BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 24 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1432 feet
Duncan Lake - 60
Daddy daughter Duncan daytrips
July 11, 2020
Number of Days:
Much to my surprise and delight, Aurora is out of bed with little to no prodding and is displaying an uncharacteristic pleasant early morning demeanor as we are able to hit the road before 7:00 a.m. She naps most of the way, and I enjoy a quiet backroad drive to highway 61 and the North Shore of the big lake they call Gitche gumme.
We make a quick stop at Gene’s IGA in Grand Marais to pick up a few forgotten items and then walk across the road to Subway to grab a sandwich for brunch. Hungry Jack Outfitters is nestled at the end of a long narrow dirt road off county road 65 and we stop here to grab our permit and a hat for Aurora. Fortunately, Aurora aces the permit test and we are allowed to enter the wilderness without further delay.
It’s late morning by the time we pull into the landing at the south end of West Bearskin Lake and, predictably, there is a lot of activity here. However, we get unloaded and on the water without encountering too much congestion or confusion.
It is a beautiful day and paddling conditions are optimal as we traverse to the Duncan Lake portage. There is a group unloading as we pull in, and after we exit our canoe we notice another group out on West Bearskin headed our way. I’m not a big fan of busy portages but, we are able to negotiate this one without bumping elbows or hindering anyone. Also, Aurora does a great job hauling her fully loaded new CCS youth adventurer pack across the trail without any complaint, and also eagerly pitches in grabbing a few of the smaller items on her return trip.
Upon putting in on Duncan, we turn west and begin looking for a vacant campsite. Aurora gets a little discouraged as the first 2 we pass by are occupied and we can see a couple more across the lake are as well. Approaching the narrow channel in the SW end of the lake, we soon discover the site at the entrance of the channel is also occupied. Aurora is now really growing concerned and I try to reassure her that there are a couple more sites on the lake we have yet to check.
Continuing up the narrowing channel, Aurora spots what she thinks is a fire grate just a short distance in front of us and off to the right. There is a mess of large boulders strewn about what appears to be a landing but, I am able to gingerly pull up and she excitedly hops out and scurries up the pine duffed rise. She exclaims, “It’s a campsite! And,there’s nobody here!” So, I pull the canoe up and take a look for myself. It certainly is campsite #658 and while Aurora is excitedly running around giving it full inspection and approval, I concur and begin hauling our packs up to the site proper.
I notice there is another landing closer to the kitchen area but, it looks more treacherous than the boulder field, so I decide to leave well enough alone and keep the Black Pearl at the first landing. The site itself is slightly elevated and offers a decent look back up the channel to the main body of the lake. There is a huge downed tree running along side the fire grate that appears to serve double duty, providing excellent seating and will work handily as a table as well. However, there isn’t a lot of room here and much of the site is quite lumpy. There only appears to be one semi-decent tent pad but, I suppose you could find a spot to squeeze in another. For just the 2 of us it will work just fine, and we unpack and start getting camp put up.
There is an ideal spot for our hammock near the tent and Aurora immediately grabs her book and retreats to the shady sanctuary while I finish getting the CCS tarp and the rest of camp up. It doesn’t sound like we’ll need the tarp much for rain but, we will certainly need it to provide some shaded relief.
Having enjoyed a long respite in the hammock, Aurora now finds some frogs down by the lakeshore that keeps her busy. I’ve pretty much got camp setup the way we need it and it is still quite early in the day. One of the primary objectives of this trip is to do some serious swimming, and with the midday sun beating down, Aurora feels it’s high time to start doing just that. It takes a little convincing but, I get her to agree that our campsite isn’t the best spot to swim from so, we hop in the Black Pearl and head up the lake.
As we approach the vacant northern most site (#663) I tell Aurora I had stayed here several years back and it’s a pretty good site for swimming. Impatiently, she wants to get out and get started but, I tell her she’ll have more fun at the next spot. As we approach the portage to Rose lake she asks, “Are those rapids I hear?” Trying to keep the secret, I initially tell her no but, quickly reveal that it’s a waterfall.
It’s full blown sensory overload as Aurora sees the waterfall, and the nearby BRT bridge, as she excitedly darts around checking everything out. Even repeatedly climbing the lengthy stairway while I watch from a comfortable, stationary spot at the top. Fortunately, there is currently no one about so we have the place to ourselves. Eventually we work our way to the bottom of the main falls and cool ourselves off. Aurora absolutely revels in this misty paradise and soaks in the pool just below the falls with an enormous perma-grin on her face. She tells me it’s like a hot tub and I should join her. Much to my surprise, the water is exceedingly warm, and I soothe my ole sore bones and muscles in the foamy pool as well. I've heard it said, 'a picture is worth 1000 words.' So, I think the smile on her face speaks volumes about the wisdom of choosing to come here.
After our lengthy soak, and a little further exploration of the surrounding area, some other people show up and we retreat to the landing. It’s still reasonably early so we paddle back to site #663 and pull in there. Aurora brought a float tube along and we spend the next hour or so playing water tag and various games in the shallow but, somewhat rocky bottomed waters out in front of camp. Finally, hunger overtakes us, and we paddle back to camp. It’s a quick supper of macaroni and cheese but it sure hits the spot. Aurora roasts a few marshmallows for dessert. One Providential thing we quickly notice about our camp is that it is certainly the most quiet and private site on the lake. And, there appears to be a lot of wildlife inhabiting the area as we see (and hear) loons, ducks, mergansers, bald eagles and a busy beaver just out from camp.
~Bearskin Lake, Duncan Lake
We had a busy day yesterday so; the sounds and smells of bacon cooking are finally what entices Aurora out of the tent this morning. The bacon is complimented with apple cinnamon oatmeal and a cinnamon raisin bagel. It’s another picture post card morning and, as we finish breakfast, I run down the day’s itinerary for Aurora; of which the primary objective is to head for the sandy beach on North Lake.
Of course, to get there, we need to use Stairway portage and pass by the waterfall yet again. After lingering for a little while I assure Aurora that we will stop and spend some extended time here again on the return trip.
Aurora wants to check out the campsite just out from the falls on Rose Lake. The landing isn’t all that convenient but, it does have a cool stone staircase running up to camp. And, shoreline explorations are certainly enticing. I spent a few days here a several years ago and the site is a near 4-star site; pretty much as I remember it.
Back on the water, and shortly after entering the narrow western arm of Rose; Aurora demands I pull off to a little alcove where there’s a preponderance of skipping rocks along the shoreline. We are obliged to spend the next half hour searching for and then skipping the vast assortment of flat stones located here.
After climbing back aboard the Black Pearl and pushing off, Aurora notices she has a tiny leech attached to her ankle. She’s a little panicked but is able to remove it without any assistance or having to go back ashore. I chalk it up as a good confidence builder for her. i.e. what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
I have always felt that when I’ve traveled this western arm of Rose Lake that it feels like I’m paddling through thick molasses and progress seems painfully slow. I think the rationale for this is that I’m not usually closely following the shoreline and I’m paddling from point to point, so progress isn’t easily measured. Of course, (while very impressive), having the same looming cliffs overshadow the lake makes it seem like I’m not getting anywhere either. In an effort to take my mind off the seeming drudgery, I inform Aurora that, if all goes well tomorrow, she will be looking over the lakes from the top of that towering escarpment. Awestruck and bemused, she asks, “How will we get up there?!?”
Finally, we pull into the Rat Lake portage; portage la marte, as the voyageurs called it. This isn’t much of a portage (4 rods) and amounts to a glorified lift over. However, there is a campsite that shares the landing(s). It’s not a horrible site and has a couple of decent tent pads but, as mentioned it is right on top of the portage. A good emergency site. There's a nice patch of ripe raspberries here, and we both spend some extra time indulging ourselves with this juicy wilderness treat.
Rat Lake is small, and the next portage (portage les perches) is easily located. This is a straightforward 65 rod portage that climbs a little to South Lake. Flies are bothersome along this trail, especially for Aurora, and they continue to be so out on South Lake. Eventually we pull into site #606 on the south shore and pull out the bug spray again. That combined with increasing winds seems to mostly alleviate the problem. However, it’s beginning to cloud up and there’s some chop on the lake as we cut across to Height of Land portage but, we arrive no worse for wear.
Height of Land portage (portage du hauteur des terres) is perhaps the most historically significant portage in the BWCA. This is where the Voyageurs would initiate new members into their brotherhood. It is also where the waters east of this point of land run east, and the waters west of this point of land run west. After considering the historical and geographic noteworthiness of this portage, the trail itself is quite ordinary. The landing on the South Lake end is boulder filled but, swampy as Aurora continues her assault on the local frog population. The 80-rod trail is flat and there is even an extensive stretch of boardwalk along the way before the trail dips down to the sandy beach on North Lake.
Aurora nicely bookends the portage by capturing a huge toad on the North Lake end but, quickly releases it after gazing upon the beautiful sandy beach. She also takes some time and stretches here legs out across the portage trail and announces, “I’m in 2 countries at the same time!” We spend the next couple of hours playing in the sand, searching for cool rocks, swimming in the shallow water and just lounging in carefree comfort.
After our refreshing time at the beach we pull into South Lake campsite #605 (which is a stone’s throw from the portage). Here, I tell Aurora to break off a small cedar sprig so we can dip it into the lake. I explain the significance of Height of Land portage and the colorful Voyageur history associated with it. Having thus completed the portage, I now christen her a true Voyageur by sprinkling water over her head with the cedar sprig. She returns the favor. We do, however, forego the shot of rum that was also associated with the ritual. :)
Back on South Lake, the clouds are breaking up and the sun returns as we are blessed with excellent paddling conditions for our return voyage across this sprawling body of water. Camp #2064 situated on the extreme eastern end of South is currently unoccupied and looks to be an inviting rest spot on this scenic end of the lake.
It’s a pretty tough climb up to camp but the fire grate area and log seating are top notch and there are 2 exquisite tent pads with room for several more. There’s a spur trail to/from the portage so unwelcome visitors may unwittingly stumble through. Being elevated like it is, the site provides a beautiful overlook of the isthmus and scenic eastern end of South Lake. Aurora points out a chain that has grown into a tree just outside the main kitchen area. It’s not heavy enough to be for logging but, it’s overkill to be for a stringer. We ponder what it may have been used for.
Eventually, we make it back to Stairway portage and; (after dropping the Black Pearl and our day pack off at the Duncan end) as promised, we take some time to yet again enjoy this magical area as we are refreshed and soothed by the cooling waters. Washing away the sweat & grime of the day.
Back in camp, after a hearty hamburger and potato supper, Aurora notices our local busy beaver hauling some fresh branches to his hut. It’s a gorgeous evening but, unfortunately our site isn’t situated for viewing a sunset but, the channel does offer a mirrored view of the illumined opposite shoreline forest. Still, we’re happy to be back in camp after a long but, rewarding, day.
~Duncan Lake, Rose Lake, Rat Lake, South Lake, North Lake
Another morning of white horses galloping around the shorelines. After breakfast, we paddle the short distance up the channel to the Partridge Lake portage. Along the way we get to see the bald eagle who, presumably, has been making all the commotion the past few evenings.
There is a canoe and some gear at the landing and as we pull up and get out; a forest service ranger (Austin) emerges from the heavily forested trail. He checks our permit and we have a pleasant conversation for several minutes before undertaking the portage.
Even from under my canoe helmet, I easily discern several old growth pines and some nice mature cedars just off the path. The trail deceptively seems to climb in incremental stages on this end. We pass by Austin’s partner just before the old beaver pond which is now dried out. As Austin warned us, the trail just beyond the beaver pond is literally choked with thimbleberry plants that completely overhang the pathway. Still, common sense guides us through without serious incident. Aurora struggles some on this longer portage (especially through this overgrown section) and I coach and reassure her along the way. Eventually we emerge to a tight landing on Partridge lake that is well populated with mosquitos.
I pull out the fishing rods and we troll the shorelines with lush, green, beautifully undulating hillsides serving as a beautiful backdrop; as we work our way to the northern most campsite (#657). This site has a small landing, but we are able to make it work; and has kind of a dirty/swampy feel to it but, does offer an accommodating fire grate area and a couple decent tent pads. However, to Aurora’s angst, there are a lot of bothersome flies here.
After a short respite, we proceed up the spur trail which runs just behind camp. Initially it’s a bit wet and swampy but soon the ascent begins, and we are onto more solid footing. Only a short distance from camp there is something of an old cedar tree ‘bone yard’. Sadly, several old growth cedars have toppled over in recent storms and the stumps and fallen sentinels lay just off the recently cleared trail.
Soon, we come to the intersection of the Border Route Trail (BRT). Turning right, we head off towards the Rose Lake overlook. The trail is in better shape than the portage into Partridge Lake was and Aurora proudly takes the lead, pointing out interesting plants, rocks and changes in the trail. The trail coming at the overlook from this direction is much more forgiving than coming at it from Stairway portage and we are at the top quicker than I thought we would be. Aurora marvels at the breathtaking panoramic overlook and, as a reward, we find a precious few ripe blueberry’s up here. Since all the plants we've seen so far have only had green berries, these are the first fruits of the season, that serve as a tasty treat as we sit and enjoy the view while Aurora throws rocks over the precipice listening intently to see if she can hear them land.
On the way back, Aurora drops her open water bottle while trying to take a drink and most of the liquid gurgles out. She starts to whine a little but, I reassuringly tell her it’s ok we’re almost back to camp, and we still have my water bottle. However, I also instruct her that is why we need to be extra careful when we’re a long way from help. Because we can’t just call a doctor or quickly get more water or food etc. She is also fascinated by the patches of reindeer moss we encounter along the way and makes a point to ‘crush’ it all. We encounter a solo hiker at the intersection of the trail back to Partridge Lake and briefly trade stories of our recent experiences on the trail.
After returning to Partridge Lake, we pull off at the middle site (#656) to take one last siesta before committing to the portage back to Duncan Lake. This is easily the most overgrown site on the lake. I think the only reason we found it was because the forest service rangers spent last night here and the grass and weeds are matted down. It’s got a couple of small tent pads but, not much else….save for some frogs that Aurora hunts down.
This time across the portage Aurora does a great job hauling her CCS pack with our daytrip items. She stops a few times to take a break but, that serves as an excellent opportunity for us to have a quiet conversation. And, in the course of these conversations, she reminds me that we need to go to the waterfall again today. We also good naturedly chide each other about who is going to get the hammock first when we get back to camp. <
Naturally, Aurora grabs the hammock right away but, after supper we share some quality time together in our double nest. I harken back to her very first trip when we both took a hammock nap together. Her knees and elbows are a little sharper now but, I still treasure the experience; as we lounge carefree and watch the seemingly perpetual cavalcade of canoes heading to/from the waterfall from our relaxing perch.
Once we see a break in the action, it's on to the waterfall once again. This visit we spend more of the time exploring the periphery and the BRT. In keeping with the theme of the day, we hike up to the eastern overlook and look down on the, now occupied, campsite just below the falls that we visited yesterday. Two small chipmunks provide us free entertainment as they play on the precarious sheer edge of the cliff hoping we will share some of our Clif bars.
Amidst all the animal noises that we have become accustomed to hearing, this evening we also now hear an owl. I retreat to the hammock, and charge Aurora with keeping an eye on the fire. She revels in this newfound freedom and independence as she polices the fire unencumbered by any parental tyranny. Secretly, I look up every so often; more to gaze upon the jubilant look on her face, than to insure she's not burning the place down but, I don’t want to betray the confidence, so I turn away before our eyes lock. She’s growing up so fast.
~Duncan Lake, Partridge Lake
According to our weather radio, there’s a good chance of rain today. It’s pretty gray this morning so we linger in camp after our quick pop-tart and hot apple cider breakfast. Boredom eventually overtakes us.
There is an old dilapidated log in front of the fire grate that is falling apart fast and has been kind of bothersome. There are several large downed trees that have been cut up in and near camp. I endeavor to use one of them to replace this old one and add some extra convenience and curb appeal to the site. There is a thick & solid 9’ log about 20 feet away that will work nicely. However, I need to utilize some engineering skill to get it up the hill and maneuver it into position. Aurora provides just enough extra ‘ummph’ to help get the job done. We're both pretty proud of the finished product, which should last for years to come. For comparison - contrast this photo with the one from day one.
It sort of looks like the skies are finally starting to clear up so, after briefly perusing the map, Aurora suggests we head over to Moss lake.
The portage landing is nice, and the trail is very well worn although, it does have a gradual steady climb the entire 50-rod distance to Moss Lake. There is a charming creek tumbling out of Moss Lake that runs very near the portage that provides a lush 'mossy' area for convenient exploration. Aurora hops around on some of the boulders in and near the creek.
Once we emerge out to the expansive landing on Moss, our earlier assessment of the weather proves to have been overly optimistic as we are greeted with some light rainfall. We pull our rain jackets out of our daypack and then paddle over to the lone camp site on the lake.
The landing is rocky, and someone has inexplicably ripped up the fire grate. I put it back in position and prop it back up as best I can. While it doesn’t offer a lot in the way of tent pads, this site is very expansive and runs a good distance around the shoreline. Aurora really likes the pine duffed trails and convinces me to play hide and seek with her. She also finds a little rock pile which is (one by one) methodically deposited into the lake. There is a commanding view of the lake from the fire grate area where we sit at the neatly constructed rock table/bench while we wait out the rain.
Back on Duncan Lake, we notice a couple of swans swimming just out from the portage. Aurora wants to get a closer look, so we paddle over. Unwittingly, I am amazed how close they let us get! At the same time, we also see a couple of muskrats swimming just in front of the canoe. With all this going on, just as I'm finally putting it all together as to why one of the swans is staying so close; she starts hissing and opening her wings at us. Aurora excitedly exclaims, “Hey, there’s the nest and an egg!” I don’t pay too much attention as I am trying to quickly reroute the Black Pearl. I have to deflect the attacking swan with my paddle but, we are able to get far enough away without (hopefully) causing too much stress.
The swan incident aside, this backwater bay provides the most intimate area of paddle able water on Duncan Lake. It looks like it could be a great area to spot a moose but, we don’t encounter one in our travels back here.
After supper, the clouds have moved on and it is an absolutely gorgeous evening. Leave it to Aurora to provide the inspiration and direction for this evening's activity, “We need to go out for a paddle.” Tracing the shoreline of the lake in a counterclockwise direction there is, what appears to be, an old metal sign between the 2 most southern sites on the lake . Aurora hops out to investigate but, there are no distinguishing marks and we are left wondering what it might be - or may have been. The rock slide on the eastern shore is beautifully illuminated as, for the first time this trip, we also get to witness the full splendor of a sun set while out on the lake. As we slowly paddle back to camp, Moonlight Drive - by the Doors plays in my head.
~Duncan Lake, Moss Lake
It's a soggy morning as it rained for the better part of the evening. According to our weather radio todays forecast is supposed to be a mixed bag. Never-the-less, we decide to make one last fairly aggressive daytrip. In my conversation with Austin (the forest service ranger) the other day; I had asked him about the legality of doing a daytrip loop from Duncan to Rose, Daniels, West Bearskin and re-entering the BWCA again at Duncan. He told me that since I had a Duncan permit it wouldn’t be much cause for concern; that the rule is more for Daniels permit holders who want to access Stairway Portage Falls without doing the ‘Long Portage.’
Shortly after heading out, I realize I forgot my camera. Fortunately, we’re still on Duncan, so we do an abrupt about face and return to camp to grab it. I must admit, my initial impression of our campsite (and specifically the boulder strewn landing) wasn't too favorable. However, after having spent the past few days here, it seems to have grown on us as I pull right in and Aurora jumps out/in without missing a beat. It’s one last visit to the falls and use of Stairway portage as we maneuver around a group swimming at the Rose Lake landing.
There is a cooling breeze out on Rose that, fortuitously, is pushing us eastward across the lake. We encounter yet another group of people swimming at the first campsite east of Stairway portage and have a brief conversation as we drift by. The next site (#651) is vacant, and Aurora wants to check it out and take a break.
This is a spectacular site complete with its own small beach, well sheltered by overhanging shoreline cedars. There’s even a fallen log here that serves as a comfortable bench in which to contemplate the rugged Canadian peaks across the lake. From here the site stretches back to the west and a less convenient landing, passing by several excellent tent pads. While very open and airy, the shoreline cedars provide a true sense of privacy and protection with just enough openings to allow clear looks at the lake and allow breezes through. Aurora is already planning our next trip, and this will be our destination campsite! We linger here before continuing our journey.
The further east we get down the lake, the pushier the waves get. Fortunately, it’s basically a free ride and we are making great progress. Since we are keeping reasonably close to shore, my only concern is keeping a sharp eye out for partially submerged boulders that may catch the Black Pearl. Rose Lakes rugged beauty is on full display as we are washed ever eastward.
It’s Aurora who actually points out the landing to the ‘Long Portage.’ (grand portage neuf) The landing is a bit smaller than I recall but, there is no doubt this is it. I clip Aurora’s PFD to the Black Pearl so she can more comfortably heft her pack onto her back. She then leads the way down the flat trail.
From my trip report: THE FALL FALLS AND OVERLOOKS TOUR- "The reason the trail from Daniels to Rose is now in such exemplary shape can be attributed to the fact that the path runs over the old (long since abandoned) logging railroad bed. The significance of this old rail line with respects to shaping many important features in this section of the BWCA cannot be overstated. From its’ terminus at Rose lake the line ran SE then traced the eastern shore of Daniels lake, (this is now the Daniels Lake Hiking Trail) before heading towards Clearwater Lake.
There were several spurs in the Clearwater/Caribou Lake area which are now also portions of portage trails. Then the line meandered towards Poplar Lake before turning SE. From there it headed towards the Twin lakes. This is now the Lima road that serves the Morgan, Ram & Bower Trout EP’s. Then it cut over towards Two Island Lake and ran west. This is now the gravel road called The Grade. Brule, Homer, Baker & Sawbill are all served from this road. This doesn’t even take into account the non – BWCA areas it opened up."
There is a diminutive creek gurgling alongside the trail, and Aurora is enticed into dropping her pack and exploring this shaded watery wonderland. As she deftly hops from boulder to boulder, I come to the realization of why she is so fascinated with frogs and toads. Even with a fresh application of bug spray, the mosquitos prove to be amazingly resilient and force a premature halt to this pit stop.
As we continue, the forest pulls back from the trail and flies start becoming an issue. Next, we encounter some beaver activity and re-enter the Black Pearl for a 35-yard paddle to hook up with dry trail again. The junction of the Daniels spur is our next rest stop, and a trio of young adventures emerges from the Rove lake trail and passes by on their way to Rose. Finally, we arrive at the boulder laden landing on Daniels Lake where the wind is whipping up some rolling waves.
This is as hard as we’ve had to paddle on this trip. The wind is right in our face as we sluggishly work our way southwest down the eastern shoreline of Daniels. There are some ugly looking clouds moving in our direction so, campsite #670 provides an opportune safe haven to hole up at; while we let the inclement weather pass.
The landing is a rocky mess but, there is a helpful cedar tree hanging out just above the water level to aid the wary canoeist. The site is incredibly exposed, and I haul the Black Pearl down the wide hiking trail (that runs right through camp) to a more sheltered location. There is an enormous white pine stump that Aurora is fascinated with and crawls up on as I look around a bit. The wind really starts whistling and we dig our rain gear out of Aurora’s pack. We hunker down just up the hiking trail as the rain lets loose. The rain only lasts a few minutes and the wind gradually dies down soon thereafter.
Amazingly the lake, which only a few minutes ago had harrowing whitecaps, is now only offering up little more than a ripple. However, as we paddle towards the West Bearskin portage, the wind does gain some intensity and makes the trip down the lake a bit of a workout. On the map, Daniels doesn’t look that big but, fighting the wind here today makes it seem like it’s Brule or Basswood. As we pass the mid lake island, the rockslide on the western shore of Daniels comes into view and indicates we are getting close as the portage is located just south of this landmark.
There’re remnants of an old rock crib here that Aurora walks out on while I get the Black Pearl pulled to shore. The trail climbs up out of Daniels before leveling off to a nice well-worn path that you would expect for an entry point portage. Aurora recalls the expansive landing on West Bearskin as she used this portage last year with her Mother.
West Bearskin is bustling with activity as there are a wide variety of watercraft out and about. The Duncan Lake portage isn’t too far away but, being front end light as we are, the wind has a maddening propensity to grab the canoe and quickly push us off course if I Iet my guard down. Still, we arrive at the landing without any serious delay.
Back on Duncan, Aurora wants us to paddle over to see (from a safe distance!) if the swan egg has hatched. It hasn’t. Although, I'm glad our bumbling intrusion the other day didn't scare the parents off. So, we head back to camp thankful for having safely completed another fun day trip. I can't say enough how impressed I am with Aurora today. Although her pack was probably only 2/3 full; putting Stairway, the long portage and a couple others behind her in the same daytrip is still quite the accomplishment for a 9 year old.
Aurora decides to roast some marshmallows after supper and suggests I go relax in the hammock while she tends to the fire. I am aroused from my groggy slumber by the rumble of thunder. Thinking the hammock is not the best place to be in an approaching storm, I crawl out and join Aurora by our newly refurbished kitchen area.
While we do get sprayed with some late evening showers it doesn’t last that long or amount to much. However, we get an awesome view of the storm clouds passing over and Aurora get’s some cool pictures while unsuccessfully trying to capture a shot of the lightening.
~Duncan Lake, Rose Lake, Daniels Lake, Bearskin Lake
Another late night shower insures we wake to a soggy camp again this morning. I'm up extra early to start packing things away while I let Aurora sleep in. I set aside a few Clif bars for breakfast, and proceed to get the tarp, hammock, gravity water filter etc. taken down and pack them away. Everything that can be packed away is, and Aurora is still sleeping so I am treated to some quiet time alone before she finally crawls out of the tent.
Aurora refuses to eat any breakfast saying she’s saving her appetite for Trail Center’s chicken strips and fries. So, I quickly get her sleep system and the Hilleberg tent packed away, and we are ready to go. One last check of the swans, (the egg still has not hatched) and then we paddle over to the landing where we share the portage with another group also exiting today.
A family of 4 are just putting in as we pull up to the West Bearskin landing, and we let them get loaded and, on their way, before we pull in. The parking lot is already bustling with prospective adventurers and some people ask us about the portages, waterfall etc.
After loading up, we are off to Hungry Jack Outfitters and grab an invigorating shower. And then, it’s a relatively short drive to Trail Center for the aforementioned chicken strips. I realize they are just trying to follow the mandated guidelines but, the mask wearing (at least for the customers) at a restaurant seems puzzling since the primary reason anyone is there is to use their mouths to eat & drink. I guess it’s a strange new world we’re trying to live in?
Aurora wants to see one last waterfall before we go home so, after putting some miles behind us, I pull into the Caribou Falls hiking trail parking lot and we walk back to this beautiful area. I sit in the shade while Aurora wades in the shallow water just below the drop and occasionally throws rocks while enjoying the cooling effects. Soon, we are back on the road and finish the drive home bringing this trip to an official end.
The quiet reflection time I had this last morning helps quickly bring me to the realization that this was really an extraordinary trip for a lot of reasons. First off, while the area did get some significant, and much needed, rain during our trip; most of it came in the overnight hours. I believe we were able to maximize this entry point for our daytrips; as I don’t think there’s an area, or attraction, that we didn’t at least pass through? Swimming was a primary objective and we certainly spent a good percentage of our time in the water versus on the water; and I believe Aurora was more than satisfied with that aspect of the trip. While we didn’t see a moose, we were treated to a wide array of wildlife siting’s – most very near our camp. And, I’m sure the local frog and toad populations breathed a collective sigh of relief when Aurora left. For being on such a popular lake/area, our campsite provided us with a sense of being away from it all. While there certainly were some minor struggles (mainly bugs) - overall, Aurora did an exemplary job handling the portages and challenges this trip provided. And, I think some seeds have been planted that will likely help her spawn some ideas for future trips? For me, spending time with such a beautiful, energetic, helpful, curious, adventurous young girl in this type of setting was truly a magical experience. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of our adventure was when she politely reminded me that we needed to say ‘Grace’ (I’d forgotten) before one of our meals. God willing, I look forward to having many more adventures with her.