Paddling for hours on end might not sound like much fun to many people, but it is one reason I love the Boundary Waters. Spending time away from all the chatter of civilization is a very good relaxing activity. When at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, one must rely on themselves and what they’ve brought with them, often stranded without help. Despite the risk, the serene wilderness is so beautiful. I have seen animals such as bears, deer, squirrels, rabbits, wolves, and my crazy cousin. Jokes aside, the peacefulness is a welcome interruption to my hectic schedule. For the past two years, I went up to the BWCA on church trips, and I had the time of my life. Last year was an amazing experience, that could have ended much worse.
In the weeks building up to the trip, my excitement only grew. When we hopped in the car for the lengthy drive, my friends and I were dancing to our favorite songs. The first night, we stayed in a bunkhouse at the outfitter’s. The next morning, our group got pancakes, and were sent off canoeing into the wide wilderness. During the course of the week, we stayed in three total campsites, moving every two days. On our days canoeing, we spent the hours paddling, singing, portaging, and shooting the rapids. On our days off, we played cards, swam, and fished. The week was so much fun, like a week spent in total heaven. Everything was going perfectly.
On the second to last day, we canoed across Lake Saganaga, one of the biggest lakes in the Boundary Waters. The wind was whipping, and the waves were crashing, spraying water into our faces. Yet the sun was shining and everyone was smiling. Finally, we crossed the lake and headed to what was hopefully our open campsite. When we pulled up to the site, it was empty, and the group cheered with relief. After our tents were set up, everyone headed to bed, exhausted by the day’s events. The next morning, everyone slept in. Then we got into the river and started to swim. The one major reason our leader had chosen this campsite was the cliff on the other side of the river. It was perfect height to jump off of, because the water was deep and the cliff was cut straight. The day was about to get a lot more exciting.
Everyone swam across, and our GoPros were turned on to videotape everyone jumping. I climbed up the hill, shivering at the cold wind. One of the older teenagers jumped, doing a flip into the cold water. I ran towards the edge and then paused, afraid to jump. Eventually, I leaped out away from the cliff, plummeting towards the cold, dark water. Adrenaline pounded in my head, my heart in my throat, exhilaration filling my body. A splash echoed as I hit the water, plugging my nose. One of my Crocs floated off, away from my body, so I swam towards it, smile plastered to my face. We kept jumping for a while, a mixture of tricks and laughs. I no longer cared about the risks; the adrenaline and fun overwhelmed my better decision-making skills.
My friend and I were going to jump off at the same time. We let a couple of people go first, so we could line up the jump. We had the videotape rolling and ran towards the edge. In all our jumps we hadn’t bothered to worry about the wet cliff edge and how slippery it was. As I jumped, my right leg skidded over the rock. Time slowed down as my hip hit the rock and went crashing down towards the water like a ragdoll, my stomach shooting up towards my mouth. When I was underwater, it felt as if time itself was suspended entirely. I bobbed below the water, unable to muster the energy to push to the surface, breath trapped in my chest. When I came up to the surface, my hip was bleeding from where it brushed the rock, and everyone in my group was herding around me, worried. I reassured them I was fine, nothing happened. They told me I was lucky I didn’t hit my head, and I knew that. Had I hit my head, the trip could’ve ended up a lot worse. I didn’t go back to jumping off the cliff, instead content to tread water, trying not to wince at my aching body.
The BWCA is an amazing place that has given me some awesome memories. It also taught me a major lesson. I learned I am not invincible, far from it. Teenagers are very reckless, thinking that nothing will hurt them, that every statistic is just “everybody else”. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own life. I nearly died way up north, hours from professional medical care. While I still take risks, I have avoided any ones that had the potential to take my life, because life is precious. The next time I go to the Boundary Water Canoe Area, I bet I won’t be beaten by a cliff.