Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

The Painful Portage
by Nick2890

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/17/2007
Entry Point: Ram Lake (EP 44)
Exit Point: Bower Trout Lake (EP 43)  
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
This trip was a long one coming. I asked a million people to join me and all wanted to and all backed out. Thanks. So I changed my reservations with Clearwater outfitters and headed north. My first solo trip and I was pretty nervous.
So my trip actually began on Saturday. i drove up to Chicago from Cincinnati to see my sister and some other family. They live in Wrigleyville and we had a great time. I left early Sunday morning and headed up to Grand Marais. It is amazing that at 6am on Suday morning I got stuck in traffic on the highway near Chicago's airport. It was bad enough getting stuck on the Dan Ryan yesterday for the whole afternoon. Sunday I got to the outfitters and got everything set. I headed to town for dinner then headed to Windingo's to watch some Sunday night football. Some drunk dude made the night very interesting (just being loud and obnoxious even though there were only 4 other people in the bar), as I bought drinks for Stephanie and Eric from Clearwater. I headed back to the lodge after the game and got a good nights sleep.

Monday, Eric drove me out to bower trout to drop off my car and then dropped me off at Ram. I carried my canoe to the lake first. This portage was definetally a sign of things to come. Very steep, very rocky, very up and down. I had dressed warm because it was in the low 50's (in the 90's back in Cincy during a bad drought). By the time I got all the gear to the lake I was covered in sweat.

I paddled easily across the lake. Finding the first portage was a little more difficult than I remember. But last year I was on the Granite River and it was much more used and more obvious where the portage trails were. The first portage wan't overly difficult. Very cool, very wet due to recent rains and I could almost watch the leaves changes as I walked. Ram to Kroft wasn't overly difficult nor was Kroft to Rum. A little up hill and rocky, but nothing overly major. Rum to Little Trout was a little different. It started out not looking to bad. But it quickly changed and it just seemed to climb higher and higher. It was slick and rocky. Quite a bitch. Took longer than normal as I took a break that I wouldn't normally take and I was slidin around pretty good. But I made it ok, but was shedding layers pretty wuick to keep cool and not get too sweaty as I knew it would be cold tonight. (I did not need hyperthermia).

So into Little Trout I head. I drop a line in the lake as the light rain has eased up and try to catch a little something before I hit "The Big Portage". I catch nothing as I troll a line behind me as I come up to the portage. I notice a father and son are sitting at the portage resting. I assume they one more carry over, but since I am in no hurry I let out more line and paddle around some more. I finally catch a small lake trout ( maybe 12-14" in length) and i release it. I reel in the line and head back to the portage. I notice the father and son are actually sitting having lunch! They actually have a stove out and are cooking lunch at the portage! Well screw me being patient with them and letting them have the portage landing to themselves. I land and unload and set my yoke. I happen to notice that there is now fresh trash around the portage and they are making quite a mess of their "stew". I happen to mention (being the forward person that I am) if they knew that it was totally not ok to cook a meal at a portage. Not only is it inconsiderate, but also illegal to tie up a portage like that. Thewy politely told me what I could do to myself and continued to cook their lunch. Well I tried (more to this story later).

I pulled up my pack and stuff and left it to the left of the rocky portage as the rain started again. I grabbed my gear pack and headed over. Though this is only 150 rods, it is definetally the hardest portage I have ever done. Two major ups and downs. VERY slick, very rocky all over. At the area between the hills it is very marshy. Mud over the boots. Not only is it a lot of up and down but it is VERY steep. I have to take a short rest at the top of the second hill to catch my breath. I make it down and head back across for the canoe and food pack.


So now I get back to the portage and the heathens are gone with some exceptions. They left their Campbell soup cans and plastic baggie trash. i go ahead and pick it up after I try to smash the tin cans smaller. Anyway, I hoist the pack and hoist the canoe. Wow, this is tough. I'm literally smacking the crap out of the front and back of the canoe as I climb the granite hills and whenever I slip. By the time I get to the top of the first hill I resting already. I'm worn out. I grab a quick snack and drink. And head down again. I head over the second hill as the rain picks up. I stop at the top of the hill to take a picture. After I snap the photo and attempt to put the camera back into my pocket, I start to slide. i try to catch myself and the canoe to stop the fall. I kind of twist around and end up sliding down the hill on my ass and my right leg kind of tucked up underneath me. Ijamb up on a nice big granite bolder. and can feel my knee pop. Ouch. Not good. I've always heard them say on TV when a player goes down that you can hear the pop but never beleived it. You soooo can hear the pop.


So now I'm laying on the ground freaking hurting. The canoe is kind og on my head and i'm laying on the food pack. I slip out and try to walk. Not good. I grad a stick near by and the pack and start back on the portage trail. It hurts really bad. I;'m taking breaks about every 20 steps or so. I make it to the bottom of the portage and take about a half hour break. I throw back 4 advil and go for the canoe. I didn't realize how much your knee helps you stabilize. I fell about 5 times trying to carry the canoe to the put in. I finally make it and now my knee is very swollen. I take my pants off and soak my legs in the lake. Very cold but feels good. I pack up everything into the canoe and hope the very first campsite is open. It is. I set up camp slowly. The person who was here before me left a bunch of firewood for me. It lights fairly easy, my first real luck, so I can dry off and warm up after sitting in the freezing lake. FYI, if anyone is in Misquah lake and sees a pair of balls floating around they are mine. That water was so cold they froze right off. I ate very little, tied up the canoe with the food pack underneath it, put out the fire and went to bed. No sooner did I get into the tent than it started to pour. Hard. I took more advil and went to sleep trying to decide what to do.

I woke up and got out of the tent to walk around and to see how I felt. WOW. I felt worse! I decided I better decide to get this looked at. So not only did I need to get out, but I needed to do that killer portage again. I could eat, I had no appetite, so packing up was quick. I headed back to the portage. I decided to triple portage as it would be easiest. I took 3 hours to do the Misquah portage. I make it over the next portage ok, though I fell twice because I was not being careful and trying to minimize the pain as I walked rather than watching where I was going. Then it got worse. As I paddled across Rum to Kroft, I couldn't find the portage. I had been here before but coming the opposite way. So why couldn't I find it. I found what looked like a portage and headed in. I had the food pack with me and after about 30 rods the trail completely disappeared. I realized I was on a game trail. But when I turned around I suddenly couldn't find my way back. I tried to find my way with the compass and nothing. i decided to bushwack to the top of the hill I was facing to get a better view to no avial. All this will my knee trobbing. I was dying. I had left my water back at the canoe. Not only did I not know where I was, but where was the canoe and my stuff. I was quickly getting dehidrated from the all of the sweating. I meandered around for about an hour before I was worn out and so lost I couldn't find either lake. I suddenly got scarred as hell. i decided to sit and rest for a while. I decided that it would be best to set a compass course and head down hill and try to find Rum. It was just getting to late and I was too close to being out and my knee hurt too bad. I wandered down for about an hour falling when I stepped on rotten logs, got soaked stepping in the sphagnum and got cut up in the forest. I fell like a million times and finally got sick of it when I was finally at the bottom of the hill. I slipped and fell. I tore my bag off and tossed it into the thick brush pissed off. I heard it clank down. It hit a rock. There are only rocks on portages! I jumped though the brush and landed on the on some rocks on the portage right near the put in to Rum. I almost cried. First I jumped in the lake and took a big drink. I waded down the shoreline to the canoe about 75 feet down the shore line. The water took a lot of weight off my knee which felt as good as the cold water did. Soon enough I was at the portage to Ram. i made it up and down the hill and to the parking lot. I got all of my gear up and started to head to the Bower Trout parking lot to get my car. I left all of the gear and headed down the road. Somehow I missed the road that turns to Bower Trout. I was quickly out of steam as It was near 5pm. ( It took 5 hours to get from Ram to Misquah but 9-10 hours to get out). I was thirsty and Hungary when I reached the bridge near the Brule River. I layed down on the side of the road. I was dead tired. I layed there for 5 mins. I tried to walk farther as I couldn't remember where Bower Trout was and I just couldn't go any further. i had no clue what I was going to do and I layed down again. My knee was killing me. I suddenly heard a car (what??). @ old men in a beat up car (duck hunters) were hunting that morning and were heading out. They asked to help and took me to my car. They saved my life. i literally had nothing left. I thanked them a million times and asked to pay gas or buy them lunch and they would hear nothing of it. I got to my car and they followed me back to Ram to make sure I made it ok. (What great people). They loaded my car for me and tied down my canoe. I drove to the hospital in Grand Marais and they said I need to head to duluth to have an MRI and have it checked out cause I may have torn my acl or mcl. I went back to Clearwater and dropped my stuff off. I Then headed to Grand Marais. I called Fitgers to get a hotel room and got pizza and beer at Sven and Ole's for my drive to Duluth. Sorry, I deserve it.

Well, it turns out I had a tear in my mcl. I drove back to cincinnati the next day after staying in duluth over night. A very pretty night in duluth. I had some work done on my knee and did some PT and now it feels fine. All in all, it was a crazy trip. I still enjoyed it, but it was honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life. I will go back in 2009 but this time I'm going somewhere easier and with someone. :)