Boundary Waters, bear, bike chain

The Boundary Waters is a National Park in northern Minnesota that encompasses over a million acres of wilderness. No motorized vehicles are permitted. Transportation is by canoe and trips are arranged that jump from lake to lake by portaging over short trails.

Upon being graduated from High School, I convinced three friends of mine to take a trip. Paul Brailey, Matt Pendleton, Kurt Young, and I decided on taking a road trip. We planned to drive up to Ely, Minnesota where we would then rent canoes and spend a week in the wilderness.

The trip involved taking Matt’s dad’s station wagon. On the departure day, we loaded the car with our supplies and got ready to leave. The car started making an awful noise and a vibration. We crawled underneath and noticed that the support for the transmission was busted. This support held the transmission in place. Without it, the transmission torqued over to the side of the transmission tunnel and grinded against the side. The repair was simple; it required replacing the support. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and Auto parts stores were not open on Sundays back then.

Kurt had a fabulous idea. He wrapped a bicycle chain around the transmission and tied it to the car frame. The torque of the engine would push the transmission against the chain, but it kept it from hitting the transmission tunnel. Problem solved. We learned later that Matt’s dad would have put a veto on the trip if he had known what we did. Luckily, we didn’t consult. We drove twelve hours up to northern Minnesota without a hitch.

We rented two canoes and set out. The trip was fabulous. We saw Bald Eagles and enjoyed being away from society. Nights were warm and therefore we made a fire at the campsite and spread out our sleeping bag in a line. The mice kept climbing into our food pack, so we grabbed some paracord and hanged the pack from a limb. This did little to stop the mice as they just ran up and down the paracord.

In the middle of the night, I heard something. Matt said, “What was that?” I grabbed my flash light and pointed it toward the backpacks. There was a big brown bear sniffing around the pack. He grabbed the pocket on the side of the pack and ripped it off. Someone had a candy bar in their pack, and it became bear food. Then the bear focused on the food pack. Unfortunately, we did not hang it out of reach. The bear pulled on it and then let it go. It sprang away and then bounced back at the bear. He kept batting at it like a punching bag. Finally, he pulled and pulled until the bottom of the bag tore off. The bear grabbed something and ran into the woods.

We took advantage of the opportunity, jumped into our canoes, and paddled out into the lake. There we were, in our underwear, shining our flashlights on the camp looking for the bear. This became tiresome quickly. We paddled back in and stoked up the fire. Intermittently, the bear would saunter back into camp to continue his meal. After repeated episodes, our fear lessened, and our resolve increased. We started banging on pots and making noise to scare the bear away. This was all done while keeping the fire between us.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We drove home and replaced the transmission mount.