Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 14 2024

Entry Point 37 - Kawishiwi Lake

Kawishiwi Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Isabella; Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 33 miles. Access is a boat landing at Kawishiwi Lake.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1653 feet
Latitude: 47.8390
Longitude: -91.1036
Kawishiwi Lake - 37

The Long Way Around-First Solo on the Louse River

by YardstickAngler
Trip Report

Entry Date: May 21, 2023
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
This was my second BWCA trip and first solo trip. After nearly a year of planning, I chose the Louse River route because I was looking for a longer loop route with seclusion and challenge. In this report, I endeavor to share not only the details of my travel, but the inner workings of my head and heart while on the trip. This makes for a longer report, but I hope you enjoy it.

Part 1 of 11


June 2023-May 18, 2023

[paragraph break]

Preparation [paragraph break]

This was to be my first solo trip. Having never paddled a solo canoe, estimating my ability and choosing a suitable route which met my goals in the time I had was a very difficult thing for me to wrap my head around. I sought out advice from the message boards here, and was warned of the dangers of taking on too much for my first solo, especially in May, with no solo paddling experience. I felt conflicted, because I didn’t want to do anything unsafe or foolhardy, and had no means to gain any meaningful solo paddling experience near where I live. That said, I was in decent shape, and life is uncertain. I was nearly 40 years old, and family life was getting more frantic with each passing year. How many more chances would I have to take on a challenging solo trip? I chose to go for it, resolving to turn back or cut the route short if it proved to be too much to handle. [paragraph break]

For a month or two, I planned on traveling the Frost River, since my late-May trip footprint would likely provide favorable conditions for this iconic Boundary Waters route. However, after reading a trip report or two and more time spent gazing at the maps, I chose to enter at Sawbill Lake and travel the Louse River, which appeared to offer more time in some of the most secluded, rugged areas of the park, as well as several challenging, minimally maintained portages. It also linked up nicely with an area on the map that intrigued me, the smaller lakes north and west of the Kawishiwi River, with a return to Sawbill via the highly-regarded “Lady Chain.” While I was a bit apprehensive at taking on this route as my first solo and only my second trip, I was also very intrigued by this route, and used that tandem of enthusiasm and apprehension to ignite a drive to prepare my mind, body, and gear for the trip. [paragraph break] My daughter began junior high sports in the fall of 2022, and while running with her cross country/track teams at practice helped with my fitness, it was clear that I needed to be more diligent about vigorously exercising daily whenever possible. I purchased a rowing machine for our home and began using it faithfully, rowing 45-60 minute hard workouts most mornings after dropping the kids off at school on my off days, and occasionally during breaks at work. This dramatically improved my overall fitness and endurance, while strengthening many core and back muscles that would be heavily taxed during my solo trip. It also provided a means of keeping up my fitness routine during a long, cold Kansas winter. The rough, rocky portages that the Louse River was notorious for concerned me. I didn’t want to injure myself out there. To prepare for this, I added about 20 minutes of balance exercises on a BOSU ball after my rowing workouts whenever possible. These workouts were tailored for trail runners that needed superior balance and injury resistance to run quickly over the type of ground I would be traversing. Finally, I incorporated a 20 minute medicine ball workout 2-3 times per week that focused on building core strength. Whenever I didn’t want to push through a difficult workout, I would think of a difficult portage that awaited me on the Louse River, and how I needed to do all I could to be ready. [paragraph break] The portages on this route provided me with a great deal of “homework,” as well as a bit of angst. I scoured this site and compiled every single comment I could find on the Louse River portages into a single laminated document that I carried with me in the park. There is a certain excitement to not knowing what to expect while on a canoe trip, but I knew that I needed to stack the deck in my favor as much as possible for my first solo, especially when traversing the portages of the eastern section of the Louse River. I am very thankful to those that provided strong intel to me via their trip reports and portage notes, in particular straighthairedcurly and cowdoc, as well as Mike McSweeney’s YouTube videos. [paragraph break] Gear-wise, I needed to think differently than last year. The most significant change was to my food prep. Last year, we used a standard food pack which we filled with mostly “real food” and hung in a tree for bear resistance. This year, I dehydrated and vacuum sealed all of my own meals, and kept them on the ground in a bear-proof Ursack. I was amazed at how much work it took to get my dehydrated ingredients “pantry” up and running, and spent much of January-February prepping a multitude of ingredients for my trip meals, all of which came online from “The Backpacking Chef” Glen McAllister’s e-books. I chose to bring two “food king” thermoses, in which I prepped my morning breakfast the night before by pouring in boiling water to soak overnight, and did the same for the following day’s lunch each travel day, in order to save time cooking and cleaning. I left my rainfly and large fry-bake pan at home. I purchased a carbon fiber paddle from GRB Newman. I drastically reduced my fishing gear, though I still chose to bring it. I also chose to bring a camp chair, albeit a much smaller, lighter one. Since I love campfires and wood gathering, I still brought my Boreal 21” saw and a 17” Fiskars pack axe. By mid-March, my pack was ready to go, save for a few last minute snacks. This was a huge improvement over last year’s frantic last minute packing experience that I swore to never repeat. [paragraph break] Mentally, I had heard that solo trips can be very challenging when in the park, but for me, the toughest time mentally were these final days before the trip. Work-wise, I had to work many consecutive days in the early part of May, which led to less time at home. When at home, I had plenty of last minute prep to do for the trip, but I also needed to spend quality time with my family, and make sure the house was in ship-shape before my departure. After a hectic, yet wonderful school year in which our four kids participated in 10 different sports seasons, several of which we coached or volunteered, in addition to various other extracurricular activities, it was hard to believe I would really be leaving, alone, in just a few days. As I watched my daughter perform in her junior high musical performance of “The Little Mermaid,” I was moved to tears. She and her brothers were growing up so fast. I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty about leaving for my solo trip soon…in spite of having done all I could to “be there” for everyone during the course of this entire year. Why did I so deeply feel the need to go on this solo trip? Should I go at all? The answers I found to those questions were, essentially: “Who knows?” and “It’s too late to back out now!” This mental angst was very similar to the stir-crazy self-doubt that I had faced in the closing days before other life events that I had prepped a great deal for, such as job interviews and work evaluations. And now, as it had been in the past, those feelings meant one thing: It was time to go. [paragraph break] Final pack weight: 60 pounds, including 12 pounds of food|Meters rowed since last trip: Over 1.5 million

 



Part 2 of 11


Friday, May 19, 2023

[paragraph break]

Travel Day [paragraph break] I choose to attend my daughter’s softball game the night before I depart home, and find myself packing the car and running through my packing checklist until 1 AM. With tomorrow’s departure slated for 5 AM, this isn’t ideal, and I will have to rely on the “spirit of the woods” as well as eager phone calls to many friends to provide me the energy I need to get through the 14 hour drive to the Sawbill Campground. In spite of my late bedtime, I wake before my alarm at 3:15 AM to finish my final preparations and head out the door. After hugging my wife one last time, I am on the road at last! As I accelerate down the on ramp to the highway, I roll down the window and shriek a raucous “YEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAW!” Into an ink-black prairie sky. I’m on my way!

These pre-dawn hours are the most challenging to get through. After an extended morning prayer, I begin listening to an audio book called “The Untethered Soul” which emphasizes the beauty and practice of living in each moment fully, as well as how being loved provides us with an energy source that is nearly bottomless. This is a different kind of book than I usually read, but hearing these ideas energizes me and gives me much to ponder over the course of my trip. [paragraph break] Before leaving home, I contacted many friends and relatives that I hadn’t talked to in some time, letting them know that I wanted to catch up with them as I made this long trek to the north country. I spend most of my time on the drive through Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota re-connecting with these people whom I love dearly. Indeed, receiving this love and support fills me with the energy I need to stay alert despite my sleep deprivation. Most of my friends are middle-aged men with demanding careers and busy family lives just like myself, and it has become more and more difficult to take the time to catch up with and encourage one another. These phone calls add a profound sense of purpose to what is otherwise a tedious day of driving. [paragraph break] After one last call to my wife, I turn north onto the Sawbill Trail and spend this closing portion of the drive in silence, soaking up the beauty that surrounds me. After 14 hours total travel time, I arrive at the Sawbill Campground just after 7 PM. Most of the campsites with views of the lake are taken or reserved, but I do manage to find a smaller site with a wooded view of the lake that suits me just fine. After setting my hammock and processing firewood, I enjoy a hot bowl of spicy shrimp chowder by the fire, then sleepily update my journal as the loons crank up their nightly chorus, accentuated by a barred owl. [paragraph break] Tomorrow I plan to pick up my canoe from Sawbill as soon as they open to allow plenty of time for a test paddle and daytrip in the area. I’ve rented a We-no-nah Prism, but may switch to a Wilderness if the Prism proves too challenging for me. My concerns prior to starting my trip are: [paragraph break] **How well can I handle a solo canoe?** -Have I packed too much for the route I’ve chosen? -How well will I manage the rugged portages of the Louse River? -Will I be able to avoid getting lost in these wild, secluded areas? -I feel psychologically prepared for going solo, but am I mentally cut out for this? [paragraph break] After months of planning and a frantic past few weeks, I am finally back in this place that soothes me. A wilderness that allows me to leave my commitments behind, and yet demands more attentiveness and engagement than any other. My sleep is deep and satisfying. [paragraph break] Drive: 14 hours, 881 miles|Friends and family talked to: 9

 



Part 3 of 11


Saturday, May 20, 2023 [paragraph break] Day Trip and Test Paddle [paragraph break] I wake up at first light just after 5 AM and prepare my “pizza grits” for breakfast. Even though this is a dehydrated meal, it still takes a lot of time to boil water, set up the kitchen, and clean up. I resolve to use ready-made thermoses for breakfast and lunch starting tomorrow in order to save time during the quiet, calm morning hours that are best for paddling. [paragraph break] I meet a man from Iowa outside the Sawbill store and converse with him for a few moments. He is headed to Frost Lake with his group today, and his son will be working at Sawbill for the first time this summer. This is the first of four Sawbill permits for this man! How cool. He asks if I saw the aurora borealis late last night, but the only thing I saw was the back of my eyelids! Oh well. I needed the rest for sure. [paragraph break] Matt checks the canoe out to me at 8 AM. After briefly considering a kayak paddle, I choose a well worn 52” bent shaft canoe paddle to use as a spare. This is significantly shorter than my shiny new 55” carbon paddle, but I want to have a backup option in case my carbon paddle is a bit too long. Matt tells me that now is a perfect time to do the Louse River with the water levels slightly higher than normal due to the heavy snowfall this past winter. He said the one time he did the Louse River he loved it, but it ended up being a pretty tough slog in low water. While canoe tripping in late May can be unpredictable, this time of year definitely has its benefits. [paragraph break] Just a couple days ago, I began looking for the perfect day trip from Sawbill for my test paddle, and dug up some info on Handle Lake on BWCA.com. Multiple paddlers said that it was a fun little secluded adventure off of Sawbill, and that the lake held some small northern pike. With only 1 or 2 beaver dam pullovers to reach it, this fits my desired trip profile perfectly. Matt doesn’t have any intel on Handle, but I tell him I will report back in a few hours, and am on my way. [paragraph break] The Sawbill landing is bustling with activity this morning as multiple groups embark on their trips. I load my full pack, spare paddle, and fishing gear into the boat, because I want to perfect the art of trimming the canoe today. At some point during my setup process, I manage to lose my sunglasses right off my head and walk back and forth from the landing to the car to search for them, finally locating them on the ground near the landing. I am thankful for that! God is good. After the landing clears, I push off into a gusty north headwind and immediately my worst fear about this trip is realized: I have very little control of this canoe. The wind is giving me fits, blowing the bow seemingly wherever it wills, as I frantically work the water into a noisy froth around me. When I manage some semblance of control, I realize that this boat is far less stable than what I expected. I am making nearly zero progress down the lake as I keep flailing about with my fancy new paddle, occasionally hurling invectives at the unforgiving northern sky for good measure. A voice calls out from the shore near the landing, “Nothing like a good wind, huh?” I respond that obviously things weren’t quite going my way out there. “How about you bring it on in here? We’ll help you.” Gary, who was about to hit the water for some walleye fishing with his friend Grant, is the one speaking. I somehow manage to get close to shore and he pulls me in. [paragraph break] “You know, there’s nothing wrong with taking that boat back and seeing if they can get you one that’s more suitable for you,” Gary says once on shore. “There’s no pride out here. The key is being safe and being able to take it easy.” I think for about three long seconds and then say “You’re exactly right. That’s what I’m going to do right now!” Out comes the gear and I portage the Prism back to Matt at Sawbill. Before I even make it back to the canoe yard, he steps out of the door and I ask if I can switch to the Wilderness. “Absolutely!” he says with a knowing grin, adding “I thought this might happen.” I’ve only been here 12 hours, and already I am so thankful for the the friendly, attentive service Sawbill Outfitters provides. Within moments, I am portaging a We-no-nah Wilderness back down to the landing where I re-secure my pack, spare paddle, fishing pole, and bow/stern lines for my second attempt. I push off into the water and am astonished! The Wilderness paddles marvelously for me, even into the wind and chop. I am nearly certain that my loading wasn’t quite right for the Prism. Either I had my “extra wide” pack laying flat near the middle of the canoe (trimmed too far aft), or I had it sitting upright in the bow, which would be more proper for trim, but far more top-heavy. I may have even had it sitting upright in the middle due to the narrower width of the Prism, which would have been the worst of both worlds! [paragraph break] With all the excitement I have had so far, it is an incredible feeling to be paddling in the Boundary Waters for the first time since last year’s trip. I am awestruck by the vastness of the lake, but have my map and compass ready to navigate northward toward the bay that leads to Handle Creek. After about an hour, I arrive and begin my first portage…a nasty little bushwhack around a giant jack pine deadfall and large beaver dam. This is the challenge and ruggedness I came for though!

The paddle up Handle Creek is magnificent, hauntingly beautiful, and easy to follow, with many fun twists and turns as it turns north toward Handle Lake. [paragraph break] I arrive at Handle Lake at 12:30. I had wanted to paddle the perimeter of this small lake trolling for some of those northern pike, but I am ready for a lunch break. I also need to attend Mass at St. John’s in Grand Marais at 5:00 this evening, and I don’t have much extra time in my schedule given my hi-jinx on the water this morning. Fortunately, the entry to Handle features a lovely large slanted rock landing right at the south entry, which I decide is a perfect place to sit, cast a line, and enjoy my lunch. As soon as I unload my pack onto the shore, the boat takes off for the great beyond, and I jump in up to my knees to wrangle it. I throw a few Rapala casts into the southern arm of handle with no luck, then spend 30 minutes rigging up a leech beneath a slip bobber due to knots, tangles, the wind, and snagging a tree. Finally, I sit down for lunch with the perfect view of Handle Lake and my slip bobber. Soon my lunch is finished, and with zero interest from the pike, I pack up the gear to return to camp. It’s about 1:45 and I know I have my work cut out for me to make it back to my car for the one hour drive to town for Mass.

[paragraph break] Paddling with the current from Handle makes for fast travel down the creek to the beaver dam, and after lifting over, I am headed back toward the Sawbill canoe landing. Somehow, I am again paddling into a headwind, which increases the time pressure I feel to reach my car in time to drive into Mass. I do my best to put the “hammer down” with my strokes, and see my kayak friends Gary and Grant approaching from the south. I again thank them for their help this morning in passing, and then Gary says “Have you ever been instructed on how to stroke a bent shaft paddle?” Aside from YouTube, I have not. He patiently takes the time to demonstrate the stroke to me, and this is greatly appreciated. These men (and the good Lord) have really been looking out for me today. The right canoe and the right stroke are both direct results of their advice, and I will spend the rest of this trip (and hopefully many other trips to follow) practicing what they have taught me today. [paragraph break] I secure the boat at the Sawbill Landing at 3:50 and dash quickly into the Sawbill store to thank Matt and let him know that the new canoe performed perfectly for me, as well as to pass on a short synopsis of the day trip to Handle Lake for future day trippers. After changing out of my boots and making sure I don’t look completely awful, I barely make it to Mass in time in Grand Marais. After Mass, I head back to Sawbill and make my final call home. There is so much excitement to catch up on, between the last day of school, kindergarten roundup, birthday parties, and basketball games that the kids have played in, all while dealing with spotty cell coverage along the north shore. I long to hear so much more, but I also know that I have many final prep and camp chores awaiting me back at camp, so I tell my family that I love them, will check in with them via InReach texts tomorrow, and to pray for me, as I will for them during this exciting time of year. [paragraph break] Similar to the final push leaving home, these last goodbyes to family and civilization are more challenging to manage than I had expected. For me, the wilderness is a place where I live without appointments, time commitments, and obligations. My Catholic faith is my life. My family is my most beautiful and important witness to my faith. However, it is very difficult to balance the necessary, beautiful scheduled demands of family and faith life with the demands of a wilderness experience that seemingly operates outside of time itself. Today was a truly wonderful day, in spite of these conflicting feelings stewing deep inside me. [paragraph break] I eat, clean up camp, and turn in around 11 PM. Too late for my planned sunrise departure tomorrow, but it will have to do. Tomorrow I begin my trip at last! [paragraph break] Paddle distance: 7.5 miles|Travel time: 4 hours, 30 minutes [paragraph break] Number of portages: 2 beaver dams|Portage rods: 40 rods, 0.1 mile [paragraph break] ~Sawbill Lake, Handle Lake

 



Part 4 of 11


Sunday, May 21, 2023 [paragraph break] Entry Day! [paragraph break] “Slow down you crazy child, [paragraph break] Take the phone off the hook [paragraph break] And disappear for a while. [paragraph break] It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two.” [paragraph break] ~Billy Joel, “Vienna” [paragraph break] Anxiously mulling over the last minute details of tomorrow’s trip in my hammock, I sleep fitfully. During the night, I decide that I will be switching to the shorter spare paddle for my paddle up Sawbill. While Gary and Grant’s stroke advice was helpful yesterday, I know that my carbon paddle is way too long, as much as I want to love it. I clean up camp in the dark, park the car, and make my way to the landing as the sun rises. After a prayer and texts to my wife and my mom, I push off into perfectly glassy waters on Sawbill, accompanied by a beaver swimming in the distance. This is the moment I have been planning for nearly a year! Peaceful, simple, and wonderful. [paragraph break] Within two strokes, I know that I will be using the spare paddle for the remainder of this trip. The shorter paddle makes more difference than I ever could have imagined! In just under an hour, I reach the portage to the Kelso River. When unloading, I realize the lanyard with my compass on it is missing. After unsuccessfully searching, I resign myself to using my backup compass for the rest of the trip…and then discover the lanyard came undone but the compass is somehow nestled inside my shirt. Another moment of God smiling down on me, the humble first time soloist. Buoyed by this good fortune, I enter the Kelso River on a high. This is a magnificent morning paddle. After last year’s trip of mostly larger lakes, the rivers provide an intimately gorgeous change of pace. I plan to stop for breakfast at a campsite on Kelso, but the site is occupied, so I quietly paddle on toward Lujenida. [paragraph break] The section of the Kelso River leading to Lujenida is even more beautiful, and the glass calm water reflects the surrounding spruce and tamarack bogs perfectly. There are several sections which require me to look carefully at the map and choose the correct path through the maze of bogs and narrow veins of water, but I discern the path correctly and quietly paddle on through the life giving labyrinth of water that is often only 2-3 canoe widths across. It is such small water that even when I reach the beaver dam pullover into Lujenida, I feel pangs of doubt that I’m not actually at Lujenida. But the map confirms my position, and I enjoy the paddle across the lake, accompanied by a pair of common mergansers. I marvel at the beauty and remoteness of this small lake, given how near the entry point I am. It takes a bit of time to find the portage landing on the north side of the lake, but again God smiles upon me when I see a bright blue/green portage pack lying there from a fellow traveler. As I unload and eat a snack, a solo traveler from Iowa completes the portage into Lujenida. We briefly chat. He is finishing a six day trip down the Frost River today, and this is his third trip ever in a gorgeous black Bell Magic canoe. He also says he saw a moose grazing in an open area about halfway up the portage! [paragraph break] I heft my pack and the canoe for my first true test of the trip, the 480 rod portage to Zenith Lake. Right away, I know that I am in for a major challenge to single portage this one, or any other portage on this trip. Early on, I take several breaks to peel off clothing layers and to adjust canoe pack straps that I never knew existed, and re-adjust the load. At some point I step in a small mud hole and then fall backward onto my tuchus in a black puddle of muck. My lower half is soaked, the pack is soaked, and the canoe comes crashing down on top of me! That was fun! The portage climbs steadily most of the way to Zenith and there are fiddleheads growing everywhere along the path, something I have heard of but never seen before. I pause for a drink break about every 10-15 minutes, but after about 360 tortuous rods, I abandon my single portage attempt. As a distance runner with consistent workout habits, I am used to feeling discomfort, but the fatigue I feel in my hip muscles is unlike any I’ve experienced before. I lay the canoe beside the trail and carry the pack the rest of the way, counting the number of climbs between here and Zenith. Just four hills to go! I say hello to three separate groups portaging south to Lujenida. It will be 48 hours before I see another sign of humans from this point. After dropping my pack, it’s quick walk back to the canoe and an easy carry to Zenith. Overall, this portage is a lovely walk through the woods. Especially if you take the time to double portage! [paragraph break] This took two hours, five minutes! Wow! I am immensely thankful that this portage is behind me and snap a celebratory photo. I eagerly paddle to the lone campsite on Zenith to finally enjoy a breakfast of overnight steel cut oats with fruit. The campsite is as advertised, a bit small but with a nice elevated view of the water, and a lovely fire grate area. I rate it 3 stars. The landing was a bit tricky, and I can’t remember just how, but I ended up flooding my boots and sloshing some water in the canoe, too. While enjoying my oatmeal, it sounds like someone drives a Sherman tank through the thick woods behind the campsite. While no moose appears, I’m certain that’s what I heard. After breakfast, I decide to keep traveling today with the goal of reaching Wine Lake. When I walk down to empty the water out of the boat, I discover I have caught my first fish of the trip in the canoe! After a quick photo, I release this monster to the depths for someone else to catch someday. [paragraph break] When discussing this route with others, including Matt at Sawbill, they mentioned taking the northerly route to the Louse River through Hug, Duck, Mesaba, Dent, and Chaser. The campsites on Dent and Mesaba were well-reviewed, and this route has slightly easier portages, too. However, I really want to go check out Wine Lake…and to see how tough the portages into the Louse from Wine really are. After the long portage into Zenith, my confidence is high and I decide to go for it. Wine here I come! The next leg of the journey is the Frederick River into Frederick Lake. This section of river blows my mind. The Frederick River narrowly winds through a bog that is chock-full of pitcher plants, lending this section of the river a prehistoric feeling. At several points, I carefully stand up in the canoe to see the correct path ahead, but it is mostly easy to follow, albeit very narrow. I never knew such gorgeous paddling existed anywhere on this planet! [paragraph break] “It’s been two long years now [paragraph break] Since the top of the world came crashing down [paragraph break] And I’m getting it back on the road now [paragraph break] But I’m taking the long way around.” [paragraph break] ~The Chicks, “The Long Way Around” [paragraph break] A beaver dam separates the river from Frederick Lake, where I am blessed by my first bald eagle sighting. Three bald eagles, in fact! This truly puts me on a high, because I always associate bald eagles with my stillborn daughter, Lucia, who was born 2 1/2 years ago. [paragraph break] Lucia, our light, awaits our family in heaven. Losing her was a direct wake up call to our family that life passes us all by in an instant. Her birth, and the resulting fallout of grief and healing for our family, has forever altered our lives…and our eternity. Too much of my life revolved around working just a little harder, sacrificing just a bit more of the present moment to save up for the future. Yes, hard work, self-sacrifice, and responsibility are important, but not at the cost of ignoring the joy available in the present moment. While I do all I can to pursue quality time with my wife and kids at home, I also feel a deep need to shut off the frantic pace of work and home commitments for a short time each year, to “step back from the canvas” of creative chaos and ever-evolving family relations, in hopes of making sense of it all. The Boundary Waters is the place I go to accomplish this. It is my place of respite, challenge, and silence. It is a place of plentiful light and pitch black darkness, both of which remind me of Lucia. After her death, we saw an unusual number of bald eagles that winter, so they always remind me of her. Seeing these three eagles made me feel like Lucia was saying “I’m here with you Dad. You took the right path in going for Wine Lake!” [paragraph break] The portage into Wine is a steep but simple up and down affair. I can see right away that Wine is every bit as beautiful as they say it is, and I especially love the multitude of giant white pines and crystal clear water of this secluded lake. I toss an X-Rap over the side for some trolling on my way to camp, but all I catch is a snag which I am able to free myself from with a bit of work. This is my first sense that fishing out of a solo canoe is a difficult affair! At 1:45 P.M., I make landfall at the island campsite. Stepping out of the boat with plenty of daylight left at such a gorgeous site fills me with a new energy. Before I get too far, I sit on the sunning rock at the landing and enjoy my lunch of sweet potato/carrot stew with tomatoes and chicken, while listening to WTIP out of Grand Marais in hopes of catching a weather report. No such luck on the weather, but the folk music adds cheer to an already sunny afternoon. After lunch, I paddle across the lake for firewood and run into a mother lode of perfectly dried cedar and jack pine. [paragraph break] I return to camp and set up my hammock in a grove of gigantic white pines, then process the firewood. I love scavenging for and splitting firewood, so there will be plenty left for the next person to camp here.

Tonight’s supper is unstuffed peppers with ground beef, one of my favorites, but I can’t resist taking a couple casts off the landing with a slip bobber and leech. Soon I realize that I won’t be able to enjoy a campfire, cook supper, and fish all at the same time. I reel in and choose to forgo fishing to relax by a warm fire with my feast. This is one of the best decisions I make all day. A wise surfer once told me that “The best surfer on the water is the one that is having the most fun.” Taking time to relax, have a fire, and to double portage is just more fun to me. Is that “the best way” to do it? I know it is for me! [paragraph break] Paddle distance: 6.8 miles|Travel time: 8 hours, 15 minutes [paragraph break] Portages: 4+1 beaver dam|Portage distance: 532 rods, 1.8 miles|Wine campsite: 5 stars [paragraph break] ~Sawbill Lake, Kelso River, Kelso Lake, Lujenida Lake, Zenith Lake, Frederick River, Frederick Lake, Wine Lake

 



Part 5 of 11


Monday, May 22, 2023 [paragraph break] Into the Wild [paragraph break] I rise before the sun to break camp and get an early start today. The first white throated sparrow whistle of the day shatters the silent black sky at 4:05 AM, letting me know I am not the only one rising early in the wilderness today. The portion of the Louse River I will cover today is the most rugged part of my trip, and I have been preparing for these challenging portages ever since I settled on this route many months ago. [paragraph break] I push off from my wilderness resort on “Wine Island” and into the unknown, literally. The portage to Mug is just a short paddle across the lake, but I can’t locate it, in spite of multiple paddles up and down the north shore. After about 45 minutes of futile searching, I return to the campsite, step out of the canoe, and take a few deep breaths. I dig out my portage notes, and take a solid compass bearing to the portage from the campsite. Somehow, I had been paddling west from the site, when I needed to paddle east. I think that lakes such as Wine with many irregular bays are inherently disorienting, and vow to be more diligent in using my compass today. After locating the river that leads to Mug rapids and falls, I finally discover the portage, right where it was supposed to be, maybe just a bit east of where my McKenzie map had it located. Early on in the portage is a beautiful, strange rock perched on much smaller rocks known as a “dolmen” which was perhaps (incredibly) placed by ancient travelers in this area. The rest of the portage is uneventful with a steep drop down into Mug. Mug is a stunning little lake with many prominent rock features. I hear the waterfall before I see it, and when I do, I know I must detour for a closer look. The triple falls are raging, and I snap a photo or two while maneuvering the canoe very near to them. On my way across Mug, a pair of swans flies over. Getting a bit lost, a dolmen, a waterfall, and swans already today…does it get any better than this? [paragraph break] Mug to Poe is a very short “up and over” bypassing some steep rapids. I snap a photo of some interesting flowering plants to try to identify once I get home (Later identified as Beaked Hazel). Once on the Poe side, I have a snack, observe the swans which landed on Poe, and peel off layers of clothing in anticipation of the tough work ahead of me. [paragraph break] The paddle across Poe goes well enough and I quickly locate the first of the “nasty three” tough portages east of Trail Lake. The large angled, sharp, wet rocks on this portage make for a treacherous landing, and it doesn’t improve much from there. There are several spots where I need to walk through an 18” deep beaver creek as well. I spy a very interesting stiff clubmoss plant growing deep in a rock fissure while on this portage. Once I complete the slog, I am decidedly ready for breakfast and sit down right on the grassy landing to Louse to enjoy some sweet potato porridge, which tastes outstanding after this challenging portage. I am pleased with myself with this portage behind me. Predictably, as soon as I feel that way, I clumsily dump the canoe over when pushing off of the landing into Louse Lake. Fortunately the water is only thigh-deep and no gear is lost. Back to the landing I go to re-combobulate and make sure I have all my gear and my wits about me. And then I’m off again. [paragraph break] Louse Lake is another uneventful paddle, and soon I am tackling the notorious “beaver swamp” portage. My notes mention many travelers struggling with disorientation on this portage, so I am on high alert here. Fortunately, it isn’t too bad for me. Once reaching the swamp, I reload the canoe for about a 2 rod paddle over to the giant 8’ beaver dam. After clearing the dam, it is more “Louse standard” with mud and plenty of branches scraping the canoe but nothing too tough. This portage has many, many wild columbines growing on it. [paragraph break] There is one beaver dam I have to pull over on this river section before Bug. [paragraph break] The portage from Bug to River is muddy but uneventful. [paragraph break] The landing for River-Tool portage is a long flat rock to the right of the rapids. I land and lift my pack out of the canoe and immediately the boat takes off for the middle of the river. Off the rock and into the water I go again, gracefully leaping for the boat before it can get too far away. Given my penchant for this happening, I really need to figure out a reasonable “wet foot” solution for my next trip, because Muck boots aren’t very effective when you fill them with water once or twice per day. [paragraph break] The falls on this portage are powerful and beautiful! There are no words to describe the feeling of discovering something this gorgeous and wild so deep in the wilderness. [paragraph break] I take a wrong turn on Tool (really more of a river than a lake) but quickly discover the error of my ways when the river comes to a dead end. I take a couple wrong turns on the river sections today, winding my way through the water maze. But it’s pretty obvious each time it happens, and it’s not difficult to get myself back on track. Also of note is I find several ticks on me today. Considering how brushy the portages are, I am not surprised. On a more positive note, the portages are all quite easy to find and follow. They’re well traveled enough that when things get a little odd, I can usually see a footprint in the mud to re-assure me. [paragraph break] Tool-Trail marks the last portage of the day, and the last of these “nasty 3” that I’ve been worrying about. This is another straightforward portage, but has a notorious section that dips steeply down to a rushing little creek, then up an even-steeper smooth rock face. Today, this is a non-event, though it appears the rock face becomes quite slick if it is raining. [paragraph break] I’ve been looking forward to staying on Trail Lake for quite some time, due to its remote location. One of the things I love about the Boundary Waters is how each lake has a different character due to the diversity of plant and animal life. In many ways, this lake is on the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to Wine Lake. While Wine was a clear lake with airy, majestic stands of white pine and cedar, the shores of Trail are densely packed with white spruce, jack pine, and balsam fir. I actually enjoy the gnarled bark and needle tufts of jack pine, unlike some folks. I land at the southern campsite to check it out. The fire grate offers a commanding elevated view of the lake, with several friendly jack pines framing the scene. However, I still choose to paddle to the northern site, because I believe the northern bay of Trail will offer the best chance for catching a large pike. Once at the northern site, I unload and investigate. This site is decidedly more brushy with young balsam and spruce. The path to the latrine requires some serious bushwhacking around multiple recently fallen trees, and the fire grate is near the water but faces the wrong way. I set up my chair at the landing and eat a sushi/rice cold soak salad which is below average, and mix up a limeade. Then the wind begins to kick up a bit from the south. When renting the canoe, Matt at Sawbill told me he was wind bound on his first solo trip on the north end of Sawbill. As the wind continues and I find myself fighting brush anytime I want to walk around, my uneasiness grows. I would rather not spend an extra day on this site if I can avoid it! Finally, I decide to pack up all my gear and make a break for the southern site. [paragraph break] In twenty minutes, I’m back at the landing. This site sits behind a point that shelters it from the south wind, and the peaceful waters that surround it are mirrored by the peace I feel in my soul immediately upon landing. As I walk up the hill and begin making camp again, my spirits are buoyed further by the open space in this site, the gorgeous breezy view, and the joy of having this whole lake deep in the woods to myself. I cross to the opposite shore to gather firewood and quickly find plenty of jack pine limbs to stoke tonight’s campfire. On the way to the latrine, I find a fresh pile of moose plums. Supper tonight is scrambled eggs with sausage and salsa, since I had an extra breakfast...delicious! As the wind dies and twilight settles on the wilderness, with the whole lake to myself, I make one last trip down to the lake for an invigorating evening swim in the cold water. The grittiness and challenge of the Louse River gave me all I could handle today…and everything I ever could have wanted. This is my happy place. [paragraph break] Paddle distance: 3.5 miles|Travel time: 8 hours, 30 minutes [paragraph break] Portages: 7+1 beaver dam, 1 beaver swamp|Portage distance: 585 rods, 1.8 miles [paragraph break] Trail campsite south: 4.5 stars|Trail campsite north: 2 stars [paragraph break] ~Wine Lake, Mug Lake, Poe Lake, Louse Lake, Louse River, Bug Lake, Louse River, Tool Lake, Louse River, Trail Lake

 



Part 6 of 11


Tuesday, May 23, 2023 [paragraph break] Nonstop (mis)Adventure [paragraph break] “Well it’s a rainy night in Paris, [paragraph break] And I’m sitting by the Seine, [paragraph break] It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain, [paragraph break] Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine, [paragraph break] Oh but in the morning there’ll be hell to pay, [paragraph break] Somewhere along the line.” [paragraph break] ~Billy Joel, “Somewhere Along the Line” [paragraph break] I awaken in the darkness of pre-dawn to a chorus of spring peepers chirping. While the portages of my remaining travel days are expected to be less difficult, I have plenty of mileage to cover and want to be off the water when the afternoon winds kick up. Camp is packed up quickly and I am on the water at first light.

When driving up, one of my friends I talked to mentioned how if I could get through the first two days of paddling, I would likely feel very confident about the remaining portion of my trip. In reply, I said “Yes, that will be true. And when one gets confident, that’s when everything REALLY goes haywire!” I had no idea how right we both would be. [paragraph break] One way I prepared for this year’s trip was by researching bird songs I was likely to hear in the wilderness. This was a joy of my late grandma, Boots. Growing up, Grandma Boots taught me how to fish, how to slow down and have a conversation, and how to love nature. After constantly hearing the song of the white throated sparrow last year, I became enamored with knowing what birds were singing all around me. I’m sure Grandma Boots is part of that, too…she continues to influence my life in ways that surprise me. One of the advantages to breaking camp so early is the wildlife are more active during the quiet early morning hours. Being late May, the morning bird songs are simply magnificent during these mornings on the water and portage trails. On these first few portages of the day, I recognize the ethereal song of a Hermit Thrush echoing through the woods. Whenever I hear a new, interesting, or unidentified bird song, I make sure to pause and record it on my phone to research at a later time. [paragraph break] There are active beavers on this portion of the river. I see several of them swimming back and forth in front of me, and hear a few others ker-plunking into the water from shore. The river travel here is wider and easier to follow than yesterday, however there are many large rocks just below the surface in the section east of the Louse river rapids. I run through a little beaver dam riffle in this section, and I let out a little “Whoop!” As I feel the canoe pick up just a bit of speed going through. In addition to the beavers, I spy a dark eyed junco hyperactively flitting about near the shore. [paragraph break] On one of the portages along the river just west of Trail is a steep 18-24” step down off of a boulder, but otherwise these portages are relatively straightforward. On another portage, I find a large clump of sweet gale and crush a few leaves in my hands to inhale its pungent aroma. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The landing for the portage around the Louse River “rapids” noted by McKenzie is located on the left (east) side of the rapids, and is a bit rocky. With the higher water levels, I carefully paddle to a suitable spot before disembarking and beginning to portage. The portage requires a walk through some shallow but rapidly moving water over a smooth but not too slick rock. After a short river paddle, the portage into Boze is up next, which is another portage experience that has been “enhanced” by beaver activity. I encounter a gigantic beaver swamp early on in the portage, and follow my notes which say to expect a longer paddle through the swamp. I run through one beaver dam that likely requires a lift over in low water conditions. The landing to exit the swamp is to the right of the large beaver dam at the west end, and is quite difficult, as it is in some current near some large boulders that sit in the swamp just after passing a sheer rock face. [paragraph break] After the swamp, the portage is a lovely one next to several sets of rapids on the river. I’m feeling energetic and confident as I feel the sun shining and hear the rapids churning far below. When I come across a deadfall jack pine across the portage, I take the time to clear the path with my saw. I also spy a colony of Ground Cedar Clubmoss on this portage. It’s not even 9:00 A.M. and I am making good time through these “goodbye” portages on the Louse. On the Boze end, the landing is also a rough one with deep water and some trees that make maneuvering the canoe into the water more difficult. Fortunately by this point, I am quite used to wet feet. Ahead I plan to stop on Boze to investigate the lone campsite and enjoy my breakfast. All is quite well. [paragraph break] On Boze, the portage is to the left of the rapids, and one could easily land just north of the campsite to avoid portaging through the campsite if occupied. Today, the site is open so I stop to eat my breakfast and snoop around the site. Aside from being right on the portage, the site is open and airy with good tent and hammock potential, and the fire grate has an excellent view of the lake. I’d be happy camping here. The portages to the pond and then into Frond are uneventful. I am able to run the 6 rod beaver dam lift over into Frond. Frond Lake ends up being a beautiful surprise. There are so many different birds I hear and see as I paddle west, including more mergansers and a spotted sandpiper bobbing away on shore. The narrow northwest arm of Frond takes quite some time to paddle through and bears more resemblance to a river than a lake, but I am fortunate to only have one short portage around some deadfall to deal with. [paragraph break] All at once, the waters open up before me, and for a moment I feel quite disoriented. Then I realize after spotting a campsite that I have entered Malberg. My confidence soars even further, having officially completed the Louse River! From this point, a logical route is heading south toward the lady chain, making for some lighter travel days to close my trip. But as early as it is in the day and how well I’m feeling, I choose to stick with the more challenging “plan A” of paddling northwest to Fisher Lake for two nights, doing some fishing in the area tomorrow, then heading back to the lady chain for my Sawbill exit. This will make for some long travel days to finish my trip, but the twin siren song of seclusion and fried largemouth bass filets (a fish I actually know how to catch) on Fisher is too strong to resist. [paragraph break] “Well, I fought with a stranger and I met myself… [paragraph break] Guess I could've made it easier on myself [paragraph break] But I, I could never follow [paragraph break] No I, I could never follow” [paragraph break] ~The Chicks, “The Long Way Around” [paragraph break] I approach the northwest corner of Malberg and begin searching for the portage to River, but am greeted with nothing but a wall of alder. After studying my map, I decide I’m too far south and paddle north around a point to discover more of the same…absolutely nothing. Now I’m really befuddled. I tie the canoe up and investigate the point on foot to search for any possible portage opening. Not here, either. I keep taking compass bearings off of a campsite to the east and simply cannot understand how my maps or my mind could be so wrong, especially after a very determined hour of searching. Eventually, I stumble upon another unoccupied campsite that I hadn’t expected to find. From this, I finally deduce that I turned north into the central part of Malberg, not the western part. I’ve been searching the wrong bay all along! At this point, I’ve come to accept that becoming a bit disoriented is part of the experience. Getting lost eats up valuable time and energy, but the feeling of accomplishment and joy that comes from getting “unlost” sure is exhilarating! I paddle back down the bay, then back to the north toward the portage, and am immediately greeted by a fine sandy landing. Once I exit the canoe, I raise my arms in victory at having found it!

[paragraph break]

The adrenaline rush is short-lived. About 25 rods into this 65 rod portage, I come to…yet another beaver swamp. Just when I thought I was done with these! I consult my portage notes, and yep, surprise, this is indeed a swampy one. No problem, I load up for another short swamp crossing, and soon am back walking the portage to Kawishiwi River. At the landing, the river looks a lot smaller than I anticipated, but I check my compass bearing and head north. Within just a few strokes, I have a strange feeling and look to my left to find the continuation of the portage trail again! After getting disoriented, then being surprised by the first swamp, now I’m going to have to unload/load AGAIN to navigate the rest of what I was so sure was going to be the first of several blissfully easy portages! The sheer hilarity of all of this truly makes me laugh out loud. What an adventure this one has been.

[paragraph break]

Fortunately the landing to River is very straightforward and I am again on my way. The wind is picking up a bit now, and I sure wish I had that time back I spent lost on Malberg when it was less windy, especially on this wide open section of river. After spending the last few days on much smaller water, the Kawishiwi River looks huge, and is not a place I would want to be on a windy day.

[paragraph break]

After my Malberg misadventure, I took the time to read through my portage notes for Trapline and Fisher Lakes. Most said that the portage into Trapline is totally unnecessary, and I expect that to be the case today, given the higher water levels of early spring. I bypass the obvious portage landing and keep paddling north into Trapline, dodging a rock or two below the surface. Ahead is a tiny, insignificant riffle to paddle up to gain access to Trapline. But as I draw nearer, it’s clear that I’m not making much headway. “Watch this!” I proclaim to my audience of no one at all as I begin furiously paddling up the riffle. Sure enough, I get right to the middle of the heaviest current before realizing (like some old looney tunes character about to go over a waterfall) that I am making zero progress while paddling with all of my might. Finally I give up my heroic attempt to run the almighty riffle into Trapline and float back down to take a very uneventful 26 rod portage, laughing at myself the entire way. It’s likely I could have just stepped out of the canoe and pulled it over, but that thought never occurred to me. So, two “easy” non-Louse portages down, and both have been total bloopers. And to think, only an hour ago I had raised my arms in mock “victory” thinking the world was my oyster!

[paragraph break]

Trapline is a surprisingly lovely, secluded paddle that reminds me a bit of paddling down the long arm of Frond earlier. I spy a pair of goldeneyes here as well as a large painted turtle basking in the afternoon sun. I consider stopping at the lone campsite to eat lunch, but decide to push on in hopes of making my camp for the night. The portage into Beaver is blissfully uneventful, offering a much needed respite from my comedy of errors. When I pull out onto Beaver, the afternoon winds have the lake whipped up into near-whitecaps. While I’m quite tired and had thought I might spend the next two nights here on Beaver, the southern campsite doesn’t look at all special from the water, and I choose not to investigate further. The portage to Fisher is a bit difficult to find, as there is a false landing exactly where the portage is indicated on my maps, but I had read that this was the case, so I wasn’t too surprised. After briefly investigating the false portage, I place some “X” sticks on it for anyone who might be coming by after me. The actual portage landing is about 1/2 mile paddle further west, on the south shore of Beaver near an island or two. With the chop on the lake and a very long day of travel bloopers behind me, my energy is flagging. I know that portaging into Fisher with its lone campsite is a risk, but the seclusion and bass are calling me in. Immediately, there is a waist high jack pine to deal with across the portage. Too large to walk around, too thick to saw, and too high to portage over. So, I roll my misshapen pack under the log, horse the canoe through the same way, and continue on my merry way. While an inconvenience and another reason to laugh, I see the deadfall as a positive sign that Fisher probably hasn’t seen much traffic recently. After the deadfall, the rest of the portage is easy enough to follow and not too difficult.

[paragraph break]

Fisher Lake is a sight for sore eyes. The shores are littered with beaver chews and this bay is protected from the north winds that had Beaver rocking and rolling. I can see the campsite just across the lake, and it looks open! Again energized, I dip my paddle into the clearest waters I have seen this entire trip and begin to make my way toward the site. But wait! Multiple largemouth bass of decent size are following the boat, right there, clearly visible! I hurriedly pull off to shore to launch a few casts with my Rapala, a plastic tube, and a Jitterbug top water lure. The bass keep swimming around acting interested, but I get zero bites. Since I’m already on shore, I spend some time gathering firewood here to take to camp. Right away, I find a mother lode of dry cedar, and spend an hour in the woods sawing up a prodigious pile of firewood. This has been a long travel day of misadventure, and I will be comfortable in camp tonight! But the park is not done with me yet. There is one more test yet to come. [paragraph break]

“Does anyone know where the love of God goes, [paragraph break] When the waves turn the minutes to hours?” [paragraph break] ~Gordon Lightfoot, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” [paragraph break] My pack has been riding up front in the bow of the canoe for this whole trip, which offers the best stability when traveling with or without a wind, while sacrificing a bit of speed. Since my pack is too wide to lay flat, it sits upright. I load my firewood stash behind the pack, just ahead of the portage yoke. In doing so, I have made two serious miscalculations. One, the wind is blowing much stronger out on the lake than it is in my fishing bay. Two, the firewood is significantly heavier than my pack, moving the trim of my canoe significantly aft. Eager to finally reach camp, I paddle straight for the open site across the lake, yet another error. Once out in the open, the tailwind doesn’t push me toward camp. Instead, it keeps turning the boat broadside to the waves. The aft trim is the culprit, but I don’t know that. I think that if I can slide my pack just a couple inches further back, I will have more steering control. Carefully I reach forward and move the pack back a bit. As I sit back down, the canoe lurches to one side, exacerbated by my heavy pack that is standing upright in the bow. By the grace of God, I avoid tipping over by mere inches. It’s still probably 1/4 mile or a little more to camp, and I paddle with every ounce of survival instinct I have in me. The boat is still extremely difficult to control, but out here, I have few other options. At some point, I gain a small degree of shelter from the wind from a nearby point of land, and paddle madly all the way to the landing. Once there, I frantically toss gear, pack, and firewood out of the canoe, eager to safely set foot on dry land. I am wet. I am exhausted. I am shaken (and shaking). And I am ALIVE. In some ways, more alive than I’ve felt in years. [paragraph break] By the looks of it, I am the first visitor to this campsite this year, since the fire grate has plenty of pine duff in it. The site’s openness and clear view of the lake is a blessing and a curse, since it faces directly into the chilling easterly wind blowing off the lake. With the temps cooling and the skies showing signs of impending rain, I choose to forgo my arrival lunch routine to set up camp. After setting up my hammock, processing firewood, and organizing, I am finally ready to sit and eat my lunch of “Reuben soup” (pastrami, sauerkraut, and grated potatoes). Shockingly, this spartan lunch is delicious! I choose to save half of it, which I then integrate into a hot bowl of chili for a truly soul-warming supper. Dessert is pumpkin spice apples. In spite of a roaring fire and hearty warm food, the wind and drizzle make this the coldest night yet, a far cry from the blissful conditions experienced last night on Trail Lake. Tomorrow I am taking an off day, which my frazzled nerves desperately crave.

[paragraph break] Paddle distance: 8.3 miles|Travel time: 9 hours, 15 minutes [paragraph break] Portages: 10+1 beaver dam+3 beaver swamps|Portage distance: 404 rods, 1.3 miles [paragraph break] Boze campsite: 3 stars|Fisher campsite: 4 stars [paragraph break] ~Trail Lake, Louse River, Boze Lake, Frond Lake, Malberg Lake, River Lake, Trapline Lake, Beaver Lake, Fisher Lake

 



Part 7 of 11


Wednesday, May 24, 2023 [paragraph break] Zero Day [paragraph break] I’m up fairly early this morning and enjoy some pizza grits for breakfast by the fire. It is still cool and windy, so I don’t linger long. The weather, combined with yesterday’s scare out on the lake, both have me feeling a bit low. Initially I had planned to complete a day trip today, fishing on Fisher, Beaver, and Smite Lakes, which all hold much intrigue for me. But I can tell that today is not the day for that, due to the wind, cold, and moisture. [paragraph break] Instead, I turn to my other favorite pastime of gathering and processing firewood. Since this campsite isn’t frequently visited, I find more than enough cedar and jack pine to keep me busy for a couple hours. While processing firewood, I again attempt to hear a report on my weather radio, but have zero luck. To keep my mind company as I split, I tune in an FM station or two, hoping to hear a forecast, but to no avail. After splitting, I have a gorgeous pile of firewood ready to counteract the freshet of wind still blowing into camp. I take my time cooking a pot of garlic couscous with ground beef and tomatoes, and surprise myself by eating the whole pot. While the food has been adequate, delicious, and convenient, I’ve rarely felt full on this trip. After lunch, I spend over an hour catching up my journal and tending to the fire, accompanied by the cheerful songs of vireos, song sparrows, a northern waterthrush, and a black-throated green warbler. For the first time in nearly 24 hours, I feel warm, comfortable, and at peace. [paragraph break] The wind mysteriously dies down about 1 pm, and I begin to get antsy to leave. I stick with my decision to stay put, but the wind continues to be light, and when I look at the map, I realize I have a very long travel day planned tomorrow. I text a friend on my InReach device and he relays to me the forecast, including the all-important wind data. The remaining days of my trip will have less wind than today, as well as warming temperatures. Freezing temps are forecast for tonight. But, my restlessness wins out, and I hastily break camp, figuring I can pull over if it gets too nasty and still be “ahead” for tomorrow’s travel. Just as I’m carrying the last few items down to the water, the gusts begin. Most of the time, the wind is docile. But about every five minutes, a gust angrily blows for a bit. I know for certain that River, Malberg, and Koma will all be roiled with chop and maybe even whitecaps in such gusts, even though Fisher doesn’t look too bad. Also, the wind is now coming from the south, so it will be a direct headwind. Finally I decide that leaving today is simply unwise. Yes, tomorrow will be a long journey to reach Hazel Lake on the lady chain, but I have zero appetite for repeating the mistakes of yesterday. I set my hammock once again and spend the evening by the fire in relatively calm winds, journaling. Tomorrow will be a high mileage day, so I bundle up and turn in early.

Paddle strokes: 0|Pen strokes: Countless|Axe strokes: Many|Bird songs: Innumerable [paragraph break] ~Fisher Lake

 



Part 8 of 11


Thursday, May 25, 2023 [paragraph break] Turning toward home [paragraph break] When I awaken, I immediately hear the beautiful, haunting chorus of wolves howling somewhere across the lake. After recording them on my phone, I finish breaking camp and am paddling through the glassy waters of Fisher in the pre-dawn twilight.

The sun rises as I paddle through Beaver, where I’m briefly accompanied by a croaking raven. I make short work of Trapline, and am able to paddle down the sneaky riffle that vexed me going upstream two days prior. It’s a beautiful morning for paddling, but I am eager to make time while the winds are favorable, especially through the wide open expanses of Malberg, Koma, and Polly. Right away, I feel the headwind slowing me down on River, but I soon reach the dreaded double beaver swamp portage to Malberg. Now that I know what’s coming, I make quick work of it, though the cold morning air has my hands working just a bit slower this morning when loading and unloading. On Malberg, I speak to another human for the first time in four days. Some men are set up on a southerly campsite above the lake, enjoying their morning coffee by the fire, and hail as I pass. They say they caught a few walleyes last night, the first of their trip. It’s been over two hours since I left Fisher, and my stomach is positively rumbling as I dream of supplementing my evening meal with a fried fish filet. Even though my eyes are glued to the map, I battle a bit of confusion in finding the correct bay to turn south toward Koma. But after a few minutes I figure it out, and once at the landing, spend a few moments taking in the waterfall rushing into Malberg.

After a very straightforward portage, I reach Koma Lake, and another paddle across wide open water awaits me. The winds remain light, so I make steady progress. At the landing, I wait to let a group of 2 or 3 canoes pass, then continue down the portage to the first of the Polly ponds. I’m very hungry by this point and want to stop to eat my breakfast, but one look at my map shows that Polly is the last of the big water I’ll face today, and I want to keep moving to avoid dealing with too much wind there. While the prospect of windy paddling keeps me moving, I nearly always find something interesting on each portage, especially during my empty handed walk back for the canoe. On the portage from Koma to the first pond, I see a tree that is thick with white flowers, which I later learn to be a Saskatoon. I also snap a quick photo of an interesting plant that I later learn to be a twinflower.

Also, somewhere in these pond portages, I spot a lovely little common blue violet in full bloom. This portage also “features” a huge chest high tree that required crawling under. I watch with amusement as another canoeist deftly balances the canoe on top of the tree, scoots under, then easily mounts the canoe back onto his shoulders to continue, and attempt to do the same.

The ponds themselves don’t have any remarkable features, though a two foot garter snake suddenly slithering across the path between the two ponds jolts me from any lethargy I’m feeling. After the ponds, I reach Polly and notice the wind is blowing steadily from the south, but not too strongly. I’m thankful that my route toward the Phoebe River takes me down the more sheltered eastern end of the lake, and hug the shore as much as possible to lessen the impact of the wind and waves. All of the larger stretches of water today (Kawishiwi, Malberg, Koma, Pollly) have surprised me with how vast they are, and how quickly the wind can negatively affect my travel. I am very, very glad I didn’t paddle away from Fisher yesterday in the gusty winds of the late afternoon!

As I paddle south down Polly, a couple calls out to me as they pack up their campsite to ask where I’m headed, and I say I’m going to Hazel today. The portage into the Phoebe River has a rocky landing and an uphill start, and then another (even longer) garter snake startles me as I carry the pack across. Otherwise this is a relatively easy path, but I am very happy to return with the canoe and finally allow myself a well-earned breakfast break to the side of the landing. As much as I love the beauty of Boundary Waters lakes, traveling solo as a rookie in the wind has given me a great appreciation for river travel! The couple I saw on Polly portages into the river, also bound for Hazel. They probably sensed a bit of weariness on my part and offered to share their campsite on Hazel if need be when I got there, which is so kind of them. We chat for a bit about our trips before they paddle onward down the river.

The four short sections of the Phoebe River between Polly and Hazel are wide and easily navigable. The portages, however, are a bit rough. The first portage on the river is short but features a challenging landing on a sloping rock right beneath a large rapids with some current to deal with. Portage number two also has a rocky landing, and some rocky areas to deal with near the end, which is merely a prelude to the nasty landing that drops you off in a significant current with multiple large rocks to dodge. This would be difficult walking in lower water, though it isn’t much fun in high water either. The third portage isn’t too bad, but also has a rocky landing. The final portage for the day into Hazel is unremarkable for a change, and I am very eager to reach a campsite and rest. Of course, I’ve arrived just in time for my afternoon tussle with the wind. The couple I met previously is settled in the site nearest the portage, so I need to make my way safely across the increasing whitecaps to the eastern site, which appears to be open. The presence of my portage friends from earlier in the day eases my anxiety just a bit, though I know I’ll likely have an audience for this final leg of today’s journey. Within four strokes of paddling away from the portage, I know I’m in for a rodeo. Unlike my experience on Fisher though, I know the problem and resolve to fix it, immediately. In calm morning waters, I had been traveling with my canoe pack further aft near the yoke for improved speed. But in these windy conditions, I knew it needed to be as far forward as possible for stability. I paddled near the shore and hopped right out into knee deep water to re-adjust the load, then continued across the lake, staying close to the shore until I felt confident enough to make my run for the site. The paddle goes smoothly, and I can’t help but feel accomplished at how much I’ve learned about paddling in the wind as a solo canoeist.

My home on Hazel features a lovely smooth sunning rock by the water, which I quickly take advantage of, enjoying my afternoon limeade and lunch of chicken curry quinoa while my bare feet dry out. After lunch, I struggle to find much firewood in spite of paddling to several secluded shores near the site. But I am able to make it work and soon return to set up my hammock in an open area between a spruce and a cedar. Overall the campsite is a bit rough and brushy with a mix of cedar, spruce, and jack pine. But the fire grate is nicely situated near the lakeshore offering a panoramic view of Hazel, which scores high in terms of seclusion. This is the buggiest site I’ve camped at so far, but fortunately sleeping off the ground in my hammock helps avoid the worst of the ants and other insects. After another evening journaling by the fire, it’s time for bed. When gazing at the map, I am surprised to see that while there will be fewer portages tomorrow, it will have more portage rods and paddle distance than any other on my trip thus far. This necessitates another early departure to avoid wind and to arrive at the more trafficked areas near Sawbill early in the afternoon on the Friday of Memorial Weekend. Good night, sweet wilderness.

Paddle distance: 10.8 miles|Travel time: 9 hours, 55 minutes [paragraph break] Portages: 12+2 beaver swamps|Portage distance: 675 rods, 2.1 miles [paragraph break] Hazel campsite: 3.5 stars [paragraph break] ~Fisher Lake, Beaver Lake, Trapline Lake, River Lake, Malberg Lake, Koma Lake, Polly Ponds, Lake Polly, Phoebe River, Hazel Lake

 



Part 9 of 11


Friday, May 26, 2023 [paragraph break] One More Big Day [paragraph break] By now I’ve settled into my morning routine of pre-packing as much as possible the night before, then steadily breaking camp under the light of my headlamp in order to be paddling as the sun rises. This morning the first white throated sparrow breaks the silence just before 4 A.M., and I am paddling in chilly, calm air on the glassy waters of Hazel Lake at 5 A.M. The birds sing their morning chorus, and a fish or two splashes near the banks. I try my best to paddle quietly and smoothly, with the goal of limiting my waterborne footprints to a tiny ripple and the lightest of splashes as my paddle slices into the water. I of course fail as my paddle occasionally bangs the gunwale and the sound echoes like a rifle shot off of the opposite shore. But it’s fun to try.

All too soon I come upon the 140 rod portage out of Hazel, which is another straightforward walk in the woods. At the landing on the Knight side, with the sun now rising above the trees, a song sparrow cheerfully greets this warm morning. It is a positively idyllic start to this early summer day in the wilderness. Gazing at the still river winding through the bog, I am eager for the prospect of more wildlife encounters this morning. Less than 100 yards after I put in, I encounter an extended rock garden of boulders that require me to get out of the canoe to shuffle, slip, and slide my way through the rocks. [paragraph break] The rest of the river passes by uneventfully until reaching the narrow section just above Knight Lake. There is a beaver dam and a rapids here with an uncharted portage around it. Neither landing is clear, and both are slippery, rocky, messes, with a muddy bushwhack in between. Both “landings” are affected by the strong current flowing through the rapids. In short, this would be an easy spot for a soloist to turn an ankle, lose the boat, or both…It is easily the most difficult beaver dam of the entire trip. The fact that it came as a surprise to me just made it that much more fun…maybe?

Knight is an odd, marshy looking lake. I would’ve liked to check out the single campsite here, but it isn’t on the main route of travel, so I paddle on toward Phoebe. [paragraph break] The winds are still dead calm when I paddle into the wide open waters of Phoebe, its entire surface a perfect mirror of reflections. It is on Phoebe that I first notice thousands of tiny bugs that appear to be launching from the surface of the water, flying briefly into the air, then falling to the water again. They glimmer in the golden morning sunlight like fireflies, truly an unforgettable sight. Over the past couple days, I’ve noticed more black flies and mosquitoes in the evening and morning hours, and after witnessing this hatch, I suspect they are only going to get worse! [paragraph break] The portages through this section of the Phoebe River are uneventful, save for one tough landing near a rapids. One other portage walks along a series of powerful waterfalls that I pause to take photos of. As I reach the landing for the final river-to-river portage, I hear a rapid cackling above me and look to see two bald eagles land in a tree just above me, which again brings to mind my daughter Lucia. As I traverse the portage, I hear a great deal of splashing in the shallow, fast-running stream to my left. When I draw nearer to investigate, I am stunned by the number of large fish in the current, facing upstream, waiting for the next insect to make its way down the current. They look like trout to me (rainbows? Brook trout?) but I can’t be sure. I’ve never seen this kind of behavior from a fish before, but it helps me to understand the allure of fly fishing for trout in tiny streams!

I reach the landing on Grace Lake just after 9 AM. Grace is a perfect example of what I would call a “classic Boundary Waters lake.” In my mind, that means clear water, numerous islands and bays for exploring, and plenty of white pines. The lake is very quiet this morning, and I’d love to spend time exploring it further someday. However, I need to cover some more ground today, and I have a decision to make. I am certain that the route through Ella is more rugged and secluded, based on my research. But in all my time spent studying the map, I have always been intrigued by Wonder and Sunhigh Lakes just south of Alton, figuring either would make for an interesting, secluded final night of my trip, and would maybe even offer a chance of finally catching a northern pike. Each day, something has gotten in my way of reaching camp early in the afternoon, and the goal of “Wonder by one” begins echoing in my mind. I stop for my breakfast break at a campsite on the south shore of Grace, and by the time I finish my breakfast, I’ve settled on taking the long portage directly into Beth Lake in order to reach Wonder as soon as I can. Perhaps after a nearly a week of “The Long Way Around,” I’m ready for a bit of a respite. [paragraph break] The portage to Beth is certainly long with a few hills, but is well-maintained and the travel is easy. I cross paths with several groups going the other way, and the landing at Beth is the busiest one I’ve seen on this trip by far. Beth is nearly as lovely as Grace, just with a smaller overall size and far fewer interesting islands and bays. A light easterly wind blows in my face as I make steady progress to the east end. Once at the portage landing, I meet two older gentlemen (Brent and Rick) from Tennessee who are portaging and spending time checking out the cliffs near the landing. One of them is very talkative and we accompany each other back and forth as we double portage into Alton. [paragraph break] I haven’t had such a discussion all week, and this small instance of “re-entry” into normal social life is more jarring than I expected. Throughout my life, most would classify my personality as extroverted. Much of my time while home is spent surrounded by people and family, and there is always something to talk about, always another activity to do. At work, I meet new people nearly every day, and have little trouble interacting with people from all walks of life. However, especially since the pandemic, I am more and more comfortable with quietly spending time alone, exercising, reading, or going about the day-to-day business that is required to keep family life rolling along. Now, nearly at the end of my journey, I am astonished at how quickly the time has passed. Surprisingly, with all this alone time and “space to think,” I’ve hardly thought of my normal life at all during this trip. Instead, my mind has been fully engaged with the beautiful, simply engaging tasks that make up a wilderness canoe trip. Between feeble attempts at the perfect j-stroke, I’ve never stopped admiring the plant and animal life around me. The elegant beauty of navigating by map and compass is something I never tire of. While in camp, few tasks fill me with more sense of accomplishment than the sight of a beautiful pile of freshly split dried cedar and a well-pitched hammock. Quietly journaling next to a crackling fire as night falls has become the perfect end to each day in the wilderness. Why these things are so fulfilling to me, I don’t know, and don’t have to know. For now, I am at peace soaking up each and every moment exactly as it is. [paragraph break] The portage landing on the Alton side is also very busy, but soon I am on my way into the slightly choppy waters of this giant lake. I again become disorientated for a moment and turn one bay too early in my search for the portage to Wonder, but figure it out and press on. Once I reach the southeastern bay of Alton, I still can’t find the portage where it’s noted on my map, and remain puzzled. Fortunately, I meet Connie and Jim, who been to the Boundary Waters 35-40 times, and they are looking for the same portage. Eventually, we all find it in the southeastern corner of Alton. They are simply planning to walk the portage with their kids for a picnic excursion, so I remain hopeful that the Wonder campsite will be open. This portage is 200 rods and slightly overgrown with a gentle hill or two, but still quite easy to follow. Before I launch into Wonder, I pause with Connie and Jim and their kids to share details of our trips and family lives. While I’m still anxious to head for the campsite, the ginger snap they give me from their picnic basket tastes absolutely wonderful after covering 800 portage rods over the past 7 hours. [paragraph break] The afternoon winds blow directly in my face as I paddle to the long awaited final campsite of my trip. And then, surprise of surprises…it’s occupied. When planning my trip, I figured that the lowly 1 star site on Sunhigh might be a good spot to spend my final night, but I decide against paddling Plouff Creek into Sunhigh. I’ve been blessed with beautiful, wide open campsites on this trip, and greatly appreciate a nice view, strong hammock trees, and minimal brushiness. Also, I want to be on the road headed home tomorrow early in order to avoid a lengthy solo drive extending late into the night. With only a smidge of reluctance, I return to the portage to Alton, where I hope to find a tidy site much closer to my Sawbill exit point. “Done by one?” Foiled again. But maybe, just maybe, I can secure a site on Alton before 3 pm. I again hustle my gear across the Wonder portage, feeling surprisingly energized knowing that this truly is the final long portage of the trip, and of this day. And what greets me on the northern end but my old friends, wind and waves. With the canoe trimmed for another windy paddle, I make my way up the eastern shore of Alton, finding every campsite I pass empty. My goal is the site nearest the short portage to Sawbilll, and thankfully, it is also open. [paragraph break] After securing the canoe, it is a long uphill walk into a spacious site with multiple signs of overuse. There are virtually zero small branches in reach on any of the trees, as they’ve all been snapped or hacked off. This makes hanging the water filter a bit difficult, but eventually I make do. There are several spacious tent pads so I have little trouble finding a place for my hammock. With dry, warm conditions forecast for tonight, I choose to take a chance and don’t even put up my tarp tonight. There isn’t a great view of the lake from the site, but the kitchen and fire grate area offers plenty of open space to work. [paragraph break] Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure…”~Mark 6:31 [paragraph break] When I set up my chair in a sunny spot with a marginal lake view for my afternoon lunch, I hear a sound I’ve never heard before. It seems to be coming from above me, in the trees: the unmistakable whining hum of many thousands of mosquitoes and black flies. After spraying on a bit of DEET, they fortunately don’t bother me much, though I do get to learn what it feels like to be bitten by a black fly for the first time. Just two mornings ago, I woke to freezing temperatures and wolves howling on Fisher Lake. From this sunny vantage point in the bright sun on the warmest day of my trip, with the insects whining above me, it feels like the very first day of summer. During this trip, the school year ended, and summer sports practices have already begun. There will soon be wheat to harvest, 4-H projects to help prepare, and summer camps to pack for. Each year is so different from the last, each one a blessing in its own special way. From this spot, it seems I am sitting “above the world” and watching time itself change before my very eyes. Perhaps more than any other reason, this is why canoe trips to the Boundary Waters are so important to me. Exploration and adventure such as this can’t merely be read about, listened to, or viewed on the internet. It must be lived, in its own time, at its own pace, and on its own unpredictable terms. With ever-increasing demands on my time, I can’t possibly know how many more times I will be able to take such a trip. But isn’t a week’s worth of simply contemplative moments such as this one worthy of the great sacrifice it takes to make it happen? For me, the answer is a positively resounding YES. [paragraph break] With lunch consumed and the choppy lake conditions, I briefly consider not gathering wood for a fire tonight. But with it being the last night, and the omnipresent horde buzzing above me, I know I will take comfort in one last campfire. Wood isn’t easy to find around here, but eventually I find a dead cedar on a nearby shoreline that will suffice. [paragraph break] After returning to camp to finish setup, split wood, and prepare supper, I hear a loud cackling nearby and look to see a vibrantly colored pileated woodpecker in a nearby tree. In mere seconds, it flies away, and does not return. So much of life is made up of these tiniest of moments. How many such moments do I miss, never to return again? As I journal by the fire in the darkness, this is something I keep coming back to. On this solo trip, I have been forced to live each moment to its fullest, simply because I am the only one around to deal with any situation that arises. Rather than worry about the future or what “might” happen, I’ve fully locked in to what “is” happening. And in doing so, each moment has been experienced to the greatest degree possible, treasured and cherished as one might value a seemingly insignificant trinket from their long-forgotten past. How can I take this attitude home, where the joys of today are so often clouded by the specter of tomorrow’s unknowable challenges? How can I give more fully of myself to each moment this year, and to my family with whom I share them with? [paragraph break] Night falls completely, and my final campfire is now ashes. Less than two miles away is my humble Honda Civic, my re-entry vehicle into “normal life” as I know it. I can’t help but feel a twinge of trepidation as I turn in for the night. But I am exhausted, content, and at peace in a way that only comes at the end of a long, difficult journey. Is there anything better in the world?

[paragraph break] Paddle distance: 9.6 miles|Travel time: 10 hours [paragraph break] Portages: 9 + 1 awful beaver dam|Portage Distance: 1042 rods, 3.2 miles [paragraph break] Alton campsite: 3.5 stars [paragraph break] ~Hazel Lake, Phoebe River, Knight Lake, Phoebe Lake, Phoebe River, Grace Lake, Beth Lake, Alton Lake, Wonder Lake

 



Part 10 of 11


Saturday, May 27, 2023 [paragraph break] Back to Reality [paragraph break] I rise before the sun once again to pack up camp and am on the water at first light. For the first time ever, I am compelled to don my headnet to ward off the mosquitoes. Aside from this minor inconvenience, my paddle up the eastern shore of Alton to the 30 rod portage into Sawbill is a peaceful one. [paragraph break] This portage is as easy as they come, and on the Sawbill end I spy a priceless treasure in the woods: A gigantic, dry, flat slab of birch bark. During the trip, I am always on the hunt for birch bark laying on the portage paths for evening fire starter. But even more valuable to me are pieces such as this one, which I save in a special, semi-safe and dry corner of my portage pack to take home. During the year, when I need to write a special note of encouragement or a thank you, I can easily cut a piece of birch bark to the appropriate size and shape, write on it, and send a note that has a little more “character” to it. When I send a note with my heart behind it, I also send a tiny piece of this place which my heart loves. [paragraph break] Soon the Sawbill Lake landing is in sight, and I officially step on land and out of the Boundary Waters at 7:10 AM. Of course, in the spirit of how so many landings of this trip have gone, I don’t secure the canoe quickly enough after doing so, and make an impromptu “re-entry” into Sawbill Lake to snag my wayward canoe, washing out the inside of my boots one last time for good measure. I snap a photo by the sign at the landing to document the end of my trip, and soon am joined by another solo paddler just beginning his trip today. He also has four kids back home in the Twin Cities area and we have a wonderful chat about family life, hammocks (he makes his own), and his trip this weekend. He is planning to spend time on Alton and I pass on that most of the sites were open, as well as encourage him to take a tour of the nearby Kelso River that I so enjoyed at the beginning of my trip. This is his first solo too, and I often wonder how his trip turned out. [paragraph break] “Well I never seem to do it [paragraph break] Like anybody else [paragraph break] Maybe someday, someday [paragraph break] I’m gonna settle down [paragraph break] If you ever wanna find me I can still be found [paragraph break] Taking the long way around” [paragraph break] ~The Chicks, “Taking the Long Way Around” [paragraph break] After my final portage back to the car and dropping off the canoe at Sawbill, I enjoy a hot shower, then briefly peruse the Sawbill gift shop and let Matt know just a few details of what was an absolutely incredible week in the wilderness. I pull onto the Sawbill Trail to begin my long southerly trek home, and for this brief moment in time, there is nothing more to plan, no more portages to research, and no concern over how windy the afternoon will be. And yet, it doesn’t feel like the journey is truly over. When I ventured deep into the remote heart of this untamed wilderness, I didn’t fully realize how much this place would become a part of my wild and unseen heart. During this week where I was (often literally) immersed in its waters, surrounded by its chorus of birds, and warmed by its fire, I felt fully free to become an ancient, nearly forgotten version of myself. I entered the woods as a weary soul, and then tapped into a source of seemingly boundless energy, enlivened by the majesty of the park and the sheer beauty of each moment. This rediscovery was borne of the challenges that I had to face in the wild…and now this very rediscovery challenges me anew. How can I bring my truest, most “fully alive” self to the difficulties I need to take on in my day-to-day life? How can I bring this boundless energy home to my family, where it can directly benefit those that matter the most to me? I suppose the best answer is that, just like a boundary waters trip…it must be directly lived out, practiced, and fought for, one moment at a time. There will be failures, successes, and seemingly interminable moments of mundanity. But, in life and in the Boundary Waters, I plan to keep rising with the sun to face the challenges ahead. Because the journey is truly worth taking “The Long Way Around.” [paragraph break] Paddle distance: 1.8 miles|Travel time: 2 hours [paragraph break] Portages: 1|Portage distance: 29 rods, 0.1 mile [paragraph break] Sawbill General Store and Shower: 5 stars [paragraph break] ~Alton Lake, Sawbill Lake

 



Part 11 of 11


Epilogue, final takeaways, stats, and gear notes: [paragraph break] -I love to travel. The toughest day mentally for me was the “zero day” in camp on Fisher Lake. Especially since it was so cool and windy. Ideally, I would have spent more time leisurely exploring Fisher and neighboring lakes that day, but it just wasn’t in the cards. [paragraph break] -I enjoyed the river sections of my trip far more than I expected, due to the seclusion, wildlife, and smaller water. [paragraph break] -The portages on the Louse River were physically demanding, but never too tough to find or follow. The beaver swamp portages are the most disorienting and I highly recommend doing your homework on those! [paragraph break] -I also felt the homework I spent learning some basic bird songs over the winter paid dividends. This greatly enhanced the experience as the songbirds were always singing! [paragraph break] -The sunrise departures from camp were challenging, but allowed for the absolute best travel and wildlife viewing conditions. On my next trip I will plan for slightly shorter travel days to allow more time for camp chores and relaxation, and therefore more time for SLEEP! [paragraph break] -The time I spent in the backyard in March perfecting my hammock set paid major dividends in terms of excellent sleep while on the trip. Without a mentor, this took me a good bit of fiddling to figure out, but now I’ll never sleep any other way in the woods! [paragraph break] -I plan to bring a standard size portage pack next year that will be narrow enough to lay flat in the canoe in order to help improve the trim. [paragraph break] -Dehydrating food at home was an incredible amount of work. But the convenience of having a ready to eat, nutritious, hot meal in the thermos at all times was unbeatable. The food was great, but next time I will pack a bit more, especially considering how poor of a fisherman I am. Last minute additions of cheez-its, cheese, and summer sausage to the food pack really saved the day and gave me a hearty snack to look forward to each evening while boiling water for supper. Due to the heavy travel days and not quite enough food, I lost 14 pounds off my already thin frame while on the trip. [paragraph break] -I need to find a better footwear solution. It is all too easy to end up with a boot full of water (and thereafter a wet boot for the remainder of the trip), so I plan to purchase some sort of sturdy footwear for wet foot landings for my next trip. Even though the water was cold and my feet were nearly always wet, I had no trouble keeping them warm in my wool socks. [paragraph break] -Fishing on a solo trip is supremely difficult, especially for a novice like me on a trip with as much travel as this one had. At the end of the day, getting back into the canoe, rigging up my anchor bag, and paddling out into windy conditions for uncertain fishing just didn’t appeal to me as much as the joy I took in processing firewood and sitting by the fire. In spite of keeping my fishing pole strapped inside the boat with a lure wrap, I was surprised at how often the line became entangled around any imaginable object. [paragraph break] -Paddle sizing is tricky. I am very thankful I had the shorter 52” spare paddle, because that ended up being the only paddle I used for the trip. I will be shortening my carbon paddle and re-attaching the grip before my next trip. [paragraph break] Grand total stats: [paragraph break] Paddle distance- 48.3 miles|Travel time: 52 hours [paragraph break] Portages: 43 + 8 beaver dams + 6 beaver swamps|Portage distance: 3307 rods, 10.3 miles (about 30 total miles walked on portage trails when accounting for double portaging) [paragraph break] Lakes/rivers visited: 36 + several unnamed ponds

 


Routes
Trip Reports
a
.
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
.
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
x
Routes
Trip Reports
fd
hgc
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports