To Malberg and beyond
7am we were up and ready, weather was great and we were well rested. We loaded up the canoes and were on the water by 8:30. The lake was like glass, there was a nice overcast whch kept the sun from poking through and made for a very peaceful 30 min paddle across Kawish. Before we knew it we were at our first portgage, a short 20 rod. Looking back I wish I had run the small rapids instead but the wife was not having it. We haven't saw anyone yet until we got to Kawaschong where some of the sites were occupied. Polly was the same, a couple canoes and ocupied sites. The lakes were like glass and very peaceful, couldn't have asked for a better start. The water levels were high and some mud on the portages, but all was good. The burn area just past Kwishiwi was very green and coming to life again. We hit Malberg at 1 o'clock, we did single portgage all day which did help cut time. We were off on Malberg which was our planned first night, the campsites we wanted were taken, so we checked other parts of the lake and decided to go back and see if any had opened up. We were lucky, the site on the west side of the lake, #1056, next to the rapids was open, beautiful site, I rate it a 4.5 star. The fire grate is right next to the water, a few nice tent pads and adequate tree cover. The weather was becoming a bit iffy so we set up the tents right away and the tarp just in case. It was windy enough to keep the skeets away so we made a nice fire, relaxed until dinner. The rain never came thankfully, just a few drops to let us know it was near. We each had our 'gourmet' mountain house, as we will everynight. We pack simple and light, and I actually like most of their dinners so it works out perfect. We looked at the map and talked about tomorrows route as we've done 10 times already, no changes, we were off to Boulder in the morning.
We were up before the sun and awoke to a beautiful foggy lake. The shore seemed to be the edge to an unknown abyss, we took some pictures and watched the water that seemed to come out of no where lap the shore. Finally the wind picked up and sun came out and lifted the fog. We had breakfast 8:30, packed our gear and were on the water before 10am. The lake was calm and skies clear, awesome. We were lucky enough to get close to a young eagle, my wife took some great photos up close just as it took off, zoom lens was worth it afterall. Our first portage to record creak went fine but then the wind hit. It seemed every corner we went around the wind always was in our face. It made the paddling slow but who's checking the time. We went by a group staying on Beaver who asked our plans and after they found out we were staying on Boulder they asked if they could have the island site the next night, we weren;t staying 2 nights so of course they could, first come first served. We made haste as there were black skies behind us and we had a little ways to go. Now the wind was at our backs, we were making good time, when I made a blunder, my first portgage miscue. We were paddling so feverishly I didn't really look at the map, just kept paddling straight. Before I knew it we were at the end of the lake, but where was the portage? It should be right here! I nosed the canoe into the grass and see what seems to be a sort of trail through the grass, but its so faint....and the water is just on the other side, 50 yds, so we must have to go through this to get to the actual portgage. After walking through knee deep water I realize that if we had gone to the right a little we would have gone around this peninsula we just portaged over. A little time lost and bruised ego, but we found the actual portgage easy enough and we were on Adams in no time. We were making good time staying ahead of the clouds, so we thought, we got a bit ahead of the other couple with us so we pulled up next to a point to wait. next thing I know we're being stalked by a beaver, he was not happy with us waiting where we were, I'm guessing he had family or something close by. Our friends caught up and we were off looking for the next portgage when bam, the sky opened up. Luckily our rain gear was at the ready. it was a bit tough navigating in the down pour but we saw the portgage to Boulder, and with the canoes on our back were off. Until....the trail ended. Yep, blunder #2. I was basically bushwacking with the canoe on my back until I gave up and asked for help to get the canoe out of the woods. Other people had obviousely made the same mistake, there were canoe and foot tracks and a slight trail but it abruptly ended, except for me. After I got help getting the canoe back out of the woods, tail between my legs, it started to rain again. We went up and down the shore but no sign of the take out. Finally I said i'm going to look at the swamp, just because we hadn;t yet. After all eyes had looked at the map no one had a clue, it should be right where we were at. As luck would have it the portage is up the beaver trail in the swamp. We had an interesting time getting over the beaver dams but we saw clear signs this was the portage. We were somewhat wet but in good spirits now that we were on the right path. We were on Boulder, finally. Now, was the coveted site open. YES, we had the island site. The rain was gone, lake was calm, we were at the island by 3:30. We set up camp and tried to find some dry wood, not much luck but my fire skills prevailed. We hung what wet clothes we had, warmed by the fire and enjoyed the beautiful view. Mountain house treated us well again. Once the bugs came out, we hit the sack and slept great after a long day of fun.
Woke up to a perfect morning again, sun was shining so we laid out the rest of our stuff to dry as we poked around camp and got bfast ready. Freeze dried eggs again, yum. The walk to Ledge was the longest of the trip and it was my turn to carry the food pack also. So with the canoe and food pack I was off. it was a great portgage with some overgrowth, but I finally got a break when we had to do a water crossing part way up the trail. The trail got extremely steep right after the water crossing, so much that I had to take the canoe to the top and come back down for the food pack. I was loaded up again and off to the races, My wife and her friend were waiting at the trail intersection so kevin and I didn;t miss it with our heads in the canoes. Finally, we were on Ledge. We saw our first humans on the portgage from Hoe to Makwa, all was good, we chatted and were off. We hit Little Sag where it was windy, our first big water of the trip. We picked out the islane site #813, awesome 4.5 star. We unloaded and set up camp, then it was time to look for wood. We hit the water and scoured the shorelines for dead trees and came back with a good amount to satisfy our needs and leave some extra. Time to go swimming! The water was crisp and hit the spot. We saw quite a few paddlers go by, hope they weren't looking for a site, all seemed to be taken. We enjoyed the view by the campfire and noticed a float plane circling overhead. I knew that wasn't normal for the BW and was hoping it didn't mean fire. When we returned home we learned it turned out the plane was there to recover a young man who perished on Makwa while cliff jumping, unfortunate accident.
Woke to a beautiful foggy morning on little sag, once the fog lifted we made breakfast and slowly packed our gear. Two days to go, we were starting our way out of the BWCA. All was going to plan, through Makwa, Pan, where we saw our first fellow paddlers. portages were fine, a little muddy in places. We did come across a left behind Kondos pack that looked new and seemed to have cooking items in it since it rattled when moved. No one seemed to be coming or going for it, so hopefully somebody didn't get too far without it. The day seemed to get long, maybe because we did get a late start and there was a fair amount of portaging to do today, short but a lot if in and out of the canoe. We made it Makwa and decided to stay in the northeast arm instead of going ahead and see if we could get our great site from monday. We found a site that did the trick, #1057. The previous occupants left a nice stack of birch that was too wet unfortunately, so we ventured off and found some dry stuff that soon had a crackling fire. We did the usual set up and relax, revisit the days adventure and tried to avoid talk of tomorrow which meant we were heading out. A few fishermen went by, they weren't having much luck but were still happy as could be. Dusk came, the bugs came out so it was time to turn in for the night.
Today was a sad day, we were heading out. Morning was typical, eat, relax, pack up. We weren't in a hurry so we just slowly paddled along. As we rounded the corner to head south on Malberg, we that someone was at out monday night site. We waved said hi to the kids who were playing by the shore. On the way back we saw a lot of people, a lot of campsites were occupied and many paddlers on there way in, every portage had a people at them, some there was a slight wait. We came across a USFS crew carrying tools in presumably for trail and site work. none of them were checking permits though. When we got to the end of the portage to Kawaschong we came across an organization that was helping a number of disables people on a trip, one was using a walker, another a wheelchair, essentially everyone on the trip needed to be carried to a degree on the portage. I offered to help but they were adament they didn't want help, Kudos to that group, they had there work cut out for them, they were doing a great thing bringing people that otherwise couldn't make it enjoy the great BW. We finally were on Kawishiwi again, the end of the lake was in site. That feeling was there, where you finally give in to the feeling of the trip ending. We saw a number of people starting their trip, took some final photos and packed up our stuff. We were now on our way back to Sawbill to return the canoes, I had wanted to stay one more night at a campground along the way but was out voted so we made the full drive back to minneapolis. The next day I unpacked our gear, cleaned it, and put it away. That night I was looking at the trip photos already thinking about where to go in 2014.