Part 1 of 4
Packing was pretty normal, and as usual, I tried to pack lighter but didn't seem to do what I'd hoped. Solo trips seem to require much of the same gear as the multiple partner trips. I got my car tied down; my Boundary Waters Wenonah secured on top with foam blocks and tie downs on the front and back. I felt good about my 840 mile trip to LaTourell's, so I got started at about noon. After driving about 7 hours I noticed a really neat roadside park with beautiful rock formations.
Awhile later I was near Eau Claire and planning on stopping at a rest area on Hwy 53 to sleep for as long as I could sleep. When I got to a rest area about 35 miles north of Eau Claire, I discovered a pretty nice place, but I was the only car in the area. I didn't feel comfortable there, so I drove a few more miles into Rice Lake and checked into a Super 8 on their Main Street. My car was parked right outside my room window and in a very well-lit area near the office, so I felt like my canoe was safe there. Slept until ~ 7:00, then got started after a little continental breakfast - not at all like the Super 8 in Evelyth, MN, but I did get some food in my body. This morning was pretty nice, with some clouds and a little more wind. As I got near Duluth, the wind picked up significantly with some rain, and I learned quickly that the foam blocks without a rack on top the car just weren't very good at all. This was my second trip with this newly-bought used canoe, so I was still in the learning faze of canoe hauling. The canoe was moving sideways some with wind gusts as I went over the bridge, and I needed to pull over and adjust my canoe, tightening my straps and tie downs as bast I could. I continued to have this problem as the wind continued to gust, and I probably had to stop ~ 5 times to make adjustments. Once north of Evelyth I pulled over and discovered that one of my foam blocks was gone. I walked back ~ 300 yards and luckily found it in the weeds off the shoulder of the highway. Next time it happened I was able to see it blow off in my rear view mirror and find it quickly. This was becoming a difficult scenario for me to travel. I knew by now that I really needed to have a rack on top or go back to rental canoes as in the past. I got to Ely at ~ noon and parked to do some walking around and have lunch at Subway. I bought a foot long, and I saved half for my dinner, which I would do during my bunkhouse stay that night at LaTourell's. I decided to purchase an extra foam block at Voyageur's North. I needed to be better-equipped for a windy trip back home after my paddle. Drove on to LaTourell's, got there by 3:30, checked into a very nicely renovated bunkhouse room with small fridge, air & heat, and 2 bunk beds. Would have been great for up to 4 people. Got my canoe off the car and stowed it under their canoe racks for the night. Mindy helped a foursome that came in early with one tripper's broken wrist. I learned that they were also from St Louis. I will look them up when I get home, as they live not too far away from me. Amazing coincidence! I spent the rest of the day checking my packs and gear and reading "The Affair," a good Jack Reacher mystery. I also double-checked my planned route, which I have done many times before. I chose a very simple route, getting a tow to the portage to Splash Lake, then paddling either to the only campsite on Splash or into Ensign and finding a good open campsite there to base camp for a few days of fishing. Settled up with Bob, bought my fishing license, ate my sandwich with my last soda for awhile, and by 8:00 was ready for a good night of sleep. With my 4 medications I do sleep pretty well!
Part 2 of 4
[paragraph break]The weather cleared during the night as it was supposed to. Everything was looking good for a few nice weather days, as I was hoping. I slept well, and I was up at 5:00, getting all done to prepare for my tow and taking my medications. Missy was going early to work at the border check station, so she drove me. I got towed at 6:30 am and was done portaging (I quadruple portage) by a little after 7:15. I started paddling and immediately saw 3 canoes to my left fishing Splash.
I struck up a conversation with the first canoe with 2 fishermen, and they were very nice to me with info. The campsite on Splash was taken until that afternoon, so I decided to paddle up into Ensign and find another campsite, knowing that they would leave their campsite at 3:00 if I needed to come back for that campsite. As I was paddling up the small narrows before the tiny portage/paddle into Ensign, I saw a moose jump into the narrows, swim across for a few seconds, and get out quickly, scampering into the woods! I had never seen a moose on Ensign or Splash before in ~ a dozen trips, so I felt very lucky. The water was high, so I paddled hard and made it through those tiny rapids without getting out. The first campsite right near that 5 rod portage/paddle was open, so I took it. I planned to fish in Splash that day, so I felt like that site was fine. I wanted to fish the northwest bay of Ensign on Day 2, so I could get there easily from that site, or I might move over to the island site if it was open the next day. I had caught an 18 pound pike a few years ago over there, as well as a big smallmouth and a lunker largemouth, so I really like that bay. Many people go to the east end for walleye, but I stay on the west end.[paragraph break]I paddled into that rocky camp site and spent the next few hours setting up camp. I started with getting my 12 x 12 tarp tied up, my tent up, and then walked well back into some areas with downed birch to cut firewood for a campfire that night. I was lucky to find some good wood down for cutting, so I gave my saw a good workout and had more than I needed for a few days. It makes me feel good to leave a pile for the next campers, so I felt good about that. This site I've used on my last day a number of times, and it is usually hard to find some good firewood.
I ate some gorp, an orange, and a granola bar and was ready to gear my canoe for a short fishing trip back into Splash for the afternoon.[paragraph break]I took some rapalas, rattletraps, a couple rods, some snacks, a water bottle, a water bag filled with ~ 30 pounds of water to help trim my canoe, and my little tackle box with stringer and fish-cleaning tools and bags. I like to clean fish before returning to camp so I can put the remains far away from my camp site. I paddled down past the narrows and began fishing, immediately catching some small pike. During the next couple hours I caught 7 pike, 2 smallmouth, and 1 largemouth. I kept 4 eater sized and cleaned them on a rock before returning to camp.
Walked the remains away from the water and dropped them. Got back to camp by ~2:30 and lit up the cooking stove for a fish fry. I got a recipe for fish batter off this website a couple years ago and used it. I feasted on fish, not wasting any of those fillets!
I sat there and read a little, and dozed off for ~ an hour.
Part 3 of 4
[paragraph break]By 5:00 that afternoon I was ready to go back out for some more of the same - fish and another fish fry was my goal for the day! I once again caught some small pike and stopped to take my medications which are prescribed for twice a day. As much as I have done this, I then made a forgetful mistake of casting my line in before putting the cap back on the container of my lyrica medication. My canoe was resting against a log that was under the water, and when I stood up to cast, the canoe did not move freely to balance and tipped over immediately. I fell in sideways and hit my shoulder on another log. This was my rotator cuff that I had worked on in January, and I felt a little crunch when I hit the log, so I immediately anticipated I'd have a problem. Surprisingly, I got back into the canoe without any severe pain, so I felt lucky. I then realized that my medication was ruined when the canoe tipped - I was bummed out and now strategizing what I would do without my lyrica. I fished a little more, felt a little sore and decided to paddled back to camp and spend the rest of the evening with a campfire and sunset in front of me.
I decided to boil some water and make a Mountain House dinner - Chicken Teriyaki with Rice. It's so easy - just put 2 cups of boiling water into the bag, close it up, and let it cook for 10 minutes - and you can eat it right out of the bag, making clean up so nice. It's a 2 serving meal, so I was stuffed before the bag was empty. Had to start a trash bag for food that I couldn't eat. It was a beautiful night with the temperature going down into the 40s. The sunset was gorgeous and my campfire was beautiful.
Sleeping in the tent that night was very peaceful - only sounds of the loons nearby during the night.
Part 4 of 4
When I awoke it was ~ 3:00 in the morning. I was stiff and sore in my shoulders, arms, neck, and back as always. Tried to go back to sleep and did for a little while at a time until about 5:30 in the morning. I now realized that 4 more days without my lyrica just wasn't going to cut it. I decided at this time to pack up and paddle out. I could make a call and get medicated, but my trip would need to end to do so. I spent about 90 minutes breaking down the camp site, having a breakfast of an orange, granola bar, gorp, and peanut butter with strawberry jelly on tortilla. As I paddled out through the tiny rapids, there were some otters playing around that were not very happy I was visiting their playground. I just steered right through them as I left Ensign. I paddled over to the portage, and there was a busy group from Mankato that were also on their way out. They were high -school aged young men being supervised by some really nice men that had done this before. I could relate to them very well, having brought students into this area many times before my retirement from teaching. They were through the portage and gone well before I did my quadruple-portage process, so I then was alone. About a half hour into the long paddle through Sucker Lake, Newfound Lake, and Moose Lake, it started to rain. I put on my raincoat and really enjoyed the light rainfall on the calm waters. My shoulder was performing well after the mishap the day before, so I felt good about that. The fibomyalgia discomfort was my challenge for the paddle, and I worked hard on focusing on other things. During a short break in the drizzle, a rainbow filled the sky to the northwest.
My paddle back to LaTourell's was normally a 2 hour paddle, but I took 3 hours this day, easing up to be careful of my shoulder.[paragraph break] As I neared the end of my paddle, I passed the Boundary Waters entrance sign on the island near LaTourell's.
When I got back to LaTourell's they were surprised to see me but very understanding when I told them about my predicament. Mindy offered me a free shower to cheer me up, and I talked with Bob about my worries of driving with the foam blocks and no rack. I had purchased my wonderful canoe from them the year before, and this was only the second time I used it. I asked Bob what he thought it was worth, and he told me (almost the same as what I bought it for). I then asked Bob if he could sell it for me, offering him a good percentage of the purchase price for doing do. He and Mindy were more than willing to do that for me. Now I didn't need to worry about driving home with the canoe on the foam blocks. I learned that those foam blocks without a rack are great for short trips, but my 840 mile trip with potential wind gusts and rain was too long and a gamble driving that far.[paragraph break]I then showered, said my good-by and see you next year, and left at almost noon. An uneventful drive home got me there by 2:30 am. I was exhausted but felt like I was still a tripper. I had a wonderful fishing experience, great fun gathering wood and doing the campfire bit, set up and broke camp, experienced a long paddle (~ 7 miles back without a break including portaging), had 2 fun cooking events, and saw some wildlife. I learned quite a bit about being more careful with my medicine and I also learned that renting a canoe might be best for me until I get a car with a rack. I felt like this fibromalgia has a lock on me but doesn't keep me from doing what I want to do, as long as I have my medicine. I also was once again so impressed with the LaTourells and how understanding and helpful they are.