Quetico 2011 - First solo - Beaverhouse
September 3 - Headed up through International Falls towards Atikokan. No significant delay at immigration - a few cars and basic questions - maybe 10 minutes total. Then to Canoe Quetico Outfitters - better known as Doug Chapman’s to some - where I chatted with Doug - hard not to do as you that have met Doug know. Headed to the ranger station at Dawson’s Creek to pick up my permit that Doug had reserved. Met Ranger Lisa, who loves her SR Tranquility. Warned about windy weather expected for a day, verified no fire ban, went over basics but she believed I had been through the intro a number of times so it was quick and pleasant. Went back by Doug’s, strapped Souris River Tranquility on my car and headed to Atikokan Hotel - a real nice place, well appointed and pleasant, and recommended - at least under present operators. I had negotiated a good seven day rate since my wife did not trip and would stay there. Walked around town, had pizza at Outdoorsman (no one who has had pizza in New Haven Connecticut expects great pizza anywhere else but it was fine). Last minute gear check and packing and laying out day one cloths and I was set for my first solo. Today’s lesson - Atikokan is not Ely.
September 4 - To White Otter Inn - they open earliest at 6:00 am for breakfast - good food. Off to Beaverhouse Lake Access before 7:00 and I learned that it was an hour from Atikokan, so will seriously consider Lerome Lake access next time, even at the price of several portages right off. I don’t think there is long term parking at Lerome so that could be a factor.
A little scary at start having never been in a solo canoe and just heading out but it all went great and Tranquility is a really fine and very stable solo. (As I have discovered, not everyone shares that opinion, but I met and talked to a lot of folk that do, so to each their own.) All along I had been most worried about getting in and out of a solo and it was a little shaky but, though I cxame close once, I never flipped. My entry was for Cirrus Lake, which entails two easy portages just out of the Beaverhouse access point. My only rain of the week - probably 20 rain drops on the first portage. Dry the remainder of my trip. May be best six days weatherwise I will ever see in September in Quetico. Passed a couple with a English coon hound (?) at the noname between BH and Cirrus on their way out of park. Launched into Cirrus and found the wind, but mostly from north so stayed to north shore before the passage from the lower tier of Cirrus to middle tier, which was directly into wind. Stopped at site at south east end of corner of passage to consider options and headed out. Cirrus was a little rough. Headed to the island site (34Y on pcd) for lunch and looking into wind from east, decided to call it a day even though it was just 1:00. Had planned on getting close to Sue Falls but this was OK. Set up camp. Nice site, recommended. Lots of tent pads. Enough room to walk around. Fixed stroganoff - half a Knorr’s pasta side and a 1/4 pound - before dehydrating - of ground beef. Had forgotten the freeze dried peas but did fine. Put on my thin fleece. This would be only time in whole trip I put on any outerwear. Slept well. 7.4 miles today. Today’s lesson - nothing new so good.
September 5 - Woke up late to blue skies with a few puffy clouds and almost balmy temperature. Packed tent and sleeping gear. I usually take fresh eggs and bacon or sausage for a week but in the interest of speed and weight and with fewer people to enjoy it, I had standardized my breakfasts on tang, coffee (Folger’s singles but am switching to Via in next trip), and cold cereal - Crapola or Grape Nuts with craisons and walnuts added - and Nido. Wow - great powdered milk. So good that a few nights I mixed a cup to drink. Cleaned up and loaded canoe and set off east down Cirrus into a modest wind - a light breeze - late - after 9:30.
Played with the kayak paddle but definitely too short and blades seemed too small to me, and it was heavy compared to my BB straight shaft. Paddled past portage opposite Sue Falls - McKenzie map (and the files I got with Memory Maps) has it miss marked in the cove but it’s before the cove - thanks to Chrismar and Fischer. My longest portage of the trip - 980 meters - and because I didn’t have portage pads I doubled half and tripled the second half. The canoe did not sit high enough to clear the pack and I couldn’t lift bow to see what was coming. Made it alright but lesson learned about yokes, pads, and packs. Launched into Kasakokog with plan to make camp at end of point near portage - BJ on pcd - but that was taken so headed west and end up at 9X. Fine site with a pad on point to get sun and breeze.
No trees near “table” in fire ring vicinity so I set up tarp where I could with plan to move kitchen under it if necessary but cooked in open. Tried my angle hair spaghetti with dehydrated Prego, adding dehydrated onions, peppers, and ground beef. Onions and peppers still a little crunchy so next time I would hydrate them separately and cook in bottom of pot a little before adding sauce and ground beef. Overall, this second experiment with dehydrating food was a smashing success and highly recommended. Trader Joe’s triple ginger snaps and chocolate bar for dessert. Early to bed again. 12.2 miles today. Today’s lessons - you need pads to get canoe up above pack and a longer yak paddle.
September 6 - Up early to a heavy fog and dew. Pretty but slow packing. Tent and tarp were as wet as if it had rained.
Standard breakfast and away around 10:00. Fog had all but cleared to cloudless blue skies. Would be like this every day rest of trip except no fog. Amazing. Didn’t know where I would end up today.
Short paddle to portage, easy portage, and nice long stream paddle into Quetico. A couple behind me with a pair of dogs - a party I thought I knew would be in the area but in fact not them.
Ultimately, I decided on a short day and camped at well ranked site at east end of the long island not far into Quetico, site 7P. I wanted to get things out in sun to dry including cloths, sleeping bag, and pillow. Some interesting cast iron forgings form logging days I imagine. Well used camp needed some cleaning up. Foil and egg shells in fire ring and then egg shells a ways into woods - I presume an animal had dragged them there to suck on.
Finally found some time to sit and read - a Sara Paretsky V. I. Warshawski novel. Decided on Ripple’s dehydrated ziti - given out at the Chicago spring wingnight - and it was great! Thanks Ripple. Added a bag of Mountain House freeze dried corn. Once again, early to bed. Only 4.4 miles today.
September 7 - Up early again, packed dry things quickly. Standard breakfast and on the water. Figured I’d get to near Quetico River portage to Beaverhouse but wanted to look for pictographs.
I paddled slowly along the north bank, north of bald islands, poking around pictographs. I’ve “looked” at pictographs elsewhere in Quetico several times but had never really “seen” them and had heard these were more pronounced and visible than many. Indeed they were, and awesome.
The last - or most east of three - was nearly gone, with only a small “X” visible to me.
Had thought about staying at the first nation camp in the little bay with two portages to Cirrus but didn’t.
Did poke around the bay, looking too far east of east portage for site. Found it east of west portage and checked it out along with fish pen, which was dry. Getting in and out of bay required lining canoe - too little water to paddle - but easy.
Headed south east thinking I’d look for a site opposite portage to BH and ended up on the sandy beach isthmus south of portage for lunch at the site there - 33 on pcd.
Walked along beach before paddling towards portage to BH. Met a great couple from Michigan - older than me for once on this trip - eating lunch at the portage. They offered me cheese and sausage but I had just stuffed my self on same while at the beach - along with dried fruit and gorp and crackers - my standard lunch. I did accept some chocolate. We discussed soloing versus tandems - they were clearly in the tandem group even though he had soloed for ten days the year before. (I’m still making up my mind on whether I prefer soloing or some small group/tandem trip.) He explained he had trouble not hearing anyone else or any speech until on his day five he said “shit” and shocked himself. On the other hand, he was not crazy about his trip with grand children, who never were quiet. Interesting dilemma. Well, off I went in search of a site on BH, hoping to find something that would be great site and layover a day. It was may extra day for any weather delays and I was looking forward to down time, maybe checking out fire tower or the pictograph noted on Beaverhouse. I wanted to be on west side incase of bad weather Friday - early pick up. I headed southwest past one island - no sign of a camp site - towards the cluster of three. Checked out two on south end of north east island - fire rings but no tent pads - and one on north west corner of south east island - OK in an emergency - one marginal tent pad - but no redeeming features. Decided to head to west shore and if all else failed, take the site near the put in. Heading north on shore I happened to look back at the south east island and saw a pole lashed high across two trees - so decided to check it out.
Fantastic site - 1U - tent pads for many tents - nice but simple fire ring.
I like all day sun exposure but that was not to be here, although I could walk 30 seconds and on south west corner of island and soaked up sun here.
Used the pole for bear bag - best hang of the week. Best “kitchen” set up with tarp and seating of the week.
I think this was my second spaghetti dinner and I did precook the onions and peppers. Much better. Stayed up past sunset for a change but not long after. 13.7 miles today.
September 8 - Layover. Up, filled solar shower and carried across island. Rinsed out a lot of clothes and dish towels and hung up to dry in light breeze. Decided to really layover and read Paretsky. Move around to different seating spots. Hung up shower after lunch and got soapy clean for once. Read. Watch birds and squirrels.
Didn’t see anyone all day. Fixed second stroganoff and then fixed my one dessert - a Cache Lake pudding for two. Sat and had an evening cup of coffee and ate some chocolate and read. Zero miles today.
September 9 - up at 6:00 or so. Feeling both sad and happy it was my last day. Looking forward to seeing my wife at take out. Breakfast, loaded up, headed to take out.
Portaged to parking lot early and ended up sitting there and reading. Only 2.6 miles of paddling and portage, making it 40.3 miles for the trip. Seven cars in the parking lot - 1 Ontario, 4 Minnesota, 1 Iowa, and 1 Georgia. My wife pulled in before appointed 11:00 am time and I loaded the car and headed towards Atikokan. Showered and checked out of Hotel. Stopped at Souris River factory for a great tour - highly recommended. Dropped canoe at Doug’s, and drove onto Thunder Bay for dinner - prime rib at Valhalla. OK - probably could find better - I don’t have Canada in my Garmin GPS. Drove down along shore, quick US immigration check - two cars ahead and maybe 10 minutes total. Had no reservation but around Tofte found most places had no vacancy. The Northern Railcar Hotel showed up on my GPS and I recalled someone posting they had liked it so called - two rooms left - and the least expensive - so headed there. Very interesting and unique, extremely simple, quiet (my priority), and very clean. Wonderful staff and proprietor - loves to tell the history with all the inlaw and outlaw aspects. A little pricey but recommended. (Oh yeah - they did have one room at Grand Lodge in Two Harbors - just under $300! Turned that down.)
September 10 - Basic drive through Duluth and towards Chicago on 53. Stopped at Duluth Pack store in Duluth (and discovered Duluth Trading company was no where near Duluth - who knew?) And in Rice Lake for thrift stores (picked up two more JMOs - can’t help myself - think I have 6 now - anyone need one?) And lunch at Norske Nook - another high recommendation - and home around 7:00
You can see my report on the Souris River Tranquility and factory tour on www.solotripping.com and www.bwca.com bulletin boards in gear forums.