Day 1 of 5
Friday, June 14, 2019 on the road by 9am – stopped in park rapids for a knife (as I forgot mine) and other essentials, then drove through Grand Rapids to Chisholm – stopped for picture at “Field of Dreams” – Home of Archibold “Moonlight” Graham from the movie – by the ballpark sign – one with each uniform!
Got to Piragis about 5:30 pm, loaded canoe and drove thru Fenske to check out whether any sites were open, many sites were (didn’t write down how many). Onward to Lake Jeanette campground, set up camp, took some pics and off to bed.
Day 2 of 5
Saturday, June 15, 2019 I was up at 5:30am
I packed up camp and went to Hunting Shack Creek just to check it out. It looks like a nice creek to paddle back to Pauline/Astrid Lakes, but daylight was burning. I backtracked to EP14, got there shortly after 9am and on the water shortly thereafter. Had some minor issues getting into the river, rough rocks and no solid ground to step on, had to get into the canoe from the shore without tipping. It was an enjoyable paddle to the first portage and I worked the river with a small group that was heading in to check out Devils Cascade for a daytrip.
The first portage was enjoyable as it went alongside the river and there were several areas of rapids (probably why there is a portage there).
The rest of the paddle to Upper Pauness was less winding than the first part of the river, and once I got to Upper Pauness, I chose to check out the shorter portage to the right and the campsite next to the falls. As I explored this campsite, I realized it would be easier accessed from the Upper Pauness side, as there was difficult climbing to reach the fire grate. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of this pretty campsite, but it did not appear there were many good tent pads and it was a ways up to kitchen area, but it did give a pretty view of the lake and the portage. I fished the pool below the rapids and caught a couple of perch, one small and the other nice.
After releasing both fish, I continued toward the north end of the lake, Campsite 43 on the Peninsula was occupied but looked nice, so I continued on to campsite 41 on the west shore of Lower Pauness. The firepit sits on a granite rock elevated off the water without real good access from the water. Decided to move on and check out the campsite by Devils Cascade, which also services the Sioux Hustler Hiking trail. At the portage I met a nice couple with six kids that were staying on Upper Pauness and daytriping to Devils Cascade. Tom, the father offered to carry one of my portage packs up to the campsite. I originally said “yes, I would greatly appreciate that”; but then told him he was up here to enjoy the trail with his family and I could manage! As I was getting ready to take my first load, he had not left and asked with pack was heavier and grabbed it. I did appreciate his help as I was pretty worn out from the trip in. Fortunately, the campsite was open, Tom and his family enjoyed the the cascade and then headed back to their camp. I got camp set up, got water and had a tuna sandwich at about 2:30pm, hung the food pack and took a nap.
It was a long nap, as I woke about 7pm, and decided to fish the north end of the portage, I hauled the canoe and fishing gear down to the river. I caught a couple rock bass under the falls which would be my first fish dinner in the BWCA on a solo trip. As I kept fishing, a whitetail deer came down by the river and was not scared or bothered by the solo canoeist, so I worked my way back to camp to eat the fish with some instant potatoes. I also realized that I forgot the set-up for my sawyer gravity water filter, so I had to use the squeeze bag instead. This was rather slow at first, but got better with each bag I filtered. Bedtime came early, as I had grand plans to work my way North into Loon.
Day 3 of 5
Sunday, June 16, 2019 Unfortunately, a good night sleep and pancake breakfast left me wondering “what am I doing up here by myself” and my legs were barking at me since getting up. Broke camp and by the time I got back to Lower Pauness, my legs were feeling better and I wished I had gone the other way, but I could see that site #43 was open on the peninsula, and decided to go check that out.
The landing to this campsite is adequate, but I think a better landing is all that site is missing.
After checking the site out, decided to spend the night. However, it did look like there was a woodchuck here trying to find out how much wood it could chuck! Also there was lots of green brush piled up. After setting up camp and eating some chicken alfredo with Tyson chicken, I did the best I could to clean up the wood chips and brush, getting a good warm fire going and basically raking with my fingers.
Later that evening, I just enjoyed being outside, taking pictures, and finally decided to try some shore fishing. Thought it would be a good idea to climb down to the shore, about 4 feet, but I started to slip and ended up face planting on the rocks. After the initial shock, I checked to see if everything was OK, then reflected on the risk of solo travel in the wilderness. Mental note to self, be careful, be intentional, be aware! I found the following in my notes “The days are long and one starts thinking about what to do. I am starting to see how traveling and getting into a routine is a good thing” An eagle flew by and I got a couple pictures. I really enjoyed the night and decided I would spend another night here.
Day 4 of 5
Monday, June 17, 2019 Woke up before sunrise as my neighbors were making the worst racket I have ever heard.
Took about 100 pictures of the trumpeters before they had enough, then made breakfast. Thought about just hanging out all day and reading under the tarp until I started wondering what was I doing out here! It had been raining off and on and I expected more rain from the forecast. Couldn’t talk myself out of leaving, so I broke camp and was on the water by 11:45am. As I was leaving, some painted turtles slid down the rocks, one landing on his back in a crevice. After rescuing him, I was in the canoe heading across the lake for the 37 rod portage into Upper Pauness. I enjoyed the carry across and when I got on the water, I decided to check out campsite 38, and would be rewarded by a turtle sunning and a branch above the water (Karma for helping the turtle earlier?).
As you are paddling toward the campsite, you see the rocks and elevated kitchen, but the best landing is to the left around the corner with a shallow sandy landing. After taking many pictures of the painted turtle, I worked my way back to the EP. It is funny how long the paddle was, I am guessing time goes slower when you leave the BWCA. Funny story from the way in, I met some boy scouts working their way out and I just said “The worst part about the BWCA is leaving!” The kid looked me square in the eye and said “That’s the best part” – I guess to each their own.
Even though I didn’t want to stay any longer, I was still sad to leave. I guess I found what I wanted for that trip, and the best lesson was that you need to be ready to take the trip before you go. If you are thinking about what you should be doing instead of being where you are, you need a better mindset, or you need to take care of those things before going! Being it was midafternoon, I was surprised to see two groups still working their way in, but that was all I saw until I got back to the EP.
After loading up, I stopped at the Fire & Ice trail, thinking it would be much longer than it was. It also appears that the fire part has healed enough that it is hard to tell how bad it was.
Headed back to Jeanette Lake campground and found the site next to the one I had stayed on was open. This was a nice site with access to the top of the rock ledge and a nice overview of the lake Jeanette. After setting up my tent, I decided to see if End of the Trail restaurant had any food left! They did, ate the mushroom ‘n Swiss with Fries and a HF Sundae! Back to Jeanette campground and my neighbors were out and they were louder than the trumpeter’s. They were talking about the wilderness is “serious business”. You forget something and you could die, like matches. This was two guys waiting for their wives to get up here. I’m not sure where they were going, but I was guessing they were not going light! Fell asleep listening to rantings & musings of drunk people!
Day 5 of 5
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 I sat on the lake overlook making my notes for this report for over an hour. Reflected on why I was having fun, but kept deciding that it was time to leave, and then talking myself out of leaving and then into leaving! Crazy how the mind works.
By 6:30am I was ready to pack my tent and return my canoe to Piragis.
It was still early in the day as I stopped by the Bear Center and learned a lot about black bears!
It was a bittersweet trip, and I was ready to head home. My cousin was not able to make this trip due to circumstances outside of his control, but he was at the cabin, and I would get a chance to go fishing with him when I got home. Now I just need to complete a solo trip without bailing out. Seems to be the pattern so far.