Paddling Pageant and the Sioux Hustler portage
In December 2005 - January 2006 during a few email exchanges with my youngest son Jeremy, who was in Iraq with the Marines, we discussed the idea of going to the BWCA after he returned. He's never been there before, and my last trip to the area was in 1974 with the Boy Scouts. I'd been wanting to return ever since, even more so to share it with family, but something always got in the way. However, the realization that death has literally passed within inches of your son puts an added incentive to ensure that you spend some quality time together when you get the opportunity, regardless of the reasons that tend to delay those moments. One of the goals of the trip was to make sure that we did just that.
Another goal was based on the fact that both he and I enjoy challenges and overcoming obstacles. He learned in boot camp that he really thrived when he was challenged, especially physically. So we wanted a trip that would require some stamina and give us something to accomplish (although we had to make some allowances for the difference between a US Marine and an everyday guy in his mid-forties).
I wanted something away from the blowdown areas, and one that would allow us multiple options to re-route our trip at whim, depending on how well we fared (how out of shape I was). Once I narrowed the area down a bit, Bogwalker was a great help to let me know what was possible and practical and what was scenic vs quiet, etc. Once we got a route that made Bogs start to sound excited, I figured we got pretty close.
The entire planned route fit on Fisher F-16 and pretty much covered the whole map. The idea was to see the falls and pictos, then head into a very quiet area and try to bushwhack our way to Range Line Lake, which we understand doesn't often see boats. Double bonus points if we could make it to Pageant. From there out depended upon circumstance.
Left Ohio. Made great time except for around Chicago. Eventually we arrive at Osseo, Wisconsin to stop for dinner at the Norske Nook as Bogwalker had suggested. Sure glad he did, because it was a fantastic place. Just a little restaurant/bakery in a small town that makes awesome meals and "award winning" pies. It appears they've taken home a lot of blue ribbons in a national pie-baking contest. When the food arrived, we dug in and realized why Bogs had recommended this place so highly. Both of the (mandatory) pies we ordered for dessert were great examples of their claim to fame. We definitely planned to stop back on the way home and hit this place again.
Neither of us felt the need to stop yet, so instead of stopping in Eau Claire as Bogs had suggested, we travelled on towards Duluth/Superior. Bad move. We learned that Duluth on a Saturday night is the very definition of "no vacancy". We finally gave up and crashed out in the car at a rest area for a few hours.
The good news was that between Eau Claire and Duluth, we had a great view of the northern lights. It was the first time I'd seen them since my last trip, and the first time ever for Jeremy. That was a goal accomplished already, which was a good sign. I'd actually planned the timing of the trip to coincide with a new moon to try and give us a good chance to see them, but we ended up seeing them on the way up. Very cool.