Don’t Straddle the Fence

Pick one outdoor philosophy per trip. 

I know a guy who has a retractable clothesline that comes with a set of carving knives. It attaches to the side of a tent and the line gets pulled out across your backcountry campsite. Next, through a series of complicated open-ended instructions you use the carving knives to make custom supports for the rope from sticks, you find yourself. If you follow the instructions and pay close attention to wind direction and velocity given by the (included) mini-weather station, you can obtain a 5% reduction in the drying time for wet socks or swimsuits while in the BWCA. As for myself, I just hang clothes on a tree branch and move on with my day. And if the branch-supported clothing doesn’t dry within the allotted time, I put it all on damp, where it eventually dries anyway.

Now, for those of you looking for an affiliate link to a retractable clothesline set, full disclosure necessitates I tell you most of that last paragraph was sarcasm (well, the part about me using a tree branch was true). But honestly, there is a group of people that really enjoy setting up camp in the wilderness. I’m talking about the types that scour outdoor websites for gadgets and gear that lead to an elaborate time consuming stationary experience, complete with back-rests, tables, and espresso coffee. And there is nothing wrong with this!

The flip of the coin is the minimalist who marches through the BWCA cooking tea on a small fire of sticks in the morning, traversing too many lakes to count, and stopping later in the evening only because it’s getting dark. Speaking from experience, this person will find themselves incredibly bored sitting at a campsite without anything to set up. That is, you can only spend so much time reflecting on the meaning of life while staring aimlessly over a lake before you feel the urge to move on and find new scenery.

Luna laying by gear at the BWCA campsite.

The problem in all this comes when one wants to complete a large loop through the BWCA but also couldn’t leave the solar-powered blender in the car. 

Or maybe they packed pretty light but suddenly their spouse is determined to relax for a day along the shores of a particularly beautiful remote lake. Yet, the canoe-shaped cribbage set that doubles as a fish cleaning station was left at home.

Nick sets canoe in the water at the end of a BWCA portage.

Because so many of us are limited in time allotted for wilderness opportunities, we try to include as many outdoor philosophies as we can into a single trip. Yours truly included. It was when I started focusing on one ideology at a time that I upped my outdoor game considerably. Since then, I’ve had grueling 15 mile days in the BWCA and lazy charcoal cookouts on the Le Sueur River. And each trip will lend itself to either attitude if desired. IE, use the Le Sueur as a starting point for a larger marathon down the Minnesota River to St. Paul, or paddle to the first site on Brule Lake in the BWCA and set up a compound of hammocks and solar showers.

Practice some honesty in your planning and try for one type of experience at a time. In the end, a straddled fence makes it really hard to pee without getting some on yourself.

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This post was written by Nick Schmitz May 2020.

Nick sits in canoe and Luna swims in the water

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