We woke up to a pretty phenomenal sunrise on Hudson. Without being able to make it down the creek, our new plan involved heading back to the numbers chain directly. However, we still wanted to see some of the Southern chain if we could, so we planned on heading down Lake Four and Three to a short day trip into Horseshoe. After a quick breakfast, we were off. The portages into Four went quickly, despite the icy slick that covered the landings. We headed South into Three and stopped at one of the more remote sites on the lake. It surprised us how incredibly scenic this site was. We sat and enjoyed the view and a snack before heading for our day trip.
We found the entrance to the Horseshoe portage fairly easily. We both had heard this chain referenced as the "Hell chain", and that there was a "Welcome to Hell" sign down here somewhere. There was no such sign today. However, if this was indeed that place, it seemed Hell in fact froze over, at least partially. It was pleasant to take a little stroll through this unburned stretch of the Pow Wow trail, despite the ominous "no-maintenance" signage of the burn zone ahead. There was a lot of ice to pound through before getting out onto Horseshoe lake. We found the northern site as we passed on by. We headed across the lake and took the portage into Brewis. The portage steadily climbed the hill, and there was 6-7 logs to step over, but nothing was as hard as we assumed it would be. Someone did a very nice job of cleaning up in here post Pagami. Despite the cold, the Brewis side of the portage was a slushy, muddy mess. Even the fox tracks we saw led off the trail for a minute to avoid the muck. Brewis itself, on the other hand, was completely frozen over. There was no hope of making it through with the amount of time we still had in making it back to the entry, so we surrendered. The secrets of North and South Wilder would have to wait for another year. We hiked back out the way we came, and paddled over to one of the rock outcroppings on the lake. We climbed up to the top to eat a lunch and enjoy an incredible overlook of Horseshoe Lake.
We paddle back out through Horseshoe and into Three. We stopped at a "tiny island" site in the Southern part of Three that intrigued us. Then we paddled North through Three and back into Two. It took a good while to get back across One, and it was getting into mid afternoon before we started closing in on our exit. There was a pair of swans swimming around the Kawishiwi, as we paddled by, although no other groups were in site as we pulled back into the landing. There was one car there, so at least one other soul got out to enjoy the last week or two of open water before the freeze. We posed for one more picture with our canoe planted upon the ice pack, before loading up and heading home. It was an incredible season with so many more memories made in this wonderful place. I never thought I would get the chance at a November trip through the BWCA, but I was so glad this adventure worked out the way it did. Winter is coming sooner than I would like, and soon the snowshoes will be back out, and the paddle will be tucked away. Hopefully plenty of grand adventures lay ahead.