Day 1 of 6
Sunday, August 27, 2017 - Rain I was up at 5:30 and made my way to Brittens. It appeared that I had beaten everybody else there. Others started rolling in around 6 as I was leaving. I went back to the hotel, finished up at the hotel, and took off for the entry point. It had rained all night, hard at times, and there was still a light rain when I hit the river. This was the first time I have started in the rain and I wore my rain gear all day. The paddling was easy as I made my way through Lakes 1-4. I was interesting to see the burn area emerge as I paddled along. At the portages into Hudson I encountered 2 fathers who were taking their 4 sons, 2 each, into Insula. The oldest kid was around 12 and they were having a good time exploring the portages. Part way across Hudson, one of the fathers mentioned how pretty Fire Lake was. He said few people stay they because everybody is heading for Insula. I had a camp marked on Fire so I pealed off and made my way to Fire. The southern, wide, part of Hudson had been burned, but as I entered the narrow part to the north that all changed to the typical lushness of the BW. I made my way to Fire and camped at the site (1372) at the east end of the lake. Nice site. That evening I enjoyed a meal of my wife’s homemade vegetable soup. I did this on my 1st solo too. I think we have a tradition started.
Day 2 of 6
Monday, August 28, 2017 - Rough night My sleeping pad had a slow leak! The Amok hammock requires a pad for support, and as the air drained it became obvious how important the pad was. I got up at least 4x during the night to blow up the pad. I am glad it was a slow leak and not a full-blown tear. On top of that, it was on the cool side that night. I made a mixture of soapy water, and found the leak and fixed it. I was very happy to find the leak. I spent the rest of the day paddling around Fire. I ran in to 2 guys doing a day trip and I think they were surprised that anyone was staying on the lake. It’s a nice lake and I am pretty sure I was the only one camped on the lake during the two nights I was there. I paddled up Drumstick Creek for a ways. There is Willow on both sides and I started thinking about jumping a Moose, so I turned around and paddled out. That evening I started carving on the chunk of basswood I brought along. Carving was my go to occupier of time on my first solo. I decided to carve a Loon…it’s a work in progress
Day 3 of 6
Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - Cold night It got pretty cold last night, but my pad was working. The Amok still didn’t feel right but I couldn’t figure out what might be wrong. I had decided to break camp and head to Insula. I spent the early morning allowing the dew to burn off the tarps. Whiling away the time I did a lot of thinking about my dad and a friend whose wife is dealing with breast cancer. I talked to God for a while. For me, spirituality is enhanced in the wilderness. I am not a very spiritually demonstrative person and the wilderness helps me to loosen up and just talk with God. I got away mid-morning and made my way to Insula. Soon I was on the lake and was grateful that one of the dads had pointed out the un-marked portages on Insula. I made my way to the campsite (1337) that I had marked on my map. I was happy to see it was unoccupied. This campsite has to have one of the best if not the best landing area in the BW. I had the choice of 2 small sandy landings; it couldn’t have been easier. The only down sides of the site were; a large dead tree that made hammock placement a bit dicey, and chipmunks that were pretty habituated to humans. While cooking and eating, I had to keep a constant eye on my food. The night was nice and clear and the stars were on good display.
Day 4 of 6
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - Fishdance Pictos & the Jitterbug that ate my face! I had my second bacon and eggs meal this morning and birded a bit before I made my way over to Fishdance to see the picots. It was a little breezy as I left, but no big deal. I was able to paddle through the second unmarked portage and then paddle to the top of Insula and entered the Kawishiwi River. I enjoy paddling rivers like this. The river paddle was uneventful until I hit Alice. The north wind had picked up and the waves were pretty high at the south end of the lake. Rounding the bottom of Alice was not fun. I was glad to get that behind me and I made my way to the pictos. I bumped into a father and daughter who were coming from the pictos and we had a nice chat. The pictos were nice; I took a few pictures and headed back. I was not looking forward to rounding Alice again. Alice did not seem to be as bad as it was earlier and I blew Alice a raspberry as I finished, she sent me another swell. Back in camp I rested, carved, ate, and fished a bit. I had been hearing surface strikes towards dusk and just after dark so I cast a Jitterbug a few times. On the third or fourth cast I had a strike close to shore, missed the fish, and had applied enough force that the plug came flying out of the water and attached itself to my face. Here is how I described it on Facebook. So, I had a fish strike the lure, I tried to set the lure, missed, and the lure flew out of the water and attached itself to my face. First thought, don't panic, even as you have a rather large lure imbedded in your face...in two places. I mash the barbs down on all of my lures to make it easier to release fish, so I should be able to just back the hooks out. My first try failed, so next is to consider pushing the hook point out and then clip off the hook above the barb and remove, but I had nothing to clip the hook with. I retried pulling the hook out, thinking I could paddle to another campsite to get some help if I failed. (It was getting darker, so, emerging out of the darkness into someone else's site with this thing attached to my face, would be the stuff of fireside horror stories.) I got the hooks out with a stronger tug and was standing there with my face bleeding, which is a good thing because it seemed that bleeding was a way to cleanse the wound. The next issue was how to care for my face without seeing what I was doing. I remembered I had my iPhone (I wanted to see if the gps would work without service. It didn't seem to but it did in Yellowstone on a bike ride.). I got my med kit and phone out, turned on the phone and used the selfie mode to use the camera as a mirror. I was able to care for my face and take a selfie as well. My only regret, other than missing the fish, was that I didn't think about taking a selfie while the Jitterbug was still embedded in my face. I climbed into my Amok hammock on the early side and started to read. My hammock had never been all that comfortable and I would wake up a couple times in the night and find that I had slid down in the hammock. I carefully looked around in my Amok and noticed that the lower pull straps were loose. I tightened them up and presto, a wonderful flat lie hammock. I only took me four days to figure it out! So ended day 4.
Day 5 of 6
Thursday, August 31, 2017 - Fishing day and Awesome Sunrise Today was set aside to go fishing. After and incredible sunrise and breakfast (and new life bird – Red-necked Grebe), I made my way back to Kawishiwi River, but only to the first portage. I fished the riffles below the rapids and caught a couple of small pike. I paddled around and fished the shoreline for a while, with no luck. I started fishing my way back to camp and tried trolling a shad rap, but I got tired of all the snags, so I went to the Jitterbug. There is a tree down near campsite 1322 that has left a fairly small gap between the tree and the opposite shore. Going up river earlier in the day I encountered a couple of otters at the spot. I wasn’t expecting much, but as the lure gurgled through the gap something BIG hit. I had it on for a few seconds before it broke me off. My guess is a large pike. I have caught a couple of large pike and this one felt considerably bigger. I paddled around a bit and in time I found the broken off Jitterbug. I encountered the same father and daughter from the day before and we talked for a bit. They had watched me make my way around Alice the day before and commented on the wave action. They also commented on the large bandage on my face, so they got the story. She is a child psych major at Minnesota, I am a retired teacher so we talked a bit about kid psychology. After our “have a good days” I paddled back up river and dragged a Jitterbug through the same place with no success. On the way back to my camp, I paddled around The Rock. I climbed it and enjoyed the view from on high. Back in camp, I listened to my weather radio and the forecast was 10-15 mph wind the following day with gusts to 25, and cold that night. I decided to get an early start and at least get part of the way back to the EP. I packed up everything except my sleeping stuff and set my watch for 5:30.
Day 6 of 6
Friday, September 01, 2017 - Birds and wind I had a cold breakfast, packed up, and got away by 7. Paddling wasn’t too bad and I made it to the long portage out of Insula. This portage goes through a burn area and, for the most part, the trees are small. At the end of the portage on the Hudson side, the birds were very active. I stopped and birded for a bit and got some decent pictures. Continuing on was uneventful until I hit Lake Four, where the real wind was waiting. It was waiting more on Three and even more on Two! The wind made it difficult to stop and pay close attention to my map. In addition, I used lees to help handle the wind, so my track was a bit off from the one I took coming in. With a lot of work I made the Lake One portages and then had an easier time on in to the EP. I called Paddle Inn and got a room, cleaned up, and went to Ely Steakhouse. I had briefly thought about stopping for the night on Lake Two, but the weather report called for rain and cold. The report was correct and I was glad I had come on in.
What I learned. 1. Folks told me that my second solo would be smoother than my first, they were correct. I especially did much better on food. 2. I brought my big birding binoculars; I need to get a small pair for canoeing. I will bring a good camera. 3. I have found that I don’t enjoy fishing so much when I solo. I like fishing by myself when fly fishing. I think it’s the hassle of controlling a canoe and fishing at the same time. I will continue to bring a rod, but exploring and birding will likely be my main activities. 4. I found single serving size Mountain Home meals at Wal-Mart. The beef stew, chicken and rice, and beef lasagna were pretty good. 5. Having some sort of mirror is important. (see face story) 6. Birding in burned areas is easier. 7. I need to learn to identify trees. I tried, but I have a lot of work to do in this area. 8. While on my trip, I started reading Allan Eckert’s second book Wilderness Empire, Eckert’s books are good reads. Living in Cincinnati puts me nearly in the center of the history he narrates. 9. I need to dedicate a knife to my fishing tackle. 10. Using an important new piece of equipment, like a sleep system, for the first time in the wilderness may not be the smartest move! 11. Bring some back up paper and pen (I did) if you cannot find your primary journal materials. Turns out I did have them but they were between the pack liner and the pack. My primary journal is a “Rite in the Rain” notebook; I highly recommend “Rite in the Rain” materials. 12. On my first solo, I moved nearly every night. On this one I spent 2 nights at one camp and 3 at another. I think spending 2-3 nights in a place before moving works well for me. 13. New equipment: 1. (re)zip leak proof storage bags are nice. I used the 1 cup size and the lunch size. 2. My Garmin in-reach was flawless. 3. I have a small pocketknife style made for carving knife, by Queen Cutlery. Great for carving on-the-go. 4. Sea to Summit medium pack liners worked well. My only complaint is that they are not wide enough to fold back over the mouth of my pack (CCS Pioneer and CCS solo food pack). 5. The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core was great except for the slow leak. ~Three, Lake, Four, Lake, Hudson Lake, Fire Lake, Insula, Lake, Fishdance Lake