Exhaustion 101: My Frost River solo.
The alarm goes off at 5:45. The lazy layover day did my muscles no favors. I’m very sore and stiff this morning.
I’ll be packing up wet...oh how we all love that. I break down camp fairly fast and head across a much calmer lake than I saw last night. Arrive at the Frost River portage at 6:45. The 130 rod portage is a real wake up call. It takes me awhile to get loosened up and in a portaging frame of mind again.
Finally, I’m on the Frost River! The short paddle/portage routine begins and time blurs. The river itself is mostly narrow but many stretches open up into a wide, weedy wetland. It’s beautiful yet bleak. Bleak, because the hardwoods have just begun to bud and the long grasses are still brown. The only green visible right now comes courtesy of the conifers.
I paddle into Chase Lake. This is the jump off to Bologna. For all these months that has been my plan. I glance at my watch...it’s only 9:30. I can’t possibly stop now.
At this point, the trip goals change dramatically for me. I had originally expected this trip to go six, maybe seven days.
I decide to push myself...to find out what I’m really capable of. Both physically and mentally. This trip will now be a baseline. A reference point to look back on for future trip planning.
I paddled up to the Pencil Lake portage. Along this 65 rod trail, water cascades over many rapids. At some points along the trail the sound of rushing water is almost deafening.
The river stretch immediately below Pencil is my kinda river paddle. Intimate, twisty, shallow and clear. I love being able to see the river bottom as I quietly glide overhead. A pair of Whisky Jacks follow me for about ten minutes..leapfrogging each other along the way. I enjoy their company.
Paddle...portage...paddle...portage...paddle portage...the pattern continues.
I reach Afton Lake. It’s a pretty one with tall rock formations. As I approach the portage to Fente I can now see why I have sharpied “very steep” on my map. The pictures I took of the approach and exit do not do justice to the vertical that is really present. I finish this goat path and paddle up Fente. In no time, I hear rushing water again. The first narrows of the lake form a chute and the water is really plowing thru. For a second I consider running it...then I come to my senses. I will not take the chance. A short carry and I'm back on the lake.
Now comes the fun part. The 340 rod to Hub Lake. I’ve done a 320 a couple of times before, but never this late in the day and never this tired. The river stretch wore me out. I’m not looking forward to this one. Especially when I have “big steep, first 80 rods” written on my map.
As I begin the first carry I think to myself...”is this some ones idea of a cruel joke?”. It is a thigh burner for sure. It takes me 1:35 to get everything across. Loaded up yet again I paddle to the NW site on Hub. At this point, its good enough. Hell, a gravel parking lot would have been adequate right now.
It’s 4:20 and I’ve just finished the most difficult, grueling day of my canoeing life to date.
I’m exhausted but things need to get done. Pump water. Get these sweat soaked Trekkers/Brookies off...AHHHHH! Fantastic portaging footwear no doubt. As fantastic though, is to take them off at the end of the day. A cold lake water wipe down (me). Cover a small blister. New “undapants” and t-shirt. Dry socks and boots. I feel alive again! Camp is set up.
This trip has really driven home the point of how much harder a solo trip really is. Reaching camp tired with all this work yet to be done....alone.
A pair of loons have been eyeing me for quite awhile now. I suddenly notice why. They have a nest on a scrubby little island about 60 yards out in the lake.
Peregrine falcons are nested behind me and from the sound of it, they aren’t very happy about my short visit.
The wind has died and the lake is calm. I will have a small fire tonight.
I prepare some Mountainhouse beef stew. God awful crap! I barely eat any of it. It's the first meal from them that I don't like. "Don't like"...now THAT'S an understatement.
This camp site strikes me as old and not used very often. The sitting logs around the fire grate are on the ground now and rotting away.
It’s a loud evening. Spring peepers, birds, and loons are all very vocal right now. It's music to my ears. I can also hear water rushing into the lake from the marsh beside camp. I happen to glance over to my canoe...overturned and tied off for the night now. She’s not a virgin anymore.
I'm normally a "roaring fire" kinda guy but tonight, I think I'm enjoying these little flickering flames as much as any campfire I have ever had up here before. Throwing birch bark in the fire...just because I can. Birch bark...my kinda fireworks. Time to sleep.
ONE HELL OF A DAY!
10 miles. 16 portages. 6 miles on foot...4 miles with gear, 2 miles empty