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

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 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

The Friendly Flies Trip 2002

by Spartan2
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 19, 2002
Entry Point: Cross Bay Lake
Number of Days: 9
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
There are canoe trips that we remember as favorites. Trips where we savor the memories and consider them very special. Then there are other trips that we remember as not-so-favorites. We sometimes complain about the conditions and will refer to them in our comments as "unpleasant", or "icky", or even "disastrous." As I started out to make this trip report from our time in June of 2002, I was considering this trip to be one of the latter. Then I got out the book. There is a very big book, a photo album with over 325 photo prints, pages of narrative for each day, and a variety of clippings and other memorabilia. And, to my surprise, I discovered that the "Friendly Flies" trip, while I often remember it as "disastrous" or "icky", still includes some sweet memories. I can't change the name. It will always be remembered as the trip when we encountered tent worms and friendly flies. They were terrible. But as I choose a few photos from each day to scan, and as I relive the days of this trip almost twenty years later, I can perhaps look at all of it with a bit more humor and still appreciate the blessings we shared. It was just the two of us, 56 years old, married 35 years, each with health challenges. I had recently had a scope done on my knee, and was wearing a metal brace to help support it on portages. Because it was difficult for me to get in and out of the Bell canoe, we took the Grumman on this trip. Spartan1 was dealing with type1 diabetes and kidney disease. We had an "empty nest" at home, and had enlisted our wonderful neighbors to look after our small flock of sheep in our absence. The photos are from a Canon Rebel X film camera (18 rolls of 36 explosures!), so I have recently scanned some for this trip report. Doing a trip book in those days with film photos meant having them all processed, looking at all of the prints, discarding more than half of them, and then inserting them in album pages. Because I didn't consider a fly infestation particularly photogenic, there were surprisingly few photos of the "friendly flies." Go figure.

Part 1 of 11


Departing our home in rural Parma, Michigan on Father's Day, with a stop at Caro in the afternoon to wish Spartan1's father a happy day, we then traveled as far as Gaylord to stay at the nice Super8 there and have our supper at the Big Buck Brewery. For us, the trip to and from northern Minnesota was very much a part of the vacation, so we always tried to make travel days pleasant and memorable, too.

Early the next morning we were on the road, stopping at Mackinaw CIty for fudge, crossing the Mighty Mac Bridge, and heading for the Soo. We were fortunate to arrive there just as a boat was entering the locks. I never tire of watching the freighters go through the locks.

The drive around the northern shore of Lake Superior, called the Circle Tour, is a beautiful way to go! We had perfect weather, bright blue skies with puffy white clouds, and a nice breeze. (Actually the best weather of the entire vacation!)

Lunch stop was near Wawa, at the Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant, which is high on a bank overlooking the Dead River. Our evening's lodging was at the Coach House Motel near Terrace Bay, and we dined at the golf course, which had just a bit of a lake view.

After breakfast at the Red Dog Restaurant in Terrace Bay we drove out to the scenic viewing area for Aguasabon Gorge.

We continued on our drive along the Superior Shore, marveling at the rocky cliffs and the lovely lake views around every curve.

We had noticed many small cairns or 'inukshuks' atop the cliffs and I persuaded Spartan1 to stop the car at one point so that I could take a photograph. It wasn't as easy to get this picture as you might think.

We stopped at the Amethyst Mine Panorama 25 miles east of Thunder Bay. It was interesting to see the mine, and fun to buy some earrings as a souvenir. After lunch in Thunder Bay, a gas stop in Grand Portage, a little shopping at Grand Marais, and heading up the Gunflint Trail, we arrived at our night's destination, Clearwater Lodge, about 3:30. Checked in with Bob and Marti Marchino there, and eventually drove to Trail Center for our supper. (Oh, those delicious 'shrooms!) We saw two moose and a fox, all at different spots on Clearwater Road as we were going back after our meal. (No photo of the fox.)

There's nothing like a beautiful night's sleep in "Charlie's Room" in the historic Clearwater Lodge! Especially if that night's sleep is the night before a ten-day canoe trip! Can't say I slept much, but it surely did feel good to be there.


Part 2 of 11

Day One: June 19th

It rained in the night, but we didn't hear it. We enjoyed our usual full breakfast in the dining room at Clearwater Lodge, talking with some ladies from Illinois who were going out on a day trip. They were serious birdwatchers.

We drove to the Cross River landing and unloaded the car. Time to start the canoe trip!

It began to drizzle, so I took my rain gear out. As I was putting it on, it totally disintegrated! Crumbled into nothing! How weird! This caused some panic. We left our canoe and gear at the landing and went out in search of a rain suit. (I had admired some Woolrich rain gear at Ben Franklin's in Grand Marais--even considered trying it on, and had decided to wait until after the trip. This was a mistake!) We drove to Guntflint Outfitters but they didn't have my size, so Bonnie called some other outfitters and we ended up buying a suit at Gunflint Pines Outfitters. It was a rubber suit and would be hot and stiff, but I'd certainly be dryer than I would have been with none!

It was almost 11 AM when we finally got back and started our trip. The three portages into the BWCA are easy ones and not all that long (50, 40, and 24 rods respectively). We ate our lunch at the beginning of the second portage. The BWCA sign is on the portage out of Ham Lake, even though the actual boundary is a little ways down the river. There are large submerged rocks on the river just after the portage, and we met six canoes in that spot, so we were picking our way very carefully. The weather was misty rain, breezy, gray sky and cool. My new rain gear, by this time, had split in the seat, so I anticipated some wet-bottom days!

We stopped to camp at about 2:00, at a rocky point site on Cross Bay Lake. Two canoes (the people who were at the landing when we started out) came by and took the portage, which is very near the campsite and in full view. It was looking more seriously like rain, so we were glad that we had stopped early. [We didn't take a tarp in those days.] We napped in the tent and woke up a little chilly. Cappuccino and supper fixed that. Natural High Teriyaki Chicken with extra rice. It was OK.

As we were having coffee after our dinner a light rain started, so we hurried to do the dishes and hang the packs. We were in the tent at 6:30 with light rain still falling, reading our books until it was too dark to see.


Part 3 of 11

Day Two: June 20th

There were rain showers and thunderstorms off and on most of the night. I didn't sleep well and awoke with a headache. I was out of the tent at 5:45 to see a very windy morning, 60 degrees but feeling cooler. The sky was partly cloudy and very pretty. We decided to lay over and wait out the wind, also nurse the stiffness and soreness a little bit. I was concerned about my recently repaired knee, but it seemed to be doing all right at this point. (The brace had helped on the portages.)

This is a really nice campsite. It has two different rocky points for viewing and a few places to explore. The tent site is rather high and unprotected, but drainage was good in the night. We did have a muddy doorway, but no other issues. There were both a chipmunk and a squirrel but they didn't cause any problems, just provided a little entertainment.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs, cornmeal pancakes with dried blueberries, real maple syrup, and hot chocolate. Mmmm!

Neil rested and read in the tent, but as always, I like to be outside. I sat on the camp stool, reading my book, taking photos, enjoying the bright blue sky, listening to the wind, and occasionally exploring around the campsite. The wind felt cold and strong, but we were protected and comfortable. The site was protected enough that I was even able to photograph small things. Flowers:

A tiny, delicate damselfly:

And even a forest tent caterpillar. (We would learn much more about these later on.)

As it got warmer, I noticed that there were lots of big black flies. Bigger than house flies, with red eyes, swarming on everything and leaving spots wherever they rested (fly poop--ick!) It was too hot in the tent, which was in the strong sun by now, so I stayed out with them, swatting, muttering, and feeling annoyed. The only good thing was that they didn't seem to bite. Still, I was beginning to realize very quickly that I didn't enjoy their presence!

A couple of canoes came by, but there wasn't any real traffic. We had an early supper (beef stroganoff and peas) about 5:30 so that we could go on an evening paddle, to take advantage of the long daylight hours available in mid-June. A little side trip to Dawkins Creek was very enjoyable, although I confess I would have enjoyed it more if there had been a MOOSE! But we did see the small waterfall by the portage, a family of ducks, some yellow bullhead lilies, and some beautiful, calm water.

While hanging the packs so that we could go out for our evening paddle, the black pack came untied and dropped to the ground. We checked later and found that we had some broken eggs, so I had to clean up a bit of a mess before bedtime. It worked out OK, as Neil had low blood sugar and we just had scrambled eggs along with our other bedtime snacks.

Notice the flies on his white shirt. What you cannot see is that by the time he took the shirt off, it was covered with reddish spots. Repellent didn't repel these flies. They seemed attracted by warmth.

There was a lovely evening calm on this night, with cool temperatures and a pinkish sunset. It was a nice ending to a good layover day--an unusual one because it came so early in the trip. We sat up later than usual, enjoying the sunset colors, with pink reflections in the lake and an almost-full moon reflected there as well. This was a pleasant evening. We didn't know enough yet to appreciate the gift that the cooler temperature was giving us--no flies! We hadn't fully realized that the flies were there to stay!


Part 4 of 11

Day Three: June 21st

I was up at 5:30 to see a calm and just slightly misty dawn. It was 60-ish and the mosquitoes came out, just to help us appreciate the wilderness experience! We had an egg and pancake breakfast and were loading the canoe by 7:30 with a bright sky overhead.

The 56-rod portage to Rib Lake is easy, but I was dismayed at the extent of the forest tent caterpillars, which are accompanied by the swarming flies. Bright sun made the breeze feel hot. The portage to Lower George Lake (37 rods) had some mud, but it wasn't "sucky" and I did find that my new boots handled it in stride. I saw a lovely yellow bird on this portage, perhaps a warbler or an evening grosbeak. The 28-rod portage to Karl Lake is a nice walk through the woods. We saw some pink moccasin flowers along the way.

We paddled into Long Island Lake and took the second campsite at 11 AM. It is a pretty site, but the flies were really too thick to enjoy our time out in the sun. It was hot in the tent; still after awhile we just couldn't stand being swarmed! The outside temperature was about 80 degrees, and I (the one who really loves to come to the Boundary Waters in June to enjoy the crisp, cool weather!) was already complaining about the heat and humidity. Dr. M, my orthopedist who is also a Quetico fisherman, had remarked that it would be "nippy" in the BWCA this time of year. I don't think so!

I stalked a mourning cloak butterfly with my camera, and took a photo of the tent site.

After resting, playing two games of Racko, and reading, we started our supper at 5 PM. We heard some rustling in the forest and I got all excited about a moose possibility, but nothing materialized. Dined this evening on macaroni with butter, milk, a little cheese, and eggs stirred in. It was pretty good, and we knew with the warm temps we needed to use up the rest of the fresh eggs.

This was a lovely, calm evening and was enjoyable once the temperature dropped below the limits for the flies. I sat on the shore and watched fish jumping, singing "Summertime" in my head, but not out loud, of course!

We sat up and watched the setting sun disappear over the trees and also a lovely moon rise. Tomorrow we planed to head to Cherokee Lake, one of my favorite spots from our long trip in 1992. I could hardly wait!


Part 5 of 11

Day Four: June 22nd

Neil was up at 4 AM with high blood sugar and severe nausea. He wasn't improved at all when we got up at 6 AM to have our breakfast. We hadn't intended for this to be a layover day, but there is a danger in vomiting and nausea with a diabetic on insulin, and it was just not wise to start out. We tried a light breakfast of oatmeal, Tang, and coffee on a sunny, breezy morning with a temperature of 57 degrees. We heard a loon at first light. That is the sound that makes you realize you have really come to the BWCA! How I do love it!

While he rested in the tent, trying to keep his breakfast down, I kept photographing everything I saw: the island off our shore, the damselflies, flowers, etc. Later, as I was sitting on the shore reading, a young couple in a Forest Service canoe paddled up for an "inventory" of our campsite. The girl had multiple piercings with fine wires in them. The young man was from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They cut down a tree that was blocking our biffy trail and made a little conversation. They did ask to see our permit (a first for us.) The young woman told me about the weather forecast for thunderstorms and heavy rain, and suggested that perhaps it was a good thing that we had taken a layover day. With the sun shining brightly it didn't make much impression on us at the time.

They said that they had seen a large bull moose with a rack early in the morning on the eastern end of the lake. I was hoping we could go down and find him!

After they left, we went back to our earlier pursuits. I watched a dragonfly hatch from its case and dry its wings out in the breeze before taking flight. It was watching me as I took the photos, so I was pleased that when it actually flew (about 45 minutes after I had noticed it on the rock all wet and folded up) it fluttered to my leg, walked up to my knee, and sat gazing into my eyes intently. I called Neil when it flew again, landing on my forearm and staying there for a few minutes. Looking at me almost as if to say, "Are you my Mommy?" Finally, it made its complete flight into the wind. It might sound like this is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but actually I have developed a very profound appreciation for small wonders during our many BWCA trips. This was a unique and memorable afternoon, making a personal contact with such a beautiful creature. I was glad to have experienced the whole process. [I will not include the entire sequence of photos: just a representative sampling.]

We ate our lunch, covered in swarming flies. One of the most disconcerting problems was trying to have a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Because the flies were drawn to the warmth, they would fly to our cups, and then dive-bomb into the hot liquid. Soon, if you weren't really paying attention, there would be two or three flies swimming/floating in your drink! At first, I dumped the drinks out. After a few days, I would just scoop them out with a spoon and go on to finish my coffee. All of this while our arms, hands, backs, necks, and sometimes even faces were covered with crawling flies! I do NOT remember this fondly, even twenty years after the fact.

It seemed like a good idea to take a short paddle around our immediate area now that Neil was feeling some better. The wind was alternately quiet and gusty, and the sky a shallow gray, looking more like storms were indeed coming. We checked out the campsite across from ours (visible to us) and decided that it wasn't a better place to weather a storm than where we were. Anyway, it would be too much effort at at this point to make a move. And the flies were everywhere--not just our campsite. They did seem less bothersome, however, when we were on the water.

We spent the afternoon organizing the tent for a possible storm, getting everything ready, and watching the sky. At 3:30 there were sprinkles and those LLLOOOONNNNNGGGGG echoing thunderboomers that you get on the lakes with the rocky shores. We took a bag of food and plenty of fresh water to the tent, read our books and played Racko and listened to the storm until dark.


Part 6 of 11

Day Five: June 23rd

[At about half-way in our trip, perhaps it is the time to explain our route. As near as I can tell, we didn't have a set itinerary/route in mind when we left Cross Bay EP. We knew that we wanted to go back to some lakes that we had particularly enjoyed on our long trip in 1992, notably Long Island, Cherokee, Gordon, and Frost. While we usually planned a loop, this trip was an "out and back" route, and we had ten days in mind. No hurry to get anywhere, no pressure. We weren't retired yet. This vacation was a real change of pace for us, and we wanted time to savor the silence, visit a few favorite spots, and make memories. Now we were off on our way to Cherokee, and I hoped to find a certain campsite open, so that I could renew my relationship with my "sitting rock." Photo below is from 1992.]

This may also be the time to explain the phenomenon of the "friendly flies". Rather than do this myself, I will include some information that we found after our trip in some online DNR bulletins.

Now on to Day Five:

We slept pretty well; considering there was lots of thunder, lightning, and rain in the night. The tent was very wet when we awoke, but we were comfortable and dry. Putting the space blanket underneath the sleeping pads was a good idea. [was this perhaps the first time we used an "innie" as well as an "outie"?] Neil's blood sugar was still high, but he was feeling better when we got up shortly after 5 AM and had our oatmeal breakfast. It looked like we had gotten more than an inch of rain, so everything was damp, drippy, muddy--take your pick!

Neil thought we should pack up and go, but I had my doubts. We paddled to the east end of the lake, around the island where the Forest Service couple was camped and saw the big bull moose. Unfortunately, he was in the woods offshore and as soon as he saw us he took off! I was very disappointed not to get a photo.

The sky was gradually brightening and clearing throughout this morning. When we got back to camp we packed up and were on the water by 11:20. As soon as the sun came out the flies were not far behind, so I was more than ready to get on the lake. They didn't bother much while paddling.

We arrived at Gordon Lake at 1:20, and I wondered if the wild columbine were still blooming at the campsite there. Perhaps on the return trip. . .

We had our lunch at an interesting and very secluded site on Cherokee Lake. It might have been a place to stay, but the worms were everywhere, and I was still hoping for my favorite site with the "sitting rock".

Aren't they lovely? Actually, they don't look too bad all curled up on a branch like that. The problem is, they don't stay there. They were dropping out of the trees, lying on the ground, accumulating all over the open areas and the trails, and it was almost impossible not to tread on them. Squish! Illogical as it seems, I don't particularly mind snakes, but I am really grossed out by worms. And there were just too many worms for comfort. We didn't learn until after our trip that the "friendly flies" that we disliked so much were really doing us a favor--as they were killing the worms. However, the combination of worms and swarming flies that left spots on everything was really not what I had bargained for when I said I wanted ten days in the BWCA.

After our worm-dodging, fly-flicking lunch was done, we paddled down Cherokee in the bright sun, enjoying this time on a really beautiful lake. Arrived at the campsite at 2:45, and we were pleased to see it vacant. The rocks were as we remembered (no real surprise there) but I was amazed at the difference in the biffy trail. There were snapped-off pines standing like sentinels, and the open view of the water from two sides while sitting on the biffy that I had remembered so vividly (I had photographed this for our 1992 book) was completely obscured by small brush and trees! What had been the most open toilet site, a "throne upon the hill", has become very private and secluded. The tall trees are either tipped over or snapped off, and the entire look of the place is different.

The area at the side of the campsite has a rose garden, and a few places to explore.

The tent site is only partially shaded and not that protected. But the reason we love this site is not because of the tent site or the rose garden. It is because of the rocks. I fell in love with what I call the "sitting rock" on our long trip in 1992, and never forgot how much I enjoyed sitting out on this rocky point in Cherokee Lake just enjoying the view. Ten years ago we photographed ourselves on the two rocky points. Neil took my camera with him and I used a little Kodak disposable panoramic camera to capture his image on the opposite point. This time we each had a camera and a zoom lens. So we had to do it again, of course. [There are photos of this place in the 1992 Trip Report "Long Trip" and also in the 2012 Trip Report "Return to Cherokee", if a comparison would interest you.]

This stripe in the rock caught my eye.

The weather was hot and humid, with a partly cloudy sky, a little breeze, and the flies bothering as usual. I watched a pair of loons on the lake. I sudsed out a few undies and hung them to dry. The flies loved the warm, clean clothes hanging in the sun and immediately they were all over them, leaving their tiny red dots. There were two photos of my lacy bra with insects--one with flies and one with a yellow butterfly. Note that I discarded the photo of the flies and saved the butterfly one.

We relaxed around camp and had our supper at 6:30 (honey lime chicken and peas.) It was hard to hang the packs at this site, with only one big tree available, but we managed. There was a nice sunset with a pair of loons floating by for atmosphere, and a beautiful moonrise which I noticed just as I was crawling into the tent at bedtime.

This was a longer day, with more paddling, three short portages, a moose, loons, butterflies, a lovely moonrise, and the return to a beloved campsite on my favorite lake. Because we were upset about the flies, I had to make a real effort to remind myself to appreciate the blessings and not overlook any golden moment.


Part 7 of 11

Day Six: June 24th

I was awake at 5:30, but Neil slept on. I reflected that I had gone to sleep to the sound of the white-throated sparrow, loons and ducks, and was waking to the same sounds (minus the ducks.) The morning of day six was very foggy, with a cool breeze out of the north. We had a quick breakfast with thunder rolling in the distance and Neil did the dishes while I sat out the storm in the tent. (NOTE: the Oscar Meyer pre-cooked bacon is very good.)

We made the decision not to do the side trip to Frost Lake. I was disappointed, since Frost was a favorite of mine, but I don't think either of us were up to a 140-rod portage at the time, especially with muddy conditions. Because we had already had an extra layover day and we didn't want to give up our time on Cherokee, it seemed like a reasonable decision. There would be other trips, and other opportunities.

A very active thunderstorm went over us about 7 AM and it stormed and rained hard until 8 o'clock, then off and on until 9. At 9:10 I ventured out and saw a small patch of blue sky. Almost immediately there were sprinkles again! After it quit, I took some raindrop photos. The storming was done.

By noon we had bright sun, thousands of flies, 80 degrees and high humidity. We ate our lunch, tied up the packs, and went paddling in Cherokee Creek. This was a very enjoyable paddle along a river-like environment. Just HAD to have a moose! (Nope!) But it did have pitcher plants, big rocks, lots of damselflies and dragonflies, lilies, and a puddle of yellow swallowtails on the portage shore. The water was calm, so reflections were everywhere.

We paddled back past our camp and then headed for another part of the lake, checking out the area near the portage to Sitka Lake. At a campsite near there we saw the worst infestation of the tent caterpillars that we had seen yet! It was enough to turn your stomach! Of course, with the bright sun and warm air, the flies were there to match. It must have been too disgusting for photography--there are no pictures.

There was one loon on our way back to camp, and then I tried to photograph our camp from the water. This was pretty unsuccessful, since the tent site is quite hidden.

Our supper was Backpacker's Pantry Cashew Curry Chicken :-( and Mountain High Cinnamon Apple Crisp :-) . The flies were so annoying we were discussing ending our trip a day early, something that we had never done before. This would be hard to do when we were out here in a quiet place, only seeing two or three canoes a day. But it spoils the camp experience to be swarmed continually, to pick flies out of your food and drink, and to have your tent, life jackets, clothing, etc. spotted with fly poop! Neil did the dishes again tonight. I think he was feeling sorry for me.

Two canoes of people, a family probably, came by in the evening and would have liked our campsite. They weren't as quiet as most people in the wilderness. I hoped they wouldn't camp nearby. We knew that there were many other campsites available on Cherokee, so we didn't worry about them.

I enjoyed the evening on my sitting rock, writing post cards and just reflecting on the beauty of this spot. I believe it is one of my all-time favorite campsites. Coming back here after ten years was a very satisfying experience for me.


Part 8 of 11

Day Seven: June 25th

I awoke at 3:30 for nature's call and didn't get back to sleep. I listened to the birds waking up, the bullfrogs at the creek, and beavers slapping in our little sheltered bay. Finally got up at 5 AM and enjoyed the dawn. It was very warm and damp, with gray clouds scudding by, but I felt optimistic that it would clear. We were warm and dry in the night.

The beavers had left a big branch in the water, and I watched it as it floated away, eventually going out of sight. It was wonderful on "my rock" before the flies woke up! After the one photo of the clouds, I took a couple more of the silvery dawn.

We had cornmeal/blueberry pancakes again, along with the rest of the bacon. The flies were waking up as I said goodbye to my sitting rock and we loaded the canoe at 7:40. We paddled around to the little bay beside the campsite before leaving. (Still no moose.)

There was considerable wind assist for our paddle up Cherokee Lake on this morning. It is easy to spot the portage from this direction, as there is a tall stump right at the take-out point. The 13-rod portage to Gordon is easy also. We paddled in a leisurely fashion up Gordon, taking time out to bother some loons for photos. I had to change film, so lost the best shots of these. I again noticed a rock formation that I think looks remarkably like a big-nosed face. I had photographed this in '92 also.

Stopping early because I really wanted to stay at the Gordon Lake site, I was pleased to note that it still has a lot of wild columbines, particularly lining the lower end of the biffy trail. I photographed these and some other flowers in the filtered light.

It is hard to relax and just "be here" when you are being swarmed. We probably should have stopped, seen the flowers, and moved on. Taking refuge in the tent was not a pleasant experience, as we were sweaty and smelly and the tent was HOT! We played some Racko, read our books, and soon it started to blow and rumble.

A tiny thundershower was followed by an intense thunderstorm, and a very angry looking sky. You could hear the wind approaching, then the lightning, followed by the crash! Sometimes the flash and the crash were so close it took your breath away!

When the wind became significantly cooler, I began to hope that we might lose the flies. But soon the sun was shining, the sky was beautiful again, and they returned. We did get out to rinse off in the lake, swatting and brushing all the time, and that made the tent more pleasant when we had to again take refuge against more storms. There was a storm at 4 o'clock, another at 5, and another at 6 when we were thinking about fixing supper. [There is no note in my journal about whether or not we had supper, but I assume we did, and it was made in rain gear.]

This campsite has a biffy trail that ends in not much of a clearing, and a nice overlook of the tent site and fire grate area below.

My plans for an evening paddle had been pretty much squelched by the changeable weather during the day and the late supper. We were thankful that the last storm left us with cooler temperatures, and we retired early.


Part 9 of 11

Day Eight: June 26th

This was a cranky morning. I was up at 5:15, saw the gray sky looking like rain, and became immediately irritable and crabby. It didn't help that I burned the coffee cake and didn't put enough water in the powdered eggs. (They were tough--ugh!) My arthritis doesn't like the stormy days and damp nights, and I was stiff and sore. Also tired of the low-sodium, low potassium, low protein adaptations of the infamous "kidney diet" that are challenging in a camping situation. Enough things to make a person crabby, and eight days of brushing flies off everything and every part of me hasn't even been mentioned yet this morning.

We packed up and were on the water by 8 AM.

Heading north again we experienced more of the really changeable weather pattern. It would rain, so we would put on the rain gear. Soon it would be sunny and warm. We were sweating in the rain jacket, so it would come off again. On again, off again. On again, off again. Of course, I was sitting in an aluminum canoe in rain pants with a split seat, so my bottom was wet for the entire day.

Isn't wilderness paddling fun??

Yes, it is! We were thrilled during one of the sunny moments to see a loon family with two chicks. On Karl Lake we paddled quietly and got close enough for good views of two adult loons. At first one of them had the two chicks on her back, but she encouraged them to float, and they followed her after that. The other adult (I am calling it the male, although I really have no idea) followed behind, doing shallow dives and coming up with little minnows that he fed to the chicks. Both adults were "talking" lovingly to the chicks and keeping very close watch on them. The chicks were quite small, and I would suspect not very old at all. We followed along with them for some time and were pleased to witness the family moment. The sun stayed with us, so we had lovely green reflections on the water and a calm surface for quiet paddling. I was surprised at how close they let us stay, and how long they would continue their fishing and feeding with us nearby. It was probably the highlight of the trip for me!

We continued paddling again (with rain off and on, as before), portaged to Lower George, paddled some more, and then saw two deer on shore near the portage to Rib Lake. It was fun to see the whitetails and watch them for a few minutes on the shore. We don't often see deer in the Boundary Waters.

We had our lunch at the portage out of Rib Lake.

Met a young couple on the portage and we asked the girl if anyone had told them about the flies. She smiled and said, "Yes, but they don't bite!" I found myself wondering if she would be so cavalier about it when their idyllic camp on Frost Lake was swarming with buzzing monsters and all of their gear was covered with red-brown spots.

In my book this next photo says "portage trail". I assume I took the picture on this portage, but am not sure. I often have taken a picture on a pretty portage to remind myself that some of them are just walks in the park.

I love the spring flowers on a June canoe trip!

We camped at the same site on Cross Bay Lake where we had spent nights one and two. Part of me wanted to go on, but it was a nice site, the weather still looked iffy, and we wanted to dry things out before setting up camp. We had rain coming and going much of the afternoon but did get camp set up and became reacquainted with the resident chipmunk and squirrel. We positioned the tent 90 degrees differently from the first time, so we could come and go on grass instead of mud. It was a big improvement.

After camp was set up and a nap was enjoyed, we ate chicken with rice, corn, and savored our usual cappuccino. [This was a Nestle product, sort of like powdered hot chocolate, but flavored cappuccino. I have no idea if they still make it, but for awhile it was our dessert drink of choice.] The sun finally came out for good around 7 PM. We walked to the rocky point and watched the sun warm and light up the trees at the south end of the lake.

Came back to camp for a marshmallow fire and a nice sunset. It was cooler this evening, 58 degrees. We said goodbye to the BWCA on the last sunset--see you next year!


Part 10 of 11

Day Nine: June 27th

You can hear the little waterfall at the portage from this campsite. I didn't notice it the first time because I thought it was the wind. But it lulled me to sleep in the night and was the first thing I heard in the morning. Such a pleasant sound!

We had a cool and misty morning, 47 degrees. The sun rose red in a clear sky and the temperature climbed quickly. It was 58 degrees by 7 o'clock.

Breakfast was Krusteaz apple pancakes (made from a muffin mix) and they were good. Having the real maple syrup along makes any pancakes better, worth the weight IMHO! Ended the second bottle of stove fuel on this morning. The lake was still, with beautiful reflections. As we were packing up, Neil suggested that we could take the portage to Snipe Lake and stay for one more day, but when the flies returned we scuttled that idea. We loaded up at 9 AM, after enjoying a leisurely morning in camp with an extra cup of coffee.

We did take the stream up to the Snipe Lake portage and enjoyed the pitcher plants, the dragonflies (mating in air--how do they do that?), damselflies, and no moose! I was so sure that Cross Bay Lake, which is moose habitat throughout, would give us a good moose sighting on this trip, but it wasn't to be.

There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies on this day. I photographed too many, and Neil was so patient as I tried getting shots of the damsels from the canoe.

We ate our lunch at a campsite on Hamm Lake. We could hear engines running and Neil said it was probably a logging operation. It was hot and humid, so we didn't stay a long time.

On the last portage of the trip we were surprised to find that a tree had been blown down at the bottom of the area where the Forest Service had put in some steps. It had caused a washout and some instability in the steps, so there would need to be repairs done. The gravel at the bottom was loose and Neil startled me when he slipped and dropped the canoe, but no harm was done.

By the end of this portage I was suffering in the heat, well over 90 degrees. I half-heartedly photographed some damselflies, but was really just ready to be done. We reached the landing about noon and snacked before loading the car.


While we were loading, a septic tank service from Grand Marais came and started cleaning out the toilet. It didn't add much to the hot and sticky atmosphere! The driver said that he would probably draw the flies away, but we weren't that lucky!

The road back to Clearwater had two significant challenges. First of all, there were so many dead and dying worms dropping from the trees and all over the road that the Gunflint Trail was actually slippery! Almost like driving on new snow. Incredibly weird!

Secondly, we were having some serious car trouble. After realizing this, we stopped near Gunflint Road and put up the hood. Ended up hitching a ride with a very nice couple from Wisconsin, who drove us all the way to Clearwater Lodge (even though they weren't going there.) We saw a large bull moose in the water along Clearwater Road, but I wasn't very successful in photographing him.

At Clearwater we ended up making arrangements for our car to be towed to Grand Marais (to Steve's Chevrolet) and Bob Marchino was kind enough to drive us back to the car so we could leave the keys in it and grab some bags. We were glad we had ended a day early and hopeful that the car could be repaired on Friday. We were also thankful that Charlie's room was available for an extra night, or even the weekend, if necessary. Not the easiest ending to a canoe trip, but things could have been worse.


Part 11 of 11


What a place to be stranded! We were comfortable for an extra night in Charlie's Room, and we used hot water to fix some freeze-dried supper. [Clearwater only has food service at breakfast.] I was dismayed to realize that I hadn't picked up my tote bag (which contained all of my clean underwear and our bathing suits) but we made do. It felt good, as always, to shower and clean up. We attended the bonfire Thursday evening and enjoyed talking to the other guests and the staff. Everyone is so relaxed and friendly at Clearwater--and such interesting people, too!

Breakfast the next day was blueberry/raspberry pancakes and sausage. Thus fortified, we decided to walk down the road and see if we could see the bull moose again. We even ventured down a little snowmobile trail to a marshy spot, but there was nothing to reward us except some flowers and the usual mosquitoes. After walking to the West Bearskin dock, I began to realize that it was quite enough for my knee, so I photographed another puddle of yellow swallowtails and we headed back.

We read our books, napped, and enjoyed Clearwater Lodge until after lunch (summer sausage and crackers, dried fruit) when Neil called and learned that our car was repaired. It was just the serpentine belt ($100), and the towing was $125. We didn't feel like it had turned out too badly. Bob drove us in to Grand Marais, where we picked up the car, bought some new Woolrich rain gear for me (!), and then headed back for our second night in Charlie's Room.

We had dinner Friday evening at Old Northwoods Lodge. This is an old resort location where they have built a new lodge. [Present-day "Big Bear Lodge".] It was a delicious walleye dinner--much better than the freeze-dried beef stew of the night before! The Russian potato salad was excellent!

On Saturday we had a French toast and bacon breakfast at Clearwater and were on our way by 9 AM. Traveled the twisty-turny road to Ely, ate our lunch at the Chocolate Moose, and did some shopping before going out to Pine Tree Trail to visit with our friends who had a cabin there. We enjoyed a visit with them, capped off with dinner at Northern Grounds, before heading to Eveleth for our night's lodging.

The trip home included visits with friends in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, and Brooklyn Park, as well as a stop to enjoy the aquarium at the Mall of America. We spent Tuesday night with friends in Rochester, and Wednesday night with our daughter and her husband in Downers Grove, Illinois. It was fun to share details of our trip with them, as they had been on Cherokee Lake the previous summer on their own canoe trip--sans "friendly flies". They seem to have picked a better time to go!

We left Downers Grove on Thursday July 4th, stopped in Chesterton, Indiana to visit with more friends, and ended up arriving home about 8:45. In spite of some challenges, it had been a successful vacation, and we were glad to be safely home again.


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