by Emily E. Bredon
I was already in love with John when I first brought him to the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Of course, I hadn’t told him that yet. That came later. However, on that very first trip and without words, John and I formed a deep connection that surpassed any other we had ever experienced. I owe that connection to the lakes, portages, rivers, woods, and yes, even mosquitoes, of the Boundary Waters. Though we did not meet in the BWCA, nor were either of us seasoned canoers when we first met, our story truly begins in that nearly indescribable wild. After all, the Boundary Waters are the reason John and I are married.
After our first nearly week-long trip, we felt strong both in our bodies and our spirits. We were determined to visit the BWCA annually. And so, every year around August we packed up our borrowed canoe, our packs, water purifier, sleeping bags, our tiny burner and cooking utensils, and of course our lovely yellow lab Jane, and we set off on our wilderness adventure. Each year for six years John and I would spend nights in the deep, dark, desolate woods, listening to the loons and the occasional wolves as we pondered the stars and figured out how to hang our bear pack. We were in continuous awe of the beauty of the woods and waters.
“It is all of what life is and should be. It is pure and raw natural beauty. It is love, fear, togetherness, isolation, hope, frustration, determination, and humbleness.”
Our weeks in the Boundary Waters have not all been s’mores and smooching, however. John and I found new ways to argue while navigating both large and small waters, we suffered some injuries, and we went nights without sleep as we rode out some pretty scary storms. And of course, we endured the mosquitoes. I can recall one day, after we had spent an exceptionally long time portaging and rowing in rain, we finally found a campsite. We frantically tried to set up our tent and tarp as the wind mocked us, and we were cursing at each other as mosquitoes had their way with our only exposed skin: our faces. I remember it with a smile now, though at the time I yearned for the indoors and to be as far away from John as possible.
That is what the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is though. It is all of what life is and should be. It is pure and raw natural beauty. It is love, fear, togetherness, isolation, hope, frustration, determination, and humbleness. John and I have experienced all of that together and that has made us fall in love more deeply.
In 2012, we again made our usual August trip to the beautiful Boundary Waters. We dropped in late afternoon, and so were astounded to see that there was a gorgeous campsite on the west-facing side of an island with a sandy beach. Before even setting up our tent, I took Jane to the beach and watched her play as I sat out looking at the sunset. It was everything I had waited for all year. There was nowhere else I’d rather be. Soon, John sat next to me. I was about to ask where he had been when he pulled a small box from behind him. A perfect amethyst ring sat neatly inside it, and my eyes filled with the happiest of tears. The rest is history.