Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park 2012 Solo (Part 2)
by SunCatcher

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/22/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Other
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
Part 2
Day 4 Wednesday July 25, 2012  ( A day I will NEVER forget!)       I awoke at 5 am to a thrashing sound in the water across the bay. I checked it out. A BULL MOOSE, Bullwinkle was just around the corner, not only that, this was a World Class Bull Moose, the kind people dream of seeing, and I AM SEEING this. He has NO idea I am here. I grab the camera and video camera and chair and head to the point to shoot some pics. He is as graceful as a swan, Big as a Hippo, and Majestic as the mountains. (almost as tall) I tried to get some photo’s but the sun wasn’t even awake yet!!! It was light out but sun wasn’t up. Ran out of batteries in the video camera and with some stealth, walked up the hill for another battery for the video camera (my last one). Got some awesome footage of a loon swimming towards my Moose, and watched him in awe for 10 or 15 minutes. Then I decided to get breakfast and build a Memorial Rock Karne to Molly. I had brought a tuft of hair I had the vet shave off her the day we put her to sleep. I had it in a zip lock and saved it for this day! I built my memorial to Molly and tucked that hair under the second rock. Said a few words, and turned around and there in the sky was a RAINBOW shooting straight out of the clouds. Not a curved rainbow, a straight one, piercing into Paul’s world. WOW, I was so moved, words can’t explain. So I made some breakfast, and decided to finish my route, what I had started 40 miles around, I was going to do the original route!! What a great morning and it was only 8 am, Bull Moose, Loon, Built a Memorial for Molly, and a Rainbow….I was feeling pretty special!    So off South I headed to the first portage on my way to Beamish lake. After a few minutes of paddling I spotted what I thought was a deer on the ridge beside me. It was a WOODLAND CARIBOU!!! I have always wanted to see one, and this my third trip, there she was standing on a granite hill side above me, grazing. She looked at me with a puzzlement on her face. (like what the heck is that) I got the little camera out and shot ONE picture and a little shaky video. I didn’t care, it took about 5 minutes of gazing at her, and off I went. Pinch me, am I in Heaven? I arrived at the first portage (50 Meters). I took all the stuff out of the canoe and pulled the canoe out of the water. Made the first carry to the next paddling spot, and my KNEE was killing me, I was like stiff and sore. I said, the “Lord” is trying to tell me something….so I carried my load back to the canoe and decided to go back the way I came and for go the 40 mile loop, I had set out to finish! It was a Happy sad moment, but I knew it was the right thing to do, and judgment calls like this are critical and actually a matter of getting out or not sometimes. So I thought about my morning, paddling past where the Caribou stood a few minutes earlier. Wow a Moose, a loon, a memorial, a rainbow, calm waters, what a Blessed person I really am.  So fortunate in all I have seen by 9:30 am for Pete’s sake!! I am paddling North and the sun is shining in the forest to the West, and I am rounding the point across from where I camped last night and what do I see, A ROOF, in the forest, an old trapper cabin. I round the bend and see a flat bladed shovel, strapped to a tree to mark the point with baling wire. So I exit the canoe, a little uneasy to approach this cabin. The roof had fallen in, but the walls were all in tack. I video a little but felt uneasy about getting to close to the door, in fear of a bear or something in there. Eventually I got up enough courage to step around to the door and snap a picture inside and backed away toward the water 50’ away and snapped a picture of the cabin. So I got back into the canoe and paddled West to go back across Haggart Lake, but departing from the portages I had missed 2 days before, so sort of a different route out. I thought a lot about all that had happened to me in one morning, and decided it was all in God’s plan to allow me to witness such a morning. I may never again, and that’s ok with me, The Lord Provides! He certainly did me. If I wouldn’t have paddled South, I wouldn’t have seen the Caribou, and if I hadn’t turned around, I wouldn’t have found the cabin, etc. What a Morning! One I will NEVER FORGET. Praise the Lord for He is Good!    So across Haggart I go, with mixed emotion’s, feeling somewhat like a failure, for not completing what I set out to do. I have Never not finished a loop, I set out to do, but as the morning passed, I thought many times of the morning, this special morning, and I am positive, that what happened to me, happened on purpose, and it was meant to be.     Now my focus was on heading towards Jester lake, but could take my time….after all I had four days if I wanted. I had passed a beauty of an island campground on some No-name lake, and decided to head for there. Charlene had said there was a 70% chance of severe rain and wind later in the day, so I set my new goal as what later became “Blue Berry Island”   Three portages 400 meters, 175 meters and 80 meters, and off to find that Island. The Lord also controlled the wind in my favor, it was calm all the way across Haggart Lake and didn’t come up till 11 pm, about the start of the first portage. I took these portages slow, and took photo’s and such. I was enjoying this day a lot.    Coming off the last portage it is a short paddle to this mystic island campsite I had passed. The clouds started building and thunder and lighting, and as I set my foot on the island the skies opened up, and light rain started to fall. I have been in this situation before, and most of the time In the bush you have little if any time to get shelter set up. So I pitched the canoe back in the woods, protected in the forest from wind, and got the packs up on the bank in a pile, dug out my Cooke Custom Sewing 10 x 10 tarp and ropes and went to work to set up the tarp. My goal was to keep ALL my stuff dry, and It was raining harder by the second. But, I managed to get the tarp up in a half hour in the rain, I was wet, but my gear was dry. So I hunkered down under that tarp and watched it rain for 1.5 hours, and contemplated my day. I sat in a my little chair and thanked the Lord for my friend Ken (nickname: butthead) I watched him pitch tarps and he taught me a lot!!! Thanks Ken for all your knowledge and willingness to help other’s! I sat out of the rain and ate some hard salami my bride bought me to snack on and crackers and waited to set up camp.    So I sat there from 3:30 till about 5 pm. Then there was a break in the rain and I set up the tent. Gathered a little wood, and blew up my sleeping pad and got the sleeping bag in the tent. ALL was DRY ? 

Day 5 Thursday July 26, 2012 (Headed to Jester lake 8 Portages to go to get there)

   Made some great Hash browns and had dehydrated some stew to smother on top. It was a wonderful meal, and I had the most awesome sunset of the sun glistening throught the clouds. I had a small fire, and ate some blue berries I had gathered earlier. Thus, I named this place Blue Berry Island. Off to bed about 10 pm. About Midnight I heard something, and was awake off and on all night. It poured and the wind blew from 3:30 am till 6 am. I got out of the tent at 5:30 and hunkered down under my tarp. Then the rain quit, I had breakfast, took my time and tore down camp. Headed to Jester lake. I actually thought about going all the way to Garner lake, but after 8 portages on the Map….I decided that to be an unwise decision. So off to Jester lake I headed. The motivation for today was to get to Jester, early and then relax. I had some awesome paddling weather, the sun came out and the wind switched to the North, and I was headed South. (Canoe folks like it when the wind is at their back ?) One thing I will never forget, I was paddling down this little winding creek, and came to a 100 meter portage, and then back on this little creek for a half mile or so, and it opens up onto a lake. I was videoing the creek, and shut it off and put it away before crossing the lake, and as I pulled out of the mouth of the creek onto the Lake, this Bald Eagle was shaken up by my presence and I did not see him and he did not see me, He took to flight right in front of me 10 feet away, and it was so loud, his wings flapping, it scared me, and I turned and there he was. I will never forget that Eagle.    Off to Jester, and I decided not to stay on the same island, but find the other island campsite. I got to the island on Jester about 2:30 pm with a fairly strong wind at my back. The island is in the South Central Part of the lake, and is fairly open to the wind. I remember paddling around to the South end of the island to get out of the wind for exiting the canoe. I tied the canoe to a tree, and took my gear up on the top of the Island. It was a 5 Star spot for sure!!! Up high, nice view, shade, ventilated, and great view’s of all sides. Nice fire pit, nice kitchen area, flat spot for the tent on a plateau in the middle of the top of the island. Wow what a nice place this was!!!!! I was hungry, so I made some flat bread (bannock) sort of, out of a mix it was cheese and garlic and I had some butter and oil in a fry pan and spread the dough out like a pancake and browned it on one side, flipped it an browned it on the other, smothered it in HONEY, and broke it with my hands and devoured it! I was happy as a “pig in slop”    I then dug out the hammock and looked for a shady spot, and commenced drying out my wet tent and tarp from the rain the night before. Wind howling, sun shining, it didn’t take long, and all was dry. So I set up the tent, and rested in the hammock. Dinner tonight would be goolash. There was plenty of wood there for a fire, so I just had to cut it up some. I had a wonderful call to Charlene, she said weather was supposed to be good tomorrow, and I told her I may stay on the beach site on Garner lake tomorrow or head out, depended on the wind, but it is 13.5 miles out from my island home on Jester Lake.    I had the most beautiful fire, then kind they put in pictures on camping ads and magazines. The moon came out early in the day, and set early, and the stars were so close and so big and so magnificent, I felt like Abraham, and thought of God’s promise to him, of having as many decedents as the Stars in the sky, and I was deeply moved. I was feeling so fortunate to be able to do what I had done, and so blessed to be able to participate in such a wonderful place and witness to all God’s creation….words can’t explain how I felt. I also knew that if the weather was good, I was going 13.5 miles out tomorrow. But, would play that by ear. It took me 11.5 hours to get to Jester on the way in, and that is a long day, since I had been up since 4 am the first day, so was not sure how that would go. I had 3 tough portages to Garner lake, and a 10 mile paddle out to the truck. I tool LOTs of pictures and video that day, and had a wonderful day. Went to bed at 11 or so, and woke up at 1 am and started a fire, and went back to bed a 2:30 am. 

Day 6  Friday   July 27, 2012     (Headed to Garner Lake)

   Morning came early 4:30 or so, I wanted to watch the sunrise. I was rewarded well for this decision. I had a red ball rising over the tree tops with a mist and fog dancing across the water. Wow what a morning! The haze was so thick in the sky, and the mist danced across the water, with elegance. The Sun was spectacular as it pierced through the tree tops as a glowing red fire ball. I took a lot of pictures and video. I had been reading the bible in my hammock the afternoon before and decided to do a video clip shooting into the fog, reading Psalm 148. I made breakfast and quickly worked on tearing down camp. I had three portages, and wanted to get and early jump on them. The first was 825 Meters (about a half mile) followed by a 225 Meter, followed by a 300 Meter. Then I would end up on Garner lake, with 10 miles back to the pickup. It all hinged on the wind, and the ability to cross Garner lake. If it was windy, I would shack up on the beach on Garner lake and paddle out the next morning. 13.5 miles left to the truck.     I was feeling very emotional on this morning, I had just witnessed some really touching misty fog dancing across the water, and an out of this world sunrise, and was headed for the take out. It is a Happy /Sad feeling, knowing you have to leave the elegance and beauty of the wilderness, but knowing all journey’s must come to an end. I thought a LOT about my family, my Lord and Savior, all I had experienced on the trip, my friends, my Dad who is gone now, and many of the folks who have had an influence in my life, like my Aunt Ellie, who had just passed and Uncle Gary who my hero, and Russ Endicott and Betty who were like parents to me, and Les and Faye Lukert who took me camping and fishing and were another set of folks who I really missed. So I had all this emotion, and the task at hand for the day would be tough portages, (as I had done these already and knew what they were like) and I thought of my wife and kids and grandkids, and how glad I would be to see them and hug them and touch them and talk to them.    Off I went, with a gentle swish of the paddle, gazing back at my home on the Island on Jesster lake, where I had a wonderful time, and a relaxing afternoon the day before. As I paddled South, I thought about my parents and how they instilled in us kids, the love of our Savior, and how fortunate I am, to be able to go and do something like this. It was just a very moving morning for me.    I got to 825 Meter portage ripping and raring to go, and it was cool out, like 60 degrees, and I put the big pack on and headed on the trail through the forest, and then rising up the hill of Granite to the Apex of the trail and over a 200 yard granite hilltop, following the rock piles as markers, and down through the low bog of rift raft and muck, and back up another granite hill, and down the trail descending back into the woods to the next landing. On the way back to get the other pack and canoe, I took my time and took some pictures of nature and a Caribou track in the mud, and mushrooms, and flowers, and moss covering the forest floor, and it was an enjoyable walk back.     After the 825 portage you are on a gentle flowing creek, going with the current now, I was making great time, and it was all down hill (in general). Paddling swiftly to the next portage and seeing some awesome mini waterfalls, I approached the 225, and swiftly danced across this portage, and then there is a small creek again to the 300 portage and soon I was there, with all my gear. I double portaged all these portages in fairly quick pace. I landed on Garner lake at the entry to WCPP, and the wind was right in my face at about 8 -10 mph but I was crossing and heading back to Beresford lake. So after resting for 15-20 minutes and eating a snack, off I headed on Garner lake, heading due West. It is about 4 or 5 miles across the lake to the entry of the creek that leads down to Beresford, I paddled with a passion, and was now thinking of a shower and a cold beer and Steak. Wow, was thinking of a bed to sleep in, and ice cubes, and cold water from the tap, and talking to someone ?. So off I headed, West to “civiliazation”.    I stopped on the East end of Garner at the same spot I stopped on my in, and had lunch. I took a 30 minute break and laid my head on my life jacket and gazed across the lake, and reflected on this glorious trip. Then I packed up, and headed down the last five mile stretch of creek, and entered onto Beresford lake, and headed North to the take out. I was going with the flow now, and was on a mission to get to town.     As I approached the boat ramp, where I had put in and left the truck in the parking lot there, A young couple in a boat pulled up about the same time, they had just followed me back from Garner lake, and had been camping there for 5 days, they had a dog, and we talked as they unloaded all their gear from their stay, and I unloaded my stuff and packed the canoe on the truck. It was the first folks, I had talked to in six days, and they were so nice, and so full of questions, and I could tell they were madly in love, and I was so happy they shared this experience together. We said our goodbye’s and I just jumped in the truck with wet boots and pants, and headed to the forest road.    I had thought about going North out of the Beresford camp, it would take me to the town of Bissett, 24 miles of gravel, if I went South the way I came in, it was 47 miles of gravel, so I headed North to Bissett. I thought of getting a room there, but it is a “tough looking town” and the Hotel is called the San Antonio, it looked like a place right out of a Clint Eastwood Western. Rooms upstairs, and bar downstairs, I pulled up and decided not. There was a little motel across the street that looked clean, but I opted for driving West and then South towards Winnipeg.    The reason I headed North, was I thought the road from Bissett would be paved, it was more gravel, and sort of a logging gravel road. Tough road, but I headed West about 40 miles or so more of gravel. I stopped along the road and took off my wet boots and wool socks and unzipped the legs off my pants to make them into shorts. I cranked up the Music and had bottle of water in the truck, and was determined to stop at the next town and have a COLD BEER and a snack. The town was Manigotagan and it was two miles North off the road. There was an wooden two story hotel there, and it said “cold beer”. So this was what I was looking for. I pulled in and walked in and I and the bartender were it. I had a Kokanee bottle of beer and a bag of barbecue chips. I think the first beer you have after a trip like this, is like manna from heaven.    After a short stay and a 20 minute rest, I told him thanks, and headed South along Lake Winnipeg. (Which is a Huge lake) the road follows the lake, but you can’t see the lake for the forest. It was a bumpy blacktop road, but it was much better than the gravel. I headed South and stopped at 6 pm and called Charlene with the Sat phone, as I had no signal on my cell phone. I told her I was out of the bush and headed to find a motel and would call her when I did.    So I continued driving another hour or so, until I came to a crossing where the Winnipeg River dumps into Lake Winnipeg, and there is a big hydro electric plant there. A little further south at a junction in the road was a motel with food and a bar, and a little gas station. I was tired and decided this would be home for the night. I was about 1.5 hours North of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Went in and got a room, and drug in the needed items. Climbed out of my “woods clothes” (I must have looked and smelled like a hick from the sticks). I shaved and jumped into the shower. Lathered up about 3 times, and soaked and soaked in the shower…what a feeling that is, after six days in the bush!! Slipped on some CLEAN clothes, and headed to the bar for a cold brew. It was about 8 pm or so, and I got to chatting with some local’s and bought them a beer, and they bought me a few, and next thing I know it’s 9 pm, so I decide to go to get some grub, and the restaurant said they close at 9:00  !!!!!!!! What NO STEAK !!!!! So I drove a block to the gas station I saw, and they had broasted chicken, you know what that looks like at 9 o’clock??? Well I got three pieces of that, and some chips and headed to the room. I glanced over some video I shot, and fell fast a sleep.

Day 7 – Saturday July 28, 2012 (Headed Home)    I awoke about 7 am but was in NO rush to leave, I knew I had about a nine hour drive to Sioux Falls, and had to go through customs back into the US. I was tired and just watched TV a bit and it was a “hard to get going morning”. I felt “rode hard, and put up wet” as my friend Luke used to say. So I took my leisure time about it, and headed over to the gas station and got some donuts and a milk to tie me over, and headed South to Winnipeg. Looking for the first McDonalds I could find, as I had a craving for a Sausage Mcmuffin with Egg and a Mickey D hash brown ?.  I got this accomplished and headed to the border, really un-eventful crossing, other than I counted 4 lanes of about 40 cars and trucks all headed into the USA.     I crossed with little problems and was headed to Sioux Falls, SD to meet up with my wife, kids and grandkids. On a mission to get there, it was hammer down I-29. I arrived at about 5:30 and Nick and Amanda and the kids were waiting. We had burger’s on the grill, and Grandma Charlene arrived after dinner. Wow, what a feeling to be greeted by hugs and kisses from your grandkids!!!  I sat with them both and got lots of attention, and we watched video of the trip and I shared stories of the “trail”. I got a big hug from my bride, and we went to bed early. She was headed to Florida in the morning and I headed home. So this was a Happy Ending to another great solo trip!

Final Thoughts:    I am really taken in, by the wonder, beauty and solitude of solo canoeing and the Boreal Forest of Canada. It is hard to explain the allure of it all. Going solo is not for everyone, and it is not something you should do un-prepared or without prior knowledge. The wilderness is an amazingly majestic place, and you see things there, and witness things, you will never see anywhere else….but mother nature can throw you some curve’s. Like high winds, massive rain storms, slippery trails, going from beautiful to nasty in a few minutes without much warning.    The thing is, that it is an awesome place, and with proper planning, and gear and knowledge, it is a safe place to be. You have to use common sense, and watch every step on the trail and portages, and not make poor decision’s, especially alone.  So I cherish the forest and lakes and streams, and especially the encounter with the wildlife. Where else can you witness Bull Moose, Woodland Caribou, River Otter’s, Wolves howling, Eagles around every corner, turtles, Creeks, and Stars so close you can touch them! The Sunrise and Sunset’s are things dreams are made of, and the stillness and noise both are quite an allure.    So six days in the wild, not to see another human, on your own, is quite a feeling, and something I truly enjoyed. It was nature, a paddle and a canoe…. I must say I quite like it! The challenge, the raw beauty, the calm, the rain, the wildlife, memories for a lifetime and stories for my family and friends. Oh and the love I have for Canada and the people there, they are so friendly and genuine. I do cherish the people I meet there. Most of all I have been blessed by parent’s that raised us to be self sufficient and to live our dreams, and a VERY understanding wife!! I love you all! I also have made numerous great friends from the “paddling community” on website and Quiet Journey. They are truly a great bunch of folks, who have helped me immensely. A few I would like to personally thank are Jan Johnson (kanoes) as he has been a real inspiration to me with the trips he has done. Also Ben (nctry) as he has become a very good friend and a real solo fanatic, and Ken (butthead) for his wisdom and woods knowledge and the little things he has helped me learn that have helped me out, and Wayne (dentondoc on QJ) for giving me some pointers. Most of all I want to once again thank Martin Kehoe (Martin) for inspiring me with his stories, presentations, and video’s of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, If not for Martin, I would never have discovered this great place.     I am so fortunate to be able to do this sort of thing, and so very blessed. 

I am Truly Blessed,      Paul Kolterman   (SunCatcher on