BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 25 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
September 06, 2015
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Mudro Lake (23)
Number of Days:
I've haven't written much the last couple years because I haven't had much to write about and I know very little about what a young woman of your age is interested in here the U.S. and even less of one that is on the other side of the world. I'm about to embark on a long canoe trip and thought I'd write you a daily report of how it goes along with a little bit of my old man wisdom. Things maybe I would like to tell the 16 year old version of me. With your permission I would also like to post the trip report on-line just as I have written it to you.
Day one: Sunday, September 6, 2015
Just after midnight I got up to turn off the fan. It had been hot and humid, by Minnesotan standards, yesterday so I had it blowing on me as I went to sleep the evening before. When I shut it off I could hear a steady drenching rain outside as it banged against my greenhouse's roof. I next awoke at three minutes to four-four was what my alarm was set for-still raining. I had a quick breakfast and did the last minute packing and loaded up the car. It was four-thirty when I pulled out of the driveway and as I turned on to highway one the steady rain became a deluge and the wind turned up its power to full force. I've run head on into a full blown thunderstorm. About a quarter mile down the highway two smaller trees were down halfway across the road-I'm sure they fell just moments before. The canoe on top the car started shifting from side to side and it was plain to see that the straps holding it down had loosened it up some overnight in the rain. What a way to start my canoe trip into the wilderness I thought to myself. I drove slowly as I had no desire to get out and tighten them in this weather. As I approached the town of Ely the rain stopped. I filled the gas tank of my car at the local holiday station store in town and made my way to Piragis outfitters to meet up with my shuttle driver. They weren't open yet but while changing into my canoeing boots Adam showed up and said hi and opened up. Soon another employee came in and then Jamie, my driver, showed and after dropping off my car at the Mudro entry point, where we switched my gear and canoe to her shuttle car, we were off to the Little Indian Sioux entry point. We had a pleasant conversation about the local weirdoes about town and the boundary waters and I asked about my previous shuttle driver, Christina. She had shuttled me a couple of trips and I was curious as to what became of her as last time we spoke she was concerned about having to leave Ely, the town she loved, because she was having trouble earning a living there. I was pleased to hear she was still in town so she must be doing okay. The entry point was already busy when we finally got there. It was me, a couple about my age, a group of four, a group of eight and a group of six. If I was young and strong I could have left them all behind but I am old, weak and fat and I let them all pass me by. It was another hot and humid day and I don't do well with that so I take the first open campsite I come to. It's a good campsite as it has a nice level tent pad on high ground which is what I want as it's suppose to storm again tonight. I spend the rest of the day in my shorts, laying in my hammock and taking hobo baths trying to keep cool. For dinner I make grilled chicken parmesan which was very good and will be my first day’s supper from now on although I didn't get the cheese to melt the way I would have liked. Maybe next time I'll try mozzarella cheese instead. Mozzarella’s a softer cheese and may not keep as well. From now on all my food is dehydrated stuff. Finally the evening storm arrives but all I get is a seat for the show as it passes to the south and east of me. It does a gentle rain as I remain in my shorts but I am no longer overheated. A cold front is supposed to move through tonight so I expect better paddling tomorrow.
Perspective: Ever since the beginning of time, the big bang, the grand expansion, the break of perfect symmetry, or whatever science is calling it these days, all matter has been trying to reduce itself to a simpler and simpler form. I believe one of Newton's laws about gas refers to something similar. In our sun each sequential nuclear fusion produces a heavier element. All things want to break down into a simpler form but there is one thing that defies this logic and that is life itself. As time passes life becomes more complex with humans being the current top of the heap. I believe it was Albert Einstein that said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that man can comprehend it." Yes, man can indeed comprehend it and has made theories as to how and why life began. He can follow the tree of life, by way of the sequence of genetic code, all the way back to the merger of two simple single cell organisms but there is one thing that baffles science-a thing that flies in the face of their conjecture. If the tree of life can so easily be made why is there only one? In the giant world of the universe you and I, Mariel, are equal. The differences between us, or any two people for that matter, compared to the size of the universe makes Planck's constant look huge. To individuals, however, the differences are as huge as the universe itself-or at least that’s the way people make it out to be. One day, because the stars are moving away from us at an ever increasing speed the stars will disappear from the heavens and be nothing more than the stuff of myth and legend. If we think global warming is a problem now, wait until our sun begins to turn into a red giant star which our science tells us it will. Before that man must get off this planet and survive in some sort of space craft. Upper Pauness Lake
I got an early start today. At one point, I thought the twilight of the morning was upon me but the sky cleared overnight and the waning moon was shining brightly, like a flashlight, cutting through the dark onto my tent. I started packing up by headlamp and by the time I was ready to go the dawn of a brand new day was upon me. The portage to the next lake was just a short paddle away and is an easy one by BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) standards but they're all hard for this old man. I quickly crossed this lake and was on to the next portage. This one is tough even by BWCA standards. It's the Devil's Cascade. Last time I was through here I knick-named it the devil's tinkle. It was roaring along pretty good this time and I stopped to take a few pictures and rest a bit. Soon I was back on the Little Indian Sioux River as it has passed through these two lakes and goes on to the next. Right after getting on the water again I notice a small water fall coming into the river that I had not noticed last time I was here(or maybe this old man just doesn’t remember). It was smooth paddling all the way to Loon Lake, the river's final destination, except for a quick pull over at a beaver dam. I stopped to have lunch where the river becomes Loon Lake. I had camped at this site before and now have a decision to make. Lunch was mountain house's beef stroganoff which I like but this time it gave me the urge to take my heartburn medication. My original plan was to take the series of smaller lakes north but I decide to take the bigger water, and take fewer portages, to make up for some lost time. I stripped a wing nut on my yoke (for carrying my canoe across portages) and fear I'll strip out more. They are made of nylon plastic and I usually bring spares, although it has never happened I had always suspected it might happen, but on this trip I forgot to bring them. The next portage is the mechanical Beatty portage. I read once that it felt like cutting through someone’s yard although no one was there. This wouldn't be the case for me. I did feel like I was trespassing but there were plenty of people there as it is a national holiday here in the U.S. (Labor Day), Mariel, and there is a family cook out going on. Even though what I’m doing is legal I feel very odd coming through and will not take this route again. After doing the portage and paddling for a couple miles I get out my GPS for the first time because I don't want to make mistakes on big water lakes like this one. I would end my day at a campsite in snow bay of this lake-Lac Le Croix. This is about as far north as I will go on my trip. The site is very nice and has a picnic table and stone couch. It was an exhausting day and as I climb into the tent it is still a little light out and a squirrel has started dropping pine cone bombs and scores a couple direct hits on the tent. As I lie in my tent and start to drift off to sleep I realize I had forgotten my hammock straps on the trees back at Pauness Lake this morning. The night before I remember thinking I better take down the straps too as I took down the hammock but I didn't because I was in a hurry to get the camp ready for the rain and didn't think it mattered if the straps got wet. A year ago I lost the sack for them so I guess I don't have to worry about having the straps but not the matching bag anymore.
Original sin: I've come to believe that the story of original sin was around long before religion put its stamp on it. In its original form it's the story of man's change from hunter-gatherer (living in the Garden of Eden) to organized labor (having taken a bite out of the apple from the tree of knowledge) and thus the original sin is the genesis of slavery, economics, politics and with all that war. Slavery many believe has been abolished but it isn't really true. Slavery is not an is or isn't but a matter of degree. We are all slaves-slaves to economics, slaves to politics, and slaves to war. Lower Pauness Lake, Loon Lake, Lac La Croix
Fajitas for breakfast and I'm on my way from the Snow Bay campsite. It's warm but the wind is behind me for the most part as I turn from heading north as I did the day before to heading east. I take a couple short cuts and am now off the map but I only need to keep the shoreline on my starboard side and I'll be all right. After a couple hours of this I jump a couple of old guys (like my age) in a bay fly fishing for bass. They are as surprised to see me as I am to see them. As I move on I come across a family of otters in a small bay. I love the way they get their bodies half out of the water as they try to stand up to get a better look at me. I soon turn on my GPS and find that I am much closer to the Gun Lake portage than expected. I've been lucky with the wind on this huge lake but it’s getting stronger and I decide to pull out and take the portage. The whole portage is a gradual uphill rise and it takes a lot out of me. The good campsite is taken on Gun Lake by what appears to be a couple young kids in their twenties, so I have to settle for the only other site. It is strictly a solo site as far as I'm concerned as my two person tent only fits if I don't set up the vestibules-hope it doesn't rain. I don't think this site gets much use because the vault latrine is half full of clean, clear water and nothing else. There is also a good size mushroom right where you would naturally put your feet. I try to avoid kicking it over but by the end of my stay here I do. When I finally do leave the water in there isn't what it used to be-I also get this eerie feeling that I forgot to flush.
Leadership: As much as it pains me to use a military man as an example of great leadership I find Alexander the Great too compelling not to. He not only ate his meals with his troops, he also ate the same food as his troops, he did his physical training with his troops and fought alongside his troops-he was one of them. As a boy, as all boys of his time I imagine, his boyhood hero was Homer's Achilles’ of “The Iliad". I believe Alexander wanted to be Achilles or as much like him as possible-to die a glorious death in battle. At one point, to the admiration or horror of his men depending on which history professor you listen to, he was the first one over the wall in the siege of a city. He took an arrow to the chest that nearly killed him. What finally did kill him was disease. All his years of battle couldn't kill him but the tiniest of creatures could. I sometimes wonder if H.G. Wells got the idea for "War of the Worlds" from the history of Alexander. He was the son of Phillip of Macedon (a.k.a. Phillip the one eye) a great king and warrior in his own right. I can imagine Alexander as a young boy listening to his father and his commanders trading war stories while they were partaking in gluttony and getting drunk; he unwittingly likely picked up a great deal of military tactics that way. Being the son of a king he was educated to be a king learning from the great scholars of his day not the least of which was a fellow named Aristotle. He was 19, if I remember correctly, when he became a general and commanded his first battle. The part of his army that he showed the enemy, the warriors of Thebes, fled the battle before it even began and the Theban army gave chase. It was just a ploy though to get his opponent out from his defenses. He had laid a trap. This kind of strategic thinking would serve him well throughout his military campaigns and history will look at him as one of the greatest military strategists ever. I believe it is more complicated than that though. One, he was a soldier first and a king second and he could make tactical decisions in the midst of battle rapidly for he need not an okay from higher authority or make decisions based on what political second guessers would say. Two, the common foot soldier of the Persian Empire likely knew that their own personal life would be better under the rule of the Greeks rather than the Persians after all they were old enemies and knew each other well. When Alexander’s army got to India it was a different story and although they still were winning the battles the fighting got much tougher because this enemy knew nothing of the Greeks and their culture. All they knew was a marauding foe had come to conquer them. Alexander’s army would revolt and rather than lead an unwilling force into battle he would turn his legions around and head for home. He would never make it-died at 33. After his death his empire was broken up among his generals and disintegrated. One general in his frustration with the corruption of his own governance actually willed his domain to the Roman's rather than turn it over to his minions. I think empires spring up through the best of intentions then disintegrate because of the maddening need most people seem to have for oneself to hold power over another. The hierarchy will always want the benefits of the heard, which by nature works as a team, while keeping the power of the hierarchy, which by nature pits people against each other. As Abraham Lincoln said of the hierarchy system, “There are just too many pigs for the tits.” People will often say that this is how it should be and quote Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” but this is a poor interpretation of Darwin. He actually meant it more in line of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle than a lion taking down an antelope. If ever you find yourself in a position of choosing leaders choose them on the basis of who is to be led. If they are highly qualified in their field than you want an introverted administrator if they are in need of training than an extroverted expert is what to look for. Of course, no group is totally one of these or the other so someone who is conscience enough to know how to behave based on each individual is best-easy to say but nearly impossible to be. Persuasion is best if you go at it subtly from different directions rather than bluntly from one. Set the circumstances so that the desired conclusion is reached by the person who needs to act in a particular way or perform a certain task.
I rolled out of bed late today and immediately went fishing for that elusive lake trout that I have never caught. I did catch a few bass as I crossed over shallow water and reeled up. After three or four hours of failing at this I gave up. Yeah, I'm a quitter. Dehydrated hash browns and diced up spam for lunch. I've also added dehydrated onions, green/red bell pepper dices and tomato dices. Add some black pepper and red pepper flakes with shredded parmesan cheese melted on top and you've got an awesome camp meal; I had the same thing for dinner too. I took a nice nap this afternoon and was awakened by what I assume was a hummingbird flying around my tent and then later by some canoeists. I'm not sure if it was the two kids from the other site or others looking for an open site, too bad if it was the latter.
Population: When I was in school I was taught that the great pyramids of Egypt were built by slaves. Recently I heard a professor say that in reality what happened was that with the new practice of farming and irrigation the human population exploded to meet the new supply of food. This is why world hunger is so difficult to control. Anyway, with all these people the powers that be needed something to do with them; so the great pyramids were built as a sort of public works project. I believe the same thing happened with the population when a German scientist figured out how to get nitrogen out of the air and use it as a fertilizer and again with pesticides for crop protection. Gun Lake
It was backpackers pantry mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon bits for breakfast. I tried to eat it right out of the bag but it didn't mix well. Next time I'll make them in a pan. It's a travel day today and the portage out of Gun Lake to Little Beartrack lake is average in length, about a quarter mile, but very taxing. It was generally uphill with lots of boulders and rocks to step on and around. Thankfully I have ankle support with the boots I have as I turned an ankle a couple times and would have certainly fallen and maybe hurt myself without that support in my boots. From Little Beartrack it's on to its older brother Beartrack Lake and a short portage with a good trail. When I arrive at the end of the portage I was surprised to see four canoes coming my way. I didn't expect to see this many people up this way this time of year but it is a holiday week so maybe I should have expected it. They ducked into a campsite and waited for me to pass by. After crossing the lake I'm on to the Thumb Lake portage. It's a long trail and triple portaging means I cross it five times to get all my camping gear and canoe across. Some people single portage but I've never been in that kind of physical condition, most people double portage which I usually do but this time I chose to triple portage because of the length of the trip, how far out I am and how old and weak I am. I don't want to hurt myself out here. Anyway, after the day I have had already so far this portage really wears me out. The elevation is more than I expected and I'm happy to put it behind me. All these lakes are quite beautiful and I do love being out here. From Thumb to Finger Lake is a very short portage and I don't even attach my yoke (for carrying it) to my canoe and just carry it like a suitcase to the other end. The first thing I see are a couple swans, at least I think that is what they are, doing a graceful head dance with one another. They are all white with long necks and slowly swim away as I paddle towards them. I stop at an island campsite which is quite spacious and beautiful but I can't find the latrine so I bury my duty and burn the toilet paper. Each campsite has a latrine, Mariel, and is usually straight back in the woods from the campsite. It is nothing more than a metal box with a big hole on top that you sit on. I had trail mix (nuts, dried fruit and sometimes sweets) and left over tortillas on the trail and tonight I'll make myself spaghetti with meat sauce. In the middle of making the sauce it starts to lightly rain so I put on my raincoat and continue on. It was very good but the spicy Italian sausage I dehydrated was a little chewy but I expected that. It's just an effect of dehydrating it. When I'm finished eating and cleaning the dishes the sun has gone down and I am pleased to finish this long and busy day. When I climb into my sleeping bag I notice something smells; I'm pretty sure it's me.
The American Revolution: In school I was taught that people came to the British colonies here in America to seek new opportunities and start a new life. I suspect that it was more of running away from the oppression of the old life than anything else. The British elites didn't think much of the colonists until that is they started making a lot of money-then they took an interest (insert life lesson here). I've heard it said that there was an overabundance of a certain type of personalities in the colonies; those of independence and self reliance. The colonists were also much more educated that the elites back in Britain believed. Records show that the Brits were shipping as much literature to the colonists as they were consuming themselves although their own population was ten times what the colonists had. You can bet that as expensive as the written word was back in those days the colonists weren't buying sappy love stories to be shipped over. It may have been as simple as this personality difference that sparked the American revolutionary war when England decided it needed their cut of the booty being produced in their colonies.
Little Beartrack Lake, Beartrack Lake, Thumb Lake, Finger Lake
There was a misty rain at dawn and that's all the excuse I needed to sleep in late. When the sky cleared the sun was already pretty high in the sky. I had mountain house's biscuits and gravy with added Italian sausage-good energy meal to start the day. I was very pokey about getting camp packed up and getting under way. A quarter mile portage and I find myself on Pocket Lake. It was a very pretty portage that followed a fast flowing creek. The portage out of Pocket I was able to skip as the water was high and gentle enough to float down. It was a rock garden in the water though and just as I started down a steady gust of wind came up making it hard to navigate through but it went okay. On the way down the Pocket River I came upon a beaver dam that I have to get out of the canoe and pull it over with all my gear inside. One more short portage and I'll be back on the monster lake of Lac Le Croix but first I take a turn and head up Ge-be-on-equet creek in the hopes of seeing and taking a few photos of the thrones of the kings court but the creek is still weed choked and when I get to a beaver dam that I would have had to pull up and over I decide to turn around. If I had gone forward I would have had to camp there as I was so pokey about getting moving this morning. Soon I’m past the last portage and I'm on to the big lake but first another beaver dam. This one isn't bad though as I am going down stream and able to get over without getting out of the boat. Lac Le Croix is calm and I decide to take advantage of it and bypass the first campsite and head to the next one on my list. On my way I come around a corner and in a bay I see a bigger boat with a large motor on it. Motors are not allowed in this part of the lake and as soon as he sees me he fires up, turns the boat around and starts heading straight at me at full throttle. He turns soon enough as he must come out of the bay to turn north to get back to legal territory. I see there are at least four people aboard and I wave as they pass and the boat driver waves back. The next campsite is open although at first it did not appear to be. I stop to make a deposit and find two broken fishing poles and one of those heavy chairs in a bag tied to a tree. It's blue and in plain sight from the water. I also find a bar of soap on the ground and a small bottle of liquid soap near the shore. Later, as I was getting back under way, I also see a Gatorade bottle full of water. I feel bad about leaving it all but I have far to go and really don't want the extra burden. The big lake was still relatively calm but it won't last long and before I'm to the next campsite I am quartering the waves as I back into the site having poorly distributed the pack weight. The campsite is a gem. I quickly set up camp, have fettuccine alfredo for dinner, take a hobo bath and off to bed. I don't sleep well and listen to the waves crashing along the shore most of the night.
Power: When I was first old enough to go to the bar my friends and I formed a team and joined a pool league. After the first season a couple of the players dropped out because, let's face it, it's boring which is why I no longer play. Anyway, the league found a couple of replacement players one of which was Tom Kough-the city’s mayor. His last named was pronounce "Cue" as in pool cue the irony of which is, I'm sure, is the only reason why I remember it. One night I overheard a stranger talking to him, "The only people who want to be cops are precisely the types of people who should never be cops." Here in America, Mariel, there has been a lot of news about police brutality and racism the last couple years and I often think of this story. It has never really left me though. I'm sure the stranger was talking about people who have a strong desire to hold power over others. You will see this in very many people if you keep your eyes open and look for it. Try not to take offence by it but don't forget who they are either. Pocket Lake, Lac La Croix
I'm on the water before dawn and paddling through a foggy mist. The lake calmed down by morning and I want to get through fish stake narrows and get as far as I can before the thermal winds pick up again. After turning the corner at the narrows I stop to look and take photos of the ancient pictographs then moved on to warrior hill where I've heard the young native Americans in this corner of the world were required to hold a mouthful of water and climb to the top of the hill to reach the status of warrior. I don't recognize any such hill as one hill looks pretty much like the next so I keep cruising south. As I am paddling along I notice a couple tow boats (for shuttling canoeists and their gear) heading up and down this area. Motor boats are legal here on the Canadian side of the lake. I'm very pleased at what a wonderful paddling day it has turned out to be and make my way to the bottle portage and the end of Lac Le Croix. As soon as I land there and begin to unload my gear I see that it is here that the towboats are dropping off their customers. There are a group of eight guys and four canoes and a few minutes later another couple guys from a nearby campsite pull up in a canoe for a day trip. As I carry my canoe across the portage a couple more guys are crossing the portage from the other direction. I decide to stage my canoe and gear up the trail a bit from the landing and let the madness pass by. Going down the bottle river I come upon another one of those rock gardens to navigate through. When I get to the open water of Iron Lake I decide to look for a campsite right away and move around the lake in a clockwise direction. I stopped and talked to a guy at one campsite for a bit and he asks how long I'll be up here I tell him up to three weeks and he says "I think I hate you". I'm truly lucky to be able to spend so much time in such a quiet, beautiful place. I have to go halfway around the lake before I find both a campsite and one that is open. Iron Lake is no Lac Le Croix in size but it isn't exactly a puddle either. I'm exhausted as I set up camp and make dinner. It's mandarin orange chicken which is mostly rice but not too bad. It's the first I've eaten today other than the usual trail mix I eat while traveling. There is some halfway processed wood here next to the fire grate so I finish the job and make my first BWCA fire of the trip as the sun goes down. I saw a couple more swans on the way to the site. Maybe they are the same ones. I would say they are trumpeter swans from the way they are sounding off tonight. Sound really travels well over the lake on a calm night.
On war: When I was young one of my greatest fears was having had to go to the Vietnam War. Thankfully, the war ended before I became of age. I don't think much of war or the soldiers who are manipulated into fighting them. Still, our world is very much is the way it is because of the outcome of wars. Since so much of man's efforts have been the prosecution of war there must be something to learn from it. There was a Prussian soldier, on the losing side against Napoleon, named Clausewitz who wrote an obscure book called "On War". It is now considered a brilliant book that one professor commented, "Like a lot of genius' he thinks the reader is as smart as he is". I have not read this myself nor do I intend to but have heard enough about it to understand the gist of it. The Supreme commander of the allies in WWII, and later President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, studied Clausewitz as a junior officer when he was stationed in Panama at the suggestion of his commander. As I understand Clausewitz there are three things to consider when thinking about going to war or the waging of the war once you are in it. First, consider the political attitudes of the civilian population. Second, consider the genius of the military command. And thirdly, consider the sophistication of your weapons. You must take these three things and intertwine them with those same things of your opponent. Also, knowing when to declare victory or concede defeat is important. In America's war in Vietnam, she won every battle but lost the war because of politics. There are many instances in war when a war continues way beyond the original intent only to end in disaster. In the late 1800’s a country called Prussia went to war with another that still exists-Austria. Prussia wanted to unite all of the Germanic countries but first had to defeat Austria to do it. In the decisive battle the Prussians launched a three prong attack but only two of the three armies showed up on time. Prussia nearly lost and if the third army had showed up an hour later than they did then Austria would have won the war and Germany would not have united so there likely would have been no world war one and therefore there would have been no world war two-all because of an hour. What at first seems to be a little thing can sometimes bring about dramatic results at later time. The reason that the world became dominated by the white people is because in Europe the countries were small and numerous. They constantly feuded with one another and when one began to get too powerful the others would temporarily put aside their differences and unite against them. So it went for hundreds of years, nations bankrupting their economies in an arms race to fight wars and in doing so sometimes caused their own civil wars. Finally they all were so much better at war that the people of places like Africa, India, the Americas and even your very own Philippines could not stand up to their weaponry. The white power structure isn’t here because they are better than anyone else. One could even argue that they generally rule the world because they are less evolved than the rest of humanity. For the good people of the world right and wrong has nothing to do with winning and losing. All this may not seem like useful information to you, Mariel, but keep it in the back of your mind as you go through life and have hard decisions to make. Most of being truly smart is relating knowledge to different situation Lac La Croix, Iron Lake
I got out of bed very late again today. I didn't have far to go so I was very pokey around camp and making breakfast-dehydrated barbeque baked beans. The beans are very good but needed to rehydrate longer as there are some crunchys. I want to camp across the lake at Rebecca Falls on the Canada side of the lake. If I want to do an overnight in Canada it has to be tonight because it's the last day that my Canada permit is good for. By the time I get started the thermal winds have picked up. There is a big island on the Canada side in the way of my destination. If I go the long way I can scout campsites along the way so that is what I attempt to do. About a quarter mile from turning the corner of the big island I am ducked in next to a small island assessing the wind situation. I wait for a lull but it doesn't look to die down. It is wide open water from here and the waves are a bit too scary for me so I take the more sheltered way around the island and let the wind push me along. When I finally do get around the island I don't find the portage to the bottom of the falls and find myself at the top. I'm lucky that I don't because Rebecca Falls is a split falls meaning there is an island right in the middle of it and there is an open campsite here with excellent viewing of the falls. The pictures just don't do justice to the sheer power of it. For lunch I have pancakes (I know...) with a chunky apple sauce on top along with fried spam. For dinner it's more baked beans only this time I let them rehydrate for about 6 hours-no crunchys. Other than that I wasted the day away as the wind has really picked up now and I am glad not to be out there in my solo canoe. A couple fishermen stopped by the island to clean their fish above the falls. I noticed earlier a fish cleaning rock that had previously been used. After cleaning their fish they just let the remains go over the falls. I don't know if the forest service would like that but then again we are in Canada so maybe it's acceptable here.
A word: I was taught that the word "senator" came from the Roman Empire but I have come to learn that they got it from the Greeks or more specifically the Spartans. In ancient Sparta it was required that a man be about sixty years old to become a senator. It seems that in those days if you managed to live past your twenties you had a good chance to live to be a very old man. I think that the Spartans had it right. Any kind of brawn that a young man has is replaced by the wisdom of a lifetime of lessons. When I was young I sought excitement, in my middle years I worked for success (though with little to show for it) and now in the twilight of my life it is only honor that has meaning. There are many who think themselves enlightened and to a certain degree they are but of those who see only a few I would consider really can and of those only the truly cursed really know what it is they are looking at. I feel a bit like I am spreading the curse of enlightenment to you, Mariel, in these letters. I hope you don't see it that way. Iron Lake
I barely sleep as the roar of the falls and the hard breeze through the trees keep me awake. I get up at first light and pack up. I hope to get the campsite nearest the portage to Crooked Lake. The southerly wind keeps it a bit warm for this time of year and I work up a sweat just bringing my gear down to the shore. As I paddle out I watch a beautiful sunrise on the calm waters as once again as always it is the calmest and quietest part of the day. When I get to the site I see that it is taken so I head over to the portage and make my trek to Crooked Lake-another huge lake. The initial climb is steep but relatively short and then a long fairly level hike. Still, it takes its toll on this old, never been athletic, man. At the other end of the portage is another impressive waterfalls-Curtain Falls. It connects Crooked Lake to Iron Lake. You might call it the iron curtain-hahahah ;) Okay I'm guessing I'm not the first one to make that joke. I take a few moments to admire the power and beauty of the falls, take a few snapshots, then load up the canoe and I am on my way again. The first campsite I come to isn't very good and I feel I can do better so I go on hoping to get the next one which is an island camp but as I approach I see two tandem canoes out fishing near there. The campsites in this area are widespread so I assume that one is occupied. Eventually, I find a very nice large site at what I assume to be Saturday bay of Crooked Lake. This part of my map is covered by an information section, so I am not exactly sure where I am at and I am lucky to have found it. Once again I am exhausted after traveling much farther than I had intended. After setting up camp it's my hash browns specialty less the cheese as I have run out of that. I laid down to take a nap only to awaken in the dark. So I get up to pee and go back to bed. An owl awakens me every now and then throughout the night but still I sleep very well and very long.
The leaderless system: The hierarchy system is nothing more than a carryover from the fact that man descended from apes. Abraham Lincoln said, “There are too many pigs for the tits” comparing the hierarchal system to hogs. I'm not aware of any species in nature that uses the hierarchal system and number more than a dozen or so, yet man can't seem to fathom a system without it. It would be chaos without it most people think. As if chaos is a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off. Nothing could be further from the truth. In nature large groups use the leaderless system of the heard. In this system all watches out for all. I once watched a flock of about a hundred Canadian geese take off. It was obvious that no single goose was in charge. Each goose looked to find the easiest flight path and the goose that ended up on the point of the familiar v pattern had no intention of getting there-chaos just left it there. I've since been told that after a time the lead goose becomes tired and simply falls back in the pack to draft in flight like the rest of the flock and whichever goose happens to be next in line has point. In nature hierarchy systems are always a family unit it seems to me; maybe that's why ownership of companies like to say, "we are like a family" then of course what I hear is "I am the parent and you are the child". It's a wonder that I can get through my life outside of work without the divine guidance of my employer. It has been repeated countless times throughout history, the class warfare of kings who think of themselves as gods, to varying degrees, and ditch diggers who know they are not. For some time now man has had an opportunity to chip away at this problem. When personal computers burst onto the scene the scientist, engineers and programmers claimed they would make the paperless office, the promise of a leaderless system was upon us, but when management got a hold of it they turned their pile of paperwork into a mountain of trash that is stored in boxes only to be thrown away after so many year Iron Lake, Crooked Lake
After shaking the cobwebs out of my head I'm feeling very refreshed after all that sleep. I have mountain house biscuits and gravy with added Italian sausage. While eating I hear a loud crash coming not too far in the forest. A large tree has come down. I first check on my canoe since it's a ways from camp and it would really be a bummer if a fallen tree landed on that. It's early yet and the winds are calm and I can only assume that insects took the tree down or perhaps a large bear is showing off its strength. When I am out here all alone I can imagine all sorts of things-this is particularly true at night. Today would prove to be another warm and breezy day, no clouds, as the wind continues out of the south. I did some shore fishing from camp but only had a couple bites. A loon made its way down the shoreline diving and resurfacing looking for lunch. Sometime later it was back coming from the other direction evidently not having any luck fishing either. I ate the last of the hash browns and spam-no travel today.
Money: Money is nothing more than a representation of goods and services provided. The rich will try to make it out to be more than that but it isn't. They simply control the spigots and the valves of other peoples work and are more valuable because, quite simply, they decide they are. The rich like to claim that they are needed to make the large investments in business and industry but a billion dollar investment doesn’t care if it came from one place or a million. In my youth less than one percent of stocks were owned by the middle class and then the fat cats decided to make the common man pay for his own retirement as they eliminated pension plans. So then along came the government’s 401k retirement plan to replace the pension plans and through that the middle class now own twenty percent of the stocks. It should be noted that the financial industry has benefited greatly by this change through hidden costs. Most people aren’t aware of this. Not long after the Second World War, in 1959, on average the blue collar worker was on par with the pay of the white collar worker. We had made it. I believe the horrors of that war, the sacrifices of the common foot soldier and the complete involvement of the whole country made it possible. It wouldn't last though. Just as the skew of that personality dominance that caused the American revolutionary war didn't last, Alexander's empire didn't last, and the Roman Empire didn't last. There will always be those who willingly upset the balance for personal gain.
This morning I get up early and have hot cereal for breakfast-banana, raisin, oats and quinoa. It was good-backpackers pantry I think. I start to pack up though it looks like rain I think it will be short and light and I’ll be able to paddle right through it. By the time I'm done packing a solid gray wall is approaching and it now looks like a long steady rain so I put the tarp up and stash my gear under it and set up my flexlite chair to wait it out. It is a good steady rain but only lasts for an hour, maybe two, and I'm on my way. Today is all paddling as I cross the long, large, and aptly named Crooked Lake. I get out my fishing pole and plan to pull a lure behind me all day but after a few snags I give it up and don't fish for the rest of the trip. I expected the season to have already changed to fall and thusly the water vegetation beginning to die off but this isn't the case. I'm really doing this trip for the travel, scenery and the adventure-not so much the fishing. The south wind picks up again and crossing the larger bays with their rollers is an adventure. I stop for lunch at a nice protected site and spend a couple hours there trying to decide whether to move on or stay the night here. I decide to go because the wind has died down a bit and I have one bigger bay to cross and want to do it while conditions are favorable. Of course part way across the wind comes up again and I'm quartering the waves again. I really don't like getting broadsided by waves. I'm sure the boat could handle it but it scares me. When I finally get across I take this little short cut up a very small stream and had a bit of a laugh-so this is what feeds the mighty iron curtain? The shortcut saves a half a mile or so of paddling and soon I find myself at the Hilton of campsites as I have heard it called. It's a nice site with a small beach for landing a canoe and wading out for a swim or in my case a much needed bath. The site is big enough for a large group yet still has an intimate feel. There is a nice long rock along the shore for filtering water or fishing from. I put my tarp up-thunderstorms are coming.
Banking: In the beginning there was the barter system and soon within the barter system silver and gold became most valued for trade not because of any perceived value of the metal itself but because you can make all sorts of valuable stuff out of it-it's malleable. In those days you didn't walk around with much of it in your pocket because as much as we think we live in a violent, criminal society now it doesn't even register compared to the way it was then. Statistically speaking, Mariel, we live in the safest, most secure time in history. That being said those who were rich back then needed a place to keep their booty. This would be the places of worship (remember the bible story of the moneychangers?) which were in the center of town, a place of rule, and a place that held valuables themselves so they were well guarded and of course the other place for people to store their money were the gold and silversmiths themselves. Receipts were given out for the deposits and this would eventually become paper money. The people who held the gold and silver soon found that they could lend out some of it for profit, then all of it, and then simply write receipts and lend out more than all of it and this, Mariel, is how we got to the house of cards that is the economic system we have today. In 2008 we had a severe financial crisis here in America and the government stepped in with one trillion taxpayer dollars to try to stop it. Everyone knows that but very few know that of all the money that actually got doled out every bit of it was paid back with interest. The American taxpayer actually made money on the deal. The system works as long as it doesn't get too awfully corrupt and everyone believes it works. The trick of the trillion dollar bail out was to make everyone believe while the leaks were plugged. Crooked Lake
There is a thunderstorm around three or four in the morning. About seven I get up and make chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes and stuffing from backpackers pantry. It was good but more of a chunky gravy than what the package made it out to be. I ate it in my tent, which is a no-no, as another thunderstorm passes over. This one was more severe than the one in the night and I learn a little about my tent. There are ceiling vents that are best left open otherwise a crease can form and allow water to drain inside. I suspect the time to close the vents is if you want to hold a little warmth inside. It seems summer and fall are doing battle as the winds change from light to strong and the sun plays peek-a-boo to heavy clouds. More storms are predicted. Holy crap, I had to hold the side of the tent facing the storm to keep it from collapsing. The wind on this one was super strong and even managed to rip a loop out of my CCS tarp. My REI flexlite chair made a run for the lake and almost made it too if not for some bushes that got in the way. The vent holes didn't drain water like they did when they were closed but of course some mist came in with the wind. All in all my theory about keeping the roof vents open was correct but my theory about never needing those side wall loops roped and staked in the ground proved false. I've never had to do it before. Now there is new thunder to the south and a lone wolf howling to the west. Soon the thunder moves to the east and that storm misses me so I figure the bad weather is over. It is calm now and I wonder what happened to the cold front that was supposed to be coming. Now to the west I hear a chorus of yelps and figure the pack and that lone wolf have found each other. It's getting on into evening now and I decide to walk along the sloping rock shoreline while I brush my teeth. First I have one foot start a slow slide and when I shift weight to the other it starts to slide too. Before I am able to drop my toothbrush and get my hands to the ground one foot is in the lake up to the knee and the other to the ankle. This must be the most boring, slowest fall in the lake ever. At least it stopped raining so I can hang my socks out to dry. Just as I'm about to drift off to sleep for the night I hear what I think is an absolute downpour heading my way across the lake but it isn't. It's just the wind blowing through the pine trees from the northwest. The cold front is here.
Religion: If there is a higher power than I don’t believe we are wired to understand the creator any more than a blade of grass can understand us. I do look at the complexity, beauty and wonder of this paradise in which I paddle these clear, clean waters and ask how can there not be. I am suspicious of those who put words in the mouth of God or demand action on his behalf-I prefer to leave God as undefined. I suspect man created religion out of the struggle of man having descended from apes and bringing with the hierarchy system of his former self and the intuitive knowledge that the system of the heard is better for the whole. Crooked Lake
I'm on the water at sunrise and make good time down to Basswood Falls while stopping to take pictures at the pictographs along the way. It seems particularly beautiful along this stretch. The falls themselves are a triple split falls and are quite breathtaking though the pictures again don't do them justice. I had intended to camp near here for the night but I had made such good time I decided to take on the Horse river. I understand it's a bit difficult and thought it a good idea to get it out of the way. There are three portages on the map and I have to do a couple more that are not on the map. Also, I wade up a couple small rapid areas pulling my canoe along thusly avoiding two more portages. On the second portage on the river I met a very nice group of two couples and a young lady of four or five. They were heading up to view the falls on a day trip and moving fast. They were worried about the time and later would turn around without making it. They quickly caught back up to me and one of the guys carried two of my packs and my paddles across the portage they had caught up to me at. By then I was already exhausted and really appreciated the help. I was able to carry my canoe, a light pack and my five gallon pail across in one trip-that was nice. When I finally got to Horse Lake it was getting late and I took the first open site I came to and it was a wonderful site. A large group could stay here and have many places to fish from shore. For dinner I have Asian peppered steak which was mostly peppered rice with little tiny chunks of steak I could see but other than that couldn’t tell they were there. I only ate half of it which surprised me after all the work I did today. I spent the day living on trail mix and kool-aid. I pulled out the tarp to dry it out because it got packed away wet from yesterday’s rain and then take it down again. By now the sun is setting and I'm off to sleep.
Personalities: In its simplest form, there are two types of people introverts and extroverts. Since extroverts out number introverts three to one it is the extroverts who generally run the world. In its most complex form there are as many different personalities as there are people on the planet. In between are the Meyers-Briggs sixteen personality types. I think a person, like you Mariel, would do well to take some time to study these after all becoming a nurse you will find yourself in social situations often and knowing how to correctly read people will be very important. If you can read English well, Mariel, than Isabella Briggs' last book is called, "Gifts Differing." And you may also want to read "Quiet" by Susan Cain to get a full understanding of the differences in peoples personalities. Crooked Lake, Horse Lake
I'm very pokey once again about going this morning and still feel the effects of the hard day I had yesterday. For breakfast I mix a dehydrated soup mix with my leftovers from the night before and make a sort of thick type of gruel. It was good enough and plenty enough to fuel me up. I find that if I leave the poles to my tent attached to my footprint I can tip the thing over and tilt it toward the breeze to dry it off. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. Once dry I just brush the dirt off. By the time I get myself on the water the wind has picked up a bit but not too troublesome. I cross Horse Lake easily and spot a fisher moving along the shore along the way. I try to take a picture of it but he out smarts me. I find the path to Fourtown Lake and this portage also follows a small river but is much shorter than the Horse River. It has two marked portages on the map and I find two unmarked ones along the way. I am able to get out and wade up one of them to avoid portaging it but I do manage to get water in my boots because I neglect to pull my hippies up all the way. Now the wind is blowing pretty hard across Fourtown from the south, the direction I ‘m heading. I hug the shoreline and make small advances hoping to find an open campsite along the way. At one point, in a sheltered area I pull onto shore and ring out my socks and hope the wind will die down a bit but I know it won't. There is an old pop can on shore that is so old that it was opened with a church key. A church key is an old tool that punches a triangle hole in the can to open them and hasn’t been used for pop cans in about sixty years. I finally pull back out into the wind and find another sheltered spot next to an occupied campsite, stay a bit, and move on until thankfully I come upon an open site. While unloading the canoe I stand partially in the water keeping my canoe afloat with my legs so the waves don't bang it against the bedrock shoreline. Not the best site but it'll do. I can't find a level tent pad but off to the side of one is pretty level so I set up there. It's been a bright clear day and is suppose to be clear tonight as well so I leave the rain fly off. I can see the stars come out from inside and I am reminded of Immanuel Kant's quote, "Nothing fills my heart with ever increasing wonder and awe than the moral law within me and the starry skies above me." I've packed for a quick getaway in the morning and I turn to fall asleep-good night Mariel.
Social strategy: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. When you first meet someone it's best to put forward the olive branch. However, often times when someone first meets you they will take on a dominating persona. These tend to be highly critical people and often find themselves in positions of power. Deep down inside they have a superiority complex and are best avoided. As much as they will try to hide their natural behavior it will come out from time to time. If you have ambitions, however, you may have to grovel. Generally speaking the golden rule applies, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This isn't one hundred percent accurate because what is pleasant to me may be repulsive to you. The other bible rule is, "An eye for an eye." This one is a little more difficult and applies when someone is treating you poorly and you cannot avoid the situation. It is not ten eyes for one eye. You will likely not be able to respond in kind as the motto suggests but something of equal measure is warranted. Having said this I would like to qualify it by saying that extending an olive branch every now and again would be a wise move just to see if behaviors have changed. Finally, form your opinions of others as much as how they treat others as they treat yourself. A good way to win someone over that dislikes you is by asking for a favor. It makes them feel that they are the better person and to refuse would make them the worse person. To try to flatter or buy their friendship will only drive them away farther. They will feel they are being manipulated.
Now that I have tried to explain how to be agreeable; I'll leave Ben Franklin to explain how to be disagreeable. Your business is to shine; therefore you must by all means prevent the shining of others, for their Brightness may make yours the less distinguished. To this End: 1. If possible engross the whole Discourse; and when other Matter fails, talk much of yourself, your Education, your Knowledge, your Circumstances, your Successes in Business, your Victories in Disputes, your own wise Sayings and Observations on particular Occasions, &c. &c. &c. 2. If when you are out of breath, one of the Company should seize the Opportunity of saying something; watch his Words, and, if possible, find somewhat either in his Sentiment or Expression, immediately to contradict and raise a Dispute upon. Rather than fail, criticize even his Grammar. 3. If another should be saying an indisputably good Thing; either give no Attention to it; or interrupt him; or draw away the Attention of others; or, if you can guess what he would be at, be quick and say it before him; or, if he gets it said, and you perceive the Company to be pleased with it, own it to be a good Thing, and withal remark that it had been said before by Bacon, Locke, Boyle or some other eminent Writer; thus you can deprive him of the Reputation he might have gained by it, and gain some yourself, as you hereby show your great Reading and Memory. 4. When modest Men have been thus treated by you a few times, they will choose ever after to be silent in your Company; then you may shine on without Fear of a Rival; rallying them at the same time for their Dullness, which will be to you a new Fund of Wit. Thus you will be sure to please yourself. The polite Man aims at pleasing others, but you shall go beyond him even in that. A Man can only be present only in one Company, but may at the same time be absent in twenty. He can please only where he is, you wherever you are not. Horse Lake, Fourtown Lake
It's my last day and I get my earliest start. There is still some wind this morning which I have come to learn makes for a blustery day. For now though it's relatively tame. I make good time across Fourtown Lake and get to the first portage to Mudro Just as the sun has risen. It is quite a shock to see at first look. A very steep climb right out of the water but I am able to go up stream to a secondary take out. It involves pulling the canoe up some shallow rapids but it is worth it. It is a short portage but makes up for it by having a very short paddle to the next portage-another steep initial climb. This portage is long and difficult by my standards and doing triple portaging makes it that much longer. The last portage to Mudro Lake is short and level but has the worst footing of any portage I've ever done. When I land on Mudro Lake the wind has picked up but is still doable. I paddle across this smaller lake against the wind and soon find the creek that leads to the take out and my car where Jamie and I left it two weeks ago. After paddling up the creek and scraping a few rocks along the way I put in at a nice sand bar landing and begin the last portage-to my car. Soon it will be pizza and ice cream.
Epilogue: When I was sixteen, Mariel, I saw things quite differently just as I can only imagine you do now. Still, it doesn't hurt to see the views of an old man in the twilight of his working life. It's been asked why anyone would want to do a long solo canoe trip to the wilderness. For me, it is a rare chance to not look at what I have come to see my fellow man as, for the most part, an ape with language. I didn't bring a mirror with me. Fourtown Lake, Mudro Lake