Krista's Graduation Present
Saturday-Sunday, May 16-17, 2009 Let me start with the weekend trip to Tuscarora Outfitters from Virginia via Georgetown, KY. My wife and son drove in a nice car to Georgetown from Richmond, VA while I trailed behind in my daughter’s Jeep Wrangler. A 500 mile trip, arriving late Friday afternoon. Dinner and then a hotel bed. Daughter’s graduation ceremony was at 10 am and then we rushed to her dorm to change clothes and drop her Jeep off at a friend’s house in Lexington, KY. Final packing, and we are off to the Gunflint by 2 pm Saturday, May 16. We traded off driving and arrived in Grand Marais Sunday morning, 1100 miles later. We stopped at the tackle shop to get our leeches and 7 day licenses. On the way out of town, we passed the local Catholic church with mass starting in ten minutes at 9 am, so we stopped in for our blessing. After mass, they had a fund-raising pancake breakfast, so we got our spirits filled, as well as, our bellies. Got to Tuscarora outfitters around lunch time. Checked in and got our food pack and bunkhouse assignment. Unloaded our car of all our gear and started our final preparations and packing. We did not know how the weather would turn, so we brought clothes and gear in the car for most anything. Now we had to fish or cut bait on what we would pack. We went out to the public access point on Round Lake and talked to a group of four coming off the lake. They reported snow on Saturday, the day before. I was expecting the next week to be in the low 40’s to low 70’s with a couple days stuck in the low 60’s. Rain was calling for scattered showers with 30% - 60% chances. We got back to the outfitters and test-paddled two Kevlar canoes before making our pick of a Wenonah Minnesota II with tractor seats. We both decided on wooden bent paddles. Back to the bunkhouse and more final packing. Sleep came easy in our bags on the soft mattresses.
Rise and shine at 6 am. Sue Ahrendt makes some great French toast at Tuscarora Outfitters. We had the dining hall to ourselves Monday morning at 7 am. Plenty of good coffee and we are out to the water to load up. Turns out Andy only has one wooden bent shaft paddle left, so he gives me his carbon-graphite bent shaft paddle made by Wenonah. SWEEEEET! Temps are in the high 40’s with a stiff breeze and overcast skies.
Paddle into the wind 3/4 of the lake before we are in protected cove on south end of the lake. 30 minutes to get across. Canoe rides well loaded down for five days. First portage is uneventful, arriving on Missing Link in 30 minutes. We ended up double portaging all five days. I wanted to single portage, but discretion overtook valor. Enjoyed the bobtail hike back unloaded and ended up carrying the camera on me at all times after missing the BW entry sign and big ice in the creek on the first portage to Missing Link. More stiff breeze and another 30 minutes across Missing Link. Now we face the long and oft-talked about 426 rod portage to Tuscarora. I am not looking forward to this, but figure I can break it up into 3 segments and survive to tell my grandkids about it. Start out with the canoe and get about 40% of the way across, better than I expected. Back for the pack, and we make it all the way to Tuscarora. Now I have to go back and get the canoe and bring it the rest of the way. We make it and have some interesting finds along the trail. Saw a ruffed grouse, but he was camera shy.
Short portage onto Mora and at the end of Mora, we see two bald eagles in the trees. One flies away into another tree and one stays still. We paddle close to the one that stayed and take pictures. It flies away and we look across the cove for the other one. As we are about to leave, Krista spots it on a root ball of a fallen tree. We get very close before it flies away. Turns out the pictures are a little grainy due to the zoom lens. Very nice first day , but we are not done yet.
It is getting close to 7 pm and we still need to make it to Little Sag to make camp. Last portage into Little Sag is challenging with the steep drop at the end. In addition, the current keeps wanting to pull the canoe into the rushing rapids at the beginning of the portage. We make it and Krista is still hanging in there after 11 hours on the trail our first day. We make camp at the first site on southeast end of Little Sag, finally! Campsite #540 faces the southeast and is right on the water. Someone was kind enough to leave some split firewood behind, as well as, kindling. The wood is damp, but lights up. Tonight it’s steaks and hashbrowns. Wood burns fast and is hard to get steaks cooking over good coals. Have to set pan of hashbrowns directly on the wood to cook hot enough to brown. Rain comes after dinner, but the tyvek tarp over the tent works well.