She is worth the extra effort, even paddling into wilderness

Visiting teaching our friend, Dorothy Powell, is worth extra effort - even if that effort includes a 300-mile round trip drive and a 12-mile paddle by canoe.

Sister Powell owns and operates Chippewa Inn on Red Pine Island in the Canadian wilderness in Ontario. The island is on Saganaga Lake, more than 100 miles from Duluth, Minn. She is a member of our stake, the Duluth Minnesota Stake, which reaches south from Barron, Wis., 320 miles north to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and from Ashland, Wis., on the east to Brainerd, Minn., 190 miles to the west.Once a year for three years now, a group of us travel by car and then by canoe in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) on Saganaga Lake to visit Sister Powell. During the other 11 months of the year, we keep in contact with her by mail since she does not have a telephone.

Our third annual trip began as we gathered very early one Monday morning in July on the north shore of Lake Superior, a few miles northeast of Duluth. Our group of nine sisters ranged in ages from 40 to 71, with the majority of us qualifying as senior citizens. Seven of us including me, Kathy Broad, Sue Moon, Velda Peterson, Elizabeth Brown, Darlene Howard and Eula Stevenson are from the Duluth stake. Mae Aho is a former member of the Duluth Ward, and Elizabeth Jensen, a friend from Utah, is a BWCA guide in the summer.

For each of us, this trip together each summer has been a time of bonding as sisters, personal growth, spiritual renewal, a welcome change of pace, a feast of nature for our eyes and ears and, most important, our trip to Chippewa Inn to see our friend, Sister Powell.

Excitedly we greeted one another for the 100-mile drive along the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior to the small fishing and resort town of Grand Marais, Minn., about 120 miles northeast of Duluth.

After stopping there briefly to obtain our permit to enter the BWCA, we turned north and continued for 55 miles to our point of entry into the BWCA on the Sea Gull River. From there, we traveled in three canoes down the Sea Gull River and into Saganaga Lake.

One sister paddled from the bow while another sat in the stern to paddle and steer the canoe. A third sister sat in the middle of the canoe between them. With a map and compass in hand, she was a navigator. This allowed for a rotation of resting times.

When we made the required stop at Canadian Customs to declare our intention to visit Sister Powell we were within sight of her Chippewa Inn. Within a few minutes we reached her dock, tied our canoes and walked up the path where Sister Powell met us on her porch.

Sister Powell and her husband, Bill, built a resort for fishermen and other vacationers in the Canadian wilderness many years ago. They later built Chippewa Inn. Now widowed, she operates the inn with the help of her son, Dick, and his wife, Sherry.

Sister Powell's husband was of native American heritage. She told us that Saganaga means "lake with many islands" in the Chippewa language.

Her bright eyes and ready smile were a pleasure to watch as we visited with her about the gospel and her life on the island.

The Powells have a shortwave radio for emergency calls. Virtually all contact with the mainland is through the mail, which is brought to the island by boat in the summer and snowmobile in the winter.

Despite almost 60 years of living away from organized Church activities, Sister Powell has a strong testimony of the gospel. This was evident as she spoke of the family history research she is doing and her scripture reading. Each year she reads a different book of scripture, much as we do in our Sunday School classes.

"I enjoy the Church and its books," she said, "and I find so much comfort in a good prayer many times each day."

She mails her tithing in yearly and observes the Word of Wisdom.

Once in awhile, a member of the Church visits her inn. While we were there in 1993, a guest at the inn noticed a BYU water bottle one of our group was carrying. He overheard us greet Sister Powell as her visiting teachers. We found out that he was an LDS priesthood holder and although he has been to Sister Powell's inn before, he did not know - until now - that she was a member of the Church.

She was only 13 years old when her family joined the Church in Tower, Minn. She and all the older children in her family were baptized at that time. She remembers that her father put away his pipe, and the coffee pot no longer brewed coffee.

Now 80 years old, Sister Powell seems to enjoy our visit each year. This summer, she proudly told us about her twin granddaughters, Paula and Laura, who have grown up on the island. This past winter they lived in Grand Marais while going to high school.

Sister Powell has written a book, Indian Stories as They Were Told to Me. "Now these are true stories; they are not fairy tales," she said.

As we said goodbye to Sister Powell at the end of our stay, we offered a prayer for our safe travel home and for the Lord to bless our friend's home and family. As I looked up through misty eyes, I thought I saw tears in her eyes also.

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