Archive for Wednesday, August 1, 2007

McLouth resident takes canoe trip to Canada

August 1, 2007

-- Editor's note: This article is included as part of the series of "Summer Sportos," an interactive feature detailing memorable summer sports vacations by Tonganoxie residents.

Nancy Smelser has to restrain her temptation for picking wild blueberries when she takes canoeing trips to Canada.

"You have to be careful and watch," the McLouth resident said. "Bears like blueberries, too."

Fortunately, Smelser, 54, hasn't had any run-ins with bears on her canoeing trips to the Boundary Waters, which border Minnesota and Ontario, Canada.

This week, Smelser will be part of a reunion for the Lawrence-based Mariner Girl Scouts Troop 660, which has existed for 50 years. Smelser, along with Lawrence residents Margaret Verhage and Lucy Remple McAllister, drove Sunday to Minnesota. They will meet other Girl Scouts from Texas, Florida, Minnesota and Washington. Salina resident Linda Davis also will make the trip.

The Girl Scouts will begin their five-day canoeing trip in Ely, Minn., on Moose Lake. They'll camp at various places along the trail to Canada.

Smelser has canoed on the Boundary Waters about five times in the past, but hasn't visited the waters in three years.

Obviously, the canoes won't have motors. Each canoe will have three people inside. Paddling at length is an expectation.

"If you want to get any kind of distance, you have to paddle all day long," Smelser said. "It's a very physical activity. It's just something that you either love or you don't."

Smelser prepared for the trip by working out at a women's fitness center.

"I'm sure the first morning we crawl out of those sleeping bags, it will come as a shock," Smelser said about the physicality of the trip. "We all might learn something new about ourselves."

Smelser has an athletic family. Her children are cross country runners and her husband runs in marathons.

The Girl Scouts also will have to be practical in their trip. All items they bring on board the canoe will have to be carried throughout the trip. The Girl Scouts will occasionally hike in between lakes.

Smelser said the group would carry dehydrated food, like scrambled eggs, and cook it along the way.

Candy, chewing gum and toothpaste are not recommended because bears can smell it. Smelser said some Girl Scouts will use baking soda for their teeth during the week.

Since it's a wilderness area, the Girl Scouts won't have to bring water on board.

"Most of the water is clean," Smelser said. "We'll carry water purification kits, scoop up the lake water and run it through a filter."

The trip will be a sightseeing opportunity for the Girl Scouts as well. The water and the surrounding land are often beautiful, scenic areas, Smelser said.

"There was this one lake where the water was a beautiful amber color," Smelser said. "It wasn't just a clear blue. There's also beautiful pine trees. The country is really pretty."

The weather will be unpredictable for the Girl Scouts, particularly at night.

"The water's very cold, so you have to prepare for that," Smelser said. "Some nights could get down in the 30s. We just plan on going for the canoe trip and getting together to have a good time."

-- If you've been to an MLB park, an NBA arena, a pro tennis match, a pro soccer match, etc. this summer, we want to hear from you. E-mail a description and photo of your sports vacation to sports editor Eric Sorrentino at

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