For those of you who haven’t followed the previous posts, I entered the Minnesota/Canada Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area and relied exclusively on foraged and hunted (fished) foods for the entirety of a 7 day trip. I was diligent about keeping a journal, documenting much of my experience and the foods that I ate. The following is the journal entry from day 1:
I have spent a good deal of my life outdoors and I can honestly say that the mosquito concentration here equals or surpasses anything I have experienced in the past. It is around 10:30 pm and there is a hint of twilight still in the sky. I just went out to pee and after only opening my tent for a split second I let a 100 mosquitoes in, which I painstakingly killed, one at a time. As of yet, there has been no relief from these bugs except during daylight hours, mid-lake in the canoe. Unfortunately, bad bugs can really put a damper on a trip and I hate to admit it, but I am already considering reducing the length of our stay.
Foraging: Upon leaving the canoe launch I ate my first wild food of the trip. There was a handful of fat raspberries right where we left shore, definitely a good omen. After 4 hours of paddling, I viewed some berries growing on small trees on an island. They turned out to be Service Berries. This is a fruit that I wasn’t very familiar with and was pleasantly surprised to find they were delicious. Purple when ripe, they look a bit like a blueberry with a unique flavor that reminds me of a juicy, apple-blueberry combination. The island was literally full of these small, berry saturated trees. Harvesting them was easy and within 45 minutes I had eaten my fill and half filled a gallon zip-lock bag. When we reached our first camp site a couple hours later I consumed all the berries in the bag. I have never eaten a few pounds worth of berries in a single day, but they fed me for lunch and gave me an early supper.
After a total of 6 hours of canoeing, Jorma and I quickly set up camp and spent the next few hours fishing. Traditionally, I have found the fishing in the boundary waters to be quite good. However, our first efforts didn’t even result in a bite. Earlier in the day, Jorma spied, with enthusiasm, several decent size crayfish in the rocky shallows. Since it didn’t appear that fish was happening for supper, Jorma talked me into trying to snorkel and hand catch some crayfish. I had previously eaten crayfish in restaurants and found them quite tasty, albeit not very filling, I was hoping Jorma’s idea would secure a little meat for dinner and be enough to satiate my hunger. The day was hot and the cool water felt superb. After about an hour of leisurely “hunting”, Jorma and I were were able to catch about a dozen medium sized crayfish. Although it is possible to catch crayfish by hand while snorkeling, we both agreed that we should try to design a trap that might more efficiently catch these arthropods. Also, the bigger crayfish can deliver quite a pinch if you aren’t careful.
Before leaving for the trip, Jorma convinced me that it would be prudent to bring a small amount of pre-foraged food as the first day of travel can be intensive. I was glad of this foresight and as such, was able to add wild rice, leeks, and morel mushrooms to our crayfish. I also threw in some dandelion leaves that I found in our campsite. After dinner, I made a cup of white pine needle and sweat-gale tea.
The bugs, heat and poor fishing are definitely limiting my enjoyment of the trip so far. Additionally, I am not enjoying the uncertainty of not having secured any future meals. In all my life I have never before experienced not knowing when and what my next meal will consist of. My goal for tomorrow is to not only find food, but hopefully be able to find a little surplus for the days to come.
As I finish writing my entry, a whip-poor-will is actively singing nearby and at one point landed on the island and sang about 50 feet from the tent. I also brought my dog Zane on the trip with us. His howling response to the loon calls made for a pleasant yet plaintive addition to the evening sounds. I have to give props to Zane for being one hell of a good dog. He is literally getting slaughtered by mosquitoes and flies and not a peep of protest. When we fish we have to keep him tied at the campsite because he swims after us in the canoe no matter how far we paddle or how long we stay out. He is one loyal dog.