, a good place to settle in and pick which photos of your trip you want to post to instagram.
Contributed by @thelandmarkproject