Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Journey to Sagus
by Jamiestur

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/25/2021
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake Only (EP 28)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 7
Trip Introduction:
This was my first BWCA trip. Our crew had 7 boys, and 3 canoes. I have only written about the first two days of the trip in this report.
We throw the last pack in, loading up the three worn but sturdy canoes with many hefty Duluth packs, and seven boys who are all newly high school graduated, and eager for the maiden voyage. It’s late June, there are few scattered clouds in the sky. The rest is filled with pure blue and sunshine. I scan the water before us, Snowbank Lake; The lake that will serve as our entry point for our first Boundary Waters Wilderness trip. Being on the border of this protected wilderness, the ecosystem of this lake takes the most beating from Anthropogenic Variables. But to surrender this lakes wellness to less regulated human factors, is to protecting the rest of the unparalleled beauty and essential land to Minnesota and it’s past. I step down into the canoe off the launch. The aluminum bends and snaps back sounding like distant roaring thunder. Finally, we begin to paddle, no thoughts to turn my head for one last look of civilization, only excitement for the unknown adventures and hardships ahead. Our plan Is to travel for two days until we reach our destination, Lake Sagus. But my goal for this adventure is to push through all the difficult times with a smile on my face and find something inside myself that I didn’t know was there before. Today our objective is to set up camp somewhere on Lake Disappointment. We head straight east, to make our way across the lake. Lucas is the least experienced paddler, so he is sitting in the middle of the canoe which is called sitting duff. He sings “reaching outtt, touching meeee touching youuuu, sweeeeet caroline baa baa baaaa” we join him in melody and before we know it, we have arrived at our first portage. 233 rods; It’s the longest portage we will encounter. “I’ll flip up” I say to Ryan, meaning I’ll flip up the canoe onto my shoulders, and he takes the packs. Stepping out of the vessel into the water, it seeps into my shoes. Cold on the nerves of my feet, my socks become soaked. I think to myself “this is something I’ll get used to eventually”. We empty the packs out, I grab the yoke (the middle support bar) of the canoe, heave it up onto my legs in a squat stance. I rock back and forth, thrust it over my head, and onto my shoulders. Standing water in the canoe pours out, splashing off my face, it tastes like iron. Slightly blinded I make my way to land, Lucas is already on his way out, with the 70 lb food pack on his back, he exclaims “I’ll see you guys on the other side!!.” Finding my equilibrium, I get on my way. For 20 minutes I walk alone, it feels like ages. Constantly thinking to myself “I’ll set down just around this bend”, Yet I never do. Eventually I spot an opening in the distance, glistening water reflects the sun through the trees. I make my way around the last bend; Lucas is sitting there in silence. The forest opens to Lake Disappointment, it calls me forward. I set down the canoe from my shoulders, It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. We share the moment in stillness. “do you think there’s fish in there?” Lucas asks, calling back his repeated phrase he’s been saying at every body of water we have seen up to this point. A couple minutes pass, others complete the portage, greeted with the heavenly scene of Lake Disappointment. With no time to waste we load up and keep on our way. Now looking for a campsite, thinking this lake was going to be bountiful with vacant lodging, this should not have been our mindset. The foreshadowing of this lakes name uttered a letdown, inevitable to happen. One campsite after the next, they were all full. Paddling around the shores of this lake for what seemed like an hour, Bryce suggests we eat lunch and discuss a new plan. After lunch we decide to venture on into the unknown to find an open campsite. The liquid road before us was five smaller sized lakes, and 150 rods total portaging. This took around three hours to complete. At last, our final portage of the day led to Lake Ima, A large lake with promising campsites. At this point we had been trudging through the land and the lakes for about six hours. All of us aching for a spot to rest, and hungry for a calorie dense meal. But most of all we all were practically drooling to get some bait on a line, to tempt the creatures of the deep. Lucas had been saying all day “I can’t wait to sit back with a pole in the water at the campsite”. We make it around the last peninsula, to see a glorious open campsite, the wilderness is filled with hollers of joy. As we begin to set up camp, I ask “has anyone seen the poles?”. The fishing poles had been stored in a long black tube, and everyone immediately starts to look around for it. The joyous sounds of triumph turn to, groans of mistake. “They can’t be too far back” Bryce says. We decide to rest up and send a two-man search party out for the rod’s early morning the next day. Continuing to set up camp, eventually we are gathered around, devouring our dinner, and taking in the sunset and solitude as a worthy prize to end the day. Condensation droplets drip on my face, it feels as if I’m in a groggy rainstorm, an orange glow of the sun filters through the tent. It’s our second day in the bwca, my back and arms are sore from paddling the previous day. But it was nothing compared to the day I am about to endure. Bryce and I eat a light breakfast of oats. After we inhale our meal, we put together a light day pack for our treasure hunt to find the poles. We get down into the canoe and begin on our way. The sun was bright, and the day was begging for us to take a dip in the nice cool June waters. We fly through three lakes and two portages, carving through the water as if our lives depended on it. At each new lake we paddle with more haste, until finally we make it to Lake Jitterbug. Bryce says “Nooo, not this landfill of a lake.” Jitterbug is the murkiest, lake/ bog with a distinct odor of decomposing biomass. It smells of compost, and eutrophic mounds of filth. “If the rods aren’t at the other end of this lake we are giving up” I say to Bryce, he sadly agrees. We slog through the shallow water, practically pushing ourselves over muck. The moment happens, “NO WAY, THERE THEY ARE.” Bryce shouts. We had traveled all the way back to Ahsub-Jitterbug Portage to find the fishing rods. I like to imagine this is the happiest anyone’s ever been on Lake Jitterbug. We head on our way back to camp. Another hour and a half of travel later and we arrive. It was as if the pope had pulled into camp, being flooded with praise, and joy as we hold up the rods. We prepare a well-earned lunch and wolf it down in under a minute. Bryce communicates “We have a long road ahead of us still, we better get on our way soon.” Packing up camp as fast as we could, before we know it, we are back on the water, in transport mode. As we begin to move as a herd, I begin to have a sense of home. I have a feeling of peace to have a map at my feet, compass around my neck, and paddle in hand. Even though I’ve pushed myself, and still have a long road to cover, I am beginning to feel that this is the way god intended me to be. Away from the dopamine drained way of life, that is current society. In this way of life my mind and body can release chemicals, in a natural way, A much more rewarding way. We spend hours pushing on, paddling, and portaging. At one point, wading through a shallow rocky stream, we took a couple to many left turns, and unknowingly got spun around heading back the way we came. After our realization, we get our heading, and repeat what had just taken thirty minutes to cross. Back on the endless liquid road, I keep a smile on my face. Lucas keeps singing, and we all keep shredding through the wind and the water. Maneuvering past the bays and peninsulas, at long last we are at the final lake before Sagus. Me and Bryce had been traveling for a total of ten hours at this point, but it didn’t cross my mind once. All I could think was “I am loving every minute of this”, and we hadn’t even had a day to fish, and relax yet. The final portage, 60 rods; This portage was different than any I had seen up to this point. It was overgrown, so much green grabbing at my legs, I began to lose my footing, but it is made quick work of. The blue before us is like no other, it is a perfect mirror. being out on this water feels like floating out in space with a ring of green trees around us. This day of racing the sun has brought me close to this protected land. I come to find that this lifestyle is what our bodies have evolved to thrive in and endure; unaltered ecosystems yet to be terraformed by modern civilization. Uncovering the secrets of this solitary isolation, teaches much more than I’ve ever known, and I hope to continue learning from it all my life.