BWCA Canoers Found After Trip Takes Unexpected Turn

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two experienced outdoor enthusiasts are happy to be in their warm bed after a nine-day trip to the Boundary Waters turned into a 12 day ordeal, ending with a helicopter rescue.

Video shows the daring rescue of the missing couple inside the BWCA. By the time crews reached them, they had spent almost two weeks away from home, rationing food, only eating 300 calories a day.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman spoke with the couple. While their story is amazing, they shared advice they have for adventurous people.

Chuck Kelly and Pamela Scaia planned a nine-day trip exploring the Boundary Waters. They say missing a turn down a river got them stranded in a swamp, where they had to wait days to be rescued.

“By the time this happened we had already done five days, 10 portages, 8 lakes, three rivers,” Scaia said.

Pamela Scaia and Chuck Kelly say they were having the time of their lives on their trip through the BWCA.

“We had good gear, we had good supplies, compass, maps, preparation, first aid. I’m a nurse, he is an Alaska army vet and an outdoors man, we were experienced,” Scaia said.

The couple ran into weather along their route and decided to cut the trip short.

“So we decided to head back and if we took this one river we could bypass a lake and save a day,” Kelly said.

But they were one river off and missed a portage.

“Oyster Lake, here we were supposed to go down the Oyster River here, onto the Moose River here, but we ended up going here, leading absolutely nowhere,” Kelly said.

They set up shop near a swamp.

“We made a big SOS, we laid our paddles out. He kept a fire going during the day,” Scaia said.

Chuck and Pamela each ate a packet of instant oatmeal a day to survive. It wasn’t until two days after they were scheduled to return that family called for help in finding them.

“It was about 1 o’clock in the morning and I was sleeping, a plane was a little far away. I’m surprised I heard it,” Kelly said. “About 20 minutes later I heard a helicopter coming. I thought they would be coming the next day, not at one, two in the morning.”

Both Chuck and Pamela say they are so thankful to the crews that rescued them. They believe letting family and friends know their exact route and the timing of where they were going to be helped them get rescued so quickly.

They do plan on going back, but they will never take unnecessary risk.

More from Reg Chapman
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