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Just canoes and paddles… on ‘vacation?’

“You’re going where?  For how long?  Just canoes and paddles?  No motors?  This is your summer vacation?”


Women only  (no husbands, no kids), in our early 40s, taking time to laugh, visit, enjoy each other and relax in nature’s quiet.  We picked up our permit in Ely, getting an early morning start.  After finding our entry point, we loaded up the canoes.  We paddled to Isabella Lake in July 1991 on a glorious, sunny day, after portaging our canoes, packs and gear.  The gentle breezes over the gray-blue waters helped keep the mosquitoes and bugs away.


Our days and nights passed quickly and melted together, as we enjoyed  swimming, exploring and relaxing.  Around the evening campfire we watched brilliant sunsets, told stories, sang songs, played Yahtzee.  The world slowed down and came alive, with nature’s beauty filling all our senses.

The truly magical, unforgettable BWCA experience happened close to the end of our camping  time. Our sister Ann got up and went outside sometime after midnight.  Near the tent, her eye caught movement high above.  The night sky was dancing with pulsating colors.  She called to us, “Wake up! Quick, get out here……. You won’t believe this!”  We scrambled out of our sleeping bags, climbed out of the tent, blinking like raccoons in the night.  The wide sky was alive with brilliant colors, blending with each other, shimmering, glowing.  We all wordlessly moved down by the lake’s edge, eyes fixed on the entrancing display of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.  The colors were violet, purple, silver, shades of green.  They stretched across the sky, mirrored in the calm lake water, doubling their size.

Suddenly our ears filled with the sound of loons calling in the night.  They were aroused by the fantastic light display too, evidently.  Their haunting ghostly cries echoed from all sides.  They called back and forth, their cries fading away, only to start up again moments later.  We said very little to each other.  There was no need.

These sights and sounds filled and magnified our world, our eyes, ears, and hearts that spiritual night.  This spellbinding show may have gone on for only a half hour, or maybe a couple hours. Who can say?  It doesn’t really matter. We were lost in time and place, with a rare mystical experience.  When it was finally finished, we slowly headed back to bed, somehow changed, bonded closer to our world.

The next morning, we visited more about the night magic of Northern Lights and loons.  Would we experience it again?  Each night until we left, we kept a lookout, hoping.  While we weren’t honored with a repeat performance, that memory remains  sharp and vivid, crystallized in time. Finally it was time to pack up and head home.  We were ready by then, with some sunburn and bug bites, lots of pictures and special memories.


Yes, our reservation is already made for this coming season.

#BWCA #canoe #vacation

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