The Missing Link portage was easy enough to find. The portage itself was fairly long, rocky, & wet. None of which seemed to bother me much as I officially entered the wilderness on this trail & was already focusing on the next portage.
Missing Link was a pretty little lake, which I was told contained brook trout. I would definitely like to come back and spend a couple nights here. But, for this trip, I pressed on to the fabled Tuscarora portage.
The start of the portage begins on a very nice sandy beach. I grabbed my Duluth pack and The Black Pearl and off I went. Now I have seen on this site where someone only rated this portage a 4 out of 10! I'm not comparing this to Lewis & Clarks' 18 day portage around the Great Falls in Montana, or saying there are not tougher portages to be had in other areas, but, I been around enough to know that as far as the BWCAW is concerned...... I'm here to testify that this portage is DEFINITELY amoung the toughest maintained portages in the BWCAW! Not sure how someone could say that 60% of the portages in the BWCAW are tougher?
When the lake did come into veiw at the top of the hill before the final decent to the lake, I immediately thought of one of my favorite quotes from William Clark upon finally seeing the Pacific Ocean. "O! The JOY!" I had heard the beauty of Tuscarora compensates for the sweat lost on the portage. I think after doing that portage, that any navigable muskeg swamp would look pretty darn nice! That being said, the portage is not a dealbreaker by any means. For the most part it is a dry, very well worn path. In the right frame of mind, even intermediate trippers, packed properly, not rushing, & in decent shape can reach Tuscarora fairly early in the day.
The portage behind me, I had another bigger problem. While it felt very cooling while sweating doing the portage, the wind had really picked up. I couldn't even begin to load up without my canoe crashing on the rocks. So I dug out a book and sat down to wait it out, hoping the wind would eventually calm. After an hour or so a group of five with eyes as big as saucers came ashore. They had just done the 255 rod portage and were now heading for Missing Link. I asked about campsite availability, as there was one just to the east of this portage that they would've passed. They told me they were looking straight ahead the whole time, way too busy paddling to notice. They asked how bad this portage was? I told them it's everything it's advertised to be. To give an indication as to how windy it was. Just as they were heading up the trail with their 1st load, the top of a rotting birch tree came crashing down just missing one of their canoes. It had to be at least 8 inches in diameter. It was partially rotten, but would have obliterated their kevlar canoe upon impact.
At about 6:00 a group came down the hill from Missing Link. They said they were gonna try to make it to Crooked yet tonight. The wind was starting to die down a bit. They said they'd keep an eye on me as I tried to get around the corner to see if the campsite to the east was open. IT WAS! Thank God! Never been so happy to find a site. I waved them on and began to set up camp.
Round Lake, Missing Link Lake, Tuscarora Lake