BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

September 23 2017

Entry Point 23 - Mudro Lake

Mudro Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 19 miles. Three accesses into Mudro Lake involve portages ranging from 20–185 rods.Easiest access is from private la nd with parking fee.

Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1166 feet
Latitude: 48.0356
Longitude: -91.8301
On the Water- Monday July 20th-
On the water late considering how far we need to go today. Up the Horse river to the falls by 6pm. Started raining and NO campsites available. Mudrow-Alruss-Tin can Mike-Horse Lake-Horse River-Basswood. 13 miles by water. (not counting portages)

Tuesday July 21st-
Rain all night, all morning and all day. Went north by petroglyphs, table rock and the the Crocked Lake Narrows across Thursday bay to campsite. Basswood-Crooked Lake-Wednesday Bay-Thursday Bay. 11 miles in the rain.

Wednesday July 22nd-
Up early and calm winds to take advantage of, considering the big water we have to cross. Found beaver dam to lift over and did a portage from hell between Pandos lake and Chippewa Lake. VERY steep and slippery after rain. Many mud holes. Then the mile portage after Wagosh Lake to Gun Lake. Never saw another soul in a canoe or campsite the entire day! Thursday bay-Friday Bay-Pandos Lake-Chippewa Lake-Wagosh lake-Gun Lake. 11 miles by water.

Thursday July 23rd-
Finally had a dry night. got everything dry!!! A few portages today to Fourtown Lake campsite. Easy day by comparison. Gun Lake-Fairy Lake-Boot Lake-Fourtown Lake. 6 miles. Put the long miles at the first of the week for a buffer for contingencies!

Friday July 24th-
Last day. Stormed last night bad. A few portages today with one bad one between Fourtown Lake and Mudrow lake. To entry point by 1pm. Ready for a hot shower! 4 miles

Total-
45 miles by water
13 miles by portage (3 trips each)
58 miles total.

Pictorial Trip Report - My First Solo

by Ho Ho
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 09, 2011
Entry Point: Mudro Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
My first solo canoe trip.

Day 1 of 4


Prologue -

In early June, David had to make a trip back to Washington, D.C. for business. Since I was going to be "camping" by myself out on the Echo Trail while he was gone, I thought it would be a good time to take my first solo canoe trip, instead of hanging out alone at the cabin.

I had done a few solo backpacking trips back in my college days, but the last one was in 1983. And I had never done a solo canoe trip before. At the beginning of May, I got a Wenonah Prism. I had been honing my solo paddling skills and refining methods for solo portaging since then. As my trip approached, I felt comfortable with my solo ability as a matter of technique.

But I still wondered how I would do as a matter of psychology. For the past 27 years, David had been my partner on every camping trip I had gone on, sometimes with other people, most often just the two of us. Now I wasn't sure how I would like tripping without him. I knew I would enjoy some time alone in the great outdoors during the daytime. But I thought I might get irrationally creeped out camping alone at night.

Because I decided to take this trip late in the game, I didn't get online to find a permit until about a week ahead of time. Much to my amazement, a Mudro permit was still available for the date I wanted to start the trip - one of a handful of Mudro permits not already claimed for June, July or August. I snatched it up before someone else did and began looking at route possibilities.

We had traveled between Mudro and Lower Basswood Falls via Horse Lake and the Horse River a couple of times, so I focused on going in the direction of Fourtown Lake and beyond to explore some new territory. This area gave me a range of possibilities that I could choose from as I went. I was not necessarily looking for total solitude. Maybe I would decide to stop on Fourtown, a popular lake with quite a few campsites. More likely I would go to the lakes around Gun or beyond, where I thought I would still see other people, but not as many. The most ambitious scenario would be pushing on to Friday Bay via the Wagosh-Papoose route, or stopping on one of the little lakes with only one campsite in that direction. I was also intrigued by the Moosecamp River and read some trip reports about that area, including one by TomT where he traveled solo upriver and had to pull up and over a whole mess of beaver dams. I figured that would be easier going downstream, so I kept the river in mind as a possibility for the return trip to Fourtown, instead of outbound.

And with that background, the fateful day arrived.

Day 1 (Thursday, June 9, 2011) -

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I got up around 6:00 a.m. at the cabin, cooked a hearty breakfast, loaded up the Jeep, and hit the road right around 8:00. About 20 or 25 minutes later, I arrived at the Mudro parking lot -

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There were plenty of vehicles there, but I was the only person around at the moment. After unloading the gear, lashing various items into the canoe, etc., I started down the portage to Picket Creek about 8:40. A few minutes later I had the canoe loaded up and ready to go -

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It was a peaceful paddle down Picket Creek. The bog-stained waters of the creek harbor some sharp rocks hidden just below the surface, and there are also a few tight turns, which are not the Prism's strong suit. But I came through unscathed, and headed northeast on little Mudro Lake. As I approached the portages to Fourtown, a tandem canoe was coming in the other direction, the first people I had seen today. Around the same time, a Muskrat swam by, and a Common Yellowthroat sang from the marshy lake edge.

Soon I was at the first of three portages on the way to Fourtown. Looking back from the landing toward Mudro -

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There were a couple of groups coming and going here. I waited just offshore until there was some room, then asked the group that was loading up if I would be in their way if I started unloading. They said go ahead, and I did. This was a rocky landing, and was my first real test of unloading a canoe solo. David and I unload canoes while they are still floating in shallow water, without any part of the canoe up on land. When there are two of us, one person can steady the boat and ensure it doesn't float away, while the other pulls the heavy packs out. Going solo, I had to do both jobs simultaneously, which usually requires finding a place where enough of the canoe is lightly resting on something underwater (or maybe a sandy landing) so it stays put while I pull the packs out. As the trip went on, I found this was easier than I thought it would be.

I double portaged, carrying the heavier pack and some loose items across on the first trip, and then the other pack and the canoe on the second trip. On return trip between loads, I took pictures along the portage. This is similar to what David and I do on two-man trips, but required some small refinements like figuring out what to do with the PFD and the camera going it alone. I got the kinks worked out after a few portages.

The first portage to Fourtown is 34 rods, with a rough rocky tread paralleling a lovely rough rocky streambed. As I walked back between loads, a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos silently darted across the path. The landing at the far end of the portage was also rocky and required careful footing. This group of two couples had started a little before me, and we would see each other much of the morning -

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After loading up, it was a short paddle along a pleasant wide spot in the creek to the next portage. This picture looks back from the landing for the second portage across the pond to the first portage -

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The second portage weighs in at 125 rods. I had heard from several sources that it is the toughest in the area, with plenty of up and down, and sloping granite sections that are slippery when wet, which fortunately was not a problem today. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and thought it was comparable to many rugged Quetico portages (but not the most rugged ones). Unlike what's typical in Quetico, an effort had been made here to actually construct a portage path and prevent erosion, such as these stones shoring up the edge of the trail and providing good footing up this slope near the beginning -

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The path goes along some wonderful rock faces -

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As I progressed along the portage, I recognized the songs of Veeries, Hermit Thrushes, Robins, Winter Wrens, Cape May Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, Ovenbirds, Northern Parulas, White-throated Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Red-eyed Vireos. There was something about this steep and verdant creek valley that appealed to the songbirds as much as it appealed to me -

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Toward the north end of the portage the path went over several stretches of exposed, sloping granite. I was glad it wasn't raining -

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Getting close to the end -

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The final slope down to the northern landing -

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One of the women from the group just ahead of me was at the end of the portage when carried my first load across. I remarked to her that the portage was really nice, but I think she thought I was being ironic. Far from it. This excellent portage was starting my solo trip off right.

It had been about 45 degrees when I began paddling down Picket Creek this morning, but by now it was getting warm, probably in the high 50s, pleasant tshirt weather. After carrying the rest of my gear across the long portage, I loaded up the canoe for the very short paddle to the third and final portage into Fourtown. This picture is at the landing of the third portage, looking back at the granite slope at the end of the longer portage I had just completed -

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The third portage is only 15 rods. Low jagged cliffs loom across the creek from the trail -

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At the far end, the portage overlooks the marshy creek continuing toward Fourtown Lake -

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But first I had to get down there with my canoe and gear. Although not completely evident from this picture, it is a 20 or 25 foot drop directly down the rock face to the landing below -

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At this point the various groups who had been portaging in both directions this whole time had vanished. So I had to figure out what to do, and then do it, on my own. I didn't think I could carry the canoe down the rocky drop-off. So after getting my packs down there, I lowered the canoe vertically. This would not be hard with two people, one at the top lowering the canoe, and one below to receive it. By myself, however, I had to lower the canoe from above, then hold it in place as I scooted myself down the slope, so I could guide the canoe into the water from below. I'm not sure it was the most elegant maneuver. But it worked. Soon I was loaded up and paddling down the final stretch of creek to Fourtown.

It was only around 11:30 when I finished the series of portages, but I was hungry and ready for lunch, and I thought I would stop at an empty campsite near the south end of Fourtown to eat. But even before I reached the first campsite, I came to a wide flat rock shelf that was perfect for a lunch break. I stopped there -

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While I was eating, a trio of Common Mergansers swam around the point and got out on the rock to preen -

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Exploring back from the lake, I found this Starflower -

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A picturesque rock islet sat just offshore -

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The view south, the direction I had come -

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And north, the direction I was going -

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I lingered at my lunch spot for almost an hour, then got back underway. I was really liking Fourtown Lake. But it was also a great travel day, so I decided to push a few portages deeper into the wilderness. Fourtown was not too busy given its beauty and proximity to the entry point. But there were still a number of groups traveling to and fro. In fact, minutes after I pulled away from my lunch site, I crossed paths again with the two couples who had been portaging just ahead of me on the way in. While I was having lunch, they were checking out all the sites in the area to set up a base camp, and were returning to the southernmost site because several of the better ones were already occupied.

As I paddled up the lake, the wind had picked up some. I was not yet comfortable stopping to take pictures from the canoe with a breeze blowing. In a two-man canoe, one guy can take pictures while the other keeps the canoe more or less where you want it. But in a solo, when you set down your paddle to get the camera out, you’re at the mercy of the wind and waves. As my comfort with solo traveling grew during the trip, so did my willingness to pull out the camera while on the water underway.

It took me about a half hour to paddle from lunch to the Boot Lake portage. Looking back from the portage at Fourtown -

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In contrast to the rocky portages I traversed into Fourtown, the rest of the portages I would cross today followed smooth and level paths. This 43-rodder led to a marshy bay on Boot Lake -

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I ran into three younger guys on the portage, traveling in the opposite direction as me. When I went back to the Fourtown end to get the rest of my gear, these guys were doing a photo shoot of the dramatic boulders there, which I also wanted to photograph -

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Paddling up Boot Lake, I paused to take a few pictures of an island -

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And the shoreline -

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Although there were a couple of canoes beneath some cliffs on the west side of Boot, none of the five campsites on the lake was occupied. But I wasn't ready to stop and kept going toward the portage to Fairy Lake. This marshy shoreline is next to the Boot end of the portage -

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Nineteen short rods later, I was looking out over Fairy Lake -

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No one else was in sight as I crossed Fairy, and its two campsites looked empty as well. But I thought I'd go one lake further, to Gun Lake. There were a number of wildflowers in bloom along the 53-rod portage from Fairy to Gun.

Bunchberry -

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Bluebead Lily -

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False Lily of the Valley -

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When I got to Gun after my first trip across, I could see the campsite across from the portage was occupied, and there were several canoes out on the water. But I didn't realize how busy the lake was. After I finished portaging, I got back on the water to look for a campsite.

Unfortunately, Gun Lake was pure pandemonium. There were people out in canoes everywhere, and each campsite I approached was heavily occupied. Several of the groups were wearing distinctive orange tshirts, and I figured they were mostly from the same organization. No more than 9 of them were gathered in any one place, so I guess they were abiding by the letter of the law. But when one organization sends multiple large groups to camp on a single lake that has five campsites, they do impair the wilderness experience for others (as well as themselves).

As someone who has mostly tripped in Quetico, this is the main negative I fear in the BWCA - traveling all day and having to worry about finding every campsite filled. After passing through two empty lakes, I had been feeling pretty good about this area of the BW. But now I was tired and ready to camp. So despite all the traffic on Gun, as I paddled toward the last possible site on the lake to see if it, too, was occupied, I would have camped there if it had been open. But alas, it was already taken too. There was no room at the inn on Gun Lake.

Where should I go next? I could backtrack to Fairy, with its two empty sites (or sites that were empty a little while ago); I could take the 33-rod portage to Gull; or I could take two portages over to Moosecamp. I didn't want to backtrack, and the route to Moosecamp was longer, so it was a pretty easy decision to go to Gull. Still, for the first time today, I felt the fact that I was soloing, and wished David were there to talk the options through. No such luck. I was on my own. So off to Gull I went.

It was a short paddle to the portage, and I got there a bit before 4:00. One of the reasons I was frustrated by not finding a campsite on Gun was that my energy reserves were low by now and I needed a snack. So even though the portage was only 33 rods, before I crossed it I pulled out some trail mix to fuel up. That helped a lot. And my mood brightened when I noticed this group of Pink (Stemless) Ladyslippers near the landing -

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Refortified, I carried my gear across the easy portage. As I went, I started to compose a narrative in my head about this moment, which is something I often find myself doing, especially if I'm alone. In my mental narrative, Gun Lake being full was a blessing in disguise, because it forced me to move on to Gull, where I found a beautiful campsite. Then I laughed at myself and said out loud, "don't write the narrative so soon, that's probably wishful thinking." With that in mind, I arrived at Gull Lake -

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From the portage, I could not see anyone out on the lake. And if I was looking at the right spot, it appeared that the first campsite was empty - although there could have been tents hidden away from shore. I loaded up the canoe and went to find out.

A few minutes later I was at the site. It was empty. And fantastic. A thousand times better than any of the campsites looked on Gun. This site had a great tent pad, beautiful pines that provided shade but were open to the breeze, a huge flat rock shelf right at water level to unload gear and loaf around, and a nice long granite point sticking into the lake for another loafing spot. My wishful thinking back on the portage had come true.

I claimed my home for the night, or maybe two nights. It was only 4:15, and with the long days of early June, I still had many hours of daylight left. So I decided to start with a dip in the lake to wash away the day's grime. This was my first swim of the year in canoe country. A few days earlier I had gone running on a warm sunny day and went down to our dock thinking I'd cool off with a swim. But that day the water was still too cold for this 50-year-old guy. A few more days of warm weather had remedied that, at least in the rocky shallows of Gull Lake. The swim felt great and perked me right up.

After getting out of the water, I basked on my flat rock for a while, letting the sun and light breeze dry me off. I'd encountered a few bugs on the portages earlier today, nothing too bad. Now there were none at all. A Ruffed Grouse drummed off and on nearby in the woods. All was good.

After a while I got dressed and set up camp. My tent site -

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After a bit, I decided I would probably stay at this site two nights. While I was paddling and portaging I did not feel like I was working any harder than on a two-man trip. But now I felt pretty bushed. Plus, the forecast this morning predicted possible rain tomorrow. The more ambitious plan of going up to Friday Bay via Wagosh and Papoose would have to wait for another trip. With a two-night stay in mind, and possible rain in the forecast, I set up the tarp, even though the weather was great right now -

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Here's the view back toward the campsite from the granite point - my tent and tarp are back in the trees, just hidden from view -

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Around 6:00 a few blackflies came out. I tucked in my pant legs and put on a long sleeve shirt. Self-portrait -

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For dinner I had homemade beef stew that I had prepared and frozen before the trip. As I was getting ready to cook it, I screwed the valve of my Dragonfly stove into the fuel canister and connected it to the stove. Then got distracted for a minute and went to do something else. When I came back, I found fuel leaked all over the rock beneath the stove. For a second I feared my valve was defective, despite having test run the stove just before the trip. Then I realized I just hadn't screwed the valve into the canister right. It's a good thing I'd been distracted away for a minute, or I might have lit the stove without noticing the leak, which could have been a recipe for disaster. As it was, I just had to move the stove, refasten the valve, and let the spilled fuel evaporate (one of the positives of white gas is that it evaporates easily). This was a good reminder to always doublecheck the stove connections before lighting.

As I was cooking my stew, I suddenly noticed people getting out of canoes on a rock outcropping at the far end of the lake. I didn't think there was a campsite in that area and wasn't sure what the group was doing or where they had come from. It was a large group, nine people with four canoes. About an hour later, they got back in the canoes and paddled north out of sight, toward the portage to Mudhole and Thunder. There were two campsites near the portage, hidden from my site. I guess the group was camped up there. I wondered what they were doing when they paddled over to the rock. Maybe they were trying to escape from the blackflies, which were getting thicker and thicker where there was no breeze.

I was taking my own measures against the blackflies. I don’t like to use bug juice unless I absolutely have to. Instead of chemicals, I put on the "portage burka" - a bandana hanging from a baseball cap to cover the nape of the neck and sides of the face. It works wonders. But the flies were still going for my neck on the front side. So I tied another bandana around my neck cowboy-style. I dubbed the resulting getup "beyond the burka" -

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After dinner and dishes, I stashed my food in the woods. I had decided to forgo hanging the foodpack on this trip. David usually sets up the bear rope, and it takes a long time. It was great not having to spend time on that task when I set up camp. Instead I opted to try "hiding" the food, away from camp and off of human and game trails. There was a balsam thicket a little ways back, and I found a good spot in the middle of it where I could dangle the foodpack from a stub on the side of the tree so it was off the ground.

Chores done, I settled down out on the point with a generous serving of Maker's Mark. The blackflies scattered as a cool south breeze picked up -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3710.jpg[/IMG]

It still felt like I had Gull Lake to myself, even if the big group was camped on the lake just out of sight. A couple times I could hear voices or a canoe banging from over on Gun. But it didn't disturb the peace at my site.

The local Loon pair yodeled, and a couple of Beavers swam around slapping their tails at me from all directions. I was enjoying my time alone. But I also missed sharing the time with David. When I trip with him, I never have any desire to contact the "outside world." But now I wanted at least to let him know I was doing fine. I had thought about taking a Spot along on this trip but decided against it. On future solo trips I think I will bring one.

None of this stopped me from feeling content and enjoying the beautiful evening as night fell -

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Sometime after 9:00 I retired to the tent. I read for a while (John McPhee's "The Crofter and the Laird"), then shut off the headlamp about 10:00.

Now I was alone in my tent at night in the wilderness. I felt at ease - except for some anxiety about my food stashed in the woods. One thing about hanging the foodpack, it provides peace of mind (at least when the ropes are set up right, which cannot always be achieved). Now every little scuffle and squawk in the woods caught my attention and kept me awake.

Then there was a loud explosion of wingbeats from a bird right by the tent. That got my heart racing. I wondered what it was. Maybe an owl - but they have wings specially adapted for silent flight. As I thought about that, there was another thunk in the woods. And so on.

I often enjoy lying awake in the tent listening to the sounds of the night. But now I wanted to get some sleep. Every time I came close to dozing off, another sound would wake me up. After a while I started to feel a little hungry. And my camping pillow - a new purchase for this trip that I thought I had earned by turning 50 - smelled faintly of coffee from being packed next to the breakfast bag during the day, which only sharpened my appetite.

This went on for a couple of hours. Sometime around midnight, I got up to take a leak. I got back in the tent, and finally fell into a deep sleep, alone on Gull Lake.

 



Day 2 of 4


Day 2 (Friday, June 10, 2011) -

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Once I got to sleep, I slept soundly until dawn - which is about 4:00 a.m. in the Northland this time of year. It was cold - the forecast had predicated lows in the high 30s. I pulled a fleece sweatshirt over my tshirt, adjusted my knit cap, tightened the opening of my mummy bag, and went back to sleep. I woke a few more times - once to another mysterious explosion of wings like the one that made my heart race last night - but kept going back to sleep. I had not gotten a lot of sleep the two previous nights, and I was in no hurry today, so I wanted to sleep as late as possible. Finally, about 7:30, I emerged from the tent.

I retrieved the foodpack from its "hiding place." It looked like it had not been touched, not even by a mouse. Then I spent a few hours just drinking coffee and thoroughly enjoying being lethargic. For this solo trip I got a new one-man Java Press that I really liked. It supplied me with great 16-ounce mugs of coffee. I had two mugs full - but they were half-caf so I wouldn't go into orbit.

While enjoying my cups o' joe, I confirmed my earlier decision to stay here another night and just chillax today. Maybe I would take a day trip up to Thunder and Beartrap later on. The weather was pretty nice at the moment, but recalling the forecast of possible rain this afternoon, I put the fly on the tent. When I was staking it in, I realized there was an old flattened pile of wolf scat right outside the door -

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As I was cooking and eating breakfast, the large group I had seen last night on the rock at the end of the lake started to paddle by -

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They were entertaining to watch, in part because they were not really the best paddlers and seemed to go every which way -

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I could also hear some of them speculating about where the portage to Gun was (it was right in front of them). Sometimes I marvel that people survive so well when they don't appear to have much idea what they are doing in the wilderness. Of course, sometimes this applies to me, too (as I would soon demonstrate trimming the canoe on my daytrip).

The birds continued to entertain. A Pileated Woodpecker obligingly flew to a nearby snag and drummed for a while when I was back enjoying the thunder box (such a nice amenity when you are used to digging your own in Quetico). Then a Yellow-rumped Warbler came by back there and sang on a branch just overhead for a while. Back out by the water, I was visited by a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, some Gray Jays, etc., while the thrushes, warblers, and vireos sang off in the woods.

It warmed up during the morning, probably into the low 60s, and the sun was mostly shining. So I decided to go for another dip before heading out on a daytrip. The water felt colder than last night, and it probably was, after the cool overnight temperatures. But it felt great once I got in, and I enjoyed basking on my rock for a while afterwards with Gull Lake to myself.

Finally, about noon, I ate an energy bar and set off in the direction of Thunder Lake. I had filled one of my packs with gear for the day, including all my food (I wasn't leaving it stashed in the woods during the day), my rain suit, a bunch of other spare clothes, and miscellaneous emergency or potentially useful stuff. I figured I could put the pack just in front of the front thwart, and trim the canoe by moving the seat all the way back. After all, I am a lot heavier than that gear. So I should have counterbalanced the pack even though I was a lot closer to the middle of the canoe.

Wrong. There was a moderately stiff tailwind blowing from the east when I launched to head west. With my pack up front, the stern of the canoe was riding high, where the wind tried to grab it and spin me around. I managed to keep the canoe going the way I wanted to go, but it wasn't easy, and clearly not a good set up. I would have to do something different after the first portage.

On my way to the portage, I noticed a big nest high in a pine near the rock face where the group had been last night. My present situation was ill-suited to paddle over for a closer look. So when I got to the portage, I pulled out my binoculars to see what I could see. There was a bird on the nest, but at this distance I could not tell if it was an Osprey, an Eagle, or something else -

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I resolved to get a closer look on the return trip. Then I set off across the 35-rod portage, which leads to a body of water with the enticing name of Mudhole Lake. Perhaps aptly, the portage to Mudhole is wet and a bit stinky at the Gull Lake end -

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But after the first short stretch it turns into a dry, level trail -

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Mudhole -

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I could have single portaged on this day trip. But I wanted to be able to take pictures along the trail. So I carried the pack across first and then went back for the canoe with camera in hand, just like when I have all my gear. This required further refinements from yesterday's portaging routine, such as figuring out what to with the camera when I was carrying just the canoe across. (Yesterday when I carried the canoe I also had a pack, which I could clip the camera onto). But I got it sorted out.

The next challenge was trying to improve the trim on the canoe. I figured I could experiment crossing Mudhole, since it was such a small lake. My problem would be solved if I could get the pack closer to the middle of the canoe. So I loaded the pack right in front of my seat - behind (not in front of) the front thwart and foot brace. 

I got in and paddled across Mudhole. The pack placement seemed to solve the trim problem. But it did not leave me a lot of leg room. Worse, when I got to the other side of the little lake, the pack left no place to maneuver my feet to maintain my balance as I exited the canoe, which nearly resulted in a dump. I would have to go back to the drawing board after the next portage, which would take me to Thunder Lake.

This picture looks out from the portage landing back at Mudhole -

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Like all the other portages since leaving Fourtown, the 65-rodder from Mudhole to Thunder was smooth and easy. There were some mooseberries along the way - the only sign off Moose I saw this trip -

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The Beavers were busy near the Thunder end -

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After carrying the pack across, I paused to reconsider my plans before going back for the canoe. I was not very happy, maybe a bit unnerved, with my problem trimming the canoe. The sky had grown overcast. The east wind, and the last forecast I saw before leaving home, suggested the weather was headed downhill. The name "Thunder Lake" suddenly seemed like an omen. Just last week, the winds had howled for two days, leaving many canoe trippers windbound. The nice thing about day trips is leaving a campsite all set up to return to. The scary thing about day trips is leaving all your camping gear behind so you don't have it if you get stuck somewhere else.

I stood at the Thunder end of the portage for quite a while thinking about all this, almost ready to carry the pack back the way I had come and return to my campsite to loaf the rest of the day away. After a bit, though, the desire to keep going gathered strength again. There was a nice campsite in view on Thunder that beckoned as a lunch spot -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3745.jpg[/IMG]

I felt that if I could get the canoe trimmed properly, I'd be fine, even if the weather deteriorated. I wished I had an empty dry bag or two to fill with water and put in the stern to counterbalance my pack. But I didn't. Bogwalker had said that he usually finds a few stones to use as weights in this situation. But even though there are always rocks everywhere in canoe country, there didn't seem to be any suitable ones at hand now. As I scanned Thunder Lake, I could see a pile of rocks on a little point just down the shore. I decided to try to rearrange the weight from my pack some, and if that did not work, I'd pick up a few rocks from the pile as I paddled down Thunder.

So I went back to get the canoe, then readjusted the trim. I took a full water bottle and a small dry bag filled with miscellaneous crap out of the pack and hung them from the little hand-grip-cum-thwart at the very stern of the canoe, where they would provide the most leverage counterbalancing the pack. Then I put the lightened pack in front of the bow thwart, but pushed back as far toward the footbrace as possible.

As I launched from the portage, I could immediately tell that this moderate readjustment had solved my problem. The canoe handled great even in the squirrelly gusty wind. There was no need for rocks. And that was a good thing, because I realized that the pile of rocks I had seen on the nearby point was actually the firepit of another campsite.

No matter, all was fine now as I paddled over to the campsite I was eyeing as a lunch spot. This was my view as I snacked on cheese, salami and tortilla sandwiches and dried fruit -

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I relaxed over lunch and took a few pictures. I liked this big tree by the landing of the campsite -

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As I was packing up, I heard some laughter that seemed to be coming from the other side of a nearby island. A lot of noises can sound like human voices in the wilderness, and I sometimes wonder whether I am hearing people or something else. The laughter was pretty clear though. So if I didn't see anyone after I got in the canoe and paddled past the island, it would be pretty freaky.

My imagination was not playing tricks on me. There were three guys out fishing Thunder -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3808.jpg[/IMG]

I was pretty sure that these guys were part of a 4-man group that had single portaged past me on the long portage into Fourtown yesterday morning. I said hello and asked them if they were camped on Thunder. No, their camp was over on Beartrap and, like me, they were just out for a daytrip. After our brief chat, I pushed on to tour the north half of Thunder.

Cliffy shoreline -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3771.jpg[/IMG]

Your correspondent -

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The northern end of the lake is marshy scrub -

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The Beavers up there seemed to have a preference for pine, which is a little unusual, particularly because there was plenty of aspen around for them. One of many jackpines that had been gnawed-

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3786.jpg[/IMG]

I circled back toward the portage to Beartrap. More cliffs along the way -

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The Thunder-Beartrap portage is only 9 rods long. I decided to park the canoe and just walk across for a gander at Beartrap, instead of portaging over to paddle around it. A pretty little creek tumbles from Thunder to Beartrap along the portage -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3797.jpg[/IMG]

The view up the short portage back to Thunder -

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After that short stop, I circled back around Thunder toward home. None of the campsites on the lake was occupied. As I made my way back to the portage to Mudhole, I snapped another shot of the great site where I ate lunch -

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Looking back out at Thunder from the portage -

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In the distance I could see the three guys competing with a Loon for fish -

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Having already done my sightseeing along the two Mudhole portages earlier in the day, I single portaged on the way back. It's amazing how fast you go when you carry all your gear at once and don't dilly dally taking pictures.

Two Beavers where swimming near their lodge on Mudhole. They both slapped their tails and went under when they noticed me.

Back on Gull with the canoe properly trimmed, I went to check out the big nest down the shore. A picture from the water -

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You can just barely see the Eagle on the nest on the left in the picture above. I got a better view with the binoculars. But just as I was positioning the canoe to take an unobstructed photo, the wind picked up, and there was no way I could get in position and take a zoom shot with the wind pushing me around. So instead I paddled over to a cool rocky point that provided a little shelter from the breeze -

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At the waterline -

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After lingering there a bit, I paddled back to my campsite -

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My point from the water -

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Corydalis by the shore -

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I got back to the campsite about 4:30. Even though I had not done much today, I was pooped. I stretched out on the flat rock shelf by the water and closed my eyes for a few minutes, dozing off briefly. In the background I could here the frequent drumming of the resident Grouse. It dawned on me then that the explosion of wings I heard late last night and at dawn this morning sounded like a Grouse being flushed. So he was the culprit.

Eventually the sun came out and it got warm on my rock. I gathered a little energy and went for another quick swim. That felt great and reinvigorated me.

Somehow I whiled away the rest of the afternoon and early evening. One thing that took a lot of time was purifying water. We got a Steripen last year, and it works great. But you still need to prefilter the water if you don't want a bunch of little (sterilized) gunk in it. Normally the prefiltering takes no time at all. But I guess there was a lot of gunk in Gull Lake, because the prefiltering was really slow, and I had to clean the prefilter often, as much as twice per liter.

For dinner I made a couple Zup's wild-rice brats and some buttered boiled potatoes, with a side of carrots. Very tasty. The blackflies came out at dinner time and lingered the rest of the evening, but they were never as bad as during dinner yesterday.

After doing the rest of the camp chores, I poured myself a helping of Maker's Mark and sat down on the point taking in the late evening scene. Looking south across the lake -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3861.jpg[/IMG]

And into the little bay on the other side of my point -

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Once again, I missed David and wished I could send him a message letting him know all was well. But I also felt at peace here alone. I had Gull Lake to myself tonight. And there was no one up on Thunder, and just the group of four on Bearcamp. No doubt there were some people camped on Gun, but I didn't hear anyone over there as I had last night. It was very quiet - except for the incessant drumming of the Ruffed Grouse back in the woods; a sharp two-noted bird call from a few places around the lake that I could not identify; the occasional wail of the Loons; and maybe the slap of a Beaver tail. Do I look like I'm going insane yet? -

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I took my final sip of bourbon as the light began to fade -

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I got in the tent about 9:00 and read for an hour or so. I wore more clothes to bed tonight - long johns, long-sleeve t, wool socks, a fleece pullover, and my knit cap. As I was dozing off, I was jolted awake by the explosion of wings nearby again. This time I could also hear a few quiet vocalizations before the flight that confirmed it was the Ruffed Grouse. So that mystery was solved. Although I still wasn't sure why he was flushing near my tent at dusk and dawn. No matter. I was soon fast asleep.

 



Day 3 of 4


Day 3 (Saturday, June 11, 2011) -

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After sleeping solidly for several hours, I woke a few times in the early morning. Mostly I fell back to sleep right away, until about 4:00 a.m., when I lay awake for a while as the predawn sky brightened. It was chilly out, and I needed all the clothes I'd pulled on last night. I kind of had to take a leak, but it was too cozy in the tent to get up. Eventually I fell back to sleep one final time.

I woke up at 5:30 from a dream in which I was on this solo trip, but somehow David was also there checking his computer at the Gull Lake campsite and telling me that the updated weather forecast was now predicting rain on Sunday, which bummed me out. I had to laugh when I woke up and remembered this dream. I was also happy to realize that there was no reason to believe the good weather forecast had changed.

I got out of the tent. It was a beautiful crisp early morning with mist rising from the lake -

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The local Loon pair -

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I got the food pack from its hiding place in the woods. Just like yesterday, it was unmolested. While enjoying my first mug of java, I finally got around to arranging and photographing the Whitetail skull and jawbones that were lying around the campsite -

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Once I was fully caffeinated, it was time for breakfast. Self-portrait with oatmeal -

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I felt like I was being pretty efficient at breaking camp between coffee and breakfast, even though I was not really rushing. For a while I thought I might get on the water by 8:00. Then 8:30 seemed more realistic. I finally pushed off from shore a few minutes after 9:00. There's a lot to do packing up by yourself, especially on top of a couple big mugs of coffee and a hot breakfast. But 9:00 is still pretty good compared to when David and I get on the water most trips.

When I was almost ready to go, the four-man group that had been camped on Beartrap (including the three guys I saw on Thunder yesterday) paddled past my camp on the way to Gun Lake. Not long afterwards, I followed course.

As I paddled to the portage back to Gun, I was still mentally debating my plan for the day. I was pretty sure I wanted to camp on Fourtown tonight. But I couldn't decide whether I should go back the way I had come, via Fairy and Boot, or explore new ground by traveling via Bullet, Moosecamp Lake, and the Moosecamp River. The Moosecamp route would definitely provide more adventure. But it also made me vaguely apprehensive. I like going over beaver dams, but I had never done it solo; my Prism would be ill-suited to the twisty route I expected to find; and I didn't know how often other people went that way if I ran into trouble. I also wondered if I should try to get to Fourtown on the early side to claim a campsite, particularly because it was Saturday, a popular entry and exit date. Although when I thought about it, I realized that the eight daily permits for Mudro are taken each and every day of the summer. So logically the day of the week should not matter too much. Still, I couldn't shake the anticipation of weekend crowding on a popular lake near an entry point.

I kept changing my mind. In the middle of the day yesterday, when I was not in a very adventurous mood, I thought I should take the Fairy-Boot route. But when I got back to camp and was enjoying the sunny afternoon, Moosecamp seemed more appealing. Now, as I paddled away from the campsite, I decided to take the easy route back the way I had come and spend more time loafing and exploring on Fourtown today. I would save the Moosecamp route for a trip with David.

On the portage back to Gun Lake, I saw some of the first roses of the summer -

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Once on Gun, I decided to explore the lake a little, since my enjoyment of it had been impaired by the hubbub and overcrowding on the way in. I was in no hurry now, given my decision to take the Fairy-Boot route back to Fourtown. So I thought I would paddle along the north shore of Gun down the length of its "barrel," then turn around and head for Fairy.

The contrast with my first day on Gun was stark. No one was out on the lake, and the three campsites I could see were vacant. It was very relaxing following the northern shoreline and proceeding down the narrow barrel - which kept going, and going, and going.

As I went further and further, it started to seem absurd to turn around and go back toward Fairy, instead of continuing forward to Bullet and Moosecamp. And so I began changing my mind one last time. By the time I reached the end of the barrel, I had decided on the river route. Maybe subconsciously that was what I intended all along when I headed down the barrel of Gun. Or perhaps my adventurous side secretly ambushed my timid side with the idea of this little tour.

Before portaging on to Bullet, I turned around for a last look back at the Gun barrel -

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The 20-rod portage from Gun to Bullet parallels the creek between the two lakes -

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I could hear the whistled call of a Broadwinged Hawk as I carried my gear across the short portage. Then, paddling down Bullet, I found a small colony of Redwinged Blackbirds and flushed a few ducks (Goldeneyes?) in the marshy narrows near the middle of the lake. Looking back through the narrows -

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The 25-rod portage from Bullet to Moosecamp was very nice. In the middle there's an open rock ledge that looks out over the eastern tip of Bullet -

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The only downside of this portage was the landing on the Moosecamp end, which was shallow and mucky. I wondered if that was foreshadowing things to come. But I thought Moosecamp Lake itself was beautiful. And I seemed to have it to myself.

I aimed for the easternmost campsite on the lake to stop and replenish my purified water. I wanted two full liters for my trip down the river. The spot where I pulled over was actually just shy of the campsite, on a perfect pine-covered ridge overlooking a good-sized bay. The Moosecamp water sped through my prefilter, confirming my suspicion that the slowdown back on Gull was the amount of minute stuff in the water there. I also ate an energy bar and got out a small bag of trail mix to keep handy in my pocket, in case the trip down the river took a while and there was no good place to pull over for lunch.

The day was warming up, and I was starting to feel hot in my tshirt and PFD. If I were with David I would dispense with the PFD. But not solo. I had a sleeveless tshirt along, but it was buried in one of the packs. So I decided to wear the PFD sans shirt. After applying plenty of sunscreen, I was good to go.

I shoved off about 11:40, pausing to take a picture from my stopping place toward the beginning of the Moosecamp River. As I snapped this shot, I semi-humorously composed a caption for it - "That way lies madness" -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3932.jpg[/IMG]

Minutes later I crossed the imaginary line between lake and river. The initial stretch of river was scenic, but not too promising as a paddling route. There was no clear channel among the emergent vegetation, as there is on most marshy but navigable waterways in canoe country. And the water was uniformly VERY shallow, just an inch or two above undifferentiated muck that probably went down several feet, if not all the way to the center of the Earth. If the canoe got stuck in the muck, it might be hard to get unstuck with nothing solid to stand on below -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3933.jpg[/IMG]

These suboptimal paddling conditions continued for a couple hundred yards before the waterway narrowed and deepened somewhat and I breathed a sigh of relief. As long as the river was floatable, I was glad I had decided to go this way. The narrower, slightly deeper channel -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3940.jpg[/IMG]

I love this kind of environment. Cottongrass was blooming in the boggy areas -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3936.jpg[/IMG]

Yellow bullhead water lilies were blooming in the river -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3945.jpg[/IMG]

Close-up -

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About a half hour after leaving my stopover on the lake, I arrived at the first obstruction in the river. At first I thought it was a big beaver dam and log jam. But as I pulled the canoe up along the side, I realized it was a manmade structure, an old logging flume or something similar -

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Detail on one of the logs -

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The view downstream from up on the structure -

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And the view of the structure from just downstream -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3955.jpg[/IMG]

There were some boot prints in the muck where I lifted my gear around the flume. So I was reassured that others had gone this way recently and the route had not become impassable due to a bursting beaver dam or something like that.

Continuing downriver, there were some wonderful piney rock outcroppings looming over the marsh and bog -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3960.jpg[/IMG]

The song of Common Yellowthroats was a constant accompaniment along the river, joined by Winter Wrens in the boggier sections. I was able to keep pretty good track of my progress based on the direction the river was going, and I was making good time. But the clouds started thickening and the wind got gusty when I was halfway down. The possibility of a thunderstorm out there with few places of refuge made me a little nervous -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3965.jpg[/IMG]

There was nothing to do but keep on keeping on. More cliffs bordering the marsh -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3968.jpg[/IMG]

After about an hour on the river, I still had not encountered any beaver dams, just the old logging flume upstream. Where were all the dams TomT mentioned in his trip report? Was he just imagining things (and including falsified pictures and videos of dams in his report)? I was beginning to wonder.

Then I got to the first dam, a biggie. TomT had described it as being four feet high. That seemed about right. But the large size made it pretty easy to get up on the dam and slide the canoe over (at an angle), because there was plenty of room to maneuver and keep the canoe parallel to the dam when getting in and out. It would have been a lot harder going upstream. This is the view back up after I pulled over the dam -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3974.jpg[/IMG]

There were six more dams after that, I think, all much smaller than the first. One was low enough and had enough water flowing over that I was able to just paddle across full speed ahead. The others required getting out and sliding the canoe over. And they were more difficult than the big one, because there was much less room for getting the canoe parallel to the dam for exiting and reentering. But I got 'er done.

Some of the sharp turns in the river were also challenging to negotiate with the Prism. On some I needed a few backpaddle strokes to make the turn, which inevitably brought me to a dead stop. In other cases, I was able to turn while maintaining forward momentum - far preferable.

I was having a great time. But once again, I wished I had a Spot just to let David know where I was and that I was doing fine.

Eventually, I was feeling the need for a "rest stop." Fortunately, around then I came to a serendipitous granite reef that extended out to the water and made a convenient spot to park the canoe and get out for a minute -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3977.jpg[/IMG]

The view of my watery byway from the rock reef -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3978.jpg[/IMG]

Back underway, I continued to enjoy the ever-changing scenery along this route -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3981.jpg[/IMG]

I passed another old structure remaining from logging days -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3982.jpg[/IMG]

The opening to Fourtown Lake just ahead -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3984.jpg[/IMG]

I got to the lake about 1:30, under two hours after leaving my stopping point on Moosecamp Lake, faster than anticipated. I expected to see people as soon as I got to Fourtown. But even though my view extended well down the lake, there was no one in sight.

I wanted to camp at the north end of the lake, near where the river came in. And there were two campsites in view, both apparently unoccupied, plus another just around the corner. But I decided to stop at a great rock slope to have lunch before scouting the campsites and picking one. I was hungry, and selecting a campsite would be a lot more pleasurable after eating. I spread out and made myself at home at the lunch spot -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3990.jpg[/IMG]

Looking up the rock slope -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_3992.jpg[/IMG]

Enjoying the cloud rays -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4000.jpg[/IMG]

While goofing off, I was startled by a sudden ker-plunk next to the canoe. The perpetrator -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4012.jpg[/IMG]

Now it was time to claim a campsite. From my lunch spot, I liked the look of the site on the south side of the entry to the east-stretching bay, with a view back toward where I was standing and the mouth of the river. So I paddled over there and planned to take the site without looking at the others if it appealed to me. The paddle was only a couple minutes, but as I crossed the bay I managed to get hung up on a really big very flat rock lurking just below the surface. Then I thought I heard thunder in the distance, and the wind picked up. Even though it was still early, it was a good time to camp.

And the campsite was really great. It was on an open piney point, fringed by plenty of flat rocks for basking by the water. The only slight negative was that the best tent pad looked like it sloped a little more than desirable. But when I started to set up the tent, it was hard to tell exactly which way the slope went. I hate getting in a tent at night and finding that downhill is sideways. David and I had often joked that a level would be useful for tent orientation. Then I thought about something I read in the solo canoeing forum - you can use water that has gathered in the bottom of your canoe as a makeshift level to check the trim. Why couldn't I do something similar now? But what could I use? I looked around at my gear. Uh, what about that half-empty water bottle? It worked great. Why didn't I ever think of that before?

By the time camp was set up, the clouds were dispersing and the wind was settling down. Time for a swim. It felt great. Then I basked for a while on the flat rock shelf. This is the view from there back at my lunch spot and the mouth of the Moosecamp River -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4029.jpg[/IMG]

I continued to laze around on the rocks after getting dressed -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4039.jpg[/IMG]

A few stable flies (ankle biters) emerged during the afternoon, a product of the warmer weather. I hate those #&%@*!'s. Very persistent and almost impossible to kill. But otherwise the bugs here were pretty much nonexistent.

I had not seen another person since leaving my camp on Gull this morning. I really thought there would be more activity on Fourtown, and kept expecting someone to paddle up the lake from the south to claim one of the open campsites near me. Around 4:30, though, I was surprised to see someone come from the other direction - down the Moosecamp River. It was another solo paddler (using the proverbial "evil doubleblade") -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4040.jpg[/IMG]

He laid claim to the campsite directly across from me, on the north side of the entry to our bay.

Not much later, I started to hear gunshots from the north. Quite a few of them. There would be five or six in fairly rapid succession, then a brief lull, then another series. This continued off and on for some time. WTF? I'm no expert on gunfire, but it seemed to me that the only place the shots could be coming from was somewhere up the Moosecamp River. It wasn't any hunting season that I knew of, so it seemed like someone was just engaged in "target practice" up there. The river seemed so remote and untraveled when I passed through earlier today. Now it was starting to seem like a hive of activity.

Before making dinner, I decided to hop in the canoe and go visit my neighbor across the bay. Our campsites were only separated by maybe 200 yards of water, and it just seemed strange for two solos to be camped so close together with no one else around and not at least say hi.

When I pulled up to his campsite, my fellow soloist seemed happy to converse for a few minutes. His name was Greg, and as it turned out, this was also his first solo, and like me, he was planning to be out three nights. He had put in at Mudro yesterday and camped on Fairy last night, and now was planning to spend two nights on Fourtown. Paddling a few hours behind me today, he saw people on Gun and Moosecamp Lakes, which seemed empty when I passed through. We shared some thoughts about soloing, our canoes and paddles, and the feeling of remoteness on the Moosecamp River. Just then, there were more gunshots upriver, and I asked what he thought that was all about. He was as mystified as me. He said "I'm all for firearms and all, but." To which I added "Bongo drums are fine too, but that doesn't mean it's considerate to play them in the wilderness just for kicks."

After a few minutes chatting from canoe to shore, I paddled back to my camp to make dinner - some Knorr noodles with foil-pouch tuna. As I was cooking and eating, I realized that for several days now, songs from REM's "Green" album kept playing in my head - especially "You Are the Everything," "World Leader Pretend," "The Wrong Child," and "Hairshirt." Apparently this album was the soundtrack for my solo journey. Unfortunately, even good music gets old after a while - particularly when you don't really know all the words.

After dinner and dishes, I needed to stash my remaining vittles. The area around the campsite had so many trails and satellite tent pads that I couldn't find a good place to stash the foodpack "back in the woods," at least not without going much further away than I wanted. So I stashed it in a little circle of pines and cedars within view at the end of my point, hung a bit off the ground from a peg on a pine.

It was still a little early for the bourbon course, so I wandered around taking a few pictures. My bedroom and garage -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4044.jpg[/IMG]

Water, rock, trees, evening light -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4048.jpg[/IMG]

I found a little patch of Pink (Stemless) Ladyslippers -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4057.jpg[/IMG]

I can't resist a slightly different angle -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4060.jpg[/IMG]

As I was wandering back out to the point, I was surprised to see (and hear) a group hanging out on a rock at the mouth of the Moosecamp River -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4063.jpg[/IMG]

It looked like four adults and two kids, apparently having come down the river on a daytrip. Well, that shattered my sense of the river as a remote, little-traveled byway. Although on reflection, if you were already camped on Fourtown, a loop up through Boot, Fairy, Gun and Bullet to Moosecamp and back down the Moosecamp River would make a nice day trip. Presumably this was the group that was engaged in "target practice" earlier. After hanging out at that rock for a while, they got in their canoes and paddled south on Fourtown. I could hear snippets of conversation across the water, including "We've got a long way to go still."

After that it was time for Maker's Mark in the dimming light of evening.

Evening Sky I -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4073.jpg[/IMG]

Evening Sky II -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4080.jpg[/IMG]

Evening Water -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4074.jpg[/IMG]

As night fell, Greg made a small fire at his campsite across the bay. We two solo guys had this section of Fourtown to ourselves again. I got in the tent about 9:30 and read for a while. There were the usual scampering sounds around the campsite. Then I heard some hooting nearby. But it didn't sound to me like a Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, or any other owl I could think of. I jotted in my notebook "FAKE OWL!" Which, of course, is a sure sign of imminent attack by a bear, a chainsaw wielding maniac, or Lord Voldemort.

With that thought, I turned off my headlamp and went fast to sleep.

 



Day 4 of 4


Day 4 (Sunday, June 12, 2011) -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/Map-Day-4.jpg[/IMG]

I woke up for a while in the middle of the night, then again at 4:00 a.m. when the sky was glowing red in the east. In the dawn light I heard a few irregular Barred Owl calls right overhead. I recalled then that the Barred Owl has a variety of vocalizations in addition to its signature "Who cooks for you." So that was probably what the "fake owl" was last night.

Lying in the tent at dawn my thoughts turned to home, and I had a sudden minor panic attack. The day I started this trip, the tree guy was going to come out to the cabin to take down a giant old aspen that was on the decline and looming over the canoe shed and LP tank. The only place to fell the tree was next to a rock ledge, with the canoe shed and LP tank just a few feet from where the big aspen was supposed to fall. It seemed chancy to me, but the tree man said it was no problem. Now I was seized by the thought that it had all gone wrong, the tree had smashed the LP tank, the cabin had gone up in a conflagration - and no one had told me because I was out on a solo canoe trip.

Despite those thoughts, I dozed off again until about 5:30, when I got up to start the day. It was cool and misty, but warming fast. I retrieved my foodpack, which was again safe and sound. The morning sun lit up a pine in the little grove where the pack had been stashed -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4091.jpg[/IMG]

The mist burned off while I had my morning coffee fix. Looking back toward the Moosecamp River -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4095.jpg[/IMG]

And around the corner to the southbound route I would take today -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4099.jpg[/IMG]

As I was boiling water for my second mug of coffee, a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird buzzed right through my kitchen, his throat blazing bright in the morning sun. I wasn't fast enough to get a picture of the hummer. But the logs around the firepit stood still for me. I was wondering if this notched log had been used in a flume or something similar upstream in logging days -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4101.jpg[/IMG]

By 7:00, I'd peeled off my fleece and was wearing short sleeves. By 8:00, the weather was perfect for a swim. Not typical mid-June temperatures, I'd say. While I was in the lake, a nearby Herring Gull was trying to get a meal by tussling with something just under water.

After my refreshing dip and basking on shore a bit, I finished packing up camp and launched the canoe about 10:00. I was not in any hurry at the moment, with just a few hours paddling and portaging back to the Jeep at the Mudro parking lot.

As I started paddling I had on my sleeveless tshirt and PFD, and it already felt like it was baking out on Fourtown Lake. For the first time on the trip, I wished I had my Tilley hat along instead of just a baseball cap, to keep the sun off my face. Probably the temperatures were in the mid-60s, but with bright near-solstice sun and no wind, it felt a lot warmer. The possibility of a mishap in these conditions seemed vanishingly slight, but I resisted the temptation to take my PFD off. If something did happen, I was still completely alone, with no one to help.

Heading south on Fourtown -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4115.jpg[/IMG]

A whole lot of blue -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4119.jpg[/IMG]

After paddling down the middle of the lake for a while, I arced into its broad southeastern bay for a little tour of campsites from the water. It was a lot busier down here than "up north" where I had camped.

At one point I noticed something atop one the trees and backpaddled to check it out. A Turkey Vulture was sunning itself up there -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4124.jpg[/IMG]

By 11:15 I was paddling up the narrows to the series of portages back to Mudro -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4134.jpg[/IMG]

I was hoping to see some other people at the first portage, because I wanted to see how they managed the crazy landing. And I was in luck. As I approached the portage, a group was coming over in the other direction -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4140.jpg[/IMG]

I could hear those first guys talking as they got to the landing, wondering where to put in. One of them suggested the slope straight ahead looked easier than the steep area, which I had used coming in (to the right as seen from the water in the picture above). But after inspecting from the water, I decided that the steep area was still the best landing, despite initial appearances -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4141.jpg[/IMG]

I decided to unload before the other group brought their canoes across. It was easy enough to get the packs up the steep slope. But the canoe was another matter. I asked one of the young guys if he would help out. He obliged by pulling the bow up from above, as I carried the stern from below.

Just as we got my canoe out of the way, an older guy (i.e., a decade younger than me) came through with their first canoe. After scoping the situation for a minute with the canoe on his shoulders, he easily traversed the steep rock slope sideways down to the water. I was impressed. Maybe next time.

As I crossed the three portages back to Mudro, I didn't pause to take pictures, having thoroughly photographed the area on my way in a few days before. The day was warm, and the idea of lunch at the cabin with AN ICE-COLD BEER was pulling me forward. But I was struck again by the beauty of this creek valley, and enjoyed the songs of all the same birds I had heard on the way in.

On the second, longer portage, I found Greg, the other solo paddler, pulling up as I returned for my second load of gear. He said he had decided to head out today because he dropped his phone in the water last night. I didn't have a phone along (even with my desire to communicate with David, I did not want a phone along), but I could see that if you had one and were planning to use it, you might head out if you lost it. It also occurred to me that if I had been planning to camp another night on Fourtown today, I might have headed out too. The day was a little too warm for my taste to just hang out. And when you are solo, cutting the trip short may always be a more attractive option than when traveling with others.

After I had carried the third portage, I paused to eat an energy bar and purify one more liter of water, which I needed to paddle back to the entry point and then drive back to the cabin. A welcome light breeze was blowing when I crossed Mudro. Soon I was paddling up Picket Creek back to the starting point. A Great Blue Heron was posing picturesquely with his head just above the tops of the marsh vegetation along the creek, but I wasn't quick enough with the camera to get a photo. I also wasn't quick enough with the paddle to avoid running up on one of those stealthy pointed rocks hidden just under the surface of bog-stained Picket Creek.

I got to the landing of the entry point portage about 1:30 and quickly carried my gear across. I had not seen anyone since my brief encounter with Greg on the second portage from Fourtown. And there was no one else at the entry point, despite all the cars. I paused for an end-of-the-trip shot before loading up the Jeep -

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/June%202011%20Solo/IMG_4143.jpg[/IMG]

When everything was loaded, I headed down the road. It took a few minutes to get the hang of driving. Then my thoughts turned again to the aspen and the LP tank. Not too long afterwards, I got to the gate on our road, and was relieved to see there was no garish police tape indicating some kind of disaster there. Two minutes later I was at the cabin, where the logs from the big aspen were neatly stacked to be split later for firewood, and the canoe shed and LP tank were intact.

David was not due back from Washington until midnight. As soon as I got inside I called him on his cell phone to let him know that I was back and had a great trip. After we talked a few minutes I asked him where he was. "Driving into Ely." He was able to get an earlier flight and would be home in a half hour. I popped open a beer. It was a great trip. And I was glad to be home.

 


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