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August 2021 BWCA Retreat Recap

Highlights of our True Nature Discovery Women's Wilderness Retreat | By Jodi Middendorf


It was Thursday evening when our full BWCA retreat crew came together in person for the first time. Meeting online for weeks in anticipation of this trip meant we already were somewhat familiar with each other and were thrilled to see our adventure crew in real life. High energy, anticipation, and conversation quickly filled the yard we were stationed in. Soon we were filled with dinner, packed, and settled into chatting for the night.


Most of the group on a pre-trip preparedness webinar.


Sister-in-law duo, Cheryl & Shari, excited about their matching hats and packing skills.


Entering the Boundary Waters through Clearwater Lake is a treat for the soul. It is named Clearwater Lake for a reason, and it reminds us how pure the earth can be. We were in luck this trip, with the calmest waters I’ve ever experienced on this lake. The water was mirror-like. That was also a treat. Clearwater Lake is long, and wind in the wrong direction is sure to remind us how strong we can be, when we are determined to cross a lake.


Hoping for a campsite on the far end of the lake, we paddled our way swiftly to the end of Clearwater Lake. But we took breaks too! Frequent paddle-pauses are necessary to admire the bluffs, the palisades, the depths of the lake that you can see through crystal clear water, and the sounds of the loons. We were not able to secure a campsite at the end of Clearwater Lake. Sometimes you don’t get what you want in the Canoe Area Wilderness, and typically, what you end up with is better than what you wanted anyway.


Amy (front) and Sue enjoying the peace and calm offered on this overcast paddle.

Cheryl & Shari (left) and Jodi & Janey (right) paddling at the end of Clearwater Lake.


We decided to portage over to Caribou Lake to check for available campsites there. The 118 rod portage brought us to a point on Caribou Lake where you can see two campsites. One was open! We quickly snagged the campsite, set up camp, and began appreciating the lovely site.


We enjoyed the view of the small island directly in front of the site, and we especially enjoyed the loons that seemed drawn to that island. That first night at our campsite was a night we may all remember as a time we didn’t want to end. It was a quintessential camping evening, with a moon rising up over the island, a group of women laughing about silly things like bunions and latrines, and the sounds of the forest making us sleepy.


Cinder relaxing in Rachael's hammock after leading the group on the long and arduous portage.


Our little island! Rachael led yoga from out on the island.


Saturday was a big day: Johnson Falls! We woke up, prepped for a paddle (i.e. packed snacks, water, and towels), and set off for the day. Anyone who has visited Johnson Falls knows how magical it is. The waterfall feels like it is either straight from a fairy garden or Jurassic Park. It just depends on the weather and lighting of the day. We had the best of both worlds.


On our way over to the falls, it was cloudy, and a bit chilly. Perfect weather to make the falls seem like a scene in Jurassic Park. A dark scene with greenery and tree coverage around the waterfall. But the sun came out, peeked through the trees, and brought light into the forest-surrounded waterfall scene. Tunnels of light, resembling spotlights, brought a sparkle to the water and an inspiration for a warm waterfall swim; the kind of waterfall swim we romanticize about during Minnesota winters. None of us would have been surprised to see a fairy fly out from behind the waterfall. Not one bit.


Shari and Cheryl enjoying a refreshing dip in the falls.

Jodi, happy as an otter, swimming into the falls.

Johnson Falls, BWCA


After a swim in the water and a midday rest basking in the sun, we paddled our way back to our campsite for an evening of chatter, laughter, and some time specifically set aside to be quiet and still. Taking a bit of time to meditate, do yoga, or just sit quietly in the wilderness feels like medicine. Especially when surrounded by women who make you feel alive and at peace all at once.


The BWCA retreats have a way of bringing together some pretty awesome women. Women like you ;)




One of the awesome women on this retreat was Amy. Keep an eye out for Amy’s words about her own experience on this retreat in an upcoming blog feature!

Amy in the bow!


The best way to be the first to know about our retreat openings is by joining our waitlist!

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