I begin my trip to the Boundary Waters, where I will rely on fishing and foraging for food, this coming Monday the 16th of July. I am accompanied by my longtime friend Jorma and this will be our 6th trip into canoe country together. Jorma is also excited about the prospect of foraging and fishing, however, having more good sense than I, will be bringing a small amount of emergency food for himself.
Entrance into the Boundary Waters and Quetico works on a permit basis. A fixed number of permits are issued daily to limit the number of people entering the park and to distribute visitors uniformly to prevent overcrowding. I am quite fond of this system and appreciate the wilderness experience that is a direct result from this procedure. Although I have never had a problem gaining entrance into the boundary waters, the better entrance points fill up relatively quickly during the comfortable summer months. I strongly advise obtaining a permit some weeks before a trip, but from personal experience I have learned that you can pick up a permit the day of your trip. A few trips back, I relied on Jorma to book our permits on-line. There was some confusion with his computer and the permit he thought he booked, didn’t exist. We only became aware of this when we showed up to the Ranger’s office and were forced to enter at the only point left unclaimed that day. We ended up having a great trip, but it started with a mile plus portage and a lot of cussing at Jorma. Jorma ensures me that this year he has secured our permit for the Moose Lake entry point. This entry point is a popular one but offers unlimited trip options.
Preparing for this Boundary Waters trip is quite a bit different than preparation for previous trips. My trip pack, devoid of any food, will be significantly lighter (perhaps as much as fifteen pounds). Of course, there are a couple of items that I am bringing which I haven’ t needed in the past. The first is a hand-operated flour mill that I recently purchased online. You never know what you’re getting when ordering on-line, but I think I am going to be pretty happy with my little mill. I tested it out yesterday by grinding down some Dock seed from the front yard and the result was a fine flour that took only a couple of minutes of easy grinding to produce. Hopefully, this mill will allow me to make some makeshift bread or biscuits.
I have acquired a fair number of field guides and wild food books over the years and it is difficult deciding which books to bring and which to leave behind. My favorite two books are by the local author Samuel Thayer: “Nature’s Garden” and “Forager’s Harvest”. These books are far from comprehensive but the species accounts are fantastic. The author has personal experience with each of the plants and includes a thorough account of identification, harvest, and preparation for each.
I have also made a spread sheet that includes potential edible plants that I may find in northeastern Minnesota in mid-July. Of course running across any particular plant and having that plant actually producing food items is always a crap shoot. I’m sure I will find blueberry bushes, however they may not have any blueberries on them! But, the more food sources that I am aware of, the less likely that I will go hungry. I am astounded by the sheer number of plants that offer potential food. For example, I previously never considered algae an edible option, but in my research I found that it is a very nutritious food item rich in protein. Algae is not high on my list of plants that I want to try, the thought of it is unappetizing, but it is good to know that there is a relatively inexhaustible source of food always close by if I need it.
Before I leave, I will record my body weight and body fat percentage. Someone sent me an email predicting that I would lose 30 pounds on my trip! I don’t believe that I have 30 pounds to lose but I do want to document any changes in weight that I may experience. A drastic change would indicate that my calories were insufficient to fuel my activity and that my diet was not sustainable over a long period of time. I will not have access to a computer or internet until I am home, but I plan on journaling the old fashion way, that’s with a pencil and notebook for you young folks, and will share much of this after I return on the 25th of July.