Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

First BWCAW canoe trip of 2012 for me
by DanCooke

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 03/31/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes (EP 47)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
Looking for a trip to start my paddling year off right.
I took some time off for a quick little trip off the Gunflint trail. An opportunity to paddle so early had never presented itself before. I asked for 2 1/2 days from my engineering job Friday Morning and by 2:15 I left the Grocery store parking lot heading north. I rented a spot from Dave at Hungry Jack outfitters, to keep my family assured that all was well. Then I stayed with some friends at A. C. along the trail that night and after a great breakfast of panakukans and muffins, a last dash of Coffee and juice I was off. After catching up Brandt's at Norwester Lodge I put on the Water. A quick Crossing of the main body of the lake brought me to a narrower east west arm that took me to the Portage to Lizz Lake. A roosted Eagle was calling out as I passed by. Being a quick study I found the landing to Lizz Lake was obstructed by 200 feet of ice. After poling myself along the surface with my paddles for a while. I then got the nerve up to skateboard with one foot in the canoe, then just get out of the canoe and walk on the ice. I had to get back in the canoe for the last 10 feet or so looked a bit too thin to support my walking.

After reaching shore and taking a few pictures I was off down the Portage to Lizz. I issued myself an overnight canoe permit and dropped it in the box. By now the mist and fog was closing in, but adventure awaited me. Lizz lake had the mist blowing into my face, as the wind ebbed and flowed. The familiar landing on the other end was easy with snow to help glide the loaded canoe up onto the snow covered dirt and logs. The portage had one deadfall at waist height and a few long snow/ice covered puddles along the way. Only wolves and grouse had left tracks.

Caribou Lake was really blanketed with thick fog and occasionally the wind would kick up.
The portage to horseshoe was next as it began to sputter some rain drops. Rain fog and mist followed me down Horseshoe and onto Vista. Vista was a bit whipped up, and some icicles were hanging down off some deadfall hanging out over the water.

I started to bushwack my way back to Bunga/ State Lake, but gave up as I was getting soaked through and though with rain and snow sloughing of the trees. I figured hypothermia when all alone does not announce itself clearly. So I did an about face and headed out for a canoe trip that follows a more normal routine.

So it was back to Horseshoe and on towards Gaskin. At the landing on the Horseshoe side a drama was played out in the snow with seemingly a moose being chased by Wolves down the portage and then taking to the water to get separation. A campsite on Gaskin beckoned to me as I was dried out by my body heat from the last part of the days paddle. My family and my brother in law and his wife had stayed here more than 17 years previously.

It was melting thru the night and after breakfast camp was broke and Winchell was calling my name. Fisher Tracks on the portage were interesting to see. The day had clouds but was windless as I portaged into Winchell. With my trip changed I was free to lollygag in the east end of Winchell.

The ice was thick in the two bays on the east end.
As I travel along the south shore the sun broke out and I got out of the canoe and walked to the top of the ridge and looked out toward the south at a grassy swamp land and creek. Moose sign was prevalent among the burned out spires of the Redeye fire area.

Continuing paddling on down the south shore I could not help looking down into the water as it is so clear. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a shed Moose antler on the bottom. After I raised it up I had to place it on top of my cover to look and wonder at how it came to be there and how I could have glided over it and never seen it.

I paddled to the north shore and checked out the outflow of waters,

and then continued to a campsite that I had shared with friends after my senior year of high school. That was the only trip in the BWCA that I had taken with my sister Sherri. Lots of memories of Friends and growing up and how we are shaped by those around us and how they leave our lives. Butterflies were out in force at this sunny campsite.
I had dried out my Chotas and socks as I thought of times past.

Off to Omega Lake, the sun shone brightly and the wind had not a whisper to be felt. Omega had ice extending 50 feet or more before the springs open water was winning the battle for the seasons.

I took a few pictures, and started to pole out onto the ice, as the first little bit of ice was too soft to walk on I felt. After getting out a ways I choose to stand on the ice, one foot then the other. Took a picture of me standing on the ice,
then set my camera into the bottom of the canoe.

As my next step was being taken the ice gave way, and my arms went out to the sides as I am thinking this was stupid. The bottom eluded me so a quick scissor kick got my belly onto the ice, but it immediately crumbled away. A quick thought passes, "this is not good". Another quick scissor kick, another crumbling of ice.

Shore is getting closer one scissor kick at a time. This time I felt the bottom and got a bit higher up and further onto the ice. It held and I shuffled over to where I leaped onto the boulder guarding the portage landing. (I think some heavy bruising on my chest/near my right arm may be from my falling through)

As I was wringing out my clothes, and emptying my Chotas, the clouds obscured the sun. I put my wet socks and long underwear back on, to see how it would go for me. I poles my way to open water, and turned to take a picture when I see I had left my pants on shore. So back to shore and then back to open water.

The wool long underwear did not disappoint it kept me warm after I wrung it out, and dried rather quickly. I did not make a single campfire this trip, I do not like the after smell of campfire in my clothes.

I camped on Omega

and watched Megansers fly and swim by. Cranes has their primordial cry going over Finn Lake way. A red squirrel wanted to take me to task it seemed.
Morning came with Menacing Clouds to the west,
but the wind was from the east; still the clouds moved east. Ice Remained in just about every bay on Omega.
Henson was fun to explore shores and bays. I walked the portage to Gaskin hoping to see a moose. Moose tracks and wolf scat was all that I saw. The lakes and portages to Pillsbury and then Allen
brought me through an area where the beavers were very active and cedar limbs hooved just off the water. Horseshoe came with strong winds and darkening storm clouds to the west,
but I had to go to my favorite campsite just to take it in.

Portaging into Swamp lake brought back floods of memories of skiing the portage with groups 33 years ago, crossing this on my honeymoon, my son recounting a trip with friends. The BWCA has been a major portion of tapestry of my life.

A great first trip of the year for me. Dan Cooke