Cold Reception at Cherokee Lake
Sunday, September 11, 2011
DAY 1 – The alarm goes off and all goes smoothly; we are at Cross Bay at 6:30AM. There are about 8 cars in the lot but we feel that we are first today. It is going to be a sunny, warm, beautiful day. As I take the canoe down to the dock area, a young lady is sitting with camera in hand. I instinctively slow down to be quiet as I think she is trying to capture a wildlife photo. She bids me a good morning and says she is there for the sunrise which indeed is only minutes away. My Bow Partner and I continue our canoe loading and shove off. Our early morning photographer graciously wishes us a good trip, we smile and thank her, and she goes back to viewing her reason for being there. We paddle to our first portage and it is as difficult a landing as I remember, compounded by the seasonal low water levels, just so many rocks to avoid or work around. The first portage is over and although an average walk it is one we just don’t care for, due to those types of landings. The put-in at Little Ham is far easier IMHO. The truth is, these portages are really met with enthusiasm, as the realization that the trip that has been anticipated for so many months is truly underway.
The portaging and paddling continue; we pass by the marker from Ham Lake to Cross Bay Lake indicating we are now in the BWCAW. As we shove the canoe off, now officially in the BWCAW, we note with a silent fond remembrance, Amok, then tip our hats and cross paddles. He was a good spirit who left us all too soon.
After checking the sky I am sure our early morning photographer back at the put in has gotten a prized photo, as the day is a beauty; we continue our paddling down Cross Bay Lake, noting its winding charm and variety of views. From large rock outcroppings to low lying marshy moose magnets we quietly paddle, taking it in. The first campsite, while very adequate, is unappealing as it seems to have a tough canoe landing and rock incline to get to the site, better suited, for younger legs. We hear noise ahead and spot a couple of empty canoes then come upon a young mixed gender group of 8 cliff jumping with their PFD’s on. They were having a great time, but we continued on our way not tempted to join them. We passed the 2nd and last campsite on Cross Bay which looks like a very nice spot but in our two times through it has been occupied and we have been unable to check it out. Onto the portage to Rib Lake, nice take out, average walk with one campsite on Rib that looks very adequate; we see an otter and smile at its antics. We paddle to a nice take-out from Rib and portage to a very tough put-in to Lower George Lake, lots of rocks and with the low water I was forced to walk out further than I like on unseen rock (this is however the curse of protecting Kevlar). Lower George is a nice little lake with no campsites to check out and slow us down further, lol. We find the little spur to the portage to Karl Lake with no problem and enjoy this area, as it has character and something different to offer.
As we are about to put-in on Karl two brothers come up from behind us and we insist that they go first as we know we are not that quick, they reluctantly accept due to our insistence. They prove to be are a well mechanized machine; each knew his tasks and quickly did them without any need for verbal instruction or cues. They were both pleasant and quickly shove off for Long Island Lake; they are gone in a flash. As we shove off I realize I have earlier tweaked the side support of my left knee. I believe it happened when I lifted the canoe over rock which was wet and slippery a few portages back; the knee was letting me know it was time to stop. Coupled with the fatigue concerns surrounding Bette, I am suspicious that our enthusiasm has led us to travel farther than we should have on our first day. We inspect the site on Karl, by the portage to Long Island Lake and it had a wonderful single tent pad area, a decent canoe landing and some kind soul left a lot of piled fire wood. Home it was and a nice one to boot. With tent up, air mattresses inflated, sleeping bags out, food pack hung, we begin to realize we have over done it and just have snacks and water and go to bed early. It is at this point I realize a big error that I have made. I have not transferred my meds from my travel pack to my personal tripping bag. I have two meds that the Docs want me on. Well nothing to be done at this time, I will re-examine this blunder in the morning.