The Gunflint Shows Its Beauty, Again
Mike's directions and compass headings to the portage are dead on and as we approach the far side of Poplar Lake an Eagle flies low over our heads. We take this sighting as a good omen. The portage is easy to find. It is an easy take out and our first portage (50 rods) to Liz Lake is a quick climb and then a nice level walk to be enjoyed. The put in at Liz is easy as well. As we paddle along this narrow little lake we have two otters cavorting 20 feet away, just enjoying themselves and basically ignoring us. A muddy landing greets us, but things are off to a great start, the sun is out and we are alone, except for the wildlife, so far. We take the portage (70 rods) to Caribou Lake, again, a nice walk, a few muddy spots but nothing to fret about or slow you down leading to a fine put in at Caribou. We are immediately struck by the beauty of this lake as we sit and enjoy the pastry Lin provided. We understand now why so many choose to make this lake their destination; it is beautiful. Paddling off, we notice a site directly across from the portage. It is empty, as are the next three sites, all decent looking sites. We decide to look for the Swamp Lake portage as our site exploring has taken us in that direction. We find it, a little hidden by our angle, but findable. So far we see only one site occupied, and suspect from all the footprints going in the opposite direction on the portages that the heavy rains of Friday and Saturday took their toll. We continue to paddle to the 25 rod portage to Horseshoe Lake, another easy take out and put in.
Another BWCA gem unfolds from a wide to narrow lake that shallows out in many sections, making it a moose attractor, with a lot of aquatic vegetation and a few long arms to explore. No wonder the moose like calling this home. We pass four campsites on our way to Vista Lake, three are empty and the fourth is occupied by a noisy group of guys; heard them yelling in conversation hundreds of yards away, glad we are continuing on. The sun is getting stronger, we are going along just fine and another eagle flies by, this is almost surreal. We find the portage to Vista and have our first rocky take out. Although short (21 rods), it has a lot of rocks to step over and work around. It is an equally rocky put in on Vista so I wet-foot the canoe out a little deeper. I know we are starting to sound like a broken record but Vista is a pretty lake, so many seem to have there own character and identity, they just beg to be paddled. All loaded up, we head to the southerly arm to check out an often mentioned preferred site. As we paddle to the side of an island my Bow Partner uses her monocular to confirm some disappointing news. Trippers are walking around on the site so we quickly go to plan B and head over to the western site in the same arm. Well, lets just say we are not impressed. It has a so-so take out/put in, a steep walk up to the fire grate, an unimpressive view and nothing to savor for a tent pad site. We have a quick snack and develop plan C, which has us going back to Horseshoe Lake where I have heard of a great one pad site that is seldom used. As we get into the canoe and paddle over to get behind an island to block a little wind we notice that a canoe has left the other site. My Bow Partner glasses them and confirms that their packs are in the canoe . I make a direction shift and as we come to voice distance, their bow paddler yells over that if we are indeed looking for a site they are leaving and "it is a good one". We thank them and head over to it. We agree completely, site #771 is a keeper, it has a good landing, great view, a sunning rock, great tent pad and wood left at a nicely set up fire grate. Sometimes it pays to be lucky for if we had awoken on time and had no fog we would have been much earlier and probably never have gotten this nice site.
Camp set up goes quickly and well. I like the Mountain Alps tent that Rockwood Outfitters provide, it goes up easily, affords us plenty of room and proved its water shedding abilities on last years trip. I locate two suitable trees for the food bag hanging and we don't bother with the tarp since the weather and forecast are next to perfect. We gather some more wood for our steak dinner, along with butter potatoes and corn. A great meal to end our near perfect first day back in the BW. The anticipation of returning is already satisfied, and with smiles, we are in the bags by 9:30PM.