June, 2011 King of Quetico Trip
Jesse Lake to Sturgeon Lake, via Elizabeth, Walter, Lonely, pond, & Lonely Creek. (About 9 miles) 5 portages of 740m., 30y., 100y., 120m., & 100m. (Portages in yards from old Jim Clark marked map.)
I was up early and enjoyed the chilly fresh air and the fog/mist that was slowly fading as the sun warmed things up. My watch thermometer read 8 degrees Celsius, or about 46 F. A pair of Mallards flew by and I could hear their wings in the still air. Joe got up shortly and we had hot coffee and tea while I made the famous “hot nuggets” breakfast of Grape Nuts cereal with brown sugar, powdered milk, dried fruit and crushed walnuts. We broke camp and were on the water (early for us) at 8 a.m.
After a too-short paddle we reached the 740m. portage to Elizabeth. (My old green map shows Jim called it 880y.) Joe had checked the Web and the only info on this portage was “a 20 minute walk.” I had done this one in 1997 and vaguely remember that it was not just a “walk.” This soon proved true as we found a rocky and rooty up down up, a 100m. boulder field, and a couple muddy spots. I noted that we were lucky it was a dry day. The bugs were bad on this portage and would continue to be a nuisance until we reached Sturgeon Lake.
On the brief paddle across the west side of Elizabeth I once again felt something tugging me to turn east and explore the far-reaching arm, but we needed to push on. A short, bug-infested portage took us to Walter, which was beautiful and calm. As we paddled out into the middle I recalled previously thinking Walter was dull and square, but today it looked like a jewel. We decided as we left the portage that if no one was at the island “4–star” site we’d have lunch there, and so we did.
The bugs were brutal on the island. (Flies mostly, if I recall.) I took some pictures of the campsite with its two fireplaces and flat rock front porch and we ate there out in the sun thinking there might be fewer bugs than in the shade. Lunch was foil packs of Spam cut up and wrapped in pieces of Chi Chi’s whole grain tortillas with spicy brown mustard. (My favorite lunch!) A gull flew in and floated offshore expecting a handout. It was getting hot now with not a cloud in the sky and so we got going again soon after eating. (Note: It had now been 24 hours since we saw anyone else.)
We paddled down the arm of Walter leading to the portage-pond-paddle-portage before Lonely Lake. These portages and the pond paddle were easy except for dealing with low water at the ins and outs. (We joked here about the time I’d left a map lying on the other side of the pond and had to paddle back to get it. Not today!) Once on Lonely we found a south breeze would make us work a little for the first time since yesterday. It took about 40 minutes to reach narrows where you turn to the east heading for the portage. We paddled quietly hoping to see animal life back in this little hidden nook but none cooperated.
I was getting pretty tired by now. I think I was not quite recovered from yesterday’s work and my old body wanted some rest. We found the tucked away portage landing and hauled our stuff over to the Lonely Creek/pond put-in. Just as I was hitting the edge of the woods on the first carry, an eagle launched itself right above me. It was so close! The pond was clear and teeming with minnows. We paddled across the pond to the portage to the creek and once we were in the creek there was only a small beaver dam to carefully negotiate before reaching Sturgeon Lake.
We headed down the narrows and then into the lake proper, turned east hugging the shore looking for the next campsite we could find. We stopped at a “legacy” site that Joe hopped out and looked at reporting it was only “okay.” I was sure we could do better than “okay” if my map and notes were correct so we continued east. Mustard-colored streams of pollen were very evident as we paddled on. The next site, on the shore north of the top of Scripture Island was open and we stopped to take a look. Wow, a “5-star” with a great view and a pile of split wood left for us. Home!
It’s a short “portage” getting the gear up from the lake to the cooking area here, so we made several trips, got the tent pitched (back in the woods) and the cooking area organized, got hydrated a little and had supper. Supper was a tasty if less than filling freeze-dried sweet and sour pork dish. (Quick cleanup, though.) By 5 p.m. the breeze was dying but had already pushed a slick of pollen into the little sandy beach area where we landed.
The sky was still clear after supper and though we could not get NOAA on the radio here, Joe was pretty sure that if yesterday’s forecast held up we’d have one more day of fair weather. We enjoyed the view here, rested and recovered and finally had our customary drink and cigar before retiring. We stayed up until we could see a few stars shining, and then hit the tent. Another great day in the Q and we saw no other people, canoes or tents today.