Boundary Waters adventure resonated with readers
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?