Part 1 of 3
Left home Sunday at 5:30am and 380 miles later arrived in Grand Maris. I take a slightly round about route through the Mich. UP and northern WI., more gas but better sight seeing and less traffic. After a very mediocre $13 hamburger and a walk around town I drove up to Rockwood Outfitters to pick up my permit, watched the video and settled in for the night. Monday '17th. On the water at first light. The start of the trip is always nerve racking for me, the canoe feels tippy and and its like I'm not moving at all but after after just a short while I relax and the BW flow takes over. (I can't really describe what I mean by the BW flow but I'm sure anyone who loves canoeing in the BWCA knows what I mean) First portage to Lizz lake is no problem. Very typical BW portage, a little up, a little down, rocks and roots and of course mud. Here would be a good time to fill in a few details: I'm old and fat, 5ft6 240# and 70+. I huff and puff on the portages and my joints creak but I get the job done and enjoy every minute I'm out there.
I always feel kinda sorry for Lizz lake, so many people passing through but no one staying. Portage into Caribou is another fairly easy, typical BW portage and through that pretty lake to the very easy 20rod into Horseshoe Lake, my favorite lake (so far) in the BWCA. I was tempted to camp on Horseshoe but as I wasn't tired and it was early ,I made a hard right and headed for Allen lake.
The portage from Horseshoe to Allen sucks big time. The landing from Horseshoe is a boulder strewn pain and if there is a way to land without stepping in knee deep water I couldn't find it. The portage is only 50 rods but 49 of them are on slippery, ankle breaking rocks. It took me almost as long to do that one portage as all 3 of of the previous ones.
More details: I double carry. Canoe is an old (80's?) Oldtown 119 weighing in empty at 43# with spare paddle, yoke and repair kit it's at 50# even. Pack is a North 49 120L dry bag and food/day pack is a Esone 20L dry bag. Packs together weigh 50#. I added a trekking pole this year and was glad I did.
Part 2 of 1
The campsite on Allen was nicer than expected, the landing was only so-so but the kitchen and fire grate were clean and had a brand newish flat bench. Two ok tent pads and a possible third further back away from the lake. Good tarp or hammock options. I set up camp. Some more details: My tent is a 20 or so year old Ozark Trails Wally world 2man tent 6.6 lbs. Maybe it's a fluke but the tent has given me good service on at least 6 BWCA trips and dozens of short weekend trips. My sleep system for early season is a Therm-a-rest Ridge rest 77x25 with an added 36in section of an old Ridge rest pad for hips and shoulders. The bag is a Kingcamp 20 degree F down extra wide bag. My pillow is a inflatable with a small added pillow inside. I'am a restless sleeper and after much trial and error this system works for me I had noticed more water in the canoe then expected wetfooting and discovered a patch had let go in the bow. I have beat the hell out of this boat over the years and all the temporary repairs seem to become permeant . JB weld to the rescue! Gorilla glue clear sealer in the morning and I'll be back in business. Dinner that night was home dehydrated black beans and rice with a single serve package of Spam added for zing. Much better than it sounds. A mug of hot chocolate, fire gazing and a few stars and off to bed. Tuesday started out perfect with a blue sky and slight breeze. Dozens of small blueish white butterflies everywhere. Black flies are starting to hatch but not a problem yet. Fire wood was in short supply but I wanted some more time for the canoe repairs to dry before heading out to find more and to explore the lake, time for more coffee. I had discovered another small problem when fixing dinner last night, my stove or rather the fuel canister was acting up, sputtering and going out. I changed canisters and everything was all right but that meant I would have to rely on wood for at least some of the cooking. In the afternoon I explored the lake , gathered some wood , read and took a nap. Allen lake is just a quiet little lake, it doesn't have any dramatic vistas or rock formations but is well worth your time to visit.
Part 3 of 1
Wednesday. Broke camp and headed out for Pillsbery lake .I was a little concerned about the portage because although it is shown on my Fisher maps as a 95rod portage it isn't on the interactive map on the forum. Easy-peasy, portage was muddy but had been maintained probably last fall and was nice and wide and posed zero problems. Pillsbery lake is another nice but wallflower-ish lake, nothing real outstanding. There was a solo camper on the first site on the lake and we spoke for a few minuets. The second site was pathetic, very small, no tent pads I could see but the thunder box had a lid. Ah the little things in life. On to Henson Lake. Portage into Henson was a fairly easy 60rods, a little up and down but no problems. The plan was to spend two days on Henson but was disappointed in the lake and the campsites. The lake was almost flat and the sites were rockey and small. I settled on the third site which was small with no sitting area and a very difficult mountain climb to the latrine. just ok for one person for one night. Dinner was penne with meat sauce (home made and dehydrated) Excellent if I do say so myself. The weather radio was calling for rain the next 5 days, east by south east winds and thunder storms on Saturday so I made a change of plans. I decided to skip Omega and Winchell lakes (I have been on Winchell before and it is not a lake to fool with especially with a head wind) That night it rained and I forgot to close the window, damp but not soaked gear. On to Gaskin, the 80rod portage was a little narrow with a few ups and downs and a little less traveled than I expected for a portage to a popular lake. There is a reason Gaskin is a popular lake , beautiful with excellent camp sites, great vistas, islands and deep bays Gaskin has it all. Enough said. Dinner was beef strogonoff with noodles ,homemade and dehydrated by moi. Excellent once again ( i have one talent so i'm going to brag a little) I used the afternoon sun Friday to dry my gear and just relax, made fry bread with butter and honey and dinner was dehydrated turkey (my own) stove top stuffing and turkey gravy. Good but not great. Felt a little sad knowing this was the last night. And some more details: My stove is a generic model from Amazon works just fine, my main cooking pot is an MSR 1.1L stowaway pot I also carry a small 16oz pot for coffee water, spoon and fork, no spork for this guy . Sawyer mini water filter and Seven-saw for fire wood. I would have liked to spend more time on Gaskin but figured i had better bail ahead of the weather so Saturday morning I broke camp bright and early. Long portage to Horseshoe into Caribou and Lizz to Poplar and out. No weather issues at all! I was having second thoughts about leaving early but then the dark clouds rolled in. Watched a bad thunder storm Sat. night from the comfort of a Rockwood bunkroom, am I smart or what. One last time for details: My paddling clothes consist of CQR ripstop pants , button down DU shirt( and yes it has little tabs to roll up the sleeves and velcro on the pockets), old Colombia hikers with neoprene socks. Camp cloths are fleece pants and long sleeve T and trail runner shoes. Rainsuit and down jacket, gloves and Omechy boonie hat. I can't believe how much I left out of this report: moisture in my (waterproof)camera made taking pictures a joke, my expensive Colombia rain coat was useless, lost or forgot fire starters, friggen black flies!! I did meet some real nice people on this trip and didn't see any trash or (new) abuse at any of the campsites I stayed at or visited or on any of the portages. I love the BWCA and will be back in Aug. One more thing, if a fat old man can still trip in the BW so can you! no excuses put down your phone and live a little while you can.