Portage to Tuscarora
Day One: Finish the last of details at home and get on the road earlier than expected; 5:30PM. That's a first. Met a board member in Maplewood for beverage and chat then on to the first rest stop north of the cities. The ALPs mat works great in the back of the pickup and I sleep well.
Day Two: Drive on to Tofte and pick up permit there after watching the film. I knew all the answers to the quiz and got the impression it was dry and only small fires after 7PM. Oh yes, I picked up a couple pieces of Betty's Pie. Grand Marais was setting up for a weekend gig so the streets were closed off. The wind was high and waves crashing over the sea wall. I looked for souvenirs, pricey so got a pizza at Sven & Ole's and headed up the Gunflint Trail to the Round lake entry. Stopped along the way and picked a few red raspberries to snack on. Back to Trail Center for soup and salad and a nice visit with a fellow who had spent several hours getting a gallon of blueberries and reporting lots of bear scat. Back to the entry and another night in the truck.
Day Three: Up at dawn but sleepy so slept until 6:30. Had hot coffee and a sausage sandwich and hauled the gear to the EP. Wind was light as I crossed to the 142 rod portage to Missing Link. Mom and babe Loon were off to the side and another group were having breakfast allowing me to pass close without much fuss. A sand portage entrance is nice and I unload, move gear out of the way and start over with the Pioneer and my north face duffel. On the way back I get a startle as a young adult black bear runs off through the woods. The Magic and Bushcrafter make the second trip. I meet some folks with the usual hello's and round the corner to the 428 rods into Tuscarora. I make it over with the first trip but have to stop several times to allow my heart to slow down and on the second trip I set the canoe down a couple times. Nothing too steep and even the bogs and mud holes were dry, but looooonnnnnggggg. Between the two portages it was 3.56 miles with load and the same going back. My legs were giving out and Tuscarora looked mighty nice. Mighty nice but windy. Steady waves with light rollers pretty much directly out of the west. I headed along the eastern shore then across to the campsite tucked behind the island on the southern shore. It was a nice sand beach with good break from the wind. I stopped with intent to have lunch and rest awhile. The wind kept rising and my legs whining so after a short check of the site I decided to stay. There was one good tent pad, a couple on slopes or with rough roots and at least one good and a couple places to hang hammock or tarp. Steep cliffs to the west and a bay to the east. Loons fished every night just off shore where the water passed between the point and the island. There were lots of loons and their song a joy. I also had the usual mice, chipmunks and one rabbit that mad their appearance. After setting up the hammock and tarp and generally unpacking for the night I did a little exploring, found some wood and cut/split a supply. I intended to cook on my stove but wanted to experiment with a fruit compote in my new fry/bake pan. The wind died down after 6 so I went out for a short paddle and looking for berries on the islands, etc. No luck with that, but a nice evening paddle and filled the nalgene bottles and coffee pot for the night. Upon return I fixed dinner and then lit the fire. Once I had a coal base and some rocks in place the fry/bake went in. I left it a bit long so it charred, but was good. All and all a good day in the BWCA sitting by the fire watching dusk then dark set in and listening to the loons. I put the fire out early and was in the hammock by 10 and fell right asleep.
Day Four: I had lowered the hammock and forgot to allow for stretching but did not have to get up in the night to tighten anything. My UQ was rubbing against a large rock and I put a pack over the rock without getting out. I was field testing a rig to keep the UQ from slipping and it worked great. I also was attempting to stay warm using two poncho liners instead of my sleeping bag. That also worked really well starting with one then adding the other during the predawn chill. I never unpacked the sleeping bag. It was so comfy I slept in until 7 waking to a bright sun and brisk wind. Breakfast was french toast and sausage patty, hot coffee and an small orange. I did not have an appetite and put off fixing anything for awhile just walking around the trails and watching the wind on the lake. I had to go out to get some fresh water and the waves messed with the stability in the magic without a load. I had intended to keep traveling yesterday to Gillis and had reasoned a day trip that way would be okay. With the wind that seemed a hassle. And I was surprisingly tired. I spent the day messing with my gear, it seems I am always trying something new. I did some reading and after cleaning up and covering everything I took a nap. It did shower lightly on and off through the afternoon and I ended up sleeping nearly 3 hours. The wind was still high when I went out at sunset to get water and had a couple moments of stomach drop with sudden gusts. The colors were pinks and I recalled the old adage about pink sky at night... I had no appetite but did push myself to eat a cliff bar and a cheese stick. I had some flavored hot chocolate mix and that sounded and was pretty good as I watched the loons have dinner and the moon rise. I did not make a fire. I was hoping to be awake, but again by 10 I was nodding in my Helonix sunset chair so off to the hammock and another great nights rest.
Day Five: I wake up about 6:30 and get the coffee brewing and check out the lake. Nice and calm with gentle ripples. I had looked at the maps and decided not to head out through Copper and Snipe but return the dreaded route I had used coming in. I had recognized my strength and endurance were an issue and did not want to push on some of the difficult portages that route offered. I was packed and out of camp by 8:30 and paddled around the bay's on the southeast end of Tuscarora checking out campsites and the lake. The wind started picking up around 9 so I headed to the portage and over and out. It was hot and seemed more difficult that the first day. My legs ached and fought my lifting them with any load to climb. I was grateful to get back to the EP, loaded the vehicle and cleaned up a bit then headed back down the Gunflint trail. Grand Marias was filled with people so no stopping there. A burger and fries and dr. pepper in Duluth was appreciated. The drive down the north shore was pleasant with light breezes and sun filtered by the trees on the hills above. I drove until the rest stop just north of the cities and slept briefly then headed on into Iowa where I did get in the back and sleep until morning.
Day Six: I woke up at dawn eager to get home and did arrive about 7:30. Gear has been unpacked, laundry done and most gear repacked. That is also a record. I removed items I did not use and was able to get everything I need into the Pioneer pack. I will use the duffel for the rest and drop a bunch off my load.
Lessons Learned: For solos take only enough syrup, peanut butter, etc for one and that means some smaller containers. No more the containers I use for group trips. Also use the smaller fuel container. Unless it is cold I might leave the sleeping bag at home. Aging changes strength, endurance and appetite. After the first day I really had no appetite and only ate for energy. I will reflect and learn more about this as it really does effect food planning. I will do more strength training. Being flexible is okay, especially on solos.