Ottertrack, Knife, and everything in between.
We met up at my cabin on Garden Lake the day before our entry date in order to make sure we had everything laid out and organized to fit in our 3 bags. One food bag, one gear bag, and one personal bag. We picked up a rented Wenonah Prism to go with Luke P's Souris River duralight since another college buddy, Luke S, got added to the roster. We got everything packed and loaded for an early departure. Stuffed hashbrowns at Britton's cafe started our Monday. We didn't even take the time to chew our food (I am sure we looked like rabid animals) as we had one thing on our mind for the day. We were going to make it to Ottertrack! We headed up the Fernberg Trail and were a little disappointed that the fall colors were just barely starting, but we were hopeful that they would progress throughout our trip (which they did not). We made it to Vosburgh's for our 7:30 tow. Ironically, our tow driver was the daughter of the owners of Wintergreen's in Ely. I trap beavers each fall in the Ely area and give my carcasses to the owners to feed to their sled dogs. Small world. It wasn't long and we were on the the other side of the Birch Lake portage getting our paddles wet. We had a map with but we had spent the past 2 years looking at our route, so we already knew every bay, portage and campsite location along the route. Maps, pfff, who needs maps. (I am just kidding of course. I would never go anywhere without a map) It was a beautiful sunny day but the wind was certainly picking up. Once we got to the less protected Knife Lake, that became very apparent as we watched the white caps roll. It didn't seem that bad when we pushed off the west shoreline of Knife Lake. We headed towards the Isle of Pines. I was in the solo, just a little bit ahead of the Lukes and as I was kind of looking for a spot that would be good to land, I nonchalantly turned my canoe in order to talk to talk to the guys and just like that, I was now swimming in Knife Lake. My initial reaction was to try to push the canoe back upright but when I did that it did nothing but push me under. I had my rubber boots on and my instinct was to kick them off. I kicked one off and then realized that they were not weighting me down so I just grabbed onto the capsized canoe and rode the waves to the nearby shore. Since we had everything bungee'd to the canoe and had waterproof packs, I only lost one boot and my camera didn't work for a few days. It was mostly it was my pride that was affected by the swamping. I believe the swamping was a good thing because it gave me a little more respect for the solo canoe. I have paddling 100's of hours in a tandem but only a few other times in a solo. I was definitely not prepared for the instability of a loaded solo. One would think that at this point we had learned our lesson, right? No. We were going to Ottertrack. I kind of felt that each of us was thinking we should hold up because of the wind, but nobody wanted to be the one to make the call. Especially not me at this point. After a little exploring and a quick sandwich, we were on our way. As we flew across Knife with the wind to our backs we saw other canoe parties landed on shore. We couldn't see their faces, and if they were yelling at us, we couldn't hear them through the howling wind and crashing waves, but I heard their thoughts loud and clear; "What the hell are you guys doing out there?!?!" There was times I would ride the wave, going so fast that the stroke of the paddle was basically going as fast as I was! We should NOT have been out there! (I looked back at the weather for that day and they recorded 40 mph gusts) We pressed on, making sure to stay as close to shore as possible in case of another swamping. When we got to the narrows past Thunder Point we stopped for a well deserved break at campsite 1998. It wasn't the greatest campsite but kind of neat because it was mostly small cedar trees there. We rested for about an hour and then decided to push on. At 4:00 pm we were on Ottertrack! We stayed at campsite 2002. It was a nice site and the 3 of us had no problem finding a spot to set camp. Luke S and I had hammocks, while Luke P had a rain fly and sleeping pad. Sitting by the campfire after our wild day was absolutely incredible. I had waited over 2 years for this moment. We watched the northern lights in awe and listened to the grumbling of bears across the lake on the Canada side.