Part 1 of 5
Wednesday, Aug 1st- 2012 I got off work at 8am and didn't have to run back home as I had packed the night before including the coolers. Luckily, we have a full kitchen at my work which allowed me to keep stuff frozen. I picked up Joel at his daycare and we off to my mothers' house in the North Suburbs of ST Paul. A boring drive every time,, but I have learned to zone it out after a couple hundred drives. I had just changed oil and the air filter in my truck and got a respectable 21.4 MPG on the way N. Not bad for a full size truck. Safe travels. Once I arrived the mad dash of finding gear,, buying extra food, sorting the gear and then understanding that Joel was more concerned about going out in the paddle boat with Grandma!!! Oh well. Went over to my buddies house later that PM to borrow a weather radio and a hammock. Been up 24 hours... need to get some rest.
Part 2 of 5
Thursday, Aug 2nd- 2012 I didn't load the canoe up the night before because I was too lazy and tired. OF course loading a shorter 16' 2" canoe compared to a 17' 10" proved to be a little more time consuming then I cared for,, but it was done around 8am. Then loading the coolers from the freezer and checking all the last minute items and we were off around 9:15. Stopped in Harris for leeches and then figured the next stop would be Grand Marais for the permit. Joel had ridden very well for the past two days and had put on about 450 miles without much of the typical,, "What time will it be when we get there,, Dad?" or every ones' favorite "ARE WE THERE YET!!!??" So I decided that a treat was in order and that treat was Palisade Head. Had been about 12 years since I had been to the top,, but I got lucky and found the turnoff the first time.
We left Palisade Head around 1:15 and made the GM permit station around 3:00. There were the typical amount of people at the FS office, but GM in general was hopping with Fishermens' Picnic,, something I knew about beforehand. Dang it,, I should have a stopped in Lutsen or Tofte for last minute items,, the gas station lots' were a JOKE. Around 3:45 we left for the end of the Gunflint. I had not been to the end of it since it was gravel or just recently fully paved since 7/99 (right after the big blow). Man is the road beautiful!!,, and very rugged especially the last 5-7 miles as the results of the fire have a surreal effect. We found are site #21 at Trails End and then found out that #22 was empty for the evening. We had a large chunk of the campground to ourselves. Joel went for a swim
I set up camp and then we went about to explore the adjacent area and collect firewood. Joel looking for wood.
Joel over the scenic overlook off #22.
We then headed back to camp and started a fire for the frozen salmon and Joel wanted to hunt for crayfish which was fine except that it was kind of dangerous as you were too high above the water. I gave him a head lamp and he was as happy as could be as I prepared gear for the AM. Joel facing the falls (Upper part)
Waiting for dinner!!
Joel went to bed around 9:15pm. I stayed up until around 11:30 and enjoyed some adult beverages around the fire and such.
Part 3 of 5
Friday Aug 3rd- 2012 Awoke to a rather sunny morning but I could tell with the east wind and cloud types that the rain and storms that was predicted would likely come to pass. Time to tear down camp and get the show on the road. I always bring a spare tent/pad etc to speed the process in the AM and the idea of packing a wet tent before the trip has really started. Instant oatmeal was on the menu this morning. 9:30am and on the way to Larch,,, not too bad. Unloaded the canoe/gear and believe we were under way at 10:15 or so. The Seagull Guard station intercom could be heard as we were loading the canoe ,, they were broadcasting the weather forecast. [paragraph break] The first couple hundred yards of Larch is very narrow. So narrow that your canoe bounces off the banks and if you were to meet another canoe in this area-- one would have to back up. It gradually widens and then underwater logs get to be a little bothersome as the water is very murky and you really can't see them until the last second. OH well. I think we did 2 or 3 lift overs with me only removing Joel and a heavy pack. I really like wearing Lacrosse rubber duckies for this kinda of stuff, plus they give more support on portages then one would think as long as the fit is tight. Rounded a big bend to the right and Larch Lake was in view!!! As we paddled out into the main lake I quickly noticed the campsite on the island was taken,, it looked quite nice. I then turned to my right and noticed the one in the SW corner of the lake was open. We paddled within about 200 yards just to check it out. Decision time! I had wanted to make Clove and ideally the sand beach campsite as a basecamp,, but realized that was not likely as I had counted the groups ahead of us for the week (starting on Tuesday) entering at both Larch and Magnetic at 8,, we would be the ninth. But this is were Larch only allowing 1 group a day is very nice with children,, I knew we could always come back and get the one in the SW bay if need be so we pressed on to the portage to Clove. As soon as I had the gear out of the canoe a group coming from Clove to fish Larch arrived. The first canoe in this group I thought was a tad rude as he put his canoe down and then quickly took prime real estate in putting it in the water. The landing is quite tight. My gear was out,, only an empty canoe with a child standing watching and myself holding the canoe straddling a log. Almost like a daytripper trumps the one fully loaded for Clevelend,, (Gordon Lightfoot). Oh well. I'll just wait. As he did this I asked if he knew if any of the sites on Clove were open. He said they were camped on the left as soon as the lake opens and he knew the sand beach site had been occupied for days and that "maybe" the site by the portage to the Pine River was open. "Maybe"?? That didn't cut it for me. "Maybe"? You should be able to see that site from the one he was staying at. I know it's campsites and they come and go quickly,, but I'am with a small child. Lost a lot of respect for the guy in the 5 minutes I dealt with him. Right then I knew the best thing was to turn around and go back to the empty site on Larch. I didn't feel like going all way to Devils Elbow with a 6 yr old on this day with weather on the way and at the moment with my canoe still setting in the water, I said, "Joel, we are going back." He was upset and as he had been looking forward to "portaging". The first canoe shoved off as it was kinda of an awkward moment as the 2nd canoe in the group arrived with no room,, and almost like the 2nd canoe frowned upon the actions of the first. It was an older couple and they waited (told) me to load my canoe and depart. During the canoe over, I just felt very content in my choice. Joel felt otherwise. I think we arrived at the site at very close to Noon.[paragraph break] The landing at this site really is sub par, but we made do and soon enough Joel was skipping around finding paths to and fro and had totally forgot about missing out on "portaging". I set up camp and Joel soon started to find raspberry bushes everywhere!!! -- including around the thunderbox which was covered in deadfall which I removed. Collecting these berries along with the events of the day was starting to take its effects on Joel!!!
(He's faking it,, thinking it cool to be in a big hammock!) As the afternoon progressed the weather really didn't seem to be getting much worse as overcast skies would gradually clear and repeat itself. However I had noticed that since I calibrated my weather instrument at the elevation of Larch,, the pressure had continued to fall along with East winds and the dewpoint in the mid to upper 60's didn't bode well for the overnight. But at least camp was up and we were happy. We even went for a swim as it was quite uncomfortable out of the breeze.
I believe this picture was from Saturday,, but it will do. I then collected water for my gravity feed and noticed that this water tasted as bad as it looked. The secchi disk reading of this lake according to the DNR is 3',, I say 3". I figured we would have to deal with it,, until I made a batch of pasta with it and it was almost uneatable. Well, we will have to go to Clove to get our water tomorrow. No-- we will go right now, before any storms arrive. Smart choice. Did the portage into Clove and it sure seemed longer then the 25 rods listed on the Mackenzie map but maybe that's because it's the first portage?? Sure enough the point on the left was taken, but the site next to the portage to Pine River was open. Oh well. Too late now. Filled up the 3 water bottles and my water bag only to notice several minutes later that I had not properly folded enough of the material together as I snapped the buckle over the thwart-- water was filling the back of the canoe. Oh well, another try and we on our way back to the portage. The return trip is where Joel would really have to help without having to take 3 trips. I took the water bladder on the first trip and snapped it to a very convenient LOW hanging log and then returned for the canoe. Joel would have to carry the 3 water bottles and paddles-- he really liked it when I carabined them together and clipped them on his life jacket. He did great!!,, except he tripped at the end of the portage and hit his head on a tree-- first battle scars of the B-DUB!!! Once back we cooked dinner and collected firewood for a fire for jiffy-pop and then Joel really enjoyed the peaceful evening. I wonder what's going through his brain here-
Skitters were out,, but really not that bad. Ankle biters earlier were the bug of the day. Joel went to bed and I tidied up camp ahead of the impending storm which the NWS in Duluth said could approach severe levels and be in the area between 2am and 4am. They were right!!!! Larch Lake, Clove Lake
Part 4 of 5
Awoke around 3am as Joel said he heard thunder and was a little scared. Nature was calling so I went outside and the light show to the west was tad bit disturbing. As a professional weather observer I know that the best way to estimate the intensity of a thunderstorm minus a radar is the frequency of lightning and amount of cloud to ground lightning.(CG)FYI- all other types of lightning are signs of a storm maintaining or losing intensity) This was still too far away to see any CG,, but close enough to see at least 10-15 flashes a minute. OH well, I always liked sleeping in a tent in the rain!! Feel asleep for about an hour and then awoke to the awful sounds of close proximity CG lightning. This thunder was eerie as it bounced off much of the exposed bedrock increasing the sound IMO since much of the vegetation that was burned away a few years ago was not available to absorb the sound waves. The closest CG were less then 2 seconds away from flash to thunder, so likely less then .4 of a mile away. In fact,, I swear that you could feel the bedrock actually vibrate. It was an uneasy feeling,, but Joel got through it. [paragraph break] Morning dawned mostly sunny and you could feel that the stickiness of the day before was gone. Breakfast was eaten and rods were rigged for some fishing as we had to make use of the leeches that were along. As I was about to collect some firewood (which is very abundant btw) I heard Joel yell that he had something!! It turned out to be a small SMB!! So I dropped my saw and rigged up my rods to no avail. Then we both went for a swim and then had lunch and then Joel wanted to go exploring around our site. Here he is itching to explore--
We ended up finding a very nice overlook showing much of Larch to the NE.
The day was turning out great weather wise as the NWS had called for scattered showers/thunder (more on this later.) So I thought it was time for team pictures,
Noticed the pressure had actually begun to rise steadily throughout the day and dew point steadily falling so I removed the tarp from the woodpile. Mistake. On the table for dinner tonight was BW Pizza with Boboli crusts. A first. I had frozen some pizza sauce along with bacon,green olives,bologna,mushrooms. I diced up some mozzarella cheese and got everything ready. And then it started to rain!!! Off to under the tarp. The pizza worked out great,, though I wish my stove had better simmer ability but the pan covered with foil and held above the low setting worked out OK. We were both stuffed that when I got the fire started (not easy after the rain) no one wanted the 2nd batch of Jiffy pop. No issues. About 8:30 the rain completely stopped and the sun peaked out to the west. It sure seemed like classic rainbow weather and sure enough Joel spotted one--
It was a gorgeous evening as the stable weather worked it's way into the area and the winds remained calm. It The kinda of evening we all wish for in the BW's in the long winter months. Sometime in the evening Joel said to me "Dad, it's just so peaceful out here." Just a little longer Dad!!
And more "Deep Thoughts".
Skitters this evening were a little better then the previous but still not that bad. The sleep this night was much more peaceful then the evening before. Was actually a little chilly as I had to put on some extra clothes as I only brought a light blanket. I will take it over the heat/humidity any day.
Part 5 of 5
Awoke to a few fair weather cumulus clouds ,, otherwise mostly sunny and NW winds. Breakfast was had and I begun tearing down camp for departure. The winds were in the 10-15mph range,, and I wouldn't have wanted to be on a much bigger lake and have to paddle into it with a young child but that's another point that makes this entry point child friendly. [paragraph break]Campsite overall is quite spread out with one really good tent pad and at least 2 other marginal ones. Straight, rather long path to the thunderbox through some thick vegetation (raspberry bushes). Plenty of firewood,, though for the arm sized stuff and smaller you have to go a little further back. Fire pit area is avg to slightly above. Biggest drawback is the landing and water quality. [paragraph break]We were paddling by 10:15 (even with about 1" of rain,, the water seemed a tad lower on the way back) and the truck was loaded up and ready to go by Noon. Joel really improved in paddling technique on the way back and actually figured out how to paddle in the front to aid my steering efforts in the stern. He even was pushing off the banks in the narrow section of the creek to steer the bow!! Very proud of him!! Joel after his first BW trip-
I usually like to make at least Two Harbors before stopping for something to eat, but with Fishermens' Picnic and possible traffic I decided the Trail Center would suffice. Wonderful food. ON the way down I saw Lake Superior actually before the lumber mill, I never recall seeing it that far away except for a few times on top of Eagle Mountain years ago. This would be great day for Pincushion overlook.
[paragraph break] Summary- A great short but sweet trip for a young child. Best piece of gear for the trip was Sierra Designs Orion 3 AST tent (shed storm like it was nothing). Exped downmat once again makes the list also. I also used my first "innie". After years of being an "outtie" fan,, I believe the "innie" offers better water protection if it gets to that point. Next piece of gear I want to purchase is CCS Tundra Tarp. P.s Didn't even make it to my mothers' place and Joel was asking , "When are we going again, Dad?" I think I did my job!!!