Friday I came out of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I was ready for the trip to be over. There were no disasters, no risky situations, but the bad weather never relented. It was cold and rainy every day. The sun never came out. One day the wind was so strong and the whitecaps so high that my three friends and I weren’t able to leave camp with our canoes. The fishing was poor (I think the four us caught five or six fish over the entire week), I discovered a leak in my canoe, and I broke my glasses. Of course, the Boundary Waters was beautiful, and the eagles and loons brought me peace. Still I was too focused on my desire to warm up and dry off.

It is the following Monday. I’m back at my coffee shop and back on my computer. I am trying to remember another time I’ve let the weather suck much of the fun out of a backcountry trip. A couple of especially cold winter backpacking trips come to mind, but I don’t recall any such outings from April to October. Lots of trips have had lousy weather, and several of them have been in the Boundary Waters. 

The negative aspects of wilderness outings fade over time. In a couple of months, I am sure that I will highlight the exceptional campsites, the excellent paddling, and the one big walleye I caught. My cold hands and wet shoes will be forgotten. I’ll have repaired my canoe and picked up a new pair of glasses. Still I think that age has made me less tolerant of inclement weather in the backcountry. As a young man, my knees did not ache when I got cold. I jumped in the lake to get clean no matter the water temperature. I welcomed natural elements that added challenge to an adventure. Now well past my physical prime, I am grateful that I still enjoy carrying a canoe over a half mile portage, but I want the portage trail to be dry and I want the water in my eyes to be sweat rather than rain.

Steven Simpson