A Paddling Partner for Life
I woke up at 6am for our early tow on Saganaga Lake to the Red Rock Lake portage. Lauren was still asleep, so I decided to double check the packs and haul them down to the truck for our ride to the boat landing on Saganaga Lake off of road 81. Lauren was not easily aroused, but soon enough she and I were both dressed, ate some blueberry muffins and cereal for breakfast and made our way to the truck. After a 5 minute ride from the outfitter's base we had the tow boat loaded and were making our way up the Sag Corridor.
The skies looked ominous as we made our way into the big part of Saganaga and there was a stiff wind out of the north that made the ride a little choppy. Between sporadic sprinkles, the wind carried with it little bits of sand that pelted us in the face on occasion. All the islands on Saganaga make navigation a little confusing as I try to anticipate where we are heading during the ride. The tow boat driver, Tim chuckles at my comment on this as he is now an "expert" with one month experience at finding his way on this massive lake. We reach the Red Rock portage and it is completly under water. Tim helps us transfer the gear to the canoe and departs. Wow, alone.... We are really going to do this! As we watch the tow boat disappear around a distant point, Lauren anxiously tells me to start paddling. We then paddle through the short 10 rod portage and make our way into Red Rock Lake.
It is a little different paddling a tandem canoe backwards with not much help from up front. I don't keep the straightest line, and I am not in any hurry as we are only going to Alpine lake today. Red Rock Lake is pretty with no fire damage until the southern part of the lake. We pass by some decent campsites and take a break on the last site before the portage into Alpine Lake. I'm a little surprised at the condition of this site as it is overgrown with many fallen trees lying about. It appears that it hasn't been used much if at all this year. Lauren really had to go potty and we couldn't easily find the privy. One of my fears on this trip was how Lauren would react to bathroom situation in the wilderness and I didn't predict that her first experience would be having to go in the weeds. Well, she passed the test with flying colors and I took a big sigh of relieve.
Now for the next test, portaging. We then headed for the 48 rod portage to Alpine lake. My goal was to double portage carrying the equipment pack on 1st trip and the food barrel and canoe on the 2nd trip. Lauren would carry her pack on the 1st trip with me and then just walk with me on the 2nd trip. My thinking was that I could assist her on larger rocks and roots with my free hands on the 1st trip when she carried her pack, since on the 2nd trip my hands would be busy with the canoe. We started across and everything was going as planned. I thrilled to see my little girl cross the entire portage without complaint until the very end. The landing on Alpine was very muddy and swampy and hence very buggy. The mosquitoes instantly swarmed around Lauren (I guess they prefer younger blood) and she was miserable. I rushed to get her head net back on, drop the packs and head back across the portage for our remaining stuff. Lauren walked the entire way again on the 2nd trip and only complained at the very end calling it, "the Mean Bug Forest". We rushed to load up the canoe and get back onto the open water and head for a campsite on Alpine.
I had dreamed on staying on the North campsite on Alpine. Many of my BWCA.com buddies had suggested it to me as a great site and a suitable one for a young child. It was open (YES!!) and it met all the criteria I was looking for with Lauren along: flat and open for her to run around, on a point for wind to keep the bugs at bay, shallow water around the edges with no major drop-off's, and easy spots to fish from shore. What a great site! We arrived around 1030 and had camp entirely set up by noon.
We sat down for a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, GORP and cookies. There is something about paddling and portaging that makes you hungry and almost any food taste good. The wind picked up changing to out of the west in the afternoon and kept us confined to land. We spent the afternoon exploring camp, collecting rocks and drawing pictures of the day's events in Lauren's "pictorial journal". We didn't encounter any other people today since we left the tow boat driver and had this area of the lake to ourselves. We did paddle around the lake a little and explore, but my partner fell asleep and left me to do all the paddling. Amazing how kids can fall asleep anywhere!
After a dinner of beef stroganoff, green beans, and apple delight, we fished from shore catching two bass and a pike. A nice breeze continued to keep the bugs away as we enjoyed the campfire and a beautiful sunset. As soon as the sun drifted below the horizon the surface of the lake became like glass. With the wind gone and darkness setting in, the forest became alive with the loud hum of millions of mosquitoes. We ran to the tent and quickly drifted off to sleep.