1st Solo-Alder/Clearwater/Mountain 2014
Day 2-Clearwater. I woke up at 6:00 to clear sky's and light wind and cooked up 2 lbs garlic mussels I had planned on eating the night before. For dessert I had bacon, eggs, and hamsteak. The canoe was waiting at the entry point when I arrived at 7. I had rented a Wenonah Prism Kevlar and once on the water I was pumped at how light and maneuverable it felt. This was my first time in a solo canoe after 16 years of tandem trips. I paddled across the bay to the portage to Caribou and Deer Lake with the cliffs of Clearwater lake to my left. As I was unloading I saw that there was some wiike(Labrador Tea) just off the landing. I put down some tobacco and grabbed a few handfuls. I made my way onto Deer Lake and accidently spooked a woman doing a solo trip of her own. I was enjoying the calm and quiet and when I said hello, I gave her a scare. A few portages on, I entered Alder lake. Alder is a beautiful lake with a large rock outcropping overlooking the west side. Set up camp and set out to catch dinner. I didn't have any luck on Alder but on the east end I heard rushing water and as the sun began to set I jumped over to Canoe lake and caught a couple eater walleye. I celebrated with a couple swigs of Jack and made my way through the twilight back to camp. Much to my disappointment, I didn't seal the cap completely and lost about half of my supply in the bottom of the canoe. I almost drank it, figuring the giardia couldn't handle the booze. I resolved to conserve the rest for celebration days and cooked up my walleye with a single tear drying on my cheek.
Day 3-Enjoy. Got up at 8:00 when the racket from the nearby swamp became prohibitively noisy. Beavers were felling trees with the high water levels. I was pleased to find it was a sunny day with light wind. I slept really well in the hammock and decided never to sleep in a tent again, when the situation provided me with the choice. It's just so GOOD! I was pretty sore from the trip in so I decided to position myself a little closer to the portage to Pine lake and do some fishing for the day. I set up camp on Canoe lake, just across from the rapids in a beautiful pine covered site (#701) with a nice fire pit and cedars reaching out from camp into the lake. I jumped back to Alder and into Peirz lake because I'd heard there were splake there. I trolled down the north side of the lake, taking in the views and checking out the campsites. I tied into one near the eastern-most campsite but lost it because I didn't continue setting the hook as I brought in the line. I was using mono and didn't realize the amount of stretch when I had the line out 80-100 ft. I made another pass around the lake and decided to investigate a strange object at the easternmost campsite. The campsite had a huge shelf mushroom and a large moose legbone around the firepit. The shelf mushroom had "Enjoy" carved into it's underside and was facing out towards the lake. I admired the firepit setup because there was a lot of nice flat slate set up just perfect for a good cooking fire. My first cast out from camp landed me a perfect splake which I later stuffed with dehydrated ramps I'd brought from home, garlic butter, and lemon pepper. I made some honeyed bannock to accompany it. It was the best meal I've had in the B-dub.
Day 4-Overdone. I broke camp early and made my way to the long and hilly portage into Pine. Met a crew of 4 on their way back and they told me that Johnson falls was inaccessible because of the high water. I was looking forward to seeing the falls but couldn't find a place to land and make the hike. I thought of following the stream that rushes through the portage back into Caribou, but wanted to claim the campsite on Little Caribou before I made my way back. Unfortunately, the gorgeous site on Little Caribou was taken and I had to push on to Caribou. I noted the "bear activity" warning on the portage and lunched over at the lovely camp #691. I decided to push through to Clearwater and avoid the bears for the evening, though it meant another hilly, wet portage and not getting to see the falls. I settled for a mediocre site (683) near the entrance to Mountain lake on the aptly named Clearwater. I didn't leave camp once I arrived, not even to fish. I threw out a few casts from shore but was too fatigued to do much more. I did get to take a hefty bag shower which felt amazing. I had a gorgeous sunset and went down with the sun. After 700+ rods double portaged this day, I settled into the hammock with Sig Olson's "Listening Point" and didn't make it more than a couple pages before I was out.
Day 5-Mino Giizhigad(A good day). I broke camp by 7:00. Overnight, the wind had switched bringing the cool Superior air out of the east. I had decided to sleep without my foam pad underneath my sleeping bag in the hammock because I noticed condensation between me and the pad on previous nights. I shivered out of my sleeping bag around 4:45am and rekindled the fire. I made wiike tea with honey and watched the trout revealing their positions topwater as the sun came up. Leaving camp, I made my way towards an eagle nest I'd spotted along the north shore. I spent an hour under the nest, hoping to find a feather (I'm Ojibwe) but all she left for me was a couple tiny tufts of downy. This turned out to be my 5th day of sun and light wind. I kept my eye on the sky watching for some puffy cumulus clouds perhaps leading ahead of some wet weather but they were nowhere in sight. The portage into Mountain was a quick 90 rods and I was struck by the beauty of the lake. The water seemed even clearer than Clearwater lake and the immense cliffs to the east and west of the portage got me pumped for my hike later in the day. I tooled around the bay, blown away that I could see 25-30' down. It was a little unsettling to see everything under me so clearly. I found the sunken wooden boat that's about 60 yards out from the landing. I camped at site 717, which is a large site with a grandfather white pine in the middle of camp. It's roots wind throughout camp, some of which have lightning scars. It was a fantastic centerpiece to a great camp that I didn't want to leave. I caught 4 lakers, 3 from camp and celebrated with Jack that evening. I made wild rice/trout chowder and had dinner twice that night. A fantastic day on Mountain Lake.
Day 6-Piranha! Largely a rest day. I slept in until 9:30, moped around camp for a couple hours, then retreated from the sun back to my hammock and napped again. Yet another day of sun and light wind! I made my way west to Watap lake because I'd read the smallmouth fishing was good. I was blown away! They were so aggressive that I had 3-4 smallies coming after my lure at a time, and they'd even try to rip the lure from the other's mouth while I was reeling them in. I snapped some pictures of the Watap cliffs and made my way back to my fantastic camp with an eater smallie for dinner. Wind stayed out of the east again. I didn't apply deet once thus far during the trip and had only one tick. The mosquitoes were absent! No bugs, along with the perfect weather and good fishing. I couldn't believe my luck. I also found the feather an eagle left for me on the Watap portage. That night I watched the sky for a couple hours, sitting against the grandfather tree. I watched satellites cruise across the sky and counted a few falling stars. I could see the light from Thunder Bay above the Canadian shore to the northeast. The loons were calling on each side of my camp, harmonizing at times, and letting the echoes bounce from shore to shore. I planned to make my way to Pemmican lake the next day and try for my 3rd species of trout for the trip.
Day 7-Trout Grand Slam. Another day of perfect weather. I got up early and made my way down Mountain towards Pemmican which reportedly held brook trout. The portage was a tough one. Lots of downed trees, mud, uphill the whole way, and this was the warmest day yet. It must have been pushing 80. Pemmican is a beautiful little lake with no campsites and the only other resident was a merganser tooling around in the shallows. I tied into a few brookies and floated Pemmican until the sun drove me back into the woods and back down to Mountain. This time the portage claimed a rod tip but the hard earned brookie was as fantastic as the first two. Having never fished for trout in the BWCA, I felt pretty great.
Last Day-I broke camp early under clear skies and began my trip back to Clearwater and my vehicle. The trip out was uneventful and I took my time, trying to soak in the scenery and the calm. I was surprised at how much I learned from doing a solo trip. From physical limitations to shortcuts with camp chores and experiencing quiet for hours at a time, I learned a lot by doing the trip solo. I knew I was ready to get back to friends and family by Thursday when I started thinking out loud. I'm looking forward to my next solo because the slower pace and calm seemed to stick with me long after the trip.
Clearwater Lake, Deer Lake, Moon Lake, East Bearskin Lake, Alder Lake, Canoe Lake, Pierz Lake, Pine Lake, Little Caribou Lake, Caribou Lake, Mountain Lake, Pemmican Lake, Watap Lake