Two guys and a dog to Sprig Lake
by rtallent

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/19/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My canoe buddy,Tom, and I try to get in a trip every other summer. This year, my wife needed to travel while we were gone, so I floated the idea that we take our dog, Galli, to Tom. He said sure (having a couple dogs of his own at home in California). I was a little apprehensive, as this was an older dog and not used to canoe camping. She worked out great! I put Sprig Lake in the title, 'cause I figured that might get folks' interest (e.g., "where the %** is Sprig Lake?"). Sprig is in the Mugwump primitive management area (PMA), which is west of Little Saganaga and south of the Kek Trail.
Day 1 of 10
Thursday, July 19, 2012 Tom flies out to Eastern Iowa Airport Tuesday afternoon. I pull in (with the canoe and a car full of gear) and spot him along the pickup lane: a lanky guy already in trail clothes. [We've done trips off and on over the years ever since we both younger fools and worked summers at Sommers, the scout base on Moose Lake.] We throw in his duffel and daypack and hit the road over to I35 and north (with the obligatory stop at Cabelas to get a fishing license and look at all the STUFF... buy a couple lures). Then a little farther north to locate Nerstrand Big Woods. After some incomprehensible directions from a really friendly guy who maybe had had a few beers ("well, eerrp, ye go back and over the viaduct and take a left, no, eerrrp, here's a better way..."), we find the park and pitch camp, cook some store food and sort gear. This is an iterative process that continues on Wednesday night, after we finish the drive north and camp along the Temperance River.

Thursday morning, having gotten BWCA permit with PMA (Mugwump) permit at Tofte, we have the food and gear pared down and are ready to roll. Galli the dog has already learned about sleeping in the tent and, er, helping wash dishes (don't tell the wife...). Turns out Galli needs a lift into the canoe at Sawbill landing, but she soon learns to jump in on her own.

Not exactly an early start, but we enjoy a light tailwind up Sawbill and Kelso Lake to Lujenida. The portage up to Zenith (460 rods)is kind of long for a first day, but the trail is in fine condition and seems to follow what looks like old logging road (?) in parts. Tom is out front (he's tougher'n I am and can often go along with a 40 lb. Duluth and canoe, while I sometimes resort to double-portaging, when the front/back pack combination gets old). Our gear is in three packs (one food, one gear, and one raingear, lunch, water, etc.), so we can single pack or double pack on the tougher stuff. Paddles and rods lashed in or carried, per situation. Galli dog has her own ("Outward Hound" brand) backpack with her food, and she does fine, taking up the middle. One of the best feelings: to see that blue through the trees at the end of a longer carry! We put in and cross Zenith, portaging in and out of Duck and Hug to arrive in Mesaba about 5pm.

We take the middle camp (faces south), which is a favorite, and see no one else (since portage to Zenith), though we find out -- the next morning -- someone camped on the north site, out of eye- and earshot. Galli dog is worn out (hot day) and not taking water, so we get her in the shade with water available. She recovers, but it is a warning and we take more care to watch her in the following days; we are none of us so young, anymore.

With the canoe unloaded, we paddle out to get some firewood up away from shore and the campsite. On return, Tom whips up a great split-pea goulash and I pitch the tent (after a number of trips, we've kind of settled into doing the stuff we enjoy, and all gets done). There are a number of moose skulls/antlers about, and I wonder if this is a hunting camp in the fall (but man: to carry moose out that portage...). Still light enough to write in journal at 9:15, but then in the sack, as we usually hit some fishing around dawn.