Day 1 of 3
Saturday, June 01, 2013 Left Cedar Rapids bout 6:30am and headed north. I was surprised about a couple of things on the drive up. The amount of Lund type fishing boats headed north. I bet I passed a couple hundred of them. Thought maybe there was some type of gathering somewhere. I was also surprised on the amount the previously mentioned rigs with blown tires. It seemed like every 15 miles or so there was fresh shards of tire then shortly thereafter a boat trailer sitting on the rim on the side of the road. I stopped at the K&? drive-in to grab a bite and see my dad’s pic of his car on the wall. He has been telling me to stop for a couple of years so today was the day. Not the greatest grub in the world but ok. I made it to Ely in 8 hours and a few minutes. I may have fractured a law or two on the way up. Pulled into town and went straight to CCO to check in. Just as I started to ask about my dad, (who had went into the woods a few days prior) I was informed he had just came out of the woods and was handed keys to his room minutes before me. Weird we would be there at the same time since he did not know what time I was to arrive and that he was scheduled to come out of the woods later in the week. Went out back to check out my room and there was my dad. He said he came out early because it was going to be cold that day. I think he was worried about me going solo. Dad went to get some grub and I went to Kondos to get a pad to put in my pack so I did not have my bear vaults up against my back directly. Then off to Piragis for another BV50, weather hand crank radio, and pelican case for my wife’s camera. I checked back to see if dad was back and decided to repack all my food and try to slim down some items. This was supposed to be 6 day trip but I just could not get all my food into 1 BV500. Grrrr. I did manage to eliminate a few items and some cook gear as well. I decided to mix some vodka with those Kool-Aid flavor things while I was repacking. Turns out it was pretty good, so I had several. Repacked everything and headed over to Sir G’s for dinner and a beer while father and his wife walked to the DQ. Dinner hit the table quickly which was good because I hate eating alone in restaurants, feels a bit creepy to me. I walked down to the custard place for a cone. Yummy. I decided to go back to the room for another cocktail. Dad was still not back, so I got worried and went to find him. Back to the room again and pumped up the air mattress. Sorry CCO, but your beds are not comfortable. I feel asleep while testing my sleeping arrangements and woke up several hours later with the door still open. Oops, I must have been very sleepy. I went back to sleep only to be awaken shortly thereafter by the drunk fellows above. They were loud but I was tired so fell asleep pretty quick.
Day 2 of 3
Sunday, June 02, 2013 I woke up some time after sun up. Was going to set an alarm to get to Britons @ 5:30 then thought better of it and decided to wake up whenever my body decided. Dad and his wife were up and after a quick shower headed off to breakfast. We had a nice breakfast. The blueberry pancakes where not as good as I remembered from last August but still tasty. Went to pay the bill and found out they only took cash. Off to the ATM up the block. Came back paid, went to leave and could not find the car keys. I went back inside and they were nowhere to be found. I had retraced my steps to the ATM, no luck. Well after 10 minutes of freaking out I found the keys in one my pockets. Back to the room to drop off father and load up my packs and off to Lake #1. Seamed like it took me forever to get unloaded and on the water. Off I go only to immediately make a wrong turn. I was supposed to head out and hang left but for some reason I doglegged to the right a bit and got twisted around. I always get twisted around on Lake #1. Not sure why? Well after 40 minutes of stupid laps I was back on course. Made it off towards lake #2 and thought I was zeroed in on the portage only to find out it was a campsite; another stupid lap. One of the things I noticed right away was that the boat did not move thru the water as easily as I hoped. I had to paddle hard to keep it moving. (Too much crap) My 1st portage into no name lake/pond was easy. I decided to triple portage. I could have carried a pack and a canoe but feared I would mess up my back trying to get the canoe up on my shoulders with a pack already on there. I took the boat over on the 1st trip. A group of dudes showed up traveling the same direction. They had a keg. (I know who I am hanging out with!) Back on no name lake they offered to help me load and if I needed help launching. Nice group of guys. They were headed to lake #4. Figured they would catch me across the pond on the next portage. Not so much. Maybe I was moving faster than I thought. Made 3 trips over the portage onto Lake #2 and since keg group had not even started to load there canoes I knew I had time to grab something to eat. This was the beginning of the end! Bit into a cracker, turkey sausage stick and string cheese all at the same time and the taste almost made me vomit. I thought WTF something is way wrong here. So I take a bite of the cheese, all taste fine, take a bite of the sausage sticks, all is fine. Bite into the cracker and it was horrid. Again it stops short of kicking in my gag reflex in; very chemically. So I smashed the cracker inside the baggie to safe room in the bear vault and continue snacking on the cheese and turkey sticks. The whole time wondering what had happened to them to make them taste like that. I thought perhaps they were in the new bear vault I had just purchased in Ely and that had made it taste so bad. So off I go onto lake #2. Getting better at keeping track of where I am at vs map vs GPS as I work my across lake #2. This looks so different from 2010. On that trip the water was several feet low and now it is several feet high. Peninsulas are now islands and now I can travel in areas where it should be land. Made navigation a bit more challenging but was kind of neat. This coupled with seeing the burn area was very cool. At this point I had no idea what time it was but thought I would take a campsite somewhere on lake #4. I kept thinking I should be overtaken by the keg guys. It felt like I was moving so slow. Each time I would stop paddling to check navigation I would instantly stop forward progress and turn sideways. Grrrr. I landed on a nice little hidden campsite on a peninsula. It is the coolest site I have ever been on. Even as I hit shore it was hard to see the site. The trees blocked it. Once up on land I crawled thru the shrubs and it was all open like a big bubble. Very cool. I searched the site for the throne and found it after about 10 minutes; plenty of spots to hang. I was very tempted to go hang near the water but thought there was a chance for storms overnight so choose to hang my hammock more inland. I had to check for widow makers. Thought for sure I would forget that step. Well after screwing around for over an hour I had my sleeping arrangements set up. Never fully set it up prior to this. Glad I stopped early in the day. Decided to do some housekeeping and tidy up gear. When I opened the food barrels they had a really bad smell. Again just thought it was the plastic newness of barrel. Repacked all my food and thought I had put my dinner for the night on top. Decided to go explore the woods a bit and get some fire wood and clean up all the loose twigs and cut lumber in camp. Found a down red cedar back in the woods. Most branches I could break the branches but cut the bigger ones. I stacked a couple piles of the loose stuff up on a flat rock back by the tree for the next people to use. Back at camp I cut my wood supply up in piles according to size. Now time to prep for dinner. One of my bear vaults was getting very hard to open, not sure why. I decide to start dinner and can’t find the meal I had planned on. Dump all the food out of both barrels only to find it had been one of the 1st items I took out. Dammit! So I prep for a different dinner option getting all I need to cook. This is the 1st time I was going to use my roll up grill. I know I am supposed to use the fire pit but I set it up immediately in front of the fire grate and used the twigs I found lying around to cook up my dogs. It worked great. http://www.arctic-fox.com/sitepages/pid67.php So as I mix up my mac cheese it makes up all perfect and creamy, that is until I take a bite. It tastes nothing like mac and cheese and the same as the crackers I attempted to eat for lunch. I try to be positive but now this is starting to piss me off. So I go back into the woods to burry my horrible tasting food; the hotdogs were good. Still hungry, I decided to make up one of my puddings. I smell it and it has a similar smell as the crackers but I decide to make it any way thinking maybe I am being paranoid. I start eating it even before it is all mixed up and it has the same taste but not as bad. It instantly made my gut hurt. My gut was pulsing as if I had a baby kicking or something. Again WTF is going on with my food. Now I am really pissed and start to go thru all the food that I had repackaged into single serving and it all stinks like chemicals. I almost vomit several times as I open all my zip lock and smell them. Well now all the food is ruined. It turns out the powdered eggs I had left over from last year’s trip were the cause for all my food tasting like crap. When I opened the baggie of powdered eggs I nearly fell over. I decide to just enjoy a nice fire (the bad food was in the fire pit) and watch the lake. Listened to my new weather crank up radio and decided a course of action. I review maps and decide since the weather was going to be perfect for travel tomorrow that I would travel up thru lake #4 narrows. I was assuming the few items that were factory sealed were still good and would just eat those items and stay out for a couple of days instead of the 6 I had planned. After reviewing the maps and watching the lake for a while I decide to drown my fire and go to bed. The sun was still up, I figure it was around 8 bells but I was tired hungry and had a gut ach. Now I decide my tarp is going to be too much of a pain to get under. So 20 minutes later I have it more of a porch type set up. This decision was also based on the fact that rain was not expected. I fall asleep within a few minutes. I was awakened by some loons going ape shit @ sunset. I just started to drift back into slumber and woke up to wolfs howling, barking, and puppies whimpering. They had to be less than 50 yards away. Scared the crap out of me. It only lasted about 30-45 seconds then dead silent. Now it was pitch black out and all I could think of was I hope they are not too protective of the pups and decide to serve me up as a late night snack. It got pretty cold in the night. As the hours slowly went by my shoulder started to get sore. I finally started to relax again just as the 1st glimmer of light was coming up and drifting off to sleep when I was woke by something. The sound was within a few yards of my hammock and sounded like heavy footsteps. It sounded like a man running with boots on. Whatever it was it was in a hurry and sounded like it had been startled. It smelled like crap for about a minute or so after the noise. So whatever it was, it moved quick and smelled like crap. I decide to get up and answer nature’s call that I had been holding. As I shine my headlamp into the woods I am hoping not to see any glowing eyes looking back at me, none to be found. I go check out the sun fighting to rise and watch for a few minutes. It’s damn cold so I decide to crawl back into my hammock. It is so comfy and warm and I finally fall asleep.
Day 3 of 3
Monday, June 03, 2013 I wake up an hour or so later and decide to pack up and head towards my car. At this point I still had not decided if I would go all the way out or not. As I pack up I get ready to start boiling some water for my chai. (I have chai tea for breakfast every morning) I find it too has been contaminated. That is the last straw and makes my decision to leave for me. Seems like it takes forever to get packed and loaded but at last I am on my way. I guessed that it was mid-morning at this point. No navigation issues now as I head back thru lake #3 then #2. I am always surprised how things can look different when traveling in the same area but from a different direction. I make it the portage just as a group from Kansas is departing. It was perfect timing. They had never been up in the BWCA and were very impressed with its beauty. They were only staying one night as they said the weather was going to be cool and rainy after today. As I attempt to unload I find my shoulder is becoming more and more worthless. I can barely get the packs out of the canoe. Again I take the boat over 1st and tie it up off to the side with the back in the water as the rear pack will be the 1st to come across. When I come back with the pack I find my path blocked by a different family just arriving. I ask to play thru? Then the dad of the group tells his kids to move their boat out of the way. I march into the water with my pack and load it in the canoe. Just as I am detaching my bottle from the pack one of the young men falls into the lake with a pack on his back and is sitting on the rocks with water past his belly button. Ouch! It had to hurt. As I get ready to go back for my final pack I ask if I can take one of their packs. The mom remarks that people are so nice up here. The dad hands me a very old Duluth pack. I could not get my bad shoulder inside the strap so the daughter assisted me. I head across and then the young man that had fallen is running back across in rubber boots. I hope he does not trip in those clunky boots I thought. I load my pack and as I reach my boat which I had turned and still had all the way off to one side but all the way in the water I met another group. This group also blocks my path to my boat an actually ran into it. There was plenty of room not sure why they were crowding me but I figure not a big deal. What I assumed was the leader starts directing the others and leaves there boat in front of mine making it difficult to leave. A women was holding one of boats parallel on the end of the big rock and just as I was leaving I looked over to see the boat drifting away while her tippy toes were on the edge of the big rock and her hands were on the boat, then splash, in she went. Water was deep enough to be past her waste. What was strange is she made no sound as it happened and it happened in like slow motion. I had to laugh a bit or a lot. She seemed ok but those canvas shorts she was wearing would be wet all day. It was nice out but not that nice to be in wet heavy shorts the rest of the day. The next portage was not nearly eventful. After my 2nd and last portage my shoulder is very sore and hot to the touch. I make it the entry point with no navigation mistakes. Unload and just then CCO pulls up to drop a few guys up so he takes my rental back. I get back to Ely and settle up the bill. I find out the engine noise I kept hearing at camp was the mating call of a grouse. Never would have guessed that. Gassed up and hit the road. Hit the cities at 4:30 and made it straight thru 35E no problem tell I got thru the downtown area. Then a few stop and goes and all was good. Then I start to see the signs stating that 35E south is closed. Well with traffic and no one to navigate I did not understand exactly how far ahead of me I would be forced to detour. I thought no worries I will follow the detour. Well the sign states to find alternate routes. It dumped me off onto 42 which I took west assuming it would take me over to Hwy 52 sooner or later. Then after a few miles another road closed ahead sign which thankfully turned out to be false. The rest of the trip south was uneventful. Weird thing is even with the detour it took me 8hrs flat to get home.
Lessons learned on my 1st solo: 1. Bring ear plugs so all the creepy sounds don’t keep me up (Assuming I ever do a solo again) 2. Don’t be cheap and get fresh food supplies even if they are dehydrated. 3. I enjoy the company of others. Looking back now, over a year later I am starting to consider a solo again but will keep it planned for a short trip. I did a trip with my Dad and his wife labor day 2013 and went self-contained and got many more bugs worked out on that trip. It was not technically a solo but I was completely independent with all my stuff as if I was solo.