Day 1 of 10
Friday, May 28, 2010 We got up fairly early, double checked that we had everything, and were northbound before 8. It wasn't too far out of the way, so we stopped in to visit my parents on the way up. They still live on Lake Esquagamah in Biwabik township where I grew up with my brothers & sister. A side bonus of this visit was the fact that we avoided Duluth & all the road construction there. We took St. Louis county road 16 east which, at the county line, turns into Lake county 15. Eventually connecting with state highway 1 then finally 61.
I always enjoy turning up the Gunflint Trail. Gives me the "we're gettin' close now" feeling. There are some spots along the way that are interesting to see the green underbrush contrasting with the charred pillars left behind from the fire. It was still before 5 when we pulled into Tuscarora outfitters on Round lake. We watched the video picked up our permit and settled into our bunkhouse. After settling up with Sue, we decided to head out to sightsee a bit & go grab a bite to eat at Trail Center. I had the Bull Moose burger which sure was tasty.[paragraph break]
We drove around stopping at various lake accesses (Gunflint, Seagull, Gull) just seeing what there was to see. I did a solo trip out of Round lake last year in May and couldn't help but notice how drastically much lower the Cross river is. Driving up the gravel road to Tuscarora also produced an inordinate amount of dust for driving so slowly. [paragraph break] Back at our bunkhouse a grouse flew under a nearby spruce tree & entertained us for a while. Later, we walked down to the dock and just enjoyed what was left of the daylight hours.
Day 2 of 10
Saturday, May 29, 2010 Breakfast was at 7. French toast with powdered sugar chopped strawberries & bananas. Shortly there after we got ahold of Andy & made final arrangements for our tow across Saganaga. The tow was fairly uneventful. Beautiful scenery, but I was chompin' at the bit to get in The Black Pearl. As we crossed we were told that we'd be doing a "wet drop". Which meant, he would anchor the boat out from shore. Then put the canoe in the water & proceed to load it then hop in and go. While she never said as much, Vickie admitted later that she was horrified at the prospect of "jumping" from one boat to the other. She had no problems, we paddled around the point to a very nice campsite & pulled in to reorganize. The first thing we did was shed a few layers as it was warming up quickly. 90 degrees was the predicted high. After some minor exploration of the campsite we were officially off.[paragraph break] As with my trip out of Sawbill a few weeks earlier, a bald eagle was seen perched atop a tree. Many loons and various waterfowl were also encountered intermitantly as we paddled along. Vickie was fascinated with how close th loons would allow us to get. She dug her camera out and attempted to get a picture or two. Everytime she got one into focus, they would dive just before she could snap the picture. This happened more times than I cared to count. It became a running joke for the first few days of our trip, as she tried in vain to capture a decent shot.
[paragraph break] Going in, my main concern on Saganaga was wind. No worries there, as this day was turning out to be a beauty. Very warm and sunny with just enough breeze to keep one cool but not so much as to be a hindrance on paddling. Paddling west across Saganaga some of the spots in the narrows were veryt shallow. Several groups passed us by on their way out. After some minor navigational confusion we came to Swamp portage which was bustling with a group of 9 coming across.
It was short but very rocky.[paragraph break] Making short work of Swamp lake we came to Monument portage, Vickies' first real test of the day. I told Vicky to just take it easy, & go at her own pace. There was a fairly large aspen across the trail, but it wasn't too much trouble to step right over it. We met a very friendly group of 6 along the trail. So much so that we needn't have gone back for the rest of our packs/gear. We chatted awhile about our route & they strongly recommended going to Lake of the Clouds. Even though my Voyageur map didn't show any fish, they insisted we bring our poles along....we wouldn't be disappointed. We thanked them for the advice and for hauling our packs across the trail then went back to take a few pictures.
[paragraph break] Next was the aptly named Mud bay of Ottertrack. Shortly it opened up into the main body of the lake. There was a group camping across the lake on the Canadien side. Some majestic cliffs also rose up from the shoreline that had an orangish hue.
Following the southern shore, we easily located the portage into Ester. Vicky joked, "Hopefully there are some more friendly people coming across this portage?" I quipped, "Let's hope so, as this one is gonna be significantly tougher." The trail instantly climbs up out of the lake before leveling off. It then has a steep continous climb to the top where there is an impressive old white pine.
The trail then descends equally as steeply down to Ester lake. As we were removing the packs from our backs and catching our breath, Vicky asked,"How do you carry that canoe & your pack at the same time?" I replied,"First of all it's not THAT canoe. It's The Black Pearl! Secondly, I don't look too far ahead and try to think about something other than the weight on my back. I don't go across the portages continually asking myself, where's the lake? where's the lake?" Also I normally double portage so there is no need to look to far ahead or look around. We'll see everything there is to see when we walk back to get the rest of our packs/gear. I didn't no it then, but Vicky later told me this simple advice really helped her keep a positive attitude while portaging. As we walked back towards Ottertrack we happened across a grouse and also noted a few impressive cedar trees along the trail.[paragraph break] A couple of Clif bars later we were cutting glass on a mirror named Ester. We stopped at one of the southern campsites to get out and stretch a bit. There were wildflowers in bloom everywhere, especially wild roses. It was fairly shallow in this area with a sandy bottom, ideal for swimming.
Paddling on through the shallow narrows between Ester and Hanson there was a mud turtle sunning itself.
We pushed through into Hanson. Mercifully a breeze had kicked up to help cool us a bit. Soon we were at the last and, from what I'd heard, greatest challenge of the day. The portage into Cherry has a very rocky landing on this end. Also there is a decent campsite just off the portage trail. I'd say that this is the type of portage that will test the strength of the bond in about any relationship? Where thoughts & opinions are shared freely along the trail without being filtered by such things as kindness or politeness and perhaps even good sense. I told Vickie to "buckle up" & I'd see her down the trail. (Probably not TOO far down the trail? LOL) Flat & rocky for the first few rods, the sharp uphill climb begins on a surprising well worn trail. There is a maddening descent just before the actual peak which gives a false sense of the worst being over. I made it to the actual summit before setting things down and looking back to see how Vickie was doing. She looked totally exhausted, but to her credit kept plugging away without serious complaint. We stopped to rest and get a drink. The other side of the portage was a near carbon copy of the previous. Complete with another false descent. The only tangible difference was that on the Cherry end there was an impressive grove of cedars at the landing along with some very pretty purplish flowers. As we finished the portage I can't say enough how impressed I was with Vickies' demeanor and performance across this very tough portage on her first day of her first trip. She was tired, as was I. But NO vociferous complaining, just, a get the job done attitude. Like she'd been doing it her whole life? We sat for awhile in the grove of cedars which provided good shade. Being hot and sweaty in the shade on the grass near water, I would've thought the mosquitos would devour us? Quite the contrary. Very very few mosquitos here. In fact I don't recall any time or area along our whole trip where the bugs were a particular nuisance.[paragraph break] It's a little tricky navigating through a maze of downed cedar trees near the landing, but soon we were out into the main part of the lake hoping the narrows site was open. HALLELUJAH!!! It was! Naturally we grabbed it and began settting up camp. There are 2 awesome tent pads back away from the firegrate, but it was just the 2 of us & we setup right on the lakeshore without too much trouble.
Not having eaten a real meal since breakfast, It goes without saying we were famished. Fortunately there was a little firewood left behind from the previous occupants. Vickie got a one match fire started while I set up the tent. In no time she had a nice bed of coals and our ribeyes were sizzlin'.
Also boiling some water for our instant mashed potatoes topped with a few slices of melted marble jack cheese......After a long toilsome day, the best word I can use to describe how that steak tasted is, orgasmic. It was a great day! We had made it to Cherry, the worst was now behind us. At least as far as portaging went? Everything had went about as well as one could've hoped for. We both sat back and basked in the beauty of Cherry lake.
Saganaga Lake, Swamp Lake, Ottertrack Lake, Ester Lake, Hanson Lake, Cherry Lake
Day 3 of 10
Sunday, May 30, 2010 We slept in a bit today. Can't believe how early it gets light out already! We got up to a pleasant morning sky, had a breakfast of pancakes & oatmeal. Washed down with some hot chocolate & coffee. As we were still shaking the cobwebs out, just down the lake at the high cliffs, a couple of ravens persistantly announced their presence. Their shrill calling back & forth would become the bane of our existence on Cherry. We finally learned to co-exist. [paragraph break] Either Vickie has a short memory, or my powers of persuasion were at an all time high? I convinced her to go back across the Cherry-Hanson portage on a day trip to the South Arm. I reasoned that we should do it right away in the morning instead of later in the evening when we were apt to be more tired. We threw the necessities into her Duluth pack and headed out for the day.[paragraph break] The portage was sooooooo much nicer carrying just the canoe. There was a slight breeze about as we headed SW down Hanson. As we neared the portage to the South Arm we noticed a family of otters were playing in the water. As we approached they went ashore. Boy did they make a ruckus! [paragraph break] The portage starts out with something of a switchback around a number of fallen trees. The trail then straightens out, a very nice path. Then we came to the waterfall area. There wasn't much flowing through the creek, but what an idyllic area. It seemed like we were in an enchanted forest?
I half expected to see a Leprechaun or a Unicorn come strolling out from behind one of the many giant cedars at the base of the "falls". Though it had been warm out on the lake, it was cool down here. Both literally & figuratively. We hung out for awhile taking pictures......just absorbing the other-worldly atmosphere. We eventually pressed on and finished our portage to the South Arm.[paragraph break] There is a very nice landing at the South Arm end plus a campsite only a stones throw away as well. There were several minnows swimming very near shore that we watched for a time. We paddled past the portage to Toe and followed the shoreline south towards Eddy Falls. I noticed a canoe just pulling into the Eddy Falls landing so I suggested we go check out the campsite just east of there if it was unoccupied. What a gorgeous site! We explored the site and just relaxed there for about 15 minutes. A great view to the west of the beautiful South Arm presented itself. We could even see fish in the water near shore.
Figuring we had spent enough time here so as the people at the falls had moved on? We paddled over & indeed they had left. Yesterday being hot and sticky, we were both already clamoring for a "shower". The water was still a mite cool but it served it purpose. Refreshing both our bodies and souls. I have been here a few times before, but it is still such a beautiful spot.
[paragraph break] Feeling both reinvigorated and refreshed, we continued our westward exploration of the South Arm. The wind picked up a bit so we pulled into the beach site on the southern peninsula to stretch & hopefully let the wind die a bit. The wind persisted so we pressed on through the narrows finally making it to the last site on the north side before Thunder Point. The site was definitely nothing to write home about. But since the others nearby were occupied, we pulled off here for lunch. As I was grabbing some water to do dishes, I noticed some ominous looking clouds beginning to roll in. The wind was still blowing pretty good when we pushed off and before too long a light drizzle began to fall. Vickie grabbed our rain gear out of her Duluth pack as the wind & rain began to intensify. Originally I had planned on stopping at Thunder Point and climbing up to see the view. Now I just wanted to get around the point so the wind and rain would be at our backs. We pressed on in some trying conditions until I finally decided we better pull off.
It wasn't the best spot, but at least there was somewhat of a clearing to pull the Black Pearl up out of the water. We hunkered down under some small bushes and waited.[paragraph break] As we munched on some trail mix the wind began to calm a bit. Once again I was just hoping to get around the point and either get out of the wind, or have it at our back. The waves weren't quite so bad so we pushed off to try again. It went pretty well at first. Before too long though the wind really picked up. We had to go sideways with the waves or paddle out into the waves, thus getting further from shore. Being sideways was sure suicide and I didn't want to get any further from shore than we already were. I pointed us back towards shore. Vickie noticed what looked like a campsite on shore. It turned out to be the trail up to Thunder Point! Complete with plenty of room to stash the Pearl and some open area under some larger trees for us. It didn't look like the weather was gonna let up anytime soon? I asked Vickie, as long as were here we might as well climb up and see the view? We probably did more complaining about this trail than the Cherry-Hanson portage. It was a tough climb. Likely made tougher by being wet, and foremost on my mind was the fact that we were about as far from our camp as we could've been on our loop. That said the summit was eventually reached. Tired and wet, we looked like a couple of drowned rats in the picture we took.
As a consolation, the rain had definitely tapered off. We headed back down hopeful that the worst weather was over.[paragraph break] We rested for awhile once we got back to the bottom. The rain was now just a light drizzle, though not quite as bad, it was still windy. It looked as if the clouds were beginning to break? [paragraph break] We pushed off once again. Like I figured once we got around the point, the wind died. There was a group at the campsite bobber fishing as we passed by. One of those occasions where it's kinda nice to see other people. Knowing they had to endure the same weather we just did. We paddled pretty steady for quite some time. Finally we pulled off at the site just before the narrows on Knife lake. This was also a very nice site. Plenty of large pines for privacy & shade,even had a flat rock table constructed. Onward we paddled. Throught the narrows past the last site (which was occupied) before our portage to Amoeber. [paragraph break] There is a nice landing on the Knife side of this portage. The trail is fairly rocky and has a fair climb but isn't too bad. The island site on Amoeber was occupied, but looked to be a nice site as we paddled by. We exchanged hellos with the group camping there. Just past this site something caught my eye from the large point sticking out into the lake from the NE. It was on the ground, but it looked like a bald eagle? As we got closer, I asked Vickie if she could see it? She confirmed that it was a bald eagle. We were really starting to get close now, when Another eagle I hadn't even noticed took off from atop a nearby spruce tree. Vickie said, "Awwww there it goes." She still had not noticed the one on the ground until I told her. This eagle did no take off. We were as close as we could be to it in the canoe & still it showed no fear. It's been my experience that usually eagles will always take off when you get THIS close.
We sat and watched it up close for quite awhile, it never took off. It looked like above its eye it was injured? Finally we paddled around the point. There was a wide trail up to where the eagle was. I got out of the canoe & slowly walked up to see if the eagle was injured or what? Just then it took off like nothing was wrong. I walked over to where the eagle was expecting to find a fish or animal carcass or maybe a young one that had fallen pout of the nest. There was nothing there that I could see to hold that eagles attention for that long. Who knows???[paragraph break] Pushing on towards the Topaz portage, Vickie shrieked! "There's a huge snake swimming alongside the canoe!" I turned just in time to see a beaver dive and slap the water with his tail. Needless to say I laughed a little. The next portage was similar to the previous, maybe not quite as steep? By now the rain had completely stopped and there were patches of blue sky. Topaz was another pretty lake. Although the campsite located there is not one to shoot for. Next was a short little 5 rodder back into Cherry. Nice to be back home. We had a nice supper and it was a very pleasant evening as I got reacquainted with my old pal Mr. Beam and Vickie with her Limon Bacardi. Of course the ravens were happy to see us as well.[paragraph break] Cherry Lake, Hanson Lake, South Arm Knife Lake, Knife Lake, Amoeber Lake, Topaz Lake
Day 4 of 10
Monday, May 31, 2010 Planned on sticking closer to home today. Gonna take the advice of the nice folks who helped us on the Monument portage and head up to Lake of the Clouds. Once again the day started out nicely. Save for our resident ravens bickering yet again. We paddled past the cliffs and ravens to the portage to Lunar.
There is a little waterfall very near this portage. It may have been a little more impressive if it wasn't so dry. The Lunar portage starts out with a significant climb before leveling off into a fairly decent trail. It then passes an old beaver pond. Then the fun really begins. The trail climbs steeply up an incredibly rocky "gorge" with plenty of branches hanging down across the trail to add to the inconvenience. There is what sounds like an underground brook running just below the trail. Kinda cool. Finally emerging out of the brush and rocks we encountered a group heading towards Cherry and points beyond. A father & 3 sons were headng south. Eventually wanting to go from Sea Gull to J.A. Paulson lake. We talked for a bit, then headed our seperate ways. We made short work of Lunar. If not for the lake being so small, the portage to Lake of the Clouds may have been a bit more difficult to locate? A somewhat overgrown trail climbed up 10 rods to Lake of the Clouds. Lake of the Clouds is a little gem. We trolled rapalas around for awhile as a gentle breeze cooled us. Turned out to be a beautiful day. As promised, soon there was a tug at the end of my line. My first laker of the day was of perfect eating size so I put him on the stringer. We had lunch![paragraph break] Later we headed over to the Rivalry lake portage trail. We could see the cliffs from out on the lake.
The trail itself was quite overgrown. There were a couple af trees down across the trail that looked to be trouble with packs and canoes. But the folks we met earlier had come this way, they got through. The cliffs were impressive as the trail followed along near them. At the Rivalry lake landing, there were a few sizable stones that looked just like concrete. We went back out to Lake of the Clouds and fished for awhile longer before heading back to Cherry to eat lunch.
[paragraph break] Even before this trip, Vickie had admitted she is not a big fan of eating fish. I told her lake trout have a different taste than a walleye or northern. She agreed to give it a try. So while I was cleaning the fish she got the fire started & was getting the mashed potatoes and fixings ready to go. Somewhile later after we had finished our meal, Vickie commented that the lake trout meal was better than the ribeyes we'd had on our first night. The only thing she didn't like was the skin. Which she just ate around. I told her if we can catch some more when we get to Kekekabic, we'll have another meal and I'll make sure to skin them.[paragraph break] We were both stuffed after that great meal & just hung around camp being lazy. While milling about, Vickie noticed something sticking out of the ground that caught her eye. She dug around it and pulled up an interesting artifact.
She had found an old scout knife that had been there for quite some time. It was all rusted up but, for her, was a cool momento of our trip. [paragraph break] Our resident ravens were unrelenting! Actually, they weren't ALL that bad. But they were so persistant I decided to have some fun with it. I told Vickie that ravens are an awfully lot like humans. It's the female bird that's doing ALL the squawking. [paragraph break] We decided to go out and paddle around Cherry this fine, early evening. We tried to fish a little too, but they weren't cooperating. Vickie was finally able to get a decent picture of a loon instead of just ripples on the water. LOL I told her they finally accepted you into their wilderness home. I can't say enough about the atmosphere that Cherry lake provides.
I'm partial to smaller intimate lakes off the beaten path. Cherry is not normally a lake you'd just pass through on your way to somewhere else. It IS the destination!!! This lake qualified as that. Plus being 2 seperate bays split by the narrows made it seem smaller yet? While the cliffs surrounding Cherry were not the highest I'd seen, being on such a small body of water made them seem all the more impressive. Also for such a small lake to have islands. And not just any islands? I've seen many, many islands on different lakes, but these were unique. It seemed like they shot up some 40-50 feet straight out of the lake. Especially the one furthest to the east. I don't think there were many spots around it's perimeter where we could've even pulled off to stand on shore?" We checked out the "other" site. It goes without saying that everyone would want to stay at the narrows site. But this was a very respectable site as well. A good insurance site,(because the site on Topaz is poor) in the unlikely event the narrows site is taken. We both spent this evening paddling about, absorbing & appreciating the magnificent spectacle of visionary enchantment that is: Cherry lake.
[paragraph break] The wind began to blow a bit and some clouds were now moving in. We headed back to the shelter of camp in case things suddenly got worse. Spending the remainder of our evening just relaxing enjoying our cocktails of choice and the ambiance of a nice campfire. Crawling into the tent for the evening, I heard the first few drops, of what would be an overnight shower, come down. Cherry Lake, Lunar Lake, Clouds, Lake of the, Rivalry Lake
Day 5 of 10
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 TRAVEL DAY By the time we got up the rain had stopped and it looked like it might turn into another decent day? There were still clouds, but also large areas of blue sky. We hoped for the best. Though it was no longer raining, everything was still wet. I always hate packing my tent & tarp away wet. I know I'm exaggerating here. But no matter how much I shake to get the residual water off, it seems like they weigh twice as much when I pack them away?! Anyways. We had a quick oatmeal with dried apples for breakfast and were on our way.[paragraph break] As we paddled away I noted that there was finally only silence coming from the cliffs. It's always kinda bittersweet leaving a spectacular lake with having had a great campsite to boot. We were covering familar water and portages since we had paddled across Amoeber & Topaz on our day trip a few days previous. As we paddled across Topaz and were about to pull up to the portage to Amoeber, a slight drizzle began to fall. We pulled our raingear out of our packs and put them on. I was coming down the gentle rock slope at the Amoeber end of the portage, when suddenly, I slipped a bit. Fortunately The Black Pearl came to my rescue. I was slipping back, but the Pearl broke my fall enough to keep me from going down, by the back of the canoe hitting the rock slope. Unfortunately there was a sizeable chip of the ash gunnel missing. I guess this too will be a reminder of what, to this point, was shaping up to be an extraordinary trip? We looked for eagles on Amoeber but seen none. The rain was picking up a bit as we entered Knife.
There were a few spots across Knife where I tried to cut across the bay to save paddling. It was raining. Now the wind was picking up as well. Now I kept the Pearl hugging the shoreline as there was some chop on the lake. Things worsened as we neared the narrows of Knife. I thought if we could just make it to the 5 star site just past the narrows. We pulled up to the narrows, and the scene across the way said that my idea wouldn't be prudent at this time.
The clouds looked ominous and the wind was REALLY blowing on the other side. I had noted that the campsite just north before the narrows had been open when we passed by. We headed back, double time. The landing at this site was terrible. Just as I lifted the Black Pearl out of the water at the landing the wind really gusted up and nearly took me for a ride. We got everything safely up on shore, tucked away. The rain started pounding down. At least there was some decent cover at this site. We pulled out our camp chairs and began waiting out the weather. Within 20 minutes or so the rain and wind dropped off significantly. We waited a little longer just to be sure. We could see the clouds in the distance looked much tamer, so even though it was still raining we pushed off once again. It continued to rain as we paddled past Thunder Point. Vickie commented that we must not be able to be in this area without it raining. LOL. It had slowed to a drizzle by the time we got to the Bonnie lake portage. It was a very nice flat trail.
[paragraph break] Bonnie was a big bowl. Spoon on the other hand was a very scenic lake with lots of islands. The portage into Pickle started out with a steep climb then gradually tapers off passing by a neat pond before coming to a nice landing on the Pickle side. There is a little brook running alongside the trail which has a small cascade on the Spoon side. Maybe we were just anxious to get to Kekekabic? It seemed the portage from Pickle was a lot shorter and easier than I had expected? At any rate there were a couple of loons waiting to greet us on the Kekekabic end. [paragraph break] We paddled west upon the first campsite past the portage. Though we were wet and wanted to get out of the rain, we didn't go up to check it out. It didn't look too impressive from the lake, and besides there was probably a good reason it was so overgrown. We hoped the next one would be better? My Voyageur map showed it to be on a nice point. We pulled up to a very nice sloping canoe landing which ramped up to a gret kitchen area. Vickie exclaimed that even though it was still raining there was still some dry ground below the big white pines!
I wondered aloud, "Where is the firegrate?" There were a couple of nice logs for seating plus a couple of large sawed off stumps for tables, but no firegrate. As we walked around, we found the firegrate out on the peak of the point affording a spectacular view of the lake in 3 directions. The seating up here wasn't the best, but that was immaterial since we had our camp chairs.
The more we explored the more we REALLY liked this site. We had found our new home for the next few days![paragraph break] We quickly got the tent setup, and there was a great area for the tarp as well. As soon as we were settled in the rain stopped. It wasn't too long later that the sky began opening up and it was actually a very pleasant, dry, evening. Kekekabic must be a haven for loons? There were at least 10 huddled out on the lake a few hundred yards out, and smaller groups further out in different directions. As we better explored the trails around this site looking for firewood we would periodically look out and see what all these loons were up to. They put on quite the display splashing their wings in the water while skipping across the surface. They were also noisy, but this was an almost welcome relief as their calls were much more soothing than the ravens we left behind on Cherry. [paragraph break] We had marinated chicken breast sandwhiches for supper along with some vegetables and rice with snickers bars for dessert. We sat up playing cribbage under the tarp still not completely confidant the rain was over.
I believe I won this game?! We hung our wet clothes out to dry and turned in fairly early for the evening, with loon calls echoing across the lake. Cherry Lake, Topaz Lake, Amoeber Lake, Knife Lake, South Arm Knife Lake, Bonnie Lake, Spoon Lake, Pickle Lake, Kekekabic Lake
Day 6 of 10
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 Waking up to a gorgeous day is always a good thing. I chopped some firewood after breakfast so we had some for a fire when we got back from our daytrip exploring the east end of Kekekabic. Vickie loaded up her Duluth pack and off we went. It was one of those days where when the sun was out it was almost too hot. And when it went behind a cloud it was almost too cold. We paddled until we got to the narrows where there was a campsite on the north side behind some islands to take a break. This was an absolutely awesome site as well.
There is a great view of the islands from this site which sits up about 20 feet above the water. We snacked on some Clif bars and basked in the sunshine before moving on. There were some brightly colored orangish flowers upon some of the steeper cliffs as we paddled by. We checked out most of the campsites along the way. With the exception of the one just mentioned, none came close to being as nice as ours. We stopped for lunch at the second to last site at the east end. There was a large pine at that site that was a likely victim of the '99 storm. There were 3 large stumps cut from it that made great tables.
As with virtually each spot we'd been to this point, there were flowers in bloom everywhere.
[paragraph break] We finished our lunch and headed back west, trolling along the way. I picked up a nice eater just below the big cliffs on the north side by the campsite in the fishhook bay. For the first time we ran across some other paddlers. A large group(9) paddled past us. We ran across them again just up the lake. They were looking for a campsite. We directed them to the nice one we stopped at earlier, just a half mile west of our present position. The loons now showed no fear of Vickie and swam within close proximity of The Black Pearl on a regular basis. We leisurely paddled back to camp. Once there I began cleaning the lake trout I kept while Vickie started the fire and began preparing the side dishes.
We had another great tasting meal of trout. I even skun this one so Vickie had no complaints.LOL[paragraph break] Another gorgeous evening around the campfire with cocktails in hand, while loon calls echoed across the lake, and NO bugs. What could be better? Vickie asked if I brought alot of people up here? I told her, "probably not as many as you'd think?" She replied, "How could anyone NOT completely enjoy an evening like this on a beautiful lake with a great campsite?!!" I gave her the simple truth. "Most EVERYONE I know would absolutely LOVE to be here right now!" "But, the vast majority would probably want to go home after the simple (At least to me?) 5 rod Swamp portage. Not even mentioning the much tougher ones we did later." Which I told her was a good thing. Because if it wasn't "somewhat" tough to get back in here, then everybody WOULD be here. With that we called it a night. Kekekabic Lake
Day 7 of 10
Thursday, June 03, 2010 Planned on taking it pretty easy again today. Figured to explore/fish the SW part of the lake today, especially around the islands. By now Vickie had really come into her own as a wilderness camper. She really caught on quickly. She knew what to do and when. AND was able to do it. Knew what to pack for our daytrips without me having to double check everything. Alot of this may sound simple? But I've had people along where, I've had to OK most everything. Including eating when they're hungry! I thought we REALLY worked well together to get things done around camp. Thus maximizing our time where we could be out on the lake or just to sit back and relax.[paragraph break] I asked Vickie if she would like to go out somewhere for lunch today? She just laughed and gave me a, "Yeah! right!" look. I told her I was serious. We'll bring some food and stop at the nicest campsite we find. LOL Once again it was a lovely day. Just enough of a breeze. We trolled over to the islands but didn't have much luck. After exploring most of the southern portion of the lake we decided to pull into the island campsite for our lunch "date".[paragraph break] The site was very nice. We could tell someone had just left it that morning, or maybe the day before. The grass on both of the tent pads was still all matted down. It had a very nice canoe landing with several fairly tall red pines stretching across the shoreline. The firegrate area was also very ice, but could've used a few large trees in closer proximity to provide some shade.
All in all I'd give it 4 stars. Once again, there were wild roses in abundance along with several other flowers in bloom. We set about making our lunch as the heat of the day bore down on us.[paragraph break] After eating, while Vickie was down by the lake getting some water to clean the dishes. I was still up at the firegrate area tearing down the stove and packing things away when I heard what sounded like a fairly large stick crack. I turned slightly to my left, looking back up the site towards the tent pads. It was only a glimpse. But as I turned I seen a small black bear quickly scurry back into the cover of the surrounding brush & woods. It had happened so fast I didn't know what to think? I watched the woods for a few moments. I didn't see or hear anything. Figured it was still probably running away? When Vickie came back up from the lake I told her about the brief encounter. Guess who's coming to dinner??!! Her first response was, "did you get a picture?" LOL As we discussed it further she said she thought she had heard some larger branches or sticks cracking as we were eating. Apparently I was oblivious? I thought back and all I could remember was a couple of squirrels making a bunch of noise. Likely he was there watching us the whole time? At any rate he was gone now and we were about to be so..........Hopefully he doesn't cause a problem for anyone down the road?[paragraph break] We had our best success fishing on Kekekabic between this island and the ones just to the west. It isn't all that wide between these islands, but it sure does drop off quickly. Never caught anything all that big, maybe 20 inches was max? As we paddled through I happened to notice a large head swimming in the water in the distance. (And no. It wasn't a giant snake.) At first I thought it might be a moose so I picked up the pace paddling. As we got a bit closer it became obvious that it was a doe, a deer, a female deer. We watched as it island hopped. Just as it caming to shore on the big island,(likely to visit the bear?) I had a strike. Another laker. Let all of them go today. Not that this is one of my stedfast rules, but I figured one meal of fish per lake per visit was a good limit to set?
[paragraph break] As evening approached we paddled back towards camp. We stopped to check out the site nearest ours to the west. I didn't think it was too bad. It looked like there was a trail running between the 2? Probably beat down in searches for downed firewood?
Back at our site we found that we also had a visitor in camp. A painted (mud) turtle was making his way across our site.
Vickie told him he could stay as long as he kept out of her sleeping bag. [paragraph break] Vickie had been keeping some rocks along the way that she found interesting or pretty. It reminded me of a book I'd read some years back. Portage Into The Past: by J. Arnold Bolz. In that story, his wife was stashing one rock from each lake they visited along thier route into the pack. Was a great moment when he & his buddy finally realized they were also lugging around a bunch of rocks. When Vickie asked me if she could keep hers, I said as long as they don't find their way into my pack you can take all the rocks you want!
[paragraph break] We both had gotten really atteached to this lake and site. We headed up to our firegrate point to enjoy our last evening at this wonderful site. And to catch our neighbors. Each evening we sat up here the same couple of loons came parading by, very close to our site. I presumed they were the same because while one glided smoothly across the water, the other had a very noticeable wobble in it's stroke.
It was always quite the sight.[paragraph break] This was to be our last night on Kekekabic. Though there was no signs of rain, I still decided to take the tarp down. Not that it REALLY mattered? But, I did'nt want to have to pack it away wet again in the event the weather changed overnight. Plus we'd be one step closer to being packed up in the morning. Someone who I planned on not joining us in our travels tomorrow was Mr. Beam.
We sat and looked out across Kekekabic reminiscing about what a absolutely fantastic time we'd spent here. With the exception of it raining when we first got here? We couldn't have hoped for better weather. Awesome campsite, good fishing, very friendly wildlife..........it was a few days of suspended animation in a state of bliss. We lingered by the campfire a little longer this evening. Wishing it would never end.
[paragraph break] Kekekabic Lake
Day 8 of 10
Friday, June 04, 2010 TRAVEL DAY There was a very faint pitter patter on the roof of the tent this morning. Naw! That ain't rain? Finally crawling out, we find that a light mist is coming down. We both seem a bit reluctant in breaking down camp. Looking back. If I hadn't taken the tarp down the night before, I think we may just have stayed? As it was we slowly ate breakfast and got things packed away. While we were lackadaisically going about our business, the wind had picked up and it started to rain for real. As we began our trek eastward across the big lake the chop really intensified. I kept the Pearl close to shore. As we got to where the lake starts to narrow the wind died down considerably. The wind and rain alternated back and forth as to which would be the more irritable. Once we reached the ponds the weather just settled into a good old fashioned soaker. We met a group of 2 on the ponds and gave them some fishing info, as they were headed for Kekekabic. We pressed on through the rain. Eddy, Jenny, & Annie.
[paragraph break] The plan had been to camp on Ogishkemuncie. But after discussing it with Vickie. We decided to push for Jasper. We had spent the last week on 2 stunningly gorgeous lakes. Ogish is a great lake too. Reasoned that Jasper was hit hard by the fire a few years back. It would provide a totally different experience. I thought Vickie would like to see the effects of the fire up close. There was a very nice site just past the portage from Kingfisher. With as few people as we have seen on the lakes we had traveled on already, (and they were more popular than Jasper) I figured that site was a lock to be open. As we finished the portage from Annie, there was a heavy haze over Ogish. It looked like the chop might be a problem once we got out on the lake? We kept it close to shore and island hopping. There were waves, but nothing too troubleing. We pulled off at the narrows site to get out and stretch and grab some trail mix.
While there the rain stopped. Maybe the worst was over? Once we were back on the water the rain resumed. I was surprised how few people we seen on Ogish. I thought this would be the first lake where we would see multiple groups? We came up to the Kingfisher portage. I decided since I was soaked from the waist down anyways. (I busted out the crotch on my rain pants) I would walk The Black Pearl down the shallow creek still loaded with our packs. The only real problem was navigating around all the limbs hanging across.
[paragraph break] We made quick work of the portage into Jasper. As we entered the main body of the lake I noticed a pack up in a tree at the good site. DAMN! The wind really started rockin' from the east kicking up whitecaps! We struggled as we paddled south to check out the site on the point. Another benefit of heading for that point was that it would shelter us from this wind. Thesite there was very poor. But it served our purpose as a temporary shelter from the wind. Once the wind died down we looked for the site furthest south. There was nothing that even looked remotely desireable in that direction so we headed for the site south of the island on the east shore. It had a decent canoe landing, a decent small grassy tent pad and a cluster of cedars that were still standing. Figured it was as good as we could hope for on this lake? [paragraph break]
We wasted little time setting up camp. I was able to get the tarp setup while Vickie set about getting dinner started. Wasn't my finest work, but we had enough room to stand & move around a bit while staying dry. This would be home for the next couple of nights. It felt good to get into some dry clothes. There had ben wild roses in bloom all along our route. But, this place was absolutely covered with them. On top of that there were berries galore! The strawberries were just ripening. In season, there will be raspberries & blueberries everywhere! There was even a current bush. We were both able to get a small handful of strawberries. They were mighty tasty. [paragraph break] As the day wore on the rain finally relented. I set about gathering and chopping firewood while Vickie went exploring. She found several artifacts at the old firegrate location. Most noteably some charred spare change. A few nickels & dimes. We hung our wet clothes out, though they were unlikely to dry any time soon. While cutting wood I noticed a beaver in the water. There was a lodge just below our site. A couple of loons also lingered in the area. As we were sitting by the fire that night at dusk, Vickie noticed a large bird land in a nearby charred tree that was still standing. She whispered to me, "Paul an eagle just landed in that tree." I looked over & told her that was no eagle. It was a great horned owl. She tried to get a picture, but it didn't turn out as she couldn't find the right setting in time. Kekekabic Lake, Kekekabic Ponds, Eddy Lake, Jenny Lake, Annie Lake, Ogishkemuncie Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Jasper Lake
Day 9 of 10
Saturday, June 05, 2010 It started out as a cool overcast day. It looked like it wanted to rain all day long. I thought about going over to Rog lake and trying for some brookies, but the ever present danger of rain all day kept of close to home. Our clothes finally did mostly dry out. We had some great chicken fajitas for dinner. Mostly we stayed close to camp and explored the area.
For a time we went out and tried fishing, but had no luck. We stopped at one of the unoccupied sites to get out to stretch. It really wasn't all that impressive. I surmised our site may have been the 2nd or 3rd best of the 7 on this lake. For the most part we really didn't do a whole lot today. We cleaned up the campsite a bit as there were several trees downed. I chopped most of them into firewood. Vickie continued to explore. She found what appeared to be a turtle nest that had been raided. I built a fire early this evening. It had been cool all day and it felt good to warm our bones by the fire.
We retired early this evening. We planned on getting an early start in the morning & heading out through Sea Gull. Jasper Lake
Day 10 of 10
Sunday, June 06, 2010 TRAVEL DAY As planned, we got up and were on the water early. It was still overcast but it looked like things were starting to break up. In no time we were at the portage to Alpine. We essentially only needed 1 1/2 portages now. So Vickie went back to get some photos of the rapids alongside the trail while I hauled the last of our gear across. I was sitting on a rock at the Alpine end of the portage waiting for Vickie. Alone with my thoughts, reminiscing about what a great trip we had had. Suddenly I heard a familiar voice. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?!? Come on back with me so we can get a picture of us together by the rapids." I have been across this portage several times over the years. I still think it's a very scenic portage. Just took it for granted I guess. That was another great thing about this trip. I got to see many things anew through Vickies' eyes. It gave me great pleasure to see her really enjoying herself here.
[paragraph break] It was warming up nicely as we crossed Alpine. We hit the 97 rod portage, where years earlier I had a close encounter with a bull moose. Seen no moose this time. We took a break at the Sea Gull end. I told Vickie it was ALL paddling from here. Some blue sky started to show itself now. The wind picked up a bit, but mostly it was a pleasant paddle. We pulled over at the palisades for a breather. There were a couple of noisy ravens there that reminded us of our time on Cherry. We had a good laugh.
[paragraph break] Before we new it we were pulling into the landing. I ran up and grabbed my van to bring it around. As I came out I handed Vickie one of the cans of chocolate mocca coffee she had left there for when we got back. Wish I had a picture of her smile! We quickly loaded up. Changed out of our wet boots and made tracks back to Tuscrora outfitters for a hot shower. Even though it had rained the Cross river along the road to Tuscarora still looked empty.
We chatted some with Andy & Sue about our trip. Thanked them again for their help getting us off on the right track. After a nice shower, we headed back to Trail Center for another very good meal. That first meal out. It's always nice to have someone else cook it & clean up afterwards. From there we headed homeward bound.[paragraph break] As I stated. Going in I was admittedly a bit nervous about how this trip would go. Having completed it and had some time to absorb & compare the memories to past trips. I don't think I would've dared dream that things could've went as well as they did. Vickie took the the BWCAW like a duck to water. In a matter of days she was completely competent in most of the everyday duties and we really clicked. Obviously I have done many trips and they have all been special in there own way. But I must say, for me to share this very special place with such a very special person......It had been the most enjoyable, memorable trip I've ever spent up there. Jasper Lake, Alpine Lake, Sea Gull Lake
Sea Gull Lake,