Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

BeaV’s 2017 Kruger Challenge, Border Route Solo Speed Record
by BeaV

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/01/2017
Entry Point: Little Vermilion Lake (Crane Lake) (EP 12)
Exit Point: North Fowl Lake (EP 70)  
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1
Part 2 of 5
Day 1 Saturday, September 02, 2017

The Challenge begins- Sometimes making it to the start of an event like this is half the challenge. Only six paddlers make it as many have dropped out due to training injury, family commitments, or self-preservation instincts kick in. Two other solo paddlers join me for the start from International Falls. Challenge volunteer, Lori Johnson, shuttle us and our gear to a public access and takes some photos. Satellite tracking devices (Spot and InReaches) are turned on and we launch September 2nd at 9:05 am with nice WNW 12 mph tailwinds, progress is good until reaching the east sides of the large Rainy Lake basins with a reach large enough for unsettling waves to form. A few of the larger of which causing me to get that tippy feeling. Tippy feeling as in the feel of the boat when I lose control of it’s stability. It’s a thin line between tippy and a full-on capsize and a rush of nervous adrenaline pumps through me.

Most of the first days paddling on these largest of the large lakes to come is somewhat boring (much preferred over “tippy”) as the view of a distant horizon that seems to never get closer is the norm. Even though the winds are mostly in my favor, my speed is slowed by the size of the waves. These sized waves (1.5 to 2.5’ high) travel faster than I so each one picks me up from the rear and then rolls under me to the front before dropping me behind in the trough. For some this constant lifting and dropping probably would cause seasickness but for me it’s only affect is to create turbulence that slows me down. Today’s highlight is racing against an occasional houseboat going my way. My mind wanders looking for something to think about. I ponder why I’m pushing so hard on this trip and I claim I’m doing it for Kruger/Waddell. Just when that thought entered my head, a bigger wave hits me from behind throwing me off balance enough for a little scare. I smile and say “sorry Verlen, I’ll keep the bullshit to a minimum, I got your message”. I never met Verlen when he was still on this side of life but I think we got to know each other on a different adventure of mine.

Blisters form and are taped up with moleskin and electrical tape. With the approach of nightfall, winds turn into my face as I paddle south into Sand Point Lake and a full moon promises a unique paddle to come. Four hours of moonlight paddling later finds me entering the BWCA, wore out, and looking for a place to rest. At 1:00 am, I go to shore, find a flat area on the ground, kick away the pine cones, lay out the sleeping bag, and crawl in fully clothed so I’ll be ready to get up and go in under 3 hours. This has to be one of my harder paddle days ever with 64 miles and one portage covered in 16 hours. Alarm sounds at 4:00 am but it is hard getting up- the bag is shelter and it feels good. I linger too long in the bag and an hour and a half later finds me panicking as I’m scrambling now to get going. Start Day 2 behind schedule with the knowledge that harder days are to come and time will be hard to make up.