BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 19 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
Late May 2010 10-day Solo
May 16, 2010
Number of Days:
Every year I complete a solo trip somewhere. Whether it is time at my remote cabin in Northern Wisconsin or an expedition, it must be done. This is my time to decompress. Without it, I am longing for time away from life and routine. My solo trip also has to have a level of remoteness to it. I grew up loving the north woods and much of my childhood memories revolve around woods and waters; in fact, my earliest memory is of being in a canoe with family on the Paint River in Upper Michigan. What is the effect on one's soul if your getaway or holiday is nothing more than an experience of that from which you just came? Is a trip to another bustling city with noise, smells and experience similar to your daily routine truly satisfying and rejuvenating? Perhaps to some, but not to this woodsman.
Many ask me, “Why do you go alone?” My response? “Why NOT!?!” I sleep well alone in the woods, no matter how close or far from a road or another person. I'm not bothered by bears and cougar's aren't known to attack tents. The worst part of being in the woods alone are the chipmunks, squirrels and mice. And those you don't get away from with others about. If anything, they are pests only because others feed them.
My desires for a solo canoe trip in the BWCA began a year ago July after a solo trip to Sylvania Wilderness in Upper Michigan. This would also be my first trip into the BWCA or Superior National Forest for that matter.
With thoughtful insight from this message board and some serious contemplation I decided upon something more than just four or five days. After pouring over maps and trip reports I concluded that I wanted to see some big water and get a taste of smaller lakes in between. I also desired to canoe along the U.S.- Canadian border. I craved solitude as well, but wanting to see the border country and some larger lakes meant I knew I would likely see other people daily. I settled for a trip in late-May, hoping for lower volume of people and fair weather. In the end, I see this trip as a prelude to a longer solo into Quetico for more isolation than BWCA can offer, come what may.
I knew early on that my backpack would not be large enough to be comfortable or store my gear for nine or ten days during a spring trip. I found a good deal on a Granite Gear Nimbus Great Northern. While it weighs in at nearly 5 pounds, I needed the suspension system due to a bad lower back. I also despise having to hang food and went with a 30L blue barrel with a harness. Not so much because of the task of hanging food, but in finding a tree, and then worrying about a bear smelling the pack anyways and subsequently breaking the limb or chewing the rope. Additionally, squirrels and mice can shimmy down ropes also. I added a lightweight steel cable lock so a bear can't chew through and walk off with my food pack.
I'm also an avid photographer and decided I had to bring my 35mm along. In the past I had used a compression dry bag for this task, but they don't hold up well to abuse and gear isn't easily accessible. I decided on a top-loading Pelican case.
I also have a self-inflating Thermarest, but after more than 3 or perhaps 4 nights it gets uncomfortable. I ponied up some serious money and bought an Exped 9 Down Deluxe. Without good rest I'm not worth much.
For a tent, I used my trusty REI Quarter-Dome two-man. It weighs in a around 5 pounds, but is roomy and has two vestibules to store gear or cook in.
Total gear weight was 135 pounds. That included a 65 pound pack, 16 pounds of camera gear, 40 pounds of food, 5 pounds of fishing gear, and my 8 pound ditch kit/day pack. 8 pounds you ask? Well I had some hardware stashed within.
I finalized an entry date of May 18th, 2010 and an estimated exit of May 26th at EP-25 Moose Lake. I planned on getting a tow to Birch Lake, but hopes were dashed when I was advised of a 2-person minimum payment, which meant over fifty dollars one-way. I decided that if the wind forecast were unfavorable I would pony up.
A few days before leaving I paid a visit to a friend of mine with Indian heritage. We spoke of fire and the wonders of the north woods. He imparted the gift of an eagle feather to keep me safe, some tobacco for offerings to the lakes and forests I was visiting, and finally some natural fire making materials. I had also planned on visiting some rock paintings along the Kawishiwi River during my travel, paintings of which I've had many conversations with him about.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I left Southeast Wisconsin about 8:15am and had an uneventful trip to Ely, MN. I first stopped at Piragi's, my outfitter of choice to pick up my canoe. Drew had called me prior to the trip to ensure I had necessary gear and equipment and chat briefly about my route and plans. That is a much appreciated call and I'm sure he's saved many a canoeist heartache and pain in doing so.
I decided on renting a Bell Magic canoe. It truly is a work of art and I can only describe it as “sexy.” The canoe is made of kevlar and weighs in at 34 pounds. Drew gave me a brand new one. Barely a scratch. I felt bad knowing I would be the first to scratch it. Drew also outfitted me with a Bending Branches Glide adjustable kayak paddle and a bent shaft Wenonah carbon fiber paddle. Drew's parting words were that he didn't want to see me back early. Fat chance! But I'm sure he's seen a few soloists call it quits long before their estimated exit date.
Next stop was Fall Lake campground. The waterside campsite was $20, but the campground quiet with great amenities. I set up my tent and went back to Ely for some phone calls and dinner, deciding on Boathouse Brewpub. It was almost empty of customers, but had a family feel with the bar area not looking like a “bar,” with bottles neatly stowed. Initially I thought they only served beer, it was that well set up. I had a try of several of their namesakes and decided on a walleye fish fry. I was treated with a huge walleye fillet and it was a good meal.
Then it was back to my campsite for a quick campfire, some final mental preparation for the trip to come, and some rest. Happily, someone had left enough wood for a fire. I used a few chunks and left the rest for the next traveler. I decided upon an early wake-up of 5am to get on the water by 630am. Luckily sleep came easy and morning came fast.
Lakes: Moose, Newfound, Sucker, Birch, Carp, Melon, Seed, Knife Portages: 4 (seemed as though there were 6, perhaps 7 or more) Rods: 52r, 22r, 8r, 84r Total Distance: 16 miles
I woke up just prior to the alarm going off at 445am, packed camp and made breakfast on my tailgate. I succeeded in burning my bannock in the darkness. My SnowPeak GigaPower is very testy when on low/minimal power and has an urge to open up a bit.
I drove to the entry point and made ready. I decided last-minute to move my truck to a closer spot and was glad I did as when I returned some days later I found a deadfall had taken up that parking space!!! I decided to take care of some business before pushing off, but found the pit toilet to be a wreck. Disgusting actually.
In starting my paddle in the Bell Magic, I found it very tippy and was fearful of a capsize on a large lake such as Moose Lake. I knew some of it had to do with my own high center of gravity. I'm 6' 5” and 230 pounds. After an hour I eased into it's peculiarities and found it to be stable so long as I kept my center low. I tried the kayak paddle but could not get used to it, also finding it to be a bit noisy and splashy as well as very wet. I stowed it on the first portage and there it stayed for the duration.
My paddle up Moose Lake was uneventful, though I pushed myself to get it over with. I got to Birch Lake in about 2 hours with no stops for rest. A few motorists were rude, especially one that was apparently lost and fully loaded down. At full power he was not planing off and causing a great wake. The tows were more than courteous and went out of their way to make sure that when they went past they did so at angles or perpendicular. The wind was 5MPH or less.
Once on Birch Lake, the noise of motor boats slowly faded and I saw perhaps one other canoe on the south side of the Isle of Pines. I made a stop at the second site on the U.S. side and found careless canoeists to have thrown fish carcasses in the shallow area just off shore. The crayfish were making work of them. As I pushed on, the wind lessened and I was paddling on very smooth waters. My first portage was the worst as I attempted to get gear organized and strapped for the carry. I found that D-ringing the Pelican case the to back of my pack was not the way to go.
Toward the end of Carp Lake a loon was acting very strange. It's actions were definitely directed toward me. At first it played as though it was wounded about 100 yards in front of the canoe, flapping wildly through the water, then looking back at me. This scene was repeated several times for perhaps 200 yards. I was a few hundred yards from each shoreline and thought the behavior odd since I couldn't be terribly close to any nest. I have inadvertently paddled by nests in the past and not disturbed them. His/her mate looked on from a short distance to my stern. The loon then let me canoe right on by at perhaps 15 yards and didn't seem disturbed at all. Then it dove and swam underwater along side the canoe for some time. It was quite a sight and experience and I can only attribute this to “playtime.”
The next portages were a bit tough due to the heat. I endeavor to set my thermostat at home at 63 in the winter. I was dismayed that my maps didn't show these many small portages. That combined with them not being just a light carry-over made for a workout. Portaging in heat nearing 85 was exhausting. The last few portages, included into Knife Lake was a triple-carry. I didn't mind this though as it gave me a chance to walk through these woods and smell what reminded me of Utah's high desert. Vanilla tones of the Red Pine, sweet fragrance of the balsam and spruce and the occasional cedar undertone combined with the musky scent of last years leaves decomposing made my nose sing with excitement. The 85 degree heat and 15% relative humidity really brought the scents out. The sounds of the white-throats and more than just an occasional drumming of a partridge made the steps between hauls fast and light. This is what I was here for and was glad to experience such invigoration of my senses!
I made a stop at the northwestern campsite of Isle of Pines to take care of some business and rest a bit. I stretched my back out and lay on the ground for a bit, listening to nature. I also reflected on some of the portaging issues I had and decided to carry items in both hands with a pack on, vs. trying to strap or D-ring them onto the back of my pack.
By now the wind had calmed completely and prior lake disturbances had finished bouncing off shorelines. There were puffy cumulus clouds in the sky and the blue of the sky stretched from horizon to horizon. This resulted in a near- perfect reflection in the water's surface. Being out in the open water I had no close reference points or reflection of land. In essence I was canoeing through the open sky. Several times I lost my internal balance and had to reference a distant shoreline to stop the vertigo. This is a BWCA paddlers dream and I experienced it on this my first day!
I begin looking for a campsite and take a look at one on a point. There is another just around the corner. It's a fair campsite, but the view down Knife Lake is absolutely outstanding. I decide on the site. Just after setting up camp a tandem comes by. I believe they took the next camp down, but I never heard them. Hope it was the same for them. It looks like I was perhaps the second person/group to use the site. Seagulls were loud to the south of me on a rookery-looking island. They continued on for a while and it reminded me of all the time spent in my youth on the shores of Lake Michigan and Green Bay/Door County.
Dinner was served up, consisting of something freeze-dried and forgettable, followed by a campfire and some responsible imbibery while listening to the loons, interceded by the occasional white-throat who hadn't yet fallen asleep. I was in bed perhaps by 10pm as I wanted a head-start on my next day's destination...Cherry Lake.
My pen dedicated to my log book ran out. I had no spare.
Originally I had planned on paddling up Ottertrack then into Hanson and then tackling the famed Cherry Lake portage. I had also planned on a tow and thus being closer or to Ottertrack as well. My lower back spoke loudly and said the Cherry Lake portage was ill-advised so I decided to reroute through Amoeber and Topaz.
Lakes: Knife, Amoeber, Topaz, Cherry Portages: 3 Rods: 22r, 17r, 7r Total Distance: 8.5 miles
I awoke early, perhaps 5:45am. I believe I was on the water just after 7am. There was hardly any wind to speak of and passed a gent fishing on a kayak at some distance. Then passed a group of three fishing from the shoreline of their campsite; which looked to be a nice site. Perhaps the kayaker was their 4th. The run through the narrow section of Knife Lake was interesting. The paddle toward the portage to Amoeber was uneventful, though still hot.
The portage into Amoeber wasn't difficult, though I remember some elevation gains. I also recall watching some mergansers play/court on the Knife side and seeing something large swim from land to the closest island. I thought a coyote or perhaps a wolf, but in retrospect it was probably a beaver, maybe a deer. It was to fast to be a loon or bird of some type. It's too bad I wasn't closer. I triple-carried this portage because my back told me to.
Amoeber Lake is certainly pretty. The lake was calm and it was a nice paddle. One group of perhaps a father/son combo was camped on the island site and fishing the western narrows. This was the last group of people I saw this day.
I made the quick triple-carry into Topaz and was delighted by this lake with it's bluffs and islands. The campsite looked deserted and if I was forced to camp there I wouldn't complain. bwca.com has a 1-star rating though.
The next portage was into Cherry Lake and I can see why it's called Cherry Lake. What a cherry! I got an early rise in hopes of getting a site so took the first site, the western-most. A definite 4-star site with a perfectly placed fire grate. I would have liked to check the other site out, but this one suited me fine. I paddled around the larger island just to see what I could see and fought a little wind then set up camp. I intended on exploring this gem of a lake but decided instead for some R&R in the hammock with a book. Some surfacing smallmouth bass caught my attention occasionally and I wet the line. A black spinner yielded two, but I released them.
As the afternoon wore on I gathered firewood and made some dinner of more dehydrated and forgettable. I typically eat two packages and dessert is a handful of M&M's. I meant to check out the east side of Cherry Lake. I know there is a fantastic cliff to see over there. But the mood did not strike me.
I delighted in watching a pair of loons cruise past between the campsite and far shore. I made a fire and really enjoyed the peace and quiet. As dusk fell I took some photos of the fire, stars and opposite island cliffs. Responsible adult beverages enjoyed by all.
I had planned on sailing right through Gabimichigami into Little Sag the next day. My goal was to get into the Boulder/Adams Lake area. My lower back was telling me it would not be a good idea. I listened and made plans for Kekekabic Lake.
Lakes: Cherry, Topaz, Amoeber, Knife Lake, South Arm-Knife Lake, Eddy, Kek Ponds, Kekakabic Lake Portages: 11 Rods: 5, 20, 75, 30, 25, 15, 10, 20, 15, 5 Total Distance: 14 miles
The morning began cold and it was tough getting out of my sleeping bag. I made some coffee and oatmeal and was surprised to hear a human. A lone paddler in a tandem canoe paddled by, cursing his stringer for getting tangled up with his transducer. I whispered a kind hello and he returned it. He had caught a walleye.
I packed up and got moving soon enough. I had a lot of water to cover and several portages. I wasn't looking forward to the Kek Pond portages. I zipped through Topaz and Amoeber and decided on the northern, shorter of the two portages into the north side of Knife Lake. The southern looked swampy, though longer, and the northern looked steeper, but shorter. I was making good time and found it best to keep my pack weight low so I triple-carried over this 75 rod portage.
After loading up I paddled south into a bay that looked promising for solitude and perhaps some diversity. I stumbled on a bear cub at the waters edge. He scampered into the brush and I could hear two distinct animals crashing away. I turned around and paddled west toward my next portage, the portage into the South Arm. The wind was blowing harder now and I was glad it would be at my back for most of the way east along the south arm.
I had lunch at the shores of the south arm, making some fry pan bread under a tree. It was quite warm and the sun was beating down during this mid-afternoon. I read later that a marauding bear that was unafraid of humans lurked the area. I wondered if it was the same bear and cub I bumped into earlier. I doubted it though as they were quite afraid of me.
I paddled east along the southern shores of the south arm and noted the change in forest. I don't remember if it was fire or wind damage, but there was damage. I took note of a group of four canoes paddling out of the Eddy portage, probably toward Hanson. I soon got to the portage and made quick work of the triple-carry up that beast. It was short, but took the wind out of me. I took a few photos of the falls from the top.
I quickly paddled to the Kek Ponds and it took me a few hours to get through them. I marveled in the diversity they offered though.
I got onto Kek and was astounded at the size of the lake. The wind was blowing from the west and I had a nice headwind to contend with. This lake was my destination and I knew it was busier than others and wanted to find a site. And I wanted one close to the next days portage into Strup. It took a while to paddle Kek, and I dodged the wind when I could. I tried for a campsite on the northeast corner of the large body, but it was fully exposed to every element I could think of. The weather was changing and I wanted to get some cover and shelter. I feared it would storm. I was pretty tired by now. Not as tired as I would be the next day, but pretty tired.
The next campsite I checked was the south side of the large island. It was occupied, I think with a couple. I didn't want to continue paddling into the wind and was left with three alternatives. One I already saw. I paddled south a bit and found that campsite to just be unappealing. I settled on the site east and just south of the large island. It had a rocky shore and some nice pines lining the edge. I wasn't a big fan of how amazingly un-level it was, and wasn't a fan of how far the fire area was from the water, but found a tent pad nestled against some foliage.
I broke my handsaw trying to cut a dead-fall down. It would be stick-breaking by hand from here on out.
I washed up and made some dinner. Checked the weather on the weather radio and had some more dehydrated forgettable for dinner. Made a fire and listened to the night sounds.
Lakes: Kekekabic, Strup, Wisini, Ahmakose, Gerund, Fraser, Thomas Lakes. Portages: 5 Rods: 85, 10, 90, 30, 15 Total Distance: 7.5miles
I broke camp early as I had some paddling to do on some big water ahead and the wind forecast called for “not a lot of fun.”
I met a couple on what I remember to be a 3-week trip at the Kek-Strup portage. Tough fellow and a pretty (also tough) wife. Lucky chap. This portage had some elevation to it. It doesn't stick out so it couldn't have been that bad. Looking at the map now, there were some contour lines crossed for sure.
Strup was pretty, Wisini amazing. The site on the tip of Wisini was free and I was tempted... I think this was the area blown over real bad. Looked aweful.
My food pack was lighter now so I was able to double-carry all the time now. On shorter portages such as the 15 rod ones I still triple-carried as it seemed easier to just do that then take the time to load myself down and strap it all in.
The next few carries blended in and I was aware of some wind picking up. I met a few chaps on the Wisini to Ahmakose portage who throught they knew the husband/wife team I met earlier in the day. He recalled a memory of diving to get a snagged lure on Wisini Lake and instead caught his thumb. Said he had to rip it to get free and stood there on the cliff naked and bleeding as a group of women paddled past.
I got onto Fraser and wasn’t real happy at how it looked. I wanted to get some paddling miles in though so I paddled cross-wind to the south shore and muscled through it. It sapped me thoroughly. As I got into the narrow section, the wind eased. But when I got onto Thomas I knew I would not be having any fun. I skirted islands and powered through open areas to get on the lee of an island.
The Bell Magic was wonderful though. It had some quirks easily fixed by weighting it appropriate to wind direction and I could now shift my weight left or right depending on what was needed. I could also manipulate the pack in front of me to shift weight fore or aft. It worked well. Paddling was still hard though!
The two sites on the east shores were either not well or occupied. I think the northern one was occupied and I could see the northern one from the southern one. Not for me so into the fray I went.
I paddled to the center island with a site and it was free so I took it. I didn't want to risk battling the wind and waves to get further east, only to find a sub-par site or worse, none. The wind was kicking with some white-caps now. I hadn't been there 10 minutes before a father-son team came along. They asked if I saw any others free. I suggested the island site to the northwest as I didn't believe I saw anyone there. Offered a spot at my site if it wasn't free since the wind picked up even more. This site was not very sheltered from the wind and I was glad to have my windproof jacket. I might have been the first to camp on this site this year.
I made camp and gathered firewood. I was pretty tired though and rested here and there. Some youths were causing a ruckus east of me. Fishing, drinking and such. I love both, but don't broadcast it like they did. Seagulls knew what they were all about. I posted earlier in the year about this:
“...My worst experience? A**-Hats on Thomas Lake that hooted, hollered and sung from their canoes all afternoon into the evening. The seagulls knew what these guys were all about and were on them all afternoon. Then they paddled to the Alice Lake portage and made a fire at about 730pm. Yes, a fire at a portage. And next to/burned a log to sit on and rest or change your shoes. Damaged the cedar tree right above it. Fueled their fire and then took that long portage at about 830pm. I followed and photographed their trail of destruction the next day. 5 guys in two aluminum canoes. They know who they are.”
I rested up and the wind died so I tried my hand at some fishing about the islands and in some deeper water. No luck. More freeze-dried and forgettable for me.
Lakes: Thomas, Cacabic, Alice Portages: 1 Rods: 232 Total Distance: 3.5miles
The morning was fairly still, though the weatherman on the radio advised a front was slowly moving through and the wind would not be well. Not for a solo canoeist anyways. I had planned Alice Lake, but wanted to camp there, check out the pictographs, and relax on a beach.
The 232 rod portage was the longest of the trip. Perhaps the buggiest as well. It wasn't tough, but it was long. I did both carries without stopping. Cacabic Lake looked like great largemouth bass habitat. I portaged into the long channel leading to Alice Lake. Within 1/10th of a mile I spied movement on an island and glimpsed a wolf. It jumped along some rocks between the island and the shore and stopped on the largest to stare at me for a second. It then disappeared into the brush. It was an intense moment.
The campsite in this narrow area looked OK. Probably great for fishermen.
I got onto Alice and the wind was blowing pretty good. To much for a lone canoe. I bumped into two gents fishing on the east shore. They invited me for breakfast and to wait the wind out. They thought they were going to move along toward Thomas Lake.
I could hear the waves crashing onto the north shoreline. I paddled over to their site and put up my hammock, strung between two cedar trees hanging out onto the crescent shaped beach. Heaven!! I read a book and puffed on a cigar. The wind was howling through the trees and it crashed on the north shore, but this little gem of a cove was protected like none else!
The campsite occupants returned shortly and offered me some breakfast as they had apparently packed way to much food in. I took them up on the offer, but declined the blueberry pancakes. The sausage was wonderful and so was the conversation.
They decided to head out, but not before pondering another night at the site. They offered me a tent spot, but ultimately decided to push on to Thomas Lake. I told them about the site I vacated earlier and they pushed off shortly thereafter. You two know who you are, I'm still waiting for an email. :)
The beach and surrounding shoreline provided quite a bit of exploration and entertainment. The hammock was wonderful as well and I napped and lounged, not at all caring about a lost day.
I made a nice fire that night and enjoyed my spot.
Lakes: Alice Lake (layover)
The wind was up. I didn't feel like pushing my luck with white-caps. And Alice was a big piece of water. The wind was out of the southwest and to strong for me to paddle cross-wind until I got to the south side. If I paddled into the wind I could have gotten into some serious trouble in open water.
Storms were predicted and I didn't care to be caught in them or some poor campsite. Storm warnings followed and I watched a lightning show like no other over what I figured to be Lake Three and Insula. The wind was howling at times and bitter. Later on in the day it was not very comforting to listen to the weather radio and hear, “Take cover immediately! Go indoors! Stay away from windows!” The rumble of thunder was constant. It was quite a set of storms. I put my hammock near my campsite and strung my rain fly over it. Read a book while it rained and howled in the trees. Not much wind at all at the campsite. But it wasn't. Did some fishing as well in the protected bays on the northeast side of Alice and into the narrows. Didn't catch anything.
The weather let up and nature's magic show came alive. I took a lot of pictures and it was the one time I was happy I lugged my 35mm. And the one time I was sad I left my tripod. A few of the photos I had to do some HDR handheld. Have not processed them though.
Lakes: Alice, Kawishiwi River, Lake Insulu, Kiana Lake, Thomas Lake, unnamed lake, Hatchet Lake, Ima Lake Portages: 8 Rods: 180x2, 25x2, 10x2, 20x2, 10x2, 30x2 Total Rods: Total Distance: 13
I woke fairly early and don't remember making breakfast. Probably some bars on the go. I had a fair distance to cover today and wanted to stay on target for my out day. Bumped into an Otter on the south end of Alice, and a few canoes along the Kawishiwi River. Caught a good size northern just below the falls into Insula. It was chewed up by something quite bigger. Hoped to see a moose in this area but didn't. Bumped into a set of kayakers on Insula's east bay.
Paddled to the entrance to Lake Insula just to take a look. Then paddled up the north side of the east bay. Area gave me the creeps and I don't know why. Saw some moose prints on the portage to Kiana Lake. Was a pretty lake. Scraped bottom in the shallow section between the two bodies of water.
Had yet more wind to deal with on Thomas, but it was a rear-quartering cross- wind. Dealt with it fine and paddled my way north. Bumped into a pair of nesting loons on the creek heading to Hatchet Lake. Didn't seem to bother them, despite this being a busy thoroughfare.
By now I was pretty tuckered out. The sun beating down on me probably did it more than anything. I humped my gear over to Ima lake and was starting to stumble here and there. I wanted a campsite and fast. Found one. The second one on the right straight north from the Hatchet to Ima portage. Was a nice site. I unloaded and got my hammock out. Strung it up and didn't move for a few hours. Just dozed in and out of exhaustion for a few hours.
Looking back I think it was a combo of not drinking enough fluids, sun beating down on me, not having enough sunscreen to really do the trick, and not resting at all from the time I got up. I should have been ready to go after a layover day. I recovered soon enough though.
This site had a rock table. A flat rock on top of a stump. Was great and whoever put it there I appreciate it; even if it's not low impact. I did some fishing in the evening but didn't catch anything. Trolled for lakers.
Lakes: Ima Lake, Jordan Lake, Cattyman Lake, Gibson Lake, Ashigan Lake, Ensign Lake Portages: 8 Rods: 180x2, 25x2, 10x2, 20x2, 10x2, 30x2 Total Rods: Total Distance: 10.5
As usual, I woke up. Breakfast was made in short order and I broke camp and paddled along the south shore of Ima Lake. It's a pretty lake. I'd like to see it again. On this day I was headed for Ensign. I knew that if I pushed it, I could get out on this day. I was going to make that decision once I got to Ensign, but was leaning for one more night in the woods. I also wanted to get to the west end of Ensign just in case there was some wind the next day.
Most of the trip doesn't stick out. I bumped into one other group going the opposite way. Sometime this day or the day prior I bumped into a father-son team who began at the top of the Quetico and were paddling to the bottom of the BWCAW.
Gibson falls was nice. Glad I was going downhill and not up. I portaged to Ashigan and was not paying much attention when a group of 8 startled me at the Ashigan side. It was shocking to see so many people in one spot. I did my second carry and they were walking the other way to get over to Gibson Falls. No canoes, but I think their guide service may have neglected to mention there is no trail along the shore and canoes were needed. I learned they were from Florida and we had the same professions.
I paddled ahead and they caught up to me at Ensign Lake. It was pretty warm out by now. I paddled west and did some trolling. While looking for a site I hooked into a decent northern. Lost him at the boat. Still, no fish dinner. The lake must have been real pretty before the blowdown. One group of canoeists had run out of sunscreen. I felt their pain. I had just run out that day. On the first day half my bottle sprayed out into my pack and I had rationed it daily. I nearly burned each day, but not quite.
A storm was looming so I did my best to find a site. I think I was picky on a few of the sites on the west side of the lake. The east side was populated, though I found one up on a point. On the map it was most eastern site on the north side. It wasnt' great, but it did have a nice view of the lake. I could hear outboard motors on Moose Lake.
By now the storm was bearing down and the weather radio was advising to take cover and stay away from windows. More fun times. I was a little concerned by one fair sized evergreen upwind from the tent, but figured it wouldn't kill me if it fell on me.
I took a few pictures of the storm once the initial blast came through. I'd guess 40+ gusts since branches and leaves were blown from the opposite shore and my tent bent low a few times. The lake looked something nasty. A few trees fell in the woods. The rain came soon enough and I was happy I was warm and dry inside the tent. I had dinner in the tent. The storm let up and a nice rainbow came out. Wood in the center of a nice wood pile was dry so I had a nice campfire that night.
The whippoorwills were something else this night. Four or five were sounding off at any one time. The loons fired up fairly often as well. It was a nice cap to a good trip. I finished the last of the whiskey.
Lakes: Ensign, Splash, Newfound, Moose Portages: 8 Rods: 180x2, 25x2, 10x2, 20x2, 10x2, 30x2 Total Rods: Total Distance: 7.5
I got up pretty early and made haste for Moose and my exit. Being stubborn and not wanting to pony up the money for a tow meant I had some paddling to do. The wind was fairly brutal on Moose with whitecaps in the larger bodies of water. Took me some time to get down and battled numerous headwinds and crosswinds to get to where I needed to be. I'm not sure if I would have preferred those winds on the first day of the trip or the last day. My arms were screaming by the time I got to the put-in.
I was happy to be out, but would just as soon have spend a night in a bed and gone on another nine-day trip. Someday.
I didn't bother with a shower and drove straight through to home to the Milwaukee area. That made my wife happy. Very happy. I was very dark-skinned after just one week from rationing the suntan lotion.
I'm a through and through photographer, but next time I'm leaving all my gear home on a solo trip and bringing the point and shoot. 16 less pounds for sure. If you do decide to take a 35mm with some bells and whistles, definitely get a top-loading Pelican with the carry strap. Worked wonders for me.
I had no use for a GPS and it never came out of my ditch bag. I did waypoint the parking lot though just in case. Don't think I will bring one next time. Never got lost, and the maps are easy to follow. I will probably always bring hardware with. The bugger was wet for 9 days and all that rusted were the rear sights. My homemade knife also rusted, but was shined up easily enough.
This time of year has unpredictable weather. I left some cold-weather gear in the truck; and took some I didn't use. I should have left more. I will only be packing 2 days of clothes from now on instead of 3. My reasoning was I wanted a dry set if what I was wearing was wet and I what I washed was still wet.
I am a fan of the 2-gallon Ziploc clothes washing machine. I would not give up my hammock for anything. I loved the candle lantern.
I packed freeze-dried food and still had a heavy food pack. I eat two of those for dinner per day though so I had 18, plus 2 for an extra emergency ration. I attribute a lot of that weight to uneaten bannock and GORP.
I'm a fanatic about a blue barrel for food. I used it again later in the season for the real stinky food on a 10-day Canadian canoeing/fishing trip and can't say enough good things about them. I splurged and got the harness.
The Solomon water shoes I bought for this trip were garbage. I was expecting to have neoprene booties on due to the cold water, but didn't need to. I wanted to wet-foot and portage with these water shoes on. Instead I wore blisters into the arch of each foot by day 3. I had my North Face three-quarters along and ended up wet footing with those on some days and changing shoes on the longer portages.
I also loved my Exped mattress. Without that I think my back would have given me problems the whole trip. I had brought my lightweight bag and my +20 mummy. I used/brought the lightweight with a cotton sheet inside.
I still get teased by friends for going on solo trips. Their reasoning usually boils down to being afraid of being alone and especially being in the woods alone with a smattering of sissy. After years of doing it the creepies get less and less and you get to know the difference between the sound of a mouse and a deer or even bear. Didn't lose any sleep on this trip to the heebie-jeebies. But then again, maybe some imbibery and being hard of hearing helps out!!
I will always use Piragis as an outfitter. Great guys with great advice.
If you decide to take the plunge and do a lengthy solo, dig yourself in several days from your exit point so that it will take a few days to get out anyways. Slow down and enjoy the moment. Open your ears and paddle quietly.
I am planning another trip early May. I want some colder water and weather and perhaps some more solitude. I'm going to pack lighter and do more miles. Hopefully the ice is out by then. I haven't decided if I will go solo, or if I will go into the Q. We shall see. Can't wait to plan the next trip...hopefully a trip with less gear.