First solo: Bower Trout to Ram
Tough decision and a bit of guilt about going on this trip. My father was diagnosed with liver cancer the end of May and immediately entered hospice. Since he lives in an assisted living community, I had not been able to visit him since mid-March. But once he entered hospice, family members were allowed to visit and help provide care. My siblings and I had been sharing that duty, but we had made a decision together that other plans for the summer should continue forward, since there was no predicting the length of his time left with us. It could be days or it could be months. So I said my goodbyes, in case he passed away while I was gone, and decided to devote this trip to him, and to the sense of adventure he instilled in me.
In addition, back in mid-May, when my son found out his 34 day canoe trip to Canada through Camp Menogyn had been cancelled, we had made the decision that he and his good tripping buddy would ride up and back with me, but go out and do their own trip in the same area. This would be their 1st trip sans parents or camp counselor, but they had a lot of experience under their belts.
We got an early start from the Twin Cities. Even the teenagers were ready to go at 6:00 am, and we made great time up to Grand Marais...no road construction, no traffic, and only bathroom stops. We ate our packed lunches on the Point and got some gas. Since all of us have been social distancing rigorously to protect those most vulnerable around us, I was disappointed to see how many tourists in Grand Marais were not wearing masks and were crammed together waiting for donuts.
We drove up the Gunflint Trail and found the South Brule Road that took us in to the Bower Trout Lake and Ram Lake entry points. Spotted a moose on the road immediately after one of the boys said, "I hope I see a moose this trip." At the T-intersection, you turn left and go .3 miles to Bower Trout or you turn right and go .3 mile to Ram Lake. Both entries have a small parking lot and then a portage in to the lake. I dropped the boys at Ram Lake first. They planned to continue all the way to Little Trout Lake for the night and I was just going to stay on Bower Trout. They started their SPOT tracking at 12:47pm and took off up the uphill 103 rod portage to Ram Lake.
I proceeded over to the Bower Trout lot, got my gear together and did my 1st solo portage, an 80 rod flat highway of a portage that even has boardwalks over any muddy bits. Both campsites on Bower Trout were open and I simply took the 1st one. I am not particularly fussy about my campsites as long as I can find a place to lay my head for the night. The site is set back from the water quite a bit, but had a nice sitting area by the lake.
The used 1P Tarptent I bought this winter was super quick to set up. I tried to take a swim but the area was too shallow and marshy, so I sat where I could wash and dry my feet. This is a ritual for me on trail. When I was younger, I used to get a lot of foot rot until I started being a fanatic about washing and drying my feet at the campsite, and then rinsing all the mud and debris out of my socks.
I prepped the kitchen area, filtered water, and realized how little there was for me to do when traveling solo. On our family trips, I am the one who knows where everything is and makes sure all the personal gear and cooking gear gets distributed to everyone's area in the evening and gets back into the correct packs in the morning. On a family trip, I am typically the cook while others gather the firewood. But I only had to cook a simple meal for one...so easy. And no firewood needed. My cooking equipment this trip included a homemade alcohol stove, a pot for boiling water, my Frybake pan/lid, and a Talenti ice cream plastic jar with a homemade cozy fitted to it made from scraps of reflective bubble wrap.
I made red rice and beans with kielbasa sausage for dinner. For dessert, I gobbled a packet of the mini key lime cookies I buy from minimus.biz Clean up was easy...for the jar, I just add a little fresh water, shake the closed jar, and then drink the water with food scraps. A habit developed on group trips with camp so we had fewer dishes to wash and everyone just kept track of their own cup. For the fry pan, I typically scrape out food bits, leave it greasy, and only wash every other meal.
I dubbed this site the "Black and White Site" because it was filled with black and white butterflies and black and white dragonflies. They were flitting everywhere. A dragonfly even caught a deerfly right in front of me, then landed on my knee to munch it down...it spit out the wings. Since I've never eaten a wing I could only assume they are dry and tasteless. I also observed butterflies feeding on the eyeballs of a dead rabbit in the campsite. Apparently this is common behavior. They need the additional salt available from the tears or blood of rotting animals because they can't get it from nectar alone. I had never witnessed this before.
The only people I saw tonight were 2 canoes heading back to the parking area after day fishing. Peaceful first evening. As I settled to sleep, I heard something walking outside the tent. I peered out and there was a massive toad (the size you expect in the tropics, not in the Northwoods) and he was too big to hop. So he was strolling through the grass and wildflowers.
~Bower Trout Lake Portages: 80 rod (I always double portaged during this trip unless mentioned otherwise)