Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

All Loused Up: solo loop out of Sawbill
by straighthairedcurly

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/29/2021
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)  
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1
Day 2 of 7
Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Happy birthday to me! I love my revived tradition of spending my birthday paddling. In the '80's, I was always at camp or canoeing and in the '90's I always tries to go whitewater kayaking.

I didn't wake until 6:40 and was on the water by 8am. I decided to double portage the first 3 short portages and then doubled portaged everything until the 2nd to last portage of the day. The only people I saw this whole day were the friendly folks from Louisiana doing some early morning fishing on Grace. It was their first visit to the BWCA and their enthusiasm and awe for the area was a great reminder how lucky I am to have this special place in my home state.

The Phoebe River east of Hazel was a pain. Very low water levels plus a beaver dam, a downed tree, and 2 rock gardens required some slow going. A lot of the short portages had a low water landing so they were longer than marked on the map. One of the worst portages of the day was the 3rd portage west of Hazel. My notes indicated that it was easy to miss. I found the low water landing but that path spit me out repeatedly onto a boulder field or the river's edge. Finally, I reached the high water landing and the going was much easier.

I didn't have breakfast until about 10:00 am when I mixed up one of my powdered smoothie mixes. Then I ate some lunch next to a stream on one of the portage a couple hours later.

For the river section west of Hazel, I left the pack and daypack strapped together the whole time. This really sped things up at the portage landings. I could still access the daypack for water and other items. I wasn't too far off trim to cause any issues on such constricted bodies of water. On one of the portages, a Spruce Grouse was strutting down the middle of the path. Its speckled butt and the red patch above its eye made it pretty distinctive. It had incredibly sleek, shiny feathers. I also saw a beaver on the river and 3 Trumpeter swan on Polly Lake.

At the start of the day, I thought I might be able to make it to Malberg Lake by 1 or 2 pm. However, the slow going on the river put me at Polly after 1pm so I decided to camp. It was hot and very sunny today. I ran out of water even though I started the day with 56 ounces. So I took site 1073 with its shady tent site, sandy landing, and good swimming rock. I took a long swim to cool down and get the day's grime off me. I rinsed all my clothes and laid them out on the hot rocks where they dried in record time. I filtered and drank A LOT of water! Despite the skies looking like T-storms could deliver some much needed rain, nothing ever developed.

All of my dinners on this trip were "just add boiling water" recipes from The Yummy Life website. I had couscous with chicken, apricots, and macadamia nuts tonight. Then, to celebrate my birthday, I steam/baked some white chocolate and berry cupcakes.

After dinner, I relaxed in a patch of grass and watched the clouds. Then a pair of Sharp-shinned hawks put on a noisy aerobatics show with shrieks and wing-tucked dives over the forest. Later a bald eagle showed up and made some wide sweeps before landing in a tree. A large fish made 4 huge leaps in the air right in front of my rock.

Number 3 cloud

Tomorrow, my son starts his 29 days of BWCA travels at Crane Lake. Since they couldn't go into Canada this year, they are going to wind around the BWCA, visit some PMAs, and end with the Grand Portage. I'm sure they will have some great adventures. Sending them good vibes. Hard to believe he is off to college this fall. So many life changes.

Distance traveled: 9.3 miles, Portages: 560 rods, Time: 5.25 hours

~Grace Lake, Phoebe Lake, Knight Lake, Hazel Lake, Polly Lake