The new movie starring Julia Roberts, Eat, Pray, Love (based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert), promotes the idea of travel as a vehicle for self-examination and for soul replenishment; in this case by visiting faraway places (all of them, keeping with the theme of self-awareness, beginning with the letter “I”).
While I’d love to travel to Italy, and India, and Indonesia, I do aim to canoe in the Boundary Waters every year. This August I’ll spend a few days on the Lady Lakes Route, near the Kawishiwi. Luckily for me, the BWCA is only a half-day away. Six hours ’til paradise, I like to say. The paradisal setting, however, is only part of the getaway. For me, the Boundary Waters is host to both a renewed sense of camaraderie (with the earth, with my paddling partners) as well as solitude and self-reflection. It is one of the most beautiful natural places in the world, and as Ann Bancroft writes in her introduction to the 75th Anniversary Edition of Canoeing with the Cree, by Eric Sevareid (MHS Press, 2004), “The wilderness experience positions the great questions we face in life within the context of our utter smallness. Only our acceptance, our willingness to go where we are small and where we need to respect the power and objectivity of nature, makes it possible for us to experience a hero’s journey.”
Each year I pull out Sevareid’s travel odyssey, his book Canoeing with the Cree, and each year I am inspired by his and fellow paddler Walter Port’s experiences and personal chronicles. As I put together my own canoe packing list and food plan, I marvel at their simple food list:
- one small ham
- side of bacon
- pound of tea
- two pounds sugar
- half-pound salt
- ten pounds rice
- peanut butter
- pound of flour for frying fish
- three pounds raisins
- three pounds prunes
- several cans of beans
- supply of uncooked beans
- several cans of prepared soups
- sweet chocolate
The MHS Press offers a wide range of books of interest to canoeists: over a dozen titles, ranging from Keeper of the Wild: The Life of Ernest Oberholtzer by Joe Paddock to the forthcoming, full-color BWCA book, Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness by Layne Kennedy and Greg Breining (available in November).
Summer and early fall in Minnesota is perfect canoe time. Hope you get out there yourself while summer is winding down. The lakes and rivers are a-callin’.
~Pam McClanahan, director, MHS Press/Borealis Books