A Boundary Waters Bachelorette Bash
For many brides-to-be, the bachelorette party destination is one of the easiest decisions in the wedding planning process. Pick a city with a happening downtown and a sunny brunch spot, pack some going-out clothes and hangover remedies, call up your squad, and you’re set.
I always knew that when my turn came around, we’d do things differently. Instead of heels and little black dresses, we’d pack Chacos and swimsuits, and our transportation would be not a party bus, but a party barge—that is, a big old canoe.
Last winter, with an engagement ring freshly planted on my finger, I set about planning my bachelorette party. In excited phone conversations that spanned separate coasts, my maid-of-honor and I planned our route. It was perfect: we’d return to the Northwoods of our youth to celebrate one of life’s biggest milestones.
I didn’t want to mark the occasion under the lights of a trendy city. I wanted to be with my best friends in the place that had always been a part of my heart: The Boundary Waters.
I grew up in Grand Marais, a gateway to the country’s most pristine wilderness. Life was blueberry-stained fingers, mosquito-bitten shoulders, and bright pink thighs earned from sunny afternoons in a canoe. As kids, my parents would take us to ‘the lake’— and in a state of 11,842, there were plenty to explore.
As a teenager, the BWCA was where my friends and I went to escape the injustices of growing up. We lived on pounds of trail mix and our swimsuits were never given the chance to dry. Even after I left for college, I’d faithfully return each summer. After being away, I appreciated the magic of the BWCA more than ever.
When my now-husband, a born-and-raised Washington, D.C. man, first traveled to Minnesota to meet my parents and my hometown, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to the BWCA. His mother cautioned that this might be the end of us. Three days camping in a remote wilderness with hungry mosquitoes and none of life’s comforts might be a challenge for a new couple. Little did she (or any of us, really) know that two years later we’d be married under the same late-summer Minnesota sky.
But before that date, in the middle of a flurry of decisions, budgeting, and wedding preparation, I got to press pause, leave the world behind, and set out for an adventure with my bridesmaids.
* * * *
It was a cloudless July day when the five of us and our packs somehow managed to fit into one canoe and we took off from Round Lake. At the stern was Shelbs, my maid of honor, the trip planner and the only one who could be trusted to steer our Party Barge.
Shelbs, whose freckled face is in most of my BWCA highlight reels, grew up on “The Trail” and is just as adept at steering her friends through life’s ups and downs as she is the squiggly lines of a Fisher map. Next came Alexis, who can make anything feel like a funny adventure, from an on-trail allergic reaction to a lost bag of tent poles. Sharing the next seat were my cousins (but more like sisters) Ruby and Rose, newcomers to the BWCA but constants in my 24 years of life. I sat at the bow, thinking there was no place I’d rather be.
Our destination was just a few portages away, so we were there by noon to secure the best campsite. We swapped our clothing for swimsuits, set up our tent and hammocks, and spent the rest of the afternoon in the immaculate water of a lake that was completely ours. Later, we poured gin and tonics from Nalgene bottles and enjoyed a moody sunset from the viewing rock of our island.
In the morning, a hardy duo of mothers surprised us by canoeing in with a gourmet breakfast of cold mimosas and World’s Best Donuts. My mom headed the canoe with a homemade veil dancing in the breeze. Full off donuts and sunshine, we all jumped in for the first swim of the day, delighting in the ice-cold water.
The day ahead was completely unplanned and beautifully carefree.
This is one of the best parts about being in the BWCA: a day can pass in which you have nothing really to do, and it ends up being the best day ever. We swam. We napped. We read. We explored. We hammocked. We played cards. We soaked up the beauty around us and we talked.
We talked about in-laws, first dances, cake flavors, and honeymoons. We talked about jobs and plans and families. About memories. Faith. Relationships.
When our stomachs growled, we built a fire, which shooed away the bugs and tickled our sunburn. We filled ourselves on charred brats and a water bottle full of red wine. With s’mores assembled, we sat together and watched the sky change colors as the sun dripped from the sky.
A few days later, we’d return to the rigors and routines of our everyday lives, but there on our lake, nothing mattered but the sun rising and setting, and the memories we could make in between.
Along with saying ‘yes’ when my husband got down on one knee, taking this trip with my best friends was among the best decisions I made last year. It’s become yet another vibrant story in my BWCA memory book, and I am forever grateful to have such a beautiful setting as the backdrop to the pivotal times in my life.
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