Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Adventure trip-Tusc to Little Sag, Gabbi, Peter, Gillis, Brant
by Joshuatree43

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/10/2020
Entry Point: Missing Link Lake (EP 51)
Exit Point: Brant Lake (EP 52)  
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My wife and I have been backpackers for years, we started doing BWCA trips in 2019 and loved it. It was mostly day trips or base camp trips with kids in a pretty heavy old Royalex, so we never got too far. This year we bought a used kevlar from Tuscarora with the determination to leave the kids behind for this one and see how far we could go. We stayed on Missing Link last year, and I was excited to start by conquering the good, long portage to Tusc.
Day 1 of 4
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

We drove up from the cities the day before and stayed at our cabin on Devils Track. Got up around 4:30, hit the road by 6, and it took about an hour to get up the trail to Round Lake. Mosquitos at Devils Track and Round were pretty thick, but its June and we were expecting that. I don't know much about it, but apparently some sort of remnant of a tropical storm had joined us in Cook county Tuesday night, and was still very much present Wednesday morning. It poured all night and was raining hard when we left Wednesday. Also of concern, a small craft warning starting at 7 am, so that was our motivation to get out as early as possible. We thought if we could just get across Tuscarora before the wind picks up, the lakes after that are pretty sheltered and we'd have a shot at Little Saganaga.

Round was nice and calm, paddled straight down the middle to the Missing Link portage. We love this Northwind 17, so much more stable than our old Winona Sundowner, giving us a little more paddling confidence that we lacked last year. We double portaged to Missing Link last year with the kids so its not too intimidating to me at this point. We're expecting plenty of rocks and mud, and that's just what we got. It was also our first time single portaging so a bit of some learning took place real quick here. K was carrying the big black Granite Gear portage pack, it dwarfs her frame but somehow she manages to carry it. We did our best to keep our gear pretty light. I've got the blue barrel and the boat, as well as the under seat gear bag. The barrel is heavy (40-50 lb?) with a fair bit of extra liquid weight at the beginning of the trip, and I find out instantly that leaving the under seat bag in the canoe will not work. Throws the whole boat way out of balance, I only made it a few steps and put it back down to fix that. Under seat bag gets strapped to my sternum strap from now on for portaging. I also had a little trouble with the boat getting hung up on the barrel when I'd put it up on my shoulders, I got much better as the trip went on but the first few pickups were ugly with a lot of muttering. Finally, my pfd is the style with the high back for kayaking, that wasn't matching up with the barrel well at all, pfd comes off for all future portages.

We make the portage, gave a nod to the first site on the left where we stayed last year (love that little Jack pine), and quickly got to the Tusc portage. This is the one we've been waiting for. Now remember its been pouring rain all night and all morning at this point, and the portages are more like small, muddy rivers. This was everything I expected: hard as heck, long, buggy, mud; there was one spot it was more like we were walking through a pond than a portage. I only took one little breather, otherwise kept going. My shoulders much, I wanted to get that boat off me so bad but I hated the idea of having to put it back on so I just pushed through. What a relief when we finally got to Tusc. I think we let out a little hoot and a holler of victory. Still raining, but the water is calm which is very encouraging.

We paddle out and as we got towards that first north point with the campsite, we can hear the wind ahead; we can see the white caps out in the middle of the lake, we're filled with nervous energy. Will it be too much? What can we handle with this new boat? We round the corner to head west and get blasted with wind, rain, and waves. Our movement slows to a crawl and we see the first couldn't have taken more than 30 seconds and we decide to get out and into the site. K already has a shiver making it clear this is a good choice. We got our big, green Kelty tarp (we've named it tarpe diem) set up to have a dry spot under the rain, got some dry clothes on, and settle in to our first home. This is also our first time hammock camping, there are ample trees here to set up on, and I've done a few trial runs ahead of time so I'm prepared to set things up properly. I make some warm quesadillas with chicken and salsa rather than the cheese, salami, and crackers we had planned, and that felt good.

I should also mention this site offered the perfect amount of protection from the wind, before long the mosquitos were gone, we had a good breeze, but still also some protection from the wind whipping out on the lake. This was unexpected, we thought for sure we'd be battling the bugs all day and night. We joked the locals must tell us city folks the bugs are intolerable in June so that they can keep the BWCA mostly for themselves this time of year.

The rest of the day and evening are pretty nice, the rain slowed to an on again-off again sprinkle, I managed to get a fire going despite the wet wood (I pre-dried the logs on the grate over the fire to keep it going better), had a little wine with sausages cooked over the fire and listened to the Covid community conversation on WTIP. What a relief to be leaving that all behind if only for a couple days. The first confirmed case in Cook county today is sure to create a new frenzy, we've been very careful while traveling to bring all needed supplies and only stop for gas or nature's call. The wind is still ripping and we don't see anyone else today. Guessing the other entry permits stayed on Missing Link or headed to Snipe to avoid the wind. The first night's sleep is never stellar and this was no exception, every once in a while the wind would gust so hard I swear my hammock would bounce up into the air with me in it; that on top of the non-stop sound of blowing trees and crashing waves. I got some sleep, but only as much as can be expected. Our plan is to get up with the sun and skip breakfast in hopes of a calmer lake to push on to Little Sag on day 2.

~Round Lake, Missing Link Lake, Tuscarora Lake