My sister Emily visited me in Minnesota this last weekend, and we had plans to go up to Voyageurs National Park for canoe-backpacking. We ended up stranded on a rock with a canoe full of water.
We started the weekend driving to Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota’s boundary waters, planning to canoe-backpack from shore through Lake Kabetogama to two separate islands where we’d reserved campsites. We loaded up the canoe with everything we needed, and set off. It was somewhat windy, but we felt we could push through. After rounding the corner, the current became 3 foot waves, which we bobbed up and down through, heading straight into. We had to turn right, parallel to the waves, to reach our island, which had a rock on the corner of. We started to turn, and the wind picked up toward 30mph and pushed what became 4 foot swells into the side of our boat, shoving us very quickly into a shallow shelf leading up to the large rock on the corner of the island, where we became stuck. The waves kept coming, filling our boat, and teetering us back and forth with the bottom of our boat stuck on the rock. We couldn’t get free from the rock, so we had to jump out of the boat and frantically collect our belongings onto the rock which was thankfully large enough to sit and stay on, and only 10 feet from shore. Our canoe was stuck. We were soaked waist-down. Our belongings were soaked. We almost completely lost the sleeping bag Emily was borrowing from my roommate. We lost our entire bundle of wood. I was pretty freaked out through this whole process, but Emily was pretty relaxed. She’s on the sailing team at Western and is pretty used to swamped and capsized boats in rough water. I was partially worried for our safety, but partially for my backpacking supplies, which is the majority of what I’ve spent any spare money on and been 90% of my birthday presents for the last 3 years. Emily helped keep me calm.
Our only option was to call 911. They got in communication with a shoreline resort who was able to send a pontoon boat to come rescue us. They helped us get on board with all the belongings we had. They were unable to free our canoe as well, so we tied it to a rock for the resort we’d rented it from to retrieve later in the weekend. They took us back to shore.
We sorted through everything, most of which was pretty soaked, and weighed our options of what was dry enough to allow us to sleep trough the night that was supposed to get into the upper 30s- brr!! We decided we had enough to stay warm for car camping nearby, and our car could be a warm refuge if needed.
We luckily ran into another group we’d seen earlier who had a roaring fire started, and offered to let us hang out soaking sleeping materials near their fire to dry, which made a HUGE difference. They also loaned us an extra fleece blanket! Their friendly hospitality was everything.
That was Friday afternoon-evening.
The visitor center Sunday told us that this weekend has had unseasonably cold and strong winds, and we just got really unlucky with the weather. Another group went out this morning in kayaks (we think may be the group we camped next to who dried our things) and they got swamped, and then the rescue boat for them got swamped too! It’s been a rough weekend at Voyageurs.
We in the end were very lucky things ended how they did. We’re here to tell the story, safe and uninjured. We had cell service. We had friendly people willing to help us dry our sleeping things and had an extra blanket from them. We had a really beautiful camp spot right on the lake in our state forest campground, and all our food was saved.
We went out paddling in a much calmer area yesterday which was beautiful! We paddled a lovely 3-4 miles and we’re very glad to have done that! We paddled under many soaring eagles, past a waterfall and beautiful orange trees. We saw a loon and wood ducks.
Sunday we stopped by Itasca State Park where the headwaters of the Mississippi River reside, and that was really awesome to see!
The first ⅔ of Monday was dry and pretty pleasant- we picked for several hours at Sheep Berry Fen in the morning. A large roost of red winged blackbirds is preparing for migration, and were swarming in and out of the trees. The afternoon was spent at the Esker picking in a large patch of dotted blazing star before the rain picked up.
Tuesday we spent the morning picking on the Esker. It was pretty chilly but stayed dry despite the rain in the forecast! The Esker seemed a bit slower picking today vs other days, so we decided to change locations after lunch.
We drove to the gravel pit at Ordway, which is usually pretty abundant in seed. I found a large patch of pinweed to spend time on, and searched for thimbleweed, asters, wild onion, and purple prairie clovers in between.
Wednesday, we chose to spent or day at Strandness, which is pretty reliable in seed ripeness quantities. This site has quite a large amount of many different sunflowers, prairie rose (rosehips), Tickseed/coreopsis, more Canada wild rye and tall meadow rue than we usually see elsewhere, and is the only place we’ve found any Sneezeweed. The morning started out quite chilly in the low 40s, but warmed into the upper 50s by the afternoon, and was overall a very beautiful crisp sunny fall day. We’ve been collecting about 5,000 grams (11lbs) a day in seed recently, and our list of species is still close to 30 per day. That said, however, we can feel the peak picking season is slowing down a little bit, with not quite the abundance we were finding a couple weeks ago at our usual steady sites.
Thursday we decided to try out the north Esker, where we have gone very few times. This area has asters aplenty- hairy false golden aster, and smooth blue aster. We spent the morning basically crawling around collecting the fluffy seed of these asters, among a few other plants.
After lunch we went to Freese, where we spent the afternoon picking sunflowers, bergamot, an several others. It’s been a chilly but mostly sunny fall day, and I think it’s pretty safe to say all the warm weather is gone for the season.