Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Smoked Out
by pdesigninc

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/12/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Bower Trout Lake (EP 43)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Forecast for warm weather then a change on the way. Equipped with titanium mug, Kokatat boots and a new fast-boiling stove, but forgot the oxygen masks and tanks.
This trip experience started uneventfully and turned into something surreal, unscathed in a hostile world (somewhat) and in more danger than we were briefed on during our ranger station registration. Because of instinct mainly and a little help from our spotty weather NOAA weather radio, iPhone GPS and other small signs we were able to make it out with only a few equipment losses, some coughing fits and irritated eyes. The worst/best part of the experience was enduring a storm that was fueled by the forest fire that included liquid smoke rain, orange lighting, hail, 70+ mph winds, constant thunder, gray/yellow clouds, etc. The storm pinned us Monday night at our base camp on Swan Lake and were finally able to cut through just a day broke on Tuesday. Right after the storm the visibility was less than a few hundred yards, our site was covered in ash, burnt leaves, etc. and we could only hear the surveillance aircraft overhead. I can't say how well these fires were managed or anything about the safety protocol, but it really became erratic, things were/are changing quickly. The oddest thing was the lack of any other sounds, even the birds had moved out. We did have two spectacular days and would be curious to hear other experiences since the smoke, ash, etc. seemed to be quite isolated to specific areas or shifted a lot because of strong winds, which prevented us from entering the main part of Brule Lake.

Lakes Traveled:   Bower Trout Lake, Marshall Lake, Dugout Lake, Skidway Lake, Swan Lake, Vernon Lake, Brule Lake,