Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Guest post by Benjamin Biancini:

A fusion of hiking and canoeing. The BWCA Wilderness is unique to all other US national parks.

There is nothing that comes close to the uniqueness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located in Northern Minnesota.

In the USA mountains are plentiful, oceans and hiking trails are all over the place, then what makes this place so special? In the BWCA there is just as much lake coverage as there is solid ground, this makes trekking it a biathlon of hiking, canoeing, and repeating it again and again.

There are no motorized vehicles allowed in the 1,000,000+ acre wilderness. This means you must park at the edge and paddle onto the first lake with your hiking and trail gear in hand. Once the first body of water is crossed you are expected to jump in the water at the landing (yes, you must get your feet wet) pull the canoe on shore, throw a pack on your shoulders and carry a canoe over your head while hiking long distances to the next lake.

So why is the BWCA so unique? It’s a balance act of paddling, followed by hiking through the forest with 50+ lbs of weight on your shoulders. Watch out for boulders because there’s no easier time to sprain an ankle. The vast differences in area to cover between lakes also make each portage exciting, they can be anywhere from 100 yards across to 10 miles, lakes apply to the same rules. You can canoe across a pond then plan on hiking miles and miles through the woods until you get to the next one.

Here’s a tip that I learned from experience. When it’s windy make sure you stay near the shore, not out in the middle of the lake. You’d think this would be common sense, but it isn’t. Several years ago we tipped our canoes over in the middle of a 7 mile lake and lost some of our gear. We learned from that mistake and certainly won’t repeat it.

So why does anyone engage in such a hiking-canoeing expedition?

The BWCA is home to some of the most deserted lakes in North America. With freshwater fish species booming and ready to be caught and grilled over the fire, there really is nothing like it. Hunting permits are granted during season however no firearms are allowed, only archery. All food must be backpacked in on each trip and of course all trash items have to be taken back out.

The bonus of the BWCA is that you can endlessly paddle and hike into the wilderness. If you want peace and quiet plan on moving in at least eight lakes and eight portages because it will separate you from the Boy Scouts that only scratch the surface. There are survivalists that go into the wilderness during the spring, and don’t come out until fall time. The BWCA is an endless maze of wilderness.

My favorite part of trekking the BWCA is this: after a long day of juggling rocky portages and windy lakes, anything over the campfire tastes good.

Ben Biancini of The Reliable Series – helping outdoor enthusiasts find locally made gear

Bwca_map

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bike, hike, raft – Cataract Canyon

3 days, 75mi+

Mike:

I had a funny idea a few months ago: Colorado and Utah are at the low (we hope) ebb of a 10-year drought cycle, meaning our trails are desiccated and our rivers low.

… it occurred to me that this would be an *ideal* time to use fatbikes to access Cataract Canyon, taking advantage of the low flows therein to float it with packrafts.

Big Wheel Building

Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.

Here’s another VIDEO edit from the same trip.

(via Hiking in Finland)

snorkeling off La Paz, Baja

After kayaking marvelous Isla Espiritu Santo off La Paz, Baja in 2006 … I created a website promoting the kayak/hiking adventure.

For fun.

This kid had an even better time than I did. 🙂

Check out Diego as he snorkels with amazing sea life at Espiritu Santo, an island in the Sea of Cortez. While diving or snorkeling there you can see whale sharks, mobula rays, groupers, snappers, turtles, sea lions and numerous species of fishes and crustaceans.

Many people are now calling for increased protections at Espiritu Santo from harmful fishing practices such as gill nets. In this short film, Diego shares his love for the sea life at Espiritu Santo and his desire to help protect it for future generations.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Click through to islaespiritusanto.org if you’d be willing to support a campaign to ban gill nets around those rich reefs:

CONANP Letter in English

Dear. Mr Bermudez.

On behalf of present and future generations of Pacenos and visitors to Baja Sur, I am requesting the government ban use of gill nets on inshore reefs around Isla Espiritu Santo in the new management plan.

The plan documents a decline of fisheries, due in large part to the ongoing use of gill nets, yet allows those same gill nets to remain on inshore reefs around the island. In fact, this plan offers no substantive decrease in fishing effort, gear types used, nor areas fished and is not consistent with the plan’s vision to protect and restore the marine ecosystem.

As a result, this plan guarantees further fisheries degradation and will do further damage to the recreation and tourism economy of La Paz.

Thank you for protecting the ecological integrity of the marine environment around Isla Espiritu Santo with the sustainable use of the fisheries resource.

islaespiritusanto.org

kayak hike Baja

Diana Vann on Seattle Backpackers Magazine:

If winter’s chill finds you longing for summer’s sunny days, consider a trip south of the border to Baja. Greatly reduced temperatures make winter a far more pleasant time to hike at most Baja locations than summer. Autumn and spring are good times to hike there, too. It’s also a great place for enjoying a combination of outdoor activities.

I’ve discovered that my own favorite Baja combination adventure is kayaking and camping along the Sea of Cortez, stopping to hike and to snorkel at various locations along the way. …

Camping on Isla Danzante ©Diana Vann

Adventuring through Baja – Hiking and Paddling

That’s part 1 of a 3 part series.

Alpacka pack-raft 2.1lbs

At the Expedition Idaho Adventure Race, Director Dave Adlard was surprised (and impressed) to hear that Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers carried a pack-raft:

… For Idaho, we got more serious about our “flotation devices,” and we brought pack-rafts from Alpacka. The company makes a line of small, packable rafts that weigh as little as 3.5 pounds. But for Idaho, Alpacka built our team prototype rafts that were even smaller and lighter. The one-off “Ghost” model pack-rafts weighed an incredible 2.1 pounds each, and they rolled up small. …

Ultimate Gear Test: 7-Day Adventure Race

Here’s how Pack-rafts inflate, are carried … and what happens when you get dumped into the river.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

NOW … If I only had the money to buy a 2lb Pack-raft. That one — when released — is likely to cost about $1000.