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April 13 2024

Entry Point 32 - South Kawishiwi River

South Kawishiwi River entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 21 miles. Access is a 140-rod portage to the river.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1201 feet
Latitude: 47.8419
Longitude: -91.6632
South Kawishiwi River - 32

Kawishiwi River Triangle

by sralig
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 27, 2020
Entry Point: South Kawishiwi River
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
We selected this route for the river (avoid windy lakes), rocky shorelines (enjoy clear water), and portages around rapids. It was a huge success. For the second year in a row, we are lucky to have perfect weather and a dreamy trip in the wilderness.

Day 1 of 4

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 [paragraph break] Kristin and I leave Saint Paul at noon to drive up to Ely. We stop at Betty’s Pies and are pleased to find it not too crowded, although COVID safety precautions are still in place so we order to-go and sit at a picnic table outside. We’re lucky to have gorgeous weather, blue sky, and a great view of the big lake. The vegetarian “backpacker” burger is a hit and we follow it up with our fruit servings for the day: slices of Blackberry Peach, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Raspberry Rhubarb pie to share. [paragraph break] We get to Ely around 6 pm and check in at the Paddle Inn. I find the pink tiled bathroom pretty darn charming and the motel style set up makes social distancing a breeze. [paragraph break] There’s still plenty of daylight left, so we wander out to find the “pillow rocks.” It’s a nice walk through town neighborhoods and the rock formation is cool, if a bit mystifying as a tourist attraction. We keep walking into town and pick up some drinks and treats to enjoy on our motel ‘porch.’ [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Thursday, August 27 [paragraph break] When my alarm goes off at 6 AM I am instantly wide awake and eager to get going. Kristin and I drink a pitiful pot of free motel coffee, finish leftover pie, and head over to Piragis Outfitters to pick up map, canoe, and assorted gear. We make a quick stop at Northern Grounds for good coffee, bagels and a first study of our new map. We also enjoy speculating about the purpose and contents of “Loony’s Northwoods Emporium: Home of the Unusual” next door. [paragraph break] By 8 AM, we turn onto the gravel road (“Spruce”) and approach Entry Point #32 South Kawishiwi River. I text my sister that I’m “turning off comms” and turn on airplane mode to save my phone battery for lots and lots of pictures. [paragraph break] Our plan is to complete the Kawishiwi River Triangle route in four days. A girl at the outfitter assures us she did it all in one day, but she is clearly much tougher and cooler than us. The first night, we hope to camp near the northeast corner. Kristin circles several potential campsites in the area. [paragraph break] The entry portage is a long one, by our standards at least: 147 rods, or about ½ a mile. I am determined to make up for my laziness last year, when Kristin carried the canoe all but twice, so I claim the first portage and we agree to alternate thereafter. I am pleasantly surprised to find that it is not as miserable as I remembered; I would even call the first 100 or so rods enjoyable! Kristin is a good portage entertainer; over the course of the next four days I will learn a lot about Greek gods, astrology, sharks (good), and bears (bad). We finally round the last bend, take in the first of many stunning, sparkling vistas of the trip, and load the canoe around 10 AM. [paragraph break] We head north up the river about three miles, nearly to the point where the river will curve to the east. The next portage is a sweet little baby one that doesn’t even have a rod number listed on the map. We consider trying to float the rapids without getting out of the water, but decide it’s not worth a risk so early in the journey. It’s an easy two-person haul up and over a small hill, no bench-pressing-balancing-acts needed. It’s now noon and we perch on the rocks near the rapids for a hearty snack break. There is a campsite right here that I think would be nice for people who want an easy trip, without venturing as deep as we prefer. The sound of the babbling rapids would be pleasant and when we return this way, we’ll spot an otter and three noisy ducks. As we load up to continue our journey, another canoe approaches from the north and we meet the Honeymooners, a well-dressed couple in their 40s on their tenth anniversary in the boundary waters. They alert us to an ideal campsite they call the “taj mahal” around the riverbend, at the next set of rapids. [paragraph break] When considering route options way back in February, I selected this river route in an effort to avoid the perils we faced last year on Little Indian Sioux’s big windy lakes. The sun comes out and the wind picks up a little bit on this wider stretch of river, but the paddling is not bad at all. [paragraph break] About two miles later, we come to the first spot marked “rapids” on the map. This may be my favorite location in our four day journey. This is what the Honeymooners called the “taj mahal.” Although the map doesn’t indicate a portage here, we don’t see a clear path through by sea. The water parts around an island at the end of a pinch point. To the west, there is a narrow, fast-moving current with big boulders poking up. To the east, there is a wide, shallow channel with a rocky bottom. After attempting to traverse the westward passage, we reverse course, fearing a sharp collision with the big rocks. Instead, we choose the wide, shallow passage. We pull up at the mouth of it and Kristin climbs out into knee-deep, clear water and pulls the canoe with her hands to where I can also get out. This lightens the boat enough that we can manually float it over the rocks, walking slowly alongside. I don’t know why this is so much fun, but I feel like a kid at the best playground in the world. There’s a couple with a yellow dog on a distant shore watching us; we wave and the dog barks joyfully. [paragraph break] At this point, we could continue south on the river to a section the map has thrillingly stamped “DANGEROUS WATERS,” or turn left up the east leg of the Kawishiwi River Triangle. Much though I’m tempted by curiosity to at least peek at the “DANGEROUS WATERS,” we will stick to the plan and explore safer territory. [paragraph break] Kristin takes the next portage, a little 30 rod one that carries us past yet another small rapids. Who knew rapids are so fun? Every one so far has been stunningly beautiful. This is the emotional equivalent to a beautiful mountain vista at the end of a hard hike, but we get them all the time here! This portage is short but steep; one steep climb up and one steep climb down. We agree this is ideal - it feels like an accomplishment, but not a slog. On the other side, we find a wide, shallow bay with a rocky bottom. We decide to stick around for lunch and a swim in the sun-warmed, unbelievably clear water of the bay. The rocks are slick and the water doesn’t quite get deep enough for it to be my favorite swim, but dunking my head underwater makes the trip feel more real. [paragraph break] Soon after, we reach the next short portage just on the other end of this wide part in the river. This one was so easy I hardly remember it, although I remember thinking we should have picked this one for our swim, with its deeper water and sandy beach. This portage marks the end of the route we’ll see twice; although we didn’t know it then, we would end up revisiting everything up to this point again two days later, in our hunt for an unoccupied campsite. [paragraph break] There’s a long paddle and one more rapids/portage in our path before we reach the northeast corner of the triangle where we plan to camp that night. I’m starting to lose track of where we’re at, but I enjoy paddling and looking around and getting lost in my thoughts. Kristin has the map and the navigation under control. She has been silent for a while. I start paying attention again as we pass one, then another, and another campsite, their current occupants clearly staking claim with bright tents and tendrils of smoke from campfires. We seem to be circling a long string of large, swampy islands. The sun is hanging low, hot and bright in the sky and it’s starting to seem like time to find solid land and set up camp. [paragraph break] When I ask Kristin for a navigation update, it’s clear she’s a little worried we’re running out of options. We start discussing backup plans if we find the next few campsites ahead are also taken. Should we land wherever possible if we get really desperate? Should we try to buddy up with an occupied campsite before then? I joke that we should let down anchor and sleep in the canoe. Kristin is not amused. [paragraph break] At this point, we are paddling west on the top leg of the triangle - well past where we expected to stop on the first day. We have a few hours of sunlight left so things are not too desperate, but we’re reaching a point where we will either have a long stretch ahead of us with no campsites and no guarantees, or we have a long trek back to the last unoccupied spot. As we round an island and see our last two options do in fact have campers already, our hearts drop and our hungry bellies grumble. The water is very still and the river is calm under a cloudless dusk. Kristin pulls out the map to consult with me, although her navigation skills are excellent and I trust her word on the situation. A solitary fisherman a short distance away notices our predicament, and calls over. His words carry easily across the quiet water. He asks us if we’re looking for a campsite. He tells us that he just came from the west and he thinks there are a few options over there, about a 30 minute paddle away in the direction we’re already heading - there are three campsites and he only saw one couple. We shout our thanks for the good news, and hustle onward. [paragraph break] Although I’m hopeful that we’ll find his words are true, I watch the shoreline for any worst-case-scenario places to at least pull up the canoe and string up a hammock for the night. It’s against the BWCA rules, but we can’t stay on the water ‘til morning. In any event, there are no good options along here - the terrain juts up steep and high above the water (averaging a height about ~1,500 feet, according to the map) where it’s not boggy swamp. [paragraph break] When at last we reach a bay with the final three red-dotted campsites on the map, we find the older couple the fisherman had mentioned. They are at the first campsite, which is immediately next to a 20 rod portage to a second campsite on Conchu Lake. It seems likely that if there is any free camp left on this river, it’s the one that is on the other side of a dead-end portage. (Who wants to haul 40 pounds of kevlar on their head just for a campsite??) We pull up and ask the couple if they know if it is available. They think so, but they’re not positive as they have themselves just arrived. We pull in the canoe and Kristin runs up the trail to scout ahead while I wait with the canoe and eavesdrop on the older couple. Their elderly golden retriever gently picks his way down to the shoreline and looks at me calmly with age-filmed eyes. Kristin soon reemerges but doesn’t have a clearer answer. She says the trail seemed really overgrown and she didn’t see a campsite at the end of it - it’s possible it’s only accessible by canoe on the other side. We decide to risk leaving this one in order to check out the very last option a short distance away. The couple jokes that they will scare off anyone who comes for it, in case we need to come back. [paragraph break] As Kristin navigates us to the next red dot, I paddle hard in the back of the boat, my heart pounding in fearful anticipation of glimpsing brightly colored polyester or the hull of a beached canoe. I squint warily at a large white figure on the shore ahead until it resolves into a sun-bleached tree trunk. Happily, every second we get closer to the shore the more clear it becomes that this site is free. We have found a safe, rule-abiding home for the night! [paragraph break] I’m shocked there is still daylight at this point, but we have a few hours left in which to set up camp. This seems like a good spot, with a short climb up big, terraced stones covered in lichen and moss. It’s a little challenging to find a spot clear of dead fir trees, however, and at one point Kristin calls over “Sarah? This tree is making weird noises.” I laugh and continue unpacking until she says in a wavering voice, “Sarah - come listen to this tree.” As I approach curiously, I start to hear it too - there is a continuous, chewing drone coming from the tree and it is surrounded by piles of sawdust. I feel a full body-shudder and back away. Termites? Some type of wood-boring beetle? Something has killed all the fir trees at this campsite and their tall skeletons are gray and drab. Now that I know what I’m hearing, that chewing sound surrounds us. [paragraph break] Kristin finally finds a pair of living trees from which to hang her hammock, some distance away from camp and above a precipitous drop over water. Likewise, our hunt for a bear-bag tree leads us down a steep hill and across a small ditch. Not the easiest campsite, but we’re glad for a place to plant ourselves after a long first day.


Day 2 of 4

Friday, August 28

I wake up early to gray pre-dawn light filtering through my tent. I crawl out of my warm cocoon, excited to be up before the sun. After a short hike to the latrine and back, I climb down a hill to stare hungrily up at the bear bag, which contains both stove and coffee, along with every other morsel of food we carried in. Unfortunately, our attempt at using the “PCT” method has gone a bit awry and the twig that keeps the bag up high has become stuck on the bag. I reluctantly determine this is a two-woman job and I’ll have to wait for Kristin to get up. In the meantime, I grab my book and find an almost armchair-shaped comfy spot in the rock face above the river as the eastern sky slowly turns hot pink. It drizzles on me gently but the pattering sound is pleasant and I am happy in my warm jacket with a good view. [paragraph break] When Kristin gets up, we eat a quick oatmeal breakfast and pack up. The drizzle tapers off quickly and it’s clear we’re in for another day of perfect weather. We’re not super efficient at this part yet, but we’re eager to get going away from the creepy, dreary trees. [paragraph break] It’s a matter of short minutes before we reach the first portage of the day - the longest one yet, at 210 rods. I don’t think Kristin is excited, but she’s a champ and never complains. I hike along guiltily behind her and her heavy load, trying to entertain with stories and songs. [paragraph break] After such a long day yesterday, we give ourselves permission to take it easy today. We linger in every narrow pinch of the river and hug the shore of the bays in wider stretches to study the shoreline and watch for animals. Kristin especially hopes to spot a moose and we both love watching otters play. [paragraph break] We pick a campsite just about 2 miles and three portages away from our first and spend the day exploring an eastward branch of the river toward Farm Lake. At one point, we watch a family of swans for a long time, and we happily discover that two short portages marked on the map are actually easy, if narrow, to paddle through. [paragraph break] As we paddle back to camp near dinner time, racing threatening storm clouds behind us, we encounter a lost-looking couple who call out “have you been here before?” This strikes me as humorously absurd, like what you might say at a fancy restaurant. ‘Have you been here before? How’s the linguini?’ Unsure what they actually want, I call back “how can we help?” while Kristin chimes in more eloquently, informing them that we’re coming from the east. It turns out they’re looking for the portage into Clear Lake, which is on our agenda for the next morning. They say they thought they found it but it just turned into a bunch of criss-crossing dead ends, and they’re feeling frustrated and a little desperate. With our night of campsite desperation fresh in my mind, I tell them where to find our site and invite them to share if they don’t find their way by nightfall. The man in the back seems eager to accept, but the woman in the front quickly declines. He then asks if we would be willing to land and help look for the portage. Kristin’s face falls and I think she’s inclined to agree, but I jump in and let them know we have “another mission” for the evening. BWCA etiquette is one thing - we need to look out for each other out here, but I feel like they can figure this one out on their own. [paragraph break] This campsite is far better than the last. This one has multiple tent pads and good trees for both hammock and bear bag. In the process of hanging up her hammock, Kristin comes nose-to-nose with some sort of bleached, desiccated crustacean-looking-thing that is firmly affixed to the tree trunk, like an enormous cicada shell. As the sun begins its slow descent, the storm clouds dissolve. Kristin stokes the fire, I pour wine into silicone mugs, and we watch the ‘alpine glow’ light up the tops of the trees across our little bay. Just before the night falls completely, Kristin suggests a sunset paddle. We grab our headlamps, roll up our sleep pants, and zip up our life vests. I feel apprehensive about the timing, but I’m glad Kristin suggested something outside of my comfort zone. [paragraph break] We paddle away from the burbling rapids near camp, through a wide channel and out towards the mouth of the bay. The water is mirror-smooth and birds swoop around us. A fish jumps close ahead, startling us both. Two large island-like boulders mark the entrance into a wider stretch of river and the trees are silhouetted black against the sun and mercurial water. [paragraph break] The moon shines so bright that night we both comment on it in the morning.


Day 3 of 4

Saturday, August 29

Unlike the previous morning, I wake up several times on Saturday and decide to keep dozing. I feel luxurious and vaguely guilty. Eventually, sure that it must be almost noon (in reality it’s closer to 8 AM), I hear Kristin puttering around and the hiss of the camp stove. As we sit and drink our coffee, several fishermen pass by and wave up at us. [paragraph break] This time it’s our turn to look for the portage to Clear Lake, which fortunately gives us no trouble. I’m lucky to travel with such a good navigator! It’s my turn to carry the canoe and it’s another long one: 160 rods. The view at the end is well worth it. I think this is the best one yet! We’re in a wide bay, decorated with lots of big boulder-islands that make me think of Ariel’s iconic perch in The Little Mermaid. There’s a small cliff to the right that we scramble up for an even better look at the gorgeous scenery. This lake is big but shallow and filled with islands. Like rapids, islands are just fun! [paragraph break] We paddle across Clear Lake, hugging the southern shore. We could turn directly south here and portage into Eskwagama Lake, but by crossing the lake now we’ll save ourselves a long portage in the end. The lake is windier than the river has been, and it’s hard to hold the canoe steady while we wait for two young men to unload ahead of us. They chivalrously linger to help us unload, but we’re old hat at this by now and proud of our own competence. [paragraph break] This (100 rod) portage is a little different from the others so far. The ground is boggy, with hummocks of flattened grass that ooze muddy water with every step. We find ourselves surrounded by shrubby vegetation, tall grasses, and thorny raspberry bushes. Halfway in, the path enters dense pine forest with low branches that scrape across the hull of the canoe, a particularly nasty torture for anyone with their head stuck inside it. Lucky for me, that’s Kristin. [paragraph break] We encounter the young men again at the end of this portage and ask them where they plan to camp. It’s still early morning, but we hope to avoid a repeat of the first night by staking an early claim. After this portage, we will come full circle with the bottom of the Kawishiwi River Triangle, so we’re in a good position to make our exit on Sunday. The man with the handlebar mustache pulls his map from a pocket in his lifejacket and shows us where he has circled several campsites upriver. [paragraph break] We are a couple of miles north of the ‘taj mahal’ and it’s not circled on his map, so Kristin and I aim for that one. We’re heading in the same direction as the men and it feels companionable to know it’s our new friends in the boat across the distance. In fact, when we reach the ‘taj mahal’ rapids, we find the men have pulled close to shore and are looking ahead uncertainly, not sure how to pass through. Kristin and I explain our solution from the first day, when we walked the canoe over the shallow channel, but they choose to brave the other side. [paragraph break] Unfortunately, a large group of teens and one small white fluffy dog are setting up camp at the ‘taj mahal’ campsite. As Kristin and I stand ankle deep on the rocks of the shallow channel, we see one girl up above us taking a selfie. Kristin calls up to ask her where they came from, and if they knew of any available campsites but the instagram girl brushes her off. [paragraph break] At this point, our casual search for a campsite turns into an awkward competition with the mustachioed men from the boggy portage. There are two campsites left in this area of the river and the four of us battle the wind to race east and claim a spot. Of course, the first one we pass is occupied by a large orange tent and several hammocks snapping in the wind. We exchange good-natured jibes with the men and Kristin and I gleefully paddle our hardest. [paragraph break] In the end, we are defeated by our own worst ‘Minnesota Nice’ demons, as we round the bend almost simultaneously, with our canoe a hairsbreadth closest to the final campsite, and the men shout to ask us if we want to take it. As if it’s theirs to offer! We offer to race them to it and they say we can have it. Some insanity compels us to decline, but they continue to shout condolence offers like “last chance! Are you sure?” as we paddle away in search of the next option. [paragraph break] Of course, it’s still early in the day and half the fun of paddling is doing so with a purpose and a mission. The mustaches can spend their afternoon fishing. Boring! We’re on the hunt! [paragraph break] Our next option requires a re-trek of the 30 rod up-down hilly portage where we stopped to swim on Day 1. This takes us back to a section of the river where heading south would take us to the “DANGEROUS WATERS.” The map shows a campsite fairly nearby but in the southward direction. [paragraph break] Kristin is focused intensely on the map, watching for this southern campsite and wary of loud rapids to our left, when we feel a bump and hear the dreaded scraaaaaaaape of rock-on-kevlar. The canoe stops moving and no amount of paddling helps dislodge us. We are beached on a huge, sharp rock just inches under the surface of the water. [paragraph break] Kristin sticks her leg over the side and gets her foot on the top of the rock, trying to push us off. The canoe tips alarmingly to the other side. I ask if she can put her weight on the rock, which might be enough to free us, but it’s too sharp for that and a risky maneuver anyway. I suggest that she lean back in the canoe to try to distribute her weight back to the middle, while I paddle - this seems to help a little, but not enough to free us. Again, she reaches out with one foot to try pushing and this time it does the trick. We’re free! But also feeling a little spooked and chastened for our overconfidence. [paragraph break] We round the cove slowly in search of the southern campsite. We hug the shore and scrutinize every break in the trees for a fire grate, trail, or other obvious landmark. As we near the rapids, it seems clear that there isn’t a campsite on this side of them. Perhaps we’re meant to go through them? I haven’t seen the map in a while. In the stern, I try to hold us steady while Kristin takes a closer look at it. With frustration and no little anxiety in her voice, she tells me there is no portage marked here, and suggests that maybe the dot is slightly askew on the map. Maybe the rapids are supposed to be obviously passable and we're just being weenies. It’s very windy and it feels like the current is sucking us in. It’s clear that Kristin’s confidence is faltering after our run-in with the devil rock a few minutes earlier, so I try to stay upbeat and suggest we check out the other side. [paragraph break] We let the wind and water pull us into this sharp-rocked channel, but feeling like we have little control over the boat and high risk, we lose confidence halfway through and Kristin kicks out her leg one more time to steady us against a boulder while I ping-pong our stern between two others with the handle of my paddle. While we’re half-stabilized here, Kristin asks me to take a look at the map and provide a second opinion. [paragraph break] I love looking at the map at the end of the day, but I’m next to useless at orienteering. This time is no exception. I can tell Kristin needs me to be a better teammate, so I kneel down and stretch forward carefully while she hands it back to me. It takes a long moment for my eyes to find where we are now and I read it backwards on the first attempt, thinking we are on the west side of the 30 rod portage instead of the east. When I finally figure it out, I share Kristin’s frustration. There should be a campsite Right. Here. On this side of the rapids! [paragraph break] Kristin wants to search the shore again, but I don’t see how we could have missed it. I argue that we ought to move on. There are two more sites about a mile north of us and we’re burning daylight. [paragraph break] We still have to extricate ourselves from these rapids where we’re precariously stabilized, and now both wind and current are against us. As we push and paddle ferociously backwards, a sharp gust of wind tears my hat off my head and into the water, and threatens to pull my paddle out of my hands as well. Kristin catches the hat and shoves it under her seat. As we backtrack, we keep an eye on the shore, just in case we did miss a clearing in the trees above us before. Later that night, Kristin will remember that this red dot was marked with a big ‘X’ on the map the two men were using. We can only assume that means it has been decommissioned since our map was printed. [paragraph break] As we turn north, the wind eases up a small amount and we continue to hug the shoreline. There’s one big bulbous section of river to cross. It’s still early afternoon, but I hope these campsites are free so we don’t have a repeat of our first desperate night, or a long journey back out on Sunday. [paragraph break] Our luck starts to turn when Kristin spots movement in the water ahead, and we see three little otter faces poke up. The otters look at us for a long moment, vanish, and then continue splashing and playing a few yards farther ahead. We stop paddling just to watch them for many long minutes until they are finally out of sight. [paragraph break] When we reach the north end of this bulb in the river, we find both campsites are free. We select the one at the northern tip of a large, calm cove. After missing the ‘taj mahal,’ passing up the one for mustache boys, and simply not finding the last one, we discover that our luck has led us to the most dreamy possible campsite of all. This one has large clearings covered in soft reddish cedar needles from impossibly tall trees. The fire grate is in a clearing slightly above water level, and there are many intriguing trails leading to a variety of tent pads nearby. One trail leads up a series of small hills to a flat stone terrace high above the water. Here we decide to have a late lunch. We sit and gaze at nature’s beauty for a long time in silence. Over and over, the sun warms us almost to the point of discomfort, then ducks behind a cloud until we feel a chill and crave its warmth again. Kristin says she wouldn’t change a thing about it, except to wish for a comfy chair and a cold beer. Eventually, I pull out my book and Kristin and I take turns dozing and reading chapters out loud. [paragraph break] When the sun-warmed lethargy wears off, it is late afternoon. We set up camp quickly, fight off a gang of shockingly brave and avaricious chipmunks, and haul the canoe back into the water for one more easy evening paddle. Although we must have seen this part of the river on Thursday, it all seems brand new to me. We poke along the shoreline, pausing often in the calm water just to watch and listen. As the sun inches lower, it becomes too painfully bright to look west, so we cling to the eastern shore and soak in the last rays. We pause for a long time listening to something just beyond our vision shaking the trees and tapping rocks or shells. An eagle rides the vents high above. [paragraph break] Eventually it becomes necessary to cross the river to the west, and I shiver as the shadow of the treeline falls over us and the temperature drops perceptibly. The sky turns lighter and the few clouds glow pink and orange. As dusk falls, we land our boat and we each rush off to find warm, dry clothes. Kristin gets a fire going while I filter water and we wait for our dinners to re-hydrate. The moon is almost too bright to see the stars but I can make out a few constellations. There is no shortage of dry cedar wood, and we take turns once again - one of us reading out loud by headlamp while the other pokes at the fire and watches moonlight ripple on the river.


Day 4 of 4

Sunday, August 30

I’m already sad to leave when I wake up. I can tell it’s going to be cold outside of my cozy sleeping bag, so I find my puffy jacket and pull it inside with me to warm it up. My tent is down by the water and Kristin is far away in her hammock “upstairs” so I can’t tell if she is up yet or not. In my puffy coat, wool hat, leggings, and thick socks I am ready to brave the chilly morning, so I climb out to visit the latrine and then let down the bear bag. Kristin is awake in her hammock and emerges when she hears the promising hiss of the camp stove. We make breakfast and sit quietly, looking out from our high terrace again. [paragraph break] Our journey out today is simple. I carry the canoe one last time over the up-down 30 rod. We pass our mustachioed friends, who wave at us from their campsite and wish us luck. We paddle past the large group of instagram girls from the taj mahal going in the other direction, and wonder where their little white dog went. [paragraph break] As if to give us a little parting gift, the wind picks up heartily on our last two miles and we battle small white-capped waves for what feels like hours. We pass one wind-whipped campsite with two large dogs that bark and jump around happily when I shout “doggies!” [paragraph break] All too soon, we reach the end of our journey. Although it was also the start, it doesn’t look familiar at all. Kristin portages us out, only this time instead of a beautiful view with sparkling water on the other side there is only a small gravel parking lot where the sun glints off the windshields.


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