Solo Trek into Quetico - No Country for Old Men
by Beemer01

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/16/2010
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1
Day 2 of 7
Thursday, June 17, 2010 Day Two. Burke Lake to Isabella Lake. A Bluebird morning - the birds were back as I rose, drank my coffee, ate my Powerbar and packed up a soggy camp. I paddled glassy water as I headed North on Burke and made my way to Basswood's North Bay.  Suddenly there was wind. A lot of wind. Really a lot of wind. I later found that winds that day were 30-40 MPH with 55 MPH gusts. White caps with blowing spray and tendrils of streaming Spindrift foam - waves with crests 10-14 feet apart as the waves cranked up over the 3-4 mile reach of North Bay. When you see Spindrift - you are seeing Gale Force winds. Great - well, a chance to defy the wilderness gods again and to see how good a paddler I really am. I loaded my little handmade canoe - checked the trim, cinched my PFD and headed out, careful to quarter across the waves blowing out of the Southwest.  I hopped across the big water of North Bay, island by island with white caps breaking and occasionally cresting into my canoe. [URL=¤t=P6170021.mp4]

[/URL] I actually only came close to capsizing twice when I had the wind at my back and was surfing in on the final leg …when the canoe is balanced Stern to Bow on the rolling waves, stability is at a premium.  I reached the Isabella River, paddled upstream and across the same Beaver dams my son and I had seen when we passed thru here in 2003. [URL=¤t=P6170026.mp4]

[/URL]The wind continued to howl and gust, but sheltered as I was on this little river it only seemed a bother when trying to portage and discovering that the canoe wanted to weathervane on my shoulders and twist off. Several portages in I was starting to get my rhythm when I heard a sharp crack…. and froze in my muddy tracks. A 50' Birch Tree - blown by the relentless howling winds - crashed to the ground in the forest not 20 yards from me. I continued on the portage with a weather eye (and ear) peeled. At the end of the muddy portage into Isabella I found that this Northeast - Southwest oriented narrow glacial lake was naturally another howling mess of whitecaps and windblown spray…. This time I was destined to head straight into the jaws of the storm.  By the way - this amazingly windy day was sunny, bright and cool. I stayed close to the West shore and battled my way a mile or so up Isabella to a beautiful campsite perched high on a bluff at the narrows overlooking that long Gem of a lake. 

I tried to rig my tarp and hammock with absolutely no success, the winds - even higher on that bluff - would have none of that! I eventually retreated to a more sheltered area down from the commonly used campsite on the crest of the bluff and was able to set up a gypsy camp successfully. No fires today under any circumstances! I tried my hand fishing the narrows from shore - attempting to battle the wind with heavier lures. I walked around the edge of the lake on the lichen covered rock looking for a better place to cast. And slipped, falling 3-4 feet into the (fortunately) deep water off shore - it happed in a nanosecond, but I wasn’t seriously injured and my fishing rod and reel were retrieved with no effort or damage. Wow - that happened fast - watch your step out there! I ate a quick freeze dried meal on water heated on my Jetboil (I love this thing!)