BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 03 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1864 feet
Lizz & Swamp Lakes - 47
First solo cut short!
August 24, 2008
Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Number of Days:
I called the motel I had stayed at in the past in Superior,Wisconsin. All they had left available was two smoking rooms left, I passed on them. Superior had some boating festival going on, so I knew from last year finding a motel would be tough. I decided to start heading up 61, towards Grand Marais, in hopes the further I got from Duluth/superior the better off I would be. I stopped at the Viking motel in Two Harbors. I had a few beers, watched some of the Olympics, and headed for bed.
I got up and headed to Grand Marais. It's a pretty scenic drive. I took some pictures and strolled through many of the over-priced tourist stores. I decided to Head up to my outfitters about noon. I stayed at a bunkhouse at Rockwood lodge. Later that afternoon I traveled to the end of the Gunflint Trail. It was shocking seeing all the damage from the Ham Lake fire. This was also the first time I had seen the remains of the blowdown.
Later that night I had dinner at the Trail Center. This is where I met another bwca.com board member. He goes by the name BOPPA on this site. I sat by him and his wife at the bar. They are good people and seem to have true love and respect for the outdoors. I hope their trip went well. I went over my gear in the bunkhouse and had a few more beers and went to bed around 10:00.
Poplar lake is a pretty descent sized lake, and outside of the BWCA. It is still very pretty and I had the whole Lake to myself that morning. I reached the portage to Lizz lake in record time.(since this was my first trip there, any amount of time was a record:) The portage to Lizz was rocky, a little muddy, and hilly. I made it down through Lizz Lake in record time also:). Lizz was a narrow, pretty lake with a Bald Eagle waiting for me perched high in a tree near the portage to Caribou Lake. Besides the mucky area on the Lizz Lake side of the portage, I don't remember this portage being too much of a problem. I had packed for double portaging and that's what I did.
On Caribou Lake I had a short paddle west, around a point, and back east towards the Portage to Horseshoe Lake. All I can say about Caribou Lake is that I was there. The paddle was quite short. I wanted to come back to this lake for fishing later in my trip. This portage was pretty easy. It is also where I ruined my trip. I had lost my footing, putting my heaviest pack in the canoe, not a big deal. I didn't fall, the problem was I had my pack on one shoulder. When I slipped it fell off my shoulder. My natural reaction was to try to catch it, BAD idea. I caught it in the crook of my elbow. This resulted in a large strain on my shoulder that I had already needed surgery on sometime in the future. I came in with a shoulder at about 80% of its strength, now I had zero. This is the shoulder that the docs said I couldn't do much of anymore damage to.
I was able to lumber along to a campsite. Now I can only paddle on my right side. I couldn't elevate my right arm high enough to paddle on the left side. Occasionally I would choke way down on the paddle on my left side, but this was very inefficient paddling. The worst part of canoeing now was that I didn't feel safe on the water. I was at the winds mercy, if strong gusts came I could do nothing. I planned originally on base-camping on Horseshoe Lake, then daytripping and fishing the other lakes in the area. I put up my tent and hung one line between trees, not fun one-armed. I cooked dinner and had to choke it down. I had no appetite. In the evening I took the canoe out in the bay by my site. I wanted to see if I would be able to control it at all to fish. I was only out 5 minutes, I couldn't paddle well to troll. I also couldn't bring my arm up to cast, there would be no fishing.
I was sitting at my campsite now realizing my trip is over. I could sit in camp for five days, but that's just not me. I came to fish and explore on the water. All my hopes on my trip were fading fast and depression was taking its place. That night I watched the stars for quite some time nursing my shoulder with some shots of Black Velvet. My plan was to see how I felt in the morning. If I was still hurting bad, I had to get out.
It was a long night, anytime I moved I felt pain in my shoulder. Twice I sneezed and it hurt to the bone. I was up at 5:00 a.m., I was estimating that I may have got three hours sleep. This day was going to be a challenge. My shoulder was very stiff and of course hurting. I had no appetite. I still made oatmeal because I knew I needed to get some fuel in me. I was eating it on and off for three hours breaking camp. Breaking camp took forever. I couldn't fold and pack things well at all. Dishes alone took me twenty minutes. Now that I was close to leaving I was questioning my plan. the wind was blowing more now and it was going on noon. I ate a power bar and took out the Black Velvet. At around 1:00 in the afternoon I headed out!
It wasn't pretty getting back to the other end of Horseshoe Lake. I tried to stay close to shore. If I flipped way out in the middle of a lake I knew I would be in trouble. Thank God, the wind was at my back most of my paddling. occasionally a gust would blow me way off course. I didn't battle it. With no paddling on my left side, no J-stroke(that hurt horribly), I was using a lazy c-stroke. The portaging now was worse than paddling. I had to Quadruple portage. One large pack, another large pack and food, the canoe, then lastly the paddles, my chair, and empty bait container. Everything had to be carried on my left side, including the canoe. I couldn't raise my arm up to get under the canoe well. Also, just the yoke pad pressure on the shoulder hurt to much. So I had to carry it hoisted on my left shoulder.
After many trips, stumbles, rests, and worry that I would be portaging in the dark. I finally saw the outfitters lodge come into view on Poplar Lake. I got in at 7:00 in the evening. A six hour trip,one that only took me two hours on the way in. Mike and Lin at Rockwood Lodge were just getting ready to lock up when I walked in. They were quite surprised. I guess surgery is going to happen a little faster than I thought.
People may question why I went in the first place. Maybe holding off until after the surgery and making sure my shoulder was in good condition. My only response to that would be there are no guarantees in life. I could have shoulder surgery and be worse off. I have battled cancer, and also a knee surgery which resulted in six blood clots and one pulmonary embolism. Not bad for a thirty-six year old. My normal tripping partner is my brother. He had surgery this year and no vacation left. The reason I went on this solo was because there was not a single person I knew that could find the time to get away. Everyone is so busy doing the "more important" things in life. I'm afraid their missing the boat,literally. The amazing thing is there were many parts of my trip,looking back now, that I still enjoyed. Oh, remember the Duck?