For Eve & Wayne: A True Silent Sports Proposal, With a Moral.
By Eve Graves
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Editor’s Note: This story had first appeared in print in 2014, and then online on October 1, 2014. Eve had sent me an email early Sept. 2, 2020, that the link to the story didn’t work, and whether I knew what had gone wrong. Replying that I was in diapers back then, I wondered why the disappearance of a story from six years ago mattered so much to her. Then I found it, read it, and knew exactly its importance. So, in honor of Eve, a great, longtime contributor to Silent Sports Magazine, with a heart dedicated to helping others, and Wayne, who must be a decent fellow to have earned Eve’s “Yes!” — I happily re-post their story, re-named A True Silent Sports Proposal, With a Moral, and wish them many more great years together!
As a seasoned remote and rustic camper who prefers to go remote and rustic, I have trekked to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area at least once yearly for almost 25 years. A former boyfriend introduced me to the marvelously beautiful area. It continues to provide me with the ultimate way to rest and rejuvenate.
Some individuals venture to the remote camping area for solitude. Others go to fish. Many take such trips to bond with friends and family. My experiences include going with church youth groups, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and serving as a guide.
From now on, I’ll venture into the BWCA with my wonderful husband and Australian Shepard/Border Collie, Laambeaux. But I’ll remember with a smile, and sometimes a shake of the head, BWCA trips gone by.
Army Worms and a Rescue
One year, a female friend, my then-boyfriend, and his friend all headed up for an excursion created by one of the males. As we drove north, we heard stories on the radio of these mysterious worms covering roads, people slipping, and more. Thinking it a mere northern fairy tale those announcers enjoyed making up, we chuckled and ignored the rest of the droning chatter.
This particular adventure originated somewhere on the Gunflint Trail with many miles of lake paddling and muddy portages necessary to arrive at our final destination. What we witnessed, upon pulling into the remote parking lot prior to unloading—normally black car tires enveloped in little grey squishy objects and trees coated with the creatures. The babbling on the car radio had aired the reality.
During those portages, our canoe transformed from dinged-up silver to a spotty coat of gooey army worms. Gummy army worms hitched a ride on our canoe, decorating it like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Backpacks provided a good landing for our miniature friends, too. So much for our goal of heading in with unsoiled belongings.
After almost a day of paddling and portaging, and seeing maybe one other group in that time, we found a remote campsite from which to launch day trips. The absence of other paddlers proved peaceful, at first, then eerie.
After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we headed out on the tranquil water. Approaching our first portage, we spotted two people on shore yelling and waving their arms in our direction.
The two gentlemen, a father in his 50s and his 20-something son, looked disheveled, frantic, their skin covered in mosquito bites.
They explained that, despite knowing better and having experience in the BWCA, they had tried to shoot some rapids the previous day in a rented Kevlar canoe. The outcome showed on their pathetic appearance and absence of gear. Turns out the son had to swim across the lake to recover one pack. Their remaining gear gone; their canoe nowhere to be found.
We invited them into our canoes and took them back to our site. Once there, we doctored them up, fed them, and enjoyed the extra company and help with portaging on the way out the following day. Our remote lake remained void of others until our departure, meaning the two men were lucky we happened upon them.
The moral of this story? Portage rather than paddle when given the choice. Portages exist for a reason.
Just Out for a Swim
A few years back, I guided a good friend of mine, her mom and two of her ‘tween daughters on their virgin voyage to the BWCA. This experience took us to Lake Isabella where we were lucky enough to get a hold of the most popular of two island sites on the lake.
While gathering firewood, we unintentionally wandered into the other campsite and discovered that the friendly older gentleman staying there.
All was going impeccably: The weather, surroundings and our company were perfect. Then one night, as the chilly, buggy darkness rapidly approached and we got ready to turn in, the strangest thing happened. A drenched woman in her 40s, clad only in a string bikini, teeth chattering and clutching a PFD, wandered into our campsite. Confused and on the verge of hypothermia, she asked us only for bug spray and a poncho.
With the pungent smell of alcohol on her breath, the bewildered woman disjointedly described swimming from her campsite to an island while it was still light out and falling asleep there. After waking, she obviously became disoriented while swimming back to what she thought was her campsite.
Even with the aid of our map, she was in no condition to locate her campsite. she kept saying she could walk back, forgetting we were on an island.
Darkness was almost upon us when two gentlemen approached our site asking if we had seen a woman. We eagerly produced her and they apologized profusely for her behavior, took her in their canoe and disappeared into the night
Not long after her departure, we heard a male voice say, ”Permission to enter your campsite.” It was our neighbor, the kind older man, who then told us he, too, was visited by the lost woman. He said he offered to help her find her way back but she refused his assistance, stating that her husband would be livid if she appeared in a canoe with another man, She then wandered off into the woods.
The moral of this story is don’t drink and swim.
Did I See a Ring?
Wayne, not yet my husband, and I headed out onto Lake Isabella in the BWCA over Memorial Day weekend the year before last. He claimed he knew the location of the perfect campsite, with a nice big rock on a sandy beach. The weather blessed us with pleasant temperatures in the 60s and 70s, without a suggestion of precipitation.
By then, I had learned a lesson. Don’t leave Wayne to pack his own personal belongings. I had helped in preparation for this outing. But I also had an inkling he had squirreled away an engagement ring and planned to propose on the trip. I wanted to know where he could have possibly hid it.
A day or two into our journey, I noticed he had been wearing the same zip-off pants since we left. And—something appeared stashed in his pocket. My curiosity, unfortunately, got the best of me. Like an idiot, forgetting for the moment he might be carrying an engagement ring, I asked him what it was. Honestly, I just wanted to make sure he had hidden food that might attract a bear in the night. Wayne said it was a balled-up bandanna, or something like that.
Still, to make sure he hadn’t concealed anything edible, I went fishing in his pocket. A ring box tumbled to the ground, creating an awkward moment. Neither of us said a word. He just picked it up and put it back into his pocket.
For the remaining days of our trip, I wondered if the ring would resurface. Along with it, the asking of a certain question. again. Wayne seemed to take some satisfaction in making me sweat it out until the very last night. As a sizeable orange sun slowly dipped behind the treeline on the opposite shore, he asked the magical question—”Will you marry me?”
Our wedding cake would come to include an outline of Lake Isabella. Upon it, a mini canoe and tent marked the location of the site where Wayne popped the question.
The moral of this story?
If someone seems intent on hiding a small object from you—let them.
Eve Graves, formerly Eve Stein, is an avid trail runner, mountain biker, Nordic skier, paddler and skijorer. She coaches newcomers to running and skiing in Duluth, Minnesota.