Bound­ary Wa­ters ad­ven­ture res­onated with read­ers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS OUTDOORS - BRYAN HENDRICKS

Of the ad­ven­tures I’ve chron­i­cled in this space, my trip to the Bound­ary Wa­ters Ca­noe Wilder­ness Area in Min­nesota struck a deeper chord than any other.

As it was for me, it was a spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence for many Arkansans that gen­er­ously shared their thoughts and in­sights. I am hon­ored to pass them along.

Con­nie Meski­men of Lit­tle Rock sent a short note about hav­ing thor­oughly en­joyed his visit to the BWCA 10 years ago.

“Four or five days of eating freeze dried food gives catch­ing fish a cer­tain ur­gency,” Meski­men wrote.

Here’s an ex­am­ple of what a small world this is. Our trip leader, Co­p­ley Smoak of Pearcy, said his ini­tial per­cep­tion of the Nat­u­ral State came from a let­ter to the ed­i­tor in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette when he moved here from North Carolina.

“A lady wrote that day­light sav­ings time was the cause of global warm­ing be­cause of the ex­tra hour of day­light,” said Smoak, a de­voted cli­mate war­rior, dur­ing our trip back home.

I nearly spewed cof­fee all over the wind­shield. I know that let­ter well. We pub­lished it on April 16, 2007.

“Con­nie Meski­men pretty much bagged ev­ery­body with that let­ter,” I said, laugh­ing. “He, not she, is a friend of mine — an at­tor­ney and an agent provo­ca­teur. That thing went glob­ally vi­ral. We still get ‘ig­no­rant Arkie’ hate mail ev­ery time it pops up some­where.”

“So it was a joke, then,” Smoak said with mild amuse­ment be­fore chang­ing the sub­ject.

Google “Meski­men global warm­ing” to get the full fla­vor.

A dif­fer­ent at­tor­ney with a Lit­tle Rock law firm didn’t pro­vide his name, but we rec­og­nized the email ad­dress. He wrote, “I made my 17th trip up there the same week you were there.

“As fish­er­man are apt to ex­ag­ger­ate the size of the fish they catch, our group de­cided years ago that the guy who catches the big­gest fish buys din­ner for the group when we get back to Du­luth,” he added. “It’s worked pretty well, ex­cept that I’ve caught the big­gest fish the last three years in a row. This year it was a 5.71-pound small­mouth [we only count bass] that mea­sured 21” x 14 3/4”. The big­gest one I’ve seen was a lit­tle over 7 lbs., and we’ve had many over 6 lbs. The big­gest one I caught was 6.02.”

Danny Lynch of Fort Smith wrote in an email that’s he has vis­ited the BWCA 28 times since 1992.

“It’s a place I dearly love,” Lynch wrote. “If I’m not up there, I’m think­ing about be­ing there.”

Lynch has con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence fish­ing Bass­wood Lake, where my group camped and fished. Lately, though, he and his com­pan­ions spend more time in Quetico Pro­vin­cial Park, ad­ja­cent to the BWCA in On­tario. With a camp­ing fee of $25 per per­son per night, plus all the other fees and ad­min­is­tra­tive hoops, vis­it­ing Quetico takes deeper com­mit­ment.

“Glad you en­joyed your­self,” Lynch wrote. “The place can get in your blood in a hurry.”

Dr. Lester Sitzes of Hope, a for­mer mem­ber of the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion, is a BWCA/Quetico vet­eran and has led many Boy Scouts trips there.

“Your ar­ti­cles ac­tu­ally caused me to dream about pack­ing for an­other ca­noe­ing/ fish­ing trip to the Cana­dian wilder­ness,” Sitzes wrote. “I woke up be­fore we ever left to go, was still wor­ry­ing about what I was for­get­ting.”

Even an ex­pe­ri­enced hand can get lost in the BWCA, Sitzes wrote.

“The ter­rain is so de­void build­ings and dis­tinc­tive land­marks that get­ting turned around up there is very easy to do. I al­ways carry a com­pass and a lam­i­nated map in the ca­noe. Even then an is­land will not look like an is­land and then you start doubt­ing your­self.”

Sitzes said his brother Don­ald has mas­tered the art of re­mov­ing the pesky Y bones that make eating north­ern pike a chore.

“The key is to not cut the Y bones that might re­main be­cause they are much eas­ier to deal with as a whole bone in­stead of pieces.”

My son Matthew avoided the prob­lem by sim­ply eating the Y bones. He’s an ad­ven­tur­ous foodie who scoured our is­land eating var­i­ous leaves and grasses. He also ate — raw — a freshly de­posited snap­ping tur­tle egg that he ex­humed from the sand. He said it was not good. If you are con­sid­er­ing their own pil­grim­age to the BWCA, you must ob­tain a per­mit. A per­mit cov­ers up to nine peo­ple and four ca­noes. A 2017 per­mit costs $16 per adult and $8 per child.

For more in­for­ma­tion, click recre­ation.gov/per­mits/Boundary_Waters…/r/per­mitCal­en­dar.do?

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