Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park Artery Lake to Donald Lake (Molly & Paul)
by SunCatcher

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/29/2011
Entry Point: Other
Exit Point: Other  
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1
Part 2 of 3
Dunstan Lake and down to the “Enchanted Portage” Left camp at 7:30 am. Dustan is one of my favorite lakes. It is full of Islands and granite and forest and is so beautiful, and I was darn glad came this way. The bible say’s the Lord will not give you more than you can handle, and that is true! So all the aguish of the day before was behind me.   The enchanted portage is a 750 meter portage about a half mile. It is the MOST beautiful walk through the woods you could ever ask for. Fairly flat, lots of moss, flowers, open areas, and nice trail, no obstacle’s, it is really a neat place. I will never forget it, ever!!! I took lot’s of pictures and Molly enjoyed it also.   Coming off the enchanted portage, I double portaged it, you come to a no-name lake, a no-name lake is a small lake or a lake not named on the map. It was a short paddle, and in the South end was a meandering creek with a beaver dam to pull over, and then a narrow creek (like 3 ft wide and 8 inches deep) My thoughts are, Oh NO another yesterday!!! I prayed the Lord deliver me, as I am not sure I was mentally or physically ready for another day like yesterday. I was optimistic, it would not be as bad. I had about a mile or more of pulling myself with the paddle through low water. I had to get out about 7 times in low water and pull Molly and the canoe of gear, but only had to have her get out once. It was not easy, and was a mile or more of this. It was just before noon I pulled into another no name lake that this little creek dumped into. It was about an acre big, and I stopped and cryed, as I was so glad to see “real water” again. It was loaded with lilly pads and those cool. White flowers. I was overwhelmed with joy to see water again. I could see where the waterfall was supposed to be running into this little lake that was supposed to feed the creek I was on. It was like 60 ft high. I want to go back maybe someday when water levels are normal and see all these spots where the waterfalls are supposed to be. So we portaged up the hill around the waterfall, and had lunch. I filmed, what I call “Lunch in the wild or wilderness” ? We rested!! Looking at the map, I knew it would not be anything this challenging for the rest of the trip. I was very glad of that!   I loaded Molly up after a 30 minute rest and we paddled down a perdy paddle, in a narrow area, like 30- 60 yards wide and 3 or more miles long. Saw a bear swimming across the river in front of us like ¼ mile, I paddled like crazy to get a picture, but bear made it out before I could get there. Then we stopped and rested again on an island. Had a snack, and laid down. I was beat, tired, and needed a rest. Then it some clouds moved in and it started pouring. Cats and dogs. The thing about this country, is these storms brew up in a hurry and you can go from sunshine to deluge, in a few minutes. Then is can be as calm in a few minutes with sunshine. We paddled down to the end of this nice area and set up camp on the portage into Royd Lake. That portage we would do in the morning as it is a 900 meter portage or about 3000 feet well over a half mile. Had Teryaki Chicken and Rice for supper , and it was delicious. NO FIRE, as I was on the edge of the Forest and it was unbelievably dry, and didn’t want to burn the forest down.   I did pass the fire’s again and lots of smoke today. It was a little nerve racking wandering what the fires were doing, but it’s not a deal breaker, and by the way….what can you do about it? Nothing, so why worry! Molly ate her supper, and we were in bed at 10 pm.

Statistics: 5 portages 750m (Enchanted Portage), 60m, 40m, 40m, 125m

Day 7 Thursday August 4, 2011

  So I am up early 4 or 4:30 am, and made Macaroni and Cheese for Breakfast, Just sounded good and I thought I needed energy. Molly ate her breakfast, so I was glad for that. We were raring to go at 7 am. This portage sounded tough and trust me, it was! You go up a hill and I immediately run into about 6 fallen down trees (blwodown) across the trail. I got the 55 pound pack with my thwart bag attached so it’s 61 lbs. Then you go up a hill and down into a wetland for 75 yards and then up a hill and down and do this several times. Quite a bit of blowdown. I take my time going back to get the small pack and decide I will triple portage this because of the obstacles and toughness. I have no ACL on my right leg, and my knee is getting swelled so I decide to slow down on this portage. Long story short this takes me two hours to go 4500 meters which is 2.8 miles and I am on Royd Lake put in at 9 am, with a view, well word’s cannot express just how beautiful the site of Royd lake is. It is by far and away one of the nicest place’s the Lord ever made. I am Very HOT, and take my shirt off and paddle in the calmest waters, down the prettiest paddle with high granite cliffs and a narrow passage, and then it opens into some bigger water with islands, it is awesome and I could of stayed hear forever , as it was Soooooooo Beautiful!   When you come off the West end of Royd Lake, you come around this point and there is an OLD wooden boat rotting away there, and a very small log cabin like 6 ft x 8 ft. It is a trapper’s or fisherman’s cabin, I think it is REALLY old like 75 years old or so. It is a neat place. Then you paddle up to a little creek to portage around. A really nice area. Then you paddle across a very small lake and do another 20 meter portage. HERE was my most favorite thing. The nicest waterfall ever, I called it “Little Mexican Hat” as it reminded me of that waterfall on Mexican Hat lake only on a smaller scale…but trust me, you would love to see it. As I packed up and paddled away, I stopped and took another picture, and said to myself “you know Paul, you more than likely will never be here again, in this place, on this lake, and not many folks, will ever get to see this, and I was deeply moved by this place, at that point in time, and thanked the Lord for this day and my opportunity to be here”.   By the way, this morning when I woke up, I was bound and determined that I would be base camping and relaxing on Donald Lake by nightfall. (and I was)   So I have a little lunch by this waterfall, and headed out towards Kennedy Lake, but there were 2 – 100 meter portages between me and Kennedy Lake. The first one had a bad downed tree on it, which I cleaned up, and the second one I got sick on.   I had more than likely over did things a bit so far, long drive, lots of paddling, heat, to fast of pace, no water in creeks, sleeping on rock, etc… Well I started down the 100 meter portage and this pain hit me in the chest, I thought it was my acid reflux or Hiatel Hernia, but you never know. All I could think to do was stop now and rest. I had a liter of water, and ate 5 big tums, nothing happened, this pain was from the middle of my chest clear through to my back, like heart burn in the front with a back spasm in the back. Wasn’t sure if it was the “Big One” or not? I wasn’t scared but shall we say concerned. I loosened my belt, and layed in the shade talking to Molly, and then I took my second Prilosec of the day and gobbled down 3 Advil, thinking if this is it, maybe those would help? As I lye there wandering what was going on, all I could think of, is if I die here my wife will be pissed at me!! I had the satelite phone, but didn’t think, I needed to use it, and by the time I did, It more than likely would have been to late anyway. Plus, in the forest they don’t work worth a darn anyway, (fyi, sat phones need clear open sky to work) After 30 minutes of rest I started to think I felt better, but not sure. So I went and portaged this portage 3 times. Slowly!!!   Now I am on Kennedy Lake and the wind is blowing about 25 mph straight at me! (: It was a tough paddle, but I prayed the Lord to save me and give me strength and that he did. Came off Kennedy and did a short portage and then down Royd Creek. I would really like to do this with 3 more feet of water in it sometime! But it was o.k. There is a chute on Royd, just before you get to Donald Lake, and it is Rocky and quite a drop. I lined the canoe with Molly in it down through the chute. It was about 5:45 and getting to be time to call Charlene. So after I lined the canoe down the chute, I dug out the sat phone and was standing in chest deep water, and tried calling her. NO SIGNAL. So I paddled further and by the time I got a signal it was 6:20 or so and she was a tad worried and I was a tad tired and a bit scared. So we talked and I told her I would call her later. So, I paddled out of Royd Creek onto Donald Lake into a 25 mph or more wind. The RockStar Canoe performed well, was loaded well and I had NO worries. I paddled West and into the wind (stupid) looking for an island to set up base camp. I came upon these cabins in the middle of Donald private owned. I then let the wind push me East and I found a horseshoe shaped Island, I set up camp on one of the points and named this point Donald Point on Donald Lake, after my dad. Normally this point would be under water as Donald Lake was down 3’ or more for sure. I made Goolash I think for supper. Called Charlene back, and had a nice visit, but I didn’t tell her about my “episode” as I did not want her to worry. One of us worrying about it was enough. Molly and I had traveled 5 days and 4 nights and gone 66 miles to this point. Almost 12 miles of portaging and it was time we rested for sure. I had just bit off a little more than I bargained for. I had a small fire and stayed up quite some time. I enjoyed a nice sunset, but a wonderful 1/3 moon. Molly slept in my tent on my pad on my sleeping bag, and I really didn’t care. She deserved it for being my companion. I was feeling better but, prayed and thanked the Lord for watching over me and his protection of us. There were several loons in the bay that evening, and a pesky beaver who didn’t appreciate us taking up residence in his neighborhood. He let us know by slapping his tail and scaring Molly and I, and neither one of us appreciated that at all. So I pitched a rock at that Canadian Beaver, and He left us alone after that! ? I do not know when I went to bed for sure, but as I recall it was like midnight.

Statistics Last Day 8 portages 900m,40m,20m,100m,100m,40m, 375m, and 50m chute.

 By this time we had gone 66 miles of paddling and 11.7 miles of total walking across portages. The actual route is about 57 miles plus 2 miles of portages, but the side trips and double and triple portaging and portaging the dry creek and dryed pullover’s made it a little longer trip.

Day 8, Friday August 6, 2011 (The Day We Rested)

  I woke up as usual in that 4:00 to 5 am range. Started a fire to take the chill off, and heated some water for cocoa. I made the worlds best breakfast. I made a Blueberry Muffin in my reflector Oven that you would kill for, and I made Hashbrowns, warmed up some pre-cooked bacon, and had 3 scrambled eggs (dehydrated eggs) with ketchup, otherwise they taste like cardboard. But it was a meal for a king. I had honey and real butter (ghee) for my muffin and hashbrowns. Molly and I Really enjoyed Donald Lake and Donald Point, and our private little bay. ? Molly just stayed in the tent on my sleeping bag and neo air pad, she was comfortable and deserved the rest.   I gathered some wood, fished a bit (not real hard) and then these fella’s in a real boat came by. Bill from Iowa and Dex from Missouri. They are caretaker’s at Wamserville. The private owned point with cabins, I had paddled by yesterday afternoon looking for this place. I asked them if they knew of a sandy beach where a float plane could pick me up, and they said to come over to there place and he could pick me up there. It was the first time I had talked to a “person” besides Molly and myself for 4 days! So the Lord was delivering me again. I hung my hammock and relaxed all day, read, took a 2.5 hour nap, gathered wood, hung up a shower, and made a pizza for lunch. Used my dehydrated peppers, black olives, spaghetti sauce, and pepperoni’s and string cheese. It was so darn good….you can’t even imagine. It was so good, I made another one for Supper! And another huge blueberry muffin with honey and butter. Molly ate well also, I even gave here some bacon and stuff. She enjoyed that! I rested the whole day and reflected on my trip, my family, I even read the Book of Esther in the Bible, not sure I ever read that before. It is a short book, but it was about the Jewish people and the bad folks after them and how the Lord looked out for them with the help of Esther and Malachi. It is an interesting book.   I also brought along a fetching bumper and played fetch with Molly after she had rested. In the heat of the day.   I was resting in my hammock, after my nap of 2 hours, and I have a float plane fly directly over me. It circled and fly over me again and then landed and taxied right up to my point. The pilot and a gal named Claire (who I knew) got out. She is the Assistant Park Superintendant for WCPP. They stopped to warn me of the fires to the North of me. She said the fires started up at Lar’s Creek, and were moving East up the Bloodvein River towards Red Lake, They had moved 10 km in one day (about 6 miles) She wasn’t worried of the fires reaching me, but the smoke moving in, if the wind changed to the North. Wanted me to know if smoke moved in, not to be alarmed that the fires were quite a way’s away. We chatted about my adventure and the portages, she appreciate’s folks giving her an update on the portages, as if some need cleaned up from downed tree’s they send a crew in to clean up the bad ones. It was nice of them to stop and a real surprise to me. They were there about 15-20 minutes and flew away. I got some nice pictures and video of them taking off.   So my “day off” of base camping was a great one. I didn’t do a lot, I did take a shower, and I read and relaxed. The moon came out and the beaver and loons and I took lots of pictures on my day off, but I never left Donald Point on Donald Lake. I heard a wolf howl, for quite sometime, not far from me, It was cool. I was happier then a pig in slop!

Statistics: -0- portages -0- paddling

Saturday August 7, 2011 (My final day on Donald Lake)

  I woke up early. It was one of those post card moment’s, the water was like glass, I started a fire to take the chill off, and I wanted to bake a blueberry muffin. I also re-did the king breakfast. Hashbrown’s, eggs, and bacon, with honey and butter for my huge muffin! Molly ate her breakfast, and managed to sneak a couple pieces of my bacon off the plate when I wasn’t looking. Cleaned up stuff and started getting things ready to go. I took many pictures of the sun coming up, and a family of 3 loons that came into my bay. A mother, father, and baby loon. The beaver was busy hauling limbs to his home, and it was the most perfect morning you could ask for.   About 7:45 am the smoke moved in . It was fairly thick and so I called my outfitter Harlan Swartz, on the phone and asked him if he could have the plane pick me up early. I told him I would leave for the pick up point in an hour. He said he would see what he could do. By about 9:30 or 10 I had the canoe loaded and ready and headed over to the Private Cabin Area called Wamserville. It had really smoked up bad. Visibility was about 200 yards. I had paddled about a ½ mile and saw something in the distance. It was another canoe. Couldn’t tell which way they were going because of the smoke. Could see NOTHING on the water, the smoke was that thick. Just that canoe, and figured out it was getting bigger so coming toward’s me. It was a solo person, I could tell with a yak paddle as he got closer. I could see it was Martin Kehoe, the guy who inspired me, the guy who talked to me about this route. Wow, I yelled at him as he approached, yell at my dog, she is asleep in the canoe and I don’t want her startled . He yelled Hi to Molly and she barked, and then figured out it was a person and ok. We held our canoes together and We talked for ½ hour or so. It was nice to run into Martin. I told him it was like on Jeremiah Johnson, at the end of the movie when the old trapper guy runs into Jeremiah cooking a rabbit on the spit and say’s “You come a long way pilgrim, sure make a mighty fine rabbit” hahaha. We talked about the fires, where we had both been, etc. I told Martin, He was my inspiration for being here. He said, “you know Paul if you were 10 minutes earlier, and I 10 minutes later, we would have never met here? Wow think about that for a minute. What are the chances of me hooking up with Martin in the middle of Donald Lake on my way out, on my last day, in the smoke, in a park that has 1.2 million acres? I asked if I could take his picture and he said sure. Away he went to meet up with some friends from the website SoloTripping. They were having a party in the wilderness and had a plan to all hook up for a nite or two. Molly and I paddled to Wamserville.   About the time I pulled into the private dock, I was greeted by children. There were 4 couples in the cabins with there kids. Like ages 5-14 like 6-8 kids. They greeted me, and Bill and Dex the caretaker’s came down also. It was like a home coming in the wilderness, and I didn’t even know these folks. They treated me so well. The kids had lot’s of questions, Where you been, what’s your dogs name, can we play with her, can she fetch, can we take her for a walk, etc. They had fun with Molly. It was like 11:30 or so, and I wasn’t sure when the plane was coming or if Harlan was able to get the pilot to come early, as I had originally told them 2 pm. Well, Dex and Bill invited Molly and I up to their cabin. Offered me a cold beer, I think it was the single best beer I have ever had, EVER! They gave Molly some dog treat’s they had there, and she liked that, and they got her a bowl of water. I felt so blessed to be welcomed by stranger’s. It was a great thing. Then I met many of the kids and folk’s staying there. We exchanged names and such, and had some good conversation. They fed me a couple more beer’s and I am eternally grateful for the hospitality I got at Wamserville, on Donald Lake.   I also saw a solo canoeist in a Red gel coat Wenonah Prism Canoe. Yelled at him off the dock and he paddled over. It was Kingfisher from Quiet Journey (that is not his real name, and Quiet Journey is a canoeing website) but we introduced each other and it was good to meet him.

 About 1:30 I hear a float plane and it lands and taxi’s up to the dock. It was Russ with Viking Outpost’s in the plane that took me to Artery, Lake. It was the 185 Cessna. We packed up my stuff into the plane, and he lashed the canoe to the float. We said our goodbye’s and let loose of the dock to take off, and the starter went out on the plane.   REALLY, the Starter went click, click, click. Russ say’s “I think the starter just went out” So we yelled at Bill and Tony and they got in a boat and came out and pulled us back to the dock. We tried to get it to go, but to know avail.   Russ asked them if they had a phone, they said no, just wireless internet, their phones were taken out by lightning. I had my sat phone, so he called the boss. They lined up another plane and a mechanic, and would be there as soon as possible. So we went back up to Bill and Dex cabin, Russ had water and I was offered another beer. So we waited, and about 4 o’clock a bigger plane, a DeHavilland Beaver comes roaring over Donald Lake, and lands, and out pop’s a pilot named Tim and a mechanic with a toolchest and a starter for the Cessna. They immediately go over and go to work on the bad starter. Meanwhile Tim starts to put y stuff in his plane, and strap on the canoe. Then the other two yell the plane is fixed, They start it, and it takes right off. We say goodbye again, and off we go to taxi out to take off. We watch the Cessna take off, and then we taxi and take off. Now if you have never been in a DeHavilland Beaver this was a 1959 model. They are LOUD, I mean LOUD. So there are ear muffs hanging there like you use for shooting guns! I put a pair on, and Molly is in the back behind a net. There is a cargo net, that seperates the cockpit from the back of the plane. She is back there with the gear. It is Loud, but she did fine.