Seagull -> Grandpa -> Red Rock -> Seagull
Day 1 - the next day, we hiked to the Seagull boat landing where Way of the Wilderness had a MN III waiting for us.
[We had gotten our permit and life jackets from WOW the night before and although they were extremely nice and helpful, we were a little disappointed in their equipment - specifically their life jackets. They were piled into bins and after digging through each and every jacket, we only found one youth sized jacket. This was a bummer - but we were able to cinch up an adult jacket for our 10 year old. Not ideal. Later that evening we swung over to Seagull Outfitters to pick up some leeches and peaked into their boathouse, where they had all of their life jackets neatly hanging by size. I have no idea if Seagull Outfitters had a MN III for us or what their rates are, but we'll definitely look into them next time!]
We paddled SW from the boat landing and pretty much immediately ran into a strong head wind. We knew this was likely so we stuck to the shore line and only crossed bigger water when we could travel directly into the wind. When we had traversed about half of 3-mile island, we decided to either start looking for a site or come up with a different plan. Our 8-year old daughter, Belle, begged us to portage up to Grandpa Lake. We hadn't wanted to throw a longer portage at them right away in our trip, but both Quinn (age 10) and Belle were up for it, so off we went.
There were some steep climbs and severe bends in the trail, but it manageable. About 1/3 of the way into the portage, we encountered a low spot where it was pretty muddy. The two kids were in front and Belle stumbled a bit and eventually went in up to her butt. She struggled to get her leg out of the mud and lost her shoe in the process. She was a little freaked out and wanted out of the muddy area as soon as her leg was free. Sean and I stopped to find her shoe, Sean pretty much going in all the way and sticking his entire arm into several foot holes before he found the shoe.
We didn't catch up to the kids until the end of the portage . . . Belle had finished with only one shoe! The mosquitoes were extremely pad on this portage, so if anyone is planning on going this route, spray up before you head out!
We LOVED Grandpa Lake - it was so beautiful and quiet. There were three guys who were day-tripping and cooking up their fish lunch on the campsite we were most interested in (one two sites on the lake), so we paddled over to the second site to have lunch and swim while they were finishing up. The camp site was perfect - wonderful tent site sheltered from the heavy winds, but open enough to allow a good breeze through the tent. The site offered some nice rocks for fishing and watching the sunset, and a short hike to an overlook.
The stars were out that night in full force and we were able to identify ursa major and minor, Cassiopeia, Corona borealis, and some other constellations.
Day 2 - we portaged up to Roy Lake and then on to Red Rock Bay, and finally down to Red Rock Lake. It was still a windy day, but thankfully we were able to keep the wind to our front and inched our way down to our next camp site. This one was almost as beautiful and has just as much to offer. Because of the wind, we weren't going to be choosy, but we were very happy with the site.
The best tent location four our 6-person tent was just to the right of the fire grate. It was a very exposed location in the high winds, so we really tied the tent down. We had already decided to stay at this site for two nights, so we took our time getting up a lean-to behind the fire grate and making sure everything was secure.
There are a ton of little trails branching off from the campsite and the kids had a blast exploring. We found fresh moose droppings and some very large bear droppings, along with a cave that looked like it could easily accommodate a hibernating bear.
Right after we got the kids into the tent for an evening of "Sorry" and cribbage, the heavens opened up and it POURED. Sean and I both hopped into the tent and we each held a side of the tent down, fearing that it was going to blow over or wash away. it didn't and within about 15 minutes, the rain started to lighten up and we enjoyed a cozy evening playing games.
Day 3 - we stayed put - it was still so windy, we didn't dare venture off of our solid rock. We had fun exploring the site, picking what remained of the blueberries, fishing, and reading. The temperatures started to drop early evening and by night time we were ready for a nice fire.
Day 4 - we woke up to cold temperatures, but it quickly warmed up with the sun. We took our time packing up and I'm pretty sure we didn't paddle onward until close to noon. We portaged to Alpine and then paddling Alpine was a great experience for all of us. It is pretty well burnt, but we were amazed at how much there was to see . . . and how pretty most of the campsites still are. It looks like they were purposefully saved . . . maybe because firefighters were staying there, maybe because the forest service arranged for water dumps to protect their investments, but I'm glad we had a chance to see the aftermath. It was a quiet paddle - you almost felt like it was sacred ground, but there was definitely a sense of excitement and hope as we talked about the regrowth.
We did the "short" portage to Seagull, which was the kids favorite. We didn't portage - we walked the canoe through the rapids. At the beginning of the first bit of rapids, as we were getting out of the canoe and rolling up our pants, we realized that a group of 10-12 rocks next to us were really ducks feeding! It was the cutest site - all had their heads under water and could have cared less that we were right next to them. There was another group when we finished the walk, this time with preening.
We stopped halfway between the Alpine portage and Seagull boat launch for lunch, but otherwise inched our way along, enjoying the sun and beautiful lake. We didn't get to the boat landing until 6:00!
We were able to spend the final night (it was a cold one!) in our camper, then headed home to the Cities the next morning.
FOOD: The kids' favorite meals were: Breakfast - oatmeal with fresh blueberries, hot cocoa, and Cache Lake breakfast pan fry bread (this is AWESOME)!! Lunch - tuna packets (mixed with Miracle Whip and sweet pickle relish, pepper-jack cheese, Wheat Thins, and sliced apples with sharp cheddar cheese slices. Dinner - Backpacker's Pantry Wild West Chili with Cache Lake corn pan fry bread, and mocha mousse pie for dessert. Beverages - Crystal Light orange drink Snacks - beef jerky, Jolly Ranchers, and gorp
We gave the camera to Quinn and Belle for the majority of our trip. For more pictures go to http://gallery.me.com/bjscons#100299.