BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1249 feet
North Kawishiwi River - 29
Short and Sweet to Insula
June 15, 2009
Number of Days:
(Side note: I drove from St Louis the day before and stayed at a bunkhouse room at Timber Trail. They were very good to me when my wife called during my drive and told me I left my half my food at home. They went into town and purchased a blue barrel for me and had it waiting for me in my room so I coulod repack the food that I had to buy on the way up to Ely.)
I drove from Timber Trail to Kawishiwi Lodge at 4:45, and I was able to start paddling before 6:00 am. Getting an early start made it very easy for me at all the portages, and as usual, I was over-packed. Some day I will learn. Also being solo (at least in my mind) makes it more difficult on portages. Nobody to share the load, and the gear is not proportional to the number of campers. In my mind when you're solo you have a bigger load. I worked hard to quadruple portage. I did a little fishing along the way with no luck. Filtered some water and stopped for peanut butter and jelly on bagel. After a full day of paddling and portaging, I ran out of time and camped at the campsite just north of the unmarked moose portage on Insula. I ate my wife's planned meal for my first night of Sloppy Jo - she really fixes it up nice. That and part of a fresh pepper and an apple, and I was happy and filled before and nice coll night in my tent.
Woke up at 4:45, cleaned up camp and got paddling by 6:00. I wanted to see "The Rock" but couldn't find it. I guess it was an island not just a big rock, and I then got a little disoriented, so I stopped at a campsite and asked a couple that I'd seen yesterday at a portage to Hudson exactly where I was on the map. They helped me and I was soon in the narrow channel that takes you to the northwest end on Insula. I paddled through it and made a right turn looking for an open campsite. I could see Williamson Island and it looked empty. I couldn't believe that that campsite might be open. Sure, enough, and when I got out of my canoe I knew I had a home for a short while! Unpacked my canoe and explored a little before setting up camp. What a nice campsite that has just about everything you'd dream of. Maybe a little too much water all around you, but not too big a problem unless a windy stretch of weather was to hit the area. It did get windy that afternoon. Spent the rest of the day reading, napping, eating, and listened to the weather. I'd bought a new emergency weather radio that was nice, except it gave me a potentially bad weather report for the next 4 days, with potential for severe weather. I began to ponder the idea of being solo on this remote camp site with 5 days of food for 6 or 7, by myself. I was now fighting off bad vibes. I thought of scenarios to work my way back to Kaishiwi Lodge during the next couple days, paddling awhile and camping closer to my destination, which was now back where I started. Went to bad at about 9:00, got up a few times (prostate calling).
I finally decided to get an early start when I saw a part of a moon and a star-filled sky at 2:30 am. I packed up camp in the dark, and I noticed a mouse running on the rope I used to hang my tarp. We had a staring contest and I put my face about 12" infront of him before he finally made his exit. I left my site at 3:30. Paddling in the dark with the silhouettes of trees on the water was really beautiful. Gradually those silhouettes became real tree lines on the water and I was orienteering with my map and compass to go back down the east side of Insula to make my way back to the Lodge, hoping I could get a good chunk of this return trip before the rain hit. My arms had a day to recover from my ~17 mile paddle the first day, and paddling was with cadence and enjoyable. I hit the portage to Hudson at about 5:45 without too much disorientation - there are so many islands the first timer can have second thoughts about where you are easily. The sun was shining brightly and the sky showed no signs of clouding up, so I just kept on trucking my route, hoping I could get most of the way. I ran into a couple guys while portaging into Hudson, and I asked one of them about the middle portage in the Kawishiwi between Hudson and Four. There were some rapids that I had to really work to get out of going the other way 2 days ago, and I was worried about it. They told me that their group was cut don in size because one of their men swamped his canoe and was injured, lost gear to the rapids, and their trip changed due to that spot. As I talked with the 2 young men, we found out we were all from St Louis - small world! One of the young men said to use the eddy on the other side of the rapid to get across to the portage. I'm surprised I didn't read about that idea on any message boards before the trip, and this spot (to me) is the most precarious spot on the route.
As I continued working my way through this beautiful area, I saw some neat things. As I was paddling along a bank with grass, I got within about 20 feet of a deer and its fawn. They were just lying there with no fear of my presence. I went by quietly and tried not to disturb them. I saw a duck up close with about a dozen baby ducks gathered around her. I also saw a huge walleye in some shallow water when I tried a shallow side of an island as a short cut. I could hear that fish flick it's tail in the water to get away from me. It looked so powerful. I couldn't believe how nice a day it was with the weather prediction I had heard the day before. Now I began thinking I could just paddle out if I got a few more hours of good weather and paddled in the rain for a little bit. Bit by bit, lake by lake, my arms began to weaken. My back became tired, and my ribs began to feel sore. But there was motivation to finish. There were times again when so many islands confused me and I told myself to trust my instincts and my compass. When I got to Lake One, I got about half way to the point where it turns northeast for the final stretch, or at least I thought so. I turned a corner, and paddled into what became a bay instead of a wide channel. And again on the next turn. And again on the next turn. It now had become cloudy and the wind was picking up, and it was hard to use the sun as well as the compass. I saw what was a channel far to the west in front of me, but it didn't make sense, so I back-tracked for about a half hour. Now there was an easterly wind, so when I back-tracked, I had to horse my strokes and I was getting really tired. I kept reminding myself what I tell my students in P. E. class during their workouts - "Think positively about good things and you'll get through the hard times." My mind was now totally confused and I saw nobody at any campsites. That also surprised me because of all the info about Lake One being a crazy area that was over-crowded. When I back-tracked to a place where I knew where I was, I turned around and tried again. This time I saw the same thing ahead of me but as far as I could see I noticed a red tent, and I figured if I wasn't in the right place I'd ask them where I was so I could reorient myself on the map. When I got down there, the islands made more sense on the map and that channel I thought was too far away seemed to look like it might be the one. When I turned that corner, the location of the islands and campsites made perfect sense, and I re-gained my confidence. I think my lost detour took me an extra hour and a half, but I was so tired, it might have been an hour. When I asked Frank at Kawishiwi how far to Williamson Island, he estimated about 20 miles. So I'm figuring that when I landed my canoe at the beach in front of his stack of canoes, I had paddled ~21 miles or more in 12 hours. This workout in my mind was more difficult than my walk to school every year on National Walk to School Day. On that day I begin the night before and walk through the night for 36 miles to my school where I teach. Since I can't run any more (4 knee operations), this is my ay of celebrating my teaching and demonstrating to the student that I can practice what I preach.
I think I learned that the concept of "solo" is not as much fun as with a group. It's much more difficult in work load and there is nobody to help problem-solve. This and last year's bluff-charge seem to make me feel a group thing is right for me in the future. I also prepared well with using permethrin spray on my daytime outfit, spraying with deet at times, and the portable "clip-on Off" was great in camp when I as wearing my off the water clothes. That new item on the market will hit it big and very soon. The critters were swarming at times and I didn't get one bite until I used the shower room back at Kawishiwi Lodge. I learned again that I pack TOO MUCH STUFF! I was very pleased with Frank and Nicole at Kawishiwi, and thanked them before beginning my long drive home. The 820 mile drive back to St Louis won't seem as far as the 21 mile paddle! (Pictures are coming when ready)