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July 14 2024

Entry Point 49 - Skipper & Portage Lakes

Skipper and Portage Lakes entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Gunflint Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 28 miles. Access is a 320-rod portage from Poplar Lake or a 230-rod portage from Iron Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1865 feet
Latitude: 48.0517
Longitude: -90.5366
Skipper & Portage Lakes - 49

first solo

by nicole
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 14, 2013
Entry Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
My first (of hopefully many) solo trips. I planned & researched a lot before the trip so I'd be prepared. I got out in a solo canoe before to test the waters ;) I packed super light. My camping style is leisurely. I do like isolation...but for my first solo, I wanted to be somewhere that might have a bit of traffic. I did rent a SPOT that made my family (and me) feel better. I had a rough plan to head towards Horseshoe and possibly beyond depending on how the water moved me. It was awesome and not nearly as difficult or scary as I was anticipating. I'm hooked and planning to do another as soon as possible.

Day 1 of 7

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I had driven up from Minneapolis on Tuesday, picked up my permit (haven't seen the bear video in a hasn't changed), and picked up my Prism from Rockwood. My parents happened to be staying at a cabin on Little Ollie Lake - on the SE side of Poplar Lake. I stayed with them, had a sauna, a good meal, and went to sleep early. I didn't sleep well. My head was swimming in 'what ifs'.

I had a delicious breakfast and pushed off from Little Ollie at about 8am. I took my time getting to the portage on Poplar. Along the portage to Lizz, I was hauling two packs - one in front, one in back - heard a loon that sounded like it was about 3 ft from my head...almost lost my footing. Lizz Lake - there's a sign as you're entering that says...ok you're in the BW now... for some reason I thought that was amusing. Took my time on Lizz, portage to Caribou. There was a lot of traffic. More than I remember seeing in the BW. I suppose it's a busy time of year and busy lakes.

Mike at Rockwood told me about a site on Horseshoe where a mama moose and her calf had been spotted frequently. So that's where I was headed. I pushed off from the Caribou-Horseshoe portage quickly and prayed it would be open. It was. Happy Nicole. There is a mound of firewood here waiting for me. The Gods are smiling on me :)

I get to camp and make offerings & ask for blessings from the guardians of the land there. Horseshoe has a really feminine energy, mothering. It feels like it envelops you. It's warm and lovely and a bit fierce. I liked it. I wanted to stay.

I canoe out to the middle of the lake to pump water. There is a mama loon and her chick. She's teaching it to no avail. She's underwater. My canoe is quickly drifting towards the chick. The chick is curious about me. Chick is in front of me. And mama pops up about 2ft from the back of my canoe. She screams at me in that way loons do that chills your bones. I almost peed my pants. She slowly paddles by giving me the death stare the whole way. I think she was debating knocking me out of my canoe. She probably would have one. I slowly and submissively paddled away. I get it mama, you own the lake. I'm just visiting.

I crawl in my mosquito-less haven of a tent to watch the sun set without getting blood drawn. It is lovely. I watch two otters swim by together. I'm asleep by 9pm. Night jitters what?


Day 2 of 7

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I must have slept 11 hours. Straight through. I'm groggy in the morning. I just sit and stare at the water, slowly waking up for a while. I meditate, eat. I'm feeling lazy and it's hot. I bask in the sun and swim with the loons and otters most of the day. Read, write, lounge.

I pump a lot of water. I'm realizing how much water I actually drink/use each day. Must be somewhere around 2 gallons. I'm a thirsty lady.

There are fish jumping all around me. A turtle keeps poking his head out and staring at me. He's curious. I've invaded his home.

I'm in bed early again - 9:30pm. This is unusual for me. I'm needing more sleep than usual out here. It must be some kind of let down. My body & psyche must need the rest to readjust to the rhythm of nature.

The night jitters come on for a bit. But I've been practicing meditation for a while. And while I have a very active imagination that is really good at convincing me something is really wrong and something is probably going to kill me...I'm actually able to calm myself down again. Being out here alone is like one, long meditation session.


Day 3 of 7

Friday, August 16, 2013

I wake from another 11 hour night of sleep. I sick? I don't feel sick. I feel fantastic.

I wake up and wash my face in the lake water. I look down at my hand and see a big red mark on my hand with a white ring around it. Shit. My mind goes into a spin: Brown Recluse bite? Seriously Nicole? We don't have those here. But your sister's friend knows two people in Minneapolis that have been bitten by them. Their flesh melted. Yeah but they came in on fruit trucks from the south. Plus we're almost in Canada. Well I don't know. It think it still could be. What about MRSA? What if it's staph? Oh my god I think my chest feels tight and my muscles are sore. my muscles always feel like this? ...And on it went for a little while. I talked myself back down from the edge...and I think it ended up being a bad blister :) My mind is my worst enemy.

I did a day trip to Gaskin. I got to see more of Horseshoe and the portage to Gaskin was lovely. Gaskin was windy. I stopped at the island to have lunch and bask in the sun/go for a swim. Paddled around to check out other campsites. Wanted to see the fire. Took my time.

These yokes they rent at outfitters are not made for a woman's shoulders. Ouch.

In my interest of packing light...I neglected to pack sunscreen. I'm a little burnt today. Luckily I packed a small bottle of saint john's wort oil - a great sunburn remedy. I slather it on.

I had a fire this night. I did a fire ceremony and as I made offerings, a bald eagle flew overhead. The first one I had seen yet.

The mosquitos are unbearable by 9pm even by the fire. I'm in the tent reading by 9pm.

I have some wild dreams. Not going to post them here as they're probably not of interest to anyone. But CRAZY dreams with an albino boa that was changing shapes among other things. Weird. Looooong sleep again tonight. 10 hours.


Day 4 of 7

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's insanely windy today. So I decide it's a good day to rest again. The wind is keeping the mosquitos at bay. I lounge in my hammock reading and writing for most of the day. It's been hot so I swim a lot. I float, look up at the sky and am thankful for this feeling of being supported in the water. I sink in to this feeling of floating. It's really quite something.

There's a chipmunk that is making a home for herself (I've named her Harriet) in a cedar tree at camp. She gnaws away at it and has created quite an impressive mound of wood shavings on the ground. I think I'll use some for kindling if it's ok with her. She likes the cedar blossoms or nuts or whatever they are. I was laying in the sun earlier and hear what sounds like a very angry bird behind me. It keeps chirping. I look back and there's Harriet standing on her hind legs right next to my foot yelling at me. I don't think she's happy I'm laying here. I'm in her way. I am in her path from her favorite cedar tree to a little chipmunk beach. I watch her wash herself. I move out of the way. She is pleased.

As I lay in my tent tonight a mouse literally runs up and over the top of my tent. Weird. I've never experienced that before.

A bear (or something) visits camp this night. At around 3am I hear something big walking around the rock/gravel around my tent. I'm groggy but can tell it's getting close. I clap my hands and yell and I hear it run into the woods. I unzip my tent to see a very large wet trail from my canoe near the lake, up to my tent. I notice my canoe also has some muddy marks on top of it where it looks like some creature has crawled over it. Bear? I don't know. Probably. It takes some time, but I fall back asleep.


Day 5 of 7

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I wake up with the sun today. I'm back on track with sleeping. I have my morning ritual of watching the sky change colors and clouds change shape as I drink my morning water (yes morning water, not coffee :) I meditate, wash up, make breakfast, etc... I'm antsy today and want to move. So I decide to take a day trip. The wind is still really strong today. But I decide to brave it anyway. Vista Lake today. I make it across Horseshoe to the portage and to Vista. As I neared the end of the portage, the wind almost knocked the Prism off my shoulders. There are white caps on the lake. Nope. I turn around to head back to camp defeated.

I take my time paddling back and happen upon a playful family of otters. I watch them for a while. Then they see me. And they begin making a horrendous screeching sound. I must be close to their den. Maybe they have wee ones in there. I'm curious. But I've heard some stories recently about how ferocious otters can be. I decide to leave them in peace and paddle along.

I lounge back at camp and take care of camp chores. I'm thinking about leaving camp tomorrow so I take a paddle around the lake at sunset when it's calm to really see the rest of Horseshoe. It's a beautiful lake. I'm hoping to see that elusive moose. No such luck. I think about my mother. She's almost 60 and grew up coming to the BW. She and my father are the reason I love the outdoors so much. And I took my first trip up here with her and my aunt when I was 13. She's not in great shape now. But I decide that she needs to make it up here more often. I know it would make her really happy.

I'm also thinking a lot about food today. I have been a vegetarian for 4 years. But I am craving meat. I can't stop thinking about fish and buffalo jerky.

It rains tonight as I sleep. Not too much. It kept me awake and my mind started to spin again. What if I can't make it out on Tuesday? What if it's super windy like it has been? What if I tip over in the middle of the lake? What if it's lightening? And on & on. Again, it takes me a while to talk myself down from the ledge. I eventually fall asleep again.


Day 6 of 7

Monday, August 19, 2013

Today I'm up again at sunrise. I quickly do my camp chores, breakfast, meditation, etc. I head out to Caribou and maybe Meeds to scope things out. I make it to Caribou and am moved to paddle over to a campsite there. It's a site my mom told me to look for that she had stayed at years ago. I'm convinced it's the same site. I brought a tarp with me so I set it up to hold the site.

I paddle back to my camp to collect my things. My tent pole snaps in the meantime tearing my rainfly. Oops. I'm resourceful so I fix the pole with a kit that comes with the tent. After that, it's nothing duct tape can't fix in the meantime.

I get to the campsite at Caribou and it is heavenly. There are raspberries and rosehips all around me. I collect some of both. I take a skinny dip, make rosehip tea, and lounge in my hammock eating raspberries, drinking tea, and reading Rumi. I am in heaven. I have a fire and watch the full moon rise over the lake. This is the best day yet.


Day 7 of 7

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I paddle over to a rock on Caribou that seems to a popular place to jump off of. I have a morning swim, paddle back, meditate, eat, etc. I slowly pack up. Collect some more rosehips for the road.

Caribou has the feeling of land that is being healed. I have gotten that feeling from some other places up here that see more traffic than others. It's like there are some special forces at work trying to help keep the place as pristine as it has been. We think of these areas as already pristine. But over the years, they have seen a lot of wear. And it affects the spirit of a place. I ask to do my part to help that work be done.

I head out to Poplar sometime after lunch. Get lost on Poplar, get blown around, and somehow make it back to Rockwood. I have the best shower of my life. I head to Angry Trout in Grand Marais for that fish I've been craving. I enjoy the first fish I've had in over 4 years...lake superior Whitefish. Yum!

I roll down to Lamb's Resort because I want to watch the moon rise over the lake. It's beautiful. A storm wakes me up in the middle of the night but I don't care. I pack everything up wet in my car. I put my raingear on and swing in my hammock in the rain watching the sunrise over the lake. Everyone is asleep. It's beautiful.

What a way to end the trip :)


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