Adventure Boundary Waters: When Life Happens

Last week my son turned ten. He’s crazy tall and adventurous. He loves Calvin & Hobbes and the TV show River Monsters. He’s the most empathetic person I know and he would do anything for family and friends. And he loves fishing. For his ‘golden birthday’ we’d planned a trip to the Boundary Waters area of very northern Minnesota — we’re talking a couple miles from the border with Canada — so that we could hike and fish and do all the things that our boy loves.

Life happens though.

About a week before our departure, my husband injured his back. With our son so excited to go fishing ‘up north’ we didn’t have the heart to cancel, so we just decided that we’d leave our canoe which is heavy and not real practical to move or get into for someone with a back injury. If Mr Knitting Sarah was up for it, we’d rent a boat from one of the lodges and meanwhile the boy & I could fish from shore. Not ideal, but it would be ok. I did most of the packing and all of the lifting and off we went, Mr Knitting Sarah being a true trooper throughout.

The mosquitoes were… substantial. We’d brought along our taller tent so that if we were hanging at camp we could do so with comfy camp chairs in the tent and safe from the bloodthirsty bugs. Less than 50feet from the lake, we went to sleep listening to loons calling and awoke to them calling and racing maniacally up and down the lake at dawn. It was beautiful.

My son and I spent a fair bit of time using our campsites’ little lake access…

To explore with eyes and ears the water & surrounding forest. We were lucky in this trip in that we saw a black bear (the first ever for the kids & me), a moose and her calf, 3 baby foxes, loads of bald eagles, and a pair of peregrine falcons, among other wonders of the natural world.

With the mosquitoes taking over at camp, we took time to drive up to Grand Portage State Park for a hike up to the High Falls. The hike was short, but through a beautiful, thick forest…

IMG_9666With amazing lichen and moss…

IMG_9678And, of course, the crown jewel — the High Falls…

IMG_9674The other side of the gorge is Canada — the kids were almost as impressed by that as they were by the huge waterfall (really, the scale isn’t great here, that’s 120ft drop you’re looking at).

While on the North Shore we had a tip in Grand Marais from a local that we could catch trout and salmon in a couple hot spots…

We had no luck, but it sure was a great place to just hang out fishing. I could seriously live in this spot forever.

In fact, we found so many picturesque places…

IMG_9689Mostly with me and my boy throwing a line in the water while Mr Knitting Sarah rested his back and our girl played in the water with Moose. We decided to rent a boat Thursday to try to break the fishing shut-out for the birthday boy, but lo & behold on Wednesday night…

A northern pike — our boy’s trip dream fish — took the bait. We snapped this photo in a cloud of black flies and almost immediately after  Moose, the beloved wonderpup, started to freak out, rubbing his face all over. We got him into the car and piled in after him only to find his whole face ballooning to about twice its normal size in the most pronounced and severe allergic reaction I’ve ever seen. We were 30minutes from the nearest store to which we raced for benadryl. As we cruised toward town and got within cell range we discovered we were 3hours from the nearest ‘will definitely be there in the morning’ vet. We got Moose his benadryl which immediately calmed him and slowly but surely the swelling started to go down. Concerned with his history of allergies and worried that camping would not allow for a great recovery (not to mention the potential to encounter more black flies) we hurried back to camp, frantically broke everything back into the car, and started the long journey toward help should we need it and a clean hotel to allow our pup to recover.

The disappointment at cutting the fishing portion of the trip short was as palpable as the fear for our poor Moose.

The following morning, the majority of his head and face and returned to normal, but his jowls were still considerably swollen and he was exhausted from the meds and stress. It’s all how you choose to look at it though. Yes, it was terrifying to see Moose so sick. Yes, we had to give up the loons and the day on the boat and fishing. We traded it, though, for a two night hotel stay in Duluth including a trip to the very neat aquarium in town and some other sight-seeing as well as the reassurance that we’d have emergency vet care nearby should we need it. Moose got to go to a couple dog-friendly restaurants where he was appropriately babied and loved on and rested. Despite the unfortunate excitement that caused our return to civilization, we really did have a great time in Duluth. It wasn’t the vacation we’d envisioned by any means, but it was still grand. Life, after all, is always about perspectives and trade-offs and just making the most of the hand you are dealt.

We even made time for a quick stop at Yarn Harbor, the local LYS, in its new location. Yarn Harbor has a an exclusive line of colorways dyed by local dyers Three Irish Girls  that are inspired by the Duluth area and it’s somehow become a little tradition for me to pick one up when I’m in the area. This time I chose ‘Land of the Loon’…

IMG_9744Quite appropriate, I thought.

(This exclusive Duluth-inspired collection of yarns is also available online through Yarn Harbor, just so you know)

On the drive home, partly to give my hubby a chance to stretch his legs and back (which still hadn’t recovered as we’d hoped) and partly just because he’s sweet and he knew the dog being sick had been very stressful for me, we managed to find two other yarn shops along the way.

Kunert Kreations is right along highway in Gordon, WI and quite literally has a little bit of everything. We’d visited years ago on the way home from our last Boundary Waters trip and it was fun to pop in and see it again. Here, the kids each picked something for me to make for them.

My son picked this ‘northern pike colored’ yarn for a hat…

IMG_9745I’m thinking maybe a wurm, but haven’t decided yet.

And my daughter found this hot pink merino/silk from Louet…

IMG_9746I just finished spinning this fiber blend from the Louet June Spinzilla Pack before we left for vacation and was very impressed (more on that soon), so when my girl picked this and wouldn’t stop hugging it I knew it was coming home with us. She held onto it pretty much the whole 5+ hour drive home while she read.

Just south in downtown Spooner, Wisconsin is Northwind Book & Fiber. Now, just the fact that it’s a book and yarn/fiber store tugged at my heartstrings as a kind of a dream shop, especially if you throw in coffee or wine. To find a really good selection of both yarn and books when we entered was phenomenal. Thankfully, I managed to have some self control and picked just one item…

IMG_9748Three Feet of Sheep from Frabjous Fibers in a Merino Rainbow. I fully intend to turn these 8oz of fiber into one long rainbow striped yarn which will undoubtedly be beyond awesome. Oh, and both kids found books as well — win-win!

We arrived home and I immediately got Moose in the bath to make sure he was completely cleaned up and comfortable and the strangest thing happened — he made a very miraculous recovery. When I say ‘very miraculous’ I mean it — past allergic outbreaks with him have taken months to clear up and by the time we got home and he got his proper bath he was 100% fine. Phew.

Unfortunately, this happy ending did not hold true for poor Mr Knitting Sarah’s back. Over the weekend it took a severe turn for the worse and he awoke in the wee hours of Sunday morning with such severe pain that he was unable to move. Thanks to our tiny house which cannot accommodate a stretcher, 2 EMTs and 3 cops very kindy hoisted Mr Knitting Sarah out to an ambulance at around 4am yesterday morning and took him to the hospital. A few hours and a hefty dose of medication later, he was up and gingerly walking and we got to bring him home. It sounds like rest and physical therapy should help him heal and prevent this from happening again soon, but for the next few days I’ll be adding nurse to my daily duties to help get him rest up and ready to return to work.

I suppose with a less sunny attitude I could really view our family trips as being a bit cursed. The last trip to the Badlands our tent was obliterated by high winds and it ended up rainy, kind of cold, and with our son being sick most of the time, but we had an amazing time and strangely our memories of that trip are all good. This trip we had epic bugs, the dog’s extreme allergic reaction, and poor Mr Knitting Sarah’s back drama. Things kind of always go wrong. At the end of the day though, it’s the unexpected mishaps that make memories and while there were certainly some standout traumas, there were a lot of great times, too.

Playing in Lake Superior…

Hiking through the northern forests…

Incredible views…

IMG_9660And a very memorable 10th birthday for this young man…

  I’ve finally started to relax into a ‘this is just life’ mentality instead of dreading what’s going to go wrong next. Life happens and plans change and that’s ok. This is just life. And despite apparent setbacks and all the things that go wrong, a whole lot goes right. And we are making incredible memories along the way.

14 responses to “Adventure Boundary Waters: When Life Happens

  1. Happy Golden Bday! Despite the setbacks, it still seems like a great gift! (My eldest turned 13 the same day–I really treasure that day.) I hope your hubby recovers soon. Back injuries can take a long time to heal for some it seems. I go to Northwind every time I visit my folks–love it there, probably because I always spend a hefty sum on both awesome books & yarn. One stop shop for sure!

    • There’s truly something about the day you became a mother, isn’t there? Happy Coralee’s birthday to you! Yes, I’m afraid this injury will take some time to heal. We’re already looking at changing up our vacation plans for August which is hard as it was a big exciting trip we were planning. But based on past experience we don’t think he’ll be ready.
      So cool to hear you’ve been to Northwind! Such a little gem – I really had to work to choose 1 thing! I had to have some self-control as my daughter was almost out of books & we still had a few hours to go!

  2. Oh my you are a stoic soul! I don’t know which would freak me out more – I think the bugs – definitely black fly are not my best friends! I hope Mr. Knitting Sarah gets all rested and unkinked – there is nothing worse than back pain – and hey what could be better than fishing AND yarn stops?

    • My hubby’s injury was by far the scariest and the dog’s was a close second, just because we were so far from help. We didn’t know at the time, but we got to the hotel the first night and discovered that our little girl had been really badly attacked by black flies, too. She’s still healing, poor kid! The bugs were annoying, but they didn’t bother me too much except the black flies kept trying to land IN my eyes. That was annoying – lol!

  3. I loved your outlook on such a harrowing experience. I am happy to hear Moose made a successful recovery, the poor pup looked so miserable in the photo. As for Mr.KnittingSarah I hope he recovers quickly. I admire the fact that through all of the troubles you still were able to make the trip memorable for each other. Thank you for the reminder to look at the positive in life as well as sharing some photos of the wonderful places you went.

    • Thank *you* for reading & your kind words. My blog has really served as a great way to help me focus on the fact that I get to choose the tone of the story that is my life. I’m very lucky that I’m able to share that outlook!

  4. Happy 10th to your son & I hope your husband makes a quick recovery. As someone with back issues, I feel for him. Back muscle spasms are the absolute worst! As for your drama filled trip, you’ve got the right attitude. It’s never fun while the drama is happening, but later, when you look back & realized you survived the drama, the drama can become the funniest part of the trip. Plus, you got yarn!

    • Thanks for the well wishes. It’s going to take some time to heal, but Mr KS is feeling better day by day. 🙂

      EXACTLY! I tend to be pretty together in the moment of emergency (thankfully), emotional in the direct aftermath, and from there on out I have a good laugh.

  5. I hope everyone is well soon. I have to say, you always manage to take “adventure” to a new height! Sorry about your August vacation, though. I hope you are able to do something fun but not stressful to make up for it. (Great yarn purchases, by the way!)

    • Me, too! Thank you!

      And you are absolutely right. I didn’t really expect the conversation in the car this vacation to be “Can anyone tell me what a medical evacuation is?” but with great adventure comes great risk, I suppose.

      I’m sure we’ll find a way to make the most of whatever time we have for our August vacation.

      • Oh, gosh, no, I would never want that to be the conversation! But as always, a learning experience, right? You never know – by freeing up the August time, you may get to do something fabulous that you would have had to pass up otherwise. There will be a silver lining, I am sure.

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