BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 21 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1166 feet
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
45 miles by water
13 miles by portage (3 trips each)
58 miles total.
#23 Mudro: “Time travel in a magic canoe” (first solo 2015)
September 10, 2015
Number of Days:
On Thursday afternoon I left home and headed towards Ely. The drive up should have been exciting, but I was more nervous than anything, and had four hours to build up my worries and self-doubt. The immediate weather forecast was colder than I thought it might be, and while I was prepared; it was an excuse to worry about enjoying the trip. I had trimmed the pack down to what I thought were the minimum clothes necessary and wondered if I would be warm enough. I had tested it all summer, but wondered if my homemade hammock/quilt/tarp setup would cut it. All cooking was planned to be on a homemade “bud light” aluminum alcohol stove (again thoroughly tested beforehand). I wondered if I would get homesick or lonely more than a day away from the entry while still heading deeper. Would I travel the route as planned or not have enough time to make my intended camps? (i didn’t know how fast I’d travel by myself.) I wondered about all the gear I had left behind and what I might really miss having.
I was tired before I even started: by coincidence the previous few nights had a burst of solar activity and I’m kind-of an aurora photography buff so I had been out many hours in the early morning the day before. It was probably one of the top-10 auroras I’ve ever photographed and I wondered if the magnetosphere would remain unsettled for my trip. [paragraph break] I arrived in the evening and picked up my boat from Piragis about an hour before they closed. Drew was great and when I told him this was my first solo paddle I think he was more excited than I was to send me off. This outfitter has always been fantastic to work with and this time they let me pick up the canoe the night before entry without an extra day’s charge. I had a burger and beer at the Chocolate Moose, and then drove off into the dark down the echo trail. I arrived at Mudro entry and the quiet ghost town of temporarily abandoned cars. It was cloudy without a moon and pitch dark when the car was turned off. No phone reception. It was real now and I was by myself in the wilderness. I sent a single text to my wife to make sure the rented Delorme was working. It was fine and she wished me well: that was the last time I physically used the device, but it proved to be a psychological comfort having it with me the whole trip, and a part of my safety planning. I wriggled into an extra sleeping bag and stretched out in the back of the jeep.
A couple restless hours later I woke to twilight and a light rain. This was not quite the ‘bright & early’ start I had imagined and so I abandoned that in favor of dozing in the warm bag for another hour or so. Eventually I pulled on my rain shell and took a run to the can. I sat in the car and had breakfast: a banana and two doughnuts. It really is a luxury to savor the sugary calories without guilt- knowing you have long days of paddling to burn them off! When else can you ever get away with eating two doughnuts?? A hot coffee would have really countered the cold rain, but that gear was packed and I decided that cooking at the EP might cross the line into illegal ‘camping’. Anyways, I was starting to get excited about heading out. I took a solid 30 minutes in the rain outside near the parking lot to just organize gear in the canoe and carefully plan how I would handle a pack/portage routine by myself. This turned out to be time well spent. Finally, 25 rods from the car I was able to get on the water with a paddle in my hands.
I have to talk about the canoe:
After research on the forum and much internal deliberation I rented a Northstar Magic…. and it was. Oh wow, this canoe was something! My comparison has been plastic and alum river boats and kevlar tandem trippers, but the Magic must be the ferrari of canoes. It’s light, sleek, fast, sexy. It has a mid-engine placement. It held myself and gear with stable poise and handled well. The rather extreme tumblehome is awesome- it felt like I could almost sweep my paddle directly under the center of the boat. In calm water I found a 4-stroke/switch rhythm to track straight and fast. It was downright fun to paddle. I blew by tandem groups, knowing that 2 paddlers should be faster than 1 (okay, most were youth groups, or people not pushing hard like I was...but still it felt cool) At times I was the brave warrior silently stalking in my canoe with nary a splash, or sometimes turning toward the opposite shore with breakneck speed that only the fastest messenger has. I was by myself so the trip could be anything I wanted and I could change pace on a whim to quietly observe a shoreline or push to make camp a little further away. I had taken both single blade and double blade paddles with the boat rental, thinking I would use both. It turns out I didn’t like the kayak paddle at all: It was difficult to hold a heading with any sort of wind, and no matter where I put the drip rings I got a ton of water in my lap and in the boat. It spent the majority of the trip bungeed under the seat. I used the Wenonah carbon lite bentshaft paddle 95% of the time. Even at the end of the day it felt like a weightless extension of my body; switching sides effortlessly without breaking rhythm. 53in was a perfect length for me. I liked the paddle so much that on return I asked Piragis if I could buy it as an end-of-season closeout and they gave me an amazing deal. The magic canoe was my sleek chariot of freedom and, as I was to find out, would be my time machine.
I barely remember paddling through Mudro, Sandpit, TinCanMike: all smaller and somewhat protected lakes. I did see a group camped on sandpit- presumably still sleeping-in in a soggy camp. It was the entry to Horse lake I remember because I got my first taste of a wind reaching south across the lake. I was paddling the double blade and having a heck of a time keeping a course. The fight kept me warm, though and I rolled my pants up and vented the jacket. By the time I entered the Horse river the rain had subsided. About the river: it flows North from Horse lake towards Basswood. My voyager map showed three portages but I only ever encountered two. The water level was at its normal September low and research told me to be prepared to line the canoe at some points. I never did this, but there were at least three little riffles through narrow areas and boulder fields that were tricky to pass. With a kevlar boat and carbon paddle i felt like I had no sturdy tools to guide myself through the meandering flow between rocks. I was certain to put some deep scratches in the boat or bust the paddle, but I passed relatively unscathed. The best strategy at times with the narrow boat was to hang one leg off each side in front of me and brace my feet against rocks as I kept the bow pointing downstream. In retrospect I am left wondering where exactly the third portage might have been.
I ate lunch at the end of the last portage and took a bit of a rest as no one else was around. I noticed some bright red rose hips off the trail and picked a handful to take home. (I brew beer, and had a berlinnerweisse aging at home and thought the wild rose hips would add an awesome flavor to the sour beer.) As I was packing the canoe a guy came down the portage trail with a pack. I said hi and paddled on my way. The second half of the Horse river is a flatter and wider path through the grass. I was paddling fast to stay away from the group behind me. Somewhere I must have hit 88mph with 1.21 jigawatts of power as it was here I had the first time-travel experience of the trip:
[paragraph break] July 8 2015: I could hear the falls long before I saw them. Exiting the Horse river and paddling across the small lower bay of basswood lake- The large sandy canoe landing was visible from the opposite shore, and it is located just upstream of the falls. JUST UPSTREAM. I was thinking of the boy that was swept over this year and required a 7 hour rescue as the taco’d canoe had him pinned at the base of the falls. From the upstream side you can clearly see the lateral current drawing towards the cascade. It is easy to imagine how an inexperienced paddler might get into trouble: a large group of 4 canoes all approaches the landing at once, but the one furthest left is a little too close to the falls: the paddlers cease to paddle as they approach the landing: perhaps waiting for a spot to land. In an instant they realize their peril as the boat is drawn sideways away from the landing. They make a last-ditch effort to paddle hard but it is too little too late and just enough to point the canoe towards the landing: they must have gone down sideways or backwards. It would have been terrifying to experience or even to watch from shore. There is power in these falls. The water turns a 30 degree corner as it rushes through a chasm to the spinning lake 30 feet below. And this is in Fall with lower water levels. Lucky is a mild term. Even the prospect of a 7 hr pin between canoe and rock before a successful rescue is daunting: the roar of the water is loud, and with a sharp yell you would still have trouble communicating with people up on the bank. The scene was playing out before me in a very real sense as I watched the water cascade down into Crooked lake, and the news blurb I had heard 2 months before was suddenly live before me in vivid detail. The falls are beautiful, but were screaming of danger as I was imagining that day. [paragraph break]
It was around 3pm and this was my planned camp for the night. No one was here. I quickly scouted three of the campsites around the falls and decided on the one due west (directly across the bay) from the falls, on a low bluff over the start of Crooked lake. I went about setting up camp and at some point rearranged the rocks around the fire grate into a much better kitchen. One other group portaged the falls later and camped at the site right next to (South) of them. I really didn’t see or hear them the rest of the evening.
I got back into the boat and fished the area around the falls a little. The clouds had broken into a partly-cloudy sky with occasional rays of evening sun. It was beautiful as the golden colors came out of the rocks. It was too light out for any long-exposures of the falls and, not finding things quite right for any photographic inspiration, I tried to pose for some self-portraits. [paragraph break]
When the sun was below the horizon I returned to my camp and prepared dinner. Some hot water over the alcohol stove and I was soon eating cranberry chicken and rice perched over lower basswood falls. I was happy. I reflected on the day that was never bad, but had seemed to get better as each hour passed. I hope my toddlers aren’t driving their mother crazy, and I hope I can share this with them someday. I sipped some good Rye I had brought with and sat, quite content. Throughout the trip, in fact, dinnertime was meditative and something I enjoyed every day.
Once darkness fell I retired to bed- quite early by my normal schedule but there wasn’t anything else to do in the dark. Being that the weather was good, I had the hammock up in the open with the tarp still wrapped up in the skins. I was worried I’d get the heebie jeebies my first night out, but I was tired and had no trouble falling asleep. The dull noise of the waterfall was pleasant.
A while later I woke up for no particular reason. I heard an intermittent noise to my left and of course assumed it was a
scary monster animal. I had to pee anyway so I got up to take a look. The sound turned out to be the mild waves of the lake lapping against the shore...(but it could have been a giant bear)… On my way back to the hammock I saw the unmistakable glow of the aurora borealis. ...and not like I’d ever seen it before. No pillars, or lines, or flashes- but a solitary blob of green that just shifted around and changed shape. Very cool to see it in the wilderness with no internet or satellite data or anything. I was very excited and took photos for awhile and went back to bed. Things were starting to get kind-of dewey so I staked out the tarp for the rest of the night.
I was up again before dawn, but was well rested. No rain, but a damp fog had set in and there was condensation on the tarp: I’m glad I did put it up. No frost, but It was chilly. I lit a fire and made coffee and some hot oatmeal breakfast. The morning twilight began and was spectacular as the fog slowly lightened in hue to gradually reveal more and more of the world beyond my campsite. First the tops of some jagged pines were silhouetted against the lightening sky, then I could begin to make out ripples on the surface of the water, and finally the sun breaching the horizon gives an explosion of colorful definition to the sky and water and far shore. I had the camera out the whole time waiting for the sun and was packing up camp between shots. [paragraph break]
I still managed to get an early start out Friday morning and was on the water before 8. My route had an entire day of paddling with zero portages as I snaked north on Crooked lake, further away from the entry. I was really alone this morning and didn’t see anyone else. It might have helped that some of the thick fog was still hanging around in the deeper valleys of the border lake where the sun hadn’t quite risen enough to reach down to the water. It was extremely serene, quietly paddling the invisible line with USA on the left and Canada to the right. The land all looked the same to me and I was suddenly taken to a time several hundred years ago when there was no international border:
[paragraph break] I knew to look for the pictographs, but not exactly where or what they looked like. I spotted the bird first and was pretty excited. I took my time and photographed the cliffs, but then I saw more, and more, and more of the ancient drawings linking this place to the past. My magic canoe was floating in a fog amongst the spirits of people who had been here long before me, and I could feel their presence at this place. The limited sight distance made it very intimate, and I spent much time near the rocks, imagining the native people who had canoed in the very same place I was at that moment; and later the voyagers who must have been familiar with this route as a highway of trade. I sat quiet and still, with the lake gently rocking the boat, and had a realization of my own un- importance in this world. I came away with a strong notion of respect for all those who had come before me. Their whole existence, too, was just a passing blip on the timeline of this planet, and part of something much larger than any person. I said a quick prayer, and paddled on north as the sun again began to catch up with me. [paragraph break]
I was fishing on-and-off: trolling a few favorite lures as I paddled: though not catching much. I had a rod-holder clamped on the thwart in front of me, and it was easy to troll or just keep my pole contained and ready. To make it secure for portages I would rotate it forward and tuck the rod tip in the bow just under the front carry handle of the canoe. It worked well. I passed a group headed the opposite direction and gave a friendly wave. Everywhere on the shore, Crooked lake looked to be about 18-24 inches below the high-water marks, which I suppose was normal for that time of year. Somewhere on Crooked I noticed something bobbing in the water along the shore. It was not-quite natural looking and I went closer to investigate. To my surprise I found a double-blade kayak paddle. Aluminum shaft and fiberglass blades and it was in excellent condition. How does someone lose something so large and well... important to a paddling trip? Weird. I broke it down and stowed it next to the other kayak paddle I wasn’t using but would carry the remainder of the trip. I took a break at Table rock, and shed some layers as it was getting warm. Inspiration struck for a self-portrait here: holding up the magic canoe and stopping down the camera until the sun became a big starburst. I wouldn’t have been able to manage it with any sort of wind, but I think the photo turned out kind of neat and really captures my spirit for most of the trip. I could do ads for Northstar Canoes. [paragraph break] The next landmark I passed (somewhere around noon) was a bronze border survey obelisk on a Canadian point. It was labeled #719 and painted silver.
[paragraph break] I studied this with curiosity and made notes to read about it later. It was a border survey monument placed 1914, based on the treaty of 1908. The survey teams traveled by canoe caravan- taking bearings from the few known landmarks and high points. They placed several monuments at various places along the border. Due to war, the final survey results weren't published until 1931. Prior to that there were many border areas and islands between the northwest angle and lake superior where the exact nationality was unknown. [paragraph break]
I didn’t spend much time here as I wanted to keep moving. I kept heading Northwest on Crooked, looking to camp somewhere on Friday Bay. I had wanted to try and find the old car up in the Cadillac Narrows, and thought that might be a good place to rest for lunch. I didn’t know exactly where to find it- just some hints at where it might be. I ended up paddling the shoreline for quite awhile searching the woods. It was fun, like a wilderness treasure hunt- except I was getting tired in the sun- and hungry. As I was about to give up I saw what was quite clearly a shift control lever basking in the sun on a rock. It was rusted to only a hairpin of steel. I got out of the canoe and excitedly began exploring and soon found the hulk of an old Buick in the trees facing the lake. It is not known for sure why or how the car came to be here, but once again my magic canoe had delivered me to a different time:
[paragraph break] The Buick actually had quite a bit of beauty for being garbage left out in nature. The soft brown of oxidized iron hosted green and blue lichens with an occasional patch of bright orange rust. Pine needles littered the cast cylinder head, though I could hear the clicking pushrods of the heavy old straight-six motor. I thought of the cold moonlit nights when this car may have ran cases of Canadian whiskey over the ice to teetotaling America. The valve springs now frozen for eternity tell stories of how thick the oil was in the cold. The hardened steel of the ring gear in the rear axle still looks ready to again shuttle a heavy load across the border and through a land too rough for G-men to give chase. Metal strapping surely once held a suitcase full of cash to the running board- part of which was used to pay off the loggers who would deny the car’s existence. The word ‘Buick’ is visible in the pitted side of the block; still proudly screaming a testament to the engineering of the 1920’s. In contrast, the exposed crank humbly reveals its archaic cast-in-place bearings and wired castle nuts that might very well have been the pernicious reasons for the car becoming stuck in this place forever. The chassis and drivetrain are crumbling where they meet the ground as the earth slowly reclaims even the toughest of manmade materials.
I photographed the car for a while then sat in the sun to eat lunch- foil pack tuna wraps and m&ms. It was around 2:00 or so. I examined the map and how far I had paddled and how I was almost at the mouth of Friday bay. Back in the canoe I headed off to find a campsite. I was trailing a deep jointed rappala and had a monster hit that almost ripped my rod from its mount. The 30lb braid was tight as the drag spun open. I played the fish for a few minutes and saw it once- an enormous pike. Sadly, it slipped off the hook and I never landed it.
The wind picked up a little and paddling became harder work, though the boat handled well with the wenonah paddle I’d been swinging all day. As I came around the south of the island site I saw a bright tent and a single person sitting on shore. A friendly wave and I changed course south across the bay towards the other campsites. I was really tired at this point, and wishing I was in camp. I grit my teeth and pushed on down the western shore. The first site was a collection of large boulders on a gentle slope of Canadian shield that reminded me of a florida beach, but made of solid rock. I explored the camp for a bit, which might have worked well for a group, but for whatever reason I had a bad feeling about it. I’m not sure if I can explain why- there was a place to hang my hammock and a good cooking area. Maybe it was an irrational fear of bears? No northern exposure to possibly witness the aurora again?- I can’t remember exactly. I might have felt different if it was raining, but even though I was ready to stop I decided to look at the other two sites south of here.
I arrived at the middle one and this was instantly home. It was a small perch 6 feet over the water among cedar trees and well-sheltered from the west wind. I really wasn’t feeling well at this point and realized I had allowed myself to get dehydrated paddling all day in the sun. I pumped and drank a nalgene of water, hung my hammock and promptly took a nap.
Waking up sometime around 6 I felt much better. I prepared a fire for the next morning, found a place to hang the food bag, and heated some water for for dinner: Peanut pad Thai. I sat in my chair at the edge of the lake and again felt content. I sipped whiskey and recounted the day in my journal. When it became too dark to write, I again heated water and sipped hot tea and ate m&m’s as I watched the twilight fade into stars. I was carrying my iphone in the pack- not for connectivity, but to use the gps as an offline backup navigation tool in case I became turned-around. I pulled it out to test it as I hadn’t really tried it in true “no-service” conditions before; and it found my location easily. I knew the one guy was way up at the island site on top of the bay, but otherwise I felt very alone here. I started to have some of the dreaded thoughts of solo insecurity, but I was able to squash the fears relatively easily before they got out-of-hand. I could swear up-and-down that I heard the road- noise of trucks passing on a distant highway to the south; even though I knew the nearest road wasn’t for maybe a hundred miles I could not find a better explanation for the noise I was hearing- or at least thought that I heard. Time for bed. Into the warm hammock with a bugnet tonight as this site had a few ear-buzzers. Sleep came easy and without disturbance, though it was a good feeling to have the DeLorme closeby.
I woke with the sun, almost expecting a spectacular show with my eastern view, except on this morning thin clouds obscured the sunrise. I lit the fire and had a few cups of coffee as I ate breakfast and broke camp. Hot granola with dehydrated milk, bananas, and cranberries makes a good start for the day. I could still hear the highway with the morning stillness, and was curious to investigate as I traveled that direction today. I was not at all rushed, but still had a fairly early start as I headed to the southern tip of Friday bay. It became apparent that the highway noise was actually a small creek cascading down to the lake. Not the papoose creek, but the other one just to the Northwest. I thought it silly that the only thing in my memory I could place the sound with was a highway: I need to spend more time in the woods.
Today was a day of portaging, and I was ready for them: Friday bay> Papoose>Chippewa>Nikki>Wagosh>Gun>Fairy>Boot>Fourtown. A goal of this trip had been to attempt a single portage. I ended up single portaging everything- and loved it. A few extra moments at the landings spent carefully securing/packing gear paid off in only walking across once. Here again, the Magic canoe excelled. All of 16 feet and 30 lbs! Lifting it was a breeze: even with 10 more lbs of lines, paddles, fishing rod/holder, seat/maps, and pfd all secured inside. With the yoke on my shoulders the seat rested right on the top of my backpack, and the front of the seat was right at the back of my head. It sat there in a very stable manner and by moving my head backwards/forwards I could control the pitch of the boat for walking uphill/downhill...without using my hands. Most portages were thus hands-free and my arms/shoulders got to rest at my sides while my legs took all the work. I was well practiced at this by the third day at the 328rd (mile long) portage from Wagosh to Gun lake, and for fun I decided to time it: 19min 51sec boat up to boat down! Flying. Easy. I actually looked forward to portaging. The single portage made for excellent travel times during the day and I covered more ground easier than I thought. The secret was in the careful planning and packing of gear. Things like camera/fishing gear/water/raingear/sweater all had to be accessible while paddling, but all secured either in the pack or on the boat for portage. Everything had a place, and by the end of the trip I developed a very efficient portage routine: standing in the shallows next to my boat at the landings- every movement had a purpose.
Part of my strategy was to try and minimize the water weight while portaging, so I tried to drink before portaging and have emptier water bottles to carry. I had a trusty miniworks pump to make water in camp, but it remained packed for travel. I had planned to dip for water in the middle of lakes and use treatment tablets while paddling: I figured this would provide cold water fast, with minimal effort. It worked fine...most of the time. After the mile-long portage to Gun lake I was parched and almost out of water. I dipped at two different places in Gun, but neither provided terribly clear water. I was determined to not get dehydrated like yesterday. “Oh-well” I thought the second time, and I tossed in the tablets with a little bit of translucent floaty gunk still swirling around. After waiting the appropriate time I tasted it and it was terrible. Even with a bunch of Mio flavor in there it wasn’t good and I ended up digging out the pump at the next portage. Next time i think a sawyer squeeze or mini or something along those lines would be better for travel water.
I paddled up into maybe the biggest wind of the trip here- a strong southwest breeze channeled down the barrel of Gun. By the time I got to Boot lake there was a good chop and some whitecaps. I powered into a three-stroke-switch rhythm with the carbon canoe paddle and did pretty well. There were a lot of people out on Gun/Fairy/Boot lakes and many campsites i passed were occupied. My plan for the day was to look for something on Fourtown.
On the portage from Boot to Fourtown I again noticed some ripe rose hips off the side of the trail. I dropped the boat and my gear at the end and went back to check it out. Jackpot! There were at least a dozen individual rosebushes. No flowers this time of year, but the ripe red hips were unmistakeable. I picked many. (oh, and there are a lot of thorns too) Two groups portaged past me while I was picking and probably thought I was a bit crazy. One guy I startled pretty good while I was deep in the bushes. I came away with most of a gallon size ziploc bag full of rose hips. In contrast to yesterday’s solitude, Fourtown lake was a relative zoo. I was amazed at the number of people for mid-September. Lunch was eaten while paddling: Vacuum packed beef sticks and cheddar. And a cliff bar. I was able to enjoy the wind I had been fighting all morning as it now pushed me east with speed. Most campsites were occupied. I looked at a few, but settled on the one to the far East: by the unmarked portage to Horse.
I made camp around 1:00 and even though I had paddled quite a ways I had a lot of time to kill. I had actually traveled much faster that I thought I would on this trip. The site is pretty neat, on a little riffle of water spilling down out of fourtown lake. The kitchen is real close to the portage around it, though, so there are occasionally people walking through camp. Back in the trees there is a large clearing under/around an enormous cedar tree. It really is a cool camp, but with the sand and roots would be a terrible and likely wet place to put a tent. No problem for a hammocker. There is one solid tent pad a bit further back. The thunder box was one of the newer square ones with a lid, and I could tell i was close to the entry as there was an empty glass 175 of cheap vodka down in there. The sun was back out and I decided to do some cleaning. I rinsed my most heavily-worn (read: stinky) clothes and socks in the creek and then took a dip myself. While hanging things to dry I found a little baby leech in the leg of my pants, and then made an extended game of carefully checking everything (including me) that had been in the creek. I fished a bit from shore and caught bass all around the camp. I thought about how to spend the rest of my trip. I don’t want to say I was bored, but I definitely had extra time I wasn’t sure what to do with as I wasn’t traveling any further. I gathered, cut, and stacked a bunch of firewood, but never made a fire. I left it as a gift to the next party. Dinner was Unstuffed peppers and beef, which is one of the heartier dehydrated meals I’ve ever made. I ate with a wonderful view, and sat to meditate and reflect for quite a while. I journaled a bit, and went to bed at dark. Still a bit windy, and I had the ‘doors’ of my tarp pulled in pretty close.
I woke and had took my time having hot oatmeal and a few cups of coffee. It was again cloudy and with a cooler mist. I came to the conclusion that I had accomplished everything I had wanted out of this trip, and I would leave the wilderness today. I had an unused layover/weather day built in to my planning and It seemed kind of wrong to leave a day early, but I was okay with that and I was excited to see the family and tell of my adventures- plus have an extra transition day before going back to work. I broke camp for the last time and took off around Fourtown lake.
It was nice paddling Fourtown in the light mist/fog, as visibility was limited, and I really couldn’t see much of anyone else. I had noted some places to explore on Fourtown, and figured I wouldn’t mind another historical treasure hunt. I paddled the Southeast shore in the area of the old resort, and first spotted a large piece of rusted wire cable up on the rocks. I tied up the boat to go explore on foot. The magic canoe/time machine had one last trip for me:
[paragraph break] 1940-1970: I tied my boat at the shore of Fourtown Lake, so named because of the four townships that once claimed its shores. The rock pile remains of crib docks jutted out onto the water in a pattern too regular to be part of the natural landscape. I imagined the lacquered wooden chris craft and fishing boats that once slipped in and out; taking clients to harvest fish they had never seen so large or numerous. The end of the pier had a brand-new DeHavilland Beaver aircraft, which connected the resort to Ely in a matter of minutes. I ventured further inland and came across the iron scraps of a time when the resort business was booming. A riveted boiler was almost intact- probably once providing steam heat to keep things running in the shoulder seasons. Another wrecked car, though not beautiful like the first. A lot of thick twisted cable amongst the brush. There was a flat clearing extending to the east- a former skid road that may have brought guests to the resort. Birch and maple saplings were taking advantage of the sunlight and trying to make the old road their home once again. I walked up on a hill and noted evidence of an old foundation. From here the view of Fourtown lake stretched out before me was wonderful, and I imagined people on summer vacation relaxing on the lawn of the resort. [paragraph break]
Satisfied with the find, I decided to get back to my canoe and head home. I powered south on Fourtown, and then finally got to travel the Fourtown-Mudro portages I’d been warned about. They were steep, but not too bad, though rather busy with people coming and going, and a crew doing some trail work. I got several envious comments on the no-hands-single-portage from base campers and scout groups and I’ll admit: I felt a little like a rockstar. On the final little channel from Mudro lake to the EP, I saw a beaver hut and a ripple in the water triggered me to slow to a silent drift. As I glided between him and his home, a beaver attempted to hide amongst the rocks on my right. I stared-not 5 feet from the wet creature holding completely still except for his eyes which kept sizing me up. It was the largest animal I’d seen the entire trip (except maybe that fish). From there it was one final carry to the car.
I was back in town around 2 and returned the boat/Delorme to Piragis, and came away with a new paddle. I had a burger and a blueberry-blonde ale at the boathouse and took a growler to bring home to my wife: she loves that beer. I headed home, but by the time I got there the kids were asleep already. I was excited to be back to the future- what a fantastic trip. [paragraph break]
Notes: [paragraph break] -Everybody says solo trips are longer/slower because you have to do all the portage work/ camp chores yourself. This is true, but my experience was somewhat the opposite: I think because I planned meals and sleeping gear to require minimal prep time, and carefully packed everything for easy portaging. This trip taught me how to really pack intentionally. I made a spreadsheet and weighed everything. Not just minimizing weight, but being careful about the bulk of things was a factor, too. Future trips solo and group will benefit from this.
-The simplicity of Freezer bag cooking is awesome. I ate good meals, too. For the menu, see this link: http://www.bwca.com/index.cfm? fuseaction=forum.thread&threadId=879223&forumID=18&confID=1
-Solo cookset and alcohol stove worked well, but I think a pocket rocket stove would add more simplicity for shorter trips like this. Cookset and stove discussion in solo forum: (I couldn't get the link to publish) http://www.bwca.com/index.cfm? fuseaction=forum.thread&threadId=876211&forumID=120&confID=1
-Magic canoe: yes, see above. Main pack sat right behind the seat and small pack/food bag up in the bow to trim it out.
-Water: I love the miniworks filter i’ve had for 15yrs. It can suck clean water from a mudhole and the whole screw-to-the-top-of-a-nalgene thing has always worked well for me. I think a light hollow-fiber squeeze bag system would be good for fast water on travel days, though.
-There were a lot of ‘unknowns’ with the first solo- and traveling speed/ability was one of them. I had planned 4 days for this loop, with an extra day available for weather layover if needed. I did at least a solid 6 hrs of paddling each day. Generally on the water by 8am and in camp by 2-3. I could have easily done it in 3 days(2 nights) with time to explore- and if I physically trained for it it might make an epic overnighter trip sometime.
-Early mornings are the best. Funny, because I’m a natural night owl and not a morning person at all- unless I’m in the wilderness. I didn’t have any fires at night, but I enjoyed having breakfast and coffee in front of a fire while watching the day break on a cold morning.
-The solo trip is cool in that I got to follow my own whims, and schedule, and sidetracks. It is a little bittersweet that I can’t really share the memories with anyone else, though. Maybe that’s why this report ended up kinda long and wordy.
- Meeting the personal challenge of a first-time trip is fun, but I’ll definately solo again. I think the time alone in nature is good for the soul.
-The berlinnerweisse beer is still doing a 12-month ferment with a brettanomyces yeast. I cleaned and dehydrated the rose hips, and plan to add them to the beer for the last 3 months of fermentation. It’ll be ready by July 2016.