2016 BWCA solo loop Kawishiwi Lake - Alice - Fraser - Boulder - Malberg - Kawishiwi Lake
Friday, 9/9, Day 10: The rain never came last night. It was a nice morning with a little fog on the lake, the sun rising in a clear eastern sky, but some high gray clouds moving in on a west wind. The morning was cool, but not cold. I paddled around Polly after breakfast and coffee to some parts of the lake I hadn’t seen. I paddled down the east arm towards the Phoebe River and back, then into the bay to the west/northwest. There were several other people out and about. I headed back to camp for lunch and made myself a cup of coffee, which I promptly spilled. That really frosted me as I had just enough left for dinner, cereal and coffee in the morning. I filtered some more. It was a nice day, warm and sunny with a light wind. I opened the tent and packs to air out. By mid-afternoon the dark enemy began massing its forces and advanced from the northwest. I closed the tent and gathered things under the tarp. I could hear the crackle of lightning and the boom of thunder approaching. Suddenly there was a strong rush of wind, a deluge of rain, and lightning a little too close for comfort. I kept a wary eye on the northwest sky. It poured rain for over two hours. The tarp was low enough to keep it from blowing in too far, but not high enough to stand up. Water began to fill the low spots and I watched my “island” shrink. Almost as suddenly as it came, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I looked around and there was the most vivid rainbow I think I’ve ever seen to the northeast and a second less vivid one behind it – a double rainbow! I opened the tent, fixed dinner, cleaned up, stashed the food, and just wandered around for a while before heading to the tent. It’ll be pretty nice Saturday and Sunday, so I’ll start heading out tomorrow. I’m not sure how far I’ll go, probably to Kawasachong.
Saturday, 9/10, Day 10: The craziest day of the trip! I was only going to Kawasachong today and exiting tomorrow, so I took my time drying off the tent and the tarp, and having another coffee before packing. The tarp was the last thing I packed. I had pre-rigged it on a ridgeline system with the CCS ridgeline stuff sack. I had also pre-rigged guy lines – three on each side. I released those and wrapped them up with “hair things” before stuffing it into the stuff sack, and then untying the ridgeline and wrapping it up with “hair things”, and storing in the stuff sack. While I was packing up the tarp, one of two canoes fishing hundreds of feet away from camp worked its way into about fifty feet off the front, but since they didn’t catch anything by the time I finished - it didn’t take long – they worked their way back across the lake?. I launched about 10:15 and headed southeast between the islands at a leisurely pace, aiming to follow the peninsula south to the next-to-last campsite before heading southwest to the portage to Townline. Just as I reached that campsite and turned toward the portage, a man came down to the shore and called out, “I’m alone”. An odd thing to say, I thought, but I was solo too, and I called out over my shoulder as I paddled on, “me too, enjoy your solo”. He said something else which I didn’t quite hear - I didn’t have my hearing aids – and when I looked back he was motioning me to come back. “Do you need help?” I asked. “Yes”, he called out. I turned and paddled toward him, noting that he didn’t seem to be injured. He told me he was stranded, that he didn’t have a canoe. He and his partner had a “tiff” this morning and his partner left him there and went ahead to finish the trip. He asked if I was going out to Kawishiwi Lake today and I replied that I wasn’t planning to exit until tomorrow, but I could. He said he was OK for a day or two – he had shelter, food, and clothing - but could I have somebody come get him when I did. I wondered who I could have come get him and he said Sawbill Outfitters, which is where his buddy rented the canoe. I noted the campsite he was on, took down his and his buddy’s names, and headed towards the portage. I figured his buddy would come to his senses and be back to rejoin him soon. I really didn’t want to end my trip a day early and I contemplated the situation as I continued toward Kawasachong. It was a nice day, but a little windier than I had thought it was going to be, mostly a quartering wind from the rear. I saw quite a few people paddling and portaging today. I finally decided I should exit today and go to Sawbill to see what could be done. It was probably going to be too late to do anything today, but they could get an early start tomorrow. I landed at Kawishiwi about 2:30, unloaded, retrieved my car, loaded the canoe and gear, changed out of my wet dirty boots and clothes, and headed for Sawbill Outfitters, which I figured, was 15-20 miles away on USFS roads. I arrived at Sawbill Outfitters and walked up to the desk to make my report. He was flabbergasted and soon we were surrounded by other employees. I gave him the names and verified the campsite on the wall map. Mrs. Hansen joined the congregation pretty soon and the story was repeated. She said there was a USFS crew in the Malberg area and she called the USFS office quickly as it was just a couple of minutes until their closing time at 4:00. The USFS said they would be in radio contact with the work crew and have them check on him in the morning. I got a campsite at Sawbill Campground for the night since my other arrangements were for my planned exit the following day.
Sunday, 9/11, Day 12: I packed up and headed for Grand Marais after a leisurely morning at the campground. I returned the canoe to Sawtooth Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail and headed north to Grand Marais. First stop: Java Moose for coffee and a big ice cream, then on to Nelson’s and a much needed shower. A text from Jenny said she and her friends would be there around 7:30 for dinner at My Sister’s Place. They were going to hike a section of the SHT. We enjoyed a nice dinner meeting and then they were off. Monday, 9/12: I spent this day doing laundry, drying some gear, and taking a drive out the Arrowhead Trail and doing a little hiking. I had dinner at The Angry Trout and read a little before going to sleep. I left the next morning to return to West Virginia. The return trip was uneventful.
Postscript: A month after my trip – Sunday, October 9th – I had a heart attack, an angioplasty, and two stents inserted in my arteries.