Our Boundary Waters Love Story

By Paul Snyder

For years I had been coming to the BWCA , leading YMCA youth groups, and going with a few friends. In 1977, I married the love of my life.

During one of those early miscommunications, I asked, “Do you like to go camping?” She said, “yes!”. My reply was that I would plan our first trip to a very special place. I contacted Pat Magie’s company to schedule a Beaver float plane to fly us to a secluded lake, then the outfitter. We were the only ones on the lake, and the freeze dried meals back then were not close to what they are today. Also, heavy aluminum canoes, cast iron skillets, and canvas tents were common at outfitters, and I had ordered outfitting and meals for a week. We stepped off of the float plane after a delightful flight that gave a grand overview of the area. We set up camp, spent three days, then started paddling and portaging towards the vehicle pickup point. I didn’t know back then that the water drains North above the Laurentian Divide, so we went the wrong way on a portage and had to retrace the rough portage again to get back to where we started and go the correct direction.

The true depth and lifelong rewards that come from this singular wilderness find very few challengers. We have seen that we can meet the challenges in life as a hardworking, loving, sharing team.

A very long day saw us arrive in the next campsite after dark. That was the only time I have experienced what looked like a grey bush over the campfire, only to find out that it was an absolutely palpable plague of mosquitoes! Even with 100% (now known to be dangerous) DEET, they tried to get into our ears, and probed the edges of our eyelids. This was offset by serenades of Loons and wolves stroking us with soothing and special memories.

It got far colder that August than I had ever seen, and we did not have enough warm clothing, just each other. The scenery was awesome as usual, and we made it back to the pickup point where the outfitter met us. A few years later*, after we had entered a few Midwest canoe marathons and camped all over Colorado, I found out that as the plane took off, she wanted to say, “Wait! Is there one going back?” (She had thought of Girl Scout camping with mess halls and showers and so forth, none of which she could see anywhere near our lake.)

* I asked the vital question, “Was there anything about the trip that you liked?” She replied, “Yes, when you left the tent during the night and came back to tell me to stay in the sleeping bag and you picked me up in the sleeping bag and carried me to the rocky point to see the Northern Lights reflecting off of the lake!”

The challenging start of our marriage yielded a wonderfully multifaceted one that has stood the test of time. If one compares the real value of seeing how a couple will deal with challenges, consider two options: A BWCA/Quetico wilderness trip versus the current ‘3,000 of your closest friends on a cruise ship’. The true depth and lifelong rewards that come from this singular wilderness find very few challengers. We have seen that we can meet the challenges in life as a hardworking, loving, sharing team.

One canoe marathon had strong quartering headwinds with substantial waves. We were the only mixed double team, all the others were pairs of men. We finished 4th overall, and I had a trophy made for her that says, “Though we didn’t place, you win my race”.

I have communicated much better after that instructive start, finding that communication is very critical to a relationship.

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Submitted by Jan and Paul Snyder for the Friends’ 2017 Wilderness Love Stories contest.

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