Day 1 of 5
Monday, June 23, 2014 - Through some miracle of nature my 13 year old son woke up early and made us breakfast, so we were on the road by 7:30. The new puppy is not a big fan of the car, and barked all the way to Duluth, but settled down and napped thereafter. We made it to the Sawbill outfitters by 12:30 (with many stops for puppy potty breaks on the way.) and changed our clothes and transferred our gear for our shuttle to Kawishiwi. To keep things easy and mellow with the puppy we paddled around Kawishiwi until we found a nice site and just stayed there. We enjoyed veggie packets and bratwurst over a fire for our traditional first night meal, paddled around for fun, and were in the tent and asleep by 9. The puppy loved swimming, running around the campsite, and snuggling in the tent, but was pretty unsure about the canoe.
Day 2 of 5
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - We woke up to thunder and lightening at around 6, so we stayed in the tent and played with the puppy till it seemed like it would blow over. My 20 year old daughter made the call after we hadn't heard thunder for a while that we should make a move or we'd never get anywhere, so we packed up, stuck some energy bars in our pockets, and hit the water as fast as we could. During the first portage it started raining, but we all had our rain jackets on anyway, and frankly the rain at least suppressed the bugs, which were brutal. In retrospect we should have also put on our rain pants. We paddled and portaged through the burn down in sometimes driving rain, though no wind, and passed a lot of people going out. The dog got progressively more chilled, and my son ended up duffing the whole day so he could zip the puppy into his rain coat. His sister is the stronger paddler, and we really wanted to get to camp fast and get out of the rain. We found a nice site on Polly, by then it had stopped raining and the bugs were back, but we got our tent up, a tarp and laundry line up, and got my mildly hypothermic daughter out of her wet clothes and into her sleeping bag with the shivering sodden puppy. My son helped me hang all the wet clothes on the line under the tarp, and then he too changed into his long underwear and dry wool socks and retreated to the bag. I squared away camp, pumped water, and finally gave up and retreated to dry clothes and a nap. Once we were all rested, dry, the tent organized, and less crabby, I crawled out and made curry noodle soup, lots of cocoa, and checked on the drying clothes. I coaxed the kids out to eat and warm up, but the bugs drove us back to the tent pretty fast and I faced a lot of complaints about never camping in June from the kids. Every portage this day was muddy and miserable, and the recently repaired Wynonah Sundowner from the late 70s was way too heavy for me to portage. I was feeling pretty blue and miserable.
Day 3 of 5
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - It was overcast and very cold when we got up and faced the day. We all felt pretty smart for deciding on cold breakfasts this trip, we were able to pack almost everything up without leaving the tent, and donned our bug nets to quick shove the tent in the pack, de-tree the food, and get on the water. We all shoved our bars and pop-tarts in our pockets, mixed up a liter of matcha tea in a water bottle, and ate out on the lake where the bugs couldn't get us. The day started overcast and dreary, but by the time we got to Phoebe the sun was out, the bugs were dying down, and life was looking better. Some people were at the great looking island campsite, so we searched the lake for another site and found one at the neck of an inlet, it was up a skinny path and hard to find, but had a great rock fire area overlooking the lake, a sitting rock down on the water side, and a fine tent pad. The kids napped while I took a bucket bath, another benefit of the far back campsite! I spent the afternoon sitting by the lake while the kids read books, and we had a huge dinner of red beans and rice, chorizo, and black bean and corn salad. All of our clothes dried in the sun and breeze, and our tent was finally clean and dry as well. We fell asleep by 8:30.
Day 4 of 5
Thursday, June 26, 2014 - This was a perfect tripping day. Sunny and warm, enough breeze to hold down the bugs a bit, and a short easy morning. We ate breakfast on the water again, made good time through all the muddy wet portages, and even survived the long portage into Beth. Though, I was very glad to have my son bridge me, and took more breaks than I should have. Man, that canoe is really too heavy for me. Having invested $400 in getting it repaired I feel like I'm stuck with it now. It's kevlar, but I think they were using it for strength back then, not lightness. We found a lovely site on Beth, with a fire pit right down by the water, tent pads high up and breezy in the pine trees, and a path to a peninsula for watching the sunset. We had our hot meal - mac and cheese - when we got to camp and had everything set-up, our dishes washed, and our hammocks hung by noon. Wet clothes hanging in the sun, sleeping bags in the hammocks, and we took turns napping with the puppy for several hours. At one point my son said we should have dinner and think about bed, so my daughter checked the time and it was 3. We attempted to swim, but it was too cold. At around 5 we packed up the hammocks, made our beds, cleaned up camp and took the food pack into the canoe to explore the lake and eat dinner on the water. My son and I enjoyed lazing in the bottom of the canoe with the puppy while my daughter turned around in her seat and soloed us around the lake. When we got back to camp they got in the tent to read and I went to the peninsula to watch the sun-set. I saw a fish ambushing dragonflies, it must have leapt up and eaten 15-20 while I watched. Then a beaver swam up and nibbled some twigs. The sunset was lovely. However the bugs were fierce and I finally gave up and went back to the tent. I read until it actually got full dark this night! So late! It must have been 9:30 by the time I fell asleep! It was really windy all night, I was worried we would get stuck on the lake. In the middle of the night the puppy woke me, shivering and miserable, so I pulled him inside my sleeping bag and got to listen to him snore the rest of the night. So cute!
Day 5 of 5
Friday, June 27, 2014 - We had a late lazy morning on our last day. The kids packed up everything while I refused to get out of my sleeping bag. They finally convinced me to get going when it clouded over and the wind picked back up, I didn't want to end up trapped on Alton. We made good time, the canoe didn't feel so unmanageably heavy this time, and everyone had their portage routines down. The puppy by now was fine in the canoe, he liked lying on top of our packs in the sun. And he did a great job the whole trip of walking right next to my daughter on the portages, and then sitting at her heel while they waited for me. Potty training went very well in the tent too, no accidents, and it's a lot easier to let the dog out of the tent than to carry it from it's crate to the yard in the middle of the night! But we did have two puppy incidents today, on one portage the bugs were so bad that the puppy swam out to the canoe as we were loading it in knee deep water and frantically tried to climb in, almost tipping the canoe. And as we were paddling across Sawbill the puppy yawned, stretched, and rolled right off the packs and into the lake. I'm afraid we had a hard time paddling back to him because we were laughing so hard. I had to take off my overshirt and my son wrapped him up in the shirt and zipped him into his jacket he was so cold. He may never swim again, this is just the sort of trauma I was hoping to avoid. But the best part of the day I missed. After we paddled up to the Sawbill landing I grabbed one pack and walked to the lot to get the car while the kids got our gear and canoe out of the way. A group of very buff college aged guys were carrying in their gear as we were unloading, and failed to get my hint when I said if they would give us a moment we would be out of their way, they continued putting their stuff in the water as we unloaded. After I left to get the car the boys proceeded to capsize twice, right at the landing. They got into their canoe standing up, and tried to walk to the ends. Then tried again, still standing up, but one at a time. My very petite daughter finally took pity and showed them how to get in a canoe. Then a second group of young men, all in cotton camo and with a keg had a chaotic entry. Meanwhile what my daughter described as a "kick-ass grandpa" one-upped his canoe and threw it on his car, and packed his one or two well organized bags in his car. Score one for the kick-ass grandpas, middle aged ladies, and petite teenager at this landing. We pulled out of the parking lot at the same time as the kick ass grandpa while the college boys were still trying to squeeze their keg and coolers into their canoes. We got my daughter to her rendezvous with her grandma and great aunts in Two harbors, having a lovely soak in the hot tub for a mid-day break, and then my son and I made it back to the Twin Cities in time for dinner. I may never convince my kids to come back with me in June, but on balance it was a great trip.