BWCA 2023 Day 0

July 19, 2023

Due to a bunch of circumstances mostly out of my control, I’m forced to fly for the first time ever to a canoe trip. This presents its own set of logistical challenges since traveling by air has its own set of limitations. I’m forced to really edit down my gear choices and leave home with the bare essentials of personal gear and all the required gear per the Northern Tier advisor’s handbook.

My alarm goes off at 4:30AM. It’s about an hour to the airport, and this gives me enough time to get ready before needing to head out. Somehow I’ve been able to fit everything I need to bring into two checked bags and my Gregory daypack will serve as a carryon. Security at the airport goes quickly enough, taking maybe 45 minutes to clear. Once in the terminal it’s a short walk to the gate. I skip the Starbucks near Sue the dinosaur at the underground walkway to Terminal C and instead get some coffee from the Starbucks near my gate – the line is easily a third the length of the other shop. At one point someone joins another person in line and complains about how they waited nearly an hour to get through the other Starbucks’ line and get their coffee. It takes maybe 20 minutes for me to get through this line.

I feel very visible in my Class A uniform – the lone Boy Scout in O’Hare. Everyone seems to think I’m headed to Philmont, apparently that’s a pretty common destination for Scouts who are flying. I get asked multiple times if that’s where I’m headed…. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service departs from Chicago and stops in Raton, a short bus ride to Philmont. I would take the train 1,000 times over flying to KABQ or KDEN and taking a shuttle. 

Boarding begins a little while after I get my coffee. Pretty soon the door is locked and armed, and we’re pushing back. Conditions are good this morning for an Eastbound takeoff, and before long we’re basically following Interstate 94 North. About 10 minutes into the flight I recognize where we are and snap a few photos of my neighborhood to text to my wife. Once we cross the Wisconsin state line the plane banks left and we dodge thunderstorms on our way into Minneapolis.

Landing and taxiing at MPLS is a short affair and pretty soon I’m off the plane and headed to baggage claim. Once my bags are received, it takes a few moments to get myself oriented and figure out that I need to head over to Terminal 2 to meet up with the O’Donnells, who are flying in from Texas. Along the way I discover use number #1001 for Bungee Dealie Bobs – leashing my two checked bags together so they train!

To get to Terminal 2 from Terminal 1, one technically has to leave the airport – there’s a tram which will take you to the parking garage which also has a public transit station under it. It’s a free transfer, and maybe 10 minutes on the train before I’m dropped off at Terminal 2. I’ve got about 2 hours to kill as I wait for the O’Donnells to arrive, and so I sit in baggage claim trying to watch the latest episode of Deadliest Catch on my phone. Between when I walked off the plane and get to baggage claim I get asked the same question many times – “Are you headed to Philmont?” along with a new question – “Going to Northern Tier?” which I happily answer in the affirmative. I’m also no longer the only one in Class As – there’s a bunch of Scout groups in Terminal 2, apparently this is where the shuttle to Tier departs from.

Kevin and Evan eventually come once their delayed flight arrives, and introductions are made. They quickly get their bags and before long we’re headed to the parking garage to pick up the rental car. Somehow we get all our bags to fit in the trunk, which is the only time this will happen on the trip, and we begin the trek up Interstate 35 towards Duluth and Ely. Along the way we encounter some rain, and apparently the storms that we were skirting were later tornado-warned. Thankfully we just hit the edges and weren’t in the thick of the storm. Unfortunately, we drag the weather behind us into the Ely and the rest of the evening is on and off showers.

Everyone else is already in town and waiting for our arrival. Voyageur North has placed us in the lower bunk, the same place Joe and I stayed last fall when we went on our Stuart River adventure. Jay and Eli are inside relaxing, and a few minutes later Charlie and Trevor come walking up as they saw us in our Class As. Clay is the only one from our group who is missing, and he will be meeting up with us at dinner at Stony Ridge.

Just as we head out to dinner I get a text from Clay’s mom – Stony Ridge is unexpectedly closed due to a propane shortage and we’re forced to call and audible for dinner…. The Steakhouse is also closed on Wednesdays so they’re out. Pizza! Let’s go to Sir G’s! A couple large pies, some apps, and two hours later we emerge in the rain and head back to the bunk. I walk back downtown to meet up with fellow members TuscaroraBorealis and John Galt at the Boathouse, and arrive just after last call. D’oh! We chat under the awning of the Boathouse and John graciously drops me off at Voyageur on his way back to the CCO campground on Moose.

I hit the sack shortly after getting back as everyone else is already in bed. Breakfast at Britton’s!

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