Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Crisp, but beautiful morning.
The lake has calmed overnight. Not much more than a ripple as we make our way towards Gadwall lake to do some fishing. As we near the southern shore it is impossible not to notice the fine yellow blanket of pollen that yesterdays windy conditions deposited onto the lake.
I take everything up the portage including our daypack so Vickie is free to walk up the trail without the burden of carrying anything besides her camera. I sink mid calf deep at a few spots in the low marshy area.
At the end of the portage I flick the one & only woodtick I see this trip off my pant leg. We load up a begin circumnavigating the lake in a counter clockwise direction.
I am immediately smitten with Gadwall lake! Even though I had just climbed up a seemingly interminably steep trail. There were still high bluffs and hills the rose up behind the southern shores serving as an awe inspiring backdrop. Giving it an authentic mountain lake feel. There was a beaver hut in the SW corner of the lake. And just ahead there appeared to be an impressive stand of old growth pines.
As we paddle along I happen to notice something bright white back in the woods from shore. Too white. We pull off to investigate.
It turns out to be a styrofoam cooler filled with water and various items. Vickie then notices something even more alarming. A collapsed shelter! Built from sawed down trees. Using tarps and rope to hold it all together. There were even candles inside.
Pots & pans hung from nearby trees. Various empty food packages and garbage was strewn about. Most of the packages had expiration dates of sometime in 2011. But some of the trash was clearly from days gone by. Suggesting that this site was likely a long time semi-permanent base camp used annually (or more?) by the same group of individuals.
This was far & away the absolute most reprehensible thing I've ever come across in the BWCAW. It's one thing to find a piece of a wrapper, twisty tie, or some partially burned garbage. But, this was just flat out blatent, "I don't give a F@%K about the rules, what anybody thinks, or the consequences. ZERO respect!!!
I will say this. The area they chose was choice. It was situated in one of the nicest stands of trees I've had the privilege to come across. Large old growth red & white pines were present as well as some huge cedars and even some outstanding birch trees!
Even though we had a nice cache of birch bark back at camp. I couldn't resist grabbing a few of the premium pieces that were laying on the forest floor. Seemed ashame not to put them to good use.
Reluctantly we leave most of the carnage behind. As we have no way of carrying tarps,rope, pots, & pans etc. Especially with only one daypack along and Vickie being nearly 8 months pregnant.
We return to the Black Pearl and set about to try and catch some supper. After about our third circuit around the lake without a bite. I begin wondering if someone has a base camp up here then maybe they have also taken more than their fair share of the stocked fish as well. I set my rod down to dig out a Clif bar. Wouldn't ya know it?! Fish on!!! I manage to get a good hook set and bring a nice brookie up to the canoe. One item that is still safely tucked away in the van is the net, so I'll have to try and grab this one by hand.
This one goes nearly 18 inches. We have our supper!
We pull off to finish our snack break. It seems there are several ideal locations around the perimeter of Gadwall where people have stopped. Some complete with charred wood & ash from fires. One even had a makeshift fire ring. This lake is beautiful, but, it appears to have taken alot of abuse as well.
With renewed vigor we ply the waters of Gadwall lake in search of more thrills. A light persistent rain begins to fall. It doesn't take too long and my rod tip bends over again. (Naturally as I am putting my rain gear on.) This one is really a fighter. With no net, I have to play him out a bit longer than I like. But I get him up. This brookie goes over 18.5.
We already have enough for supper so I let this guy go. We catch a few more smaller fish, which we release as well, before decideing to call it a day.
As we're paddling back we notice a loon nesting very near to where we landed to check out the collapsed shelter. We hadn't even seen her there earlier. Hopefully we didn't disturb her too much. She seems to be staying on the nest so we figure everything must be OK.
We stop at the portage landing to savor Gadwall one last time before heading back. The lake had treated us well & we were thankful.
The sun had popped back out shortly before we laft Gadwall. It had been kinda of a weird day so far weather wise. Didn't seem like it knew what it wanted to do? There is not much more than a trace of wind as we push back onto Pine lake. We discuss possibly going to the Vale lake portage if only to hike the trail & do some exploring. But we had not had a proper lunch yet and decide to paddle back to camp to eat. We could come back later if conditions permitted it.
It started out as a leisurely paddle back to camp. The sun was out, little to no wind, what more could you hope for? Our crossing target was the point just west past the portage trail to West Pike lake. We had made it about 3/4 away across when it became obviously apparent that a malestrom of wind & waves was coming from the west, our way down the lake. I kept heading for the point. We were about 100 yards out when we were hit with the full flurry. Getting blasted by 2-3 foot waves I knew we'd never be able to continue paddling in the NW direction we were heading. It was a large gamble but I thought if I could turn the Pearl and ride out the waves in a NE direction we might have a better chance of making it to shore. WRONG!!! Getting caught in the trough of the waves I wasn't able to get her fully turned. We rode out a couple of roller coaster waves but ultimately we succumbed to the fiery of Mother Nature & over we went.
Our PFDs' made us like bobbing apples in the water. Vickie alertly grabbed the Duluth pack before it floated too far away. We both still had our paddles in hand. I screamed,"Stay close to the Pearl and hold on to her as best you can." At first we tried with the bottom up. Though filled with water. We found it easier to hang on with the Pearl right side up. It was easier to keep track of the pack and our paddles as the Pearl did a great job of keeping them corraled inside the canoe. While we concentrated more on hanging on and kicking towards shore.
Mercifully there was a reef that ran out from where we were washing to shore. So the last 30 yards or so we could just hop from rock to rock. All told we were probably only in the water for 5-10 minutes. Long enough to gain a greater appreciation of the Gordon Lightfoot lyric, "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" Being in the water we didn't even notice that it had started raining pretty good as well until we crawled up onto shore.
Quickly emptied the water out of the Black Pearl and secured it onshore along with our paddles. I could not lift the Duluth pack and had to just roll it up on a large rock until some of the water had drained off. At least it had floated. We then disrobed and wrung out our clothes. I then returned to the Black Pearl where the birch bark I had gathered up on Gadwall lake was still safely tucked away in the back pocket of my canoe seat.
Even though it was soaked, our camp stove fired right off as soon as the spark from my firesteel hit it. It provided a small measure of warmth while quickly drying out, then igniting, the birch bark for our fire proper. The rain prevented the fire from taking off as quickly as we had hoped. But once the fire was well established the sun popped back out and the lake was once again relatively calm. Our quick dry clothing did just that. We warmed our bones beside the fire for a short while.
Thoroughly doused the fire before we left. Even though it wasn't raining anymore, we donned our rain gear as an outer shell wind breaker. We were mostly dry, but still had that "damp" feeling. Neither of us had gotten to the point of shivering cold. More like just past the goose bump stage. I think it had all happened so quickly that we were still running on adrenaline when we got to shore. Also. It was a reassurring feeling that out clothes and gear didn't fail us when we needed them most. Even beyond that. I can't say enough about Vickie keeping her wits about her & never panicking. Which would've undoubtedly exasperated the situation. We got through it. Thankfully laughing after it was over.
We paddled back to camp with the wind again quickly gaining momentum. We unload at our landing and take stock of the situation. In the final analysis we lose our fishing poles, my small tackle box, Vickies' cap, the chapstick that I had in my pants pocket, & a big chunk of my pride. All things considered? Not too bad.
The last picture of my tackle box.
Upon our return to camp we notice a seagull hanging around. With all the excitment I had completely forgotten about our brook trout we kept for supper. He had survived the ordeal, but just barely. And now the seagull wanted him for his supper. So I couldn't relax just yet. I set about fileting our brookie than wrapping him in a small wet towel and placing a rock on topof it. Let evaporation keep the filets cool until we're ready for them.
By this time the wind is absolutely out of control. Waves are splashing up off the rocks and the spray is hitting us sitting some thirty feet away. And it just doesn't let up! We are beyond thankful that we are in camp.
The brook trout is the best meal of the trip in my opinion. Served it with some mashed potatoes topped with bacon bits & cheese. Vickie makes up a couple batches of muffins. One for desert tonight & the other for the trip out tomorrow. We spend the rest of the evening marveling at the sustained intensity of the wind/waves. As a testament to how far reaching being trapped in a Pine lake prison camp went. I dub the small lone red pine down by the lakeshore a "Charlie Brown lob tree in the wilderness." :)
Pine Lake, Gadwall Lake