June 2021- My First Solo: Looping the Laurentian Divide
Before getting to the details of my trip, I need to set the scene a bit. On Friday while packing for this trip, I somehow ripped a large chunk of skin and flesh from my left heel. I patched myself up as well as I could, and babied it all day long Saturday. By Sunday, I could walk on it decently enough, but the more I walked the more sore it got (duh!). I was concerned about my ability to portage, and keeping the wound from getting infected, but I prepared for that as best I could with gauze pads and Neosporin. Then on Sunday night, after being settled into the Temperance River Campground on a 90 degree June day for several hours, I got a notification on my Garmin mini that my wife had blown a tire on our truck while driving 70mph on her way from from my son's baseball tournament. I drove back into Tofte to get cell service so I could make sure all was well. No injuries, no damage to the truck, only a shook up wife who was stranded on the highway for a few hours while waiting for a repair. These two non-ideal scenarios for the beginning of a trip pushed my mind into places it wouldn't normally go on a BW trip, and that would challenge me mentally as much as physically over the next few days...
OK, back to Monday, you know- the actual trip. I drove to the Tofte Ranger Station to pick up my permit as soon as they opened and was back to the Homer Lake EP and on the water by 9:30 AM. It was already hot, with a forecasted high for near 90 with high humidity. The water levels through Homer and the three portages along the Vern River were low but still passable, with the 3rd portage being nothing more than a pullover and a couple spots to get out and walk the canoe. I talked briefly with BWCA.com member Jillpine as she was making her way out from her trip. It's always fun to meet fellow trippers and chat a bit about our trips! I arrived at the eastern campsite on Vern Lake about 11:00 AM and made camp, hot, sweaty, and tired despite the short amount of paddling and portaging I had to do to get there.
The site itself was decent enough with small tent pads that are not especially flat, a latrine that's a bit of a walk into the woods and up a hill, and a nice drop off from shore for swimming. Not even 15 minutes after arriving at the site, one of the "magical moments" I had been hoping for on this trip happened. A female moose swam across the lake, west to east, and walked up on shore near the portage into Whack Lake. I took some photos and short video as best as I could with my phone camera, but mostly just watched her for the ten or so minutes she was in view. Check that one off the list!
After having lunch, setting up camp, taking a short nap in the shade, and continually hydrating, hydrating, and rehydrating (damn its hot out here!), I tried some fishing in the Vern River areas to the west of my site. I caught a few small pike and smallmouth bass, and had dozens more follow my spinnerbait back to the boat. It was like fishing the kiddie pond, which is not exactly what I had hoped for. I tried some of the "hot spots" I had read about on this site, but the water in those areas was too low, and with no flow at all, the walleye I had hoped to find for dinner were just not there.
After paddling a bit more to explore, sweating additional buckets of water, and coming to the conclusion that fishing was just not worth the effort, I decided to go swimming. That was the best choice I made all day! My somewhat comical note to myself about that "My apologies to the satellite tech watching the spy cams over the B-Dub today, parts of my body that never see the sun definitely did so today, as the heat and lack of any other humans in the area made it necessary". The lake was glassy calm by 8:00 PM, the mosquitoes took over by 9:00 PM, and I settled into my tent to plan the next day. My injured foot had barely been an issue with the short portages today, and I felt ready to tackle the next leg of this adventure!