NEW COLUMN: East of Ely - An ode to the boat and canoe launches of the BWCA

by Dave Krikorian -

An ode to the boat and canoe launches of the BWCA
My wife and I are fortunate living May through October at our Snowbank Lake cabin. On our daily walks we can visit three different boat and canoe launch sites. Each offers a unique view of the lake.
The other day walking through the late September mist, we were counting vehicles at the public canoe launch at the end of Snowbank Road: More than a dozen with plates from Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Arizona, evident of many hearty souls camping out on a wet and windy week.
I began to reminisce, remembering my early days trekking down the steep path of the Moose Lake public canoe launch. The heavy aluminum canoes, Duluth packs overstuffed with real potatoes and onions, my pure joy of beginning a trip deep into Quetico; out of nowhere I once more realized how much those moments meant to me.
Memories flooded my mind. Even the uphill struggle at the end of the trip, which was typically late in the evening due to cold stormy weather that had drenched me to the core. I loved every second of it.
Decades later I feel the pull of the canoe trips of my youth. I’m sure thousands of others feel the same way.
That afternoon at the Snowbank launch, walking car to car, I realized just how much the BWCA launches were a milepost of my life. I started to tell my wife about my revelation when suddenly I heard a soft dinging. She heard it too.
Then it dawned on us. Someone had left a cell phone behind, an admirable thing to do, though practical in the face of no reception in the wilderness. This modern marvel suddenly bridged the time between simpler days and now. How we long for our distant past.
A moment later I discovered it was my own I-phone that did the dinging, butt dialing in my pocket so to speak. We laughed at the irony.
Yet that deep appreciation for the boat and canoe launches East of Ely had finally come home to me.
In parting, I’d like to express gratitude to all those who maintain some of the most pristine launches in the country.