Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Opasquia 2014
by MagicPaddler

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/21/2014
Entry & Exit Point: Other
Number of Days: 14
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
This was a chance to explorer new territory. I believe Opasquia is classified as a nonworking park. The only users have been a fly in fishing resort and the local First Nation tribes. The area of the park we were in is most frequently used by a tribe from Island Lake Manitoba for moose hunting.
Part 1 of 2
According to Bing Map it was to be a 16 hour drive from Chicago to Balmertown. I had gotten an early start and was in International Falls at about 9 PM. I gave Jim a call and left a voice mail to let them know I would cross the border tonight and be in Balmertown when they got there. I got a bight to eat at a slow service bar and headed for the border. It was a good hour to cross and I was through in little time. Once in Fort Frances I headed west and the weather had turned to rain. Just before the intersection where Rt. 71 goes north a drunk dressed in dark clothes stumbled out past the middle of my lane. I was thankful for good headlight and Rainx for allowing me to see him in enough time to slow down and not even splash him. A short distance North on Rt71 I found a side road where I parked and got in the back of my car for some shut eye. About 5 AM I woke and got back in the drivers seat and headed North. I stopped at a restaurant for a good breakfast and then was on my way North to Rt. 17 thrn East to Rt. 105. As soon as I turned North on Rt501 a highway worker told me there was more than a foot of water over the bridge surface a few miles ahead. He gave me a map showing a detour that took me around the flooded road. I ate lunch at a fast food restaurant just before Red Lake. I found the airport we would be flying out of tomorrow and checked in at the motel. After looking around Balmertown I went to my Motel room and just as I was about to laid down to take a nap and herd so weird noise coming from outside. Upon investigating I forum it was Jim and Wayne. We sorted gear for a while and then went for our last non bush cooked meal for 2 weeks. The next morning at 3 AM we were up and quickly at a cold breakfast, downed a cup of coffee and were off to the airport.

Picture of the 3 of us in the Wasaya parking lot. 139 Wasaya crew loaded our gear into the plane and motioned for up to load. We got seats near the front of the plane.
Jim blinked he wasn’t asleep. 141 The transfer at Sandy Lake was by a small school bus. We were soon loaded into a float plane and were off with Wayne in the copilots seat and Jim and I in the back.
Jim and I with gear packed in behind. 161 . We were soon at Central Lake BigHook out post. We had to do a little repacking and pick up fues for our camp stove. I had had knee surgery a little over a month ago and wanted to keep my loads light so I had put my gear in 2 backpacks. I also carried one of the community packs and to make the loads more equal I moved some of the heavier items out of the community pack and into my packs. Once I had everything I was to carry in the smaller canoe I shoved off knowing that the tandem paddlers would soon overtake me. I was about 1/3 of a mile down the lake when I found the source of all the water around my feet. The canoe had a 12 inch crack with about 4 inches below the waterline. I made a quick U turn and back to BigHook. I was able to get back before Jim and Wayne had shoved off. BigHook had another canoe although it was a bigger canoe. I transferred the gear and was off again. We had about 5 miles of fairly open lake to paddle to get the first portage. We were able to get this done before the afternoon winds came up. We had about 8 miles on a wide river- narrow lake system with 3 portages around places marked SW on our maps. The wind has been out of the East and so it has been a tail wind most of the day.
One of the 3 swift water locations we portages around. 166 I forgot to pack my lunch snack in my day pack and we did not stop for lunch. We found what we called desperation camp sight. At about 4 PM we decided this was camp one. The camp has been burned. My hammock is hanging between one live tree that is at the water’s edge and a burned tree which I have supported with a guy line to another burned tree. As I get in my hammock the wind is still blowing but it is hot so the breeze is welcome. 6/22 We moved about 5 miles and found a place we could make a better camp. We are on the south side of a large island in East Lake. My hammock is hanging from 2 small trees with guy lines to support both of them. Today after the move it rained a little so we all took a nap. I went for a swim and washed clothe to get rid of some of dirt I had accumulated. Jims Lean 3 is set up facing north east at edge of camp. My hammock is facing south east and both of us have exposure to the wind. Wayne is set up in the woods. I had placed my canoe on a fairly flat place at the water’s edge by my hammock. We decided that was the only place to cook so I pulled it up into the trees in a steep rock location. It needed to be tied or it would slide back into the water. Wayne fixed up Pizza for supper and we all went to bed. 6/23 Last night the wind speed picked up and the wind blew all night. I had to add some tie downs to my tarp at about midnight. While I was up I could see Jim was having trouble with the lean 3. Wayne and I helped Jim Drop the lean 3 on top of his tent. The temperature got down into the mid 40’s and with a stiff wind and light rain it feel cold. I would be fine in my hammock and then wake up cold to find my under quilt on the downwind side of my hammock. I could reach under the hammock and pull it back into position but within an hour it was gone again. I woke up several times to reposition my under quilt, so I the morning I used a large safety pin to anchor one corner of the under quilt to the hammock. Today is planned as a layover day and we are wind bound with driving mist until about noon. Jim and Wayne were able to get out and do some fishing so we will have walleye for supper. Wind is still blowing but most of the clothes have dried this afternoon. We moved Jims lean 3 back into the woods. 6/24 We moved today and had one portage around a set of rapids
Rapids 177
Jim and Wayne stuck on a rock as soon as they took off from the portage. 180 We set up in a campsites Martin used.

Camp3 193
Camp 3. 194
Camp 3. 195 Best camp so far.
Camp 3 cooking area and marker rock. 201 .After setting up camp I paddled up a river to a set of rapids to look and take some pictures.
Rapids between East lake and the south arm of East lake.188 At 9:00 PM its hot and the sun is shining in my hammock but I rolled over and went to sleep.
Night picture 200 Center of picture is due North and was taken at 1:30 AM. I noticed that the sun was just below the horizon sneaking its way east to rise. I realized I was not in Illinois any more. The Northern lights were only visible for about 5 minutes. 6/25
Rapids mist 206 The cloud is rising from the rapids that I visited yesterday There are 2 sets rapids and you can see the mist rising from both sections and the cloud that forms where they combine. I spent the day exploring the area. I think I came across caribou dung while exploring a possible camp site. 6/26 Moving day. The first swift water we came to looked runnable if you were experienced but we are not. We checked out both sides of the rapids and there was no portage and the rock faces would make lining difficult. We explored west about 200 feet down the shore and found what looked like the start of a portage. The portage had not been used for some time with dead falls hiding the trail. About ½ way across the little peninsula that caused the fast water the makeup of the trees changed. The path was no longer visible but the woods was more open making it easier to walk. After we finished the portage in a little under a mile we came to another set of rapids but this one had a well used portage around it. I believe the First Nations run the upper rapids and portage the lower rapids. We did one more portage which took us from East Lake to Joint Lake. All of our camp sites so far have been on lakes called East Lake. We made our camp on a island near the river that runs out of Joint and into Manitoba. The day had started off calm but as the hours went by the wind came up. It took us 10 hours camp site to camp site. I am perfecting canoe spin. When the wind catches the front of the canoe and you can’t turn back into the wind Turn the other direction hard and your momentum will spin you back into the wind if you can get it stopped facing the correct direction. My hammock uses 5 trees to hold it up and the angle on the straps is about 45° to reduce the pull on the trees. I have my pack under my hammock and as the hammock settles it rests on the pack. 6/27 Jim is fishing out of the solo canoe and Wayne and I are going exploring. We are off to try and find a portage that might go to Mossberry. We found it going from the upper arm of Joint that extends that direction. It is just to the left of a little creek that is not shown on any of the maps I have seen. It is to the right of the stream shown on maps that runs from the little puddle shown on maps. This creek is difficult to see from the lake and you will probably not notice it. The portage is well used and easy to follow. We walked to the puddle in the woods and did not try to cross it. The ground is quite soft as you approach the puddle. Wayne noticed a path headed north just far enough from the puddle to be on solid ground. We suspect that this is a dryer path to Mossberry. On our way back to camp we discovered some recent rock art.
Rock art. 215 We went back to camp and ate lunch. Then it was off the the first portage on the river going into Manitoba. The portage was one of the heaviest used portages we had seen.
May have been used as a sled. 218 Opasquia 2014 MP