BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1249 feet
North Kawishiwi River - 29
1982: Volume 2, Going Back In Time
July 27, 1982
Number of Days:
1982 was our last year living at Grand Haven, Michigan. I was the choir director at First Lutheran Church in Muskegon, and I had arranged to go to the Lutheran Worship Seminar at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN for a five-day session in July. We decided to combine this with our trip to the Boundary Waters.
Before taking me to Moorhead, we got Neil, Mary Helen and Edwin set up to do some camping at the State Park in Pelican Rapids.
Mary Helen was almost 13 years old, and Edwin was 10. They were ready to have a good time camping with Dad. And, looking at this photo, I think they were also ready to have Mom and her camera go somewhere else.
So I did!
My conference was excellent. The guest clinician was Carl Shalk and I learned new music while getting good ideas for worship planning. After five inspiring and interesting days, they picked me up at Concordia and we headed for Minneapolis.
This was the fifth time that our two children had stayed with our friends Merodie and Paul in their big house on Seymour Avenue in Minneapolis. Merodie now had a "Family Day Care" business in the home, and Paul, being a teacher, could find some free time during the summer. Mary Helen and Edwin looked forward to spending time with their four children, and doing "big city" things with their family.
We dropped them off there, and soon were on our way to northern Minnesota. We would stay overnight at the guest cabin on Camp Lake that had been lovingly hand-crafted by Ray and Sue Replogle. Camp Lake is 'way back in the woods, not far from Ely. And the plan was to have a canoe trip with friends for 4 days, followed by 5 days of paddling and camping by ourselves. Smokey (Don) Aird from North Dakota would be joining us, along with the Replogles' little dog Keelee.
Neil knew Ray and Smokey from the 1960's when they were all counselors at Camp Easton for Boys, on Little Long Lake, just outside of Ely. Neil, Ray and Smokey were part of the first wilderness canoe trip that Neil experienced, a trip on the Namakan Loop. At that time (1967) six of the guys made a canoe trip after the closing of the camp's season. That adventure was the inspiration for our many canoe trips to come, and while we had stayed in touch with Ray and Sue through the years, it was the first time for Neil to see Smokey again. I hadn't met him yet.
Getting to the Camp Lake cabin was tricky business for us, with an ordinary sedan and a rather unwieldy trailer along behind, but we eventually bumped our way back there, and we enjoyed a quiet night in the guest cabin.
DAY ONE: LYNDA
Tuesday. Breakfast of fresh fish and eggs at Replogles' cabin on Camp Lake. Drove to Ely for last-minute errands, picked up permits, and left from Lake One Landing about 11 AM. Ray, Sue, Smokey and Keelee in one canoe, Neil and me in the other. A beautiful clear sunny day--warm.
Had our lunch on Lake Three. Photographed rapids at the portages.
Many campsites were taken by the time we were ready to stop. We camped on Insula--a small site for three tents, but we managed, and the view is pretty. Stopped about 6:30. Supper of steak, veggies, hash browns, and oranges about 8:30. Smokey is going to be more like us--a big eater and early riser.
DAY ONE: SUE
Paddled 12 1/2 miles. We paddled quite a ways today. We traveled through Lakes 1, 2, 3, 4, and Hudson. By the time we reached Insula it was getting late and we found ourselves desperately looking for a campsite. . .ANY site! We searched and searched and finally found a very unused-for-ages campsite. Grass and weeds had grown up around the fireplace, and little mushroom critters were found in the biffy. The site actually was made for only one tent, so that posed a problem right away. We had three tents to set up, and really had to scrounge to find space for them. But we did. . .one right on top of the other!
We had a great supper of steak, hashbrowns and veggies. Smokey caught a small walleye on his first cast off the rocks.
Poor Lynda found that the fresh eggs she had so carefully packed in a plastic egg box had experienced a couple of casualties. Two eggs had managed to spread their sticky contents throughout their food pack. What a mess! Fortunately, most everything could be salvaged and repackaged. The big tragedy was the loss of most of their toilet paper supply. Now that is critical. One does not survive comfortably in the wilderness without their TP! However, a roll of paper towels has come to their rescue and will suffice nicely.
Bugs were terrible at sundown. Everyone was forced to retire to the safety of their tents by 9:30.
[Note: This was the last time I used the plastic egg carriers. We eventually found a better way to transport our fresh eggs, and we always took fresh eggs on a canoe trip.
The mess, while unpleasant, didn't really do serious harm, though. We were able to dry out most of our TP, as it was only saturated along the edges. But no one wants to find a big mess after a long day of canoeing, portaging, setting up camp, and while preparing a late dinner. Didn't seem like an auspicious beginning.]
Wednesday. Up at 5:30 after sleeping surprisingly well. The lake is misty and beautiful and we admire it with Smokey. Ray and Sue are not going to be willing early risers.
After the egg accident, we had a total of nine eggs scrambled with added bacon, and some fry bread. We sat and admired the misty view as we ate our breakfast.
We were on the lake about 9:00. Very calm, great reflections.
Long up & down portage into Kiana Lake, mosquitoes bad.
Lunch on Thomas at a point campsite. Neil and I stayed here while the others scouted out a campsite that Ray had used before (around the point and down a ways.) After getting the sign from them we follow, and as we approach the campsite in a sheltered bay, Sue is motioning and "hushing" us as she is busy photographing a huge bull moose on the opposite shore. We can see the top of his rack--he is lying down in the weeds. We all paddle over and take photos, and Neil and I get really close. He is cooperative and poses beautifully. [How I wish I had had a telephoto lens back then!]
We made camp, swam, cleaned up, washed a few clothes, napped, etc. Smokey fished. The moose made a second appearance later in the day.
After supper Ray, Smokey and I went "moose-hunting" in the canoe. No luck.
While Sue was on the biffy Keelee spotted 5-6 deer in the woods and chased them in her direction. There was some yelling; lots of excitement.
DAY TWO: SUE
Paddled 9 1/2 miles. What a day we have had! At 5:45 AM Neil was up and building a fire. Then out came Lynda, while Smokey grumbled and groaned his way out of his little blue dome tent. They all kept exclaiming how gorgeous it was out there while I tried desperately to ignore them. Not an early riser, I vainly snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. Somewhere down in the toe of my bag I heard someone mention mist on the water. Up I popped, peeked gingerly out the screen of the tent, and nearly dropped my jaw. Before my eyes was the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen in my life! Mist fog shrounded the small island across from our campsite and the sun peered over the pines of the island in a blaze of early morning glory. The lake was glass still and mirrored the islands in great detail. I grabbed my camera and the blue filter and captured the scene exquisitely. . .(You guys should see the enlargement of this!)
We had a fine breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs with bacon bits, and fry bread baked in the pan and topped off with butter and syrup. A lovely morning to sip coffee and contemplate the coming day.
We were on the water by 9 AM and headed across glass-smooth Insula. The reflections in the morning calm were perfect. We took our longest portage (179 rods) from Insula into Kiana. Ray remembered the portage as being low and flat. It turned out to be a gradual small mountain. Well, so much for dear Ray's memory! As Smokey says, "These things happen as you get older.) But the portage wasn't all that bad anyway. We just had to give Ray a hard time about it.
I wanted to paddle on Kiana. I had always wanted to see this lake, mainly because I love its name. And it turned out to be every bit as gorgeous as the name it carries. Wild, free, no campers, no other paddlers. Nice high cliffs. We had to traverse a beaver dam into one arm of it, and from there we portaged 20 rods into Thomas.
[This is the only photo we have that includes the little dog, Keelee.]
We were near starving, so we ate lunch at the first campsite we came to. After last night's near-miss of a campsite we seriously considered keeping this one, but Ray had ideas of one he had camped on several years before. So the Childses stayed with this one while we three paddled on to find Ray's site. We did find it, and it was just perfect, so we dumped our gear, Keelee and me on the shore while Ray and Smokey went back around the bend to signal Neil and Lynda. While the guys were gone I perched myself on a nice rocky outcropping. Everything was so quiet and gorgeous. I gazed out into the bay to the distant shoreline. Suddenly I heard a great lot of sloshing about, and--lo and behold!--a great big old moose came out into the marshgrass just across the water from where I was sitting! I quickly grabbed my camera and prayed that he would not recede back into the forest before I could get a good shot of him. He didn't, and I did! Several shots, in fact! Then he laid his big self down in the grass. I silently hoped he would stay there until the rest of the gang came along.
The moose did not move, so when Ray and Smokey came I jumped into the canoe, armed with camera and telephoto lens. On our way over to see the moose, we headed off Neil and Lynda coming our way and we all made a beeline for the moose, still lying down. We got closer and closer to the big moose, but he made no move to get up. Soon Smokey started to call him with his special moose call: "Moosie-poo, Moosie-poo" followed by a little whistled tune. Over and over Smokey called the moose, as we drew nearer. The moose ignored Smokey's efforts to rouse him. In fact, I do believe the moose thought he was hiding from us silly intruders. Little did he know that his great antlers were waving around above the tall grass. "Moosie-poo", Smokey called to no avail, so we started to bang the canoe with our paddles. All the while, I am poised for the perfect shot.
Out of the water he rose. Huge, magnificent, incredible, WOW! He turned his massive head toward us with a look of disdain. How dare we interrupt his peaceful afternoon? He let us view him for a short while, then slowly moved back behind a big bush. There he peered out at us and snorted.
He didn't move any farther, though we couldn't make him come back out either. So we turned our canoes around and headed back to camp.
But wait! He is coming out into the grass to resume his grazing. Back we went, to again see how close we could get before he retreated. Neil and Lynda zeroed in on him at about 20 feet and got a great picture. We waited around for him to appear again but this time he was going to stay just out of sight until we left the water.
Later as we prepared supper he came out again and spent a good part of the evening grazing across the bay from us. Smokey was out fishing, and from time to time we could hear the strains of "Moosie-poo" come across the water. The moose didn't pay him any mind. In fact, he swam across the narrows over to our side of the bay. After that we didn't see him, but we kept wondering if he just might make a sojourn through out camp sometime later that night.
After all the dishes were done, Ray, Lynda and Smokey went out in the canoe to do a little moose hunting. Neil and I stayed in camp. Neil to tend the fire, I to write this. Both of us finished off the marshmallows. It's not good to have bear food around camp, you know!
PS: While on the biffy later in the evening I nearly got the juice scared out of me. Five or six deer came crashing through the brush right behind me. I thought for sure it was "Moosie-poo" and yelled "WHOA! What's going on here?" Neil and Lynda came running somewhat haltingly lest they catch me with my pants down. They needn't have worried about that! I wasn't about to be caught in a compromising situation, though later I found that I had tied my sweat-pants drawstring in such a tight knot I could hardly get it undone. Was pretty scared back there!
Thursday. Up at 5:30. Nice morning. Had country breakfast [whatever that was?] and biscuits. As we started to eat it began clouding up and was raining when we finished.
[Note: The photo above is two loons. When I think of some of my last loon photos, these just make me cringe. but at the time, it was the only photo I could make. I grew as a photographer during the decades to come, and I also purchased decent equipment. Here is a loon from 2013:
I never realized in 1982 that photography would change so much in the next 20-30 years.]
One of the nicest things about Smokey, from my perspective, is that he washes the dishes! Such a treat!
Another thing about Smokey was memorable. A dedicated fisherman, he kept a "pet leech" that he discovered on his heel, for several days--"So that I won't run out of bait." Of course it grossed out the rest of us, but he insisted that it didn't hurt and there wasn't too much blood visible. It stayed on his heel for at least three full days.
We sheltered in our tents to wait out the weather. Smokey told us he heard large animals in the night--the herd of deer, perhaps?
We ate lunch and hung around until 1:00, trying to decide on the weather (waiting for the tents to dry out.)
[Note; waiting out the rain in the tent seems odd by today's standards, but we dressed in cotton back in those days, and we didn't have modern rain gear, nor did we take a tarp along with us. Procedures certainly changed in ensuing decades of travel.]
Finally we left, and paddled through Thomas, Fraser, Gerund, Ahmakose, Wisini, and camped on Strup with a thunderstorm threatening.
Ray and Sue's tent was up high, overlooking the biffy, so we had a tri-level camp.
Keelee is very frightened of the thunder. He just hides and trembles. Keelee rode in our canoe twice today--a really good little tripping dog.
Ray caught four bass this evening. Fish for breakfast! Yumm!
DAY THREE: SUE
Paddled 7 miles. Woke to a cloudy day at 6:30 AM. Fixed breakfast quickly, ate it, and then it began to rain. We retreated to our tents, expecting a rainy layover day. Around 10 AM it calmed down. We milled around, doing nothing special. Smokey, as ever, continued to fish, but didn't catch anything but a log or two. We kept a watch out for old "Moosie-poo" and remembered with great joy the experience we had with him yesterday. Smokey tried calling him a couple of times, but it seemed the moose had headed to other regions unknown to us. The weather calmed down even more, so we grabbed some lunch, packed up, and headed out for another day's adventure.
We enjoyed a glass-smooth ride on Thomas Lake. It really is an exquisite lake. Through the narrows we passed into Fraser Lake. On this lovely, still lake, we passed an old abandoned island homestead. Once it was a paradise, no doubt, but now looked very lonely and haunted. We portaged and paddled into two small lakes and then into Wisini. . .looking in vain for a campsite. There is a storm moving in fast and we do not relish being on the water during a lightning storm. No campsites anywhere! Desperately we paddle into Strup Lake. There, after much looking, we finally found a very secluded campsite back in a deep bay.
This campsite had three levels: a cooking level, two-tent site level, and then there was "Biffy Palace Level." I called it that because our tent sets high on the hill overlooking the lake to the front and the biffy to the back.
Poor little Keelee is petrified because of the on-again off-again thunderstorm. Luckly, after all our desperate efforts to find and set up camp before the rain hit us, we had no rain! For supper we had macaroni & cheese Trail Food Casserole, veggies, and bran muffins. Ray and Smokey went fishing and Ray caught four very nice bass.
Parts of this lake have been in a forest fire.
Friday. We were up at 6:15, a misty, damp and cool morning. Smokey and Ray caught five more bass. Fish and pancakes for breakfast--Mmmm!
Left camp about 11 AM. Enjoyed lunch on a "blueberry hill" in beautiful Kekekabic Lake. Gathered blueberries for pancakes, and also ate a few. (More than a few.)
We ended up on a lovely two-bedroom campsite on the South Arm of Knife Lake. Neil and I are off in the woods by ourselves.
Bathed, did more laundry. Smokey is so sunburned! Also his feet are badly blistered. (He was wearing a pair of old, raggedy tennis shoes.)
There was a lovely sunset. We sat and enjoyed it while Smokey fished unsuccessfully until dark.
DAY FOUR: SUE
Paddled four miles. Smokey stumbled out of this tent this morning. . .couldn't get himself going. Ray immediately ushered him into the canoe, complete with coffee cup, and they went fishing. Smokey caught three more bass to add to a splendid catch for breakfast. What a mess of fish to cook up, and to accompany them we had pancakes, too! Absolutely divine!
The skies are still heavy with gray clouds, but we won't let that deter us. We are on the water by 10 AM.
The sky was clearing by the time we got to beautiful Lake Kekekabic. The sun was painting the gorgeous, high, alpine-like hills a golden tinge. Gosh, that lake was so beautiful we stopped paddling and floated for a while, hanging onto each others' canoes. The wind was very gentle, creating tiny rivulets across the water's surface. And nowhere have I seen the water so astoundingly clear!
Finally we got up our ump and paddled slowly in tandem to a hill that just had to have blueberries on it. Smokey said so. And, by George, it did! So we lunched and picked berries and found it increasingly hard to leave this fabulously beautiful lake. Someday we vowed we would return.
On we went, through Pickle, Spoon, and Bonnie. Just small lakes. Then we made our camp on the South Arm of Knife Lake. We all had a nice swim and rest before supper. Camaraderie is high and we find ourselves reluctant to leave this trip. Such good fun!
Ray rigged up a sort of makeshift "hook'n'sniffy" using the pack hanging rope and a rock. The object was to loop the rock over a certain branch. I did pretty well, but as usual Ray got better and better, and was beating me at it consistently. Smokey did fairly well, too. I can still see him poised for action as he got ready to swing that rock over the branch.
Neil has been such a good and faithful fire tender. We could always count on him to have a just perfect cooking fire for all of our meals and a warm, glowing fire for our evenings.
Ray was our trusted Voyageur of the group. Map in hand and compass at the ready. Between him and Neil, we always knew where we were going.
Lynda, more often than not, had her little pad and pencil in hand in the evenings. Writing down details and times of each day to capture in her future journal. Her easy-going manner made her a most enjoyable companion to canoe and camp with. Loved that reversible red and white hat, Lynda!
[Note: The aforementioned hat was just one of a string of canoeing hats that I have had over the past 50 years. It fit well and on a sunny day I would wear the white side out, to give me a more shaded view for my eyes. On dark days I reversed it, giving a white underside and a feeling of light in my view. It worked remarkably well. This photo is from 1992, as there are no photos of me at all on this canoe trip.]
And Keelee, our ever-present and ferocious bear dog. Bless his little heart, he does love these canoe trips even if he is a little terrified of thunderstorms. One of Keelee's more notable moments came this evening, when in hot pursuit of a squirrel, he went tearing across the campsite, stumbled and did a triple somersault. He came up looking in the opposite direction of where the squirrel went. Poor little fella was totally confused and humiliated. Smokey, Ray and I didn't help matters by nearly rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter. Neil and Lynda, you missed one of Keelee's more historic moments when you didn't catch that little incident. [I suspect we were out gathering firewood.]
Friday: Up at 6 AM today as we all want to break camp early and get on our separate ways. The blueberry pancakes tasted so good!
The group of eight loons came up close by right after breakfast, as Smokey was doing the dishes. It is unusual to see a group so large that stay together.
Ray, Sue, Smokey and Keelee pushed off at 8:15 and we headed in the opposite direction at about 8:25. It seems quiet to be off on our own, but we soon settle into our own thoughts. The silences up here are never oppressive or awkward--just natural.
DAY FIVE: SUE, DEPARTURE AND CONCLUSION
Paddled 16 1/2 miles. Knowing that we had a 16 mile paddle for this day, we all got up at 6 AM. We would be separating from Neil and Lynda this morning, and I really hated to have to part. We've enjoyed each others' company tremendously.
Lynda whomped up some delightful blueberry pancakes using the berries we picked yesterday on Kekekabic. Mmmm. . .did they ever taste good!
We all moved fast and efficiently. A camping rhythm has developed and it's almost a shame to end the trip just when we are becoming so comfortable with wilderness life. Anyway, 8:15 was departure time. Ray, Smokey, Keelee and I pulled away from the campsite on Knife, leaving Neil and Lynda to go their separate ways for five more days. We wished them well.
Ever since we saw Dorothy Molter on "Real People" last winter I dreamed of meeting her. After all these summers in the north country, it was finally time. Seems that everyone who paddles through Knife stops to see Dorothy and have some of her homemade root beer (Neil and Lynda had done that in 1974) and now it was our time. Her place came upon us sooner than we expected: a hodgepodge of tents, cabins, and sheds. Old boats filled with flowers, log landing areas, and many, many bird feeders. Dorothy has thoroughly made herself at home on this tiny island. Literally, she has filled every crevice with odds and ends, and treasures that other paddlers have brought her. She has a fence around her flower bed made up of canoe paddles from many people and camp groups passing through. I found the one I made [Sue is an artist] for Camp Easton back in 1972. It still looked good.
Dorothy herself was a sweet, friendly, unassuming person. Small but strong. She takes her fame and her thousands of visitors in stride, and is totally content. She has a wash basin and mirror outside her front door, and her tent/cabin (summer home) has all sorts of tools, paddles, and paraphernalia hanging on it, or leaning against it.
[What follows is a very long description of buying some of Dorothy's Christmas ornaments. I will leave that out of this report.]
We each had some of her root beer and I asked if I could take her picture. She asked me if my camera was insured. I took a very nice portait of her. The last picture on my roll of film.
Time is slipping by and we must hit the water. I chat just a little longer with Dorothy about her guest book. 2000 visitors for July! She walked us back to the canoe. We thanked her profusely, wished her well, and finally shoved off.
Now a long paddle awaited Smokey and Ray. A long sit for Keelee and me. We ran one set of rapids and half of another before I got out and let the guys finish up on one. The canoe got stuck on a rock and both guys had to get out and push. They made it through after a fashion. We portaged around another set that some guys were trying to walk through. Sounded like they were having trouble pulling their canoes through the rapids and we were glad we didn't try it.
Finally at 3;15 we landed at the Moose Lake public landing. Poor Smokey was greeted with a flat tire. But eventually we got into town and devoured a Sir G's pizza.
Smokey left for Ottertail Lake soon after we ate. Such a funny, sweet guy. We surely do enjoy him.
We headed for home to relax and savor the memories. Wonderful canoe trip--I'd give it a "10".
CANOE TRIP CONTINUED, PART TWO: LYNDA
On our way alone, headed out to new territory for us. Our attention was drawn to an island in the South Arm of Knife covered with tall dead trees. At first we thought it had burned, but on closer inspection there was no blackening of the wood. A mystery.
It is sunny but overcast--sort of a cloudy glare. The portage into Eddy Lake is just as I had remembered: steep and dark, with a really lovely waterfall
At the end of the portage to Jean Lake we met a couple who had dire warnings of quicksand [?] on our proposed route, as well as a "family" of three bears on the portage to Pan Lake (who lay in wait to rip off food packs.) We may decide to change our route.
We ate our lunch at a nice (but buggy) campsite on the south shore of Lake Jean. A bold piney squirrel kept us company. The air had turned muggy and close, and for some reason I was very uncomfortable there--almost a sense of foreboding (as if something was dying.)
After we portaged into Annie Lake I felt my depression was explained. There is a large beaver dam and the water level is raised several feet. Annie is completely ringed with reddish-brown dead pines, the water is dark brown, and it's really a sad place. I could hardly wait to get out! (No photo.)
There is some disagreement as to the length of the portage to Mueller Lake (80 rods on the map and 140 rods on the portage sign--anyone remember portage signs???) but it is definitely a steep climb! It got my heart pumping!
I took the long trail, 100 rods, on the portage to Agamok Lake but Neil took the canoe over the three shorter ones with ponds. As I was picking berries and photographing the rapids by the last pond, he picked me up to take me back for a "view". There is a footbridge for the Kekekabic Trail over a gorgeous rapids--a real sight to see. We would have missed one of the best spots of the trip if we'd just taken the long portage.
We'd hoped to camp on the south shore of Gabimichigami Lake, as the view is lovely, but all of the sites were taken. We ended up on the southeast point of the large island in the southernmost part of the lake, looking across to a sheer rock cliff. An OK campsite but not spectacular. Not very sheltered.
Stopped about 3:30. It was a fairly long day with 7 portages and we are tired! For supper: Mountain House Lasagna, peas, chocolate cake, and coffee. The reflector oven worked beautifully!
Neil had a hard time hanging the food pack, as there were no trees of any size. Finally he stood in the canoe and got it hung out over the water. That came back to haunt us later on.
There are huge "mushrooms" on the biffy trail. 10+ inches in diameter.
Neil was up at 2 AM with an insulin reaction. That left me to get the food down off the rock, as I had to drop the pack into the canoe. He was no help, and I was pretty scared. He needs to eat more, cut back on his insulin dosage, and be careful to get protein and enough carbs.
Sunday. Up at 5:45, looks like rain. Heavy mist off and on all day, wind mainly from the east (at our backs.) The peace and quiet is so lovely. While I did enjoy traveling with our friends, they were "talkers". Neil and I keep a very quiet presence on canoe trips, and there is very little idle chatter. It felt good to adjust to being just a silent twosome again.
Had the Mountain House beef, hash browns with bacon bits, and Tang for our breakfast. Left at 7:45, portaged to Rattle Lake and Little Saganaga. This would be fantastic scenery in the sunshine--Little Sag is a lovely lake, many islands (hard to navigate.) Choppy today.
There are two 19-rod portages with a pond between into Elton Lake. The beavers have really made a mess here! The portages go through marshy, muddy, bog-like areas (a former lake, maybe?) and are nothing but moose trails. Many moose tracks, too! Also there were raspberries and blueberries.
When we reached Elton, it was a relief to paddle again.
It was at this point in the trip that I decided to lead us astray!
There is a 45-rod portage into Makwa Lake, and then a 100-rod portage into Hoe Lake. There is also a TINY LITTLE STREAM on the map from Elton to Hoe! Just a very fine blue line, and it looked so inviting. Why not?
I suggested we try the stream, and it turned into a real adventure. The stream wound around through grasses and lily pads to a big beaver dam, which we lifted over. It kept winding along, getting rockier and narrower and shallower until we had to bushwhack through dense woods to a small pond, then through REALLY dense woods over moss covered rocks.
When Neil finally got me and the packs settled near (not yet on) Hoe Lake, he made the trip back for the canoe. When he arrived back at my little perch on a rock (I amused myself by watching ants), he discovered that he had left his life vest back at the end of the stream! So he had to retrace his path one more time to get his abandoned equipment. By the time we got this all behind us it had taken two hours in misty rain and we sure wished we had taken the portages!
[Note: Back in 1982 we still didn't have rain suits. I made this trip with a poncho and Neil had a knee-length canvas rain jacket from the Army days. We also had never heard "cotton kills" back then, and we were in jeans shorts (N) and Levis (L), with cotton t-shirts and flannel shirts. Cotton socks, too. Damp and rainy days were just more uncomfortable.]
We ate our lunch at a seldom-used campsite on Hoe Lake at noon.
We have decided to head for Boulder Lake, in an area where few people go. The 220-rod portage into Boulder tells us why--another long muddy marsh walk to a small stream into the lake. This area really reminded us of the Tim River in Algonquin, where we'd seen moose. Where is our "Moosie-poo"?
I photographed a water lily in the stream.
We camped at 2:50 at a gorgeous site on a wooded island in Boulder Lake. There is a strong east wind, gray sky, and it is cold. I'm chilled, especially my feet. [cotton socks in tennis shoes.]
There is a large, flat rock by the shore where someone has painted "Jesus died for you" in large white letters. The island is literally strewn with huge boulders--like a giant's marble game. We explored a lot, walked all over, gathered up cigarette packs, disposable razors, barrettes, and other assorted trash. (Why do people do this?)
Our tent is back in the woods quite a ways. We may sleep late.
We retired early, mainly to get warm.
[Note: I am so puzzled as to the reason why I don't have any photos at all of this "gorgeous" campsite, the offending evangelical graffiti (I love Jesus, too, but I don't write his name on boulders in the wilderness) or anything on this day except a water lily. Perhaps running out of film? Perhaps when they arrived back after being developed they weren't good due to lack of available light? Digital photography has spoiled us in the 21st century, that's for sure. And we tried to get back to Boulder and Adams in 2006, but the Elephant reared its ugly head. That's another trip report. See: The Elephant Trip]
Monday. There was a lovely red sunrise this morning, but by the time we got on the lake at 8:25 it was gray again and very cloudy. Five loons lined up in a row swam by just as we were pushing off.
The water level was low for the portage from Boulder to Adams. Very mucky and swampy, and much pulling through and lifting over--in a light rain. This was unpleasant.
Adams Lake, very windy and a few patches of blue sky to give me hope!
The 90-rod portage from Adams to Elbow Lake [Beaver Lake on current maps] was unique. It was so beautiful I hated to see it end! [How often do you say that about a portage?] Enormous boulders along the trail. At a point about midway there was a cliff (150-200 feet high) with a series of boulders which looked dumped from the top. On the very end of the portage at our left a sheer black cliff rose 60 feet right at the push-off place. This hike was so lovely I retraced it. Ferns as tall as my shoulder and many rocky crannies and cave-like areas. [In 40+ years of canoe-tripping, this is still my favorite portage.]
The portage from Elbow [Beaver] to the pond off the Kawishiwi River had a large tree down, and was muddy.
Then we had a nice, easy 50-rod portage to the Kawishiwi River.
The Kawishiwi is lovely. We stopped for lunch at noon at an island campsite, with the sun finally warming things up. This was a beautiful site and we decided to just make camp.
As soon as I did laundry, shampooed and bathed the sun disappeared again! It got cool and very windy, and as it would have been a headwind, we were thankful that we had stopped early.
This campsite was another "blueberry hill" and I picked a pint or so. Watched the resident duck and her brood of ducklings. There were several nice trails to explore, a recently re-dug biffy, a gorgeous view in both directions on the river, and a great sunbathing rock. This was my "ideal" campsite.
We were napping in the tent at 4 PM when we had a short, very noisy thundershower. Just enough to soak the drying laundry! Then the sun came out again. We had Mountain House beef and potatoes, peas, and a fantastic blueberry cobbler made in the reflector oven with yellow cake mix and blueberries. It was really excellent!
Sat by the fire later this night and watched the ducks.
Tuesday. This day started at 5:45. Neil has one of his shoes held together with duct tape. The sky is gray and it is sprinkling. Mountain House sausage patties were very good [never found these again, and we really liked them] along with hash browns for our breakfast. The ducks are still around.
We shoved off at 7:40. The sun came out as we got to the pictographs and then it became overcast and super-calm. Great reflections to enjoy on the river banks.
By the time we got to Alice the sky was a bright silver and hazy, and the water completely calm. Completely. In Insula our wake was the only ripple on the surface--a bright, glaring silver sky and a very eerie feeling. It was like paddling on liquid silver under a matching sky. Floating free. I've never seen anything like this in the BWCA. [And as I write this in 2021, I still haven't. A very vivid memory, indeed.]
We had our lunch on a rocky island in Insula and the wind began picking up. The portage to Hudson was really crowded--like a zoo! One boy was asking me a lot of questions and was very impressed at how far we'd gone.
We were feeling ready to camp as we got into Hudson with the wind getting stronger. We pulled in at the first site, but it was so badly overused I rejected it. So we headed north towards Fire Lake, and found a good site on the point at the narrows. We ended up stopping at 2:30.
This was a nice day; lovely places, easy portages, and very unusual paddling environment. The calm until 1:30 was unique--the most breathtaking silence! Why I didn't take more photos is another mystery. Perhaps I was just so mesmerized I didn't think to pull out the camera.
A gorgeous evening, clouds and sky beautiful, temperature warm and comfortable.
I sat up and watched the sunset, and saw the full moon come up over the trees. Watched a beaver swim across the lake, and two large turtles exploring around my rock. A very real feeling of never wanting to leave here.
We slept with the flap open and listened to pine needles dropping on the rain fly.
Wednesday. When we arise at 6 AM the world is enshrouded in dense fog. We can barely see across the narrows. Everything in the tent is damp.
We waited until 8:40 to start out, mainly amusing ourselves by wondering if someone were paddling by (since we literally could not see them if they were.) When we pushed off the fog was still thick, but burning off slowly. It was nearly gone by the time we portaged out of Fire Lake. The portage into Fire is super-short; the portage from Fire to Lake Four is two short ones with a pond in the middle.
We saw many, many inexperienced paddlers zigzagging on Lakes Four, Three, and Two. Followed the northernmost finger out of Lake Two and camped near the dam at 11:45. We were stopping early on purpose, as this was our last night. We have had bright sun since Lake Three (10:30).
This is a nice campsite, fairly new and not all trampled down yet. Lots of blueberries. [This wasn't a campsite when we came by here in 1973, but I remember thinking it should be.] It is not on the superhighway, so it feels very secluded and remote. The view is from high up and we can hear the rapids.
While we were lunching, a man and two children came down from the dam area where they'd been fishing. He asked if we planned to go out that way and was shocked when we answered affirmatively. He then asked if we'd done it before. We have.
We shampooed, bathed, napped, etc. and about 3:30 we paddled up to scout the path through the woods around the largest rapids, and to the pond. It looks more traveled than nine years ago but definitely not a portage. I'm nervous about the series of rapids, but Neil is confident and it was fun before. At least we are at the end of our trip, so losing some of our gear wouldn't be as critical.
We ate our supper back at camp and sat around. No wildlife here, although it looks like such a likely spot. Saw a whole colony of ants on the move (in columns like an army) near the tent. Thankfully they bypassed our small home.
I've finished my trashy romance novel. (I've never read a trashy romance novel before, so that was another first.) The toilet paper is holding out, the margarine ran out yesterday, Neil now has BOTH shoes duct-taped together (the duct tape looks just terrible), and the seat is splitting out on my old Levis. Can't believe I forgot needle and thread!
The weather is hot and sunny with a nice breeze. The blue sky is so pretty and makes the water look bluer, but we do tire more easily in the hot sun.
I hate to see it end. It has been a beautiful, peaceful trip. Four days with congenial friends, five+ with companionable husband. I feel relaxed and at peace, and almost dread my re-entry into the real world, which always seems so abrupt.
I feel good physically. Neil and Smokey have lightened my load and the biking and conditioning that I did to prepare really helped. [This was during a thinner period for me, when I had lost significant weight and also biked around the countryside in Grand Haven for many, many hours.]
Highlights: bull moose, fresh fish, blueberries, portage from Adams to Elbow [Beaver], silver morning on Insula.
Difficulties: broken eggs, no needle and thread, need different balance with the protein and carbs for Neil, duct-taped shoes, marshy "beaver bogs."
I love to sit at the end of a portage and wait for the canoe. [This comment makes me think that I only carried one pack back in these days and Neil did his big pack first and the canoe on the second trip.] To see a spider, frog, or some small creature going about its work in its miniscule universe. To appreciate these tiny things in the whole of these fantastic surroundings makes me perfectly content and so thankful that I didn't let any fears, squeamishness, or timidity keep me from this fulfillment.
When we will get back here again??
[Note: We did return to the BWCA. Many times--a total of 22 times between 1985 and 2013. And the paragraph above was always true for as long as we were able to accomplish a trip in our own way. We still return to the canoe country every summer, stay in a cabin, and take day trips. In 1971 when I embarked upon my first wilderness canoe trip, I was afraid of dragonflies and spiders. Fifty years later I still thank my husband for helping me overcome my various fears, and for taking me out in a canoe to learn who I really am.],
Thursday: We called this "nine and a wake-up" when we started out, and now the wake-up is here! I hate to roll out at 5:40, but I do.
On our way to the woodsy trail/pond/rapids by 7:25. We go up and beyond a magnificent set of rapids with a 90-degree turn right in the middle, put in at the pond, and run the four (five?) sets of rapids into Lake One. We hit on some big rocks, miss some big rocks also. The final chute down to Lake One is rock free and it was fun to end with some adrenalin pumpining! WOW! Just another highlight for our trip--thirteen minutes of white water!
We enjoyed a quiet paddle to the Lake One landing, seeing lots of canoes on our way out. By 9:45 we were en route to Ely in gorgeous summer sun.
We traveled to Minneapolis to pick up our children. When we arrived we found out that they were at Prior Lake with Merodie's parents, who had rented a cabin there for some vacation time with the grandkids (and our kids, too.) So we traveled again, to Prior Lake, and spent a day with Merodie and Paul, Merodie's parents, and all of the children. It was a fun time.
There are no notes about the trip home, but I think we went across Michigan's Upper Peninsula and camped at a rustic campground there one night.
After we arrived home we had some very busy times. I was in charge of the music for Vacation Bible School at First Lutheran and we had a wonderful week with a big group of kids, capped off with a parent program featuring Avery and Marsh's "Great Parade" with paper chains of all colors strung around the entire sanctuary.
"I want to joing the Great Parade! I want to join the happy caravan! Of God's people, God's people, marching 'round the world. There are people of all times and places, people of all nations and races, a singing, swinging procession, and Here am I! Here am I!"
About a week later Neil was offered a promotion, to work at Consumers Power Central Office in Jackson. He left soon to begin his work, staying in an apartment in Jackson. We started house-hunting, and we readied our Grand Haven house for sale. Soon we were settled in a historic farmhouse near Parma, Michigan, where we resided for the next 32 years.
Our next BWCA trip would be in 1985 out of Fall Lake. [There is a trip report.]