Quetico solo
by kanoes

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/14/2009
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
I wanted to take the next step as a solo tripper. This seemed like a good loop to attain that goal.
Sunday, 9/13

Once past the 35 split I realize I need to stop at the next rest area, too much coffee this morning I guess.

As I pull into the parking area I notice a black tandem Bell on top of a truck with out of state plates. A gray haired fellow had just gotten out and was walking his dog back to the woods for its potty break.

I finish mine and get back in the car and start heading back to the freeway. I notice the man and the dog walking back to his truck. As I drive on I notice a bwca.com sticker on his truck topper. Taking a closer look now something rings a bell (no pun intended).

I pulled off to the side of the entry road and parked, got out and started walking back towards him. He's walking towards me now too. We stand face to face, I know who this guy is now...High Plains Drifter! Small friggin world! He was on the way up for his "no plans" paddle about with his wife and their not-yet-wet canoe dog. We had a nice little chat for about 5 minutes I suppose, then parted company.

It was great to finally meet bwca.com's mighty wordsmith!

Williams&Hall...nice place, nice bunks. The really nice touch? A big box fan in the room, I'll need it...its darn warm out. Went over my McKenzie maps with the owner (never did catch his name) and he corrected some portage locations and pointed out some campsites I didnt have marked.

I didnt think of this on the way thru Ely so now I have to drive back to get something to eat, something simple. Subway it is.

The sun is dropping now as I walk down to the shore of Moose with a cooler in hand.

Chatted with a father and his two adult kids. They were from Chicago and just got in from a 5 day trip.

Time to set the alarm for 6:15 and hit the rack.

Beautiful sunset tonight.

Monday, 9/14

Beep, beep, beep.

The day is finally here.

I still have alot of emotions running strong inside of me. Thats normal I think.

We push away from the dock at 7:10, I'm the first tow of the morning. The lakes are glass as we motor north east on Moose, then Newfound, and finally Sucker. There is some fog at Prairie Portage.

Checked in, got the permit and walked back down to the canoe. Wow, the fog has really gotten thick now. All of Inlet bay is obscured now. I decide to sit it out awhile to see if it'll lift at all.

Two groups come across now and that motivates to get moving. With compass on thwart I paddle into the white at 8:30.

By the time I reach the narrows to Bayley the fog has burned off. Bayley is calm. I get to the Burke portage and take everything across. I can see why it's nicknamed yellow brick road. Paddle north on Burke and two short portages later I'm on the infamous North Bay.

It's pretty darn big! Lucky for me, this is what it looked like for my paddle across.

Heading up the north arm to the South Lake portage it becomes very shallow. I have to get out and pull the canoe in a couple of spots. No big deal though, it's got a nice, sandy bottom.

South to West. West to unnamed. Unnamed to Shade. All easy portages.

Shade will be the spot for camp one.

It's 2:10 as I reach the campsite. It's the west site on the south central peninsula. It's a very nice site with a north and west exposure. I'd give it 4 stars if it had a better canoe landing...3 stars it is.

Time to "mix one" and toast Quetico. Not nearly as refreshingly cold as the cocktails in May were.

Not a bad day at all!

This is the warmest trip weather I've seen for years. At the last second I threw in a sleeveless cotton shirt and some cotton socks...so glad I did.

Thai seseme for dinner. An afterthought though, it should have been tuna parmesan to take more weight out of the bear keg.

Lovely evening on Shade and I will see a nice sunset tonight.

I make a half hearted attempt at gathering firewood. Not much luck, or motivation for that matter. There will be no flames tonight.

Tuesday, 9/15

Wolf packs sang to me 3 seperate times during the night. What a great welcome that was.

Packed up and on the water at 8:30.

Right away it's the 80 rod to unnamed. That woke me up. A short paddle later I'm at the Grey Lake portage...it turns out to be tougher than I thought. Some uphills but it was the boot sucking beaver meadow that tired me out a bit. Careful balancing and foot shuffling on corduroy was necessary.

I was able to get the big pack across without issue...the canoe/small pack carry was another story. Managed to get half way across when my foot slips and i go in up to my knee...a canoe toss occured simultaneously.

Regrouped (if thats possible solo) and reached the shore of Grey.

Short paddle to the Armin portage, easy one.

Up the creek I go to Yum Yum. Hmmm...unmarked portage. thanks McK.

Another short portage to Shan Walshe followed by yet another unmarked portage to McNiece.

It's been a short day but I'm semi toast. McNiece will be camp two. The site is great, probably room for 3-4 tents easily.

I'm glad I'm stoping here...I really need to refuel, rehydrated and rest up for the portage to Khashahpiwi. I've read its fairly difficult.

While paddling around checking out sites I got a fleeting glimpse of a wolf bolting from the shoreline back into that woods...a first for me.

Gnats were bothersome when I first got here. It's 5:00 now and they are back.

I'll take mosquitos over gnats anyday.

So far its been nothing but blue sky and sunshine. My shoulders are getting fried (I tend to forget to put sunscreen on). I'm not fond of tripping in these temps...about 10 degrees too warm for my tastes. What a strange Septemeber it's been so far. Not complaining too much here though, it could be snowing.

I should have rigged the tarp, theres really no escape from the sun at this site...I've been hiding behind tree trunks all afternoon.

Just finished dinner. Knorrs chicken and rice. That ones coming off my list now...its filling, but thats all it is.

Time for maintenance. Get naked at the shore (count your blessings none of you saw that), lake water wipe down...that sure felt good. New undapants, new socks, baby wiped *that area and rinsed out the old undies. That operation was followed by a double dose of Purell. haha!

There will be flames flickering here tonight. It's a beautiful fire area...I can only imagine how many great times have happened here over the years, centuries actually.

I'm getting into a groove now, feeling more comfortable with every passing hour. It's very quiet and still out now and I know I'm the only one here.

Sitting at the shore with a drink, I yell out....




Each word echoes 4-5 times around the lake and into the bays. Yes, kinda lame but it felt good...it was my version of a primal scream.

Old Sol is getting lower in the sky and its another perfect evening.

I wait it out awhile and finally start the fire.

The stars are out in force, as is our Milky Way. It's 9:30 as I hit the pad.

Wednesday, 9/16

A pattern is developing...I'm packed and paddling by 8:30.

I get to the Kahs portage and strap on the big pack. As I begin the portage I yell out "hello, human coming thru...look out". Don't want to surprise any bigger creatures. More like, I dont want them to surprise me.

This time I get a response. "Coming your way with canoe". hahaha

I meet a man from Iowa. Him and his friend are on the way out from a 10 day loop. It's nice to talk with someone again. He offers to carry some of my gear on his way back for his second load. Nice! Halfway across we meet up with his partner...another deal is struck. He offers to meet me midway with my canoe, if I'll carry their other pack back. Drop the pack at Kahs and head back with one of theirs. Mid point the exchange is made and good lucks are passed back and forth.

That bit of nicety will stick with me forever...and will be payed forward.

The portage wasnt as bad as I imagined. one 15-20 foot high rock was the only grinding portion. It was smooth and about 45 degrees.

The sky has changed now as has the wind. It's out of the south west now. Feels like rain coming.

Last night I decided on a route alteration. I wont be heading to the north end of Agnes. The size of that lake concerns me as a solo. If this was a group solo, this change would not have happened. I'll be going as far north as Trant and then slice south east thru 5 unnamed lakes to Silence.

Kahs is gorgeous even though the eastern shore and some islands on the north half have burned.

About the third of the way up the lake i see a green tandem heading south. When I get close enough I yell..."Get the hell off my lake!"


It's 11:30 and I decide I must camp on Kahshahpiwi...the small island near the bay heading to Trant will be camp three. Camp is struck and the canoe is put to bed. Grabbing the camera I head off to explore this little island.

There is another campsite on the other end of this island. The fire area has been dismantled, no doubt to dissuade anyone one from camping there. I agree with that move...this island is way to small for two groups to stay on.

Still windy and cloudy but no rain yet. So much for my future profession as a meteorologist!

Able to find enough wood on this tiny hump to have a fire tonight.

PortageKeepers Irwin Marathon saw idea was a great one. It'll be my choice from now on.

It's been t-shirt and shorts so far. Amazing weather.

Oh! I forgot about this. The man from Iowa told me that one night they heard a wolf pack take down a moose. How would that be for an alarm clock?!?

There have been alot of tricky landings on this trip so far. The canoe is no longer a "new, 2003".

Since I left PP I've seen a total of 6 people. Two tandems and a group solo of 2. Less than I expected I'd see.

Coming clean here. I took a little swim yesterday while checking out a campsite on McNiece. I *thought I had good footing when I stepped into the water...wrong. As i started going over I threw myself clear of the canoe to avoid swamping it. Atleast that worked well. It's funny now. It was even funny at the time.

It's very enjoyable for me to just sit, ponder and write. That must be my tripping style now. The fishing gear will not get packed for the next solo.

Only 10 ounces of Everclear has disappeared so far. I'm golden for the rest of the trip for sure.

Before I left I removed the back support on my camp chair...to cut some weight. I have not missed it at all. I've barely used the coleman canoe seat, that stays home next time.

For the most part the wind has died now, it's going to be yet another perfect evening for a fire.

As I sit infront of the firepit im joined by one very socialized red squirrel.

Yes, I gave him a few treats.

I gathered some pinecones to suppliment my small pile of firewood.

Note to self...don't do that again. Pinecones really stink when they are burned.

Thursday, 9/17

It's 5:51 pm right now and this is the first downtime I've had since 6:15 am...its been one long, grueling day.

Right now I'm on Silence, this morning I was not sure I would be.

The Kahs to Trant portage was interesting to say the least. Uphill boulder field portage that ends at a 4 foot high beaverdam. Hmmmmmm...what now? I was not expecting this. I walk aways to try to find a hint of a trail. Nothing. I must have sat and pondered what to do for 15 minutes. At one point i considered turning back.

NO! I CAN figure this out and move on!

Get over the big dam and paddle into the flooded area. Another dam...up and over. Paddle....another dam, tough to approach (very narrow)...up and over. Paddle. Narrower and narrower the waterway gets. I see a tiny opening to my right. The dry portage rises out of the water. YES! A tough uphill and a bit of a walk I'm on Trant.

That was my biggest test so far. I passed.

Paddle Trant to the next portage. Another good workout for me...uphill boulder field yet again. Unnamed to next portage. This portage begins the downhill side of the loop...I was happy to see this.

4 more portages and 4 more unnamed lakes later i reach Silence. PHEW!

As careful as I was I still came close to a twisted ankle twice today.

No rain...and it wont. The wind is out of the north again and it's still warm. Is it *really September 17th?

Made my favorite dinner tonight. Tuna parmesan.

Naked shoreline wipe down again. I feel semi-human again, and at 100%. Well, I'm never 100% anymore so I'll say 95% (thats the new 100% when you're 50...haha).

It's been a 9 mile, 7 portage, 8 hour day.

I've gotten the "remote/isolated/alone" vibe on this trip more than any other I've done. I guess thats from looking at the map and realizing exactly where I am.

The third EC/lemonade is going down well tonight. No fire tonight. I do wish I had one of those little isobutane lanterns right now.

No hurry to get moving tomorrow so no alarm.

The forest takes on this buzz, hum, almost mechanical sound at night...it's odd.

There's something special about being this far in. I'm strangely comfortable with it.

Friday, 9/18

I'm on the water at 8:30, per usual.

It's much cloudier this morning but still warm.

I will be in familiar territory once past Noon Lake. I'm going to take advantage of low winds and push to a site on North Bay near the Burke portages.

S-chain...pretty lakes.

All easy portages to North Bay. The small island site will be home for night 5. I prefer island sites seeings that bears can't swim. lol.

Welcome to....

Yet another nice campsite. Two active fire rings and another old one.

Still not a single drop of rain has fallen. The sweat has poured though.

I watch 14 mergansers playing a combination of follow the leader and simon says. They are fun loving fowl.

At my final camp I wonder what I've missed in the world. To date, the biggest "event" missed was the white bronco low speed chase.

Nice evening again and some very interesting flame photos.

Saturday, 9/19

Up early to cross Bayley Bay before the wind wakes up. No matter how fast I think I'm moving it always takes me 45 minutes to break camp.

As I approach PP I have my first Golden Eagle sighting. It's sitting in a tree on a small island in the bay. Taking a photo never even crossed my mind. Duh me.

I decide to paddle out rather than try to flag down a tow. Bad decision. A south west wind comes up and its 2.5 hours of paddling straight into it before I get back to W&H. Today was a 15 mile day. 14 plus paddling.

What an incredible, amazing, grueling, beautiful, trying, wonderful trip!!!!!!!

Trip totals...

54 miles. 34 portages. 1632 rods.

some random photos now.


(more in my photo album)