Enjoy all Minnesota has to offer
There is a very special place in Minnesota.
It is a serene, soul-refreshing, beautiful and unique hideaway from civilization. It is almost mystical.
It is 1.1 million acres of pristine wilderness called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Perhaps you have heard of it. Maybe you have been there. Many folks I talk to about the Boundary Waters say they were there, once, when they were young.
Others have made frequent trips.
But if you don’t know about it, here is some background.
It is a huge area made up of many lakes and rivers and forests and lots of boulders. In other words, it is all rocks, trees and water.
There are no roads, no cabins, no direction or information signs, no picnic tables, no electricity, no signs of civilization whatsoever. Well, one sign of civilization…about 150 feet away from a campsite, there is a latrine dug in the ground. You travel by canoe and camp in a tent and take everything you need for a week in backpacks. You will need to portage your canoes and backpacks once in a while to go from lake to lake.
You need to get a permit to enter the Boundary Waters at a certain entry point on a certain day. And you need to camp in a designated campsite which only is recognizable by having an iron grate for your campfire.
We (some friends and family members) have done that trip into the BWCA quite a few times, and we did it again this past week. But, to be honest, this time we stayed in a cabin on the edge of the Boundary Waters, on a lake, and day tripped in canoes and kayaks. It is not quite the same, but is a lot more comfortable sleeping in a bed at night than a sleeping bag in a tent. Oh yeah, and having a toilet instead of a latrine in the woods.
Yes, I guess we have gotten old.
To get to the BWCA, you drive north. Way north. Eventually you will drive through forests and end up in Ely, Minnesota. It is the last town before the Boundary Waters.
Ely itself is an interesting city. It is roughly the same size as Blue Earth, around 3,500 population. And believe it or not, both are located on Highway 169 … but a lot of miles apart from each other.
But, that is where the similarity ends.
Where Blue Earth is surrounded by farm fields, Ely is surrounded by forests and lakes.
While you might spot a canoe or a kayak in Blue Earth once in a while, there are hundreds in Ely. On top of vehicles, in trailers, for sale at several places. And, lots of them at the various canoe trip outfitter companies located in the city.
While Blue Earth has a Green Giant Memorabilia Museum, Ely has its International Wolf Center, where you can learn all about wolves. It actually is quite interesting how they were hunted almost to extinction and the only ones left in the continental U.S. were in northern Minnesota.
Ely is, of course, a lot more touristy than Blue Earth. There will be thousands of tourists in Ely during the summer. In Blue Earth, the tourists stop in to see the Giant statue, then continue on along I-90, usually heading towards the Black Hills.
Ely has a couple dozen touristy shops and restaurants/bars. Not so much in Blue Earth.
For some reason, Ely attracts some artsy folks. They carve, paint, write, and build beautiful wood canoes. Blue Earth also seems to attract artisans of different types, especially lately. There are painters, woodcarvers, pottery makers and more. We seem to be turning into an art colony of sorts, and I don’t think that is a bad thing.
Now, if we could just turn the Blue Earth River into more of a canoe and kayak destination, we could add one more similarity to Ely.
There are some things we could never copy from Ely, however. This morning, as I sat outside in the cool, fresh air having my morning coffee, a black bear walked past me and strolled out onto the dock in front of our cabin. He then got to the end of the dock and jumped into the lake and swam to the other side.
Now that is something you don’t see every day in Blue Earth. Or ever.
And one other thing. While we were up nort’ Minnesota, enjoying temps in the 60s at night and upper 70s and low 80s during the day, it was hitting 90s and 100s across most of the U.S., including Blue Earth and Faribault County.
Yeah, for once we picked a good week to be gone.
OK, one more thing. Before you think that I believe the Boundary Waters to be the most perfect place on Earth, I have to confess there is one minor flaw here.
There are a few mosquitoes. A few million, that is.
So remember to bring some insect spray with you when you come.