Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Flirting with Wabakimi
by FOG51

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/16/2014
Entry & Exit Point: Other
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
This was pretty much a spur of the moment trip. In fact, from the time I decided to go until I was on the road was only 4.5 hours. That included stopping at Walmart for food. I worked 3 – 12 hour night shifts prior to leaving. I was here last in 2009 and with boats. I was going to Wapikaimaski Lake (Wapi) via Harmon Lake. Both lakes are in the Bright Sands P.P. but go 200 meters inland you’re into Wabakimi Park. I had been up the Graham Road 3 weeks prior but couldn't find the logging road that leads to the portage but with the GPS coordinates @jeavenagh sent me, I found the road easily. I still can’t believe that I drove by the logging road on the way north and then missed it going south again.
Day 1 of 4
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (this also includes trip planning and the drive to Harmon Lake portage)

I drove all day and got to the border in the wee hours of the morning. The lady at the border couldn't believe that I was alone, had no guns, mace, pepper spray or other bear deterrent. Got to Upsala, Ontario about 5 a.m. Slept in the truck until the gas station opened at 7am. My camping permits (Crown Land) and my angling license (they are angling license, not fishing license in Canada). Headed up the gravel logging road north to Graham and beyond. Light rain falling the road was in great shape, averaged about 40 miles per hour. Met with a few logging trucks headed south, all loaded with 8 foot logs and followed a few empties headed north. Crossed the Bright Sands bridge and the road got considerably narrower and rougher. Had to slow down to about 20 miles per hour for the last hour on the road. 2-3 rough areas that I simply stopped, shifted into low gear and let the truck idle through. No need to shift into 4 wheel drive, unlike years ago when we would drive the whole 75+ miles in 4 wheel drive. Found the short logging road to the top of the portage without any problem. Had a cow moose run ahead of the truck on the road but too far away for a decent picture. Saw a few snowshoe rabbits and a couple of chipmunks zip across the road. Also saw a bunch of grouse or spruce hens on the road. The portage hadn't changed much since I was there last, lots of mud and rocks at the top, smooth slick rocks with standing water in the middle and a short rocky hill at the bottom. No other vehicles around but four wheeler tracks in the mud where the guys had pulled their boats up the portage, probably made on the weekend. Shoved off into Harmon about 11 a.m., still a light mist but no wind. Weaved in and out of islands to the Wapi portage. It took about 2 hours. Water looked about normal fall height. Saw several sand beaches and took a couple quick pit stops on two of them. Saw some old moose tracks and possibly a set of old woodland caribou tracks. Lots of geese flying, saw three or four big flocks and heard several others. The portage into Wapi bypassed a small falls and two sets of rapids. We used to rope our boats down the rapids but I played it safe and double portaged. The portage is in good shape and fairly short with a little ankle deep water in the middle. Slippery rocks on the Wapi end and a poor place to load the canoe. Paddled down the river after finding a 5 of Diamond Daredevil snagged on a sunken limb at the portage and a chrome Reef Runner washed up on the bank. When I turned out of the river to head north up the lake, Crown Island stood visible about 10 miles away and it's only about 2 more miles to camp. The sun had come out and the wind was just a light breeze but directly in my face. I ducked and weaved through the islands to avoid as much wind as possible, getting to camp about 6:30 p.m. Finished setting up camp by headlamp. A dry bagel and a drink and crawled into tent at 8 p.m. to the sound of rain on the tent.