The Border Trail: Paddling from Rainy Lake to Lake Superior
The canoe country of the quatico, superior, wilderness, is a place like no other. The interconnected. Waterways, span across the entire, minnesota. Ontario, border, from lake superior, up to lake of the woods. Today is one of the most popular, places, for recreational. Paddlers. But evidence suggests, that humans have lived and traveled through the lakes of this region, for thousands, of years, with the most recent indigenous, people, being the dakota, and ojibwe. Then starting in the 17th, century, a completely, different group of people started to paddle these waters too. The european, fur trickers. Known as voyagers. They paddled through the border lakes, transporting, furs, and other trade goods for the next two. Centuries. In august of 2020. 150. Years since the end of the fur trade. A group of young canoe guides would attempt to travel across, 255. Miles of this historic, route, just for fun. Meet the girl my name is hawkin caldwell. I'm 20.. I'm hagen mchenry. I'm 22 years of age my name is chrissy turk. I'm 22, years old my name is josh jillian bert, i am 22, years old, my name is amos kelogi, i am 21, years old, my name is hunter oliver, i am 21, years old, my name is alan lowenstein. I'm 20 years old my name is. Elijah. Southcott. Griner. I'm. 20, years old and one day, exactly. I'm from, mandeville, louisiana, it's by new orleans, and i'm from indiana, i am from. Cooper city florida, i'm from cleveland ohio. I am from hibbing minnesota. I am from kansas city missouri. The suburbs of chicago. I'm from. Chicago. Illinois. The south loop. Born and raised. While we mostly come from different places across the country, our common thread is that we all worked as canoe guides at northern tier high adventure. At least in the year 2019. I have spent. Three. Seasons, three and a bit seasons in the badger waters this is, nearing the end of my third season as working at charlie guide. North woods, this is the, end of my fourth season, working up in the, boundary waters, guiding canoe trips. I've, worked in the boundary waters.
Starting In 2017. Then i came back in 2018, and then 2019.. This is the end of my third summer guiding, in the boundary waters canoe area wilderness, and the quetico. This was the end of my second summer. In the boundary waters up here in minnesota, guiding. And this is my second year staffing, at northern tier, as an interpreter. 2019. Was my first full summer. Now i. Came back this summer 2020.. In the months leading up to the summer, we held zoom meetings, to plan, and i learned how to dehydrate. Food. Finally, summer, we held frequent meetings after work to figure out logistics. August, arrived, time to pack. The kaloji, family, was too kind and prepared us to feast the night of our launch. Cookies. Food and gear packed it was time to. Go. It was about a two-hour drive to international, falls and we launched from the rainier, public access, landing, on rainey. Lake. It was 10 pm. None of us had paddled on a lake even close to the size of rainey, and we were so worried about battling the wind on this huge lake. Getting wind down on this lake would end our trip, practically, before it. Started. Our thought was that we'd have calmer paddling conditions, at night, but as soon as we stepped foot out of the truck we were hit by gusts of wind, and it was. Cold. I'm not. Worried. Our first, tough decision. Sleep a little and maybe the wind will die a bit, or get going now and hope for the. Best. Everyone sleep everyone was like no we gotta go. Yeah well the rest of them did, there were. Huge, rollers, going against us on rainy lake it was exhilarating, we're all, at least a little bit out of our comfort zone you know we'd never, paddled, these kind of rollers before, at least i hadn't, and, and never, at night, and there was a full moon, out, and then. We looked to our left, and there's. Uh, you know, unmistakably. The northern, lights. Doing their little. Dance. Uh, in the. Sky. They're huge. So there we were. International. Falls, rainy lake. Me and alan were in the aluma craft. They were very large waves slash swells. Not because of wind so much but i think just because it was a just really sizable, lake yeah very large. I don't even know how long we've been paddling but it wasn't that long, maybe a half hour, 45, minutes at the most here yeah, and then. Um. I'm pretty sure we've consistently been paddling on one side the entire time up until, up until that point allen called the switch. And. We're in the middle of switching. The sides we're paddling, on. And next thing i know alan's shouting. And, i'm sideways, and i'm in the water. Yeah we. We started leaning right and then water started coming over and both of us were leaning as far left as we could, and, the water just kept coming in and eventually, we would just you know the whole boat was full. And so then we started shouting, and i was like we swapped.
We Swapped. We were there we were, the last. At that point yeah and then i heard someone like, oh well it was chrissy and she goes are you in the water. Like yes. So then they turned around and came to save us i grabbed on to the stern, of. Uh the kevlar. And the, the bow of the swamped. Alumacraft. And kind of just held on and so, we got pulled along, and josh was on the side, i was actively trying to swim to help and realized, with all the clothing on me that that was not going to last very long and i was getting very tired very quickly, so i just held on and started floating. And then we got to. Someone's property basically. Took wet clothes off at least i did because i was chill to the bone at the time, my warm layer was on me at the time and now soaking wet. Um. Elijah was kind enough to give me his fleece, hagan let me his, coat so that i could be dry and warm. Amos also jumped in the water to, help you spin the boat in, which i mean we weren't even swimming the boat in so we had three. Wet people, at like. Midnight, 15.. Yeah we went back to the shore and waited, for the wind to die down. Had some snacks, some dill pickle chips. And some cookies. Yeah those just are freaking delicious. Yeah so we hung out warmed up a little bit and then once. Morale was good enough to keep on trucking we got in the kevlar. Yeah with with chrissy, yes, yeah good way to start out of the trip and we're all the stronger, for it. About 14 miles of night paddling, later. Daybreak. We had officially, made it into voyageur's, national, park and stopped for breakfast. We were dead tired. In the hours before the sun rose. Any time we briefly took a break from paddling, at least one person would fall asleep in the canoe, immediately. We slept two hours curled up on these rocks. Now all we had to do was paddle almost to the end of rainey, a short 18 miles. Away. We were stunned when we looked at the horizon. And the only thing we could see was more water. This lake was crazy, huge. Josh what are you thinking right now. Wow. I am so. Blessed. With some of my, best gal. The pals, the most beautiful lake. In the northwoods. Yes, not the boundary waters because we're not in the mountains. But. Regardless. We're in a canoe we're on some. Water. Our campsite and voyagers had a dock. With tent pads, picnic table, we definitely weren't in the boundary waters. Yet. We had a great first day but this trip had i think all of us feeling at least a little nervous, but in a good way. Well the first night paddling on rainy lake. Um. Which was a terrifying, lake and a beautiful lake and terrifyingly, beautiful we saw the northern lights was really cool personally i was also very far in my comfort zone even though i've been paddling, for a long time you know since i was a kid. It was officially, out of my comfort zone which was awesome because that's been a long time. Since i was truly that kind of like oh. No. We made it to kettle falls and would be officially, foraging, to nomiken, our second lake of the trip after 38, miles of. Paddling. And now. Go. I feel like that suction. Cup. Are you still stuck. Now. I don't want to get. Stuck. Yes. Yes. Good vibes, oh, everyone's free. Just like. That. No i mean i was leading at first. You want to take the bottle grab the hanging stuff. Are you okay with that. We made it to the end of grassy portage without any other. Incident. I mean, that's. Right on schedule, we made it into the boundary waters yesterday. And camped on little vermillion, lake. We'd be paddling the loon river, first thing that morning. Seriously. To the right is america, and to the left. Canada. These fancy contraptions, will carry motor boats over the portage, for a small. Fee. At this point in the trip by the way we hadn't seen a single other paddler. Only people cruising around in houseboats, and motorboats. Later this afternoon, we'd finally see a few other.
Commuters. Is that. A lot of crews, come up here to. Fish. Do. These doggies, made this our favorite portage so far, hands. Down. Here's a long tail. Hi. Buddy. If you wanted to stop somebody. You would just like say this. I don't want some peanut butter. Does that taste. Good. Had covered a lot of distance, kept a good pace, and hadn't got lost with only one slight navigational, mishap. Up until now these have been all unfamiliar. Lakes none of us had ever paddled on before. Now at lochla koi we are reaching territory. That some of us had been to. Hello. I think it's safe to say that the lakes and woods of this wilderness, have made an impact, on our lives, for most of us, it was because of scouting that we ended up here. I heard about the north woods in scouting. Scouting, is what brought me up here, i found out about, northern tier through adventuring. Kind of randomly put in an application, one summer, i just took a chance and. Came up here, without much of an idea of what it was like. I found the boundary waters through scouts, came up as a participant, in 2015. Fell in love with the place knew i wanted to come back. And so that's how i found the magic of the northwoods. Growing up in scouts, like i knew of northern tier as an option. I had never canoed before. So that sounds fun. So i applied, and. Here i am, thankfully i love it. Today we would be making a lot of stops for sightseeing. Lock lacroix, and crooked lake both have ample points of interest, including pictographs. Waterfalls. And even the remnants, of a plane. Riding. Along. The road from russia, city. Riding. Along. The road from russell, city. I met three girls, and all of them were pretty. Silly. Wrong quino. Manoj. A while, she said. Quickly, i found, a spring from up the mountain. Quickly. I found, the spring. Toasted. Again. Her sister, and her brother. Said la veron, quino meno, kino. Turning, to me, she toasted her own lover. You love your own. Kids. Shelter. From. And she said i'll give you. Shelter. From. There's definitely some places i still. Want to go but i'm pretty satisfied. I've only had three trips, but. What i like about the boundary waters. Is that. No matter how, long. You. Spend. In it there's always, something, that it can teach you, at the beginning. A lot of that is about, leaving your comfort zone, and growing, i like to think of the boundary waters as being, a. Merciless. Paradise. When you learn. That. You're not in charge. And you're not the one that calls the shots. Out in the wilderness. You can, discover, that it's a really beautiful. Place. Of all the big lakes paddled so far, here we are, on basswood. A lake everyone, was familiar, with and traveled through many times. And this was the worst wind we had faced. Yet. It's. Friday. She's really. Big. Elijah. Is going to poop. Fyi. We are right next to a campsite. Why dig a hole and there's a little train next door. Since paddling down crooked lake we had been in familiar, territory. And now we are arriving at prairie portage. After crossing this trail, you'd be on the moose chain, truly, our home turf. Every one of us had paddled the moose chain countless, times. Starting, and finishing, many of the trips we've taken out. Here. We were in a celebratory, mood this evening. Over half our trip had been completed, and everything had gone unbelievably. Smoothly. We love teaching beginners, how to paddle and portage. But part of what makes this trip so special, is being able to be out here with other experienced, paddlers. It's just such a different dynamic, coming out here with charlie guys and with the crew or maybe like everybody knows. What they're doing. And how to do it. And it's cool to just be able to get things done, the other thing that i thought was really good was taking friends. People who i knew who were really good at paddling and pushing. Doing the sections that i'd already done and seeing how fast they could be done. When we're even racing we're just doing them at our own speed. And we were just flying, through it. We've been paddling around 30 miles every day and will not need to keep up that pace for the rest of the. Trip. I really like this place i really like what it does for people who haven't been here before. I really like the teaching, opportunities. Obviously it's hard to not like the scenery, but i think there's something about the lakes, and about something that's been protected, for this long. And so many people have. Traveled. Oh yeah this is a slippery, day for this, allen decided to carry the aluma craft up thunder point, for. Fun. Um. So.
Baby. Somebody. Must have put a leech in my map. What i love about this place is that it's not only, one of the most beautiful places that i've been to it's just so many lakes and rivers, and marshy, areas, cliffs, so much different like variety, of. Terrain. To explore. But then also. You get to paddle around them with. Really cool co-workers. Or just. People you meet. I like, telling, people that, if we were anywhere, else, the. Journey would be the destination. So you could pick any lake out of the boundary waters and put it somewhere else. And then that would be where you would want to go whereas here you just kind of, you would pass through that lake. On your on your way to somewhere else but um. Very beautiful. I think the scenery, up here, the lakes. Are really captivating. Just being up here is so different than anything else i'm used to. The north woods, it's definitely got a place in my heart. Here we are. Leaving, american. Point. Paddling 32. Miles. Today was an especially, exciting day, from this point on for most of us we would be paddling on lakes we had never been. To. Wow. The same. Way. Oh. As rolling hills appeared in the distance, we could feel we were getting closer, and closer, to lake. Superior. I'm really really. Appreciative. We made it through the beautiful, granite, river and pine river, and we're now on gun flint. Lake. Eggs. Day. 7.. Another, chair. Wait hagan lay in that one too. I love how it makes. You feel uncomfortable. At times, makes. Makes you feel alive like, the good days are so much better when you have bad days. Like, really appreciate, dry socks now and things like. That. It sure. Does. The side. Is canada. This. Side. States. What. Berry. Raspberries. I. Will. Get as many as i can. We combined, water from north and south lake for our height of land ceremony. At this divide, the water in north lake and beyond, flow to hudson bay, and then to the arctic ocean. Water in south lake flows to lake superior. Then the. Atlantic. Just like the voyagers, at this historic, location. We too would undergo, the initiation. To become men, and a woman, of the. North. Never give a. Kiss. Is. Respect. I will. Cheers. I was just chilling on lunch woke up amos had a couple like eight-foot. Poles. Yeah we got together got things situated, figure out what works when you're cruising. And this boy is how you sail. Oh my. Gosh. Oh my. God. Again. Yeah we had to bail a decent amount but other than that, we just lowered the mass a couple times bailed. But that went smoothly. Sailing. Six miles down mountain lake like that was a thrill, that's the biggest thrill i've ever had up here was sailing down mountain lake like. So fun, so cool. We did in fact make camp that night on moose lake in the east boundary waters. Well is the other plot literally just potatoes. Yeah. Idiots. How many times you gonna say that boy. This is the foul portage, taking us to the pigeon river, and we may or may not have taken a wrong turn. I hate going uphill. Popping out of the portage, the scenery, surprised, me. The pigeon river actually looked like a river. Most rivers i paddle in the boundary waters just seemed like narrow lakes, this actually had a noticeable, current to it. Low water levels meant we had to walk our canoes, through many series of. Swifts. Hmm. This was it, we had zoomed through the eastern boundary waters border lakes. All that was left was the remainder, of the pigeon river. And then the eight and a half mile, grand. Portage. We had a chilly, early morning. Departure. Hmm. Here is our warm-up portage, at partridge. Falls. So. Okay so, wherever we pop out on that trail, we got across, the country. We made it to fort, charlotte. Josh. How do you feel right now, i feel wonderful. Why. I'm about to. Do. Good. You're just exuding, excitement. Because here's what we were about to do.
Known As the great caring, place to the ojibwe. This trail was critical, for the transportation. Of goods for years. Allowing travelers, to bypass, waterfalls, and rapids. We were guessing the portage would take us four to five hours. And was definitely, the longest portage, any of us had ever attempted. The sun. Was setting. In, the west. The birds. Were singing. On every. Tree. All nature. Seemed, inclined. For rest, but still, there, was, no rest, for me. Farewell, to nova, scotia. The seabound. Coast, let your mountains. Dark, and dreary. Be, for when i am far away. On the briny, ocean, tossed, will you ever heave a sigh, and a wish for, me. I grieve. To leave my, native. Land, i grieve. To leave my, comrades. All, and my parents. Whom, i hold, so, dear, and the bonnie, bonnie, lass, i do, adore. Only about 45, minutes into our walk we ran into some trouble. Simply stepping off a board, the yoke of the canoe hunter was carrying, snapped. Apparently, the wood was a little rotted. And after this whole trip, decided to give up at this very. Moment. After some quick brainstorming. And duct tape we were moving again. In so many ways we are lucky to have been able to go on this trip. The coveted pandemic, closed the boundary waters, from the middle of april, to the middle of may. We all stayed in good health thankfully. While working in the months leading up to the trip, and important logistics, regarding, food and transportation. Fell into place at the very last minute. Perhaps the biggest change the pandemic, caused, involved who actually ended up coming on the trip i first came up here when i was 17.. I met a great guide at the boy scout base. By the name of connor. And, he taught me how to love and what to see and what to enjoy by the north woods, that's why i ended up loving the north woods is because, it's just. Such a beautiful and wholesome, place where you can really just kind of. Be yourself, and explore, and. Find out, what wonder wonderful things are to see in the world. Unfortunately. In response to the pandemic. Many schools, changed their start dates for the semester. Connor, our friend and canoe guide extraordinaire. Had been psyched to come on this trip since planning, back in at least november, of 2019. But right before summer began we found out he now had a conflict, of dates and wouldn't be able to join us. While we can only imagine the joy he would have brought to this trip, looks like we'll just have to plan something even bigger that he'll be able to come along on. The pandemic, had an effect on all of us this summer. To start, four of us had planned on working as canoe guides up in canada. But with the border being closed, that wasn't able to happen. Kovit, affected my summer.
Not Dramatically. What it really, changed was my mindset, because for a long time i wasn't sure if i should come up not just for like will i get sick but kind of. What gives us the right to be running when so many other businesses. And places in schools, were not running. Um. And part of that was answered by our boss, and she kind of said you know if there's ever a summer to get kids in the woods this is it and. I agree with that, strongly, but not a hundred percent, so. Yeah, coven mostly just changed kind of my mindset, for the summer. My summer was affected by cobit in the fact that i was left unemployed. For a fat couple months. Because i work in the restaurant industry. I, my summer since i was working at the boy scout base. I really changed it up, uh i went from a meta officer, dealing with. Medical, injuries, to, every day i would wake up and screen the staff to make sure nobody was sick and get up and spit on the participants who were coming in and then it felt like it changed my summers, significantly, because i wasn't. Doing what i wanted to do i was doing what was required, of me. Because of the pandemic. I understand, you know, nobody's at fault for that but it just. It really kind of blew, it wasn't a great it wasn't a great. Time. While coven may have brought us disappointment. And challenges, there was a bit of good that came out of it. I was supposed to have an internship, this summer. Uh so i wasn't i wasn't supposed to be up here. I would not have been able to go on this trip if this, if coven didn't happen so. Definitely, worth, uh, worth the pain of missing out in biset, but. Yeah. Alan hunter, elijah, and probably amos won't have been able to come on the trip if the pandemic, hadn't caused so many changes. Three and a half hours of walking later we would take our final break. I'm having a good time with this liga. I know the gear pack was also in very nice. And just like that we made. It. A quick photo op and straight to lake. Superior. Oh. Trail. That calls. We treasure this wilderness. For its beauty, and difficulty. And growth it, fosters. But we also treasured the companionship. Maybe just as much. I know i said earlier you know it's just a 10-day trip we've, all done 10-day trips before, but, let's attend the trip with really cool. People. I think i've enjoyed this time, with these people, you know some people i don't know that well before this trip and now. I would say that i'm good friends with all of these people, even better friends with some that i started, as good friends with already. Um, and also the people, just being able to, camp and paddle every day with some really good friends has been, super. Fun, memorable, part of this trip and. I'm sure these will be memories. And connections, with these people that, will last a long. Time. We got one. They've got. One. And finally, the most graceful, victory leap into lake superior, you've ever. Seen. We were spoiled with treats from doris and corey. Now it was back to the cars to sort out gear. Then we would enjoy the exhibits, of the monument. Trips like these i really like because. You plan something out that you know you can do. But then like. Doing it is the real special part and now they're worth the ends like that's really cool. If you're watching this and you've never come up to the quetico, superior, area. Definitely, do it because. It's. Amazing. You'll probably fall in love, you'll probably want to come back here a lot. But. It's a price you should pay because, it's so awesome, up. Here. You.