July 08 2018 – Laura Wright




O N E   W E E K   I N   T H E   W I L D E R N E S S

Hi all!

Recently, my dad has started making plans and taking actions to fulfill life-long dreams.  We don’t call it his bucket list… but… essentially, it is his bucket list.  One such dream was to take “all of his kids” (my brothers, my husband, and myself) on a Canadian fishing trip together.

My brothers and I had taken our own versions of this trip individually, and Chase had never done anything like it.  At Christmas, we set dates aside that worked with each of our busy schedules, shopped for a new tent and discussed what essentials we would need… ie, Patagonia and cocktails.

We spent early spring slowly gathering our gear, pulling out old equipment and ‘camping clothes’ from basement bins and supplementing with fresh items from REI and Patagonia sales.  We took a Saturday ‘family trip’ to Bass Pro Shop, REI and Trader Joe’s to fill in missing camping and fishing gear.  And I spent the week before filling orders, and making business arrangements for my absence, as well as, prepping, dehydrating, cooking and freezing food… for five people… for eight days.  It was a bit of a whirl-wind!

The morning of our departure finally came.  I made an early morning run for dry ice and coffee.  We loaded the truck bed (time and time again), until everything squeezed in, then we piled in the cab and started our eleven hour trek north.

We spent that night in minimal barracks at the outfitters in Ely, Minnesota.  The next morning, we woke at five and prepared to ‘enter the wilderness’.  This meant taking ‘the last’ shower, eating breakfast at a local spot, adding last minute lures to the tackle box and standing around… for hours.

Once the van was finally loaded, we had a forty-five minute drive to our launching point on Basswood Lake.  The driver made pleasant conversation, we took in the beautiful scenery and just like that, our canoes, packs, and bodies were dropped off and the real adventure was to begin.  

It was a dark, rainy day.  The air was damp and chilling, but we merrily paddled into the middle of nowhere.  The newness of the paddling quickly wore off and we rapidly tired.  We tackled the first portage with a disorganized glory.  This was the longest and hardest run, so we were glad to have it behind us.  Once our baggage was returned to the canoes, we were back to paddling.  We repeated this process of paddling, unpacking canoes, carrying gear, reloading gear and returning to the canoes two more times.  Each time, the portages got shorter, but the paddling got longer.  We each rotated through a range of emotions, everything from extreme optimism to extreme anger… with some bickering thrown in the middle.  It was, after all, a family trip.

We had high hopes of getting to ‘the good fishing’ on the far side of the lake.  The wind and the current were against us, which made this ambition seem near impossible.  Once we got close, two of the campsites were already taken.  And so we paddled on.  We stopped at another campsite.  The ground was angled and lumpy.  And so we paddled on.  This time, we agreed that the next campsite was ‘IT’.  It took us a bit of searching to find this next spot on the map, but when we did, it was glorious!  Our tired bodies pulled into the sandy shore, our legs eager to stretch after the full day trip.

The clouds parted and the sun came out.  We quickly shed our lamenting when we realized how beautiful… how unique… how perfect our camp was!  It was a long peninsula that divided two different sections of the lake.  We could easily access either by carrying our canoes over a fifteen foot stretch of land.  We had trees, a fire grate, an area to ‘do dishes’ and ‘bathe’… and even a latrine tucked away in the woods (for this I was beyond surprised and grateful).  What a wonderful week we had ahead of us!

The days were simple and joyous.  We woke each morning to fresh air and the sound of nature.  We made coffee, took in the views, paddled about.  In the morning, the boys fished and I painted.  In the afternoon, the boys napped… and I painted.  In the evenings, we made a fire, cooked our meals, watched otters swim and played cards by the light of headlamps.  We had no access to modern technology, none of the bother from emails, calls, and no knowledge of the outside world.  Occasionally, we would hear the hum of a motor boat far in the distance.  We only saw other groups of people twice.  This was a vacation like no other.  While we lacked many of the comforts of daily life, we were able to relax in a way society rarely allows this day in age.  I would encourage each of you to try something like this… even just once!

Below is a quick recap of trip details, should you be interested in a similar experience…


T H E   O U T F I T T E R



T H E   M E A L S

All food was cooked sous vide and frozen prior to departing.  This meant the food simply needed to be reheated and dished out at the campsite.  I tried to handle as much as possible in advance to keep things really simple around the camp.

The RTIC cooler’s trial run was a grand success.  We were able to fit 10 steaks, 3 pork tenderloins, 8 chicken breasts, frozen veggies and so much more in the cooler with 5 pounds of dry ice.  The cooler stayed chilled for seven days.  Should we have doubled our dry ice (and a bit more strategic cooler placement… ie, out of the sun), I’m sure it would have stayed chilled for the entire ten days.  DISCLOSURE: the cooler was bulky, heavy and awkward to carry through the portages, but in my opinion, it was worth having 'real food' for the majority of the trip.  Since I was not strong enough to help carry the cooler, the boys may not agree...

You can view our planned meal plan below.  What was not planned was the best part of each meal… THE FRESH-CAUGHT FISH… THANK YOU, BOYS!!


W H A T   W E   F O R G O T  ( a n d   w i s h e d   w e   h a d )



W H A T   I   M I S S E D / C R A V E D



W H A T   I   D I D   N O T   M I S S / C R A V E



T H E   E S S E N T I A L S   ( a   f e w   i t e m s   t h a t   I   w o u l d n ' t   g o   w i t h o u t ! )

Should you be interested in a complete packing list, I will share this in a later post!


T H E   H I G H L I G H T S

  • WILDLIFE!  Each night, like clockwork, otters would cross the lake.  On one of the last days, we saw one swim very close to our campsite to eat a fish.  We had several grouse around our campsite, for which we often saw… and heard.  Loons.  Mallard ducks.  Deer within a stone’s throw… and finally… drumroll, please... A WOLF.  A GIANT GRAY WOLF.  So. Close.  Coolest thing ever.  Chase thinks it was walking towards the water to take a drink and we startled it.  It looked at us, ran across the narrow, shallow water that we were paddling in and darted towards our camp site (eek!).  Luckily, we never saw it around camp!
  • QUALITY TIME WITH MY FAMILY!  No distractions.  No escape.  Need I say more?
  • BASSWOOD FALLS...  a beautiful, tiered waterfall an hour's worth of canoeing away from our campsite.
  • OUR DAILY REVIEW… each night, as we laid in the tent, we each said our favorite three things about the day.  We should do this everyday.  It’s soooooo good to count your blessings.
  • PAINTING.  For one week straight.  WITH MY HUSBAND.  Literally, a dream come true.
  • A WHOLE SLEW OF NEW INSIDE JOKES... that I won't bore you with now, but is only natural after a trip like this...
  • SHOWERS AND CHEESEBURGERS after returning to ‘civilization’. 


T H E   P A I N T I N G S

Watercolor is a medium I use on the regular.  However, this trip I wanted to try a more traditional method of watercolor painting.  This is something I am relatively unfamiliar with, so my goal was to have three paintings at the end that I really liked... and I think I achieved that.  I don't love all, but I do like at least three!  If you are a member of our monthly CARD CLUB, some of these will be familiar to you, as they were the theme for the June mailing.

Please note that these paintings (or pictures) don't even begin to do justice to the amazing landscapes that we dwelled in!!

You can view the paintings at the bottom of this post.  Can you figure out which two are Chase's?



With that, I seriously hope that each of you will consider a trip like this... at least once in your lifetime!  If not, try a laid back vacation where you have access to nature and leave your phones at home!  Lots of love...



-L :)

...for those of you who guessed, Chase's paintings were #6 and #10.  I am so impressed... they will both be framed and hanging in our house!!