I just returned from my first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Ely, Minnesota. My son and I wanted a father and son trip before he left the nest. We joined 7 others on a 5 day getaway that was inspiring, educational, adventurous, and full of stories of northern pike, and walleye.
The BWCA is the largest wilderness area in the United States. Most of the lakes are accessible only by canoe and one must carry those canoes and packs across land to get from one lake to the other. And by carrying, I don’t mean load the boat up in the truck. I mean load the boat up on your back! Fishing and camping is the easy part. Everything else is hard. On the first day, we loaded our canoe down with supplies and pushed off into 45 degree water temperatures, 50 degree air temperatures, and winds between 20 and 25 mph, with gusts to 40. And it was raining. Within 30 minutes, one canoe turned over twice. Before that day was over, another canoe would flip and before the week ended, we all would spend as much time getting water out of our boats as we did getting our boats in the water. Not what I expected…… but exactly what I wanted. The memories will not be of fish, but of the beauty of this part of the country and of days of fighting winds and waves in a canoe and portaging between lakes.
As my son and I began our trip home, I ask him what could have made this trip better. His reply surprised me. “Nothing.” His reasoning was simply this; we could have stayed home and camped and caught fish. To drive 18 hours to just do that would be insane… and boring. We wanted a challenge and an adventure and that is exactly what we got. These challenges were unexpected and even unwanted at times, but they were what gave our trip its unique character.
But isn’t it always the journey that stands out as the highlight of anything? Isn’t it the plot that gives the ending its worth? Aren’t the characters and seemingly insignificant sidebars what give fullness to the destination? I believe so. And it is also true in the most important areas of our lives. While I long to “arrive” in certain places of my life; I know that the story of that arrival would last only a few seconds. But to tell of the journey in getting there would take hours. And what about worth? Character is always hewed from the process. It’s like a hand-made canoe. While the appealing beauty lies within the finished product; its worth comes from the painstaking processes that took place months or years before its completion.