Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

An Old Man Solo
by Canoodler

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/03/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
Three years ago I did the trip described below and now at age 71 I wanted to see if I was just as able to do it. I started this September 3 with a LaTourell tow to Back Bay of Basswood with a Quetico Basswood River entry permit. To cover any emergencies, I rented a SPOT to give my wife assurance that I was doing well. I exercised the previous months to help prepare me for the thirty-mile trip that had a dozen portages. I quadrupled nearly all of the portages. Sunday, September 2, 2012 I arrived in Ely about 2 in the afternoon and headed over to Heather and Marshall Monthei’s place. After a chat and a walk around their property we headed to Sig Olson’s Listening Point on Burntside Lake. This was a pilgrimage for me. I was awed seeing Sig’s cabin in the woods, left just as it was upon his death in January 1982.
Day 1 of 8
Monday, September 03, 2012 I was at LaTourell’s dock well before 7:30 in the morning. Even at my age and the numerous canoe trips I have taken, I did not sleep well that night. Everything was loaded and “Jeep” LaTourell’s son-in-law gunned the motor to swish us across a nearly flat Moose Lake. After the Prairie Portage check in, we roared off to Back Bay. After about ten minutes, oh, oh! the motor’s prop bushing broke and we had to troll back to the truck portage dock to get another propeller. Again we zoomed off and this time we arrived at the Back Bay portage at about 11. By one o’clock I arrived at 340 rod Horse Portage. There were several parties on the portage but all except one were day tripping with a canoe only or just walking the portage after beaching their boats at one end or the other. On the first empty trip back I glimpsed a deer rump just crashing into the woods ahead of me. Gosh that was a big deer! I’d say the top of the deer’s back was above my shoulders! I am nearly six feet two inches tall. On the third empty trip there she was again but this time she stood in full view on the portage perhaps 20 yards ahead of me. She just stood there and so did I but after a while this standoff was boring, so I started to walk toward her. After I got within 30 feet of her, she ambled off towards the river. Of course, my camera was carried over on the first load and I had no way to record this encounter. Who would ever thunk that I would encounter that doe again? I finally finished with Horse Portage at 4:30 after three and a half hours of carrying/walking and carrying/walking. I was a bit sweaty in mid 70-degree weather. The Basswood River was lower this time compared to three years ago so the rapids/falls just around the corner from the end of Horse Portage had to be portaged rather than run as I did the previous time. That time I would have classed the rapids as a class one, at best. I still marvel how the Canoe Country can change over time. Water levels go up and down, trees fall, beavers work hard while old beaver dams burst. And… our memories are fallible: I thought the portage looked different three years ago than it really was. I finally got into a camp on the Quetico side of the River at 5:45 very tired, more so than I remembered three years earlier. By dark I was in the sack fighting leg cramps which pained me for a number of hours before they let go and I was able to sleep.
View of the right River channel
Olson's Listening Point cabin