Paddle with Dad: Lake One to Insula
The alarm on phone buzzed and I rolled over in my sleeping bag. It was 5am and it felt like I’d just laid down. Well, I really had. The trip had really began for me a day earlier when I woke up in my Twin Cities apartment, played an Ultimate Frisbee tournament all day, packed the car, tied the canoe on, and left on 35W at 10pm. I’d arrived at my little brother’s studio+ in Duluth around 1am and spent a few hours asleep on the kitchen floor next to my dad. Now we were all waking up, my little brother for work, and me and my dad we headed up to Ely and the BWCA.
My dad drove up the north shore as I slept more until we stopped in Two Harbors for breakfast at McDonald’s. As we turned away from the big lake it began to rain on and off hard enough to slow our progress up Route 1. We reached Kawishiwi Lodge and Outfitters around 9 and picked up a few last essentials including jigs, leeches, a fishing license for Dad, and info about the dangerous rapids between Lakes One and Two (take the long way around). Lastly, we repacked in the boat house and got on the water at about 10 or 11am.
The paddle started off wonderful! The rain was a warm, slow drizzle and we were in awe as we adjusted out minds and bodies to the quiet and solitude. That first awe and excitement is always so sweet. My navigation skills took a bit to come back and we had some confusion finding the portages to Lake Two. By the time we were paddling into Three, though, I had the hang of it again of how the map distances correspond to real world distances. As we reached the far end of Lake Four the rain increased in intensity and the temperature began to drop.
We handled the three portages from Four to Hudson in quick succession. They weren’t bad, but they were soaking wet with big puddles of chilled rainwater. We put on more layers before paddling across Hudson. That helped but the wind was picking up and the rain was only getting harder. We paddled hard against the wind and simply to keep warm. The portage into Insula is beautiful, but we didn’t have the time, energy, or body heat to appreciate it.
On Insula we were paddling through the still-comparatively-barren burned area. We were feeling a bit barren ourselves as we were running out of energy, cold, and our extra layers were wet by now as well. We headed east for two miles around the big, misshapen island and the large, bulbous peninsula. As we rounded the peninsula and headed north we were now looking at fully green shores, untouched by the fire. However, we were also headed directly into the wind, which seemed stronger than ever. The rain was harder too, and it was colder. Frankly, it was miserable. Finally, we could see our site, #1337, and finished the final push.
We landed, and went straight for the tent. We were legitimately concerned about hypothermia at this point and new we should get dry and warm as quick as we could. Once the tent and rainfly were up, we each peeled off our GORE-TEX and wet layers and climbed into sleeping bags. We ate nuts and trail muffins, drank copious amounts of water, and were finally warm enough to fall asleep.
We probably napped for couple hours and when we woke up the rain and wind had both slowed. We set up a tarp for a kitchen area, hung a bear bag, and made dinner. Dinner was chicken from a bag and vegetables we’d chopped at home all spiced, steamed, and stewed in the same pot. Some delicious and warming broth at the bottom! We ate under the tarp as the day’s last grey light faded – there was no chance of getting a fire started.