Boundary Waters, Part 3: Memory of Sounds

Sonya is all her mustache glory.

by Sara Aranda

[If you haven’t, read Part 1, Part 2]

07.02.17 – Lipstick

We sleep in, again. Over 12 hours. The sun is out, clothes have mostly dried, and we’re starving. Thankfully the wind helps keep the mosquitoes to a minimum.

Hatie throws steel cut oats into the pot, chocolate chips, butterscotch bits, and dried cranberries. Toasts it all up for granola but the oats only work our jaws stiff. The sugar, though, is amazing.

We decide to do a short paddle to the nearby falls at the portage. It’s more or less a break between the lakes, where one spills into the other, spread out over a few boulders. It’s gorgeous out. Today is also our lipstick day and I’m reminded as to why I don’t like wearing it – it gets everywhere. Hatie wears purple, Sonya, teal, me, red. But despite my reddening fingertips and the lipstick left on the rim of my Nalgene, we’re relishing in the joy of being women out here; we’ve come across several other parties, but not surprisingly, mostly men. Yet as the weekend continues, more families appear for the Holiday. We decide to keep our campsite for the remainder of our time here.

All our shoulders are sore. My feet incite anxiety when they get wet. Tired legs. Today is more or less a do-nothing day but my body is in a funk. I’m quiet. Almost somber. Energy low. Raging headache. I ask Hatie for some of her Advil. I’m in an endurance hangover, it seems. I don’t even want to expend the energy talking so I daydream about napping.

With all this sun the flies are out. But who cares, right? I finally had a bowel movement. The trouble here is, you squat and the mosquitoes are immediately trying to get a piece of your ass, thigh, or better yet, your vulva. I had been avoiding it thus far, truthfully, but I couldn’t justify it anymore.

Sonya sunbathes nude at some point during the day. We nap and eat and meander about camp. She talks about how confident she is when she’s naked, as if clothes are what hide and shame her. She’s an inspiring soul, bronze skin, bright eyes.

Wind over the water ripples the surface tension. Evening arrives quickly. Sonya asks if anyone wants to canoe around for sunset. I’ll go, I say. Hatie stays to read, and we launch. The wind dies. The water returns to glass. Bullfrogs murmur secrets from the reeds across the lake. We paddle into them, and the reed stalks sound like gentle rain as they slide across the sides of the boat.

Tomorrow is Sonya’s 25th birthday. The plan is to bake brownies over the campfire tonight. But when we return to shore, Hatie is hiding away in the tent. The mosquitoes are the worst we’ve seen and I quickly join her. Sonya, defiant at first, states, I’m going to make them myself then, but not even five minutes later she’s laughing and unzipping the tent. 

07.03.17 – Sonya’s Birthday, Memory of Sounds

Today we pack up and leave this wilderness. But my body has finally adjusted and I honestly feel ready for more. Sonya is happily dancing about camp. Yet for some reason she had the bright idea of combining the brownie mix with the pancake mix. It’s a disaster. The nonstick pan is coated in burnt batter and the pancakes turn into a weird, sugary scramble. But I eat it anyway. Sonya can’t stomach it and we end up dumping most of it in the trash.

The rest of the day is a peaceful blur, except for the ticks Sonya kept finding. We pack and portage and paddle and run into several parties both heading out for the 4th of July and heading in. We even run into the fellas that gave us directions the other night. Hatie brags about us as writers as we carry things across the last muddy portage. The older gentleman hangs back for me to catch up. I hear you write for Alpinist? he asks me. 

“Well I’m going to be a journalist for them at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show.”

“I really like Alpinist. I try to pick one up whenever I can,” he says, still in admiration. It felt good to be associated with such a powerful magazine. 

When it’s time to pack the car, ratchet straps over the canoe, and drive off, it’s bittersweet. Dogs play in the bushes before hopping into their respective cars. I settle into the back seat and eat some rice and bean leftovers. Sonya is fiending for Dairy Queen so that’s our next stop after dropping off the canoe to Hatie’s uncle. Ice cream and fried chicken for her birthday, she sits in the passenger seat with the windows down. I promptly fall asleep.

And later, when we’re back in Minneapolis, it’ll all feel so surreal. The orange cat will stare at me from the shoe rack by the back door, his paws curling as he purrs. I’ll sit and question, Where was I just now? From a water wilderness to an urban stronghold, my guts will be twisted. Hatie, back at her mom’s, will be trying not to sulk about using flavor corrector instead of iodine the whole weekend to treat her water. We’ll all be paranoid.

And when I spend time in Anne’s bathroom I’ll read some DIY feminist cyclist literature. I’ll follow Sonya and her boyfriend Dave and his boyfriend Carlton (who both flew in from Denver) to a bar and I’ll eat half the cherry bag. We’ll play card games until midnight. Stroll the streets. Lost to a tired daze while I’m missing home. I’ll watch all the people, stare at their tattoos and bike shorts. 

“For some reason wearing a tutu made more sense in the woods than it does here,” Sonya will say. And it will make sense. 

I’ll dream of Patrick. Remember the water. The endlessness of light. Smell like campfire. Itch from head to toe.  Take pleasure in the memory of sounds, the loons crooning lullabies as you sleep, the bullfrogs burping chatter into the reeds, the eagles screeching majesty, the grouse drumming seduction, paddles sloshing, insects humming, trees sighing, symphonies of birds, 

my own heavy eyelids pulsing with fatigue,

Hatie’s voice, Sonya’s laughter…

three writers in a tent, spilling story into song. 


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