3rd Annual 4 solos trip (minus one) October 2005
Jim had gotten up during the night and increased the temperature in the room making for very cozy sleeping conditions. As a result I awoke first shortly before 7 am, well after the time we had hoped to get started. Oh well, not like we should have trouble finding an open campsite anyway. We pack up our stuff and hit the road quickly for a breakfast stop at South of the Border.
We arrive at SOB to a dining room chock full of hunters of every size and shape. One waitress is frantically trying to serve all quickly and keep the coffee flowing. We order eggs, toast and bacon or taters depending on the person. Tastes good with decent coffee-could have been a little stronger in my opinion. After chowing down we head north to the new Gunflint trail intersection that was completed a little over a year ago and head up the hill.
Many other cars and trucks accompany our three vehicles; we all have our solo canoes on board. I am first in line with my Wenonah Prism, Satch is next in his pick up with a handcrafted, homemade Cedar Stripper and Jim is third in his Taurus wagon and Bell Magic. As we head up the hill I notice the cars coming down the hill are covered with snow. Good-I would hate to have an October trip without it.
The further we go the more traffic we lose. Soon we notice we are the only cars still traveling further north and west and as we travel more snow is seen along the roadside and even on the road itself. Temp on the truck thermometer sits at a balmy 28 degrees. Lucky the sun is out or it might be fairly slippery
I keep my eyes open for wildlife. Moose, wolf and other wildlife are routinely seen on the Gunflint. None noticed yet but as I crest a hill a four-legged creature is spotted walking the roadside. This is a first for me on the trail!!! It is a Basset Hound out for a stroll without its owner in sight-must be a wild one I surmise and I wonder out loud what this sighting foretells for the trip. I determine it has no bearing and continue clicking off the miles at between 30-50 mph depending on the road. The signs along the roadside continually tell us how far we still need to go until Round Lake and finally we are there. We turn onto the gravel road toward Tuscarora outfitters and the Round Lake EP parking lot. Arriving at the parking lot we are on our own. No other cars in sight-maybe we will have peace and quiet after all. Unless, of course, others have bunked at Tuscarora or used other EP’s to get into the area.
We unpack our cars, un-rack our canoes and head down to load. I use the last indoor john for four days and fill out my permit. We all decide we will have individual permits to allow for free travel if so desired. I hit the water first and await my fellow travelers. Satch is second and Jim is third in quick order and we start across Round Lake to the easily spotted portage into Missing Link.
A nice wide sandy-bottomed portage landing is a nice change from my September trip. All three canoes can sit side by side without a problem and we unload and prepare for our first portage. I decide to take the canoe and food pack across first and head out. The Missing Link portage is a pretty portage and not too difficult. It starts out with an uphill section that is not too severe. Along the right side of the trail is a meandering stream with numerous small rivulets and waterfalls. The remaining fall colors add to make this a very pleasing portage. I make my way across and drop the canoe and pack and take a quick drink of water before heading back for load 2. Missing Link Lake is calling, but I have to wait to answer until we are all across and all my gear is back together.
Half way across I come upon Jim who informs me that Satch is struggling a bit. We discuss it briefly and decide to watch his condition as the portage continues. I leave Jim to continue on with his canoe and I keep heading back. A little further back I talk to Satch. Handling packs for Satch is no problem, but the canoe is giving him concern as when his arms are above his head he gets light headed. He thinks it might be medication related. He tells me not to worry-I tell him to take it easy and not do too much-we are here to help if needed. He continues on with his pack and I go back and grab my CCS pack to bring across.
I run into Jim and we discuss how far we should go today given Satch’s condition. Original plan was to get beyond Tuscarora, but with Satch being challenged with the canoe we think about stopping on Missing Link. I continue on considering the options as I continue the portage and reach the end. Jim and Satch catch up. Jim has completed the portage but Satch’s canoe is still back a ways. I decide to go get his canoe and portage it the last 40 rods or so for him as Jim discusses stopping on Missing Link with Satch. As I finish the canoe portage we all decide to stop and check out the campsites on Missing Link. From the portage the lake looks empty to us, so maybe all three sites are available and we can take the one that suits us best.
Jim is first on the water and heads for the campsite near the portage. He gets out and inspects it and gives it the thumbs down. Hopefully one of the other two is a little bigger with better tent pad options. I arrive at site 2 first and get out to inspect. It is larger than site 1 but the tent pads are just OK, if the third site is no better it will work, but we are hopeful site number 3 is an improvement. Jim hits the third site first and thinks it might be better, but calls me up to confirm. The site has numerous places to sit with logs and well placed large boulders. It has decent tent pads with a good view up the lake. It is fairly well protected should it get windy and there is a large supply of wood separated into 5 categorized piles based on size. This third site is chosen for obvious reasons.
We land and start making camp. Jim and I set up our tent just above the canoe landing and Satch’s tent is placed just off the trail that heads toward the latrine. We have a quick lunch and head out to explore Missing Link. The campsite is very near the portage entrance toward Tuscarora. There is a small boggy area that the portage crosses with a long boardwalk. Another nice landing for canoes is observed. We don’t cross the portage at this time but assume we will cross its 400+ rods at some point before we depart.
We all continue our paddle and as we approach the portage toward Snipe Lake, Jim remembers he forgot to fill out a BWCAW permit. Luckily, being only one fairly easy portage back to Round Lake, he decides to head back and get legal. We decide it will take him about 1-2 hours so he departs and Satch and I decide to walk the portage to Snipe to determine its difficulty. The landing to Snipe is a little tricky but better than most. The portage looks easy enough on the map. About 30 rods in on the portage is a surprise. A cliff about 6-8 feet high to climb down, that has few foot holds, especially if one has a canoe or pack on. About a 10 foot walk from the cliff is a steep granite face to climb up that is at about a 45-degree angle. We decide it would be wise to partner on any canoe and pack movement along this part of the trail.
The rest of the portage is pretty uneventful save for the tons of rocks and roots to watch for. The snow is still evident on the trail and this makes the roots especially slippery. Snipe looks like a great lake and at this point I decide I would love to head in here for a day trip at some point.
Satch and I head back and continue exploring Missing Link. We head toward the portage assuming Jim should be along soon. Sure enough as we sit in a little bay near the portage Satch sees Jim’s canoe on his head making its way through the woods. The three paddlers are reunited and continue on their exploration of Missing Link. Paddling continues until about 4 pm under sunny skies, light breezes and temps in the 40’s
Back at camp dinner is prepared. Dehydrated Darn Good Chili (rehydrated and cooked of course) with home made corn bread muffins and pudding for dessert. Thanks Jim for being the trip food organizer and cook.
After dinner we get a fire started and watch the stars, crescent moon and satellites with an occasional shooting star (at least Satch and I saw the shooting stars). We have a night cap of either Hot Cocoa with Kahlua or Hot Cider with Brandy. As always happens in October it is hard to stay up past 10 let alone 9 pm. Satch and Jim retire first and I stay up a little longer hoping for some sign of Northern Lights. Outside of the odd star in the east with a definite red and blue twinkle (not a plane) nothing else is seen. My bedtime arrives and its not even 10 yet. Maybe I’ll wake up about midnight and see if there are any Northern Lights.
Tomorrow Jim and I will take a day trip (yet to be decided) and Satch will stay around camp and paddle Missing Link- he is still a bit concerned by his portaging issues. Today we saw no one since about half way up the Gunflint. Seems odd to be one lake into the BW and have total solitude. We’re not complaining though as we suspect this will change as our trip continues.