Mid September 2013 on #32 S. Kawishiwi River
The final stretch of the river heading back to the entry point seemed like it was twice as long as when we went in. There isn’t much to see on the way back. Right before you get to the entry point, there is a fork in the river with a campsite. We took the wrong way and tried to loop back around the islands to the entry point. Unfortunately, the rapids and rocks were too much for us to get around so we had to backtrack around the island. I was mad at myself again for costing us another 30 minutes. This was my second navigation error of the trip. I think since the route is all river, it was harder because you had to make sure you weren’t missing a fork in the road.
At the entry, we saw a middle aged man with a high school aged boy and girl who I assume were his kids. We also passed two guys from the Minneapolis area who were carrying the canoe together with all their gear in it. The portage was a half mile and I actually passed them again on my return trip to get the last of the gear. It looked difficult to me but they didn’t have large portage packs and were carrying a bunch of little stuff in the canoe. I thought it was kind of odd that with only two permits per day available, both groups were coming in at the same time. It didn’t seem to take too long to get our gear loaded up and hit the road. As soon as I got to my phone, I had to turn it on and see what the markets were doing. There was big news that week that moved the markets up against me pretty hard. At least I had some longs to counter it.
It was around 2 when we left the entry point and dropped our gear off at Cliff Wold’s. I had assumed that we would take a shower at their campground before hitting the trail but dad said that we could just hit the road and take a shower at the motel tonight. Compared to last year, I didn’t feel nearly as dirty and didn’t really need a shower at that moment anyway. I still looked like a dirty savage with my jeans black with dirt, my half grown beard and a shirt with a few large stains where the sunscreen leaked on it. I wouldn’t say I smelled bad but as a friend of mine once said, you get that musky wild boar scent that actually smells good to yourself. If only I could bottle that stuff. I think most guys know what I am talking about.
We still needed to eat so I was hoping again to try out one of the local places. Rockwood and Britton’s were closed and dad didn’t seem to want to look for another place so we ate at Dairy Queen. I wanted to get going too but still wanted to try out a local place. At DQ, the girl at the counter was really nice looking. Tall, dark haired and thin. She might have had some Ojibwa Indian blood in her to give her that nice exotic dark look. We got a hamburger and some ice cream and just relaxed for a while. I guess you would say that the only reason we had time to relax was because it took 10 minutes to get our Blizzards made. This gave me time to catch up on all the news that I had missed out on for the past week. It is amazing what all goes on in the world when you have been away for a while. I didn’t miss it one bit though. While I was away, I learned that the markets went higher, that the pope is now in favor of gay marriage and abortion and that there was a shooting in Washington D.C.
I went to the bathroom and when I looked in the mirror, I realized that I hadn’t seen my reflection for 5 days. I was proud of how dirty I looked. We got done eating around 3 and when we went outside it felt freezing cold. The outside temp was 52 degrees but eating that ice cream really made it seem cold.
We headed west on the main drag through Ely and I gave dad my Gopro to take video of the town so that if I make a video of my trip, I can put that in there. The ice cream we ate was a little too much and it was all I could do to eat the large Blizzard. For as long as we were in range, we listened to one of the radio stations in Ely. I think it was called “End of the Road Radio.” They were just talking about new changes to their website and some local news but for some reason it was interesting. It reminded me of public radio and how life seems simple. It was lightly raining on us for about 3 hours just enough to be an irritant. I would turn on my wipers for a minute and then have to shut them off.
Somewhere northwest of Duluth I got a call from my friend and fellow mountain man, Kyle, who wanted to know if I wanted to go to the Nebraska vs. South Dakota State game on Saturday. I told him that I needed to run the logistics of it but that it sounded like it would work. When I calculated where I would be tomorrow to meet up with him, it seemed to be that I would be in Lincoln about the same time that Kyle would be arriving. I told him that I would plan on going to the game. With this in mind, we decided to try making it to Ames, IA. As we got closer to Minneapolis at around 7, it was a solid line of traffic for mile after mile heading north. It was a mass exodus from the city. A guy who audits our bank told me that there is a lot of technology money in Minneapolis and that a lot of those people have second homes in the northern part of the state. My guess is that these people were heading north one last time before the weather starts to turn too cold.
Going through Minneapolis this time was easy compared to when we came through the week before. South of Minneapolis we ran into about 20 miles of single lane road construction which had us going about 10 mph. It took forever to get through that stretch. We listened to public talk radio because there wasn’t much else going on. The program was about Liberace the piano player. I don’t know why we listened to it because it just made me frustrated with the way this world is headed.
We got to Ames, IA around 11 Friday night and decided to stay at the Super 8 that we had stayed at one other time. The red dot Indian at the counter who probably owned the place hardly spoke a word of English. I should back up and say that earlier when dad was calling motels to see if they had any rooms available, he asked if there was an Iowa State football game in town. If there was, it would be hard finding a room. Both of the motels that dad called had an Indian answer the phone and neither knew if there was a game in town. I couldn’t believe that a motel owner wouldn’t know if a game was in town. Shouldn’t they be able to tell that their motels get booked up when a game is in town? I guarantee motel owners where I am from know if an event is going on that they will be booked from. This motel smelled absolutely horrible. I’m not sure if it was the air conditioner that made the room stink, if someone had fixed Indian food, or if someone was dead under the bed (I forgot to check). We got used to it after a while but it was disgusting.
No matter the motel, I think I would rather sleep outside or in a barn because they are much cleaner. People are just disgusting. I’ll never forget the time about 8 years ago when dad and I were looking for a place to stay in Spearfish, SD. We passed by a motel that was being renovated and stopped to see if rooms were available. Outside the motel was a group of 4 people drinking beer and smoking cigarettes around a fire pit. They evidently managed the place. We asked the woman how much a room was and she looked back at the group to see how much beer they had left. She responded, “how about $20?” and we took the deal. The place was a dump but for $20 you can’t complain too much. I just laugh at some of the crazy things I experience sometimes. If I were by myself though, I would have just slept in the vehicle along the interstate with all the other drifters.
Saturday morning we had a good breakfast at the motel and hit the road again. Outside of Lincoln we got into a traffic jam of people going to the Nebraska game and also a 5 car wreck. Nebraska didn’t look very good but but they still won 59-20. In front of us was a woman from SDSU who was not afraid to show off herself. She had on the really short jean shorts where the pockets are longer than the shorts and hang out the front. Her shirt was a low cut tank top that let everything hang out. After the game, we all talked for another hour and were some of the last ones to leave the stadium. The janitors and some of the SDSU players and fans were the only ones left. A security guard actually started going around telling people they needed to leave. I got home around 11:30
The total trip was 1671 miles to Ely and back and I drove about 1000 miles of it. We spent about $180 on motel, $300 for the canoe rental and permits, $40 for food and $300 for fuel. This doesn’t count any of the gear, supplies and food we had already bought. Total portaging distance, not counting the times we double portaged was 2.2 miles. Counting the double portaging which was mostly on the first big half mile portage, you could add another 1.5 miles or so for a total of 3.7 miles portaging the canoe and three packs of about 150 pounds of gear. Total paddling distance was 31.1 miles as the crow flies but we probably paddled another 5 miles fishing around and exploring areas.
Some final thoughts are that, for some reason, this trip didn’t seem as fun as last year. Perhaps it was because I was expecting to catch more fish. The mosquitos, rain and wind didn’t help either but it was still a memorable trip. People think I am crazy when I tell them that I go on vacation to work so hard physically. Most would rather go somewhere to be entertained and just take it easy. Half of the fun in going to the BWCA is knowing that you are actually accomplishing something that most people wouldn’t dare to try. Men have turned into women these days. Unless you have been to the BWCA, you will have no idea what you are missing out on. The scenery, isolation and adventure is something you won’t find too many places. As far as next year, I would like to go again and possibly in the spring to catch fish but yet I would also like to go somewhere different too. This was the third year in a row going to Minnesota. I would love to go to the south, Canada or maybe Glacial National Park.