Have you ever had a rough time trying to come up with a meal while camping or up at the cabin? If that’s tough, how does a trip to the Boundary Waters not end up like the Donner Party!?!? Here’s how!
Hope you all had a good 4th….the weather cooperated with all your outdoor plans (for the most part).
I’m prepping for an August trip into the Boundary Waters. I’ve been a couple of times and it’s always been special. It has the feeling of stepping back hundreds of years. Think Minnesota before anyone was here and that’s pretty much what you get when you disappear into the wilderness.
This time, I’m taking my dog, Ernie. He’s a 6 year old American Eskimo (or German Spitz) and he’s very at home hiking through the woods. This past Saturday I took him out for the first time with his new backpack. We went around Lake Calhoun which is a good 3 mile walk. I’ve never seen Ernie “wear out” on a walk. By halfway, with his saddle bags filled with a bottle of water and a couple things on the other side to balance it, he was gassed. By the time we got home, he wouldn’t come near me. It was like I tortured him. Looks like we have a little more training to do!
I’d be panting too……
So, why am I bringing this up? Good question (copyright Jason DeRusha). How on earth would this relate to food? Well, I’m sure most everyone out there has gone camping (car camping, tent camping, backpacking…we’ll even count rustic cabins). What’s the usual meal plan? Hot dogs. Maybe burgers. For the most part, it’s thrown together, eaten off a dirty picnic table while battling hordes of mosquitoes. If you’re lucky, you have a little shore lunch if it was a good day on the lake. Once you return to civilization, you find a restaurant where you can actually wash your hands before you eat and you don’t have to sift through the Coors Light in your cooler to find the ketchup.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but basically, the food involved with camping can range from dreadful to eatable (excluding the shore lunch….as Minnesotans, we all know there are not many things better than a good shore lunch). So, you’d think that a Boundary Waters trip during which you travel in remote wilderness with nothing but backpacks and canoes would mean eating some pretty awful stuff. Things that keep without refrigeration can be downright bland right? How many granola bars can you eat before you go insane? Might as well eat Hardtack and try to fight off scurvy by sucking lemons!
Not at all true…..here’s why: the outfitter we have always worked with (and I would assume most are doing things at least similar) have fantastic food options. They provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the whole trip (which, by the way, they make themselves). You’ll get some eggs and maybe some fresh meat that you have to use the first day. Then there are packaged meals, dehydrated foods, etc. And it’s remarkable how good it is. Last trip we actually made a pizza over a fire on an isolated lake on the Canadian border. That is a LONG way from Naples yet we’re making a pizza Punch would be proud of. (If you are really curious, the outfitter we use is Hungry Jack Outfitters….not to plug them but they deserve mention for the extra effort they put into it)
See…it’s worth it. Of course this view is before you get to
“Staircase Portage” which is exactly what it sounds like.
Yes, you’ll be hungry after that.
Some people bring their own food but I put my trust in the pros. You don’t want to over-pack and you certainly don’t want to under-pack! These people do it for a living, they know exactly what we need.
Check out this site called Wilderness Dining (oxymoron?????). There are some amazing prepackaged meals that you can eat anywhere you light a fire or boil water. Most of them have shelf lives of 2-3 years! Plus they have a recipe for the previously mentioned Hardtack in case you want to channel your inner pirate. Recommend chasing them with a big mug of grog though.
Here’s the other thing when dealing with food in the Boundary Waters…..what you do with it when you’re not cooking or in camp. See, there are these little creatures that LOVE to get in your food called bears. Not the scary kind that attack people like Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins (maybe I’ve seen too many movies). But the easily spooked kind…..Black Bears.
The outfitter supplies you with a pulley system to hang your food pack from a tree. That way they aren’t tempted to start tearing through your tents and that’s a good thing. Yes, they’ll may still smell it and occasionally pay a visit when it’s quiet (i.e. when you’re out in your canoe, fishing or, God forbid, sleeping). The last time we were there, I remember being awoken one night when something big was making its way through our campsite. None of us were interested in seeing what it was but it was probably a bear. That’s why you hang your food. You don’t want to be resting your head on a backpack full of smoked salmon when Gentle Ben gets a little whiff of it.
Better safe than scared to death in the middle of the night!
I spent about 4 years working with Don Shelby when I was an afternoon Studio Coordinator at ‘CCO. Don and I shared a few interests in common (history, the comedy stylings of a young Richard Pryor). One of them was the Boundary Waters. Don had a frequent guest named Jim Brandenburg who is a Minnesota based nature photographer. He takes some of the most amazing photos you’ll ever see (click on Northwoods when you roll over “SELECT GALLERY” to see some of them). It’s inspiring stuff that might give you the impetus to take a leap and venture into the wilderness.
Just remember…..you can do it without having to worry about where your next meal will come from. That’s the easy part. Catching that shore lunch? Good luck!
Anybody see my cell phone? Oh wait. Let’s just take a nap.
This was BEFORE we starting catching smallies….the smiles got bigger after that.