The Super Loop
I woke early in the morning and started breakfast before waking everyone else up. It was a perfect day, the sky was cloudless and the temperature was warm. We had a lot of distance to cover and no time to dawdle. Grub consisted only of oatmeal (our standard), breakfast bars, GORP and hot cups of coffee; all eaten in much haste. After we ate we struck camp, loaded the canoe and started what would end up being our longest day of the trip.
Our plan (okay… MY plan) was to make a huge looping trip from Monument Portage, down into Kekekebic (via the Hanson Lake / Ester Lake route) and then into Fraser Lake, Thomas Lake, Ima Lake and Ensign Lake before making our return journey following the boarder lakes (Birch Lake, Knife Lake and Ottertrack Lake) back up to Monument Portage, thus completing our trip. For me it was the perfect trip (though it could have been slightly longer). For Gopher and Matt it contained too many portages in too few days and for Donnie… one portage for him was enough, and we already did it in his opinion.
We made the quick portage (an 80 rod) from Ottertrack Lake into Ester Lake not long after sun up and made our way down the lake. After the day before, worrying about being on the water too late, my fears drifted away. Matt and Gopher also seemed content on our travel speed. Donnie however was stoked; so many places to fish!
The small area that connects Ester Lake to Hanson Lake was soon in sight and we made quick work of crossing both lakes. Once at the portage into South Arm Knife Lake we stopped for a few minutes to retie some gear and grab a quick snack. 120 downhill rods later we were on Knife Lake and quickly paddling our way to the Eddy Falls portage.
On Eddy Lake we decided to take our lunch break. We broke out our summer sausage, cheese and crackers when a group of Girl Scouts out of Chicago pulled up to the portage. We shot the breeze with the Scout Master for a few minutes before the girls (and two boys) noticed what we were eating. “CHUB and Cheese; that’s what you guys call it”, they proclaimed. We laughed and tried to explain that we had never heard of summer sausage being called CHUB before. I don’t think they believed us.
We continued on our trip and crossed the ever annoying, Kekekabic Ponds portage; a series of tiny lakes split by tiny portages. The constant in-the-canoe, out-of-the-canoe, in-out, in-out, in-out, will make you crazy (in reality there is only five lakes and five portages… but still!). Donnie and Matt, in the Ram-X canoe decided to push it a bit harder and wanted to catch some fish so Gopher and I just continued at our normal pace and let them disappear across a portage before we got there.
Once on Kekekabic Lake Donnie and Matt were no where to be found. Gopher and I thought nothing of it at first because we showed Donnie (who brought his GPS) where we planned on taking camp. When Gopher and I came to the campsite we intended to stop at we found that it was already taken. Donnie and Matt were still nowhere to be seen so Gopher and I turned around and paddled back up the lake, looking for them.
We found them about an hour later, two-miles back the way we came. They had caught some good sized fish (which they tossed back) and had decided to take a swim in the lake. Once we were back as one group Donnie saw that he made a mistake on his GPS and thought he was on the opposite shore then he really was. A simple mistake, one I can obviously relate to.
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly as we once again tried to find a site for the night. Everywhere we could see had a group of people on it but we found a campsite on the south shore of the lake next to a small island. We were able to set up camp a few hours before sundown and made a large dinner of rice, noodles and Mac & Cheese to celebrate it. The site itself was unremarkable. Flat and with lots of grass for soft sleeping, there was nothing to it.
We goofed around a bit (Matt and Donnie tipping the canoe after a fishing trip and falling into the lake on the shore) and sat up until after dark so we could watch the stars. The weather so far could not have been better. Hardly any wind, perfect temperatures in the low 80’s, and, other than that first night, bug-free.