Thursday, July 12, 2007
I’ve been busy getting ready for my yearly BWCA trip. It is my big vacation. It is the place where I feel the most powerful and grounded.
For those of you who aren’t from Minnesota and aren’t familiar with it, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA or BWCAW, sometimes referred to as the bee-dub) is a 1.09 million acre wilderness area within the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota and is under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service. The BWCA is renowned as a destination for both canoeing and fishing, and is the most visited wilderness in the United States. Motors are not allowed, so the only way around this vast wilderness is paddling in a canoe. (or kayak)
I’ve been going to the BW since I was a kid. My dad introduced me to it, taking my siblings and me as little kids and teaching us how to love that place. I am the only child to continue the adventures as an adult. Every summer for the last 12 years, I have gone with a group of women and spend a week there. The group changes each year. There are three of us that are the “core” group, and we bring another 1, 2, or 3 women each summer. This summer there will be 5 of us going, as well as Dixie.
There are “entry points” on the eastern and western side of the BW. A permit is required to enter at these points during the summer. I apply for our permit in January. As it is a protected wilderness, a limited number of people are allowed to enter at each point every day.
The trip that we take involves moving every day. We pack up our sleeping bags, tents, and equipment each morning, and journey to a new lake and new campsite. Campsites are designated by red dots on the maps, and include a fire grate and a box latrine. Some days our journey is long, other days it is medium. We paddle the length of lakes and then unload our canoes and carry all of our packs and canoes over a portage to another lake. Sometimes we do 8-10 portages/lakes per day. Some portages are quite short—30 feet. Others can be up to a mile or mile and a half long. The paths are primitive and are challenging with elevation changes, rocky and uneven paths, swamps, and/or thick brush and trees.
We drink water from the lakes, sometimes using a water filter, and sometimes just dipping our cups in the middle of large lakes. We eat dehydrated foods, and cook over a stove fueled by tiny propane tanks. We swim, we see animals, and we have peace and quiet.
Having diabetes happens to complicate this adventure.
I pack insulin in Frio pouches to keep it cool. I bring long acting insulin and syringes in case I have a pump malfunction. I require all members of the group to carry GU for me. I test tons. I check my blood sugar every night before we hang our food pack in a tree, just in case I’m low and need to have a quick snack. I’ve gotten low before, when the pack is already up the tree, and it’s a pain to have to untie and get it back down. I pack all the food, and I’m always guilty of packing way more than we need. It’s the diabetic in me—worrying about whether there is enough to keep me safe. I change my pump sites with the aid of friends holding pieces of equipment so I don’t have to put delicate supplies on the ground.
I emailed my doctor earlier this week asking her to call in a refill for my glucagon and levemir prescriptions. (and directions of how on earth to dose levemir) For safety, I always bring two glucagon kits. Being 20 miles by canoe from the car, and another 30 miles from a town requires preparations like that. I went to pick up the meds, and the pharmacy tech said “that will be $172.67.” What!?! My copay is $14. That can’t be right. The pharmacist came over to tell me that it wasn’t covered because it was deemed a “diagnostic test.” What?!? I told them that I didn’t want it if I had to pay full price. I called the insurance company today. The lady on the other end said that my insurance wouldn’t cover “formularies.” (meaning “name brand”) I asked her what the generic equivalent was. She said that there wasn’t one. Hmmm, then why wouldn’t it be covered. She told me that I needed to call my doctor to get a “formulary exemption.” Seriously. What a joke. Needless to say I sent another email to the doc today asking for that exemption. I’m going to be in the wilderness, for crying out loud. Far away from medical care. It’s not a luxury item.
The good news is that I leave for the trip on my birthday. What a great way to celebrate.
Dixie will be coming on the trip. She likes riding in the canoe and sleeping in a tent. Let's be honest... a dog living in the wilderness for a week. It probably can't get any better for her.
Last summer, on the sixth day of our adventure, Dixie ran off (she wasn’t on a leash) midway through a portage. When we realized that she was missing, it started storming like crazy. We called and called for her. We ripped through the woods trying to find her. She didn’t come.
It got late and my friends told me that I had to go to a campsite and continue the search the next day. I don’t really even remember how I paddled away from that portage. I layed awake that night, praying that I would find Dixie, praying that I wouldn’t have to leave her to die alone.
The next morning four of us went back to the portage and continued looking. Two other women paddled their canoe around the big lake looking for her. A couple hours later, their canoe pulled to the portage where I stood, and Dixie was in the middle of the canoe. She was exhausted and covered in scratches. She had traveled over six miles and was found by a counselor working with Voyageur Outward Bound campers. It was a miracle.
Dixie will be on a leash the entire time.
But, as you can probably expect, I am nervous about it.
(The picture above is Dixie and me finishing a portage last year. She has her pack on that she carries her food in, and I have a canoe above my head with a pack on my back.)