Five of us stayed at Hungry Jack Lodge (HJL) on the Friday night before we trekked into the Boundary Waters. Phil was unable to get Monday off of work like the rest of us had, and since he only had to come over from Ely, he hiked in by himself on Friday afternoon. Cory and Bayla (Cory's dog) met us Saturday morning at Hungry Jack. For the Five of us that spent the night at HJL, the morning started with an early rise to stoke the wood stove, followed by biscuits and homemade mushroom gravy made by yours truly. Before making the short jaunt to West Bearskin with our gear, we decided we had better settle our bar tab with HJL from the night before...I was expecting it to be steep considering the slight headache I awoke with but thankfully the nice folks at HJL (Forrest and Ericka) didn't empty our pockets so we thought it best to add to our tab with a round of morning mimosas!
Once upon a time, when was in much better shape, I spent a great deal of time rock climbing. How I wish that I would have brought my ropes with to lower (and eventually bring up) our gear down this hellish portage. Instead, it was all hands on deck in an attempt to SLOWLY guide each sled down this portage. It was a tedious task, with lots of cussing, but we made it down. Unfortunately we don't have any evidence of this because of the effort that was required to get the sleds down the hill, no spare hands for snapping pictures. Upon reaching the bottom of the portage I learned two very interesting things: 1. Phil (our friend that made it to Rose Lake the Day before us) attempted to lower his sled down the portage by himself... the sled got away from him on the lower staircase, hit a tree, and busted the front of the sled. All was not lost as he was just fine and was able to mend his plastic sled with an impressive amount of duct tape. 2. My cousin Brett had proposed to his girlfriend, Tina, at the top of the Stairway Portage overlooking Rose Lake and Canada. What girl could say no to a setting like that?! Looking back, its a really good thing she said yes, otherwise the rest of the trip could have been awkward! It's important to note that Brett and I are cousins. Erin and I, and Brett and Tina each had our first dates together (but separately) on the 4th of July in 2007. We didn't plan it and didn't even realize it until a year or so after. Kinda cool, except that when they beat us to the punch and got engaged... in our presence, and I had/have no plans of doing this same then or anytime soon... well... lets just say that got served a little crap for not keeping pace :)
The rest of the day was spent setting up the tent, gathering fire would and celebrating a new engagement in our cozy, warm, wall tent. The party continued late into the night (9:30 pm... we were exhausted) while sipping on our Growlers from Fitger's and Box wine. The other three in our tent slept on cots while I was on the floor on my sleeping pad (Reese and Cory were in Cory's tent and Phil in his portable fish house). My thought was that if the fire in the wood stove went out, I would be the first one to gt cold and could get up to stoke the fire. The good news is it worked, I was the first one up every time. The bad news is the wood we cut during the day was not nearly as dry as we had hopped and I was up A LOT during the night nursing coals back to life. It was a pretty restless night for me and we awoke chilly and tired. Here are some more pictures from Day 1: