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Boundary Waters in Autumn

The insect pests are gone, the crowds are down, and the weather is beautiful. Yellow aspen and poplars, red maples and sumacs, all amid a backdrop of green pine, spruce and fir. Fantastic photos! September and early October are a perfect time to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

The number of permits issued in September is almost one half the numbers issued in August. And once you get into October, the number of campers is so low that they no longer bother to put limits on the permits issued per entry. You still need to carry a permit, but you just stop and pick one up at an Issuing Station on your way to the water. (For permit reservations from May 1 to September 30, click on BWCA Permits.)

If you were unable to get a permit for your favorite entry point in August, try again in September. In September it is much easier to get your preferred entry and to find your favorite campsite unoccupied after a hard day's paddle. There's a good chance you will not see anyone at the portages and the silence of a border lake on a brisk autumn evening is incomparable - it will feel even more like wilderness. The later in the month you go, the more you get it for yourself! In fact, the last week of September and the first week of October are my weeks of choice.

Late in the season on the Canadian border it will get cool at night. Don't forget warm fleece tops and a wicking base layer. Keep your extremities warm with a wool hat, wool socks and gloves. Bring shorts (afternoons can still get warm) but base layer bottoms and quick-dry pants (not blue jeans) are important. Don't forget an insulating ground pad for under your sleeping bag. Basic air mattresses do not insulate, they pull heat away from you and bring cold air up from the ground. Not a good choice.

Days are shorter, so plan your routes accordingly. As always, my goal is to start early in the morning and stop early in the afternoon. Enjoy some time in camp! Go fishing or read a book. This time of year be sure you have spare batteries for your headlamp or flashlight, maybe a candle lantern for the tent. On October 1st, the sun sets at 6:48 pm in the BWCA.

Take time to build a campfire on your wilderness lake. Sit back and enjoy it all before the seasons shift again.

- Jim Lind