Day One This was a day to travel from Manitowoc to Ely. As I got into my truck today there was a mosquito in the truck, is this a bad sign? Saw an eagle and osprey near the Wolf River, was this a sign? I left at 7:30 AM and my first stop was in Thorp, WI. I needed gas and had pee. My next stop was in Eau Claire to see my son, who could not go with. It was great to talk to him he just got back from a research trip to the Bahamas. We had gyros for lunch. Next stop was in Duluth at a hard to find Holiday gas station. That is when I came up with the phrase of the trip. “Slow down”. At the first stop for gas I forgot to put the gas cap on, this with good for me. When I am so excited for something I need to slow myself down so I don’t get hurt or forgot something. My next stop was NAPA for a new gas cap. My next stop was Voyagers North Outfitters. Lynn was very nice and patient with me. I picked up my permit, got a MN fishing license. My next decision was where to stay that night. I have three choices – VNO, Fenske Lake Campground, or at the EP in my truck. I heard on the way up it was to be 37 degrees on Monday night. I decided Voyager North in one of their bunk houses. It was only $25, very clean, and warm.
This is my first solo into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Up at 4:40 AM, ate peanut butter sandwich with water for breakfast, and got to the entry point at 5:15 AM. I was on the water for the first picture at 5:35 AM. It is 44 degrees. I was in such a rush I scraped my leg getting into my kayak. My goal today is at least Friday Bay. Mudro was an easy paddle and it was a beautiful morning. As I was taking a picture before I got out of my kayak on Mudro a beaver slapped his tail on the water at me. The first portage with my kayak and backpack was difficult. It was a big up and then a big down. I found I like uphill better for my safety. Downhill was interesting. I tripped on a rock and scrapped my other leg and caught myself on a tree. I stopped right there and said to myself out loud, “SLOW DOWN.” I couldn’t find the portage from Sandpit to Tin Can Mike. It was on the far right on the other side or the logs on the water. I did not see anyone that morning until I got to the last portage on the Horse River.
Very nice people from Appleton, WI. There were thre men and their son’s which was really cool. One of the men said he envies me. That stuck with me the rest of the trip. They also told me of a short cut portage at Lower Basswood Falls. When I got to the falls I did not take the short cut because I know the power of fast flowing water, and I did not know where the short cut was so I took the Canadian portage. This portage was confusing. It went off in many different directions, but I finally found the other end which had a nice sandy put in. All together today I will see about 22 canoes. A regular freeway. Got pictograph pictures, ate lunch at Table Rock,
and really enjoyed Navigating. I am a weather vane. If you want to know which way the wind is blowing look at my kayak… the wind will be blowing in the opposite direction. Ate lunch at Table Rock.
Checked out the pictos on Basswood River/Crooked Lake.
Why I like kayaks became very clear a number of times during this trip. One example of this is Thurday Bay. It was somewhat windy and there were two canoes 2/3 of the way across Thursday Bay. I was just starting Thursday Bay, but I finished the Bay just after them and past them from Thursday to Friday Bay. I believe the reason is that kayaks are not affected by the wind as much as canoes. I told my son on Monday if I am sitting on the start of Friday Bay as 11:00 AM I would push on. I got to the start of Friday Bay at 2:30 PM. A full three hours after I thought. Here are some reasons for the time disparity: 1. Waiting for a group at the last portage of Horse River. 2. Fixing my skirt in Canada. 3. Portaging took about 1 minute for every 10 rods, but then reattaching my backpack to the kayak. 4. Pictures 5. Journaling 6. Eating I check out a supposed five star campsite on an island on the northeast side of Friday Bay. It was not a 5 star anymore in my opinion. I had a bad feeling because there was them bottom part of a deer leg with the skin and fur on it yet. Then the fire pit area had egg shells and other garbage around it. I picked up some but I did not have room for it all. This was a sad reminder that many different people use this wilderness. So I paddled across Friday Bay southwest to the 5 star campsite. I prayed the site was open. I was tired. My back was sore and I needed to eat. It was open. Praise the Lord. I checked out the site, found the throne, and put my sleeping bag and other things out to dry out. It looked like a yard sale. Then I made supper. It was homemade chicken soup. I had dried vegies and chicken that I used for this soup. It was awesome, but each time I made too much for a serving of one. This night I did a positives and negatives of staying another day at this site. I decided to stay for a number of reasons. I needed to rest and I think when you are doing a solo you need to be careful and strong. This night I also saw a bald eagle flying away from an island that had herring gull on it. I think the eagle had picked a baby sea gull out of the nest and was flying away. Really cool to see. Around 6:30 I heard a jst which was the first sign of people in 3.5 hours. A little later I saw a float plane fly over. I had fixed my firefly light before I left but my fix did not last because I could not turn the light off. I had been hearing a buzzing noise since I got to this campsite. After a while I thought I was just going crazy. Turns out there was a type of bee that liked a type of pine tree. One thing that I will take every trip is the mylar blanket. You get these after marathons. They are just plastic and roll up really small. I used a mylar blanket in my sleeping bag the first night because the temperature got down to 37 degrees. I was warm and the temperature was not a factor. I went a long way the first day to make sure I would not chicken out and return the next.
Today I paddled Mudro, Sandpit, Tin Can Mike, Horse, Horse River, Basswood, Crooked to Friday Bay of Crooked which is about 20 miles of paddling. Portaged around 520 rods of portaging.
Day 3 I started the day with oatmeal with dried pineapple. It was ok. Next I fly fished and had a huge small mouth on the line but as I reached for the fish the line broke. My pole had broken in transit to Ely form Manitowoc somehow. I ducted tape it but that really did not work. SO I switched to pole around and tried regular fishing, but the pole broke when I had a fish on. So the end of my fishing for this trip.
I would do dishes by getting lake water and then putting some soap in and wash out the pan and spoon I used. Then I would toss the dirty water deep in the woods away from everything. The next step would be to get lake water again and rinse the pan deep in the woods. Then I would put the pan back on the burner and evaporate all the water to kill anything. I found out the those camping sets that have a cup small pot and two dishes are not the best. As I was heating the pot I went and did something else. When I got back to the pot on the burner I noticed it had melted the pot. The rest of the day was taken up by eating, reading a book, swimming, and a little recon of the 90 rod portage to the papoose creek. I saw some men coming out of the 90 rod portage. They said the portage was really muddy but doable and the big information was that the Papoose Creek was very nice to navigate with no rocks or anything. Only one beaver dam to pull over. Weird thing happened this night. Some people that were at the campsite south and east of my campsite were out paddling like they were getting something. It was 8:20 PM and I will be confused.
Day 4 I slept really poorly. It was windy all night and on and off rain. I was up at 5:30AM because I like to get an early start when I am moving. At 5:32 AM I heard thunder in the distance. SO I waited. I had put my sleeping bag in the case already. I fell back to sleep and again I used my mylar blankets. I woke up again at 8:22AM. It continued to lightning and rain until 10 AM. This was a scary part of the trip. Lightning kills. I prayed that the Lord would keep the lightning at least a mile away. The closest I counted was 4 seconds which is just under a mile. Thank you Lord. I loaded up and left around 10:30AM. First the 90 rod muddy portage. I really struggled on this portage. The kayak was not balanced right and I could not see where I was going very well. This had to get fixed before the 300 rod portage to Gun Lake. The Papoose Creek was really a nice paddle. There was one pullover beaver dam between Niki and Chippewa. This was an easy pull over. The portage from Niki to Wagosh was an easy up and down 45 rod portage. Next the portage from Wagosh to Gun Lake a 300 rod portage. I had done some shuffling of some packs to get the balance right on the kayak. So I started the portage and the balance was right. I did the 300 rod portage in 27 minutes with no real substantial stops. I thought about double portaging this portage, but I did not know how to do that with the set up I had. On Gun Lake I saw the first people of the day. They warned be about the waves on Gun Lake. Once again the wind was directly against me and no one was on the lake. It was fun in the kayak. I was cutting through the 2 foot white caps. My goal was Fairy Lake. It turned out that both campsites on Fairy Lake were taken. The wind was so strong I had a difficult time getting going on Fairy. I crossed Fairy with the big waves and went on to Boot. I took the first campsite on Boot. It was rated a 4 star but I would call it a 5 star. It was really nice. It took me under 4 hours to get there. I thought it would take almost 5 hours. I saw today that wind bound for a kayak and canoe are two different things. I can cut through waves that canoes fight with more. I practiced this on Lake Michigan before I left. I decided that Friday would be my day to take out. I was a little concerned about the wind it really kicked up on Thursday. There was no one on Boot Lake on Thursday. I think it was the wind. Then around 6 PM I aw a canoe pull up to the campsite south of the one I was at. It is a 5 star. I saw in weasel at my campsite and a red squirrel came right up to me but found no food and left. There were wind blue berries and raspberries at this site. I did not eat them because I read the book Into the Wild At 7:55 a saw a bright object near the campsite those people were at. So I took out the binoculars. It was the man in the campsite skinny dipping. It was funny. Sometime during the night I heard an animal smelling stuff. I don’t know what it was but it scared the living day lights out of me. This make me feel like this should be the last night no matter what. Paddled Friday Bay, Papoose Creek, Papoose Lake, Chippewa Lake, Niki Lake, Wagosh Lake, Gun Lake, Fairy Lake, and Boot Lake. Portaged 500 rods.
Day 5 Today I will be going home. I was very worried about the wind. So I woke up at 3:45AM and checked out the wind. It was not bad but it was too dark to start and the mosquitos were terrible. So I waited a while I was hoping for the calm that happens even when it will become windy later in the day. I had an energy bar and got going at about 5:10 AM. The paddle across Boot and Fourtown was great the water that morning was like glass. The portage between Boot and Fourtown was not bad at all.
The portages from Fourtown to Mudro almost killed me, literally. The first portage is a 10 rod, but the start is like a cliff. I scouted it out though and found if I line the kayak up the stream 10 yards or so there was a much better place to take out. The portage was up and down but difficult. Then a very small paddle to the 140 rod portage. The portage did not have a two steps that were at eh same level. That was a difficult portage. The last portage is a 30 rod portage. This portage almost killed me. I put the backpack and kayak on while standing in the water. This I had done before but this time I took a step back and fell back. I was in 2 feet of water and the kayak started floating down stream and I could not get the backpack out. So I was getting dragged down stream and could not get the backpack out because a string was caught in the kayak. I finally got the string out but everything was heavy because of the water in everything and in the kayak. I made the portage and when I got to Mudro the wind started to blow again I am glad I left when I did today. I got to my truck at 7:40AM and was leaving Ely after gassing up at 8:30AM. I got to Eau Claire to see my son at 1:15PM. We talk and I finally showered. I left Eau Claire at 2:30PM and was back in Manitowoc by 6:00PM. Things I learned: 1. Don’t take so much food. I had enough food for 3 people for a week. 2. Don’t take so many utensils. 3. Take an extra fishing pole 4. I love navigating 5. Slow down 6. My home made dried food was awesome except for the potato soup 7. GPS is not necessary but reassuring 8. Solos are different then group outings 9. Loons have it made – BWCA gives them food, water, friends, no portaging, no hanging food. 10. Bear barrels are nice and effective 11. Magicalmaps.com are great for taking with for navigation. They are bigger than the other maps out there. I laminated them and had them on the deck of the kayak. 12. Steripen works great. 13. Not everyone cares about the BWCA 14. Saw many different animals 15. Be flexible 16. Solos help you look inside yourself and can stengthen faith.