Ok So I was all packed and ready to Roll out before the Sun rose on Monday morning. I tried to get some sleep, but none came. Finally at 2am I got up and cursed my excitement. Since I was already all packed I was in the car and rolling 2:10am. One pit stop for gas and Beef jerky in Minong, WI and I'm in Grand Marias before 11am picking up my permit at the ranger station. Not too bad for about 600 miles of travel. I have to admit that even though I don't like getting up early, it is a great way to beat the traffic around Chicago and on I-90 in Wisconsin.
I head over to the outfitter and strap a Royalex Winona canoe on top of the car. I swing into town and grab a bite to eat at the DQ. then I grab my fishing license and top off the gas tank. I'm rolling up the Gunflint Trail by 1pm.
The first task I encounter is how to pack the solo canoe. If I ever do this again I will pack in two bags with one slightly larger and heavier than the other. As it is now, the Duluth pack is full and the backpack is pretty light. But they both fit in the canoe, after securing the car in the lot I head down to the water. I slip into the canoe and begin to wobble. This feels so darn different than paddling stern. The outfitter said this was a very stable canoe, I'd hate to see a tippy one. I think to myself that its not a matter of if I will tip it, but how many times!
I slowly get the hang of paddling solo. Very cautiously and slowly I head up E. Bearskin to the portage to Moon Lake. I find my bearings are off a bit due to the solo paddling and not having the same time to plot a course. After a lil scratching of my head I find the portage and load up for the first trip of a double portage. My goodness how light the royalex solo feels compared to all of the aluminum canoes I have always carried. This is almost a treat. The Duluth pack ends those thoughts quick. Even over the short portage. Every trip I try to pack lighter and lighter, but there is still excess weight in the pack.
I paddle across moon and noting that all of the campsites are filled. This is what happens when you start paddling at 2:30pm. I find the short but sloppy portage into deer lake pretty easily, but am surprised to see something in the water a short distance from the end of the portage. I have the canoe on my shoulders and the light backpack, but the Cow Moose doesn't see me first, she actually looked like a beaver when I first noticed her. Only the top of her head and nose out of the water, she was fully submerged, she stood up and dipped back into the water before seeing me. She was enjoying a cool bath before she caught my eye. I stand very still and motionless while she eyes me, then acts like she is going to walk in my direction. She blows her nostrils and stares at me for at least a couple of minutes. I tilt my head a little trying to figure out my escape route if she charges the 25 or so yards towards me. I am 15 feet from solid ground, standing on slippery rocks, water almost to my knees and the narrow landing won't let me turn around if I must retreat. I figure I will have to dump the canoe and dive for the woods. Luckily the moose loses interest in me and begins to head for the tree line. I set down the canoe. put in the Backpack and head back for my Duluth bag. I make a bunch of noise and watch the trail and woods as I return. I don't want to surprise the moose. When I go to put the Duluth bag in the canoe I slip a bit on the rocks and make a splash. This startles the moose in the tree line and I hear her stomp off quickly...trialing two little moose. Thank goodness I wasn't between them when I was at the portage. I hastily get everything set to paddle and get on the water. I paddle to the far shore, only 75 yards away or so. I'm chased by a beaver, well maybe followed, but my adrenaline up it feels like being chased.
The one site on Deer Lake is taken so I am off over the portage to Caribou Lake. Again all the sites are full. I even check out a portage that is supposed to have a camp site next to it, but don't see it. Thankfully the very last site on the lake is open. I had hoped to press on into Little Caribou. But since there is only one site on that lake I won't press my luck. I land the canoe and start eyeing the camp. I didn't bring a watch, but the sun is getting closer and closer to the treetops, so I am glad for the site. Its not a great site, but it fits my small tent and has a nice landing for the canoe. As I scope out some of the bigger pads I notice that there are leaning trees overlooking them, thank goodness I have a small tent and can fit down by the water. After getting everything organized, I sit down to eat an apple, some almonds and drink a little lemonade. I am exhausted and ready everything for bed. I read a bit by the headlamp, which hangs almost perfectly from the ceiling gear loft, write down the days thoughts and I drift off to sleep.