Day One Friday May 28, 2010
The alarm went off at 3:30 am causing groans all around - no one had gotten much sleep. Excitement, last minute packing and just the thought of "we need to hurry up and sleep" caused everyone to NOT be able to sleep. Last minute items were put into packs, the girls all got in the van and away they went. On the road at exactly 4:00 am as desired. A short stop in Hinckley, a mere 17 miles from home, for fresh water bottles on the drive and doughnuts. No, they didn't stop at Tobies - being from the area, Tobies in their humble opinion is a bit over-rated and they prefer Cassidy's. Got gas in the van and off they went. The drive went very smooth and there wasn't a lot of conversation as everyone was so sleepy tired. Amanda did well driving and it was a good thing to ensure the safety of all. They were hoping to catch the sunrise over Lake Superior as they went North, but the sun beat them and by the time they reached Duluth the sun was already up and shining brightly. As always the drive along the North Shore was pleasant and perfectly picturesque. Amanda and Lisa had made the drive up there countless times, but it was only the second time for Lottie - she still enjoyed the awe and beauty of Lake Superior. No stops were made for any sight-seeing as they were on a mission to get the canoe and be on the water ASAP. They made such good time that they arrived at the outfitters an hour before opening. The van was parked, seats were reclined and all took a nap for an hour. Amazingly, Lisa's internal alarm clock woke her up a few minutes before 7 am and the "open" sign up lit in the window. She woke the girls, who grudgingly crawled out of the van, though a big stretch did feel wonderful after that long ride. A visit with Mike in the shop was great - so great it was an hour long! He was a wonderful help in getting the permit changed to be picked up from him instead of the Tofte Ranger Station and adding another person to it. He went through and showed how to use the cam-straps for the canoe as Lisa had never used them before. They took the gear out of the van, put it in the canoe and confirmed that there wouldn't be any trouble with space. The canoe had a 1200 lb capacity which was way more than adequate. The Canoeist now has a customer for life - Mike is an awesome guy!
After the canoe was loaded on the van it was back on the road again. Turning off onto Sawbill Trail was exciting for all as that meant they were almost there. Everyone was so excited and just couldn't wait to get on the water and do the search for that perfect campsite. It didn't take too long to find the turn to Hog Creek and the excitement grew.
BUT, when they reached the parking lot their hearts were dampened a bit as the parking lot was packed full of vehicles. Of course none of them were parked straight at all - if only people would be able to park in a straight line, it would make life so much easier is what they all said. They were able to squeeze the van into a skinny spot between two pickup trucks.
The canoe was unloaded and carried down the steps to the creek along with the gear. Van was parked; last minute potty break at the outhouse and then a shove-off from shore set them on their way down Hog Creek toward Perent Lake. The creek seemed low to Lisa, you could see water lines from previous years on how how it had been.
There were turtles sunning themselves in the sun on the rocks and logs sticking out in the water.
Some of them were brave enough to ignore the girls silently slipping by and some weren't so brave, making a quick dash into the water to be out of sight. After what seemed like only minutes they came upon an area of rapids and decided that the water was too low to try and "run" them.
There were signs that in the past others had done so, aluminum and paint scrapes on several of the rocks. However, this group was going to portage around that. The portage was a short one - 15 Rods at most but it was an ankle breaker with several boulders and rocks to watch out for while carrying gear.
Because it was so short, they double portaged and did a two person carry with the canoe.
Neither one of the girls had ever portaged a canoe and Lisa wasn't up to it so that just made it easier. It didn't take long and the canoe was re-loaded. Of course the portaging made them all warm so off came layers of clothing and on went the sunscreen. Lisa had been warned that there would potentially be a lot of "bank crashing" due to the many twists and turns in the creek - and she was told correctly. It was difficult steering while going with the current. It didn't look like a fast current, but watching the underwater grasses and water flowing over the beaver dams it was clearly evident that there was a pretty good current.
They passed over about 10 beaver dams, some old and some fresh. Some they got stuck on and had to get out and push - others were an easy float over. Lisa was worried about scratching the canoe from those dams, but there really wasn't much they could do about it so onward they went. Fortunately for them they kept to the "no looking at watches" to give them the sense of freedom that was desired. The paddle down Hog Creek was uneventful - no animals except birds and a few fish. Shortly into the paddle they met up with a man going solo. They chatted with him for a bit and asked how busy the lake was. He told them that he knew of one open campsite. Thus the reason for the full parking lot. This gave them all a sense of urgency to get moving a bit more quickly. It was discussed and decided that the first open campsite that was found would be taken - even if it wasn't the "perfect" campsite. On they paddled which seemed like forever now since they were in a hurry.
As they neared the end, the skies clouded up and it became chilly. They were wondering if the creek would ever end. Lisa was second guessing herself in had she navigated it incorrectly and taken a wrong turn somewhere. BUT, finally the creek started to widen and they knew that Perent Lake had to be getting closer. They could tell from that and the call of sea gulls. Lo and behold, around the bend there was the Lake opening - both Amanda and Lisa had "Just around the River Bend" song from Disney's Pocahontas movie running through their minds. They halted the paddling and found that the first two campsites on the lake were taken - bummer. They then had to decide which direction to take. Perent Lake is a big lake riddled with islands. Going north there are many campsites along the shore and on the islands of which Lisa was sure most would already be claimed. After more discussion it was decided that they would follow the south shore and see what they could find. The first campsite they saw was taken by a group of guys that had a HUGE tent and coolers. Newbies? Not sure. Comfort campers? Probably. After only what seemed like a few minutes they found an open campsite directly across from a little island - it was a beautiful view.
They pulled up, checked out the site; it wasn't perfect but would suffice for the two days that they planned to stay. Lisa didn't want to risk passing this site up to search for a better one only to not find one and then return to find that one taken. So, the unpacking and set up began.
Both the girls were so excited to check out the campsite and to find the trail to the latrine. Neither had any experience with a latrine in the woods.
Lisa was quite amused by their enthusiasm to try this first experience. Amanda was the lucky one to clean all the spider webs off the pot. IIt was obvious that it hadn’t been used since last year other than the two playing cards stuck on the fire grate.
There also was a tree that had fallen over the trail to the throne, but they didn't have a sturdy enough saw to cut it up and move it out of the way. It would have been great if they had been able to; would have been nice to cut it up, split it and stack it to dry. Oh well, perhaps the next guest at the site will be able to do that. For now it's too wet of wood to burn anyway as it was a fresh fall - the pine needles were soft and green not even turning brown yet. It didn't take long to get camp set up and everything was on a slant - the whole site.
Also in the site were several patches of Lady Slippers but they weren't quite blooming yet; it would be a few days before they would open.
Lisa was really disappointed as she had hoped to get some photos of Lady Slippers this year. The Star flowers were up and blooming and some other little white ones down by the lake shore that she couldn't identify.
They were like ground cover - similar to phlox that grows in peoples gardens at home. There were iris' growing by the lake as well, but of course it was too early for those to be blooming yet - there were only the leaves, no buds were showing yet. There were a few wild-strawberries and that was about it. Lisa was surprised that she didn't see any trillium. Maybe trillium doesn't grow in BWCA? The girls were careful to not disturb any of the new flowers that were growing in the tent pad but inevitably some of them did get crushed. Once the tent was set up they set about getting the kitchen area organized. It didn't take long to get things in order and then it was time for a rest as all were exhausted from the long day. Amanda retired to the tent for a "short nap", hah, yeah right; she slept for like three hours. Lisa and Lottie sat around outside taking things in, chatting and journaling.
After several tries to wake Miss Amanda up they finally succeeded and supper was made - chocolate chip muffin mix pancakes, fruit cups and chips. Not quite the health nut food, but it had the necessary calories that those teen girls needed. Unfortunately the greasy/sugary pancakes made Lisa sick but a couple Percocet and that problem was fixed - for a while anyway. Some previous occupant of the campsite had left a bunch of long, downed braches that only needed to be cut up for firewood. While the girls cut up the branches Lisa got the fire going using the wonderful home made fire starters that Kendra brought to her while in the hospital. That was the best gift - better than flowers or a card - she received. They sat around the fire - mesmerized because fires are just that way. Lisa didn't bring stuff for s'mores so the girls just took turns playing the fire stick, making glowing shapes in the air and smoke squiggles.
All afternoon the clouds looked as if they'd be dropping rain, but they held off. Just as everyone was talking about going to bed it started to sprinkle. Last minute trips were made up the trail to the throne room and into the tent everyone went.
It was about Eight o'clock - Lottie and Lisa were beat - they didn't have a three hour nap. It was quite snug in the tent. Though it says it's a three person it's only seen solo or tandem use. AND Lottie, being 5' 10" tall was put in the middle. Poor thing, by morning she had slid down the slope and was curled in a ball about two feet from the head of her bag.