July, 2003—After visiting the Browns on Madeline Island, (off the northern tip of Wisconsin, accessible only by ferry), Ian and I steered the canoe-topped car toward Gunflint Trail on the “Arrowhead,” seven hours away on the northern tip of Minnesota (and shaped like an arrowhead). We skirted Lake Superior, with lunch in Duluth, and arrived just in time to see a skyscraper-sized tanker sail right through the narrow channel under the old lift bridge. Our plan was to meet our canoeing neighbors whom you met on Minnehaha Creek, Margy and Jerry, and their youngest son, Ben. They were lodged at the lovely Heston’s Resort in a cabin bordering Gunflint Lake. This clear, shimmering lake edges the canoeing paradise of the “Boundary Waters,” the long chain of lakes separating the United States and Canada.
We arrived at sunset, just in time to see A BEAR lumbering across the road! It was my first in-the-wild bear sighting and I saw the same bear a few moments later, strolling through camp.
The next morning two canoes were loaded with picnic supplies and we headed up the northern edge of Gunflint Lake. We paddled past remote cabins, outcroppings of high rock, and miles and miles of hardy trees. The trees leaned and clung tightly to rock, relentlessly reminding us that winter was long, hard, and bitter. But not so today—today
was sun-filled and the water was clear and cool and joy was everywhere! Ben came along in our canoe and he and Ian discussed the feasibility of the Loch Ness monster for the entire paddle.
Jerry, who has taken many trips
to the Boundary Waters (including the “Grand Portage,” a several days trip that follows an early fur trappers route, and includes a nine mile portage at the end), knew just which island to stop on for our lunch. Our final destination was the tiny creek that spills from Bridal Veil Falls where we planned to swim and hike to the falls. The creek turned out to offer only yards of navigatable rushing water but we managed to paddle it, nonetheless! The hike to the falls followed the creek’s edge and the soft mist from the hidden falls hung everywhere.
Suddenly there they were—walls of giant black glistening rock streaming with lacy white falling water! We took a ridiculous amount of pictures while scrambling around breathing in the cascading air. Inhaling the bubbling air made me gloriously happy! I spied a tiny waterfall cavern under the roots of a tree, the entrance draped with ferns. It had to be the home of some dripping water spirit but I did not catch sight of it.
Back at the creek’s entrance on Gunflint Lake we took a long swim and guess what! Ben actually found the Loch Ness Monster. I was able to snap this picture just before it got away…