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

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

September 18 2021

Entry Point 52 - Brant Lake

Brant Lake 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 45 miles. Access is a canoe landing at Round Lake with an 85- and a 35-rod portage to Brant Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1500 feet
Latitude: 48.0692
Longitude: -90.8455












Brant to Tuscarora via Little Sag Route:
Round
Brant
Bat - Mud
Gillis - burn area is evident:









French
Peter - first lake trout:









Virgin
Little Sag - green trees again!
Mora - gorgeous divide of burn and green
Crooked
Owl
Tuscarora - second lake trout!
Missing Link - with lighter food pack, the portage is OK
Round

2020 Brant to Missing Link Solo Loop

by petzval
Trip Report

Entry Date: September 14, 2020
Entry Point: Brant Lake
Exit Point: Missing Link Lake (51)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
This was my fourth trip in the Boundary Waters and my second solo. I got a somewhat-purposeful late start on planning, and higher than normal BWCA usage in September helped me settle on the Brant Lake entry point. I knew that I would be spending as many as five nights in the wilderness with a goal of exiting through Missing Link Lake via one of several possible routes. I had spent the summer acquiring most of the equipment that I would need other than a canoe and emergency satellite device which I rented from Tuscarora. I ended up really lucking out with the weather, and this has been my favorite trip yet! I feel like I added a few more skills, and I've gained confidence in my navigation skills. I pushed myself a bit out of my comfort (but never safety) zone, and I feel like I've really learned about the type of trip I like to do and what is optimal for my enjoyment.

Part 1 of 7


Day 0 September 13, 2020

I left my home in the Twin Cities right around 10 AM, wanting to give myself time to get to Tuscarora before they closed so that I could get an early start the next day. It was fairly overcast at home, but the weather really got beautiful once I got north of Duluth. I thought to myself, “if I can just get one day like this in the wilderness, I will be very happy.” Just north of the Temperance River State Park parking area on Highway 61, I saw a black bear cub crossing the road. That would prove to be my most significant wildlife encounter of the trip, but it was still such a thrill!

I got to county road 47 just before 4 PM and stopped at the Cross River put-in point for a quick gander before settling up with Andy at Tuscarora. It was still a beautiful day, and I counted 11 cars in the Cross River parking lot (there were only two or three the year before). Andy was able to sell me a few partially used camp stove fuel canisters as there was no stock anywhere in the Twin Cities (and even he didn't have full canisters available to sell). I told him about my potential routes and contingencies, and he mentioned that making it to Little Saganaga would definitely be worthwhile with the amount of time I had. I got the satellite device functioning and connected to by wife and kids back home and had a simple dinner out of my cooler (that was staying in the truck during my journey) before retiring shortly after sun-down.

My most crucial preparation.

Fall colors stating to pop at Tuscarora.

Wish I had brought another blanket...

Hope I'm bringing enough stuff...

 



Part 2 of 7


Day 1 September 14, 2020

My alarm got me up at 6AM, and I made my final preparations before having the French toast breakfast at 7 AM. I was on the water at Round Lake right around 8 AM. I had taken a trip out of Tuscarora one week later in 2019, and there were only three or four other cars parked there. This year, there were probably 15 or so cars parked in the longer-term lots.

There was a nice mist on Round Lake, and I got into my paddling stride pretty quickly. I knew right where I was headed as I had been on this lake and to the Brant and Missing Link portages this past July on a day trip with my family. Just before arriving to the portage, my paddle got caught behind the portage yoke that I hadn't moved as far forward as I could (and should) have. With the blade in the water, me holding on to the other end, and the shaft caught behind the yoke, the canoe started to tip! I fortunately had the sense to just let go of the damn paddle, but it woke me up and got my blood pumping! I guess there's a reason I paddle alone... I was thankful for the mist behind me that shielded my blunder from any potential onlookers back at the Tuscarora dock. It wasn't even 9AM, and I already learned my first lesson: move and fully secure the solo portage yoke as near the thwart as possible before you start paddling.

I knew that this would be a day filled with portages and loading/unloading the canoe, and I just took everything steady and careful. I carried my smaller pack and the canoe on the first trip, and then I carried my larger and heavier equipment pack on the second trip. The first portage to West Round was uneventful and pretty easy. By the time I got on to West Round it was shaping up to be an absolutely beautiful day. As I pulled up to the portage that would take me to Edith, a couple emerged headed the other way. We exchanged some pleasantries but didn't talk much as we did our best at social distancing. I figured that they had probably spent the night on Brant before heading out.

The portage from West Round to Edith was easy but consisted of many boardwalk planks which were really unnecessary this time of year (though I'm sure they are vital during the wet times). Some stretches were just a single plank, and I had some balance issues with my heavier pack – probably comical to view (there's a reason I travel alone...). When I got to the Edith side of the portage, I could see the portage trail into Brant from across the lake. So Edith was a short paddle. The fall colors were starting to pop in some places. I got my obligatory selfie with BWCA sign, and proceeded over the next trail to Brant.

Brant was a super-pretty lake on such a beautiful, windless morning. I was really happy to be on the lake and hoped that the paddling would last a while. Both of the western camp sites were occupied, and I assumed that the couple I came across earlier had come from the north-eastern campsite (I didn't paddle over to check it). A couple of guys in solo canoes (who were staying at one of the Brant sites) hit the portage trail at the same time as me. They were just on a day trip, single-portaging to fish on Bat, but I (somehow) managed to keep up with them for most of the journey. The trail from Brant to Gotter has a pretty good up, down, up, and down. My notes say that this portage “sucked, but was beautiful.” It really was beautiful. And it really sucked. Focus on the beauty!

Gotter was a cool, pretty little lake. I didn't have a great bearing on the next portage trail, and I ended up heading to the south west side of the lake before making my way to the portage trail a little farther north. The two soloists where unloading while another pair (nice guys from La Crosse, Wisconsin) were putting in to Gotter on their way out of the wilderness. They said that Gillis was a destination lake and were looking forward to returning some day. That boded well for me, as Gillis was my target that day. I asked if it was crowded, and they said no. The portage trail from Gotter to Flying was a breeze after the previous portage. I didn't think there was any way it could be 50 rods if the previous was 88. I double portaged it quick enough that the soloists were putting in at the bottom of the stairs when I returned with my final load. I gave them plenty of space and time and rested for a short spell, admiring the beautiful view from atop the trail.

The paddle on Flying to the portage leading to Green was short, sweet, and lovely. The portage trail from Flying to Green was less-lovely. BIG uphill and BIG downhill. I passed another group coming out of Gilles who told me that it was pretty empty at this point. It was at the end of this portage that I was starting to feel the first hints of fatigue. But I was still inspired by the beauty as I took notice of how Green Lake might have gotten its name. The water looks kind of green. Not in a gross algae kind of way, but just in a clear “emerald” kind of way. Perhaps I was hallucinating. I had taken a bearing from the Flying portage to the Bat portage which ended up “hiding” from me in an area of tall reeds. I was proud of myself for paddling straight to the portage based on my map and compass reading – a skill still in development for me.

The portage to Bat was short and easy but one of the more rocky paths thus far on the trip. By the time I got everything to Bat, I was really dragging. My legs were tired. It was about 12:30, and I hadn't eaten since 7 that morning. So I decided to have a quick sandwich that I had brought to recharge the batteries. That was a great strategy, and I knew that a was well-fueled to make it to Gillis.

Bat was another pretty lake, and it felt bigger than all of the previous lakes. I could tell that the wind was picking up. I just kind of followed the south-eastern shore, passed the two camp sites, and found the portage trail with ease. The day trippers were having lunch at the first campsite, and the second campsite was occupied. I was still hopeful for some empty campsites on Gillis, though, based on my conversations with the groups I had passed.

Getting out at the portage trail from Bat to Gillis was a bit of a challenge as there we're many great places to step out. I found a spot, held on to a rock, and pitched my map and paddle out. As soon as I did, I lost grip on the rock, and the (now increasing) wind pushed my canoe away from the trail and back into the lake with me in it. Did I mention that I had pitched my paddle? I was literally up a creek (or lake at least) without a paddle. By hook or by crook, I managed to get my canoe back to the trail, but I'm sure I looked ridiculous “paddling” with finger splashes and cursing the entire time (there's a reason I travel alone...). So I learned my second lesson of the day: keep your paddle in the canoe until you and it are on dry land. I realize that most normal people don't need to learn this lesson the hard way.

The portage into Gillis was short but super-rocky, and I was really dragging by this time. Of course, as can happen in the BWCA in the early afternoon, the wind was really starting to pick up. By the time I got everything loaded and was pushing off, there weren't quite whitecaps on the lake, but the waves were getting pretty rough – rougher than I liked.

I really wanted to check the campsite on the east side of the lake, but the wind was blowing from the south, and it would have been a really tough paddle. I decided, instead, to stick to the northern shoreline and check out the two campsites closer to the portage trail. I quickly saw the first campsite up on the bluff, and it was unoccupied. It looked really exposed, though, so I didn't even get out to check it out. I was a bit tempted as the waves were high enough to be splashing into my canoe, but I pushed on to the second site on the north side (camp site 505) which was really my target with the amazing view of the southern sky (I had hoped to do some Milky Way photography). It was open, and I was so relieved to be getting out of the water for the day. I had prepared at the final put-in to collect water in my Platypus dirty water bag and did so before my final landing.

I arrived at the wonderful landing to the camp site at around 1:40 PM. I unloaded and secured the canoe, started my water filter, and then I sat on one of the logs by the fire grate and just kind of took in the beauty and fatigue before setting up the rest of camp. The campsite has areas that were exposed to the southern wind, but it also had plenty of areas that were protected. I took the nice tent pad by the fire grate. It had gotten pretty hazy (I would later learn from the fires in California), so I didn't even unpack my camera gear. After I set up camp, I explored some of the trails a bit, sat on the rock overlooking the lake, and eventually had dinner (I just do simple put-boiling-water-in-a-bag dinners). The wind calmed a bit before dusk, and I saw two guys in a canoe take a paddle on Gillis from the eastern campsite that I had considered investigating earlier – so glad I didn't waste the time or energy!

After a nip or two (or three or four, well, the number doesn't quite matter) of Irish whiskey, I retired to my tent at about 7 PM where I made some notes of the day on my voice recorder. I was beat, but I made a specific note to remind myself of how grateful I was to get to be here and do this and how much I loved my family back home. The wind was on and off again, but I was snug as a bug in my tent with my air mattress and sleeping bag, and I had an amazing night's sleep in the quiet wilderness.

Lakes traveled: Round, West Round, Edith, Brant, Gotter, Flying, Green, Bat, and Gillis 8 portages, 370 rods (x3 = 3.5miles), 4.4 miles of paddling

My route for the day.

Delicious start to the trip!

Beautiful morning from the Tuscarora dock on Round Lake.

Round Lake side of the Round to West Round portage. Note the location of the portage yoke with regard to the thwart and imagine a paddle stroke from the seat.

Early Fall colors on West Round.

Single-plank boardwalk = careful (and perhaps humorous-looking) balancing...

Entering the Wilderness!

Beautiful morning on Brant Lake.

Taking a moment to enjoy the beauty on the portage trail between Brant and Gotter.

Gotter Lake as seen from the portage landing to/from Brant Lake.

Gotter Lake as seen from the portage landing to/from Flying Lake.

The stairs to Flying Lake from the Gotter portage trail.

Green Lake from the Green to Bat portage trail (zoom in on the portage yoke and note its location relative to the thwart – much better!).

My lakeside vacation home for the evening.

Looking east of south from campsite 505.

Looking south from campsite 505. The haze is from fires in California – no stargazing tonight!

 



Part 3 of 7


Day 2 September 15, 2020

When I went to bed the night before, I wasn't really sure what I was going to be doing on this day. I had three basic plans for this trip: 1) Stay at one campsite on Gillis and head out the way I came on the final night (I know many wouldn't like this plan, but I could be quite happy with it). 2) Stay on Gillis for a night or two and then make my way toward a campsite on Crooked, Tuscarora, or even Missing Link lake before heading out. 3) Move the second day (which was today) to Little Saganaga, spend a few days there, and then find one more campsite near Tuscarora before heading out.

The choice I made would be based mostly on how I felt when I awoke and the general conditions on this morning. I got up fairly early after an amazing night's sleep. I felt good (I had some knee issues the year prior that did not seem to appear this year), and the weather was kind of crappy. I liked the campsite and could have easily been very happy there for three or four nights, but it was still hazy, and the wind was blowing from the south again. I decided pretty quickly that this would be a better day to travel than to sit in camp. So I had a quick cold breakfast while I broke camp and packed up. I forgot to start the tracking on the inReach device I had rented from Tuscarora, but I think I shoved off at around 8 AM. I remembered to turn the tracking on once I was on the French Lake side of the Gillis to French Portage (mainly to let my wife know back home that I was on the move – she puts up with me doing this, so I think it's fair to keep her in the loop of my well-being). The trail between Gillis and French was easy and unmemorable – my favorite!

From the put-in at French, I set off to the portage trail in to Powell. As you can tell from the tacking map below, I had a bugger of a time finding this trail. My landmarks were the portage trail in to Fern Lake and the campsite on the south-west end of Powell – both of which I found with ease. The trail even looked close to the campsite, so I got out and explored the area and campsite to no avail. The site didn't look fantastic, by the way – I didn't see a single level tent pad. I paddled around the shore and even ended up just walking the portage trail to Fern just to verify where I was on the map. I eventually found the portage trail right where it should have been according to the map. There was a downed tree in the water that was completely obscuring the portage trail which I could tell once on it, is rarely used.

By the time I got everything to Powell Lake, the wind was really whipping in my face. It wasn't as bad as the previous afternoon on Gillis, but it was pretty bad, and I was going to be paddling into it for the rest of the morning. There's an island just to the west of the put-in from the French Lake portage, and I went to the south of it to protect myself as much as possible from the wind. It worked out just fine, but there is really on room for one canoe to between the island and the other shore that way (I imagine it's water-level dependent) due to some fallen trees. Once past the island, I took a bearing to the next portage trail as the previous experience on French had me a little gun-shy with regard to finding portages. The bearing worked perfectly, and I landed right where I needed to.

The portage trail from Powell to West Fern was actually pretty short and sweet. I could tell that in different water conditions, this could be a real bear, so I was happy to get through it with minimal trouble. The put-in to West Fern wasn't great, and the wind was really whipping like crazy in my face, so I had some hard paddling across West Fern. I made my way to the little channel on the west side of West Fern, but I was a little sloppy on looking at the map which shows the portage trail on the north side of the channel. I got out on what looked like a portage trail on the south side, unloaded the canoe, and happily marched my canoe and pack about 20 rods down a path that got worse and worse until I realized that this wasn't the portage trail. I had to reload and paddle about 30 feet to the real portage trail. Kind of a bummer, but that's what you get when you don't pay attention to the map.

I have no memory or notes of the portage between West Fern and Virgin, so it must have been just fine. The paddle on Virgin was a bit more south than west, so the paddling was a bit easier at this point. I just kind of followed the eastern shore of Virgin lake to lead me to the portage trail, but I did have another false start (though I didn't unload the canoe). I realized upon closer comparison later that the McKenzie map (that I was using for my primary navigation) has the portage from Virgin to Little Saganaga miss-marked by a bit. The Fisher map (my backup) has this portage marked a bit more-accurately – just a tad farther west than the McKenzie. You can even see on the inReach tracking map below that the portage trail is mis-marked.

So I found the portage trail, but I wish I hadn't. Just kidding. But I won't repeat the word I used to describe this portage trail in my notes (two hyphenated words, actually). Though it is, admittedly, a very pretty trail. Without gear, this would be a lovely little walk in the woods. This portage trail has a bit of a climb from Virgin, but then it has a MAJOR, MAJOR downhill over bare granite with some tricky footwork down to little Saganaga. I wouldn't want to do this (in this direction at least) if the rocks were wet or slippery. The landing at Little Saganaga is a lovely little sandy beach, so that was nice.

With my extra adventures searching for the French to Powell portage trail, it was after noon by the time I got everything to Little Saganaga. I hadn't packed a lunch toward the top of my pack, and I was actually really feeling like a hot meal after being slapped around by the wind all morning. So I set out to the site that is basically on the very north side of the lake, and I found it unoccupied with ease in just a few minutes. I got out to explore a bit before unloading the canoe, but I determined pretty quickly that this would be more than sufficient. In fact, it was quite amazing.

This was campsite #819. It seems to be right on the threshold of a burn area, but there are still many trees that serve as a wind-break from the west (which was needed on this day). The trail up to the latrine is steep, but there are many trails that branch off to offer amazing vista views of the surrounding area. I measured the field of view of the sky from the central granite outcropping of the site, and it's 200 degrees basically centered on the southern sky.

I had a hot lunch of raman noodles (which really warmed me up) and made camp. I took the time to rig my tarp because I knew that it would rain if I didn't. It was hazy and windy all day, but the wind finally died down at around 6 PM or so. I was too bushed, and it was still too hazy to do any stargazing this evening, and I knew I still had two additional nights at this site.

Lakes traveled: Gillis, French, Powell, West Fern, Virgin, and Little Saganaga 5 portages, 212 rods (x3 = 2 miles), 3.8 miles of paddling

My route for the day.

Yes, this is a portage trail (from French to Powell).

The correct portage landing on the northern side of the channel on the west side of West Fern (into Virgin).

The walk back up the granite slab trail between Little Saganaga and Virgin.

 



Part 4 of 7


Day 3 September 16, 2020

I woke up after another wonderful night of wilderness sleep and was determined to do as little as possible today. I had three liters of filtered water and another four in the gravity filter, so I wasn't even going to get in the canoe today. Again, I know not for everybody, but I enjoy my lazy camp days. The clouds and haze finally lifted around noon, and it just became absolutely beautiful. A group of four people in two canoes paddled by about that time, but those were the first people I had seen since two evenings before on Gillis.

I had a clear night and sat facing south with my panoramic view to watch the stars come out. I made notes to remind myself of the wonderful experience of watching the landscape and night sky as the sun sets and we move from civil to nautical to astronomical twilight and finally into as dark as it's going to get. Jupiter was the first object to pop in the south once the sun set, and then it was just a slow progression of beautiful blues and pinks yielding to ever more noticeable celestial bodies. Amid the waves intermittently lapping on the shore, the occasional cry of a loon, and moments of seemingly complete silence, it became clear that I had a pretty good seat for the show.

Once astronomical twilight ended, I took a few shots of the Milky Way, admired the countless stars, and retired. It got cold that night, but I was (once again) snug as bug. I was zipped up in my sleeping bag in my full base layer all night, so I'm guessing it might have gotten down close to freezing. I felt grateful and fortunate all day and night.

These guys were fishing near my campsite as it was still hazy from the smoke.

The haze started to lift around noon.

By 3 PM I had to seek some shade under my tarp.

Vista view from campsite 819 looking east.

Same vista view, a little more north.

I guess this is why they call it “golden hour.”

It was shaping up to be a calm, beautiful night.

Finally a little payoff for lugging the tripod and heavy glass through the wilderness!

 



Part 5 of 7


Day 4 September 17, 2020

Another lazy camp day today. I could get used to this. Especially with this weather. I sat on my vast granite overlook and watched the sun rise in the east and make its way across the sky all day until it set in the west. Simply cathartic. Time to think, not think, and reflect. And maybe have a nip or two...

A personal aside (perhaps inspired by the nipping): As I sat and truly immersed myself in the beauty all around me for another day, I found it impossible not to think of a man I never got to meet. Germano Silvistrini, my great-grandfather, arrived Ellis Island from Sassoferrato, Italy aboard the La Bretagne on November 7, 1906. The ship’s manifest said that he was 18 years old and traveling alone. He had $14, could read and write, and he was meeting a friend in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He eventually made his way to Eveleth, Minnesota where he worked in one of the mines, met his wife, and started a family. My grandmother, Elsie, was born in Eveleth on February 21, 1921. Germano eventually took his family west working, again, as a miner in Red Lodge, Montana, and finally to El Cerrito, California where he worked in a chemical plant. Germano was killed in 1926 in an accident at the plant.

Germano likely had little time in his life to recreate, but I couldn’t help wondering if he ever got a chance to take in the majestic beauty of Northern Minnesota. Perhaps he got a chance to go fishing with a friend. Or maybe he took notice of the beauty on his journey across the country. I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and privilege as I sat at my camp site in absolute comfort, perhaps taking in a view like one he might have had almost a hundred years ago. I inventoried my free time and my gear, and I realized that this man that I never met (in addition to dozens that I have met and loved) enabled this experience for me. His hard work and his tragically short life are in some way connected to my joyful experience in this amazing place.

Just months before (literally days before the pandemic shut everything down), I got the opportunity to visit the grand reception hall at Ellis Island, and I got to see the Statue of Liberty with my wife and daughters – sites that Germano certainly saw albeit under vastly different circumstances and higher stakes. As I sat at camp and reflected on that experience, I couldn’t fathom that young man’s bravery. Weeks away from his birthplace; alone; a future totally uncertain and unknowable. But he persisted because he had to. And because he did, I got this opportunity to enjoy this amazing world and this amazing place in the world. I hope that he got the opportunity to take it all in at some point. Whether he did or not, I was determined not to waste a second of this precious time feeling anything but gratitude and humility.

A chilly start to the morning made the coffee all the more sweet!

This guy was a frequent visitor over my days on northern Little Saganaga.

Another visitor, but he was loud and obnoxious, so I was happy when he left.

My setup for some more Milky Way photography.

Sunset looking south on another beautiful night.

A different framing for the Milky Way with a blended foreground object.

My great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Germano and Maria, with their first child, my great-aunt Elda, in Eveleth, Minnesota circa 1912. Special thanks to my sister who does all of the family genealogy.

 



Part 6 of 7


Day 5 September 18, 2020

I set my alarm for 6 AM and leisurely broke camp. I had one more night in the wilderness, but I wanted to be a bit closer to my intended exit point of Missing Link to make for a shorter day tomorrow. My target was Tuscarora, and I wanted to give myself plenty of time as I knew that navigating Little Saganaga might be tricky with all of the islands. I pushed off a little after 8 AM on a windless, beautiful morning and quickly passed two people in one canoe headed the other direction. I was headed toward the south-east side of the lake and the portage trail into Mora. I hadn't planned on the rising sun being directly in my face (a bonus second sun with the reflection off the mirror-like water!), so that made navigation even more difficult. I took my time and just focused on reconciling everything that I was seeing with what was on the map. I was pleased with myself when I was able to predict the four campsites leading up to the portage. That was another really pretty part of the lake. I could hear a group at the campsite nearest the portage, and (more importantly)I could smell their breakfast!

The portage trail into Mora was pretty easy and ran along-side a neat little rapids (which I'm sure are much less-little in the Spring). Mora was beautiful and calm. My plan was to make it to the eastern-most island campsite and get a bearing to the little channel that leads into Tarry. A couple of loons came up close while I did so to check me out and quickly lost interest. I found the channel with ease and had to do my first pull-over of a beaver dam that ran across the channel before the portage into Tarry. I have seen people on this forum talk about pulling over beaver dams, and I must say that it is a perfectly descriptive term. You step out of the canoe onto the beaver dam, you pull your loaded canoe over the beaver dam, and you get back in your canoe and proceed. Again, I know that most people don't need these “lessons,” but I feel like I acquired a new life-skill.

The short portage into Tarry is ridiculously uneventful, and Tarry is a small lake in a burn area. As much as I tire of referring to lakes and trails as being pretty and beautiful, I must continue to use these words. Tarry was beautiful. In its own way. I had a little trouble spotting the portage trail into Crooked as there is a large downed tree with its canopy in the lake. The portage trail was behind the canopy. The landing wasn't great, and the entire area was a “boulder-filled, ankle-turning nightmare” according to the sanitized version of my notes. The trail was only 50 rods, but it was one of my least favorite of the trip. I passed a single-portaging soloist on my second trip, and I took my time at the Crooked put-in to figure out my strategy for going around the islands to get to the portage trail to Owl.

I ended up going due north from the portage trail to the west side of the island directly adjacent to the put-in. I might have been able to go south and east of the island, but this way looked easier from the ground. Once I rounded the corner of the largest island in the lake, I could see two canoes with two people each fishing. I made it to the portage in to Owl easily and tried not to disturb the fishermen. As I approached the portage trail, I could see another group unloading. I let them finish and start on their way before landing and unloading. This was another boulder-filled portage trail. I caught up to the guys in front of me who each had an end of their loaded canoe with about 20 rods to go. It turned out that they were just going into Owl to fish, so they didn't have all of their camping gear. When a got back closer to the Crooked side of the trail, I could hear what sounded like some kind of motor. I think it must have been wind or water in some kind of cave or something. Interesting. I stood and listened for a while.

Owl was easy to navigate, and I could see a red canoe at the landing of the portage to Tuscarora. More boulders, and this trail has a decent initial incline, but it was pretty easy trail overall. I passed two guys (owners of the red canoe) who seemed to have a lot of stuff. I was kind of dragging at this point, and I hadn't had enough water (note to self: make a point of drinking more water than you think you need when traveling).

I decided to have a quick lunch near the landing into Tuscarora after my second trip. As I ate, I pondered looking for a camp site near the portage trail to Missing Link (where I would be headed the next day) as the lake was calm and it was still before 1 PM. But I could see that the western-most site near this portage trail was empty, and (as I mentioned) I was kind of dragging. I wasn't thrilled with the thought of paddling across that big lake only having to paddle back if the sites were full. I stop at that western campsite (#516) and found it to be more than adequate for what I needed. It was actually a great site that could accommodate many people. The kitchen area was a bit dusty, and there's a decent little climb to get to the kitchen and tent pads, but the views were amazing.

I rigged my tarp just enough to let it dry out in the sun, but the weather forecast kept me from putting it up for shelter. I sat at camp, hydrated, and made some notes after heading out in the canoe one more time to get some water to filter. The campsite faces east, and as-such it gets shady early. I'm sure that's great in the summer when it's hot, but I found myself getting cold and had to bundle up. I even broke out the rain suit (for the first time on the trip) to warm myself. I could see that haze and some clouds were coming in, so I wasn't going to set up for any stargazing tonight – and I was bushed. I got a couple of golden hour shots from my site and retired to my tent early. I set my alarm for 5 AM so that I could easily be on the water by 7 AM the next day.

As I sat and pondered that day, I became aware of how connected I felt to every living thing on the planet – maybe the universe. It struck me as funny that this feeling of deep connectedness came to me while being totally alone. It's something that I think needs to be experienced in order to understand, but it was a very real feeling.

Lakes traveled: Little Saganaga, Mora, Tarry, Crooked, Owl, and Tuscarora 5 portages, 213 rods (x3 = 2 miles), 6.6 miles of paddling

Up early to break camp and get moving.

The beautiful mist on the lake burned off pretty quickly with the rising sun.

Departing campsite #819 on Little Saganaga on a picture-perfect morning.

One of many islands in Little Saganaga. This one is near the south eastern portion of the lake.

The “rapids” between Little Saganaga and Mora.

Loons on Mora.

Approaching the beaver dam in the channel that leads to the Tarry portage from Mora Lake.

Paddlers on Owl from the Tuscarora portage.

View looking a little south of east from the western campsite on Tuscarora.

My final night in the wilderness was another beaut!

 



Part 7 of 7


Day 6 September 19, 2020

I got up and broke camp in the dark and was able to push off right at 7 AM. It was cloudy this morning, and the lake had some minor waves, but there wasn't any significant wind helping or hindering me across Tuscarora. I headed west and slightly north of the central island campsite and easily found the portage to Missing Link lake.

This is the portage that everyone talks about. 428 rods, though this one is more-appropriately measured in units of miles (1 and 1/3). It has a pretty decent initial climb out of Tuscarora, and it has it's fair share of boulders and tricky footwork. It's best not to think about this trail when you're on it – I just focused on each step being one less that I would have to take. I actually really enjoyed the walk back, and took notice of several really pretty spots that I had missed with the canoe on my head. I passed a group of three when I got closer to the Tuscarora side. They had one canoe and seemed to be doing some version of 1.5 portaging. That final approach in to Missing Link with the boardwalk planks is really a site to behold (going this direction, at least!). It rained for about 10 minutes while I was portaging, and those were the first drops I had seen on the entire trip. I passed the threesome on my second trip and was able to put in to Missing Link just before they finished the trail.

Missing Link is beautiful, and it was super-easy to find the portage trail back in to Round. I passed another group coming out of Round, and this trail is no slouch. I was glad to be going this direction, and I was glad that it wasn't a mile long, but I was still ready to be done with it. Something about boulders in this part of the wilderness.

By the time I was putting in to Round, the threesome behind me had caught up. They followed me to the landing at Tuscarora Outfitters as the rain and wind picked up just to add a little misery to the day. The shower felt great, and it was good to be back in the world of people and modern conveniences.

This was my favorite trip so far, and I really lucked out with the weather. I feel like my navigation skills are getting to where they need to be, and the thought of making and breaking camp more often is becoming more palatable. Though I do like my lazy camp days. I've also pretty much optimized my packing list and meal plan. I only exited with a little food, I used all of my clothes, and there are a few items I know I can remove to lighten the load a bit. I didn't even finish one of the partial stove fuel canisters that Andy sold me, so I guess I don't use a lot of fuel. Lots of learning on this trip, and lots of good time for the soul. Looking forward to my next adventure in September of 2021!

Lakes traveled: Tuscarora, Missing Link, and Round. 2 portages, 499 rods (x3 = 4.7 miles), 3 miles of paddling

My route for the day.

My route for the entire trip.

Stopping to smell some of the roses on the not-so-rosey 428 rod portage trail.

I didn't even see this giant granite feature with the canoe on my head the first trip.

Cool little marsh on the portage between Tuscarora and Missing Link.

The put-in to Missing Link from Tuscarora.

Glad to be done with this day of portaging!

 


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