Solo trip with my dog Jake.
So, Jake and I started the long 8 hour drive to Ely ... in the rain with high hopes. Little did we know that rain would be the theme of the trip. After a good nights sleep at the Adventure Inn ( dog friendly ), we headed out for our trip. The morning was glorious as it was sunny with a slight west breeze. We began our trip on Ojibway Lake, portaged to Triangle Lake and then hit the 190 rod entry to (#29) to the North Kawishiwi. Here Jake and I begin our trip.
I should add that I do trip differently than most folks. I paddle a 15 foot Chestnut Prospector, a truly excellent solo tripping boat. I also do take a wannigan. My kit is on the heavy side, so I do travel more slowly than most, so solo is ideal as I do not slow up a group. On the longer portages I had to triple port - not ideal, but still worth it to me. I tump my wannigan, canoe and pack feeling more connected to the past.
Anyway, as we entered the Kawishiwi, the winds picked up and the clouds increased, looking like occasional showers were on the way. Jake and I picked the island site a very short paddle from the portage. It is miss-marked on the map, the site is on the other side of the island. However, it is a nice elevated site with great views.
After a satisfying meal of walleye it grew colder and a gentle rain started to fall, time to hit the bed roll and get under the blanket- and excellent first day!
The next morning, it was very cool with showers. Jake and I had to cook breakfast under the tarp and wait for it to warm up and stop raining.
Soon the rain gave way to light westerly breeze and sunshine - still cold however.
A while later, we explored and fished the river, checking out any available camp sites,and exploring animal trails. We spied an Eagle feeding its Eaglets ... awesome!
By the end of the second day, Jake preferred to relax at camp and soak up all the beauty of the BWCA. I sipped my whiskey and enjoyed it with him.
We traveled on the next day south on our way to Gabbro. We explored many of the camp sites along the way.
We never made it to L Gabbro, the South West winds were fierce, and the amount of people we saw after the 30 rod portage of the falls before the Dam was amazing. Canoes were suddenly everywhere. The wind constantly was picking up and was challenging to paddle into it. So, rather than continue to the 122 rod portage to L. Gabbro, we went North West to the last site before the Portage to Eskwagama Lake. Here we ate lunch and rested, and stayed the night.
Soon a new front moved it ... ominous clouds for sure, looking like a skull staring down on the Forest.
The next day we pushed on up to Eskwagama and noticed the map has miss-marked where the portage is , it is actually north of where it is indicated on the map. It is bog that slowly climbs up into more solid rocky terrain. From here we entered Clear Lake.
As we entered Clear Lake, another Fierce North West wind hit, bringing a lot of rain, and more cold. We headed to the second site from our portage as the first was taken. Luckily, this is a beautiful site and we could dry off and get lunch going. Then suddenly, the sun came back out.
We stayed for two days. It is a nice fishing lake, and a great place to explore with your dog. It rained off and on the entire we were there.
After 2 days here, we started to head back, that was a big mistake on my part - a dangerous one. We were on the water by 7 am as it was gently raining ... but also a very cool morning. We hit the 160 rod portage North, paddled on to a 10 rod, then traveled East to the 210 rod portage. This is a tough port when it is raining, cold and one has to triple port. Also, since my dog has no undercoat, he is susceptible to getting cold when wet fast. The portage is so overgrown that the foliage from both sides of the trail touch ... essentially "painting" you with water with every step. By the time we finished the port, Jake was soaked. The rain picked up from a drizzle to a steady rain, the temp dropped to the mid 40's and the wind picked up - a deadly combination for sure. I paddle to the second site after the portage and put up my tarp like an A frame, threw down my bed roll, and got out my wool blanket. Jake had a hard time walking he was shaking so badly. I wrapped him up and we slept for an hour. When I woke up, every thing was soaked, my tarp was leaking. Now I was shaking too and it was colder yet - still raining. I put my tarp tent up as fast as I could, but my hands were not working correctly so it was not put up the best. We got under it a little after 3 pm ... and did not come out until 8 am the next morning. We huddled under the wool blanket sharing body heat ... thank goodness it is a real wool blanket!
The next day was dry in the morning, and we dried out some gear in the sun. We paddled back to the North Kawishiwi and stopped at another island camp site. I hung the rest of my wet gear and it dried in the sun and wind. Jake and I ate a hearty meal of dried venison, with hamburger helper, gorp and peanut butter. The forecast looked like more rain was possible so I decided to end the trip a few days early. We slowly paddled on to the #29 entry point, soaking up all the beauty of the BWCA as we quietly moved up river.
Just as we began our 190 rod portage out ... it started to rain again.
As we entered Triangle lake, the winds again fierce, we blowing into our faces. While Island hoping as much as possible to block the wind, I remembered to paddle with my torso, not my arms and focus on my J stroke to keep a good momentum in the face of such strong winds. I also was reminded of how much I love my canoe as it is so maneuverable, responding to every twitch of the paddle blade, the way the bow splits and rides over waves, and how stable she is , even when in beam seas. Eventually we made it back to Ojibway lake and again paddled straight into the teeth of the wind to the take out. Our trip was not over however. Upon walking to the truck, it was discovered I had a flat tire. I have a multitude of tools in my truck, not to mention 3 jacks ... but the lug wrench I borrowed was not returned ... so now I am stuck ... and it started to rain again. However, soon a man and his family put a boat in and when I asked if he had a lug wrench, he did not, BUT, he ran back to town to get me a small air compressor and just asked if I put it in front of his car when I was done. I never got his name, but he really saved my bacon! By the time I drove back to Ely, I had 20 PSI in the tire. It was 10 minutes to 7pm. I made it to Tony's in Ely ( they close at 7). A young man walked out and said. "Mister, I can hear the air running out of that tire- want me to fix it? At 7 :20. With my spare tire on, the rock removed from flat tire ( broken cord, tire is shot ) I topped off with fuel at their shop - no charge for the tire sir. We could not fix it, so no charge. I could not believe it - they would not take any money either.
So, rain - tons of rain! High winds, misfortune, bad decision making ... and still an awesome trip. I can't wait until next year to go again. The BWCA is an awesome place ... as are the people of Ely!