I’ll get back to posting pictures and amusing anecdotes about wilderness poop soon.
I went to the BWCA with a mission. I had to find a way to make peace with myself and the universe. To find a way to reconcile a universe that would kill my dog and reconcile with my own self over the ‘betrayal’ of my brain.
1. everything that we are, every element, every atom, every molecule is found throughout the universe. there is nothing here on earth that cannot be reproduced with raw materials anywhere else in the universe. If this is the case then what are we but the universe. and what was ghengis but the universe. the suv that hit him, his blood, the tears, the grief, the ashes, all of it is part of the universe. My anger? universe. all of it.
I went to the seclusion and quiet of the BWCA to try to make peace with the universe. To find a way to forgive the universe for kicking me in the gut. I was tired of being angry. I wanted an apology. From the universe.
I spent time contemplating. I spent time alone thinking. I was still. I was active. I waited for the sign. Because I’m like that. That’s right, bitches, the universe is going to give ME an apology! me! not you.
And what conclusion did I come to? What information did I take in when I relaxed and let it in? I went back. I went back to the time before Ghengis died. I went back to the understanding that the universe is without intent. That a great deal of my anger in grief was conceited. It was centered on myself. It was saying “fuck you, universe! how dare you kill my dog!”. The universe didn’t kill my dog. I mean it did, my dog died, but the universe did not kill ghengis because he was my dog. The universe just juggernauts forward. Anger, while completely natural in grief is misplaced.
Anger is a response that says “you wronged me! I am wronged!”
I was not wronged. I am part of this amoral universe. this unplanned, uncontrolled whirling fantasia. in 14 billion years stars come and go, planets form and get destroyed, life starts, stops and starts over. The idea of “fair” is a construct. There is no “fair” or “unfair”. Having you dog die isn’t about “fair” it just is. To say I was “wronged” is to say that I am somehow important enough to be noticed and plotted against. To say it is “unfair” is to say that I should be exempt from the vagaries of life.
To distill this down…Shit happens, but it doesn’t happen TO me. It happens and sometimes it affects me.
2. Depression is a pain in the ass. Going to see the psychiatrist every few weeks, tweaking your prescriptions, taking pills that make you tremble or sleep or not sleep or poop nuggets…it’s all a pain. Sometimes I feel betrayed by my brain, by the chemistry and the circuitry in there. Why can’t I just have a brain that creates the normal chemicals, why can’t I just ‘suck it up’ and feel okay?
There is no ‘why’. To ask ‘why’ in the metaphysical sense “why can’t I have what other people have? why can’t my brain be normal?” is to assume that you’ve been selected personally to be insulted.
I have not been personally selected for a miswired brain. Oh sure, we can point to incidents during development, but again that leads you to a question that should not be asked.
Again, in short…shit happens. asking ‘why’ just keeps you sitting in idle. I have stopped asking ‘why’ or rattling on about ‘fair’. It is neither fair or unfair, just a fact. To move forward you have to get out of idle and turn on your blinker.
I accept what there is. I cannot fight it, only work with it.
I did not get the answers I expected when I was up there, but I did find the answers that I knew all along.

BWCA Day 2

I wake up. It is raining. I wait. David is sleeping. I am awake. It is raining. David is sleeping. It’s 6am. David is sleeping. I am awake. Chester is sleeping. It is raining.
By 10am I am way bored, I am regretting leaving my book in the back pack instead of bringing it into the tent with me. By 10am I have to pee like a maniac. All that rain has sent its not so subliminal message to my bladder. I get dressed and pull on my (awesome) new raingear. David asks me if perhaps I should wait to see what happens with the rain. I am determined, I have to pee.
I go out into the rain. I get ready to do the awkward outside squat pee. Can the people at the other campsite across the lake see my giant white ass? Should I pee somewhere else? Why would they be out in the rain staring across the lake? Are they perverts who like to watch human dugongs pee in the rain? Probably not.
After I do my graceless business I start to gather things that could entertain and feed me in the tent until the rain stops. I ask if it’s a bad idea to canoe in the rain, David reminds me that the canoe is aluminum and the lake is water and maybe we shouldn’t tempt fate.
I gather my stuff and…the rain stops. I could have waited. I curse the sky and my bladder for conspiring against me.
We breakfast on Clif bars and canned Starbucks coffee drinks. I’m no fool, I know my caffeine needs. David knows that the most dangerous thing in the wilderness is me without caffeine…or possibly the most pathetic.
We discuss our camp options. We don’t know if the campers across the lake will be moving on to the next campsite or staying where they are, we don’t know if the next campsite is already taken. If it is, we’re screwed. More specifically, I’m screwed. The next campsite is on the other side of the next lake and at the other end of a death march 3 mile portage. Remember, we can’t carry everything in one trip so that would make 9 miles of hiking. We hiked this trail the last time we were up here. Highlights included trying to balance on a fallen tree, avoiding primordial muck, being carried across a particularly messed up beaver dam site and once getting my short fat leg stuck on a log I was trying to climb over. I kind of don’t want to try this while laden with 2 thousand pounds of stuff. I do not tell David about this, I do not want to be a whiner.
Eventually we decide the people across the lake are staying put. We load up and head out. Once again Chester is terrified of the canoe. At the other side of LaPond Lake we hit a patch of lake grass and lily pads. Dipshit dog jumps. I bet it was a big damned surprise to him that this was not the dry land he thought it would be. I promised David that I would not panic if the dog jumped out, so I didn’t. I just shut my eyes and sat very still. Inaction is the choice not to screw things up!
Chester gets his sorry ass hauled up into the canoe.

He then crawls to the front of the canoe, worms his way around and drapes his stinky wet body across my lap to sulk. Jerk.
Actually, this isn’t too bad. He’s found some level of comfort on my lap and has fallen asleep. This is good.
We navigate the low water/high grass and manage to find the waterway between the two lakes. This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. There are water lilies everywhere and since the waterway winds and curves, you don’t have that sense of urgency or long distance that you do on a larger lake.
The next portage is less than a quarter mile. The trail is easy and quick with few obstacles. We move our stuff quickly and get back in the canoe. Chester is much calmer this time. I think he’s got it figured out. We complete the waterway and end up on Big Rice Lake.
Could it be? HOORAY! No one is at the campsite! We get the campsite. We land, we empty the canoe and take over.
Chester decides to do the one thing he excels at…passing out

Once everything is set up, David and I head down to the water to watch the sun set and bask in the absolute aloneness of it all. Big Rice Lake is, as the name implies, big (though it’s not made of rice, that’s a misnomer intended to confuse people) and there is not another campsite on the lake. I am so charmed by this. I am amazed! Someone like me can have this entire lake to herself (and her boyfriend and dog, though the dog does not count since he didn’t haul anything).

We head up to camp, build a fire and roast wieners, cook up MRE’s and grub through whatever else fit in our mouths.

You can’t maintain your spherical figure on the trail without eating many many marshmallows

One of the categories in the “Great Outdoors Guide to Things That Aren’t Cool” is “Things that bite you that aren’t bears”. This includes biting flies, deer flies, horse flies, Be’elzebub’s Demonic Flies of the Deep and Mosquitoes. All day in the sun you are attacked by the various flies, as the sun sets you get 12 minutes reprieve, then the insatiable swarm of mosquitoes zeros in on you.

you are forced to make yourself look as dorky as possible to keep safe from the mosquitoes

A lack of planning ahead has forced us to try to hang our food in the middle of the pitch black. It sucked, we succeeded. Wolves howled in the distance and again I was charmed to death. I’d never heard it before. It’s such a mournful, keening sound.
Finally we crawled into our sleeping bags, listened to the angry beaver slap the lake and fell asleep.

BWCA Day 1

We make promises to get up early and get out the door early. We both know that we both love the bed too much to get up early, but it feels good to say it out loud.
Even if we don’t mean it.
I get up first and decide to do something about the food situation. We have a ton of food and it’s really heavy. I’m trying to figure out what we can get rid of. Nothing. I pack a few more things and roust David and we get going. I leave a long page of information for Anna regarding how to live in my house and how to deal with Maddie. Most people just toss a $20 and the keys on the table and know that the house/dogsitter with figure it out.
I got problems.
Finally, we’re on the road, but first we have to stop at Walgreens to pick up my prescriptions, moleskin for my feet, alleve and batteries. David has to deal with the pharmacist dorkass that charged him for my last prescription pick up when he should not have (don’t ask). I wander away to look at enemas, corn removers and condoms. Then I head back out to the car because I freak about leaving the dog in the car for more than about 27 seconds. He’s barking at the old man walking by.
Finally, we’re on the road for real! Except there’s construction and we miss an exit. Then we’re on the road for real.
Some hours later I call to make sure our canoe reservation is still valid. The woman is either drunk, insane or not actually an employee. She has no idea what I’m talking about but she assures me that everything will be fine.
We stop in Ely to pick up our permit and head a billion miles out to the wilderness. We made arrangements with a resort on Big Lake to rent a canoe from them and also stow the car there. We get there and everything is in order (thankfully). We wrap everything in plastic, load up the canoe and try to get started.
Except Chester is not so keen on the canoe thing. The canoe is new and terrifying. David gets him in and he promptly jumps out. Awesome. David then hands me a wet Chester and tells me to hold him. Damned wet dirty dog.
We head out.

About 1/4 of the way across the lake Chester plasters his body against mine and shakes. Every time Chester moves the canoe rocks and I stiffen. I spend a lot of time worrying about being tossed from a canoe or worse, having our stuff dumped into the lake.
Finally we get him to move

It takes us about an hour to get across the lake. We’re not even in the BWCA until we are past the lake. On the other side of the lake is a 1/2 mile portage. We get out of the canoe and hope hope that the campsite on the lake on the other side of the portage is available. It’s too late to keep going and we need to set up camp before it gets dark.
We divide our stuff and walk the half mile. David is a faster hiker, he heads out before me. The very beginning of the portage is a very steep climb up smooth rock. Fuck. For most people this would be work but not insurmountable. For the human dugong, however, this is an epic quest. I start to climb but my pack is too heavy and it’s slung too low. I’m too bottom heavy. Great. The Weekly World News is going to run a cover story about “Mysterious Beluga Found Beached 1200 Miles from Ocean”. It will be the first time they print something true.
I decide to toss all my stuff to the top. Up goes the pack and the sleeping pads. Oh, awesome, one sleeping pad decided that it would hit the top and roll off the side. Is that muck at the bottom? Why yes it is! Luckily it stopped before the muck. I climb the rocks and shove everything up the next incline. At the top I get everything together and start marching.
Chester follows David for a while but comes back to me. He worries about me and he is right to. At any moment I could trip on a rock and land directly in a bear’s mouth. Chester is pretty sure that camping is awesome! Everything smells different, there are all kinds of new poop to snuffle and he can run his piggy little butt around. He also likes to stop and stand at attention with no warning. At first I was trying to be nice and encourage him to keep going. Eventually I threatened to shove a size five hiking boot up his ass.

When I get to the end of the portage David tells me that the other site is taken but we’re not going back. He finds a relatively clear, flat spot that we can camp at for at least one night. I head back down the path to get the rest of the stuff portioned to me. 1/2 mile to the campsite, 1/2 mile to the canoe, 1/2 mile back to the campsite. 1 1/2 miles of hiking on rocky, twisted terrain, 1 mile of that carrying heavy shit.
I can’t really complain, though, David carries the canoe on each portage. He has to pick that fucker up, flip it over and get the pads on his shoulders and then do the death march. I can’t do that.
David gets the campsite set up and I organize our stuff. There is no official fire ring since it’s not a campsite so we cannot have a campfire. I won’t even risk it. Everything has been so hot and dry and I don’t want to be that asshole that burns down one of the last wild places in the country.

We sit on the rocks and eat cheese, sausage, crackers and apple as the sun sets.


I delivered my Def Strawberry Jam and my salsa verde (possibly to be named Zapata’s Vacation and Zapata’s Revenge for mild and spicy respectively) to the State Fair this afternoon. I love the women there. All I want to do is hug them and eat cookies with them! Already a million jars of a million other things had been dropped off, I don’t count my chances too high. It’s fun either way and next year I’ll submit more.
David and I stopped at McDonald’s on the way home from camping. It’s a strange fact, but people who finish camping crave huge amounts of fat and protein. Somewhere along the line McDonald’s has started printing the nutrition info on their food. Holy shit. Everyone knows McDonald’s is unhealthy, but what surprised me was just HOW unhealthy it was. I could not for the life of me figure out how they managed to cram that many calories and grams of fat into anything. I’m not the healthiest eater around, but I’m generally aware of the nutritional value of what I eat. We were blown away.
I got a quarter pounder and medium fries and that was almost 900 calories. The sodium and fat content would choke a horse. Now, I certainly agree that a lot of the obesity epidemic is about making poor choices, I’m proof of that. I’m educated and well informed about nutrition and I still make choose the gooier options. I gotta say, however, that there’s no way I would have put a simple burger and fries up that high. Doing my own research I found that I can put together a similar meal at 1/2 to 2/3 the calories.
What exactly are those fuckers putting in the food anyway?
Luckily I almost never eat there or I’d be way way fatter than I am.
also unrelatedly…
We brought back 2 quarts of wild blueberries from the BWCA. I will be making jam with 1 quart and we will be eating the rest. Do not ask me for any blueberry jam. Just don’t. I’m not sharing it with anyone and especially not with anyone who asks for it. It took us 90 minutes in the hot sun to collect those berries and that was after days of not finding any in the usual places. Mine. I get to be greedy once in a while.
bu relatedly…
After 90 minutes in the hot sun I decided that migrant farm workers needed to be paid more. Jesus, that sucked and I was just doing it for myself. I can’t imagine having to do it to support a family. Migrant farm workers need to network and unionize for fair wages and America needs to stop being such babies about what their food costs. Hell, if you want to complain about food costs lets talk about the recent hike in dairy prices since cattle feed has gotten so expensive as a result of the dimwitted and short sighted E-85 ethanol bullshit.
It’s after 11 and I need to eat me some dinner.