Musings from the Gunflint
The alarm (watch) goes off at 5:40AM - a quick shower and dress and we take our packs down to the canoe area, we go over to the lodge for a quick breakfast and yes Monnster is good to his word, he has already left as he said he would. We enjoy some conversation with Lin, then Mike, who had a Souris River Quetico 17' waiting and Bette and I soon had it packed and pulled out at 7:50AM, later than we wanted but heck we were enjoying ourselves and the company. We quickly were facing a strong breeze, but just ignored it, it was great to be back in the BWCAW. The portage from Poplar to Skipper is easily found and, as reported long(320 rods) but OK. What I found different was that this area was hard hit by the blowdown, then a prescribed burn, which has created/promoted a lot of new ground growth. So there are many times you cannot see where your foot was going to land, a great set up for a turned ankle. Just going a bit slower seemed to lessen the risk. A surprise was discovered, blueberries were still around, not huge amounts but enough to gather for pancakes. Also raspberries were all around, the prescribed burn has yielded some abundance of unexpected treats. Did I mention that this portage is long - but it ends at a rock outcropping with a wonderful view down Skipper Lake. We double portage and then sit to have a bagel and a drink of water. We load the canoe and shove off up Skipper Lake. Soon we realize the wind is strong and directly into our faces, but we are still energized and ignore it. We pass the lone site on Skipper and it looks like nice one - I put this in my memory bank. As we paddle to the end of Skipper we begin our search for the 22 rod portage into Little Rush, it does not appear and we end up taking a couple of false animal trails. I realize at the stream coming into Skipper that I can see a huge opening at tree height to the West, which must be Little Rush. We are paddling up the stream, it begins to get shallow and we get out of the canoe, hold on and push forward, when another canoe enters the stream from the opposite end, a couple smiles and waves. I ask about the location of the missing portage and the man replies, 'no you haven't missed it, this is it.' I am once again reminded that I get a bit anal in my expectations and evidently a portage doesn't mean a canoe gets shoulder carried; oh well. While Little Rush is small, it still has wind which we choose to ignore once again. It is here that I realize I have forgotten the leeches in my container back on Rockwoods dock. Well TGO, even though I cannot believe my forgetfulness, I am very happy to have my plastic tray of artificial lures along. We find the portage from Little Rush to Rush Lake easily, it is listed at 50 rods, this is the one that has been mentioned by our outfitter as being in bad shape due to beaver activity on Rush Lake. Water has been diverted right down the portage trail which has become a solid bottomed stream in sections and calf sucking muck in others. We again double portage and it really wasn't that bad, especially when you are expecting worse. As we paddle down Rush Lake, we realize the wind is really blowing and the paddling is tough but we are traveling at a pace that allows us to really observe a few of the campsites. Two are occupied, but the one on a point looks like a very nice site. Again, no problem finding the next portage, 10 rods into Banadad Lake. Rocks, mud and a little extra maneuvering with the canoe around some large boulders and we are ready to go. As we took this portage there was a bridge in some disrepair to our right that I suspect must be used for snow shoeing and cross country skiing as it does not enhance the portage and needs a little attention before this winter sets in. We load the canoe, paddle off, and you guessed it, the wind was right there. My bow partner quietly mentions that looking for a site might be a good call; I agree, but recall a site mentioned by Egath as a nice one to look for. The first site we pass is not inviting so we continue around and into a small cove and are 20 feet from a startled beaver who hops off the downed tree and gives his predictable tail splash and is gone. His antics and surprise make us laugh as we come up to the next site on the first island. This one has possibilities but I request that we go to the next island site and a quiet approval is given. We are getting tired but onward we push. As we come to the next island we don't pick up the site (Maps location is approximate) but of course I treat it as gospel. We have nearly circumvented the island when we find a path up a small incline. It is the site and (thanks Egath), it is a keeper. We begin the transfer of packs and camp slowly takes shape. As I go back out on the lake for water, I realize how tired I am. Bette has our steaks rubbed and ready to put into the pan (fire ban) as I go to hang the food pack. I smell the aroma and return to finish cooking the Au Gratin potatoes. After a great meal I enter the tent and begin the pump up of the Big Agnes with the pillow pump. There has to be a better way (and thanks to butthead's suggestion, sounds like there is) it is just too slow when you are tired. I do manage a headlamp toast with my bow partner for a job well done and to celebrate our first night back in the BWCAW. We are soon in the sleeping bag and yes, the wind still can be heard. You just have to love those west to east lakes.