Part 1 of 6
On the way to Minnesota I stopped at the Sylvania Wilderness for the night. I'd never been there but my son had and also Dogwoodgirl's report increased my interest. I had heard it described as a mini Boundary Waters. They are alike in some ways but not in others. I've posted a comment on the “Other Canoe Camping Locations” forum. Once in Ely I went to Voyageur North, got my permit, rented a Spot PLB and got settled in the bunk house.
Part 2 of 6
I got up early Monday morning and was paddling my Bell Magic east on Snowbank just as the sun came up. The water was smooth as a mirror, so I was paddling directly into a double sunrise, blinded by the light. That's my excuse for paddling the wrong way around the island just east of the entry point and adding about a mile to get to the portage. I made the 140 rod portage into Disappointment Lake and started paddling. I had a real sudden surge of euphoria as the canoe glided silently up the lake. I went past the first island campsite which was the first BWCA site I ever camped on. Add a dash of nostalgia to the euphoria. I stopped at the second island camp for a snack break. While there a group of 4 couples in four canoes, along with a little dog, came by and said good morning. They were looking for a place to camp. I told them I wasn't camped there, just taking a break. One boat came ashore and the couple got out and checked place and decided they didn't like it. They had been camped back on Jordan for a few days and were on their way out. They all seemed to be older than I am, probably well into their 70s, but still camping and paddling, enjoying the wilderness. They continued on down the lake. After my snack I headed up the lake. I did the portage into Ashub Lake. I decided to camp on the high bluff on the west end of the lake. I had camp set up by 11:30. When camp was set up I pressed the “I'm OK” button on the Spot. I spent the rest of the day paddling around the lake or just relaxing. I ended up doing a lot of that on this trip. Last year I had entertained guests my first night, and one of them had given me 4 very good cigars. I smoked two of them last year around the camp fire and saved the other two. When I got home I sealed them in a Ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. I had them with me now, and smoked one sitting by my fire on Ahsub to celebrate my first night in the wilderness. They were amazingly fresh and I really enjoyed them. If you read this, “Thanks Paul”.
Part 3 of 6
Tuesday morning I woke up in the dark and could see Orion rising in the east through my tent screen. I had a leisurely breakfast. Then broke camp. I made the short portage to Jitterbug. On Jitterbug I always look for Pitcher Plants and Sundews. I saw a clump of Pitcher Plants but didn't see any Sundews. Made the 40 rods to Adventure Lake. It looks like somebody built a big fire on the point just north of the portage. Two balsam trees there had been burned pretty bad. It looked like an act of vandalism. Did the short hop into Cattyman Lake. At the portage to Jordan two guys were sitting discussing whether they wanted to go back to Snowbank through Boot or through Disappointment. I mentioned the prescribed burn on Boot but they said that was finished. I went on down the 50 rods to Jordan. I camped on the north site. It's a large site with a big sandy beach. It looks like you could set up 6 or more tents, including a circus Big Top, if you wanted to. I had lunch, then set up camp. Once again I pushed the “I'm OK” button on the Spot. I took a swim, then paddled around the lake. I'd never really spent any time on Jordan, just a “pass through”lake. It's really a pretty lake. After supper I had another fine cigar. I wasn't decided where I wanted to go from there. I was really feeling kinda lazy. I hadn't really had time to get psyched up for a strenuous trip. As the evening wore on the wind picked up and veered to the east.
Part 4 of 6
In the morning the wind was still out of the east. I thought ”Oh hell, it'll probably blow in a cold rain.” I decided to head back to Disappointment. I had a non eventful trip back to Disappointment except that as soon as I was paddling south down the lake the wind veered around out of the south, just to make paddling harder and to rub it in that I'd wimped out when I should have gone on to Ima Lake. I paddled down to the south shore and camped at site 2085, the further east of the two on the south shore. It's a really pretty site with lots of large white pines. Also it's kind of off the main thoroughfare down the lake, so I didn't have a lot of canoes going by. I had camp set up early again and pressed the “I'm OK” button on the Spot. When coming back from paddling around picking up firewood I saw what looked like a mangled garter snake at the landing. Actually it turned out to be a garter snake trying to swallow a fairly large toad. He had the toad by one back leg. The toad figured if he puffed up enough the snake couldn't swallow him. Wrong choice. This was one time that passive resistance didn't work out. I grabbed my camera and took a picture. I sat back to watch. The snake showed remarkable persistence. It took him an hour and fifteen minutes but he finally swallowed the toad. I've seen pictures of snakes swallowing things bigger around than they are but it was nothing like watching the actual procedure. The snake kept taking tiny incremental holds and gradually got the toad all the way down. I took about 75 pictures.
Part 5 of 6
I got up the next morning before sunrise again. The stars were really spectacular. After breakfast I paddled around the lake some more. Did a little fishing without much success. I enjoyed watching the various creatures. There was a family of mergansers around my camp. There were several beaver working in the bays and a few otters that harassed my canoe when I got into their territory. Saw the usual loons and eagles, herons and kingfishers. No moose or bears or wolves. No white tail deer. Also oddly enough no mice. After lunch it occurred to me that I'd only seen one canoe all day. Not that I was looking for them but Disappointment is usually busier than that. After that I kept an eye on the lake but didn't see any other canoes. Of course I wasn't well placed to watch and I didn't watch too carefully. After a while I noticed one of the Dehavilland Beaver planes was making circles to the west and north of me. Nothing there but Snowbank and Boot lakes. Round and round he went for a couple hours. Then I saw one of the water tankers fly low over the northwest end of the lake and circle over toward Boot. Must be that prescribed burn. I wondered if it had gotten out of hand and they had closed the entrance. Maybe that's why I didn't see any canoes? I saw the tanker one more time. Then there was a different plane doing circles. The Dehavilland must have gone home to bed. After a while the planes were gone.
Part 6 of 6
I got up early the next morning to head out. I wanted to get as far as my cabin that day and home the next. I was at the portage to Snowbank before the sun was up. Taking out at the Snowbank Entry Point the guy from VNO that had rented me the Spot was dropping a woman off for her first ever solo. She was excited. I wished her a good trip and I headed home.
Back at Voyageur North they told me the planes were just doing the normal prescribed burn thing. Nothing out of the ordinary.
My wife loved the messages from the Spot. It made her feel like part of the trip. I sent a message every day after I'd made camp. Next time I'm going to send a message from every lake, maybe even every portage, as well as every camp. She printed all the maps for me.