We didn’t think about going into the Boundary Waters with our family until our kids were much older. Considering the extra work it would take to tow our three kids in canoes, and on a portage; along with the allure of simply relaxing in the comfort of a cabin after a long summer of work, we always opted for the more restful option and rented a cabin. That is, until we dropped our canoes into Lizz Lake that first trip into the BWCA; when our kids were old enough to help haul the canoes and packs, and we collectively experienced a feeling of stillness so remote and so quiet from the constant noise of our daily lives, that we wished we would have done it sooner.
It’s relatively easy to access the BWCA from Poplar. It’s not too far to paddle from the shore of Rockwood to the Lizz Lake portage; which means that if you rent a cabin and want to only go into the BWCA for the day, you can! In fact, that’s what we’ve done for several years now.
On this most recent trip, we got our day permit, two Kevlar canoes from Rockwood, mostly filled with our people, lunch, and of course, cameras and fishing poles (in the past, we’ve had some luck catching walleye in Caribou). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on this trip, but nonetheless, it was still perfect in all the ways that escaping into the wilderness for a day can be. The paddle to the Lizz Lake access point was windy that day, and the lake was choppy; which made paddling somewhat of a workout. Although short, the portage has a steep incline, a rocky path and some muddy patches along the way. At just about the time when the canoe starts to feel unbearably heavy, the craggy path opens to a newly built wooden walkway that makes setting the canoes in the water easy, and a clean place to drop the packs and rest.
Lizz Lake is long, narrow, and protected from the wind by tall trees on both sides of the lake. It’s always given me the feeling of floating down a lazy river; the lake meanders quietly through the tall tress, while the canoe glides effortlessly over the water. Of all of our day trips through Lizz to Caribou Lake, we’ve never seen another person paddling in Lizz. Possibly because it’s more of a passage way to get to Caribou and on, or maybe because it’s actually that secluded, but we’ve appreciated the solitude of having the lake all to ourselves. And we’ve taken full advantage of that solitude, paddling leisurely between the two portages; casting a line, breathing in the fresh air and quiet, and letting go of the effort of the portage and paddling that it takes to get there.
The portage from Lizz Lake to Caribou Lake; which was our final destination for this day trip, is harder than Lizz. It’s still relatively short, or shorter than most of the BWCA portages, but there are more rocky inclines, it’s a bit more buggy (at least when we visited in June), and the path is jagged and rough with rocks and mud making it feel more like an obstacle course then a hiking path. But once again, the reward of Caribou Lake at the end of the portage, is the motivation to keep moving forward. The wooden walkways at the entrance to the lakes must be a new addition, because this is the first year we’ve seen them on both portages. It’s a wonderful addition, especially to be on level ground after all that balancing required to walk on rocks with a canoe in tow.
Caribou Lake is a welcomed relief at the end of that second portage. There are a few campsites that are visible from the end of the portage; an invitation to paddle quickly to get across the lake and climb atop the rocky outcrop; which is the most magical location to pitch a tent. We always make our way to that first campsite, stretch our legs, gather around the fire pit, eat lunch, and soak up the view of the lake and wilderness. We spend the better part of the day, hanging out at the campsite, fishing and swimming. Mostly soaking up the bliss of being together in the solitude and simplicity of nature.
When it’s time to leave, we’re usually reluctant to pack up and make our way back to the cabin on Poplar. Partly because we’re never ready to leave the peace and quiet of being in the BWCA; and also because we know what’s in store for the trek back. But even the return trip feels good. Relaxed and refueled, we take our time going back the way we came. We’re content to have spent the day together in a such a remote and beautiful environment, and we know the lasting effects a day in the wilderness will have on us long after we leave the BWCA. I’m certain one of these years, an overnight stay in the BWCA will be added to our adventures at Rockwood. Because as enjoyable as it is to visit the BWCA for the day, I can only imagine what it would be like to watch the sunset from a tent, on that perfect campsite perch with a view, and wake up nestled in the woods with the sounds of the wilderness all around.