Superior Forest Camping Threatened by Wildfires

Divide Lake

I should have written this blog post back in July. If I had, it would be a dance in the forest story about a camping trip and the campsite Steve and I found on Divide Lake, near Isabella, Minnesota. As of this writing, the campground we stayed at is closed because of the Greenwood Fire in the area. Last I checked, the fire had spread to almost 26,000 acres. Lightning strikes started additional smaller fires as well.  

To help the firefighters, sheriffs, and park personnel who need to concentrate on fire fighting and not on monitoring campers or search and rescue, the campgrounds, the Boundary Water area, and much of the Superior State Forest have been evacuated and closed off. The Forest Service is doing an amazing job at not only fighting the fire but informing and updating the surrounding community about their efforts. As with most wildfires, the conditions change rapidly.

But before the drought became so severe and the fires started, we went camping. It was another test run of my Ford Transit Connect van camping setup. The additions from my first run included Steve and the tent he slept in (not enough room for two in the van), a small refrigerator, solar panels to run the refrigerator, and a small pop-up screen tent, which was much appreciated for sitting outside free from the mosquitos who were bent on bloodshed.

Van setup for camping
camping site
At far right is screen tent, Steve’s tent is left of middle, van is at left, lake is through the trees

We were so lucky to arrive at the small campground (only 3 campsites) and find a prime spot on Divide Lake. Loons serenaded us both day and night—so haunting and lovely. In contrast, a hungry baby Kingfisher produced punk rock screeches and screams. His mom was having a heck of time bringing him food, as the branch he perched on was not sturdy enough for her to land, and the baby was a poor catch. 

While walking around holding my phone up for a signal, I heard something that was a mix between a cat growl and a cow’s moo coming from the trees. Weird… I assumed it had to be a crow, but the size of the bird had the heft of a raven.

Other nature we saw included cranes, lots of frogs, small fish swimming around the rocks (I think they were trout), the mischievous red squirrels, butterflies, clouds of dragonflies, and a few leeches (who brought back unpleasant childhood memories of my parents salting the black blobs to get them to let go of my legs and toes).

Divide Lake

Temperatures dropped into the low fifties (F) at night, which was good sleeping weather. In the morning, there was fog over the lake, which still held the sun from the day before. The fog, along with the loon calls, made a perfect scene for ghost story imaginings as I drank my cup of coffee while sitting by the lake.  

fog over Divide Lake

The area where we camped did not have hiking trails exactly. There was one path around the lake that was only about two miles long. The trail narrowed in spots, nearly disappearing into the overgrowth. The exposed roots, foot grabbing vines, sliding rocks, and ups and downs of our walk made me glad I had brought my trekking poles. The views and the lack of human noise on the trail were stunning. 

hiking with a dog

It was hot the last day we camped. After our walk around the lake, we wanted to take a shower to wash off that icky, itchy mosquito bite, sweat, and bug spray feeling. We’d brought a shower bag you fill with water and set in the sun to warm (it actually does get comfortably warm). I’d thought we could use the small porta-potti tent to shower inside, but there was nothing sturdy enough to hang the bag of water. So we hooked the bag on the van’s open back door and crouched under the nozzle inside the porta-potti tent. The contortions required would have made a funny video. I quickly added Figure out a better way to take a shower to my camping list of things to improve.

Hopefully, next year we can return to this area and see portions untouched by fire and the start of new growth amongst the burn. I dream of something similar in our human lives. Let there be spaces untouched by the past couple years, and where you’ve experienced loss and grief, may you also find renewal.

hiking with a dog around Divide Lake

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