BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
March 26 2023
Entry Point 39 - Baker Lake
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1497 feet
Summary: A 5-day loop from Baker up the Temperance lakes to Cherokee, and back through Sawbill and Smoke lakes back to Baker. A fairly difficult trip.
Day 0: We drove up from Stillwater in the morning and camped at one of the 5 walk-in campsites at Baker Lake, and it was nice.
Day 1 (Baker to S. Temperance) - A beautiful day, we decided to paddle all the way to South Temperance the first day which was a great paddle with easy portages except for the last one. We picked the campsite on top of a huge rock that was close to the middle of the lake. Tried fishing some but no luck
Day 2 (Rest) - In the night, we encountered the worst storm of the entire season. While we were there 19 people had to be rescued from the BWCA. We had about 50mph straightline winds, and I'm still surprised that the huge tent we had stood up to it. We slept in and took a rest day because of the intense winds. Amazingly beautiful sunset.
Day 3 (S. Temperance to Cherokee) - We left as early as we could to beat the heat, but it was no good. The lengthy, hilly portages were challenging and by the last portage we were pretty beat. We overpacked and single portaged which led us to speedier exhaustion. Still amazing weather. North Temperance was a beaut- I wish we had stayed there instead of South. We took the southeasterly facing campsite on Cherokee on the southeastern skinny island. Neat little site.
Day 4 (Cherokee to Sawbill) - Left a little later in the day but it was ok. We took our time going down the river letting out of the southwest part of Cherokee and it was a great area. BEWARE: The area between Ada and Skoop Lakes appears to be floatable, but a dam built recently has made the portion impossible to float. Be prepared for a long portage through muck and water. A guy that we saw there said he had been going to the BWCA for 40 years at least once per year and it was the worst portage he had ever seen. By the time we got to Sawbill it was pretty hot. We paddled all the way down to the site next to the portage onto Smoke.
Day 5 (Sawbill to Baker) - Cooler, cloudier weather for the first time on the trip. We were pretty hungry (I underpacked food a little and I felt really bad) and we were taunting each other with vivid descriptions of the burgers we were going to eat ASAP after getting out. We paddled back to Baker and returned our gear to Sawtooth outfitters.
Overall great route.
Maiden voyage exploring the Temperance River flowage
May 23, 2014
Number of Days:
Last night, we made it up to Sawbill Outfitter’s in time to secure our permit. Furthermore, we had spent the evening at the small Baker Lake campground, which provided us a substantial advantage for getting an early start this morning. [paragraph break]
As forecasted, it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day. Since this was our first trip with our new canoe, initially we had a minor quandary trying to figure out how to best load the packs & gear. Vickie quickly devised a viable solution with Aurora sitting facing Daddy. Almost straight away, she was riding at ease in the lap of luxury.[paragraph break]
As we approached our first portage, there were 2 sets of mergansers patrolling the pool where the rapids wash out into Baker Lake. This is a short, very easy portage. So, even though the water was high, we gave no thought to lining or walking the canoe up these rapids.[paragraph break] There were several ‘fallen soldiers’ from the ’99 storm along this trail. We stopped to pay homage to some of these impressive old sentinels of the forest. [paragraph break]
The end of the portage put us back on the water precariously close to the head of the rapids. We walked the canoe up river a ways to forestall any chance of getting sucked back down the whitewater chute. Even having taken this precaution, with the water levels being so high, we struggled against the current in a couple of spots further up river, but, eventually made it through to Peterson Lake.[paragraph break]
The 3 rod portage between Peterson & Kelly lakes wasn’t even necessary. In fact, if I hadn’t been through the area before, I might not have even known we paddled right over it.[paragraph break] Once out on the lake, there was a gregarious pair of loons greeting us. Aurora was fascinated with her new diving feathered friends, so we lingered awhile before moving on. Our tentative plan was to try & get the campsite near the Jack lake portage. Still, we traced the eastern shoreline to give the campsites there a cursory examination and determine availability if we needed to backtrack.[paragraph break]
All the southernmost sites on Kelly Lake were open. So we paddled on with reassured confidence knowing we could claim one of these campsites by retracing our route if needed. As we entered the narrows, unmistakable evidence of the ’99 windstorm was still perceptible along the high hillsides. As fate would have it, the site near the Jack Lake portage was occupied. Since we’d gotten such an early start and had made good progress thus far, a quick decision to continue pushing north was agreed upon.[paragraph break]
The 72 rod portage into Jack starts out as a rocky jumble. Eventually the frequency of annoying protruding rocks dwindles and the trail becomes a very nice walk in the woods, complete with a substantial length of boardwalk near the end.[paragraph break]
This would be the first real portage (the very short Baker ~ Peterson portage not withstanding) where we would let Aurora go somewhat on her own. She had her own backpack, which she was determined to carry. Vickie also attached some bells to her so we could always hear where she was if she ever got too far ahead. [paragraph break] She did stumble and trip once on the boardwalk, but, for the most part she did an exemplary job of negotiating the portage. And showed no inclination to wander off the trail or get too far ahead, or behind, whomever she started crossing the trail with. Our Little Miss Independent![paragraph break]
Just west, off of the Jack Lake landing is a semblance of a trail leading back to the Jack Lake Mine. Since it was still quite early in the day, we felt compelled to explore.[paragraph break]
It was probably about 50 yards back in the woods from the portage landing on Jack Lake. In fact, with the leaves not yet fully filled in, Jack Lake was just barely visible from the entrance to the mine.[paragraph break]
In her book, ‘Sawbill’, Mary Alice Hanson identifies the person who dug the mine as local silver prospector Bill Plouff. He was the youngest son of the Plouff family. (The small creek that crosses the Sawbill Trail was named after this family.) Having a cabin on Kelly Lake, he also served as a local guide to fishermen in this area during the 20’s & 30’s. Obviously he never hit pay dirt, and the mine was abandoned. There are, however, several rusty artifacts left behind in and around the mine[paragraph break]
This was also an incredibly cool spot to explore in the literal sense. There was still some snow and ice inside and near the entrance, so the cave interior served as a great place to take reprieve from the intensifying heat of the day. [paragraph break]
Back out on Jack Lake we ran across another canoe trying to negotiate (what appeared to be) a washed out beaver dam at the southern pinch point on the lake. We were able to paddle right over without any issues, and exchanged greetings with the Father/Son tandem who also kindly informed us that both sites on Jack were vacant.[paragraph break]
Once past the pinch point, the lake opened up to reveal multiple shoreline rock formations, as well as a few small islands and less densely forested areas. This was a beautiful contrast to the thickly forested shorelines of the preceding chain of lakes we’d just paddled through. [paragraph break]
On the map, the peninsula site looked inviting. Although, once there, Vickie didn’t like the looks of the southern landing, so we paddled around to the northern side with hopes of a more accommodating access. Those hopes were soon dashed, so we returned to the south side & climbed out for a closer inspection. A stone staircase led the way up to an elevated large grassy site providing somewhat obstructed vistas to the north & south (where there were a few small islands). The fire grate was situated facing west, which didn’t afford a view of the lake. But, overall, we felt it was an above average site and, more importantly, we knew we wouldn’t do any better unless we committed to traveling all the way to South Temperance Lake.[paragraph break]
As we began setting up camp, it was our good fortune to find a fuzzy little caterpillar crawling through the grassy jungle floor of camp. This provided just enough of a diversion to keep Aurora occupied while I got busy setting up the tarp & hammocks, and Vickie went about getting the tent setup and situated. [paragraph break] Once camp was up, it was still too early for supper. So, while I snuck away to the hammock, Vickie took Aurora out to explore the perimeter of the campsite. Prior to departing, Aurora had found a perfect walking stick down by the landing to aide her in this endeavor. Of course, donning her backpack was an essential requirement for embarking on such an adventure as well. [paragraph break]
There was a pleasant cooling breeze recurrently easing its way through camp as I lay in the hammock - half conscious, lost in relaxing, hopeful thoughts on how the remainder of the trip might go. Sometime later, I was fully aroused when Vickie informed me that Aurora had something she needed to show me. In their exploration of the lakeshore areas just outside of camp, they had stumbled across an old moose skull which Aurora was now proudly displaying. Quite naturally photographs were taken……. MANY photographs! As this would become a daily, and nightly, ritual for the remainder of the trip. Pushing the capacity limits on our memory cards to new all-time highs[paragraph break]
It was now nearing supper time. So I crawled out of the hammock and got a fire started. While waiting for a nice bed of coals to materialize, I processed some more firewood. Under the shady sanctuary of the CCS tarp, Aurora contentedly entertained herself while Vickie prepared the potatoes to delectably complement our rib eye steaks.[paragraph break]
After supper, with satisfyingly full bellies, we lounged under the tarp totally absorbing the languid pleasures that only canoe country can provide. I might also add that this was done in a bug free environment. Things had gone well, and it had been a very good day. So, hitting the sacks with redoubled optimism, we fell fast asleep looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.
Baker Lake, Peterson Lake, Kelly Lake, Jack Lake
Another brilliant morning! We all slept in a little, simply because we could. Vickie finally crawled out first to get her coffee going, while I stayed in the tent to wait for Aurora to wake up.[paragraph break]
It was scrambled eggs & bacon for breakfast. Vickie spiced up the eggs with some dehydrated peppers & mushrooms and I cut up part of an onion too. Meanwhile, Aurora had oatmeal & hot chocolate.[paragraph break]
Most of the deciduous trees & plants were just beginning to sprout their green foliage, so it made for a largely barren landscape in some areas. Still, there were some small vestiges of life showing through - if a person just looked close enough.[paragraph break] >
After the breakfast dishes were done, we started preparations for our day trip. Once we were loaded up, we set course to check out the big rockslide on Brule Lake.[paragraph break]
We paddled north towards the 12 rod Weird Lake portage. The start of this portage began at the base of a very scenic set of rapids. There was an enormous boulder out in the middle of the river, which reminded me of an intriguingly similar scene on the route to Malberg Lake.[paragraph break]
Looking at my Voyageur map, I couldn’t help but notice that both boulders were practically on the same longitudinal plane. Don’t know what -or even if there is any-significance that could be derived from this fact. I just felt it was a strangely curious set of circumstances.[paragraph break]
Beyond the huge boulder, the entirety of this portage is quite picturesque. Closer to the Weird lake end there is a little granite island crowned with a mature jack pine that has chutes of whitewater on either flank perpetually generating a root beer hued foam. This hydraulic panorama was undoubtedly enhanced by the high water of the season.[paragraph break]
Shortly after we put back on the water, we paddled past the currently vacant Weird Lake campsite. Since the channel was very narrow here, it was impossible to miss. From the lake it didn’t look as bad as we’d heard. If we had time, we’d check it out closer on our return trip back to camp.[paragraph break]
As we rounded the corner into the main body of the lake, abundant waterfowl were milling about the waters, as well as a number of painted turtles care freely basking on the exposed shoreline rocks.[paragraph break]
There is a nice landing for the 57 rod portage. The trail slowly climbs across a somewhat rocky path. The river had breached the trail in a few section & we had to occasionally trudge through ankle to calf deep water. Once again the put in was quite close to the head of the rapids, but we were able to press on without incident.[paragraph break]
The Temperance River has a few zigs and zags in this section before the next portage. It is also a maddening area from a map reading perspective. While I do prefer Voyageur Maps, at this point in the trip there is a need to switch from map 8 to 9. It should be noted that navigation through this area was obvious and quite easy, so having a map open at all time isn’t an absolute necessity. Although, both Vickie & I always like to follow along as we go, not only to maintain our bearings, but, to aide in determining what type of terrain will be encountering etc.[paragraph break]
With that in mind, we were now passing through a very marshy area immediately south of the 226 rod portage into South Temperance Lake. As the canoe nosed its way around another sharp bend in the river, Vickie motioned to keep quiet & still. There was a cow moose browsing along the shoreline! Apparently those instructions were impossible for Aurora to follow, as she could neither sit still nor keep quiet. Before we could get a really good look, the cow slowly retreated into the underbrush then trotted up the hill and out of site. Lesson learned.[paragraph break]
Still, we hit the portage grateful for the few moments we did get.
I grabbed the canoe and led the way across the portage. As with every portage along the Temperance River Flowage, the trail was once again located on the western side. This one gradually climbs on its way to South Temperance Lake. As an added bonus, there are a few minor ups & downs with rocky sections too. Once again there were also some flooded areas but, for the most part, it was a well worn, wide open trail. Wearing my canoe helmet, the sun was really starting to make its presence known. As I continued on, the aromatic indulgence of pine served to reinvigorate me. I wasn’t sure if my sense of smell was heightened due to the partial loss of vision while under the canoe or if the scent really was that pungent. Never the less, it made for a great walk in the woods. Once across, I went back to give Vickie a hand with the remainder of the trek. Aurora did a fantastic job too! She needed to be carried across some of the sections were the water was nearly knee deep, but, otherwise she was ‘gung ho’ to get across on her own.[paragraph break]
A quick snack and we were back on the water. South Temperance isn’t the biggest body of water we’ve ever crossed. But, it was the first lake that we paddled on this trip that didn’t have a distinctly river like feel to it, so it felt a lot more expansive than it actually was.[paragraph break]
Besides the windstorm of ’99, there was also a fire here in ’96. The lakeshore has recovered nicely from both events, yet there is still clear evidence of both that can be readily observed.[paragraph break]
Also, we paddled past and exchanged greetings with a friendly lone fisherman at the southern most camp site on our way to the 10 rod Brule Lake portage. [paragraph break]
This portage also started at the base of some full rapids. The only dry sections were the landings on either end. Daddy wound up carrying Aurora across this very rocky portage.[paragraph break]
Our hopeful destination was the camp site in the narrows on the large island just south of Headlight Lake. The last time I paddled through this part of Brule, we had a cow moose hop into the lake and swim in between our canoes. (see old photo)No such luck this time, but our desired campsite was open.
There was a large rusty chain bolted to a protruding boulder near the southwestern entrance of the narrows that this camp site is located in. Furthermore, besides the obvious tent pads near the fire grate, there were several expansive open areas just back from the main site area. I surmised that this might have been the location of a logging camp or something of that nature. Regardless of the accuracy of this thinking, it made for great easy exploration. [paragraph break]
There was a neat little finger of shallow water for Aurora to play in while Vickie prepared our chicken alfredo lunch. Per usual, Vickie & Aurora also scoured the area for neat or interesting rocks while I lounged in the shade on the little log bench just off of the fire grate.[paragraph break]
After lunch we paddled the short distance over to the awesome Brule Lake rockslide. [paragraph break]
Coming from the low lying, swampy lakes the way we did made this escarpment all the more striking. Some 15 years after the fact, this bay also still exhibits clear evidence of the '99 windstorm.[paragraph break]
We landed in the shadows of these towering cliffs and climbed out into a lovely grove of cedar trees. The portage to Wench Lake is also located in this very spot. So, while Vickie & Aurora explored the rock slide, I decided to hike that trail.[paragraph break]
Essentially, the exceedingly rocky trail follows a very small creek all the way up. While steep, the gradient wasn’t nearly as severe as most other dead end brook trout lakes in the Gunflint region. And, there was a nice opening to fish from shore if one were to travel up sans canoe. There was also a smaller continuation of the rock slide along the north shore.[paragraph break]
Later, reunited with Vickie & Aurora at the bottom of the rock slide, we explored some more and took some photographs in this very neat area.
I was hoping to fish a little but, it was getting late & the wind was beginning to pick up. As we pushed off we could see some whitecaps crashing into the shoreline rocks out near the main body of the lake. The wind was coming out of the south, so we were quickly able to hide & play hopscotch in the wake of the scattering of small islands before reaching a more permanent windbreak behind the large elongated island. It never got too serious, although we later looked upon this situation with extreme satisfaction that our Souris River canoe more than proved its worth and stability in these, less than ideal, conditions. Aurora was oblivious, as she went asleep right in her seat as we traveled back towards camp in the swiftly pacifying waters.[paragraph break]
By the time we finished the portage out of South Temperance, the sun was hanging low providing a soft illuminating glow on the eastern shorelines and horizons. When conditions are optimal like this, with intermittent beams of sunlight contrasting brilliantly with the shadows of the forest, it makes for my most preferred time of day to be on the water.[paragraph break]
As we paddle through this marshy area, the cacophony of frogs was absolutely deafening. I cautioned Vickie that we need to ‘stick’ the landing for the portage to Weird. The rapids just below were pushing class III, and wouldn’t be very forgiving of any misstep. We approached very slowly, near shore and were thankfully able to hop out without any difficulty.[paragraph break]
Once back on Weird, the waterfowl and turtles were still out and about, and we discovered the camp site was now occupied. As we passed by I noticed the familiar orange & black bwca.com sticker affixed to the canoe. It was SDEBOL and partner. We exchanged friendly greetings and quickly chatted as we paddled by. In these situations, I’m never sure if I should linger and talk some more or if I should paddle on because I’ve already said too much? [paragraph break]
Back in camp we discover my collapsible little green cooler has ‘given up the ghost’, and the remainder of our fresh meat is mostly thawed out. So, it’s breakfast sausage & bagels for supper this evening. Hopefully our remaining bacon will hold until morning.[paragraph break]
While Vickie enjoys an after supper cup of coffee, Aurora & I hang out in the hammock and marvel at the various sights and sounds of the evening.
Afterwards, as Auroras’ reward for being such a trooper today, I get a fire going in anticipation of indulging in a long standing camping ritual. Graham crackers, marshmallows & Hershey bars are dug out and, in no time, we are all besmeared with our scrumptious oozing delicacy. The all-time best bed time snack ever![paragraph break]
Jack Lake, Weird Lake, South Temperance Lake, Brule Lake, Wench Lake
Much to Auroras’ enjoyment and amazement, our campsite appears to be a virtual refuge for wildlife. Chipmunks, squirrels & mice were all frequently about as well as countless birds, including whiskey jacks, and even a hummingbird. But, without a doubt, the two bunny rabbits (that seemed tame, and must’ve had a burrow very nearby) stole the show and really tickled her fancy.
We were able to use up the last of our bacon without ill effects this morning. I realize that there is shelf stable bacon available at most grocery stores and, besides being far more convenient & light weight, it is actually quite good. But, in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, I too go to the woods because I want to live deliberately. For me bringing fresh bacon is more than just having very tasty table fare. The whole process of cooking it excites the senses. (which are obviously heightened in a wilderness setting) With respects to wilderness camping - the sights, sounds and smells of sizzling pork are every bit, if not more, important to me than tasting it. So, while in one sense it may be perceived as unnecessary weight and inconvenience, I’m not quite ready to completely sacrifice the multi-faceted ethereal contentment real bacon provides. [paragraph break]
Since we headed north yesterday, today we would travel south to the fire lakes. Before we headed out, Vickie had the foresight to put the hamburger in a nalgene to start the re-hydration process so it would be ready when we pulled over for lunch. [paragraph break]
Aurora continued to impress. She tore off up the Burnt Lake portage before we could even get the canoe unloaded. Once we reined her in, and got her backpack on, she fell into line. The pattern we’d settled into was that I’d take the canoe & my paddle across then return to meet Vickie & Aurora wherever they were on the trail and give a hand if/where needed. Then we’d let Aurora lead the way and tell her to go find the canoe. This routine set the table for some of my most cherished memories of the trip. On those occasions, upon our reunion on the trail, seeing Aurora’s face absolutely light up as she exclaimed, “There’s Daddy!” was an unforgettable extra special treat.[paragraph break]
Much of this trail was wet and had intermittent small little rivulets cascading down the various inclines. Still, I didn’t think any of the hills were on par with north/south orientated trails found in the Gunflint region. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the tougher portages you’ll encounter in the BWCA, I just didn’t think it came close to deserving the 10 (most difficult) rating that the Pauley book gives it. Of course, it should be noted that we didn’t do this one fully loaded either.[paragraph break]
After a short break, we pushed off. Burnt Lake had a distinctly different feel than the lakes along the Temperance River flowage. Much as South Temperance Lake was yesterday, it is also a larger body of water. But, more to the point, there was an added deciduous feel to the surrounding forest as the aspens atop the hills were just starting to fill in, creating an almost lime green backdrop. The islands and overall layout created an exceptional ambiance. And if that weren’t enough, Vickie noticed a bald eagle circling high above the lake gradually descending until it finally swooped down and scooped up a fish with its talons. What an amazing spectacle![paragraph break]
We paddled over to the vacant island campsite near the entrance to the southern bay. It had a very nice landing and was canopied by some large white pines. This was a very nice camp, but, in my opinion, there were a couple things that kept it from being a true 5 star. First off, even though it had an excellent view from the landing, the fire grate was facing directly into a small boggy area. And secondly, with the fire grate being that close to said boggy area it was all but a certainty that this site would be extremely buggy. And, to emphasize that point, we encountered our first mosquitos of the trip. Fortunately it was still early in the season & our permethrined clothing performed as advertised.[paragraph break]
There were trails extending all over the island and, since the water was very high, there was a nice shallow section that was perfect for Aurora to play in. She found a few snails and watched & splashed the water bugs while lunch was being prepared. [paragraph break]
While we enjoyed our lunch, we noted Burnt Lake was abuzz with several other parties out on the lake. Early this morning, our weather radio had also warned that the winds would pick up in the late afternoon. After some brief exploration of Burnt Lake, seeing this scenario beginning to play out before our eyes induced us to curtail our explorations of the fire lakes and start heading back to camp.[paragraph break]
Aurora seemed to take pleasure in each aspect of canoe travel, once again impressing us with her stamina and eagerness. During a break near the Kelly Lake landing, Vickie came across an old pull tab Coke can back in the woods. It was by no means in pristine condition, but was still an interesting find. [paragraph break]
The wind was causing some minor wave action out on the lake as we paddled back to camp. But, mainly it served to keep us cool from the heat of the midday sun. [paragraph break]
Not wanting to dip water from these shallow lakes, our water bottles were near dry by the time we returned to camp. Upon returning, we discovered the water reserve in our Sawyer water filter system had been baking in the sun all day and was quite warm. Since the lake water was still only 8-10 days removed from ice out, we plopped our now refilled nalgenes into the frigid lake to cool while we unpacked.[paragraph break]
As wet footers, naturally one of the first things we like to do upon returning to camp is to put on a dry pair of socks. Our little voyageur had spent most of her day in the water, so the prune like feet shouldn’t have come as such a surprise when we finally peeled her socks off.[paragraph break]
Having melted into our chairs with that good kind of tired & sore feeling of a day well spent, while we were all enjoying a relaxing cup of hot cocoa before bedtime, Aurora absolutely floored both of us by using the most demanding/commanding tone of voice a nearly 3 year old girl could muster saying, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED! I WANT TO GO EXPLORING!!!!” In our efforts to expose our child to the wonderment of wilderness, we may have inadvertently created an inexhaustible monster![paragraph break]
Once we thoroughly explained the situation, and informed her that tomorrow would be another day of new adventures, she calmed down. We listened intently to her version to the events of the day and how much fun she’d had. If there was any question to the acceptance of these as gospel truth, all you had to do was look at the smile lighting up her face to confirm any doubts.[paragraph break]
Jack Lake, Kelly Lake, Burnt Lake
Some light rain fell very early this morning for about an hour or so, but thankfully it finished up before sunrise. Things were wet once we got up, but it appeared the clouds were slowly beginning to break up. So much so, that as we finished breakfast & checked the weather radio, we were confident enough to head out for another paddle today.[paragraph break]
Since we planned on heading out tomorrow, we decided to take it a bit easier today and just explore Jack Lake. [paragraph break]
First we stopped in to check out the other campsite on the lake. All of the maps we had along show it to be at the NE point just as the lake narrows. This was wrong. The correct location was in the middle of the small bay just south of those narrows on the eastern shore. The landing was somewhat rocky with a fire grate that was close to the lake but, didn’t really provide much of a view. There was a large flat area that would accommodate 2-3 tents and the nearby woods were open enough to allow for exploration. Being so close to the water in a low lying boggy area like this, were obvious indicators that this site clearly possessed all the necessary criteria for serious bug problems once things warmed up a bit.[paragraph break]
That said, there were still some interesting things to be seen, including a curious pumpkin like fungus that caught Vickie’s eye.[paragraph break]
Next we paddled further north towards the Weird lake portage. As we entered the section where the lake opened up just before the portage, Vickie caught a glimpse of something large in the distance. This time Aurora kept her cool, as we stealthily closed the gap between us and the Bull Moose browsing on swamp weeds. Its velvet antlers hadn’t fully formed yet, and, fortuitously, he didn’t rush off as we approached. Aurora sat quietly fascinated, while her Daddy couldn’t believe our good fortune & was very thankful for this rare second chance.[paragraph break]
Ultimately the bull ambled off and we proceeded on to the portage.
Once again this portage was home to a plethora of little blue winged moths (not sure???) that Aurora found alluring. When she tired of chasing these, she joined Vickie in her search for neat rocks. Eventually Aurora took the rock searching up a notch & began pitching them into to the river, watching them flutter in the current until they finally came to rest on the bottom. Meanwhile, I kept an eye on Aurora while absorbing the wonderful wilderness atmosphere this portage affords. [paragraph break]
Shortly after loading up and heading back south, Aurora began to sway a bit. She was “so tired” and needed to take a nap. So, we pulled off and set her on my seat cushion on the floor of the canoe while propping her up against our day pack. Vickie threw a coat over her & she was down for the count almost instantly.[paragraph break]
I don’t consider myself a great fisherman. Still, I usually like to drag the poles along as I do derive some pleasure in the sport. With Aurora napping, this would be the first opportunity we’d had to wet a line. There was no set course - I just let the canoe drift (occasionally ruddering) as we floated southward towards the Kelly lake portage. We didn’t catch a thing! Yet, I still look back at these short moments with extreme fondness. There wasn’t really any conversation we just reveled in our surroundings. The trees, the rocks, the clouds, the breeze & various other sounds. Nothing of particular note occurred or was spoken, yet it was magical. It reminded me of another quote from Thoreau, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” At this moment, I think we knew. [paragraph break]
At the Kelly Lake portage landing Aurora was still napping. Vickie said she stay back until Aurora woke up. So I tied off the canoe & went back to check out the Jack Lake Mine again. Upon my return Aurora was up, so I shared a snack then took her while Vickie headed off to do some exploring of her own along the rapids of the river. Sometime later, we eventually converged back at the canoe and headed back to camp. [paragraph break]
While exploring earlier today, Aurora had found some nice pieces of birch bark. So, as an after supper activity, Vickie thought it would be a creative - fun idea for her to color on them. [paragraph break] We stayed up a bit later this evening, as if trying to absorb as much of this magical wonderland as our senses would allow before we had to leave tomorrow. There was a disturbing congregation of mosquitos forming in the vestibule of our tent. Our permethrin clothing kept them at bay, but clearly they were massing for a full out attack in the next couple of days. Thankfully we’d be gone. Once in the tent, Aurora spent some more time coloring a Hello Kitty birthday card for her cousin Karly, (She would be attending her birthday party the following weekend) before finally succumbing to her heavy eyelids.
Jack Lake, Weird Lake, Kelly Lake
Things were still a bit damp as we prepared our breakfast, but the bright sunshine of the morning quickly evaporated any residual condensation before we started packing up.[paragraph break]
As I look back and try to accurately recall this morning, I can’t say for certain exactly what Aurora was doing while we tore down camp. But, I can say that in no way was she a bothersome burden while we were doing so. And, to comment on the trip as a whole, she really did an almost unbelievable job of knowing (and respecting) the boundaries we’d set for her regarding the perimeter of camp & the fire grate. Furthermore, she usually kept herself contentedly occupied at times when we needed her to. We actually joked that we wished she’d behave this good at home. The wonders of wilderness![paragraph break]
After one last check of camp we shoved off and paddled for Baker Lake. Also, I didn’t even consider it at the time, but we were able to leave Aurora’s moose skull behind for others to enjoy without her realizing it.[paragraph break]
From Aurora’s perspective, I think this trip was about the right amount of days. As we double portaged back into Kelly Lake, she didn’t have her usual gusto, and Daddy wound up carrying her on the last leg. We would only have one more short portage today so it was not an issue.[paragraph break]
We paddled down the eastern flank of the Kelly Lake. As we approached the camp site on the prominent eastern peninsula I noticed some movement just across the lake. Against all odds, this would be our third moose sighting of the trip! By this time Aurora was an old pro who was whispering and shushing Vickie & I. As we neared their location it was obvious that there were 3 moose. It appeared to be a cow with 2 yearling calves that she hadn’t run off yet. They didn’t seem too concerned with our intrusion and lingered on the lakeshore. By this time seeing moose was old school for Aurora, and after getting a good look, her interest waned rather quickly.[paragraph break]
We paddled away in stunned awe at our incredible good fortune.
The rest of the journey back to the EP was an idyllic- relaxing paddle. Although, to play it safe, we did stop short & walked the canoe up to the landing for our last portage. Once at the Baker Lake landing, after we were loaded up and changed into dry clothes/socks, we made tracks to Schroeder Baking Company. There, as promised, Aurora was treated to pizza & ice cream before returning to the long plaintive road home.
Jack Lake, Kelly Lake, Peterson Lake, Baker Lake
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS: I can't recall the last time we had a Memorial Day weekend where the weather was so close to perfect right throughout. It was mid 70's the whole time with manageable winds and only an hour or so of rain,and that before the sun came up.
Overall we were ecstatic over how well our new gear performed. Especially the Souris River canoe. It was a little sluggish but, proved to be very stable. A trade off we'll make all day long! At first I kind of wondered about the protruding ribs on the floor but, being wet footers like we are, the ribs did a great job of keeping the excess water in smaller areas instead of allowing it to run the length of the canoe getting everything wet. This proved especially convenient when we'd lay Aurora on the floor for a nap,as her area would stay completely dry. I'd like to thank the bwca.com community for the suggestions & advice given in our search for a family canoe. I'm sure there were many others, but, I seem to recall ducks as being especially helpful. Thanks again to all!
The wildlife viewing was beyond description. Three separate sightings and five moose total will likely be very difficult to top for some time to come. But, beyond that, seeing the diving eagle & the friendly campsite animals was a very special treat for Aurora. Even the dead animals (moose skull) kept things interesting too.
As I mentioned in the report, Aurora did a great job in most all aspects of canoe camping. It was a real treat to see her take such pride & pleasure in doing the necessary tasks the come with the territory. (Canoeing, portaging, sleeping in a tent etc.) And, doing them safely! As parents we couldn't have been prouder, and we are looking forward to more adventures with our young voyager.