Unplugged and Off-the-Grid: Gearing Up (Part 1)

Recently, I introduced you to (or for many of you, reacquainted you with) Minnesota’s cabin culture.  In northern Minnesota, I dare say that Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) trips are woven into the region’s culture just as strongly.

Amazingly, in over 20 years of living “up north” we had yet to make it into the BWCA for a family camping trip.  With our oldest son approaching his senior year of high school, we made the time this summer for a short introduction to the famed pristine beauty.  Because we have always tent-camped while traveling by car, we were not unfamiliar with camping, but we needed a little help equipping us with the gear that is needed for the BWCA “camping by canoe” experience.  Thankfully, there are plenty of folks who make it their business to outfit individuals and families for such trips.   

BWCA hungry jack outfitter 6_19_13

Based on a friend’s recommendation, we worked with Hungry Jack Outfitters up the Gunflint Trail to outfit our family with both gear and food, and to suggest route options and entry points which met our needs and interests for the three nights we would be in the BWCA.   We made our reservations months in advance, due to the limited availability of permits allowing entry at each point on each date from May through September.

Image courtesy of Hungry Jack Outfitters, http://www.hjo.com

Upon our late afternoon arrival, we were greeted by owner Dave Seaton, who spent the next hour or so orienting us to our gear, and to the BWCA rules and regulations.  The remainder of our orientation (primarily addressing the canoe and paddles) would take place in the morning.  

Hungry Jack’s full outfitting package includes a night in their bunkhouse.  The furnishings are sparse, but comfortable, just a place to lay your head before hitting the water the next morning.  But, what a treat when you wake the next morning to a basket of muffins still warm from the oven delivered to your door!

BWCA hungry jack bunkhouse 6_19_13
Hungry Jack Outfitters’ bunkhouse

Hungry Jack Outfitters is situated on the shores of pretty Hungry Jack Lake. The sunset through the trees, viewed from the bunkhouse walkway, set the tone for the days that followed — and ended up being the only sunset we fully enjoyed, due to the heavy cloud cover and rain that persisted for most of our trip.

BWCA hungry jack bunkhouse view 6_19_13
The view from the bunkhouse toward Hungry Jack Lake

Before we turned in early, we drove back to the Gunflint Trail to enjoy a classic pre-trip meal at the Trail Center Bar & Restaurant.

BWCA trail center 6_19_13

Trail Center is the perfect spot for a cold beer with a hearty burger, in surroundings that are wonderfully relaxing and one-of-a-kind — a classic Northwoods establishment.

BWCA trail center 2 6_19_13

WIth the assurance that we had just consumed enough calories to sustain us over our three nights in the wilderness, in the event we lost our food pack along the way, we unrolled our sleeping bags on the bunkhouse beds and rested up for our adventure.

BWCA hungry jack sunset 2 6_19_13
Sunset on Hungry Jack Lake

Ciao! ~ Kat

Coming soon:  Part 2, Getting Our Paddles Wet

22 responses to “Unplugged and Off-the-Grid: Gearing Up (Part 1)”

  1. Gun Flint Trail lives on in my family from my Dad’s trips with my Uncle Tom and their stories of hammocks and a moose to my special trip with my Dad and 2 of my our friends in college to our family camping trips on the edge and picking amazing blueberries one year (filled up my thirst they were so plentiful). It is a place in my heart and mind’s eye as it will now in yours!


    • When we were deciding where to enter the BWCA we knew we wanted to go up the Gunflint, even though the Ely area has its own special charm. Places like the Gunflint and BWCA have a special untouched wonder about them.


  2. Funny to see that you lived “up north” a couple decades before making it into the BWCA. I grew up in Texas and my dad picked that out for a destination camping trip (including portaging our canoe and supplies from lake to lake as necessary). I’ve never visited a more pristine or beautiful spot (at least not without mountains!) I hope it remains as unspoiled all these years later…


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