“Again! Again! Let’s do that again!” I can see my inner child hopping, clapping, squealing with glee.
That inner child keeps popping into my thoughts while reflecting on our honeymoon eight years ago. It wasn’t a “normal” honeymoon. It was 25 percent beautiful, peaceful, and secluded. It was 75 percent grueling, cold, sweaty, smelly, scary, exhausting, and absolutely unsexy. But we’re not “normal” and I’m guessing you aren’t either. So you’ll probably agree that it was the perfect recipe for 110 percent awesome AF adventure.
On a summer night in 2011 we were drinking on our front step in Minneapolis, dreaming up new adventures when Will proposed a honeymoon. After three years of adventuring together the wedding seemed incidental. A honeymoon was the perfect excuse for the longest trip we’d ever done.
On October 13, 2012 we were hobbling painfully along Minnesota State Highway 61 in blackness. We had chosen not to finish the last half mile of Grand Portage trail with our 220-pound load. A glowing billboard promised Grand Portage Lodge and Casino was just two miles away. We hid Will’s grandfather’s aluminum Grumman Canoe and most of our gear. I have never been so content to painfully shuffle to a garish and mediocre hotel, but it had hot showers, beer, fries, and toilet paper!
We had just paddled and portaged 246.5 miles over 19 days through Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness, following the Canadian border to finish with the legendary Grand Portage trail terminating at the great Gichigami (aka Lake Superior).
Voyageurs National Park rests on the occupied land of the Cree, Monsoni, and Ojibwe. The park is 340 square miles; more than a third of that is four lakes with 1,245 miles of jigsaw shoreline. We began on the western side of the park, on Lake Kabetogama in Black Bay Narrows with five days of easy paddling in perfect autumn weather in front of us. This should have been glorious newlywed bliss. Instead Will’s face was filled with snot and his body fatigued from a common cold. We considered abandoning our plan but Will wanted to push through.
By day six we had made it to the BWCA and Will felt better. We were delighted to leave the motorboats and people behind to paddle the quiet land of loons. It is quintessential evergreen and granite northern forest nestled in and threaded through with luminous waters. It feels anciently epic in a subtle benign way. On day nine that all changed. A winter storm kept us pinned down for two days. Our tent began to leak. The travel became endlessly challenging, with scary wind, and innumerable infuriating portages.
There’s more 😘 You can read the second half on Garage Grown Gear’s online magazine here: https://www.garagegrowngear.com/blogs/trail-talk/a-very-dirty-honeymoon
I thought I had finished writing this story in 2014, two years after the wedding and one year after I had started writing it in 14 installments on this blog. But I had never done it justice by recapping the whole escapade. Garage Grown Gear gave me the little push to reflect and share why we’d do such an unusually unromantic honeymoon. I hope you enjoy it!