They're called classics for a reason. These are the journeys with the epic landscapes, wild animals, and wilder cultures that challenge you to contend with circumstances beyond your control. They're trips with the power to change your life.
Paddling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (Minnesota)
The fur-trapping voyageurs didn't pack freeze-dried stroganoff when they plied the lakes of the Boundary Waters, and you'd be wise to follow their example. Within the endless chains of lakes set in a million square acres of dense birch and pine forest in northern Minnesota – the country's prime canoe-tripping region – there should be no problem keeping your posse fed with a fishing permit, a few choice jigs, and a filet knife, especially on the classic Knife Lake Loop. Set out for a week's paddle – September is a great time to avoid crowds – on the 30-to-50-mile, 29-lake route at the Snowbank access point in the Superior National Forest 20 miles northeast of the town of Ely (from $32 for a camping permit at BWCAW Permit Reservation Center). Battle the north wind across the big waters of Thomas Lake and quietly troll the deeps beneath the stained black cliffs of Kekakabic for lake trout before pitching camp on the banks of Knife Lake, a massive body of water separating the U.S. and Canuckistan. Spend your layover days casting the big lake for smallmouth, pike, and walleye, or try your luck on smaller nearby gems like Cherry or Star, where you may run into a moose or a black bear. Make sure to pack light, opt for a featherweight Kevlar canoe, and leave the cooler of Schlitz at home – the key to the Boundary Waters is portaging, humping your boat and gear between lakes on muddy and rocky trails that range from a few feet up to a mile long. Note: The Knife Lake Loop has 28 burly carries.
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