“George Strait nailed it in his song “The Best Day” when he sang,
When you’re seven you’re in Seventh Heaven
When you’re goin’ campin’ in the wild outdoors…
In 1980, I was almost seven and I was going camping in the wild outdoors with my dad. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I was going to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Dad had taken me canoeing and camping many times before. I knew how to paddle and set-up my tent, and I knew there were things you never do; don’t take or cut what you don’t need, don’t bring food in the tent, keep dry stuff dry and pack out what you bring in. Leave no trace. It wasn’t until later that I appreciated, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” as Dad would say.
Pictures and stories supplement my memories of that first trip more than they should. I’ll be 45 in the fall and I’m hoping to take my dad and my son back to the BWCA. We’ve made return trips before, but I wonder how many more we’ll get. The BWCA has become my Eden. It’s where I find my place again. It’s the home of smells and sounds that take me back to 1980, and it’s the place I hope my grandkids find their Seventh Heaven.
Dad didn’t buy a lot of stuff back then. To be honest, he couldn’t afford to. What he did buy, he bought right. Perhaps that’s why he bought the good stoves and lanterns. It’s exactly why he bought an Old Town Tripper and Duluth Pack. I accepted that they were right, for it’s all I knew, but later appreciated the quality when Dad’s equipment became my equipment. It’s now the equipment I rely on when I take my own wife and kids on the water.
Call me a traditionalist or sentimental, but I think it’s those first trips to BWCA that instilled in me the love of wood, canvas, and wool. Still today I prefer a wool hat, shirt, or socks over the newest moisture wicking clothing. I still like the feel of a wooden paddle, especially when I’m in the old Tripper, and a quality canvas bag always catches my eye. Thou shalt not covet; I sin, I admit.
While cleaning the garage and before making a trip to the recycling center my wife unpacked a bin and said, “what’s this?” The duct-taped bin had been moved cross-country many times with the contents
intact. When I turned around to look I never expected the sight. I saw 1980 in her hands. I was speechless. She had found what I thought was lost: My Dad’s #3 Duluth Pack. It had carried his old dutch oven, cooking stove, mess kits, and lanterns across the BWCA and other waters so many times. It was a staple in our canoe for years and made multiple trips to the BWCA, but I thought it had been lost.
The old pack’s leather straps were dried and cracked, and the corners are a bit stressed. The hole left behind by a hungry tree-climbing BWCA ground squirrel is still in the top. Thanks to that little critter I got extra pancakes that morning. It still smells the same and feels the same. It’s absolutely perfect.
I brought the old pack into the house and treated the leather straps with some Neatsfoot Oil. I thought about sewing a BWCA patch over the
hole but reconsidered — some scars are trophies and worth showing off.
My son and I now use the pack once again. We’re likely to be found on the Harpeth River south of Nashville, Tennessee, more often than in my Eden of the BWCA in Minnesota, but our Old Towns still carry a Duluth Pack. As Dad said, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
What you made in the ‘70s is now carrying my present and future. Dad laughed when I called and told him about my find, but he also made me promise to bring it with me this spring when we paddle together again.
Thank you for reading this story and for making such a quality pack. Thanks to your gear, it’s easy to keep that promise.” – Gerald Cook
Sending our thanks and gratitude for sharing your story with us all, Gerald. We hope your Duluth Pack continues to carry you on many BWCA adventures and while making many more memories with your son.
If you have a similar story to share with us, please do! These are among our very favorite messages to receive. Visit https://www.duluthpack.com/about-us/share-your-story to write to us! #PersonBehindThePack