BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 18 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 17
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
The Year of Rain
August 13, 2009
Saganaga Lake Only
Seagull Lake Only (54A)
Number of Days:
Like all the years before, Matt and I left for Gopher’s house (which he had bought in the spring) on the outskirts of Duluth right after we got off of work. I was living in Excelsior at the time so right after I picked up my gear I drove to Matt’s to pick him up. We made quick time to Mora where, again like the year before, we had to borrow a canoe from Michele and Denny. We would once again be a group of three so, instead of picking up the Trupe’s two canoes, we grabbed the Roylex canoe (from the 2008 trip) and one of Michele’s plastic kayaks.
We reached Gopher’s house in the early afternoon and shot the breeze as we checked over our gear and repackaged all of our food. After that was all said and done we stored all our gear in my car (my recently bought Chevy HHR) and watched some TV. Matt and I, still awake from working the night before, fell asleep well before 9pm, which was fine since we planned to be on the road for Grand Marais early in the morning.
We were on the road by 5:30am the next morning but decided to skip on breakfast in Duluth (since, because of Gopher’s house location it would be out of our way) and instead hit up McDonald’s in Two Harbors. We talked all the way up of trivial things and what each of our goals was during this trip; I wanted to make it back to Wisini Lake to camp on the site we passed the ear before; Gopher and Matt were just looking to get out and relax.
We rolled into Grand Marais a little before 9am and made our standard stop at the Holiday gas station (once again, to fill up the tank and to grab that last minute Mountain Dew and candy bar) before heading up the Gunflint Trail to Seagull Outfitters. Again, as always, the drive went exceedingly fast and we arrived at the outfitter just before 10am where we got all of our paperwork (permits) in order. We loaded our gear, canoe and kayak into the trailer of the beat-up Seagull Suburban truck, said ‘goodbye’ to Debbie and made our way into the BWCA once again.
Gopher wanted to get as far away from people as soon as he could so we opted, like the year before, for the tow-boat ride to Hook Island on Big Saganaga Lake. The ride went quickly and we were soon dropped off with all of our gear. The sky, however, was not ready for us and it decided to be overcast and cool. As long as it was not raining we were happy and we soon loaded up the canoe and kayak with all of our gear (setting down a tarp and wrapping all of our backpacks, making a “tarp taco”, to keep the rain from soaking our sleeping bags and tents.)
We made quick work of the rest of Big Sag and Swamp Lakes before once again arriving at Monument Portage. We unloaded our gear and I made Gopher and Matt pose at one of the boarder markers for our standard “cheesy” group pictures before we continued the portage. Once our first portage was complete we pushed off on Ottertrack Lake, our destination was to be the group of campsites on a small spit of land between Ottertrack and Knife Lake.
The weather did not know what it wanted to do. The clouds were sporadic. It would sprinkle for a bit then become sunny before turning and sprinkle some more. It never rained enough for us to put on our rain gear, though, so we paid it no mind. The wind was thankfully nonexistent and our trek down Ottertrack Lake was calm and smooth.
Traveling down the Canadian side of the lake we happily yammered back and forth (Gopher and I in the canoe, Matt in the kayak) as we cruised by the towering cliffs. We stopped by the plaque dedicated to “Ben Ambrose” (which we failed to notice the year before) and took some pictures.
Following along the Canadian / U.S. boarder are small bronze (spray painted silver for visibility) markers that have been cemented into the rock; presumably as an aid to navigation. Gopher, seeing these for the past couple of BWCA trips, decided that he wanted one. Matt and I just laughed, (the year before Gopher tried getting one by bashing it with a very large rock only to have the rock break) because there would be no way to get one out of the rock.
The first marker that we encountered was on a large rock at a narrow right-hand turn on Ottertrack Lake. The markers are very easy to spot if you know what you are looking for, so we quickly made our way up to the rock. We pulled up and Gopher was scoping out the marker as I grabbed food for lunch and Matt cast a few lines to see what he could catch. I laughed and took pictures of Gopher as he inspected the marker and tried to pull it out of the rock.
Our food eaten, and Gopher’s hopes dashed, we pushed off once again for our destination. The sky decided that it wanted to be somewhat nice and the sprinkly rain quit for the rest of the day. Which was very welcome; no one likes to travel, especially in a canoe, while it is raining. We made quick work of the rest of Ottertrack Lake and made our first camp (the site that we had the Pine Martin sighting during our 2007 trip) by mid afternoon.
Since it was early in the day we slowly set up camp, getting the tents set up after I had put up a tarp shelter. We tried our luck at fishing (hoping some of the tips Donnie had shown us the year before did not go forgotten) before cooking up some noodles and rice, eating some snacks, and smoking some cigars (Backwoods) and just relaxing by the fire (no fire ban this year) for the rest of the evening.
We stayed up very late. I had planned the trip according to the moon phases this year because I wanted to see the stars. When the clouds were nice enough to break every now and then we could see into oblivion. We only had sneaking glances though. The weather apparently did not want us to sit on the shore staring into nothing.
I was up before Matt and Gopher and was not greeting by a sight I wanted to see. The sprinkly rain had returned during the night, the sky was once again overcast, and a chill was in the air. I cooked up water for oatmeal and coffee and sat by the fire pit, waiting for Matt and Gopher to wake. We ate relatively quietly before striking camp, loading up the canoe and kayak, and pushing on our way into Knife Lake.
I was continuing my personal photo journal of “wilderness toilets” so we hit a few campsites on our way down Knife Lake; making it a special point to stop at a site (the one with the small bluffs placed in a watershed) we have eaten lunch at a few times to take a break, eat some snacks, and take more photos of that particular toilet. For some reason (probably due to the fact that the site is such a watershed) we have stopped at the site but have never camped there. It would be a great site if not for that reason.
The weather went from bad to worse; from just light sprinkly to straight up shitty. The wind had picked up and was blowing into our faces. The rain did not pick up but because of the wind it was becoming a hassle to paddle in a straight line. We continued on for just over a mile before deciding that it was too much of an annoyance and picked out the closest campsite.
As soon as we got the camp set up the wind died down and the rain quit. This is just proof that, in the BWCA, you can never count your weather chickens before they hatch. It was only slightly after noon (we had slept in a bit that morning) but we decided that since we had no particular place we needed to be we would just stay were we were. We were only a mile or so northeast of Thunder Point, a distance we could cover in no time at all, and our turn to make our run to Wisini Lake, my trip destination.
With the weather abated, and nothing else to do, Matt and I struck off in the canoe looking for some fish as Gopher took the kayak in his quest to scope out another boundary marker. Matt and I cruised around on the bays close to some islands near our campsite as Gopher disappeared into the distance to the south. We were happily getting skunked (once again) with our fishing when we heard a very distant but very loud, “Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaa”.
Unsure of what to make of it we kind of passed it off as Gopher getting frustrated and continued our fishing. About an hour later, off in the distance, we could see Gopher paddling up. There was no way he could have pulled a marker out of the rocks they were cemented in to and he gave up in frustration; his hands were roughed up quite a bit by the marker.
We went back to camp and we cooked up dinner while sitting under one of our strung up tarps. We made many jokes about the boundary markers and Gophers lack of strength while smoking cigars and eating before heading off to bed early; the clouds and rain had returned and any star watching was nixed.
The morning was just as shitty as the day before. The drizzly rain continued on and the wind was as strong as ever. Our goal was to get closer, if not too, Wisini Lake but it was looking like that would not happen, even though it was close enough to make in one day. We ate breakfast (oatmeal, breakfast bars, coffee and tea) before packing everything into the canoe and kayak and pushing off into the lake.
We had a decision to make; round Thunder Point and take the portage (a 40-rod) into Bonnie Lake, or travel down the little bay where our camp was, cross a less than 5-rod portage into South Arm Knife Lake, and try to make a river trek bushwhack into Spoon Lake. Because of the wind we would have been paddling into, and the waves on Knife Lake due to that wind, we chose the shorter portage.
As we crossed into South Arm Knife Lake we were pleased to find that the wind was being blocked by the southeastern shore and we took our time traversing up the lake. Matt, eagle-eyed as ever, suddenly pointed out something on the shore. We paddled over hoping it was a moose only to discover that it was a doe and her fawn, eating the new growth (the southeast side of South Arm had gone up in the 2006 Cavity Lake fire) on the banks of the lake.
The doe let us get close and I took as many pictures as I could before we continued on our journey up the lake. As we closed in on our bushwhack it became apparent that there was no way to make it. The water was a swampy muskeg of long grass, beaver dams, and fallen, burnt trees. There would be no way to make it with any ease of travel so we hit the nearest campsite (for a toilet picture and a quick snack) and poured over the map.
Our options: continue a little further up South Arm Knife Lake and head for the portage into Sema Lake (a 142-rod) and follow it across multiple lake and portage crossings or, turn around and head back the way we came in order to take the 40-rod into Bonnie Lake. Being lazy and not having any semblance of a plan for this trip we decided to make our way slowly back toward the Bonnie Lake portage.
On our way back the drizzly rain had ceased and had given way to sporadic periods of bright, cloudless skies, followed by large clouds dropping huge amounts of rain and forcing us to don our rain jackets. The rain never lasted more than 20-minutes at a time however so we were still in high spirits.
We crossed the Bonnie Lake portage with no difficulty but the large rain clouds (and the ever increasing amount of rain they were dumping) forced our hand into taking a site on the southeast shore (one of only two sites on Bonnie) of the lake. We sat under the cedar trees waiting for a break in the weather, eating GORP and other snacks when we decided to just call it a day and set up camp. We started to set up the first of our tarps (we carried three with us) when the clouds parted and the sun came out once again.
Too lazy to continue on we finished setting up camp, hanging all three tarps into a shelter that was closed on three sides, and pulled the boats under the tarps with us. The sun, now out in full force, was the perfect temperature to take a nap. Gopher climbed into his tent, Matt lay down under our tarp shelter and I pulled out my hammock and crashed in the shade between a few cedar trees.
It was not long before I was woken up by rain drops. Not the slight sprinkle that usually starts a storm, but straight-out, balls-to-the-wall, hard rain. I was so discombobulated that I bolted upright and got tangled in the hammock while trying to put my shoes back on. With shoes on my feet I ran to my tent only to suddenly see the rain-fly zip close; Matt had gotten in the tent before me.
Because of the amount of rain falling I did not want to take my time unzipping the tent so I bolted for the tarp shelter and plopped down on the ground. For the next hour it dumped on our camp and I was suddenly happy that we decided to take camp where we were. If we had continued we probably would have been in the middle of Kekekabic Lake when this rain hit.
The cloud holding the rain passed in about an hour and Matt and Gopher joined me under the tarp not long after it did. By this time it was getting close to diner time so we pulled out stoves and cooked up some food along with some coffee, hot coco and tea. A few more clouds dumping rain, like the one I got caught in, passed overhead and we waited them out before calling it a night and heading off to bed.
Monday morning: our fourth day out, and another day of windy, drizzly weather. The sun tried to peaked out throughout the day (sometimes being fully sunny and others completely hidden) but those big fat clouds just kept rolling in on us. We made quick work of breakfast before loading up the canoe and kayak. We did not spend much time making our canoe pack water tight because we had a bunch of lake and portage jumping in our immediate future. Our plan, no matter the weather, was to make it Wisini Lake.
Spoon Lake and Pickle Lake passed by us before we could even remember paddling them and we reached the end of the 80-rod portage that leads into Kekekabic Lake early. We sat on the portage watching the waves; the large, imposing waves. By this time in the morning the clouds had parted and the sun was out again but the wind from the southwest had not abated. We took a quick snack break, loaded up the canoe and prepared to push off when, in the water, Matt discovered the largest pair of ugly-ass Paris Hilton glasses you have ever seen. I would end up wearing them for the remainder of the trip. It was funnier that way.
The crossing of Kekekabic Lake was kicking up with a vengeance. We made sure to “tarp taco” the packs before setting out and it is a good thing we did. Matt and I in the canoe took a few waves over the bow but the tarp kept the gear dry. Gopher, without a sea skirt ended up taking more than a few quick showers. But we made it to the other side of the lake relatively quickly and started the portage into Strup Lake.
On the portage (one we had completed the year before with Donnie) Gopher was quick to point out a large pile of moose droppings. The scat was fresh and I was hoping to make it to the end of the portage and find the moose waiting for me and my camera. I was let down however; there was no moose in sight. Not too disheartened we packed up the canoe and started our journey across; but a detour was required.
The year prior we (Gopher and I) took in a stuffed Care Bear doll, which we renamed Geo Cache Bear, and tied him to a tree over looking a toilet on the southwest campsite. We had to see if he had managed to make it though the winter. As we pulled up to the site I excitedly popped out of the canoe and ran up the toilet trail. Sadly, he was gone. I know it is not allowed but it was a gamble to see if any news of our bear would be online (I could find none on the canoe sites and message boards) but since I heard no word I thought that, perhaps, he had been left where he hung.
We hit Wisini Lake in mid afternoon and set up camp in the once again gray and drizzly weather. The campsite in the Narrows of Wisini Lake is located on a small cliff that overlooks the water. You have to unload your boat while standing precariously on the rocks and throw your gear to a friend so they can toss it further up the hill. If you drop your bag it will be lost; the water depth at the unload spot is well over 50 feet deep (according to a sounding made with fishing line). The site also does not have a canoe landing. In order to park your boat for the night you have to either tie it to a tree, letting it float, or slowly hump it up the cliff. The effort is well worth it though. The site is awesome!
By the time we reached the site and gotten the camp set up (tents, tarps and food bag location found) the sun had once again broke through and the clouds cleared. We popped down on the sun warmed and dried rock and took a much needed warm nap. This quick on-again, off-again sun would be a constant for almost our entire trip. It made things bearable though. As long as we had some sun we could stand it.
Two hours before sunset and the heat of the day finally came. The timing was perfect and we (mainly I) were ready for a swim. This was the point of coming to Wisini Lake. I got a few jumps in from the high cliff the year before but I wanted to have more. I wanted to get my adrenalin fix. Gopher and I slowly made our way up the various cliff sizes (scoping out the water below first) before finally coming to “The Cliff”; an almost 50 foot drop into murky brown water. I lined up on the arrow that had been carved into the rock by other visitors and took the leap. Just when you think you are about to hit the water you realize that you are only halfway down, which makes the feeling all the more exciting. Matt, not being a fan of heights, took photographs as Gopher and I leapt time and time again.
We swam at the various cliff locations and off of the campsite until sundown. The sky that night once again clouded over and started to drizzle. We ate a quick diner and Gopher volunteered to do the dishes. While rinsing them off in the lake, however, he ended up dropping my plate in the water and, because of the breeze that is a constant in the Narrows on Wisini, it floated out of his reach. I was bummed. Not having a plate for the remainder of the trip was going to be a pain. We piled into my tent to play cards before finally getting tired and going to bed.
Since Wisini Lake was the only real plan we had we decided that we would just hang out for a layover day. After breakfast Gopher and Matt hopped into the canoe with the hopes of catching a few trout. I grabbed my camera, not feeling like fishing, and climbed into the kayak.
Not having a specific goal in mind for shooting I just started to make my way around the lake in a clockwise fashion. The quiet of being alone was a nice break. As I took photos of anything and everything I realized that I was near where my plate might have ended up so I started paying closer attention to the brush that overhung the lake on the shore. Almost right way I could see a glint of something not natural and, upon paddling up, found my plate right away. That small victory raised my spirits greatly and I continued to paddle around the shore of the entire lake; taking photographs.
After I finished my loop of the lake I decided that I wanted to spend some time in my hammock reading the book I had brought with me. I climbed up the jumping cliff, found the perfect trees to hang my hammock and relaxed. Or, relaxed the best I could. A cold wind was coming in off the lake and I had to wear my fleece jacket while reading. Try as I might, because of the cold temperature, I was not able to fall asleep. I just kept watch over the lake (bored with my book) and waved to some other canoes as they passed below me.
Around midday, after Gopher and Matt had returned to camp, a storm rolled in. Not like before, where it was periods of rain followed by sun, this storm came in fast and hard, a massive wall cloud proceeding it. We watched as it came closer and closer. The wind rushed in with gusts that were bending even the strongest trees around us. I took as many pictures as I could before a wall of rain crossed the lake and we had to take shelter in my tent.
The wind shook my tent violently and the rain seemed to be coming down harder and hard until it was deafening. I looked out of my screen onto the ground beyond the rain-fly (I could only see a foot or less, of the ground beyond that) and noticed that the rain was now collecting with pea-sized hail. We were amazed at how strong this storm came in and sat in the tent marveling at the hail, the rain, the lightning and the fantastically loud thunder claps.
The storm passed as soon as it arrived, however, and we climbed out of the tent, and into a crystal clear blue sky, after only a few hours. My tent had been sitting in a low area (one of three tent pads) and was now swamped, but dry inside. As we were taking the time to move my tent and checking on the boats and the tarp shelter the sun decided to become the hottest it had yet been, drying out everything in camp quickly.
The camp was once again in good order and, seeing it was hot again, we took to the water and the cliffs for some much needed (for me at least) swimming and cliff jumping. We again finished off the day that way before cooking up some supper and having our cigars.
The night was perfect! It was the first (and last) night that the sky was not being blocked by clouds and we sat up for a few hours after sundown. The Milky Way spread across the sky so densely that it was blinding. When you are as far away from any civilization (and light pollution) as the BWCA is, the sky is on fire with things you would never normally see. Satellites, shooting stars, everything you can imagine seeing; you do. We hit the tents soon after.
I had hoped that the crappy weather would have cleared itself out with the passing of the storm the day before but when I opened my tent-fly and climbed out I was greeted with more gray sky and misty rain. This was to be our moving day so we all set about cooking up and eating breakfast, striking the camp, loading up the canoe and hitting the water once again.
We went back the way we came; crossing Strup Lake into Kekekabic Lake. We had the wind favorably behind us on the big water so we made up a quick sail using a tarp and some found dead trees. Our time on Kekekabic Lake was tiring however. The rain kept doing the on-again, off-again, thing and we spent most of our time wearing rain gear and being pushed around (because of the sail) by the wind.
We reached the end of Kekekabic Lake around noon after a late start and the rain finally decided to give us a break. I was able to take some photographs of some of the toilets along the way and to get some pretty “moving water” shots of the streams that flow into Kekekabic Lake from the ponds flowing out of Eddy Lake. We were moving slowly though (due to being sick of the rain by this point) and the Kek Ponds portages tired us out considerably.
We made it to the last pond before the sky let loose and it started to rain properly. Not wanting to paddle in the rain we gave up on our destination (South Arm Knife Lake) and started to look for the first campsite that was open; which we found on the south side of Eddy Lake.
The rain was really starting to come down by this point and we rushed to set up camp. I quickly strung up all the lines I had in an effort to make a tarp shelter that we could store all our bags, as well as sit and cook, under. Gopher and Matt put up Gophers tent (it is hard enough to set up one tent in the rain so we decided not to set up mine) and got the rest of the camp in order before joining me under the tarp, where I had started to cook up some food (potatoes, rice and noodles) and make a comfortable lounging area.
We sat under the tarp for the rest of the day avoiding the rain as best we could. We joked about how shitty the weather was being as we ate and smoked cigars. It was another cold day so we also cooked up some water for tea, hot coco and coffee. There was nothing to do for the most part (none of wanted to fish in the rain, we were wet enough) so we passed the rest of the afternoon by eating snacks and GORP and telling jokes, stories, and who knows what else.
We all crammed into Gopher’s tent (a Eureka Mountain EXO 3) near night fall. We had all crammed inside of this tent before (on the Ashdick Lake portage in 2006) on our first trip to the BWCA so we knew we would fit. It turned out, however, to be a shitty night. The tent pad was not level and we kept sliding off our sleeping pads. I kept waking in the night with wet feet from the condensation and because my feet were at the lowest corner of the tent. It was not a restful night for any of us.
In the morning, after a crappy night, we pulled out the map and pondered our direction. Our plan while sitting at camp on Wisini Lake was to cross South Arm Knife Lake and make it to one of our first campsites (from our 2006 trip) on Hanson Lake. The continued rain however changed our minds and, after eating breakfast (in the rain) striking camp (in the rain) and getting underway again (in the rain) we decided that we would paddle a different direction and try to get closer to Seagull Lake, and thus, Seagull Lake Outfitters.
We started early and by mid afternoon we were midway up Ogishkemuncie (Ogish) Lake before the rain (more drizzly mist than anything) finally quit. The wind had, thankfully, died down so our going was smooth. Most of the campsites we passed were empty but we wanted to be done with this weather so we pushed on.
It took us a little bit of time to find the portage from Ogish Lake into Kingfisher Lake. Like the trip in 2007 the Cavity Lake (and more recent Seagull Lake) fire had destroyed any easy means of locating it. The portage is not where you would expect it. Most of them are located at the end of the water in a bay. This portage however is almost on the outside of the small bay and because of the location and where it starts, is not easily identifiable at first.
We slowly made our way across Kingfisher Lake as the clouds slowly made their way across the sky. The misty rain had quit but it was still just as cold and wearing fleece jackets and/or sweatshirts was a requirement to keep warm. Just as we were all getting tired of the cold and misty weather the mist stopped and it started to rain properly again.
With a sigh we continued on into Jasper Lake. The wind was blowing (into our faces again) and the rain continued to drip down annoyingly. We were hoping to take the first site we came to because we were sick of the rain, but they were all full up. Everyone it seemed was trying to stay out of the rain and keep warm by a fire. We were wishing we could do the same.
Thankfully, on the very last site of Jasper Lake (by the portage into Alpine Lake) we were able to stop and set up camp. We were so beat down that, despite using borrowed boats (boats we were specifically told not to beat up) we smacked into the shore without caring about the damage they might take. Tired at paddling in the cold wet weather we just sat by the fire pit eating snacks for a while before we could bring ourselves to setting up camp.
Matt unloaded the boat as Gopher and I set up our respective tents. Once that was done we all, for some unknown reason, decided to set up the tarp shelter. I thought we should set it up one way, Gopher thought we should set it up in another way, and Matt had his own plan. We struggled; to put it mildly.
The site is smack dab in the middle of the burn area, one of the few that the firefighters were not able to save, so there was no where to set up a line to hang the tarps from. We tried various things. We tied the line to a few burned out trees only to have them fall down. We tried tying the line over the fire grate only to have the seats roll on us. We tied the lines to bushes and long grass and everything else; nothing worked.
It finally came down to being so pissed off that the various different ideas that I quit trying to figure out where to string up the main line (which Gopher set up) and just started to throw the tarp over and set some lines to hold it to a large rock. There was no good way to have a tarp shelter. It ended up being more of a tarp “pup tent” than anything. It kept us and our gear dry though and, after some morale lifting snacks and cooked food, we passed the rest of the evening huddled underneath.
Tired, cold and annoyed at the weather, we all tucked in for the night. It was cold enough that I was forced (not something I would do) to wear a t-shirt and socks while sleeping. Our only good fortune was that the rain, for the most part, had quit. In its stead, the misty drizzle had replaced it. A small bit of fortune, but one which I was happy to accept.
Matt and I (sleeping in my tent) received a happy surprise during the night. It must have been about 2am when I was awoken by a strange and haunting sound. It took a moment to wake up and realize what I was hearing. It first I thought it was just loons on the lake but it dawned on me as the spider webs cleared that there were wolves howling on the far shore, not 500 yards from our site.
I quickly woke Matt, not wanting him to miss them. We sat up for a little while listening as they passed. I stuck my head out of the door hoping to see them as they padded along the opposite shore but, due to the cloud cover, it was much to dark to see anything outside of 20 yards away. Once the howls were in the distance Matt and I climbed back into our sleeping bags and fell asleep once again.
We awoke to another day of drizzle and wind. More wind than drizzle, actually. And we ate breakfast in silence for the most part. This trip, more accurately, the past few days, had really beat us down. It was too wet and too cold. It was becoming the trip from hell. We had been out for seven of our planned nine days and it had rained for the majority of each day. Perhaps 12 hours of our trip (while we were awake) was dry and sunny.
We looked over the map during breakfast and came to the conclusion that we no longer wished to sleep in wet tents on wet ground with damp sleeping bags. We were going to try to get out of the BWCA, back into a dry car (with dry clothing) and back to Grand Marais as soon as we could manage it. We packed up our gear, loaded up the boats and hit the water.
We completed the portage into Alpine Lake right away only to be greeted with a face full of wind… again. Not daring to stop however we pushed on as strong as we could. Because of the wind we had to keep behind as many of the islands on Alpine Lake as we could. Any time spent in the wind would keep our forward progress at half it normally was. We managed however and made it to the 100-rod portage into Seagull Lake a little before 11 in the morning, or so.
We hit the water on Seagull Lake and continued our island hoping, wind avoidance technique up the western shore. About halfway up the lake the skies suddenly parted, all the clouds seemed to dissipate and the sun finally came out again. Shit. We were able to strip off the fleece and enjoy the sun but it hampered our destination because none of us really wanted to leave the BW yet.
We made our way to the beach site that we stumbled upon during our 2007 trip in the hopes that it would be empty. Every other site we passed was taken but we had happened on that site before and with a bit of luck we would find it open. As we approached it was indeed open and our hopes rose again. One more night in the BW would be great (even though our out day was Sunday) and, if it stayed sunny, we would have a chance to dry out the tents and a lot of our other gear.
We pulled into the site only to discover at the last minute that there was indeed a tent set up in the trees. It was such a dark green and black that we completely missed that it was there. We left it as it was and paddled around the corner and parked the boats next to a rocky cliff-like area to decide what to do next. We made jokes, ate GORP and all of our left over beef jerky (five bags worth) and finally came to the conclusion that we wanted to be done with this trip for the year.
We struck out for Seagull Outfitters once again. The paddling was slow. Not because of the wind or waves, but because we knew that we would be off the water in less than two hours and we were trying to spend as much time on the water as we could. None of us were really ready to be done. The weather had forced our hand a bit. We could have stuck it out but I think we were sick of being wet and cold.
We paddled up to the Seagull Outfitters docks around1pm or so and unloaded our gear. This was our second time coming in this way and the view of seeing the docks was a blessing. A hot shower was waiting for us. Real food and real coffee was waiting for us. Dry, non camp style clothing was waiting for us. I think we paddled harder than any other part of the trip during that last mile; that last push.
With the car loaded up, the canoes hitched to the back and with us showered up, we wished Debbie (who told us that it was even crappier at the outfitters all week) goodbye and we made our way back to Grand Marais. Clouds rolled in again as we left Seagull and it once again began to rain slightly. Happy to be in a vehicle with heat we turned it up as we made our drive back.
As we crossed over the hill into Grand Marais the clouds finally let go of their hold and took off, permanently. We were still not done with camping and, seeing as the weather was perfect (cloudless and warm), we pulled into the campground in Grand Marais, got a site, popped up the tents, hung close lines, and hit the bars.
We ate at My Sister’s Place this time around (a departure from Sven & Ole’s) where we enjoyed burgers and beer before we started bar hopping. We did not spend much time out on the town because we were bushed so after just a few hours we made our way back to the campground and hit the sleeping bags.
We woke up late and wandered into town to get breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe. Specifically to get a breakfast not cooked by any of us. We spent most of the day wandering around Grand Marais, checking out the shops and stores of the down town area before eating lunch. We mulled around for a few more hours before going out for diner at The Birch Terrace and starting bar hopping once again.
I would wax on about all the bars we went to and all of the food we ate but, it was a crazy day and I don’t remember much of it. I remember eating sushi at one of the restaurants and I remember walking around drunkenly and I remember going to bed; the rest is a blank.
We woke late in the morning. Our trip now officially over we packed up our things and made our way back to Duluth and to Gophers house. After unpacking and hanging some of our gear out to dry we rested up a bit before once again going to the bars and eating good, non camp fire cooked, food. And so, thus ends the 2009 “Trip of the Rain”.