Southern Quetico - Around the Horn
Upon arriving at the beach to Burke Lake, another solo tripper caught up to me. He was paddling a Wenonah Encounter, and we ended up pushing off at about the same time into a brisk wind, both headed to North Bay, where he was going to camp. I planned to keep going to Isabella Lake. My goal was immediately to keep up with the Encounter, if I could. Slowly though, the Encounter pulled away up the length of Burke. By the time he made the end of the lake, I estimate he was 1200 to 1500 yards ahead of me. Since he was using a single paddle, and making a lot of correcting strokes, I think the margin could have been more. He seemed to be zig-zagging from time to time, fighting with the wind. I took a more curving route towards the west shore, hoping for a bit of a wind shadow there. The Encounter was making a bee-line for the north outlet.
North Bay was ferocious. Stiff wind in the face, but no whitecaps, thank goodness. The Encounter guy checked several campsites on the north side of the lake, but I couldn’t see where he found one. I lost track of him.
Once making the portage into the no-name lake heading NE towards Isabella Creek, my spirits were high. Then came Isabella Creek – a meandering, swampy stream that I was to pass against the current, and into the wind. After a couple bends, I was wishing I was in my old Argosy. The Prism handled like a freighter. Getting up a head of steam on straight-aways made the sharp bends even harder to make. A lot of the forward motion required getting out of the boat, and towing it. When I arrived at the lake side landing of the portage from the creek to the lake, I met 4 guys who were leaving after 11 days in Quetico, having made the Agnes-Kashahpiwi loop reverse of what I was planning. Like the outfitter, they cautioned me about the portage between Side and Kashahpiwi lakes. The older guy (father?) looked ragged, and said he wouldn’t do that portage again for anything, and was looking forward to getting back home.
There are 2 campsites marked on my map on Isabella Lake. I didn’t see any other likely spots on the east end of the lake, so I headed straight for the site showing just west of the narrows. It was occupied by...Encounter guy! I paddled on and took a site across from the portage I would be taking the next morning. It was a decent site, and by the time I got camp set up, I was looking forward to that first mountain margarita. The bugs were bad¸ but my suffering was abated by the wind. I retired early so I could get an early start.