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July 21 2024

Entry Point 69 - John Lake

John 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 69 miles. Access from Little John Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1217 feet
Latitude: 48.0547
Longitude: -90.0569

My first trip - EP 68 Pine Lake

by campnscrap
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 19, 2009
Entry Point: Pine Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:

Day 1 of 6

Sunday, July 19, 2009 We made it almost to Duluth without incident when "BANG" one of the front ratchet straps broke. CRAP! I slowed way down and we stopped at Holiday on the south end of Duluth. They had straps with the type of hook that will fit in the holes in the van so I purchased two - one to have just in case and we were on our way once again. It could have been so much worse. We opted to keep moving instead of stopping anywhere in Duluth for fun. We were just anxious to get going.

We got registered at Cascade River State Park and set up camp for the night. The park is beautiful, but noisy. The campground itself is very close to Highway 61 - we could even see the cars and trucks whizzing by through the trees . . .and can see Lake Superior. Still, I don't think I'd camp here again - I like the peace and quiet at Savanna. It will be quite the contrast camping at McFarland tomorrow vs. this one so close to the road.

As we were setting up camp we realized that Emily forgot her sweatshirt. We looked at them in the Park office, but they were pretty spendy. Grand Marais was only about 10 minutes away so we drove into "town" to find her a sweatshirt. We visited a couple of over-priced tourist trap stores $60 for a sweatshirt? I don't think so. Finally found a store that had lots of shirts and they'd put the print she wanted on while we waited and only $20. Okay - I can handle that price. Emily is so funny; she said something to the guy helping us about knowing some Russian and he actually spoke Russian. Made me chuckle.

When we got back to the campground we got the fire going to make supper. The wood was nice and dry. Once we had some decent coals going I put my steak and her chicken on the grate. I let them cook for a while and when I went to turn them I pushed the chicken right into the ashes. Good grief. I had to take a picture of that of course - it was hilarious - we laughed so hard. I picked it out of the ashes, rinsed it off, put a bit more bbq on it and put it back on the grate. Must have tasted okay because she ate the entire thing. I had my steak - it was tender, juicy and ooohhh so good - just the right portion - I ate the whole thing.

It's been fairly chilly all day - at one point the van temp gauge said 62*. It's about 6:30 now and the thermometer on my backpack says 50* already. The forecast is for lows in the 40's. We decided to bring an extra pack with blankets and double portage or leap-frog them. I'd rather be warm. I’m chilled right now and I have long-johns, fleece and flannel on. BRRR! But we're also so close to Lake Superior. I think that makes a big difference.

It's so early yet and I'm so ready for bed. I'll try to hold out 'til at least 8pm - too early to go to sleep right now. Em's reading and I'm, duh, writing. The sky is crystal clear. The campsite is very secluded - except for the fact that we can hear the road noise. There a big old cedar tree in our camp site - probably 3'-4' in diameter. Not as big as the ones we saw in Washington, but still pretty good sized. There’s a little red squirrel that's been looking for handouts or dropping - he'll be disappointed as we're pretty clean - other than dropping the chicken in the fire.

8:58 pm - we're both pooped and ready to sleep but it's still a bit early. As the sun was setting after supper we went for a walk and explored on a trail. It looked like an ATV trail and it lead down to Hwy 61. There were three big stumps from trees - couldn't tell what kind as they were cropped close to the ground. Em said "that's such a shame" and I agree, however, it could be that they fell from age, storm or disease. Along the path the wild flowers are blooming all white, yellow, orange and purple - they're so pretty. Across Hwy 61 was a picnic area with trails leading down to the lake. We followed one that had big stone steps. We walked through a grove of aged, crooked cedars. I'm now wishing I had my tree book with to tell which kind they are. At the end of the trail was a typical Lake Superior "beach" - all enormous boulders. On our way down we scared a flock of Canadian Geese that were sitting in the water near the shore. We took photos 'til the camera batteries died and walked back to camp.

The fire felt nice and warm tonight - we can see our breath ...brrrr is gonna be cold. As we were getting into the tent a large grouse flew up into a tree next to the tent - was too dark to get a decent picture. Oh well.


Day 2 of 6

[paragraph break]Monday, July 20, 2009 Both of us were awake at 4:50 am and ready to be up for the day. I couldn’t sleep any longer. The sun was barely starting to rise, yet I could tell that the skies were clear. The temp was about 45* - that would explain why I was cold in the middle of the night! Seriously though, I think it’s a mental thing that camping = cold at night. Emily said that she stayed warm enough.

We walked up to the showers - it was so peaceful in the campground - everyone was still sleeping. We tried to lay back down but that was no use so we decided to pack up camp and head into town. We stopped at Holiday to fill up with gas, check the tires and wash the windshield. Emily got a breakfast sandwich and coffee, I just got water. We were the only women at the store besides the clerk. It was all guys- two Cook Co Sheriffs and a bunch of fishermen.

We went down by the harbor and took a few photos as we were waiting for the ranger station to open. Everything was so sleepy - giving off an impression of quaint, quiet, unhurried little town. Of course I know better than that. In summer, especially weekends it’s crawling with people and crowds. I know that’s what helps the economy but it isn’t for me.

About 6:45 we headed back to the Ranger station and got to watch a video and take a quiz. Okay, I understand getting the point of rules etc across to people, but, seriously, a quiz? Whatever, it was fine - we got our permit and were on our way once again. Of course Emily slept the whole way - typical teen.

Arrowhead trail was pretty much as I remembered it - long, winding and lonesome. I was taking my time enjoying the scenery and then I realized a vehicle was behind me - okay I better quite dilly-dallying - they weren’t passing. We went through the old growth red and white pine forest and I wanted to stop but didn’t have the heart to wake Em - she was sleeping so soundly.

I was taking in the beauty and majesty of our wonderful state and drove right past the turn for McFarland Lake. Duh. Turned around and found it - we’re the only ones camping here so far - there’s four vehicles parked at the boat landing though.

It didn’t take us long to get camp set up - I’m liking that tent. We were done with all by 9:00 am - got the van a little more organized after we were able to open the tail gate. We decided to take the canoe out and find our entry point so we’d know where it is in the morning when we go. It started out good, the water is almost crystal clear and the lake is shallow. We filled our Sawyer bottles and kept on paddling. There are several privately owned cabins/lake homes - many of which are fairly close together - too close in my opinion. I don’t know how far we got when the wind came up really strong so we decided to turn back. Besides that, Em said that I wouldn’t want to spoil it by seeing the EP ahead of time - okay. It was a HARD paddle back - I don’t do well with the wind I’m discovering. My fear of the canoe/water is still very real and very much there BUT I’ve been able to put mind over matter and deal with it. That is something I must do if we’re going to enjoy ourselves. Still in all, I hope that I didn’t make a mistake in choosing such a big lake for our first trip. Only time will tell.

The wind was still pretty gusty - which is nice for keeping the bugs away. My only hope is that it dies down by tomorrow morning when we’re ready to go in. We’re going to get up early and take advantage of morning calm - if there is one - waaaah!

Emily is asleep on the picnic table in her swimsuit. She was going to go swimming but the lake has a Spiny Water Flea sign so she decided against that. She doesn’t need bug bites from some weird water bug at the beginning of the trip.

It’s 11:25 am - what to do . . . . The sky is that gorgeous Minnesota summer blue with a light film of white in places and a few puffy white cotton clouds. The crows and ravens are calling and cawing. Their sound, next to the wind is most prominent. I did hear chickadees and cedar waxwings though I haven’t seen them. Our campsite is a big open oval in the trees. Not much for shade though it’s not very hot so it’s okay. There are aspens, maple, spruce & jack pines. There are a couple of very tall jack pines. The one cedar tree isn’t very large, but it’s covered with moss. There are raspberries galore yet none of them are ripe. It will be at least a week yet before they’re ready.

There’s one plant that grows in abundance yet I haven’t a clue what it is. Here again, the flower book would have been great to have on hand. The leaves are almost like a maple leaf, yet not as smooth. The edges are saw-toothed and it grows white flowers that almost look like a large strawberry blossom. Some of the leaves are huge - 2-3 times the size of my hand. They’re almost Jurassic Park looking and we’ve been calling them “tree stars” as they look like the tree stars from Land Before Time.

So far the bugs haven’t been bad though I feel that the wind has helped immensely with that. The Ranger said there was a chance for thunderstorms today - maybe that’s what the wind is blowing in - we’ll see. I love the sound of the wind in the tree; how it whooshes through the pine and rustles the aspens. This is such a peaceful difference compared to Cascade.

7:29 pm - What a Glorious day! The sun shone bright and beautiful all day though it was windy. There’s still a pretty good breeze coming off the lake which makes me nervous for tomorrow & Pine is such a big lake. It’s about 6 miles long yet narrow. We’re going to get up at 4:00 am so that we can be in the water by 5:00. Hopefully it will be nice and calm. We have a few different routes planned out so we’ll see how it goes. Hope to make it to Johnson Falls tomorrow as well.

We didn’t do much this afternoon - walked and snoozed. We did take a drive over to Chester Lake. Emily wanted to swim but it ended up being too breezy and chilly. We met an older couple while we were there and he said that if we get going early on Pine we should be fine.

After they left we sat on the “stairs” which was really a big terrace and had lunch. While we ate we had a little furry visitor - a chipmunk (he was so cute). He ate cashews right out of Em’s hand and the first time he did he actually nibbled on her finger. After lunch we headed back to camp for the rest of the day.

Am sleepy now - more tomorrow - it’s finally here!!


Day 3 of 6

[paragraph break]Tuesday, July 21, 2009 11:04 am

We overslept this morning - I don’t think that the alarm on the watch even went off. I woke up about 5:30ish. It had rained in the night but must not have been too hard as it didn’t wake me up. We took down camp and were on the water by 6:30. Was pretty easy paddling though my arms sure tire out quickly. The sky was heavy and dark with rain clouds. There was a mist hanging over the cliff on the south side of McFarland. It was almost eerie looking - like out of Jurassic Park. The only difference is there’s several cabins along the North Shore - some even for sale. There are just too many too close together for my taste.

We made it to the portage and walked the canoe through the stream - probably could have just paddled it but being fully loaded were afraid of scraping the bottom. We took a few photos and went on our merry way! Just as we started, it started to rain but the sun was peeking through and we were treated to a rainbow. I didn’t dig the camera out as it was buried in the day pack. There are so many loons and they call to each other so frequently. Still no moose or bear.

We paddled all along Pine to about the midway point. Our campsite has a nice smooth bedrock outcropping. Under the water it is very slippery. We pulled up in a rougher part near shore to have a safer unload. As we are unloading, it started raining - again - and luckily after we got the tent set up - right after. Em stayed in the tent and got the bedding set up while I shivered under the rain shelter. I got so warm paddling that I only had shorts on and my feet were cold and very, very wet. I don’t like wet boots; I’ll have to get something else for that next time.

Once the rain slowed down, Emily emerged from the tent and I went in - dirty feet and all.

1:41 pm - Just woke up from a nice snooze - about an hour or so long. It has rained again and is now dripping from the trees. I had hoped the sun would come out and the wind pick up so that things wounded out a bit. The day is still early so we’ll see.

Our campsite is nestled in a grove of cedars and is very green and peaceful. The loons are abundant and I hear the other birds and red squirrels. Somewhere in the distance, though, I hear “human” noise - some kind of heavy machinery. Perhaps there’s logging or road work going somewhere. I’ll have to look at the map when I get out of the tent. I know we saw logging being done but that was way over by Chester Lake on the Otter Lake/Esther Lake intersection. I can’t imagine we’d hear that all the way over here.

I had hoped that we’d go further than we did today, however, I couldn’t paddle any longer. Besides, if we hadn’t stopped when we did, we’d have been paddling in that downpour that lasted so long. I’m glad we stopped - it will feel good to have a fire tonight though there isn’t much for wood around. We’re really going to have to work to find any. If we can’t, then so be it. I have the stove that we can warm stuff up on. I know that Em wants to go a lot further and do a lot more exploring than I had planned. We’ll have to see. She wants to take a completely different route than I left with Mark. I told her lets just wait and see what the weather does and how we’re feeling. She has so much energy - wish I could keep up like that. We’re going to shoot for hiking to Johnson Falls tomorrow. The first two campsites we paddled by as options today were occupied. My fear is that we’ll head out and not find a vacant site. I almost wouldn’t mind base camping and day tripping, though I know Em’s not going to want to do that.

Using the latrine for the first time was quite the experience! Baring my ass for all the world to see, sitting on the “throne” all the while mosquitoes are feasting on my nether regions - a place that mosquitoes shouldn’t have access to! However, the view is marvelous. The outhouse at McFarland campground was just plain nasty - I'd prefer going in the woods this way over that thing.

Some lovely person(s) put their two trash bags under our canoe at McFarland. Nice. Earlier in the day there were some loud obnoxious people that drove in and back out again. I think it was them. There’s no dumpster available so we just left it - I wasn’t going to store that in the van and let it ferment while we were gone. Yuck. On a positive note, someone had left us a nice pile of kindling there and we used it and made some more to pay it forward.

There some sort of dead water thing floating in both Pine and McFarland. I think they look like little freshwater shrimp. Emily wondered if they’re baby crayfish. Either way they’re gross.

Yep, there’s logging going on somewhere. The wind and rain have stopped and I can hear it. That’s such a shame - unless they’re clearing blow down areas though I would think they’d have been done with that years ago. Oh well, it is what it is.

7:30 pm Time to get ready for bed. Even with having napped this afternoon I’m pooped! We didn’t do much - sat around, tried to get a fire going but everything was just too wet- wouldn’t even start up the “cheating way” (as Em calls it) using lighter fluid.

She went on a trail through the site and hollered “Trail Find!” Someone had dumped a mini Weber grill and a bunch of candy wrappers back there. I don’t call that “leave no trace.” Good grief - some people. We’ll clean up the wrappers but I’m not packing out that grill - we have enough to carry as it is.

We have a little red squirrel in our camp that isn’t scared of us in the least - we’ve named him Sylvester. There are several loons on the lake and I just heard a big frog start croaking.

We got the food pack up in the bear hang - that took a while and was pretty humorous - us trying to throw that rope over the high branch. But we did it - It’s all good.

For supper we made chicken tacos. Had pouched chicken, tortilla, cheese and salsa. They were pretty darn tasty. We never did have lunch - I ate kind of crappy today. I’ll have to try to make it a point to eat better tomorrow.

The wind has died down some though I can still hear some of it whooshing through the pines. It hasn’t rained for a while and the sun even came out - we enjoyed the sunset. It’s still a bit cloudy though there are big patches of blue sky. The clouds don’t look as full and heavy as they did earlier. It would be nice if it wouldn’t rain anymore.

We are going to try to be up by 5am tomorrow and want to try for the campsite on Little Caribou Lake then go over to Johnson Falls. We’ll just have to see how it goes and looks in the morning - everything here is take it as it is.

We have “neighbors” almost directly across form us. I thought I heard the bang of aluminum earlier today. They had a smoke signal going - not sure if they were actually able to get a fire going but they sure were able to make smoke.

I knew it would be peaceful and pretty, but I couldn’t really picture it in my mind until now. The green is such a vibrant green - photos can’t capture that color. Because of the clouds the water is such a slate gray. The wind whispers through the pines along the shore and the gentle lapping of the water on the beach is so soothing. Natures own calming fountain.

We looked n the map and there appears to be a road or trail leading to Stump lake - we think that may be where the machinery sounds were coming from - that lake is only about two miles away and the sound really carries here.

Both of us are covered in black fly and mosquito bites. The black flies were bad at McFarland. I don’t think they’re too bad here. The mosquitoes aren’t any worse than they are when we camp at Savanna. Of course they seem all the more vicious when they have a nice bare target sitting there. That’s gotta be the worst. Skeeter bites on the ass. We both look like a couple of red-neck hillbillies with greasy hair, walking around scratching our asses!

Hopefully we’ll have calm, dry weather in the morning when it’s time to pack up and leave - that’s what I’ll pray for


Day 4 of 6

[paragraph break]Wednesday, July 22, 2009 1:20 pm

Nap time! It’s storming out and there have been some really loud thunder boomers - the kind that crack and then rumble where you can feel it in the ground. It’s raining but not down pouring - yet. Earlier when it first started there was just a bit of hail - very tiny - looked like mini contact lenses.

We woke this morning a little before 5am to thunder in the distance. I woke Em up so that we could pee, fill the water bottles and get back in the tent before it started raining - we made it just as it started sprinkling. Went back to bed for an hour or so and let the storm pass. It was pretty short lived.

Breakfast for Em was oatmeal and cocoa. I wasn’t hungry so I waited to eat. Had a couple of ibuprofen though - my body was hurting - holy crap! After packing up we loaded the canoe and were off to find our next adventure. The lake was pretty calm and there wasn’t much of a breeze - we made good time. We were treated to another shower and then the sun came out - at our backs.

There are still thousands of those dead things in the water which is rather gross. I’m going to have to take a photo of one and look them up online. I wonder what’s killing them.

We portaged from Pine to Little Caribou - which was the plan all along. Holy crap that was a hard portage - only 80 rods but straight uphill the whole way - okay, most of the way. The trail was nice and wide making it easy to find from the lake, but covered in rocks and fallen needles so with the recent rain was pretty slippery. On our first trip over, Em took the canoe and I took the bedding pack, chairs and one life jacket. One of the shoulder straps on the bedding pack broke -great - which made the carry all the more difficult. I had to just hold it over one shoulder like a school bag except three times as heavy. The trailed passes over a creek - I wonder if it flows to Johnson Falls. The hewn log bridge was a bit treacherous as it was slick from the recent rain. We double portaged and headed back out on the lake immediately as the mosquitoes on that trail were pretty vicious. Emily said my neck is polka dotted from all the bites - I can feel them too.

Little Caribou is a small lake kind of shaped like a peanut. At the center point - about in the middle, there’s a cliff and that’s where the campsite is. We opted to not stop there and check out Caribou Lake to camp there. As we neared the portage at the end of the lake we ran into a group of boy scouts. We asked them about sites available on Caribou. They had the site that we were shooting for originally and we didn’t want to paddle the whole of Caribou to find a vacant site so we turned around a claimed the camp on the cliff. I’m so glad that we did. It’s a spectacular spot - gorgeous view of the ridge across the lake and has several mature red and white pines. There are several smaller cedar trees. The climb up with the gear after that portage was tough but worth it. The sun was out so we laid out all the wet stuff to dry - didn’t take long on those rocks.

We have another little furry native here. Emily named this one Booger because he is NOT afraid of us at all. I can tell that he’s been fed by others. He would go right up in our packs and pull stuff out - the little “booger.” But I call him the little shit. After several times of chasing him he finally left, but not before giving us a severe scolding.

The latrine at this site is extreme. It’s far away and straight up the mountain - good grief.

Someone left a nice pile of wood, though it’s very wet from all the rain and the pieces are very large. Just as I was getting the fire ready to light we could hear a storm coming in the distance. We quickly got camp put in order - tent staked, rain fly on and covered the fire grate with a garbage bag. We sat under the rain shelter. It was a short lived storm. We ate lunch - Em had cheese and crackers, I had applesauce and Kashi. Was going to make pancakes over the fire - oh well. That’s the way it goes.

There have been two groups of boy scouts that have paddled by. The last was right before the “big” storm hit. I heard them get to the portage to Caribou before it hit so at least they were off the water.

We’ve decided to stay here for a couple of nights at least. It’s the only site on the lake and pretty private . . . I think we’ll see a lot of “traffic” going by during the day but at night it will be quite. At least there isn’t the sound of logging equipment. I’m looking forward to getting up in the morning and seeing the lake be like glass - I imagine it with mist coming off as well.

2:06 pm The sun feels glorious! We both emerged from our little den and are basking in the warmth. Em is laying out on one of the boulders and I’m just sitting in a chair eating pretzels and watching the sky. I think there’s more rain coming - but one never knows for sure.

It’s so much more quite here. I can hear the droning of the bugs, birds singing and the water lapping. Booger is up in the tree scolding us and there’s a solitary loon on the water. I have yet to hear him call. Ooop - now I hear a loon - not the one I’m looking at but a loon just the same.

The water is dripping off the trees and the sun glistens through each droplet like a tiny prism. On the cedar leaves it looks like a thousand diamonds.

There’s a solo canoeist going by right now - kudos to him. I’m not sure that I’d be able to do that. He has a Wenonah canoe and a curved paddle. Also has two packs. I hope he wasn’t hoping for this site - too bad. I’m really glad that we chose this spot. We may just stay here and go back through Pine instead of doing the loop. The portage from Caribou to West Pike is 200 Rod and the elevation on the map shows that it’s higher than this last portage.

Booger has tried to get in our food pack so Emily scared him away and moved the bag. He’s up in the tree scolding her right now. As soon as she sat back down he was back at it again. The little shit. She’s whipping rocks at him - he only runs away a few feet and then comes back. Persistent little bugger. Now he’s up in the tree again. And back down again. Funny!

I hear another canoe at the portage - this is the 4th group that’s gone by - much busier than I thought. That’s okay - we’re still going to enjoy it.

5:38 pm. After all the rain passed, it ended up being a spectacular afternoon and evening. The sun will set at the end of the lake behind the ridge. The resident loon finally made his presence known. The breeze is enough to help keep the bugs away and dry things out. The tent is already completely dry. I was finally able to get a fire going -sort of. The wood is so wet. I had kindling and big pieces but nothing in-between. I’m not strong enough to split those pieces either though I sure did try. Even so I got it going enough to heat up water and make Em her pancakes - they were kind of sad looking but she ate them just the same.

There’s another couple paddling by - I think that makes a total of seven. I’m really glad that we stopped when we did. Caribou Lake is going to be busy with those two groups of Boy Scouts. The couple going by now is going to have a hard time finding a site, I think. We’ve decided that we’re just going to stay put here until Friday and then we’ll head back on Pine Lake. We’re really enjoying this spot. Tomorrow we’ll paddle and hike to Johnson Falls - weather permitting of course. I’m looking forward to that. There’s another couple going by now - that makes eight. This is really a busy little highway lake - however the people are spaced such where we’ve had plenty of solitude and I expect it will stay like that.

Emily took her “bath’ in the lake this evening. Actually she just swam but still felt cleaner after toweling off. I’m afraid of getting those itchies that I get from algae so I did a sponge bath. It’s amazing how much better I felt after washing up that little bit.

I didn’t really cook supper tonight. I ate an individual container of peas, couple bites of meat and cheese, few banana chips and a bit of trail mix. I just haven’t been very hungry. I think we have way too much food with. After that I got the food pack re-organized and just cleaned up around camp.

Our site is riddled with enormous boulders and we have a cliff - that would be a nasty fall!

As the sun is setting the colors across the lake are such vibrant greens. Deep forest green, lighter green and a brilliant emerald green. The water reflects those colors and mixed with the slate gray it give an army green hue. Em took a photo yesterday hoping to paint the same scene that would be cool.

There’s a bird that I wish I knew what it was - the call is so unique, imho, that it stands out from the rest. Words can’t describe it - only hearing it will do.

The dragon flies and damsel flies are out feasting this evening. There are a few black flies that have been bugging me, but the breeze is helping to keep it tolerable. It’s too early to go in the tent yet. Tomorrow we’ll sleep in, though I’ve been awake by about 5am every day so we'll see how that goes.


Day 5 of 6

[paragraph break]Thursday, July 23, 2009

8:51 am Wow did it feel good to sleep in! I woke up once about 7:30 and went back to sleep. Other than that I slept right through. Emily is still asleep and she’ll sleep longer as she stayed up later than I. We went to “bed” around 7pm - we were so bushed but ended up getting up twice because Booger kept getting in the food pack. He’d crawl right down the rope and under the flap. Finally we double packed it with one of the other Duluth packs and duct taped all the openings. I haven’t been out there yet this morning to see if it worked. He sure is persistent.

I can tell the sun is out and there mustn’t be much of a breeze as all I hear are the singing birds and drone of bugs. The mosquitoes are sitting on the screen of the tent just waiting for their breakfast. I can’t count the number of bites that I have - it’s incredible. BUT I also haven’t used any bug dope either. I’d rather not if I can help it.

The sun is up enough now that it’s getting hot and stuffy in the tent. Time to get up and make breakfast.

1:06pm just got back from hiking to Johnson falls. Once Emily was up we made breakfast - not a typical breakfast but it was the solid food we were craving - not snacky stuff. Had chicken with taco seasoning. Emily made a burrito with cheese and I attempted to make the cheesy taters - they were okay. I mixed the chicken in with it and added salsa. We also had a bit of trail mix for desert. Was a satisfying meal - luke warm - but satisfying :-)

After breakfast we cleaned up camp, fixed our bear hang and headed out across the lake to the portage to hike to Johnson falls. We got behind that same group of boy scouts that wanted our campsite yesterday. They were headed to the same place we were except that they portaged their canoes to the trail head and we “bushwhacked” through the lesser used trail. It was such that I appreciate all the more what the explorers and voyageurs endured. What we’re experiencing isn’t even a fraction of it I’m sure. We met up on the trail with “the guys” and walked with them. Their leader was friendly and chatty. The trail up to the falls was really not much more than a path - mushy, full of ankle breakers (rocks, logs, roots) and tree branches that whack you in the face. We had to climb over a couple of fallen trees - of course Emily was pretty much able to step over them and I had to sit and go over. Once we reached the falls it was well worth the hike. The sun was shining through the trees and the mist was sparkling. Emily went right in the pool - boots and all - to swim. I think the boys felt a little weird with two women there but it looked like they had fun. Emily swam and visited with one of the other leaders - she’s so outgoing. I was able to take a lot of pictures. We found out that they are from Illinois and the one leader from St. Louis Missouri. They had quite the drive to get here. We stayed at the falls for quite a while. I haven’t much been paying attention to my watch other than to write the time down when journaling. I have no idea exactly how long. The water was so fresh and crystal clear and icy cold. We dipped our bottles in that water to refill.

On the hike back we got all sweaty again. The side trail we took crossed a creek and we walked through the water, over the log and through the muck. Still I would do it all over again. I’m not so sure that Mark would enjoy it - he’d like the solitude but the sweaty, buggy, hard ground wouldn’t be his thing. Still, I think he should go at least once. I’ll have to find one with an easy route.

On the portage trail between Pine and Little Caribou we were both slowing down. My legs felt like jelly. There’s no way I could do a longer portage. The 80 rod uphill was bad enough. I’d dearly love to get a different canoe - this one seems really heavy to me - though Em wasn’t sure that it is any heavier than the canoes she carried for girl scouts. Still, a lighter one would be nice. This one is okay for base camping or going to Savanna but not so hot for rough portaging.

Back at camp now and Em’s laying on “her” rock in the sun - it’s so quiet. I’m sitting in the shade, feet up on a boulder. The breeze ahs quieted a bit, though I wouldn’t mind if it picked up again. The flies are buzzing all around. Booger was here again looking for handouts. He’s crawling on Em as she lays and he’s crawled over my feet. Em said he was very soft and gentle as he crawled on her arm. He tried to get in the day pack but I have it zipped. I’m sure he can smell the trail mix in there. It’s funny watching him scratch at it trying to get in.

Last night I read aloud from The Hiding Place. Emily had finished her other book and she asked that I read to her. We haven’t played any games since we got here. It amazes me that something that’s such hard work can be so relaxing. The only sounds are the birds, bugs and wind. I need to get a CD of bird calls so that I can identify some of them. I’m also amazed at the stamina that I do have. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do what we’ve done - again, it’s mind over matter!

7:40 pm - we’ve had such a nice day! The sun was out though there were just a few clouds. Em enjoyed lying in the sun and then went swimming again. The water was chilly and all the floaties were freaking her out. Still, she had fun.

We made spaghetti for supper - cooked the noodles in the coffee pot - that worked pretty slick. Warmed up the sauce in the fry pan. I didn’t think to bring sprinkle cheese - that would have gone good. Will have to remember that for next time. We’re going to leave bright and early tomorrow morning. I hope that it remains dry for us. I don’t want to pack up in the rain.

Emily's description of BWCA: The gray, cracked ancient cliffs silenced by the cedar, pine and birch trees all set the scenery for a well preserved land. The air is fresh and good as the beauty of this place. The smells that your nose is bound to love come from the hint of pine obviously from the sap bleeding pine trees, the woodsmoke from a campfire bursting with flame from a campsite off in the distance, and the many lakes surrounding the land. The water smells the way the earth smells after a rainstorm filled with a cool, fresh clean smell. To be honest this water truly is the cleanest and purest water in the land. With its reflecting perfect blue and glassy untouched look that can only be broken by a ripple commonly made by a hungry fish surfacing to a yummy bug to devour. But this land is not only rich with great looks and smells but its sound as well. Every quack of a duck, call of a loon, buzz of a bug, and scold of a squirrel come together to form the song of nature. It is truly an enchanted and fun experience.


Day 6 of 6

[paragraph break]Friday, July 24, 2009 We woke this morning to a thunderstorm so we didn’t get to leave as early as we had hoped. It was snuggly in the tent and I really didn’t want to get up. However, my back was screaming at me to get moving for the day. Once I was finally able to sit up I started packing my gear. I let Em sleep - no reason for us to both be up yet. I was actually quite warm last night - I got too warm in my sleeping bag and had to remove layers. Much better than being too cold!

Once Em was awake we got things in order, cleaned up camp and loaded the canoe. This campsite was fairly clean compared to the one on Pine. I found only a few pieces of candy wrappers, some broken glass and as always twisty ties. Some before us had also left a nice length of rope tied to the tree. We took that with us - no sense in leaving it there.

I forgot to look at my watch when we left but know that we left Pine Lake at 10:30. The portage back over was still a hard one. I admire the strength that Em has and her ability to maneuver that long heavy canoe up and down those steep slipper hills with rocks, mud and needles. Today was the only day that we used bug dope - they were absolutely vicious after that rain this morning. There was virtually no breeze either. We leap frogged on this last portage and that worked pretty well. We loaded the old beast back up and off we went. I hoped that we’d be able to make it back to the EP in about two hours. Six miles in two hours? Hmmmmmmmm

The wind was at our backs so it really helped in the paddling. We made really good time. We sang silly songs and made up our own lyrics. Next time we’re going to go through her Girl Scout journal and learn the songs they sang. It helps with the monotony of the paddling especially when the paddling gets rough. About midway through the lake I started freaking out - was totally having a panic attack. I felt that the waves were huge. They weren’t but in my freaking out head they looked like Tsunamis. Emily got me calmed down- reassured me that all is good and it soon passed. Not sure what was up with that. The sun came out and it was a gorgeous morning. We had thoughts of staying on Pine again tonight but decided to just keep moving on home. We’re both beat and I would like to have a day or two at home before going back to work. Emily wants to get back and hang with her friends at the fair tomorrow.

As we neared the EP the wind came up - at our back - but made the waves big and she had a difficult time steering. We found the EP and with the rain the water was high enough that we shot right through the little creek - that was really nice. I looked at my watch again after we had been paddling on McFarland for a while and it was 12:45 pm - I did a pretty darn good job of estimating the time it would take to paddle Pine - crazy.

We had a fantastic trip -even though we decided to cut it short. I’m not quite ready to go again - give it a couple of days and then I will be.

See that bubble? It’s MINE!


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