BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
November 18 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
Beaches, flowers & storms
June 08, 2017
Missing Link Lake (51)
Number of Days:
Not very long after booking this trip we'd made the momentous decision to quit our jobs and move up to the Iron Range. As fate would have it, our trip is sandwiched smack dab in the middle of all this chaos. Not knowing what the future might hold, and feeling it would be a much needed break from reality, we determine to make this trip happen. As our trip nears, Vickie has already taken a new position and has been staying with my parents for the past few weeks until we close on our house. Aurora & I stay back in Eden Valley so she can finish out the school year.
We are literally still living out of boxes as we drive to Duluth to pick up Uncle Brad at the bus depot. From there it's a pleasant drive up the shore with only a short stop in Grand Marais to fuel up and grab some last second items. Since it is still quite early; after grabbing lunch at Trail Center, we drive back down the trail a bit to check out Honeymoon Bluff.
Afterwards, as we proceed on to Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters,Vickie and Brad (who are in a separate vehicle ahead of us) just miss seeing a moose cow trot across the road in front of Aurora and I. Not a bad way to start our adventure but, unfortunate that Brad misses out. Once at Tuscarora, before getting settled in our bunkhouse, we grab our permit and chat with Andy who, per usual, is full of awesome advice & stories. Later, we lazily explore the lakeshore area before calling it a night.
Tuscarora's traditional french toast breakfast fills our bellies for the day ahead. We load up and push off right from the outfitters dock. Vickie and Brad paddle our Souris River 18.5 while Aurora and I man the Black Pearl. Its a beautiful calm morning as we head off for the portage into West Round Lake. This landing is littered with boulders but the trail is level, although muddy. I contemplate putting in early, as the little pond at about the 2/3 mark looks tempting but, just decide to finish out the portage. The decision is rewarded as we pass by a couple of pink lady slippers just off the trail. Next were quickly on to the Edith portage where its much the same as the previous trail, although there is some more extensive boardwalks. At the portage into Brant we officially enter into the wilderness on another flat but muddy trail.
Aurora is doing a really great job helping out paddling. Her paddle is still too long for her to really dig in but, she's making an honest effort and repeatedly asks if she's doing it right. It's such a rewarding experience to watch her grow up right in front of our eyes. A green canoe at the landing helps us locate the portage into Gotter Lake. We eventually spend some time conversing with the 4 fellas heading in the other direction. Gotter Lake is quite a bit higher than the last time we were through here, thus negating having to slog through an extensive stretch of muck to get to floatable water. The folks we'd just met on the portage inform us that, due to the higher water levels, we can use the western most landing and save some portaging. This portage sports a run of stairs down to Flying Lake and, since the water runs right up to the bottom step, I tie off the canoes until we can bring the rest of our load.
Our target for today is the eastern most site on Bingshick Lake. I must admit that part of the reason for choosing Bingshick is that it's a bit easier to get to. I consider the Brant EP one of the toughest entry points because of all the portages with only very short paddles in between. In and of themselves none of the portages encountered are extreme but, the sheer frequency eventually takes it toll. Although, a more prominent factor was that we wanted to get back to Paulson Lake on a day trip. So, here on Flying we veer off the popular route and head north towards Bingshick Lake.
There are 2 short portages before reaching Bingshick. The first requires a bit of navigational skill as we need to weave our way through the hummocks before reaching the rock slab landing. The trail almost immediately drops steeply down on a wet & muddy path before leveling off and following a rock wall, garnished with bad footing along the way, to another swampy landing.
The next portage is not much more than a stones throw away but, with the way the creek is situated, the high grasses and weeds conceal the tiny finger leading to the proper landing until you're almost past it. It would be easy to paddle right past and end up portaging into Fay Lake instead. Just remember (if heading north to Bingshick) to, almost immediately, take a hard right. This next portage has a swampy & bouldery landing before climbing slightly up on a potentially slippery rock face to a small rocky landing on Bingshick Lake.
After putting in onto Bingshick, I quickly discover that our desired campsite in occupied. Fortunately, the other site is vacant and we change course and paddle over. It's a bit grassy and sloped for our tastes but, it will have to do. As one might expect, there is still clear evidence of the Cavity Lake fire which gives this site an overly open airy feel. Of course this means there is no shortage of optimal firewood close at hand. Tarp options are limited but, there are a few decent tent pads near the exposed fire grate area; which provides some decent log seating. By no means would this be considered an upper echelon campsite but, one aspect of it was quite extraordinary. While exploring around the perimeter of camp, Brad happens upon an enchanting botanical display, as several large clusters of pink lady slippers are in bloom just back from the fire grate area. Quite the find!
As I mentioned earlier, I consider Brant one of the toughest entry points in the BWCAW. So, after getting camp setup, our seasoned pork tenderloin with potatoes and beans was an especially satisfying meal. It is a pleasant evening, so Aurora & I head out to do some exploring. The Kekekabic Hiking Trail (KEK) runs right through our camp, and we take full advantage as we head east along the path up to the tiny creek tumbling down from Honker Lake. There is a faint spur trail heading north at the creek. We then continue east on the KEK where there is a decent overlook of Bingshick Lake. Although, having spent time at the other campsite on past trips, I must say it doesn't compete with the view provided there. Back in camp, Its s'mores for a late night snack and then a glorious moon rise before we cash in our chips for the evening.
Today starts out a little cool, but sunny. After a pancake breakfast, we head out with hopes of reaching Paulson Lake. We'd had an epic adventure there a couple years back and we're hoping to recapture some of that magic. Of course, while not nearly as grueling as the long portage in from Sea Gull, the 4 shorter portages we cross all have steep sections and are somewhat overgrown. Interestingly, I notice small red shavings (presumably from a royalex/plastic canoe) on all these paths. Eventually we do emerge out on Paulson Lake. It's as beautiful as we remember, although the fishing isn't as fast and furious. Having worked our way to the long portage, we decide to get out and stretch our legs a bit. There are some nice overlooks here as well as the quaint little creek tumbling down it's first drop on it's multifaceted course to Sea Gull Lake. Back in the canoe, we circle around the large island and pull up to the campsite there. The site appears unchanged but, what we do notice is some ominous looking clouds beginning to move in. Cutting our visit short, we hastily paddle back to Bingshick. On the way back, the blooming bog laurel in the narrow channel leading into Glee Lake provide a colorful contrast to the ever darkening skies.
By the time we reach Bingshick Lake the waves are becoming quite pushy. Fortunately for us, the wind is blowing in the right direction and we get a mostly free ride down the lake. Back in camp, we marvel at the ever increasing whitecaps rolling down the lake. Finally the skies let loose with rain and hail! Thankfully, the mostly dead trees I used to secure the CCS tarp hold and, we stay dry. The high wind persists for awhile after the storm passes but, it brings with it sunny skies. Aurora tries swimming but, our shoreline isn't the best and she quickly retreats. Later in the evening, once the wind has died down, we all take turns lounging in the hammock. It's a quiet, peaceful evening of sitting around enjoying the bounty of all our processed firewood.
Just after breakfast, we're greeted with a light persistent rain. (It's a pet peeve of mine to have to pack things up when there wet.) Retracing our route of the first day back to Flying Lake, we now veer off and take the challenging portage into Green Lake. There is a loon who keeps Vickie & Aurora entertained while Brad & I finish this portage. By the time we do so, the rain stops and the clouds are slowly beginning to clear off. At the Green to Bat portage I strip off my rain gear and loosen some of my clothing, thus unwittingly inviting the plague of mosquitos easier access while crossing this flat weedy portage.
We pull off, to take a short siesta, at the second campsite down the southern shore of Bat Lake. Vickie & I had stayed here several years back. It's always interesting to reminisce and verify how accurate our memories are. Soon after, we paddle the short distance over to our next portage. We are headed in the proper direction for this one, as the trail drops precipitously down to Gillis Lake. A boulder filled landing adds difficulty to getting the canoes reloaded but, we eventually get 'er done and lay claim to the second site to the west along the north shore.
This site is a definite step up from our previous home. A nice ramp landing leads up to an elevated site with a great panoramic view of the lake. While the site is open & airy it still provides a few pockets of shade. There are several good tent pads and decent trees for tarp & hammock hanging. There's even a nice overlook just behind camp, although the path to access it is quite steep & potentially treacherous. On the downside, the firegrate area almost completely exposed and firewood is hard to come by. (Of course we were absolutely spoiled in this regard on Bingshick so....).
By now the sun reclaims dominance in the sky and it's almost impossible to consider that just a few short hours ago we were getting soaked. The afternoon is spent drying things out and putting the finishing touches on getting camp setup and just plain relaxing and soaking in this beautiful day & campsite. As evening approaches, Aurora throws a couple color packets in the fire and stays up late with me listening to the loons and gazing at the sky full of stars.
It looks like its shaping up to be another sunny day. After breakfast, Vickie and I are itching to get out of camp for awhile. Brad says he's a little sore and wants to stay in camp. Likewise, Aurora wants to stay behind as well. Graciously, Brad agrees to keep an keep on Aurora while Vickie & I head out for a short daytrip. We settle on a short little loop through Fern & French Lakes.
Heading southwest, we cut across the bay and duck behind the large triangle shaped island. The campsite near the entrance to the narrows is occupied but, we see no signs of life. The water gets quite shallow but, we are still able to paddle through. There is a large erratic here that catches our attention. Paddling past the portage, we pull into the unoccupied campsite just past the landing. It's tucked in its own tiny bay and has it's own little peninsula, which offers good privacy for a site that is so close to a portage. There are several spots to land the canoe but, none are all that great. A unique fire gate area sports its own rock shelf table but, unfortunately it doesn't face the lake. There are a few decent tent pads but, the spacing of the trees seems a bit constricting. Still, in our opinion, it's an above average site.
After our brief explorations we hit the portage into Fern Lake. This portage is straight forward as it is short and pretty level, some overhanging branches and a short (maybe 2 rods) section of flooding due to a beaver dam on the Fern end are the only reason for concern. Fern got walloped by the Cavity Lake fire, and we paddle right past the lone campsite on the lake without seeing any sign of it. Our next portage is located in a little nook on the north end of the lake. Once again the trail is level and even shorter, only a somewhat rocky landing to contend with on the French Lake end.
In keeping with our reunion tour theme, we paddle the short distance over to check out the French Lake campsite we had stayed at a couple of years ago as well. Next we decide to hike the portage into Powell Lake. The landing on the French side is quite difficult and the boulder strewn path climbs up a good portion of the way to Powell Lake. I remember there being a decent overlook just off the trail, (on the Powell end) when I passed through here several years ago right after the fire. But, now it requires more bushwhacking than we're up for so we head back. As we circle around French Lake we come to the portage into Seahorse Lake. From out on the lake we can hear the small waterfall hidden back in the woods. I've crossed this portage a few times, although I must admit I've never taken the time to adequately explore this area. Since, when passing through here, it's always been gloomy and/or raining I've never noticed the sandy bottom of the lake here. No sooner does Vickie start up the little creek when she makes an astonishing discovery. Even though we are very near what I'd consider the epi-center of the Cavity Lake fire, here stands a magnificent unique colossal cedar tree that has somehow survived - apparently unscathed.
In someways it reminds me of the V'd cedar along 'The Enchanted Forest' (Hanson - SAK) portage. We intently explore the length of the cascading water, and then finally bushwhack out to the top of the portage at Seahorse Lake. In many ways Seahorse is an anomaly in this region; when a person considers the dramatic transition from the larger lake trout lakes to the south. Seahorse, and the adjoining Chub River watershed, are tiny low lying shallow (even murky) waters.
Once back in the canoe, we paddle the short distance east to quickly checkout the devastated campsite before continuing eastward towards the Gillis portage. We don't stop but, it's worth noting, that there appears to be a nice sandy beach here on the northern shore of French Lake just west of the high rocky cliffs. The portage into Gillis if fairly non-descript, only some boulders at the landings; but, the depth of water there makes this easy to contend with.
As we round the point, Aurora & Brad are down by the lakeshore waiting for us. Since is was still kind of gloomy out yesterday when we first pulled up, we didn't notice the rock shelf extending out from camp. Vickie now uses this new discovery to entice Aurora out to play in the shallow water. Even though there is no outward indication of it on the shoreline, as they circle around to the backside of the campsite the rock shelf gives way to sugar sand and they have a fabulous time playing there.
Chicken fajitas for supper. Afterwards relaxation & lounging by the lakeshore are in order, as the only intrusion on the peace & quiet being the occasional piercing calls of the resident loons. It's another reasonably late night for me. What with all the life changing events that are (and will be) happening in our lives, I'm deliberately making a conscious effort to try and savor as much of the experiences on this trip as possible. Later, I tell Vickie that it's not that I'm particulary worried or think some disaster awaits us; but, the current circumstances in our lives has given me pause and a renewed appreciation for all the wonder that canoe country offers.
Overnight the wind has picked up. It's nothing serious but, since it coming out of the east, we decide to duck behind the 2 large islands (in the SW corner of the lake) and use them as wind blocks. It get's quite narrow & shallow in the SW corner of the largest island but, we're able to make it through. While this undoubtedly takes us longer than the straight line route would've, it's a more intimate paddling experience and we get to see more of the lakeshore, trees, wildlife, rock formations etc.
The portage into Crooked is fairly easy to spot from out on the lake. The portage has a little bit of everything roots, rocks, tiny hills etc. but, it's not too difficult. What really sets this portage apart from others is the old trappers cabin located near the Crooked Lake end. There is an interesting blog by Carl Eastvold that claims this cabin was part of the 100 mile trapline of Wild Bill Pemble & Tame Tom Parent. http://eastvoldfamily.com/the-morris-family-on-the-northshore-i/I'm always intrigued by things like this in canoe country. On the other hand, Aurora thought this was a neat find for entirely different reasons. There's also a scenic tiny little stream gurgling into Crooked Lake just off the portage trail here as well.
The wind was still blowing out on Crooked Lake but, we just need to follow the narrow finger along the north shore so we're able to avoid having to cross a large expanse of open water......for now. The portage into Owl Lake starts out a little mushy but soon we are playing a form of boulder hopscotch as we near, and then cross over, the little brook gurgling underfoot. A short paddle across Owl Lake leads to our next portage into Tuscarora Lake. There is a natural rock stair step on this end before the trail turns into a boulder filled climb that is occasionally weuddyt & muddy. While both landings are rocky, for the most part I'd say this is a classic 'up & over' portage with nothing too serious to worry about.
Aurora is fascinated with the name 'Tuscarora'. "It's got my name in it!" I was focused more on the waves washing ashore as we recharged a bit with a snack. The Black Pearl is riding a little high up front and we get pushed over to the site just to our north. There's not much different we can do with the packs, so Vickie instructs Aurora to sit as low as she can on the floor. Also, we're now situated directly behind the island to the east which somewhat serves as a wind block. There's a period of some white knuckle paddling but, we are afforded a welcome respite as we near the island. Once again we take the wind & waves head on as we shoot for the next island. The island site is vacant and we get out to stretch out a bit. Knowing that this is about the nicest site on the lake I suggest we just setup camp here. Vickie & Brad quickly agree. There is, however, one vehement veto. Aurora claims she's NOT getting out of the canoe. "I want the beach!" Pre-trip we had talked up the beach site here on Tuscarora and told Aurora that we'd try to get it. She would understand if it was occupied but, we needed to verify that it was indeed occupied. So with her binoculars in hand, we walk around the island and see a vacant campsite to the NE. Back in the canoes we go!
I should say that the wind and waves were not terribly bad. I just didn't want to suddenly lose the edge and get spun around or worse;and traumatize her for life. So we paddle straight into the wind and actually head for the site at the end of the boot shaped peninsula. Once we near land the waves subside and we turn north towards the coveted beach camp. There is a lone merganser there to greet us as we pull in. Fittingly, Aurora gets down on all fours and contentedly begins playing in the sand. The rest of us jokingly quip we should get down on all fours and be giddy to be on land as well.
It is my understanding that this was once the location of a long since removed outpost/bunkhouse for Tuscarora outfitters. Naturally the waters calm shortly after we pull in but, there are some ominous clouds rolling across the sky so we hurriedly get camp setup. For now the rain is light and sporadic, as Aurora revels in our new campsite. Besides the beach, there is a fascinating outcropping of flat table like rocks just west down the shoreline that draws her attention. She even finds a new hideout from the rain. Once camp is up, there's a group of 3 loons who occasionally swing by to check us out. A well deserved ribeye and tater supper tops the day off quite nicely as the nasty weather holds off until after we're asleep.
WHAM!!! We absolutely get pummeled by a wicked thunderstorm in the middle of the night! Although these moments are few and far between, it's weather like this that makes us thankful for our Hilleberg tent. Certainly we could hear the wind screaming across the lake and through the trees but, our tent is rock solid through it all and there's no fear of a rain fly getting blown off. Even though he was deeper in the woods than us, Brad tells us he spent time holding his tent up during the heaviest of the torrential wind & rain. He lost some sleep but, he did manage to stay dry. The ropes on the CCS tarp are stretched a bit but, they hold. Our chairs and a few smaller items have been tossed around but, everything still seems to be here and undamaged. And, most important of all, nobody got hurt.
Our weather radio say the worst is over but, that there's a chance of rain all day. Not wanting to be camp bound all day, we decide to keep our day trip short and simple. Just south down the boot shaped peninsula is a campsite so we head off in that direction. While very sparse, this site sports a small sandy landing, we verify that no one is here and pull the canoe up. As we walk into the main camping area we are utterly astonished. Someone has built a huge windbreak with logs (both dead & alive)! There's also some obvious garbage left behind. Casing the perimeter of the camp we keep finding more and more stuff left behind. Innumerable live trees cut down, several tarps, chairs, pots pans, empty cans ......you name it. We gather up what we find and bring it to the fire grate area in hopes of, at least, making the Forest Services job a little easier. Of course this is a tragic set of circumstances but, as we start contemplating this twisted scenario it makes less and less sense. A few of the questions running through our mind, If you're gonna chop down trees and make a huge windbreak, then why all the tarps? If you're gonna rip up the fire grate, then why build a stone fire hearth where the fire grate was? Disgust & disappointment accompany us as we leave the maelstrom. (FYI: This incident was reported to the Forest Service and Tuscarora Outfitters were informed of this camp upon our exit)
On a brighter note, the clouds are beginning to move on and the sun has emerged. So, we decide to try a little fishing and paddle towards the islands. This site is still unclaimed so we get out and explore. In my opinion this is one of the best sites on the lake and we take full advantage of all the trails spider webbing out around the island. Even Aurora has some gracious comments for this site......now.
The weatherman gets it wrong today, as sunny skies move in and we get to enjoy a dry afternoon. Aurora takes full advantage of this circumstance and gets her swim suit on. I join her out in the lake where the water is still a bit cool but, tolerable. I think she would've stayed in the water all day if her Dad hadn't finally given in to exhaustion from all the spinning, throwing and running. Eventually everyone gingerly works there way out into the lake to quickly rinse off 5 plus days of grime & grit. The trashed campsite aside; this day was exactly what we envisioned when planning this trip, so it is very fulfilling and rewarding actually seeing it come to fruition.
It's another reasonably late evening as we sit up enjoying the mild temperature and calm winds. This trip has really been a major step forward for Aurora in her self reliance on these wilderness adventures. I've already mentioned her contributions paddling, but, also her genuine curiosity of how (and why) to do things around camp and a willingness to want to help out. And, for the first time, we let her bring along one of our old digital cameras. She had a ball taking pictures of everything under the sun.
Today we decide to try and get out of camp. The air is warm and the waters calm as we troll across Tuscarora, hoping to retrace a portion of our route back to Crooked Lake. The storm from a couple nights back has done some damage to the area, as there are some new trees down across the portages. Fortunately all of them are easy step overs and require no extra exertion. Once on Crooked, we circumnavigate the large islands in a clockwise direction stopping to check out a few campsites along the way. The southern most site is nothing to write home about but, it does afford a nice view of Crooked Lake from a rise just behind camp.
Vickie suggests we head for the Gillis portage and explore the rapids there a bit more thoroughly. With all the recent rains the creeks are full, and it's easy to hear where the rapids are. I hike back to the top of the pond near the cabin and find a little rapids washing into the pond. It's set in a beautiful grove of cedar trees that is relatively easy to access. As an added bonus I find some birch bark, which will come in handy later for starting fires.
As we begin working our way back to camp, the clouds behind (west) us are beginning to gather. By the time we finish the portage back into Tuscarora there really looking ugly. Since the last time we were there Vickie had found some cool rocks, originally we had planned to do some extensive exploration of the NW bay of Tuscarora. Now we energetically put the wood in the water hoping to get back to camp before things get nasty. Unfortunately, we don't quite make it this time and heavy rains pelt us for the last few minutes before we finally reach the sanctuary of our beach campsite. It's a real chore getting the canoe stashed with the high winds ripping through camp. I'm soaked as I join the rest of the crew under the CCC tarp and watch the maelstrom out on the lake.
hings eventually calm down and we're able to enjoy what's left of the day. We've certainly sustained some wild weather while at this site. Never the less, Aurora indicates on several occasions that she does not want to leave. Obviously, from a kids perspective this site is a dream. But, even us old folks think it's alright too. Of course the long beach & table rocks are the prominent features but, there are a couple of nice tent pads and an excellent fire grate area. And, there's even extra log seating by the lakeshore which aides in contemplating the beautiful island scenery just past the bay. On our last visit here, both Vickie & I recall the latrine being very close to camp and offering virtually no privacy. Either it got moved back, or the trees and shrubs have grown up enough that there is now adequate privacy. On the down side; we initially did have some minor struggles with dragging sand into the tent, and I don't think really large groups (7 or more) would fit here completely comfortably unless they camped right on the beach. But, all in all it's a very nice site.
The bulk of our entertainment this evening was provided by a mud turtle who kept popping his head out of the water, undoubtedly checking to see if the coast was clear so it could come ashore and lay it's eggs. It made it to land a few times but, would always scurry back to the water if we moved around too much. Aurora's patience was tested, as she wanted to get a picture of it but she couldn't sit still long enough to let it get comfortable and come to shore. Eventually the lesson was learned and she got the shot just before the sun set.
Brad was not looking forward to today and the long Tuscarora ~ Missing Link portage. I tried to bolster his spirits by telling him he had done a great job so far and that this would be out only portage of the day. He remained skeptical. The water was already choppy as we headed out but, caused us no problems on the short paddle east over to the portage. Since we planned on leapfrogging the portage I re-instructed everyone to remember everything that they would need to bring across. With that we were off.
I told Brad that once we get this initial climb behind us; the rest of the portage, (though long), should be relatively easy. There are plenty of mudholes to contend with along the way but, none are too deep. We cross paths up with a Father/Daughter heading into Tuscarora and advise them to avoid the trashed campsite just west of this portage and wish each other well. Once across; Aurora is entertained by all the frogs and, most especially, tadpoles that are in the shallow sandy water of Missing Link Lake as we finish bringing the rest of our gear across.
Missing Link Lake is deserted, so we have our pick of campsites. The choice is quite easy, and we claim the middle site on the lake. In my opinion this is by far the nicest site but, it appers someone has pulled up the fire grate and discarded the log seating. It's just sitting exposed on a the rock face of this elevated site. Not sure what's going on because it appears a brand new latrine has just been put in place as well. After camp is setup, I gather the scattered boulders and build up a wind break around the grate. While I don't set the tarp up for this one night stay, I do set both of our hammocks out - and they are put to good use.
This site is also exceedingly weedy, so I'm wondering if it hasn't been closed or something like that? There are, however, a preponderance of wildflowers in bloom around the perimeter of camp. After giveing the hammocks a dirty beating, Vickie and I decide to go out for a paddle on this lovely evening. The brook trout aren't very cooperative but, we enjoy the serene setting as we paddle around the lake. That is until the resident beaver expresses its displeasure of our intrusion by smacking it's tail on the water.
Later that evening, back in camp; Vickie notes that for the first time this trip, the lake we're on finally has a mirrored surface (which is one of her favorite things to photograph). Aurora uses up the last of her color packets in the fire and we all pose for goofy pictures for our little shutterbug.
Naturally; a light mist falls early this morning before we can get camp tore down. Arriving at the portage, Brad discovers he has forgotten his PFD back in camp. So, Aurora & I begin the portage while Vickie & Brad paddle the short distance back to grab it. As we finish the portage, a group of guys just heading in paddles up and we share our experiences about the trails, fishing etc.. Upon our arrival at Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters we do the same, and tell them about the trashed camp on Tuscarora so they can give folks (who are just heading in) a heads up.
After changing into some dry clothes, we drive to Trail Center for some grub and then part ways at Grand Marais where Aurora & I stop off at the Gunflint Ranger Station to report the campsite. As a reward for reporting this, the Rangers there give Aurora a bag full of goodies (stickers, coloring items etc.) that she is excited about. From there it's just the, now much shorter, drive to our new home in Virginia. Although,I do a poor job of communicating the directions to Vickie and she ends up taking HWY 1 all the way to the Tomahawk Road before finally realizing the error. But,I'm happy to say they do make it home safe & sound.