Part 1 of 14
Quetico’s Trees, Rocks and Water: A Solo Journey
Trip Leader: Chuck Ryan
Dates: Sunday, 07-01-07 through Thursday, 07-12-07
Trip Course: Moose Lake to Prairie Portage, the “Man Chain”, “Falls Chain”, Kawnipi Lake, “Poet Chain”, Sturgeon Lake, Maligne River, Minn Lake, McAree Lake, Iron Lake, Crooked Lake, Siobhan River, Middle Roland Lake, Roland Lake, Argo Lake, Darkwater Lake, Darkwater River, Brent Lake, McIntyre Lake, Sarah Lake, Isabella Lake, Isabella Creek, North Bay of Basswood Lake, Bagley Bay of Basswood Lake, Inlet Bay of Basswood Lake, Prairie Portage and back to Moose Lake.
Total Miles: 161
Canoe: We-no-nah Prism
Paddles: Two ZRE Carbon Bent Shaft Paddles, 51 and 50 inch
Last year, 2006, I got back into wilderness paddling after taking some time off to do some marathon canoe racing. There were a couple solo trips I had in mind to do this year. The first trip planned was to paddle the first 450 miles of the Mississippi River from the headwaters of the river to my home in Champlin, Minnesota. This trip was actually going to take place last fall, but there wasn’t enough water to paddle in the upper portion of the river. I don’t have any interest in paddling the whole length of the Mississippi River at this point in my life. The upper portion will be much more scenic.
Most of my canoe trips these days are solo canoe trips. I’ve written about this in the past, but I’ve stopped planning my schedule around everyone else. I’ve stopped waiting for other people to make up their minds on if they want to go or not. I’ll let it be known that I’m planning a canoe trip and I figure if anyone was serious about going they would show some interest. Maybe some are intimidated by my aggressive trips, but these trips are planned for my enjoyment. Until someone shows an interest these trips will be planned on what I enjoy to do and see.
Last year I did ask a friend of mine if he wanted to go for a week long trip. He said if he went he should go with his wife, since he hadn’t been up there in a while. Earlier this year I asked this same friend that I was going for two weeks and asked him if he was interested. He told me he couldn’t take that much time off work, but if I was going for a week, he would probably go. Humm…
This year I bought 1,100 conifers from the DNR nursery to plant on my property, so I wasn’t sure when exactly the trees would arrive. The Mississippi River trip was put off again, since it was so close to this trip.
The other trip planned was to do the majority of the historic Hunter’s Island loop. This trip would have a little bit of everything from big lakes to small ones, rivers big and small, and several waterfalls. I hadn’t been on about three fourths of this loop. There were a couple areas I hoped to avoid. The first area was Lac La Croix because of the really big water and the possibility of becoming wind bound. The other area I wanted to avoid was most of Iron Lake and Crooked Lake, because I paddled those areas just last year. I knew this trip would take me approximately two weeks to complete. It was my intentions from the start to do a variation of the Hunter’s Island Loop.
January of this year I began checking my work schedule and other commitments in my life to determine a time frame that would be possible for me to take off. There were things that needed to be done, renewed my passport, and make my reservations for entry at Carp Lake six months prior to my entry date of July 2nd. I also sent off for my Remote Area Border Crossing Permit (RABC).
In May I finally got out all my maps, put my pen to paper and finally documented the exact route with a couple different options on two of the days. This trip was planned as a 13 day trip and there were additional days available to finish this loop, if needed.
One of my goals on these trips is to travel everyday, unless the weather forces me to sit tight. I like to paddle and I can and will paddle all day long, if needed. This probably comes from putting in long days of training and in actual canoe races racing marathon canoes. I love to paddle; portages are a means to an end.
Most of my camping gear has been bought in the past for other trips, but I usually end up buying other stuff or updating some of the gear I already have. Why, because it’s the thing to do!
There was a copy of my itinerary for this trip that was posted on a couple different websites. The itinerary is for me to give me an idea where I want to be on a certain day. Specific instructions were given to my father when I gave him this itinerary as well as a copy of a map with the route marked on it.
A couple weeks before this trip, reservations were made at the campground at Fall Lake for the night before my entry at Moose Lake on July 2nd. This is a few miles from the Moose Lake landing and I wanted to make sure there was a spot available when I arrived. This would be a different campground for me and I had no idea if it would be full or not.
Part 2 of 14
Sunday, July 1st
Pre-Trip / Drive Day
07-01-07 1936 hours, Fall Lake Campsite #33
Right now there is a light rain and I’m sitting on a picnic table under the limbs of some trees, but I’ll probably have to move into the tent fairly soon.
Well, I had to move into the tent as soon as I finished the last line. It’s only a light rain and it’s coming straight down, but it’s too wet to stay outside.
The wind had been blowing very hard most of the day. I’m not sure when the wind died down, but about an hour ago I walked down to Fall Lake to see if I could get a cell phone reception to call my father. The lake was very calm while speaking with him down by the lake. The lake was only a short walk from my campsite.
Things didn’t go as planned the last couple of days. I didn’t leave the house as early as planned today, but it’s the best I could do. I was on call this past week at work and I was called into work to investigate a shooting at 0047 hours Saturday morning and worked until 1730 hours on it. This was after working till 2200 hrs the night before, so at most I got an hour and a half of sleep before being called at home to come back into work
I was able to get some stuff packed or put together last night after work, but not as much as I would’ve liked to have gotten accomplished. I was just so tired from the lack of sleep that I went to bed sometime between 2100 to 2200 hours.
This morning I woke up at 0615 hours, ate, took a shower and continued packing.
First, I packed all my food together. My three meals are placed in three different colored stuff sacks. One for each meal and there was another partial stuff sack that contained additional coffee and some sourdough bread.
When I tried getting all my food into my Kelty back pack, I couldn’t get it zipped up. I went downstairs and got my other Granite Gear Quetico Pack. I haven’t put the pack on my back yet, but it’s substantially heavier than for a shorter trip. One thing I always say every trip, “I brought too much food!”
I finally got everything together and some of it placed inside my other Granite Gear Superior pack. Some things weren’t packed away completely because I would be camping at the campground tonight. There will be time to fine tune everything in the morning at the Moose Lake landing, anyways.
It’s starting to rain harder now (1956 hours at the campground).
This morning I left home at 1054 hours. I had to make a few stops, went to Subway and bought a 12 inch Chicken breast sub and then went to the ATM. Afterwards, I filled the Suburban with gas and drove to the Post Office to mail my vehicle insurance premium.
I was officially on the road at 1110 hours. (Mileage 89019). There was more traffic coming up I-35, since leaving later than I normally do for these trips, but traffic was moving along fine.
When I left the house this morning the temperature was 76 degrees. I called my father in Grand Rapids, he said, it was 63 degrees there. After arriving in Duluth the temperature was 58-59 degrees. I got to downtown Duluth around two hours and ten minutes after leaving my house.
I continued along the north shore to Two Harbors where I filled up the Suburban with gas at the Holiday Gas Station on the north end of town at around 1356 hours. The temperature fluctuated between 55 to 59 degrees from Two Harbors to my turn onto Highway One going toward Isabella.
There was very little traffic going north on Highway 61, but I did get stuck following a truck that was pulling a smaller trailer carrying two canoes and two kayaks. The trailer jumped back and forth as it went up the highway. There was a smaller car directly behind the truck and trailer and it eventually was able to pass the trailer. There was a Ford Excursion in front of me that just continued following behind the truck and trailer. It made no effort to pass this vehicle. Little did I know as we creped up the highway that these two vehicles were together and they both pulled off at the Baptism River together. I should add and not too soon.
I had the road to myself for the next 5 miles before the turn to Highway One. Once I made the turn I pulled over and got my camera out of my Pelican case. Next, I grabbed my Chicken breast sub sandwich out of the cooler.
There were three little fawns, still with spots, that crossed the road just before Finland. The third fawn crossed the road a mile or two from the first two. There was another larger fawn or small doe off to the side of the road in moose country along Highway One.
Many years ago when I worked out of Isabella I crested the top of a hill in this area and standing in the middle of the roadway was a moose. To this day I don’t know how I missed it. There are signs to look out for moose along this stretch of the road.
(2008 hours-It now has stopped raining)
I drove into Isabella and noticed a new structure being built where Olga’s Bar used to be. There are only a handful of buildings so it was obvious. There is only one road through Isabella and that’s Highway One. Later, Char, at the Isabella Work Station, told me the old structure had burned to the ground recently.
I continued to follow the road going north and pulled into the Isabella Work Station. I used to work for the US Forest Service from 1980 to 1983 when this was an actual Ranger Station. During the summers there were many people who worked out of the ranger station here. Now it’s very quiet.
Last year there was an on-line auction where the government had broken this compound into I believe 9 separate properties that were for sale on the on-line auction. All, but one had been sold.
I pulled into the driveway down by the two smaller log cabins that led to the back of the compound where the warehouses are situated. While working there I lived in each of these two log cabins as well as some other structures on the property. Further down Highway One I also lived with several other Forest Service employees in what was referred to as the section house. The section house used to be owned by the railroad and it’s next to some railroad tracks that are no longer there.
There was a sign on one of the warehouses marking the office to pick up permits. I walked in and notice that a small portion of this warehouse had been converted into a small office. I spoke to the receptionist, Char, for a little while. I didn’t need to pick up anything, but just wanted to see the changes. Char wasn’t originally from the area, so she didn’t recognize most of the names I mentioned. I did mention the name Jeff D., and she told me he is still stationed at Isabella but he was on vacation that week. I told her to tell him I said, hello.
I left the work station and continued on Highway One. Just before the section house I went through some curves in the road where there is a small log house that is boarded up. Back in the 1980 or 1981 I rounded those same curves going the opposite way. In my peripheral view I saw a dark object running from the yard toward my car. Then I heard something hit my car twice. I thought a dog had run into my car so I got out checking on it. Well, it wasn’t a dog; it was two second year bear cubs. I didn’t stick around to long, just enough time to pull them off to the side. I knew momma bear would be near by and I didn’t want to explain it to her. Later, when I got back to the ranger station I called the conservation officer who I believe was in Babbitt at the time.
Now I drove passed the section house that’s about 2 miles up the road from the work station. The trees in the front of the house have sure grown up since living there some 24 years ago. It appears there are Forest Service employees still living there as there were several trucks parked outside the large residence.
About three miles later I pulled into the Little Isabella campground and changed out of my shorts into long pants. It began to sprinkle a little while outside my Suburban. It was another cloudy, cool, northeast Minnesota summer day.
Next I drove passed the Knotted Pine Tavern. While working up there in 1980 this bar sold 3.2 beer. It still may as I haven’t been inside since 1983. When I worked up here this tavern was owned by Lee and Gladys Waggoner. Their son, Dave Waggoner aka Wagner, was the lead singer from the band, Crow. This was a local Midwest band that got its start in the late 60’ to early 70’s with one of their biggest hits, “Cottage Cheese”. I mention this because I first heard of this group when I was visiting relatives in Moline, Illinois when I was a young kid. This tavern opened in 1937. Several logging families settled around this area after the “town” of Forest Center, on the south shore of Isabella Lake disbanded. Forest Center was established by the Tomahawk Kraft Paper company who needed a place for their employees to live after they had acquired 150,000 acres in the 1940’s. Forest Center was located near Isabella Lake.
Five miles later, I drove to McDougall Lakes Campground. I drove down to the boat landing and took some photos of the wild rice that was beginning to emerge through the water.
I was just reminiscing back to the days when I worked up there. The Isabella area is a very remote and an interesting area. One can find a lot of solitude here. When I worked for the US Forest Service, my first year I worked as an Initial Attack Fire Crew member and later that fall/winter was a supervisor for the Young Adult Conservation Corp (YACC) where we did some Timber Stand Improvement and burning of slash piles. The other years I worked as a Recreation Forestry Technician where I patrolled the campgrounds and dispersed campsites outside the BWCA in the Isabella Ranger District.
My next scheduled stop was Ron Brodigan’s residence / school. Ron has been teaching Log Building at his school, Great Lakes School of Log Building, since about 1975. His website, http://www.schooloflogbuilding.com/newsletter.htm. I’ve taken a couple log building classes and one stone class from Ron.
I e-mailed Ron earlier and told him I would be coming up his way and I would stop by to say hi. I drove up to the junction of Highway One and Highway Two. There was an old logging camp, St. Croix Logging Camp, next to the Stony River there many years ago. I turned to go south several miles toward Sand Lake. Just before I got to Ron’s driveway I saw that he had his pick-up parked off the road at the entrance to one of his rental cabins, the Sunrise Cabin. When I pulled down the driveway, Ron was in his tractor with the back hole clearing brush from around the Sunrise cabin making the fire break a little larger around it. Ron also told me he was going to put a metal on the roof.
Ron was in the back hole and there was another guy helping Ron. I spoke to Ron for about half an hour. Ron asked me if I read the note on the door to his place, but I hadn’t since I came from the other direction. After speaking with Ron I drove over to his place and looked at the newest project, a 18’ by 20’ log cabin, his students are building. Then I went to his big rental cabin, the Ridge Cabin, to see some of the changes he has done to it in the past year.
(Well, it’s still raining very lightly as I continue to write).
Ron is also selling some property, so I decided to check that out after he gave me the description of the boundaries of it. Well, time to get going again.
I went back north on Highway Two up to Highway One. I turned left onto Highway One, in the old days when this was a logging road it was known as the Stony Tote Road. The original trail was built by the St. Croix Logging Company. For those who have never had the chance to experience this very scenic, curvy, albeit dangerous, 40 mile section of Highway One to Ely, it won’t be the same. There is road construction going on. The trees used to come right up to road, but now they are cutting the trees way back and they are also straightening portions of the road. This started about where the old Chub Lake Resort was by the road. Chub Lake began as a resort in 1934, but has been closed many years now. A little further up they have completely removed the blacktop and it’s all gravel with barrels marking the roadway.
I was very disappointed in the change. Since I’m an outsider and I don’t live there, it’s easy for me to be disappointed in the change. I know some locals who welcome the change, because there wasn’t much room for any error when driving this road because of the moose, bear, deer, snow and other logging trucks. I have to remember that I don’t travel this section on a daily basis or in the winter, so it’s easy for me to be disappointed. I would have to say this was the last remaining 40 mile section that is very scenic and remote. It would be hard to come up with a more scenic road in Minnesota as this stretch up the old Stony Tote Road from Isabella to Ely.
There was more construction at the South Kawishiwi River. Very sad to see! Before long it will look like all the yuppie buildings / resorts that have popped up along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Very sad! Well, maybe not that bad, but there’s still a drastic change taking place.
I got to Ely just 5 minutes shy of the six hour mark, since leaving home. I stopped into Piragis’s and bought some more stuff. Let’s see, what did I buy? I bought another stuff sack, because I needed a different color. I bought a couple books; Runes of the North by Sig Olsen and Quetico Provincial Park by Shirley Peruniak, some Dealy Bobs, and another map case, why, because eventually I might need another one on a future trip and some smaller plastic bags for one of my other packs that I’m not taking on this trip. I used to get these bags at REI in the Twin Cities, but two out of the three stores I’ve been to don’t carry them anymore. I bought $106 worth of items.
My next stop was at the DQ for a double hamburger and large fries. I needed to grab a cup of coffee, so I drove back west down the main street to the coffee shop, it was closed. I then drove to the Northern Grounds down from Piragis. I got a large coffee and a delicious strawberry rhubarb pie. Very good pie!
While driving back to the east I stopped by Voyageur North to browse before heading to the Fall Lake Campground. I was going to introduce myself to the owners, but I didn’t see them. There were a couple younger guys there, and one of them was accusing the other one of taking his keys a week ago. This was my last stop before the campground.
I got to the main building to check in at the Fall Lake campground around 1830 to 1845 hours. They gave me some information, the code to the restrooms and then it was off to the campsite I went.
After getting to the campsite and grabbing my camera I walked a short distance from my campsite down to the water. I came back up to a very clean campsite and made camp. I began writing in my journal and I’ve been writing for over one hour.
The wind seems to have picked up some, gusty. The time now is 2042 hours.
Part 3 of 14
July 2nd, Monday, 1934 hours
On a campsite on a point along the north shore of That Man Lake
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 07.918’, W 091 degrees 16.456’, Elevation 1398’
Lakes Traveled: Moose Lake, Newfound Lake, Sucker Lake, Birch Lake, Carp Lake, Sheridan Lake and That Man Lake
Total time: 7:30
Total miles: 17.5
I didn’t sleep that well last night. The wind picked up sometime during the night. It wasn’t raining when I woke up at 0538 hours. Just when I got all my stuff out of the tent, of course, it began to rain. I took down my tent and ate in the rain. Afterwards, I just threw all my gear in the Suburban and figured I would sort and pack for the trip at the Moose Lake Landing.
Upon leaving the Fall Lake campground driving to Moose Lake landing at 0712 hours I called my father and left him a voice mail since he didn’t answer his phone.
It was raining while I was driving on the Fernberg Trail to Moose Lake. In the early 1900 there was a platform rigged to a large pine tree used as a fire tower near the Kawishiwi River. It was originally made by following the waterways that were south of town then following them to the east. The tower was named the Fernberg Lookout. It was named using the combination of two forester’s names, Ole Fernlund and John Handburg. A trail was made from the tower back to Ely. Eventually, this road became to be known as the Fernberg Trail.
The temperature was 54 degrees, but dropped to 52 degrees as I pulled in at Moose Lake at 0738 hours. It rained the entire time I was getting prepared to hit the water. I really wish it wasn’t raining as I was somewhat disorganized in getting my gear together.
I’m finally on the water at 0855 hours in full rain gear. Five minutes after I started paddling it stopped raining. Time to take off my rain jacket and long sleeve poly-pro top. I was paddling in my t-shirt and everyone else was still in their rain gear. I kept my rain bibs on, since I didn’t want to pull over and take them off. I continued to pass several groups as I made my way to Prairie Portage to pick up my Quetico permit. I couldn’t believe all the large groups. There were either 4 canoes with two people each or three canoes with three people. I realized that many of the three aluminum canoes with three people were Boy Scouts. When paddling this section from Moose Lake, Newfound Lake, and Sucker Lake it’s hard to imagine that you’re in the “wilderness” due to the great number of canoes, people and motor boats. Many of the campsites were taken, also.
It took me 1 ½ hours to paddle to Prairie portage. I left my canoe down at the landing and walked the portage to the Canadian Ranger office to pay my money and get my permit. There was a couple already talking to the receptionist when I walked in the front door. The receptionist told them there haven’t been any reports of any bear problems. She continued to tell them that Quetico has three quarter less people that visit than the BWCA.
I was next and I paid an additional $160 dollars (total $260) for 13 days of travel. I asked her if she was aware if anyone had done the Hunter’s Island loop this year and she was not aware. She told me that the number of visitors to Quetico are down this year, but she didn’t know why. I mentioned maybe it was a combination of high gas prices and the fact, that when going through Prairie Portage the fee had been increased to $20 per night whereas, the other entry points charge about $5 less.
I walked back over to the portage and decided to have lunch before I continued on my journey. When I finished lunch, I was just about ready to head east to Carp Lake when I saw the three aluminum canoes with 9 people who I had passed earlier to get my permit. Their canoes were pointing to the east, just about to head the same direction as me. I asked them if they were headed through the “Man Chain” and they said, yes.
When I started paddling this morning I noticed there was a slight breeze from the southeast. On Birch Lake I noticed the wind had switched to the southwest. While I followed the international waters of Birch Lake I saw every campsite on the American side was taken. Each one of these campsites appeared to have a minimum of three canoes on shore. Wow!
My first portage with gear was the 40 rod portage from Birch Lake to Carp Lake. It was rocky with a slight incline, but it wasn’t a bad portage. There were a group of four people at the portage when I arrived, but they said they were going onto Knife Lake. On the other side of the portage another group was coming from Carp Lake. They were in a C-2 and a C-1.
When I turned to go from the border while on Carp Lake, there weren’t anymore canoes coming in my direction. The group that told me they were going up the “Man Chain” I last saw them about the middle of Birch Lake by the big island. Maybe I was going to be by myself the rest of the day.
It’s not known how the lakes in the “Man Chain” got their names, but many of the other lakes in Quetico have some known origin.
My original plan was to camp somewhere on Carp Lake, but it was too early to stop. I’m thinking it was around 1400 hours. I continued to the portage between Carp Lake and Sheridan Lake. It has a small put-in / take-out. The portage was about 10 rods, but it had an incline and then a sharp 10 foot drop down to Sheridan Lake. I grabbed both of my cameras and took some photos of some Blue Flag Iris by the waters edge with both cameras. After that I walked the length of the small water falls between the two lakes and took some more photos with both cameras. After spending quite a bit of time at this portage it was time to move on.
I was ready to continue on, looked at the map and I thought the distance marked on the map for the next portage was 148 yards. I said what the heck. There was an opening along the south shore on my right before the end of the lake where the marked portage was located. It didn’t look like a campsite, but I really wasn’t sure what it was. Well, I continued to the marked portage at the end of the lake. These portages aren’t actually marked, just marked on the map.There was a sandy landing here. This portage was actually 748 yards or about 136 rods. A little shy of a half mile. This portage was very muddy and it went up and down. There were some large flat rocks that were very slippery from the recent rains as well. I brought my large pack across first.
My normal procedure is to carry my large pack first with my nylon mesh bag that I have three Nalgene water bottles and my Model 1524 Pelican case with camera gear. I have carabineers on each shoulder strap on the front. I hook the nylon bag with water bottles on the left carabineer. There is a rope tied to the handle of the Pelican case. I pull the open end of the line through the right carabineer and then loop the open end around the handle of the Pelican case about an arm length away. This way when I walk with the case it keeps most of the strain off my right arm. Then I carry my food pack and canoe on the second trip.
Returning back for my other gear I noticed a trail that forked off to my left. I had come on the trail directly in front of me, but I decided to see if the trail to my left was any better in avoiding the very muddy section at the start of the portage. It started going off onto higher ground. This trail came out exactly at the spot that I was eyeing before I hit the original portage where I got out. Now I had to bushwhack through the thick low area that consisted mostly of Northern White Cedar trees back to the original portage. I threw my food pack back into the canoe and paddle over to the other landing / portage trail. I began with my food pack and canoe, but my portage yoke kept slipping. It slipped off the gunwale of the canoe dropping the canoe on my head. I put the canoe on the ground and continued across the portage with only my food pack. I didn’t want to risk slipping on any slippery rocks while at the same time fighting with my yoke.
While walking back to my canoe I heard some noise. There they were the group that I saw earlier at Prairie Portage. There are nine people in this group and they single portage, but they can’t keep up with me on the water.
I got my canoe and I wedge my bandana between the yoke and the gunwale to keep the yoke from sliding around. I made it back to the landing. When I got back to the landing the group had all their canoes in the water, but they were waiting for one more person in their group to show up. This person who I passed earlier on the trail appeared to be moving much slower than the rest of the group.
The group moved one of their canoes so I could drop mine in the water next to them. It was crowed with four canoes. Off I went in search of a campsite on That Man Lake. That Man Lake has some nice high buffs and is a very scenic lake. The last portage took me at least an hour, since I pretty much had to triple portage it. I could feel the muscles in my lower back tightening up. I though to myself, I’m going to be sore in the morning.
There were two campsites at the east end of That Man Lake and I wanted to have my pick of them. I decided on the campsite on a little peninsula that faces southeast. There is a island campsite about a quarter mile to my southeast and it faces to the west. I prefer to have a southeast (south or east) facing campsite, if possible. I like to stay out of the setting sun so I prefer to have the sunrise in the morning. I made it to the campsite at 1635 hours.
The next things that needed to get done were to put up my rain fly, tent, cooked dinner. Dinner consisted of venison spaghetti and for desert I had some lemon pudding.
The wind died down about an hour ago. It’s still cloudy, some haze in the distance. The birds have been singing and there’s a loon calling in the distance.
I don’t know where the other group camped, but they never came passed my site. There appeared to be a possible campsite on another island before this site, but I didn’t go up to it and check it out. I think this group has been this way before, since they mentioned they wanted to get across the last portage before calling it a day.
My calculations show I went about 17.5 miles today. I’ve been sitting hear listening to all the birds singing.
Earlier, I tried finding a suitable tree to hang my food pack. What a joke! There’s mostly spruce, jack pine and some really big red pine with no suitable branches. It took me about a half hour struggle to get the food pack off the ground about 4 feet. If someone would paddle by my campsite now and see the food pack they would just laugh. The problem with the food pack is that it’s so heavy and trying to hoist it up on a flimsy branch just doesn’t work that well.
I have a lot more gear on this trip. There’s the slightly bigger Pelican case, a tripod as well as too much food (again, I always say I have too much food). Today, I had a tougher time flipping my canoe, more so than usual. It might be because the tripod is lashed to the thwart behind my seat and there’s more gear in my seat bag. I shouldn’t have to struggle that much in flipping the canoe over my head. In about one week my food pack should be much lighter. Another problem was my tent was pretty wet when I packed it away today. I think I’m going to put the tripod in one of the packs for the rest of the trip.
Thank goodness, I didn’t bring my heavier Manfrotto 458B tripod with the Manfrotto 3265 head. I bought an inexpensive Manfrotto 725 B with a head attached already. The 725B weights 3.3 pounds, not including, the tripod bag. The 458B weights about 5.25 pounds, not including the head.
Another item I bought for this trip was a silk sleeping bag liner. Last night was the first time it was used. This is a luxury item, but it takes up very little room and doesn’t weight that much. I just keep it in my sleeping bag when I put the bag away in a compression sack. I wanted something on those really hot sticky nights. I found when sweating on those hot nights, my body sticks to the sleeping bag making me even hotter and very uncomfortable. I used to sometimes take a cotton sheet that took up more room and it was heavier than this silk liner.
I took some photos tonight using my Nikon D80 and tripod. My other camera is an Olympus Stylus 770 SW digital camera purchased about one week before this trip. I didn’t have time to figure the Olympus camera out prior to this trip. Tonight I had to get the manual out, because sometime today I accidentally put the camera on full auto mode and couldn’t figure out how to get it back to the program “P” mode.
Part 4 of 14
July 3rd, Tuesday, 1840 hours
Campsite on Bell Lake that is south of the portage that goes into an unnamed lake
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 13.702’, W 091 degrees 06.950’, Elevation 1547’
Lakes Traveled: That Man Lake, No Man Lake, This Man Lake, Other Man Lake, Unnamed Lake, Unnamed Lake and Bell Lake
Total time: 07:13
Total miles: 10.75 (this doesn’t include approximately one mile of back tracking for my PFD)
Well, where do I begin! This definitely wasn’t one of my smoother days.
After waking up around 0400 hours, I kept hearing something swimming by my campsite as I tried falling back to sleep. I thought at first it might be a beaver, but I never heard their vocal sound or the slap of their tail against the water. I also didn’t see any beaver activity or sign on this lake yesterday. This was more of an eloquent sound.
Shortly, after I got up around 0530 hours, I began my back stretches first thing before getting out of the tent. My body wasn’t as sore as I thought it would be. This was a beautiful morning to get some photos of the very foggy conditions. While taking photos, I saw a loon swimming by. While observing the loon it went under water, there it was, the eloquent sound that I heard earlier. It’s hard to describe, but next time listen to a loon when it breaks the surface of the water on a calm day. To me it was the sound of a refreshing dip in the water. Maybe it was the atmosphere and this location that made this sound so special.
Breakfast consisted of oatmeal with dried bananas, raisins, strawberries and cinnamon. For some protein, I mix protein powder with dry milk. Coffee is made with a coffee press. That’s pretty much what I have every morning. Afterwards, camp is taken down, everything loaded into the canoe and the start of my paddling day began at 0805 hours.
Instead of paddling directly to the next portage at the east end of the lake I paddled out further from my campsite. I looked to the west to see if the group from yesterday was coming my way, but they weren’t in sight. I made two cups of coffee for the road and drank them as I meandered toward the 95 rod portage that goes to No Man Lake.
After arriving at the portage and looking back down the lake, I saw the three canoes in the distance coming my way. This portage was flat to a slight incline, but decent. I came back across to get my food pack and canoe and I no longer saw the three canoes. I thought where could they have gone? I grabbed my canoe and food pack and off I went across the portage toward No Man Lake. The portage yoke was still giving me some problems. Again, I put the canoe down and continued with only the food pack. I came back for the canoe.
Once I was on the water at No Man Lake, I immediately heard some noise over by the stream. It sounded like a voice. I was more curious what this noise was than to take an inventory of my gear to make sure I had everything in the canoe. I paddled over to the stream and there was the group from yesterday. They told me they had camped at an island on That Man Lake last night and just now they paddled the stream. They told me they had to do a couple pullovers. This group told me they were a Boy Scout group from Texas. There was an adult male, adult female, younger female and the other six were younger males.
We all approached the western shore of No Man Lake and they began saying they were going to take the 60 rod portage to the left. They told me it was longer, but it was maintained. I asked to see the younger girl’s map that showed the two portages. She was navigating from the middle of the third canoe. They were using Fisher Maps. I was using McKenzie maps and I was using the same map I used back it 1999 and it didn’t show the trail to the left. The girl told me her brother did the portage last year and he said the portage on the right wasn’t maintained. In 1999, I did the 12 rod portage to the right. Although, I don’t remember what it was like other than it was steep, but I guess I don’t know what they mean by maintain. I later looked at my Quetico Adventure Series map and it appears the shorter one to the right is the one that is maintained by the park.
Well, I decided to get out on the portage to the left just as everyone else was doing. This 60 rod portage was a treat. There was a steep incline shortly after the start of the portage; there were about three large trees over the trail where I had to drop packs and the canoe to get to the other side. There was also a long section going on top of the bedrock that was slippery. This portage was congested with the other nine people who were single portaging. I still was having problems with my portage yoke, so I was triple portaging. I knew I was going to triple portage with my heavy food pack and the problems I was having with my yoke that I didn’t want to risk getting hurt on this tricky, treacherous portage. I would say with the three large trees over the trail that this is the trail that’s not maintained. If I could have done this portage one time like the group was doing it wouldn’t have been too bad.
I went back and got my canoe for the 3rd trip and was carrying it down the trail when I had to put the canoe down to get across one of the trees that were across the trail. I was about three fourths across the portage when I notice that my PFD wasn’t secured to my canoe.
When I went to get my canoe for the third trip across, I found a small bottle of sun tan lotion that the other group had dropped near my canoe. I decided I would walk to the end of the portage on the This Man Lake side and give the group back their lotion and to tell them I had to go back and find my PFD. Also, I would be fine. I got to the portage and everyone was gone. I saw one canoe that appeared they were waiting to see me before going out of sight along the north shore of This Man Lake. The person in the canoe took off after I waved at them.
While I walked back to my canoe I tried to think when was the last time I remembered securing my PFD to the canoe. I walked past my canoe thinking, still thinking and I probably got most of the way back across the portage when I realize I don’t remember securing the PFD to the canoe at all. I realized the PFD was probably at the beginning of the portage on That Man Lake. I remembered now that I didn’t check my canoe to see if I had everything when I got on No Man Lake because I heard the voices.
Deciding that I needed to get my canoe I walked back to get it. It took me some time while I struggled to turn the canoe around because of the thick brush surrounding the portage trail. I carried the canoe back to the beginning of this portage then paddled back across No Man Lake from this longer portage. While I headed back I saw a group paddling across No Man Lake off to my left. They had come from the 12 rod portage that supposedly wasn’t maintained anymore.
I got back to the 95 rod portage and pulled my canoe up on shore. Half walking, half running down the portage toward the start of the portage where I pretty much started my day. There was the beautiful sight, my PFD lying on the ground as if to say, where did you go. I knew you would come back.
Now I paddled back across No Man Lake again and this time I decided to take the 12 rod portage. I met a couple who were standing at the end of the 12 rod portage by their canoe. They told me the portage was very steep and I would have to watch my step on all the loose rocks. Quickly, I flipped the canoe overhead and up the steep rocky incline I went. I was at the end of the portage in no time. My recommendation would be to use this 12 rod portage instead of using the longer 60 rod portage. I found it to be better than the 60 rod portage, but maybe it was because it was different. It seemed liked I was going back and forth across the 60 rod portage and not really accomplishing anything.
Normally I take an inventory of all my items that I should have in my canoe after a portage. This time I was distracted after hearing the sound over by the river instead of taking the time to do the inventory. Lesson learned!!
I began paddling on This Man Lake at 1045 hours. This is a large lake. This is another very scenic lake with high buffs. Further down on the north shore it appears there has been a fire on this lake since I was last here. This is a favorite lake of mine, but both times I’ve been on it the lake it has been calm. It took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to paddle the 5 miles up this lake. The lake was perfectly calm when I started to paddle across it and then there was a slight chop from the breeze that was blowing from the southwest by the time I finished. The sun came through the haze and clouds when I began the paddle on the lake and it was really beginning to get hot. This heat added to my additional physical exertion I did to get my PFD.
My body was getting hot so I began filling up my hat with water and putting it on top of my head letting the water drip around my head onto my body. I also began taking off my t-shirt and dripping it into the water and then putting it back on. While paddling to the east on the lake I came across two different groups in their C-2’s. The one group was making there way back toward Moose Lake. The other group said, nice day to be paddling a solo canoe.
While still on the lake paddling I was beginning to get hungry, but I decided to wait until I did the 49 rod portage to Other Man Lake. After getting all my gear across the portage I stopped for lunch at this tricky put-in. There was a large rock outcropping that was slippery and there was a large tree in the water up against this outcropping. I also filtered more water for the rest of the day. After I finished lunch, I attempted to put my canoe in the only spot to the left of the large tree root and the canoe stuck out perpendicular from shore. I couldn’t get my packs into the canoe in this cramped area. It wasn’t going to work so I had to bring all my stuff to another spot down the slippery rock face further to the east.
I began paddling on Other Man Lake and I could see the other group about a mile ahead of me. Eventually I caught up with the group at the next 39 rod portage from Other Man to the first unnamed lake. There was a jam up at this portage with people and equipment. The older adult male from the Boy Scout group was trying to get his canoe through some trees, but it wasn’t ever going to work because the trees were too close together. He was pretty much stuck as there wasn’t much room to back up. As that was happening the last canoe was still in the water and a couple of the Boy Scouts were trying to get the canoe out of the water to get it started down the portage. About that time there was another couple coming across the portage from the other way. This guy had to go over and down a big rock to the edge of the lake and put his canoe in the water. After he got his canoe across he walked back for his food barrel while the Boy Scouts finally got on there way to the unnamed lake with the last canoe.
When I pulled up to the portage while all that was happening I got out on a large rock and had to leave my canoe in the water, but I was able to bend down and get my packs out. Not the most convenient spot, but there wasn’t any place else to go. After the Boy Scouts got out of the way I dragged my canoe up over the large rock that the one male had walked down. There was a large tree that was on top of this large rock. I let the canoe sit there over the down tree while I grabbed my large pack, water bottles and camera case. I wasn’t going to attempt and walk my canoe up this rock. I carried the packs around this rock where the Boy Scout leader made the mistake of trying to get his canoe past the trees that were very close together. This trail had some boot sucking mud with a steep decline to the unnamed lake. I believe this was another triple portage.
The next 4 rod portage wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Actually the portage was probably more like 12 rods because I couldn’t get the canoe up to shore because of all the rocks. I waited for the younger female, who was standing in some fairly deep water, to put on her pack and flip her canoe up before I could continue. The portage wasn’t actually that difficult just not that easy. How do you like that for a description? This girl told me that they were going to try and make it to Fran Lake. Earlier, in the day one of the other Boy Scouts said they hoped to get to the Falls Chain today. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The next portage was a 21 rod portage going into Bell Lake. On my itinerary I had planned to camp on Bell Lake. I began the portage and was following one of the Boy Scouts who was carrying one of the canoes. He slipped and the canoe fell on him and he was yelling in pain. I was walking up to him while I was carrying my food pack and asked him several times if he was ok, but he didn’t acknowledge. I finally got up to him and got his canoe off him when he said he was OK, but that he had banged the same knee as earlier. Some of the other Boy Scouts came running to his rescue as I finished carrying my pack to the end. I went back for my canoe and when I got ready to put my canoe in the water the other group was already paddling on to their next destination.
I’ll admit it I am thoroughly beat from my triple portages, my extra portages while not gaining any ground and the fact it’s been a very hot day.
Although my original plans were to camp on Bell Lake I really would like to get the next two portages out of the way. I would at least check the campsite out on Bell Lake. From the lake side of the campsite it was up a severe granite rock face. No way would I be able to get up on that side. From a distance I didn’t know if I would want to camp there because it looked like all rock and the ground was very uneven. I pulled into the bay side of the site where there was a much easier landing. I walked up to the site from the water and I still couldn’t tell if the site would be OK or not. The last thing I wanted to do is walk several yards from one area of camp to another. I finally saw a small flat spot near the fire ring where I could place my tent. I’ll just have to sleep on the side of the tent where there isn’t a tree root underneath.
When I started paddling down Bell Lake I saw a merganser and several baby mergansers. I would paddle and they would all quickly swim away from me to the front, I would catch up and they would do the same thing. If they would just move at a right angle from me the problem would be solved. It also began to drizzle when I started paddling on Bell, but in the last hour or two the skies cleared out, the sun came back out, and now it’s hot again. I wasn’t going to put my rain fly up tonight, but I packed it away wet this morning so I need to get it out to dry.
My paddling day ended at 1518 hours when I arrived at this site. Total paddling time today was 7 hours 13 minutes. It appears I went about 10 or 11 miles going forward, slightly more with my backtracking to get my PFD. This lake is a very nice lake with some high cliffs. The lake right now is absolutely calm.
While on the campsite I took some photos earlier. There were 4 loons who paddled over to my campsite checking out their new neighbor. Although, I did take some photos of the loons, the sun was backlighting them, so I know the photos won’t turn out properly.
Tomorrow I hope will go much smoother than it did today. Earlier, I was very tired, but since I’ve been sitting in my Therm-a-rest chair I feel pretty good. I also took a bath and that helped. There won’t be any photos of the sunrise tomorrow, because this campsite faces northwest.
Today was a tough day considering the amount of forward progress I made. Although, I’m on schedule, if I hadn’t messed up, I would probably be on Saganagons Lake. These triple portages don’t make it any easier, either.
Part 5 of 14
July 4th, Wednesday, 2019 hours
A campsite on a point on Kenny Lake. The point is next to an island that has a camp site.
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 19.087’, W 091 degrees 07.772’, Elevation 1312’
Lakes Traveled: Bell Lake, Unnamed Lake, Fran Lake, Slate Lake, Saganagons Lake, Maligne River, Sidney Lake, Maligne River, Kenny Lake
Total time: 9:32
Total miles: 14.75
It’s another nice morning and I was up at 0518 hours. Again, the same morning routine took place before getting on the water at 0734 hours.
There was a slight breeze from the northwest when I got up this morning on Bell Lake. The first portage from my campsite was only minutes away. It’s a 21 rod portage into an unnamed lake and a longer 74 rod portage out of the unnamed lake that leads to Fran Lake
The first, shorter portage had a steep section and then I paddled over to the longer portage that leads to Fran Lake. I took my large pack across and came back for the food pack and canoe. Well, about one third of the way back across the portage with my food pack and canoe I heard a loud snap or crack. The canoe fell upon my head, sliding off and hitting the left side of my face after I tilted my head. My portage yoke had split length wise while I finished putting the canoe on the ground. I didn’t spend anymore time looking at the yoke. I just continued on with my food pack across the portage. While walking back to the canoe thinking, I thought I was going to be able to fix it or I was really screwed.
I came back to see where the yoke had split and it appeared that I would be able to repair it. Grabbing my partial roll of duct tape that was in my seat bag I wrapped the yoke several times. Then I ran out of duct tape and I looked in the seat bag again for my other larger partial roll, but I didn’t find it. I was hoping that the roll was in one of my larger packs, but I would look later. This was only the third day and there’s a good possibility I might need some more duct tape before this trip is through. I, also, put a small piece of duct tape on each gunwale where the yoke is wedged to prevent it from sliding around like it was doing earlier.
I carried the canoe across the portage without any further problems. That sure was a relief.
It seems like it took a while to get here on Fran Lake, but I’m here now. This is where I imagined the Boy Scout group from Texas camped. I wouldn’t think they would have attempted to get much further yesterday.
The creek connecting Fran Lake into Slate Lake was almost navigable to whole way. I was able to paddle a short ways then lined my canoe before continuing on to the east end of Slate Lake.
The map showed there was a 5 rod portage near the campsite at the far eastern end of Slate Lake. I’m not really sure why, but it appeared the stream might be navigable, so I thought I would give it a try. Well, that was a mistake, but I thought how bad could it get.
On the first part I started to paddle down the stream hitting a few rocks, then I had to get out of the canoe and lined it for a little ways with the packs in the canoe, then I took the packs out and continued to line the canoe a few more feet, then I began portaging the canoe in the stream bed through the rocks and water. I began thinking I needed to figure out how I was going to get out of this mess; because this situation wasn’t getting any better the further downstream I went. With the canoe over my head I walked down the slippery rock filled stream bed and put down the canoe partially in some rushing water, so I tied the stern line to a tree. I knew the canoe didn’t want to go with me, but sure as hell it would go without me if I didn’t secure the stern line.
Where do I go? The actual portage would be a ways to my left. I looked the area over when I saw a faint trail that took off at a right angle from the stream. I followed this trail more or less to the north and I was in luck, it came to a larger body of water. This was Saganagons Lake, but exactly where, I didn’t know.
I went back for my packs while watching each step on the slippery rocks. It couldn’t be helped but I slipped a few times and I also stepped in some deeper water that went over the tops of my boots. I carried each of packs to the larger body of water. I did the same with the canoe. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was, but I couldn’t be that far from the end of the other portage on Saganagons. I had to take off my boots and waterproof socks to drain the water out of them. I wringed out my socks and put everything back on.
Although, I didn’t do the 5 rod portage I can safely say without even seeing it that it would have been much easier than the route that I took. When I got on the water, I saw the other portage not far away, but, hey, not too many people would go through that hassle for the experience.
The northwest wind was blowing stronger on Saganagons Lake. Making my way out of the small bay I made my way to the main part of the lake. Then I rounded the southern point of a piece of land that’s not too far from the portage. There were three guys on shore at a campsite who were discussing fishing and about one of them taking a map with him. I asked how the fishing was and they replied that they had been catching some Northerns. I inquired if they saw the three aluminum canoes with the nine people. The first guy said they passed about an hour earlier and another guy said it was probably more like a half hour. The one guy commented that the female was sitting on the throne in the middle of the canoe navigating with the map.
I began to follow the shore line from this campsite to the northeast eventually crossing over to the east shore. This would mean I would be paddling in larger waves that the northwest wind was producing, but if I followed the other shore line it would take me much longer because it had more bays. I continued to paddle to the northeast then I cut north once I got to the island that’s in front of Dead Man’s Portage. I paddled up the west side of the island and I couldn’t get to the portage. When I paddle here in 1999 I was able to get to the portage from this side. Now there was a line of rocks blocking my progress and I didn’t feel like doing a quick portage, so I paddled all the way around the island and came to the portage from the east. It probably took me another 20 minutes or so to make the loop around the island. Based upon those rocks, I believe the lake is one to two feet lower than it was in 1999.
This portage was wetter from the last time I was here in 1999. There’s a big rock that’s in the middle of this trail that was very slippery. This rock was going to be tricky, so I will put the canoe down and continue with the food pack. Then I will return for the canoe. My knees aren’t as good as they once were. I’ve had two knee surgeries on my left knee, 1971 and 1976, so I don’t like taking to many unnecessary chances. I’ve learned to know what my limits are in these situations.
(Looking out the tent I just saw a fire fly. It’s now 2214 hours.)
On this portage I put the canoe down at the big slippery rock and continued on with the food pack. When I came back for the canoe I dropped it off to the side of this big rock and walked around and portaged it from flat ground. I had lunch at the end of Dead Man’s Portage. There I filtered more water to last me the rest of the day. I make sure that I have plenty of water to drink with it being so warm out. I’ve had to filter more water at lunch time each day.
Heading off in a northwest direction from Dead Man’s portage I came across another line of rocks that were underwater in 1999. Changing my course to the northeast around the bottom of the first island I eventually made my way back to the northwest. Now I was headed to the north that would lead me to the cut going to the “falls”. The wind was producing some larger waves for me to paddle in, so I was zigzagging by the islands as I continued to the cut. Off in the distance I could see the north shore of Saganagons where the burn was in 1995. The area around Saganagons, the “Fall Chain” and the eastern part of Kawnipi was burned in 1995. This was called the Bird Lake fire or Fire #141 and it burned anywhere from 5 to 8 percent of the park.
Continuing to paddle up to the “Falls Chain” into a strong head wind, the first portage was to the left. This first portage actually combines two of them together. It seemed that it went on forever. I did these portages back in 1999 and a couple things must have changed, either my memory isn’t as good as it used to be or I’m just getting old, because I don’t remember these portages being this bad. Then there was a short paddle before the next portage on the left. These portages go around the “Four Falls”. After that I’m back into the canoe and paddle to the right for the portage that by passes “Bald Falls”. This portage is over bedrock and the wind is just howling across the bedrock. There is nothing to block the wind. I tie off the canoe so it’s not sailing back upstream while I carry both packs across looking for the best place to launch my canoe. I go back to the canoe, hoist it over my head and the wind catches the front of the canoe and twists my body to the left. I’m still holding onto the canoe and I struggle to twist my body back to the right so I can go forward with the canoe. I finally get the canoe pointing forward again, but then the wind catches the canoe and violently pushes the canoe to the right and damn near ripped the canoe out of my hands. I just drop the canoe to the bedrock at the angle it’s in. Now I grab the left gunwale and I lift the canoe off the ground but keeping it very low. I man handle the canoe across the rock portage as the front of the canoe goes in what ever direction the wind catches it. After this struggle I got to the area I wanted to put the canoe in the water. Now all I have to do is get my bags in the canoe and not fall into the water while stepping on some rocks.
My original plan was to camp on the Maligne River just past this set of the falls, but it’s too early to stop. I would like to get through the next set of portages, get them out of the way so tomorrow will be mostly a paddling day.
I continue to follow the Maligne River. The next portage that’s on the right goes around Little Falls. I then get to the long portage that is to the left of Koko Falls. These two portages are challenging in their own right. If the distances on these portages aren’t that long, then either the put-in or take-out is a challenge. I found nothing really easy on any of these portages.
There was one more 47 rod portage to the left, going around “Canyon Falls”. It wasn’t that bad after I stood up in the canoe, climbed out of it onto the rock ledge, reached down a couple feet and got my packs up and hauled my canoe up the face of the bedrock landing. There was someone else who was just putting a canoe into the water that came from the other direction. I don’t know if his put-in area was any better than where I took out. This was a father and son and their last name was Hansen (sp). They asked me if they could haul anything over the portage for me, since they were walking back to get the rest of their gear. I told them that everything I had was pretty heavy. The father took my water bottles and camera case. His son took my food pack while I carried my bigger pack. The portage was very steep at the start of it until I got on top of the ridge of the bedrock, but after that it wasn’t bad. I wasn’t going to refuse any help at this time of the day.
When I walked back to my canoe, I stopped and asked them if I could get about a foot of duct tape in case I couldn’t find my other roll. I asked them if there were any campsites on Kenny Lake, since my map maps didn’t show any. They said there were two campsites on Kenny Lake. They told me there were two canoes on an island site, but the campsite on the point near the island was open. They said that the next one after that was in the narrows on Kawnipi Lake, but it was in the burned area and it looks pretty sparse.
It has been another exhausting day as I pulled into the campsite on the point at 1706 hours. Yes, I was tired from fighting the strong northwest wind in the heat and I accomplished several tough portages today.
Later, I was out on some rocks down by the water from my campsite filtering some water. I looked over and saw three canoes with seven girls coming toward me from the northeast. They were coming around the island toward my campsite. They told me they were looking for a spot to camp. I told them there weren’t any more spots that I knew of, but they could stay at mine if they wanted as long as they didn’t stay up all night making all kinds of noise. You know it’s was only right that I threw in that last part. You guessed it, they declined my offer.
There appeared to be two leaders in this group and one of them said they had been out for four or five days. She hesitated when I asked her where they put in, but she finally said Nym Lake. She said they would be out another two weeks. I asked where they were headed and again she hesitantly said it’s a secret for the girls. I guess I didn’t understand why she was being so secretive. I figure it someone paddles close to a campsite there might be some conversation. If you don’t want to talk, then don’t go paddling near anyone.
They continued slightly south of east from my campsite into another bay out of sight. They didn’t go far, just around the point from my campsite. I could see the smoke from their fire and the sound of laughter every once in a while.
I checked the bottom of my canoe and I noticed a 5 or 6 inch crack that must have happened when I tried to get through the stream between Slate Lake and Saganagons Lake. Earlier, I realized that I also grabbed one of my carbon fiber paddles from home that had a very minor crack in it. I started going through my seat bag looking for the epoxy and fiberglass, so I could repair the canoe and to put a patch on the paddle. While looking for my epoxy, I found my other roll of duct tape.
I wanted to seal the crack on the bottom of my canoe so the water wouldn’t work its way into the foam. Most of my hardener had leaked out of the bottle so I would have to do the best that I could do with the little amount I had left. I mixed up some epoxy and laid some fiberglass in the crack. I also laid some fiberglass on the small crack on the paddle blade. I wasn’t too concerned about the crack on the paddle as it was very minor, but if I was repairing I might as well do it now because I won’t have any hardener left. I just hoped I had enough hardener to make it cure.
Today was a good day to see eagles as I’ve seen several today. There have been a couple of them flying very close to this campsite. It’s flown by a couple times and the second time it landed in a tree across from my campsite.
Part 6 of 14
July 5th, Thursday
A campsite on an island on the Maligne River near Kahshahpiwi Creek
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 26.843’, W 091 degrees 19.736, Elevation 1308’
Lakes Traveled: Kenny Lake, Kawnipi Lake and the Maligne River
Total time: 6:30 hours
Total miles: 17
Not sure if I heard a noise or not, but about one minute after I woke up at 0438 hours I heard what sounded like the roar of Kennebas Falls getting louder and louder and coming my way. What I heard was the sound of the wind, then the sound of the rain drops striking my tent. The wind sounds so eerie when it comes forward like that. Especially laying in a tent and hoping you made sure no dead branches were above the tent.
After the big gust of wind I tried going back to sleep, but I couldn’t. The wind seemed to stop, but about a half hour later, I heard the wind pick up again. The sky was dark except for some red and orange to the west when I peeked out of the tent.
I got up finally around 0526 hours and began my lower back exercises. Once out of the tent I checked to see how my epoxy had set up over night and it seemed that it was still fairly wet. There was just another drop or two of hardener in the bottle so I smeared what was left of it on the patch on the bottom of the canoe and the paddle. It looked like most of the epoxy did set. I began my morning routine again of breakfast, breaking down camp, packing and getting the canoe in the water all by 0738 hours.
It wouldn’t be long before I would have my only portage today around Kennebas Falls. It was a short 4 rod portage with a tricky put-in. Just before I got to the falls I saw an eagle fly to its nest and land. It stretched out its wings before settling down into the nest.
I paddled toward the northwest on Kawnipi Lake into a slight breeze. This area of Kawnipi was involved in the Bird Lake burn in 1995. There were several more eagles I saw circling over the area as well as over the lake itself. There was one eagle I attempted to get a photo of as it was perched high up in a snag, but it really was too far away to get a decent shot of it. I zoomed out as far as I could while holding the camera by hand so I’m not even sure if the photo will turn out.
Lately, the wind has been slowly building up during the day and I was hoping I would be able to get through most of this large lake before the wind really started to blow.
Off in the distance I saw three canoes about two miles into Kawnipi Lake and shortly after that I saw another group of six people with two canoes. They were coming through a narrow cut when I saw them, but they moved away prior to me getting to close. I wasn’t close enough to talk to either of these groups.
My next stop was going to be the pictographs when I paddled near a C-2 with a man and woman. I was close enough to talk to them. They told me they found one of the pictographs. The man told me that he didn’t find anything at site one, then he continued to say he found a moose pictograph down from it. I’m not sure what site he was talking about. There are two sites on this lake, but I don’t know site one from site two.
Michael Furtman’s, Magic on the Rocks, I have at home, but I don’t remember which site is which. The McKenzie map I have only shows the pictographs on the west side of Kawa Bay. The pictographs that are on the eastern side of Kawa Bay aren’t even marked on my map.
Once I got over to the general area where the pictographs are on the eastern side of the opening to Kawa Bay I begin to scan the rock face above the water for them. There it is, faint, but it’s there. The sun wasn’t in a favorable spot for photos, but I couldn’t wait around. It appeared to me there were three figures in a canoe. The furthest left figure was hard to see, but it’s there.
When I got home I checked my photos and there is something to the left of the other two figures in the canoe, albeit very faint. In the Pictographs of Quetico by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, say the pictograph is of two MAYMAYGWAYSHI in a canoe. In Furtman’s book, he says, “my photographs indicate a third identical figure to their left, although it is mostly hidden under a white mineral wash.” (page 75). I would have to concur with Furtman that there is a third figure in the canoe under the white mineral wash.
I took a few photos of this area.
Next I needed to paddle across the mouth of Kawa Bay to the terminus of the next piece of land to the west in search of the other pictographs, but I wasn’t able to find them. I just paddled along shore looking to see if anything popped out at me, but nothing did. After I got home I read that these were very hard to see, so I don’t feel bad about not spending any more time searching for them.
I continued paddling to the northwest along the northern shore of Kawnipi Lake for another mile or so before I jumped down to the southern shore before I wouldn’t be able to do it. The northwest wind was starting to blow up some fairly large waves when I got to the northwest of Murdoch Lake. Now I was beginning to get the full brunt of the wind at that point. I had to hug the southern shore as close as I could get. Eventually I made the turn to go southwest along the south of Rose Island. I decided to stop at the island campsite about in the middle, but to the south of Rose Island for lunch at 1115 hours.
There have been quite a few white puffy clouds building today and the temperature has been down right hot. Another observation is that the eastern section of Kawnipi Lake had been burned in 1995 and there is new growth and old snags every where. The western section wasn’t affected by the fire and there is old growth trees and definitely is the more scenic section of the large lake. In one sense, it’s a shame to see so many thousands of acres of the burned area and smaller new growth compared to seeing the towering old growth trees, but in the long run fire is very healthy for the forest. It’s just not as esthetically pleasing to the eye to see the younger growth, at least for me, but I know fire is beneficial. I think what I have a problem with is that this fire consumed so many tens of thousand of acres. Again, this fire burned between 5 to 8 percent of the park.
The sky to the southwest was very dark and to the north I could see blue skies with some of the larger puffy clouds. I rounded the southwestern part of Rose Island and started paddling north. There are very high cliffs to my left, so I wasn’t being affected by the wind now.
Without the wind I was really being affected by the heat. I normally just paddle in a t-shirt made of Cool-max or a similar material. The last couple days I’ve been applying my sun screen twice a day and today was no different, but today I could just feel my skin baking under the hot sun. My skin was turning very red from the sun beating down on me. Last winter, I bought a long sleeve sun block shirt in the Florida Keys. I bought it on my way home so I never wore it before, but I brought it along on this trip.
Since I had this shirt out I put it on and continued to paddle for a while. The shirt began causing me to over heat even more, because the shirt simply doesn’t breathe. I took it off and just kept taking my t-shirt off, dunking it in the water and putting it back on. I also took my bandana, got it wet and wrapped it around the back of my neck. I also kept drinking water all day long. It seemed this shirt would be better used as a windbreaker.
Looking at my map I figured that I could make either one of the two campsites that are approximately a mile from the Kahshahpiwi Creek around 1400 to 1415 hours. Once I got there I would call it a day.
Not too bad of a calculation I made it to the first campsite at 1418 hours. Pulling the canoe out of the water the best I could while it was still loaded with gear I walked up to the top of this island campsite to check it out. The campsite would work. My only problem is that this is the earliest I recall ever stopping on a canoe trip because I decided to stop on my own, not because of weather.
Once I stopped and got out of the sun I would reassess the situation. I got my maps out and the next campsite besides the one that’s close to this one was over three portages away. I’ve been across one of these portages 10 years ago, so I know something about the first one. The other two portages would be mysteries and there isn’t any distances marked on my map as to the length of them.
I’ve been surprised too many times in the past and I’m too hot to continue, so I grabbed my gear out of my canoe and officially called it a day. I set up my tent right away and did some other stuff around the site. I took off my boots and long pants. I decided to go lie down, rest my back, get out of the sun and maybe start writing in my journal. Only in my tent a minute or two, I thought I heard a voice. I hadn’t seen anyone since earlier in the morning. The wind was blowing, so I listened again. I’m still hearing something.
I got out of my tent and walked over to the edge of my campsite and looked down to the river. Who do I see? The Boy Scouts from Texas who I saw several times on day one and two. I hear several of them say, you again! I was only in my underwear so I went over near my tent and grabbed my long pants and put them on as I talked to them.
They told me that they camped last night after the portage around Koko Falls. They said they were going to camp tonight at the next campsite down from me that’s about 1/4 to 1/3 mile away. I can’t see the campsite from mine, but I told them that I might paddle down later. The younger girl said she was going to make some chocolate brownies later. I guess I have to go down there now. This group paddled by my island campsite at 1515 hours.
This campsite I’m on is on a small island and there are quite a few blueberries that I’ve been eating.
It’s now 1908 hours and I just got back from paddling down to the next campsite to see my new friends, but they weren’t there. The campsite looked overgrown and there probably wasn’t enough room for nine people to camp. If I would have known I would have offered my campsite, because it appears the next one in the direction where they are going is a several miles away. Hopefully, no one from this group got overheated.
I continued to paddle to the next portage that is about a mile away to see if the group was maybe camped anywhere around there. I didn’t see them, so I turned around and paddled back to my campsite. Come to think about it now, I probably would have heard some type of noise if they were at that campsite as it was only a short distance away, but I hadn’t heard anything.
I even put on a clean shirt for the occasion.
Looks like I paddled about 17 miles today not counting the extra two miles looking for that chocolate brownie.
Occasionally, as I sit here and write in my journal a drop of rain will fall from the only black cloud in the sky above me. I think I hear thunder in the distance. The wind has since stopped blowing and it’s hot and humid, again.
My friend’s, I call them my friends even though we don’t know anything about each other, anyways the teenage girl said they were going to paddle from Kahshahpiwi Lake via Trant Lake to Agnes Lake. She continued to say that they were going to do a night paddle down Agnes. I assume they were going to do an evening paddle once the winds lie down and not paddle when it was actually dark out. Maybe I’m wrong about that, maybe there’s a merit badge for “night canoeing”.
I sure am feeling the heat on my face from all the sun today.
I looked at my maps, again. I figure it’s about 12 miles to one of the campsites in the Sturgeon Narrows. I’ll have to see how the portages go for me to see if I can make it that far tomorrow. I would like to get an early start across Sturgeon Lake the next morning or I’ll be doing some evening paddling myself.
It’s time to stop writing now and put my maps away. It’s very peaceful out tonight. There are a few birds singing. I’m going to will try to get some photos of the sky as there is some pink in the sky now. Time is now 2048 hours.
Part 7 of 14
July 6th, Friday, 1736 hours
Small campsite between some narrows on Sturgeon Lake – at 1736 hrs (wind bound) until 1828 hours
Island campsite north of the Maligne River on Sturgeon Lake – later in the evening where I spent the night
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 25.589’, W 091 degrees 43.299’, Elevation 1219 feet
Lakes Traveled: Maligne River, Shelley Lake, Keats Lake, Chatterton Lake, Russell Lake, Sturgeon Narrows and Sturgeon Lake
Total time: 10:23 Total hours (6:02 paddle, 2:11 lay over, 2:10 paddle)
Total miles: 22
Oh, boy I slept pretty good last night. I must have been really tired, but I did wake up at 0400 hours. I tried to go back to sleep, but the birds were singing pretty loud. It was a little cooler last night than the last few mornings, but still very enjoyable.
This morning after I did some back stretches, I got out of the tent and took some photos of the morning sunrise. There was some fog on the water this morning and sky was very blue. So far there isn’t any wind. The river is very calm. It began to warm up immediately as soon as the sun came up over the trees.
I started toward the first portage this morning at 0715 hours and I continue to paddle until 1617 hours when I had to pull off between some narrows on Sturgeon Lake south of Scripture Lake, since I couldn’t continue any further because of the large waves.
Back in 1999 I crossed this first portage where the Maligne River and the Kahshahpiwi Creek come together and I remembered it as being very short and fairly level. I made my approach and saw an opening. After taking my gear out the canoe and took the first pack across I’m thinking, hey wait a minute, this doesn’t seem right. There’s too much of a climb here and much longer than I remembered. Anyways, it took me to the other side. This must have been a very high water portage. I took another trail that was closer to the rapids on the way back and it brought me closer to the rapids on the Maligne River side and it was much shorter. I walked over to my canoe and put it back into the water, threw the food pack in and paddled over to the area I needed to go.
Now I was on waters that I’ve never traveled before as I continued downstream to the north. My map showed another portage less than 5 minutes away where two pieces of land narrowed down together. The portage isn’t marked with any distance. Luckily, when I get there it’s just some swift water, but I don’t have to portage. There was no problem negotiating this section.
Another short distance from this area my map shows another portage to the left of an island that shows rapids going around each side of the island into Shelley Lake. Paddling over to the left side, it appeared that I would have to portage it, so I paddle to the other rapids where there isn’t a portage. To be honest, I really didn’t look the left side over as well as the right side. I did get out of my canoe and checked the rapids out on the right.
It appeared that I would be able to line my canoe down the fairly strong rapids. My Prism is not truly set up to do any serious lining, because the bow and stern lines are actually tied too high up. They are tie to the thwarts at each end of the canoe.
I grabbed both lines while guiding my canoe through the rapids as I was hopping from sharp rock to sharp rock. Things were going smoothly except my footing. Now I got to the slightly bigger rapids and I had to cross the rounded granite bedrock that slopes to the water approaching 40 to 45 degrees.
Well, just as I’m thinking this was going to be slightly tougher than what I rehearse in my mind; I slipped on the slippery, sloped rock. This caused my canoe to slip more to the right and I immediately pulled on both lines. The canoe may have hit a rock under the rapids. When I pulled on the lines this caused the canoe to roll to the left, dipping the left gunwale, taking on some water from the rapids. I quickly eased up on the lines which righted the canoe and it continued safely through the rapids. When I got her back to shore, she had two or three inches of water in the bottom.
Everything had to be taken out of the canoe so the water could be dumped out, then I could continue down the river. This was another one of the situations where the portage would have been safer and quicker.
Rounding this small island and continuing to the west toward the portage that I probably should have taken on the Shelley Lake side I saw 6 young females / ladies in either 2 or 3 canoes. I don’t remember the number of canoes, but I do remember the girls! I talked briefly with the leader who said they were with the YMCA from Ely. They have been out for 20 days and they were going to be out for another two more. They began their trip to the west on Crown land and that’s where they have spent most of their time. When asked if they fished, she said, no, they just travel. I though to myself, basically that’s what I do.
The next portage was “Have a Smoke Portage” that goes around Snake Falls, so I headed that way. The route through Shelley Lake wasn’t that bad, but I did constantly check the compass bearing to make sure I stayed on track. I could hear the roar of Snake Falls as I got closer. There was a small island that was off to my right once I got close to the falls and I debated very quickly if I should go around the island and then paddle up to the falls or go directly to the falls. Going to the falls won out. I saw what appeared to be a landing not far from the rapids. This take-out didn’t feel right so I wanted to scout things out, but I would need to pull my canoe out of the water onto the rocks.
I grabbed my camera and off I went searching for the correct trail, because this one was obvious it wasn’t correct. I would have had a safer time sliding down the falls. I walked the top of a ridge more or less to the north and eventually found the correct portage trail that was some distance from where I got out. There were several trails I could possibly follow, but luckily it didn’t take that long to find one of the correct trails. Obviously, I wasn’t the first one to pull off at the wrong spot. I walked back to my canoe, once again, threw everything back in, paddled over to the correct spot. It sure seems I’m doing a lot more work trying to find the correct portage than I really should be doing. What happened was the island actually blocked my view to the correct portage landing.
This portage was maybe 60 rods and it was pretty decent. I took some time at the end of the portage and took some photos of the different areas of the falls.
I paddled directly west on Keats Lake from the portage. Now I could tell which way the wind was blowing, northwest, because on Shelley Lake I was always paddling into the wind. The wind always seems to follow those narrow corridors. About 1/3 of the way across Keats I had to carefully maneuver around some rocks in the shallows. These rocks were bridging the gap between some land and an island.
Then I turned north to approach the portage around Split Rock Falls. This area around the portage was very rocky. I pulled up on the outer portion, the furthest from the start of the actual portage. I’m not sure if this was for the high water or if this was the start of the portage because of low water. I pulled up just as a teen-age male was putting a canoe into the water closer to the end of the actual portage. There really isn’t an exact end to the actual portage, it’s where ever there is enough water to place a canoe. I was probably 30 to 35 yards away from him. Shortly, his mother came down to their canoe with some gear. This was a family of four that had put in at Nym Lake and they were headed for Kawnipi Lake.
I spoke to the lady and one of the things she told me about her husband, who was bringing other gear across the portage that he canoed to Hudson Bay prior to all the advancements in high tech gear. They wished me a safe trip and I did the same to them.
I had to walk the additional distance before the start of the actual 81 rod portage. This portage has a very rocky beginning. I mean I had to walk the tops of some very big rocks before getting to solid ground. If I lost my balance and fell off the rocks while walking on the tops of them I probably would have gotten hurt. This portage starts off with a better than average incline, but most of the trail is downhill to Chatterton Lake. I did carrying my canoe over this large rock field prior to carrying it with my food pack. It would have been too dangerous for me to walk with both the food pack and the canoe at the same time on the tops of these very large and uneven rocks.
I followed Chatterton Lake to the northwest from Split Rock Falls. The northwest wind was blowing, but the waves were still manageable. There are two portages I could take to get to Russell Lake. There is one next to Chatterton Falls that is longer than the one about a half mile south of the Falls. I planned on taking the shorter one.
I arrived at the shorter 81 rod portage. It went right up until it crested and then it immediately went right back down. The only good thing about this portage was where it ended on Russell Lake at a nice sand beach. I was in luck. I had the beach to myself if I wanted to spend any time here sun bathing, but I hadn’t planned to do that since I’m not really a sun bathing type guy.
I did have lunch at the end of this portage. Actually I went back up the trail to get out of the hot sun to eat. I also filtered more water. I dosed myself with the cold water from the lake to cool myself before I continued.
Russell Lake is where the northwest wind began to cause me problems. I was still able to safely paddle it, but it did take all my attention for the task. When I rounded the peninsula that was north of the last portage I angled into the wind and crossed approximately a quarter mile of open water to get to the eastern side of an island that looks similar to a horseshoe. I traveled up the east shore of that island and then veered to the northwest again heading to the next portage just before the Sturgeon Narrows.
There were three aluminum canoes with three adult males and three younger boys who were at the portage putting in. I had to wait a short time before I could get my canoe to the landing. It’s very rocky and quite deep. The reason I know, I saw one of the fathers slip off a rock and he was up to his chest in the water. They asked me about the campsites on Russell Lake and I told them there wasn’t anyone on the lake and that there appeared to be a nice big campsite on the southeast of this channel. They told me they had come from Olifaunt Lake and haven’t seen anyone.
Carefully I took my gear out of the canoe while balancing on the sharp, slippery rocks. I took everything across the portage when I realized I could have paddled this swift water. Oh, well, this portage was short.
I turned southwest into the Sturgeon Narrows. There was a strong headwind, but the wind was only following the channel so there weren’t any big waves to contend with at the moment.
It has been hot and windy all day. I’ve put sunscreen on three times today. I’ve been drinking lots of water. I’ve been taking my shirt off and soaking it in the water, then putting it back on. When I would put the cold wet shirt back on I would go, oh boy, as my muscles tensed up as the wet shirt touched my body. I also have been dipping my hat and pouring the water all over me.
Last night, I planned on getting to one of the two campsites in the Sturgeon Narrows. Today, I thought if I made it that far, if possible, I would try and make it to the island campsite at the southwest end of Sturgeon Lake several miles away.
I kept hugging the shore line on Sturgeon Lake and finally I had to stop at 1617 hours. I pulled off between some narrows on Sturgeon Lake about a half mile south of Scripture Island. This is actually a small campsite, but not a very good one. I think it’s used in an emergency just like I’m using it.
It’s now 1803 hours and I have unpacked a few items. I’ve had a cold meal, made some coffee and filtered more water. I’m in limbo, waiting to see if the wind lies down so I can continue. It’s hard to know if the wind is switching or not, but since I stopped the waves have increased. There are large white caps rolling down this part of the lake that I’m at. The winds seem to be coming out of the southwest because of the intensity of the waves or it might be following this channel as well. All I know I haven’t been able to move.
It appears I’ve gone about 14 ½ to 15 miles already today. I still would like to go another 7 miles to the campsite I would like to get to at the southwest end of the lake. There is a campsite about 2 ½ miles from here so that’s a possibility if I can’t make it all the way down the lake.
It was good that I stopped here in the narrows because the wind picked up while I was there and then it eased back up, so I left the temporary site in the narrows at 1828 hours.
I had made a cup of coffee, actually enough for two, shortly before I made the decision to go or I would be paddling at night. I put my gear and food that I took out earlier back in my pack. I got the canoe back in the water and off I went down the lake.
The waves weren’t too bad when I first started, but they continually got bigger as I paddled down the lake. The reason the waves were getting larger was I was no longer following the south shore of some islands and the wind had more open space in which to blow unobstructed. My Prism was handling them very well, but there’s always that concern when the waves get past a certain point.
I really couldn’t tell which way the wind was blowing. This morning it was definitely out of the northwest. Then I believed it moved to the west, causing it to look like from the southwest when I was stranded in the narrows.
Sturgeon Lake is one big lake. I got about 5 miles from the narrows and the wind really began to lie down. By the time I made it to the island campsite the lake was smooth. I had been traveling southwest down the entire lake and when I turned south toward the Maligne River I could hear the loud roar of the first set of rapids on the Maligne River.
There was no one on the island campsite at 2038 hours when I got there. I quickly made camp, took at bath, all by 2120 hours. My campsite faces to the east which I like, but I wasn’t able to watch the sunset tonight as I had to prepare camp and there were too many trees to see through to the west. I would have to walk around to the west side of the island to check out the sunset. I just didn’t have the time to do it tonight.
Now that the wind died down it’s hot and sticky inside the tent. There isn’t any air moving. I’m done writing tonight. Got to get my maps out and see where I’m going tomorrow.
Part 8 of 14
July 7th, Saturday
Minn Lake, a campsite about one mile north of the 16 rod portage into McAree on the east side. (The McKenzie map has this campsite incorrectly placed on their map)
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 20.303’, W 091 degrees 54.483’, Elevation 1208’
Lakes Traveled: Sturgeon Lake, Maligne River, Martin Bay of Lac La Croix and Minn Lake
Total time: 9:10
Total miles: 17.0
Today can be summed up with two words: HOT and WINDY!!!!!!!
Morning began for me at 0504 hours. After getting out of the tent I took some photos of the morning sunrise over the large lake. My body was still a little stiff and I’m still tired from yesterday’s long day. It doesn’t seem like I get that much sleep on these canoe trips. I just have to figure out how to bring my Tempur-Pedic mattresses along, but I guess that would be a luxury item.
It felt like I took my time this morning, but I was still on the water at 0805 hours. Just before I shoved off a duck flew out from underneath a brushy area. She was sitting on a nest with about five eggs. It looked like a Mallard.
When I got up this morning there was a light breeze from the southwest, but it died down shortly after I got up. It’s so amazing looking at these large lakes and seeing the two extremes, big waves and then calmness.
I forgot to look for the old boiler from a steam tug that is just underneath the water before I got to the first portage. I must have been listening to the loud roar of the first set of rapids and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the portage.
The first portage today was the Portage de gros Rocher, “Big Boulder”. I remember all these put-ins and take-outs that they were very rocky. I just remember this to be a medium length portage, so it couldn’t be too bad.
The next portage, I followed the trail and I saw a spur trail go off to my left to the river and the main trail continued on. Looking toward the river it appeared safe to put in. I thought the main trail continued on if there was high water and if the rapids were really flowing.
I put in and around the bend there was another set of rapids. I moved my canoe back to the rocky shore, got into the water to get my stuff out. I remembered the trail continuing on, now I know the reason why. I only had to do a short bushwhack to the main trail and down to the correct put-in. Again, it would have been easier and quicker to make the one long portage. Only if I would have been through here before I would have known!
The next area had some very swift water that appeared could be run, but I was concerned because there were some standing waves through the last half. I got out of the canoe and scouted this section. It appeared the standing waves were the result of the fast moving current and the strong wind coming upstream. I saw the line that I needed to take and went back and negotiated the area without any problems.
There was another portage after this swift area and a few more swift areas past the portage.
This river has many large boulders sticking up off the bottom of the river and there were many of them just below the surface of the water, as well. The river has a dark stain and when approaching the large boulders the color is lightened up so you know something is there. I definitely didn’t want to get hung up on one of these boulders and have my stern end up going downstream first. It took me a little while to get comfortable traveling on the faster moving water with my Prism. My canoe has already taken a beating and I didn’t have any idea what was in store for me on this historic waterway.
There was a swift area, called Flat Rapids, a little ways before Tanner Lake. I again had to pick a line around the visible rocks. I went to the far left.
The wind has been very strong and just relentless so far today. The day has been so hot, as well.
Once I got to Tanner Lake I continued to hug the north shore due to the strong wind. The waves got bigger as I got more into the larger portion of the lake.
It just doesn’t seem I was getting anywhere today as I was constantly fighting the wind.
My McKenzie map showed there was a 50 rod portage at Tanner rapids. I got to the area near rapids around noon. I started looking close to where the portage was marked on my map. It appeared it started in a slight indentation on shore further upstream from the rapids. I looked and looked and couldn’t see anything except some beaver trails. I spent about 15 to 20 minutes looking for the portage. I kept looking toward the rapids and I couldn’t see anything resembling a portage. In fact, I got out of my canoe a couple times to look. I decided to paddle right up to the rapids and there it was, the portage was right behind a tree top that was in the water blocking my view. I got out and grabbed my first pack. I took a few steps up an incline and then I realized this was a very short portage. This was definitely not 50 rods. The McKenzie map was incorrectly marked again. This portage was about 5 rods. It was a welcome relief that I didn’t have to go further. It meant that lunch was going to be sooner that expected.
I had lunch on the downstream side of the portage and as usual I had to filter more water. I also took some photos of the famous Tanner rapids.
John Tanner was a white man who was adopted by an Ojibwe family when he was about ten years old. Many years later in 1827, John Tanner was traveling up the Maligne River with his Indian wife and two children. He was shot by an Indian and left to die and it’s believed these were the rapids where he was left for dead. The next day John Tanner was found and taken back to the Rainy Lake Post of the Hudson Bay Company and was cared for and lived. There’s much more to the story!
I continued on down the Maligne River and the wind had gotten stronger. There were waves coming upstream at me now.
My original plan was to camp at the campsite on Lou Island. I got to the island at about 1415 hours. I was pulling one of my packs out of the canoe when I got a whiff of something foul smelling. Then I looked over to shore at the same time I saw and smelled the rotting fish that had been cleaned and thrown on shore at the landing.
Someone had recently cleaned and thrown several walleye carcasses right on shore. I was really beat from the heat, but I didn’t like this site as the strong wind was blowing the rotting fish smell across the campsite. Also, I found a steel grate, fish stringer and some multi-use pliers that were left at the site, as well.
When I paddled to Lou Island I never stopped by the opening that goes south toward Minn Lake, as I wasn’t planning on going that way today. My immediate plans were to get out of the intense sun. This was the point in my trip where I had two options, go through the low, swampy, beaver area to Martin Bay then on to Minn Lake or paddle out to Lac La Croix. Lac La Croix was out because of the strong northwest wind that was blowing.
Today, feels like it has been the hottest day so far and the last three have also been very hot. (Tomorrow I will speak to a guy at Curtain Falls who listened to his weather radio and said the temperature today was 91 degrees)
I had spoken to Kevin Callan earlier in the year and I told him that I was planning on doing this portion from the Maligne River to Minn Lake. He just kind of laughs and asked me to e-mail him after I did that portion of my trip and let him know what I thought of this section.
Ever since that day I have been a little apprehensive about this section. He really didn’t tell me a lot about the section, except there weren’t any well used portages; basically a person had to make their own. This section has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since I had talked to Kevin. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into on this section and did I really want to tackle it today. The reason I planned to camp at Lou Island in the first place was so I could start out fresh in the morning and do the stretch to Minn Lake or if there were favorably winds, then Lac La Croix.
After about a half hour at this campsite (1445 hours), I packed my canoe back up and headed for Minn Lake. I found out shortly that this area is all very swampy, marshy prime beaver area.
I scraped the bottom of my canoe a few more times on rocks that I couldn’t see in the dark muck called water. I came to the first beaver dam and I notice a small area that had some matted grass. I actually pulled up to a place that might be considered a portage. It was very rocky, but it was short. My poor canoe has been banged up more on this trip than any other previous trip. I have been putting duct tape on the bottom after some of the more serious scrapes.
The next portage was two or three times longer than the first one. The third portage was also fairly short. What the map doesn’t show is that there is another beaver dam at Martin Bay that I needed to get over.
There aren’t any real maintained portages, except maybe the first one that I saw. The technique I used was to pull up to the beaver dam, hold onto my bow line or tie it off, while I walked until I could see water on the other side. If I thought I could make it from where I pulled up the canoe, then I would go for it. If not, then I moved to a better spot.
This whole section south of the Maligne River wasn’t affected by the wind. In fact, it was so hot; there was no air movement at all. It felt very suffocating. It felt like a vacuum and the sweat was just dripping off my body. I sure didn’t want to entertain the idea of having to spend the night in my canoe or kick some beaver out of its house for the night.
I paddled to the east end of Martin Bay. I don’t know who Martin was, but from looking at this small section of the bay, I don’t think he was a very popular fellow. I kept following Martin Bay until I found the portage trail on the right side. I did bang up the bottom of my canoe some more as this take out was very rocky.
I unloaded my canoe away from shore while standing in the beaver muck and eventually got it all to shore. I began walking up the trail that starts off with an incline. Not too far away was a large tree across the trail where I had to take the pack off and slide it under the tree. Further down the trail I had to step over another large tree. There was a third tree over the trail that I though I might be able to slide under without taking my large pack off. Silly me, I get on all fours with the pack and I kind of had to roll to one side to have the back of the pack clear the bottom of the tree trunk. It took some strength to stand back up and I thought to myself that was stupid!
There were a few muddy sections on this trail, but I could tell it could really get worse with some rain. The put-in at Minn Lake was rocky.
I walked back for the other pack and canoe. I grabbed the canoe first since the first tree over the trail was only a short distance away at the top of the incline. I laid the canoe on top of the tree and went back for the food pack. I took the pack off at the tree, slid it to the other side, and then continued with both the canoe and the pack. I continued with both until conditions warranted I put the canoe down.
Continuing with the food pack, I got to the third tree. I thought since this pack was smaller that I shouldn’t have as much problem crawling under it. Well, it wasn’t any easier and when I got up I said to myself that was stupid!
It sure was a nice feeling to finally get all my gear across this complete section from the Maligne River. Like I said earlier, this had been a concern of mine for some time.
I was now standing in knee high water loading the canoe as I heard more rushing water a short distance away. It appears I would have one more portage that wasn’t marked on my map.
I paddled toward the rushing water a short distance away. I paddled up to the swift current and I had to jump out of the canoe to prevent it from broaching on all the rocks since I couldn’t get close to shore because of all the rocks. This was only a couple rod portage, but as some would call it a little “skip”.
Next I looked at my map to see where the campsites were located on Minn Lake. I wouldn’t be able to get to those on the east side, because of the very strong northwest wind. I paddled along the western shore and checked out the first island campsite. There were only a few trees on this small island. It wasn’t an option; I needed to get somewhere out of the baking sun.
Continuing down the shore line to the point that sticks out the furthest I saw the campsite on the island, but there’s no way I could make it there with the waves. I also saw the northern most campsite on the other shore and again I can’t make it to that one either.
The map showed the next campsite and it should be tucked into a little cove southwest of the other campsite, but I’m not seeing anything that looks like a campsite. I paddled down to the big island that bridges the two land masses and turned to the east. I hoped the campsite was on the south side of the peninsula and sure enough it was. Again, the McKenzie map was marked wrong.
It was time to call it a paddling day when I got to this campsite at 1715 hours. It was so hot; I sat in the shade and drank some more water. It’s so hot that I don’t feel like doing anything, but eventually I have to eat, because I was so hungry. I knew if I ate I would feel much better.
Usually when I arrived at a campsite I would be pretty hungry. I would get out my bag of gorp and eat a couple handfuls to hold me over until I cooked supper.
The flies are bad at this site.
It’s very warm inside the tent, but it’s time to sleep. Time is now 2234 hours.
Part 9 of 14
July 8th, Sunday, 2029 hours
Argo Lake, the campsite just south of the portage that goes to Darkwater Lake
Lakes traveled: Minn Lake, McAree Lake, Namakan River, Iron Lake, Crooked Lake, Siobhan River, Little Roland Lake, Middle Roland Lake, Siobhan River, Argo Lake
GPS Location: N 48 degrees 16.387’, W 091 degrees 48.002’, Elevation 1314’
Total time: 8:14
Total miles: 16
The bird chorus was going strong this morning at 0438 hours when I woke up. While listening to the birds I was able to doze off, because when I looked at my watch it was 0522 hours. The first thing I did was to begin my lower back stretches.
Argo Lake is a clear lake. This is a very large lake and it has a greenish tint to it. I’m on the campsite near the portage that goes to Darkwater Lake.
Today, was a much better day to travel? It wasn’t as hot as yesterday. The sun was behind a thin layer of clouds for most of the day, but it was still very warm and humid.
The northwest wind started right up this morning about the time I got on the water. I was at the first portage that goes to McAree Lake in about twenty minutes after I left my campsite. This was an easy short portage.
I had to go along the north shore of McAree going to the west before cutting to the south toward the cut. The further south I went I could hear the roar of McAree Rapids, but when I kept looking over in the direction of the sound, I didn’t see anything. I then realized the flow was going the opposite direction.
From these rapids it was a long almost straight shot south to Rebecca Falls. I negotiated the turbulent water from Rebecca Falls with no problem and made it to the portage. I had to maneuver the canoe around some dead trees that were in the water at the landing. The portage was well worn and it appeared it had been recently brushed / cleared.
I was now on Iron Lake in the vicinity of where I paddled last year. I got to the east end of Four Island when I saw people for the first time in a couple days. There were 9 people in 3 canoes. I turned to go east toward Curtain Falls. I got up near the entrance to get to the portage when I saw there was more water flowing through than last year. Last year I had to track my canoe up the shallow swift current to get to the portage in the little bay. This year I would be able to paddle right up to the portage.
I set up my canoe to hit the two converging currents at the correct angle. Once I was in the swift water I just paddled up through the current to the landing.
I began the 139 rod portage with my large pack and the sweat was just dripping off my body. I got to the end of the portage and I continued on for several more rods to the high water put-in. It really wasn’t necessary, but I didn’t want to take a chance. Just one missed paddle stroke for any number of reasons would have ended my day.
There were two guys from Kentucky at the end of the portage on the Crooked Lake side. They told me they had been fishing up on Darkwater Lake. They were making their way back to Lac La Croix to be picked up by Zup’s tomorrow.
We talked about the wind and the temperatures. He said he was listening to his weather radio yesterday at heard it was 91 degrees. I new it had to be high. The one guy told me he was 70 years old and he had retired from Ford. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him. The other guy appeared to be about the same age and was a retired optometrist. I thought to myself that these guys must really enjoy the area to contend with all the portages to fish here in Quetico. I think that’s so great. They could be going fishing somewhere else where it was much easier to get to.
I had lunch and took a few photos of the falls. Last year I was able to walk a ways across the top of the falls, but not this year. There were a couple more canoes coming up the portage from Iron Lake when I shoved off toward the north shore of Crooked Lake.
I crossed Crooked Lake upstream of the falls. I needed to get to the north shore because of the strong northwest wind; I wouldn’t be able to just angle northeast toward the portage going to the Siobhan River across the wavy Crooked Lake.
This portage was to the left at the end of the creek. I took my pack across the portage and after about 20 rods there was another take-out that I could paddle up to further into the creek before starting this portage. That’s exactly what I did; I got my canoe and paddled up to the new take-out. Now my portage would be 62 rods, not 80 plus. I really liked this area of the Siobhan River. It was a nice change from all the large lakes I’ve been paddling.
I paddled a little more than a mile when I saw what I thought was a portage northwest of the narrows. When I read portions of Kevin’s book I remember reading that he did a little lift over at this spot. Well, I could see it wasn’t through the waterway as it was blocked with some trees. I though it must be over the large rock outcropping next to this area. Once again, I got everything out of the canoe in this very rocky section. I struggled to get the canoe up on the rocks. I grabbed my first pack and walked up the steep rock face to go to the other side. To my surprise the other side was a sheer drop off with no trail leading away from it.
I scrambled back to my canoe and dropped my pack. I walked back up the rock face to the top and followed the very top of the bedrock in search of the portage trail. I found it where I originally saw it when I paddled up. Now it was only a matter of going back, throwing everything back into the canoe and paddle over to the portage. It sounds so easy on paper, but it was actually more difficult due to all the sharp rocks getting my canoe and packs back into the water.
This would be called a portage not a lift over as Kevin described. I consider a portage to be any time where I have to take my gear out of my canoe. I guess I don’t know when Kevin did this section, but it doesn’t appear anyone for some time has gone through this stream in years, if ever.
I got to Middle Roland and crossed the 60 rod portage. On Roland Lake I needed to hug the right shore, because of the northwest wind. Although the waves were bigger, the distance to the next portage was shorter by going this way.
I paddled the Siobhan River again after crossing the 8 rod portage. The water is so crystal clear in this river. The rocks and dead trees appear much closer to the surface than they actually are due to the clarity of the water. This whole section is very quant and scenic.
When I got to Argo Lake it was very calm in the north section of the lake because of the high surrounding trees. The campsite just south of the portage to Darkwater Lake was where I headed to check it out, since I’d be headed that way in the morning anyways.
I arrived at this campsite at 1602 hours. It’s on a high outcropping of granite. The flies have been pretty bad on this site. I had to pull my socks over the end of my pant legs and put on a long sleeve shirt even with it so warm out. They have been biting the heck out of me. This is another west facing site that I don’t really care for since the sun is still very strong. I have to push myself to get things accomplished because it’s so hot, but it has to get done.
Now that the sun went down the mosquitoes have come out in full force. For supper, I had venison spaghetti, pudding and coffee.
I took some photos of the sunset and took a couple of myself. I’m going into the tent to protect what ever meat I have left on my body from the flies biting me earlier and now the mosquitoes have been doing their share of the damage. This has been the worst day for the biting insects of the trip.
Part 10 of 14
July 9th, Monday, 1949 hours
McIntyre Lake, Campsite on southeast side GPS Location: N 48 degrees 14.985’, W 091 degrees 36.722’, Elevation 1318’
Lakes Traveled: Argo Lake, Darkwater Lake, Darkwater River, Brent Lake, Unnamed Lake and McIntyre Lake
Total time: 8:11
Total miles: 15.5
My body clock was telling me to get up a little after 0400 hours. It was too early to get up so I fell back to sleep. I finally got up at 0512 hours and began my back exercises.
After breakfast, breaking down camp; I was on the water at 0738 hours. It was only two minutes to the 120 rod to Darkwater Lake. The wind was really blowing while I was watching the tops of the trees swinging back and forth while walking the portage trail. The wind wasn’t affecting Argo Lake, so it’s probably another northwest wind. While I was walking the portage I was hoping I would be able to visit the pictographs on each side of Darkwater Lake. The wind could be a factor in seeing one or the other, but I’ll have to wait and see how bad it’s blowing on Darkwater Lake when I get there.
The wind is again out of the northwest and although it’s not really causing too many waves where I’m at, but further up the lake I see waves crashing onto the east shore. I’m a little concerned.
I’ll be able to check for the pictographs on the west side and I shouldn’t have any problems crossing to the east before I get in the open part of the lake.
I found some of the pictographs on the west shore. I take a few photos of the “Maymaygwayshi”, a human-like figure with his arms up in the air and some hand smears before I crossed over to the other shore. The waves are rolling pretty well as I hug the shore and tried to maintain some type of angle into the waves. The only times I can’t maintain the angle is when I round a point and have to paddle east along the shoreline.
I found one panel of pictographs on the east shore. I took some photos of the “heartless moose’ followed by a calf. Before I found the pictograph on the east shore I told myself I would just keep paddling along the shore line and if I found them, great, if not, I wasn’t going back to look for them. When I got back home I read to see what pictographs I might have missed. I actually missed two complete panels. With the larger waves I couldn’t constantly keep looking at the rock face, I had to glance up every so often.
Continuing with my plans of paddling north along the east shore in the waves I approached a campsite on a point just before the turn to the Darkwater River. There was a person standing by a clothes line at the top of this high campsite and he doesn’t see me. It’s too windy for me to be heard. I paddle by their Souris River C-2 canoe that was on shore and I never saw the second person.
My route took me to the east down the Darkwater River to the first short portage. It’s longer than the 4 rods marked on my McKenzie map. I’ve found several discrepancies on my McKenzie map so far on this trip.
I got across the portage after taking some photos and I’m now heading to my longest portage of the trip, 191 rods. I start paddling away from the short portage and I’m about half way to the long portage when I thought I heard a voice coming from the direction of the last portage that I just crossed. The wind is still blowing my way and I listen some more. Next thing I know, I hear the sound of a chainsaw. I never saw anyone around when I paddled up the lake and I didn’t think it would have been the two people from the last campsite I passed since there wasn’t that much activity.
While paddling the river I continued toward the long portage all awhile listening to the chainsaw. It doesn’t last that long and it’s done before I reached the long portage. While taking out all my gear out of my canoe, I kept looking back toward the other portage.
A C-2 was coming in my direction. I could tell these people know how to paddle. They are doing the forward stroke and they are paddling in unison. Something I rarely see other canoeist do except for racers. They are paddling in unison and they are hutting over on time to switch sides. It was refreshing to see people paddle like that, especially in the wilderness.
I decided to wait for them while taking a couple photos of them as they got closer to me. I think they finally saw me when they began putting on their official Ontario Parks shirts to look official for me.
It was two Quetico Park employees, Park Wardens, and they were out clearing portage trails.
I introduced myself to Holly, who was paddling in the bow and Chris, who was paddling in the stern. They told me they flew to Prairie Portages five days ago. They are out for eight days at a time. They came over to do these two portages before going back the other way on the Darkwater River heading toward Minn Lake. They are allowed to use chainsaws to clear the portages, because there aren’t that many of them that clear the portages.
I had a question about an upcoming portage, so I got my maps. I showed them my permit before they asked me to see it. I found out Holly was born in 1980 because as we were talking I mentioned I worked with the US Forest Service in 1980 to 1983. I called her a “young pup” when I found out her year of birth.
Holly and Chris were very polite and friendly. It was a pleasure to meet them.
Chris and Holly started up the trail to begin clearing it while I got ready to make the first trip across. I caught up with them and got around them with no delay. I continued down the trail and met a girl coming from the other direction carrying a canoe. I told her to be aware that there was a chainsaw up a head. Eventually, several people came from the other way with a total of three canoes.
I found out this was another Boy Scout group from Texas when I came back for my other pack and canoe that I left at the beginning of the portage. They told me the girl was venturing. (After the trip I found out that Venture Scouts are boys and girls, ages 14 to 18).
This portage was long and had a few tricky spots, but it was dry. I did a 2 ½ or 2 ¾ portage carry on this one.
It took me some time to get all my gear across this portage so at the end of it I had lunch. I was hungry! My McKenzie map showed this to be one long portage, but that wasn’t the case. I paddled a short distance around the bend in the river and saw no more water. There was an additional portage that I wasn’t expecting.
The wind was affecting me in the western portion of Brent Lake, but after a ways the northwest wind was pretty much blocked. Then all I had to content with was the heat. It was another hot day to be paddling. I kept pouring water over my head, taking my t-shirt off and dunking it in the water and putting the shirt back on. The same old routine! I had to do this several times in an attempt to get some relief from the hot sun. Oh, so refreshing for a few minutes, but it was back to be very hot.
As I paddled the eastern section of Brent Lake this area had been burned over. One of the islands was marked as a camp site and it had been burned over. This site isn’t very good for camping anymore, especially if you wanted to get out of the sun, wind, etc.
I didn’t take any photos while paddling on Brent Lake. The first part was because of the waves and second part because of the heat. Brent Lake just seemed like a long, hard, hot grind for me. I didn’t find this lake visually pleasing, but I think that was due to the heat, the frame of my mind at the time and because some of it had been burned in the past.
There was a group of campers on an island site about a half mile from my next portage in the very southeast corner of the lake. These portages would eventually take me to McIntyre Lake.
I got to this first portage and it was very rocky and rugged leading to an unnamed lake. Even the next 10 rod portage out of the unnamed lake was rocky and rugged. Although, these portages were short, they were treacherous. Even though I was constantly watching my step, I still stumbled a few of times. It would be my guess that no one could cross these two portages without stumbling at least once.
I’m finally on McIntyre Lake. Now that I’m on McIntyre I began to wonder if I could make it to Sarah Lake. It will take some work to get to Sarah Lake and I thought, if I got there, would there be any campsites. Sarah Lake is one of the entry points for permits into Quetico. I’ve never been on Sarah Lake before so I don’t know what I would find.
I begin paddling from the northern section of McIntyre, eventually coming to an island that has two campsites on it. One campsite is on the northwest section and the other is on the southeast. I know which one I prefer without looking, but I’ll check out the northwest site first. Even though I’m tired of the west facing sites with all the hot sun bearing down on them, I see it’s open. I will take it if the other site is taken. I paddle to the other site and it’s open as well. I find a place to land my canoe and pull it up on the rocks.
I grab my maps to see if I might want to go further to the south. I arrived at the site at 1549 hours. Within minutes of my arrival, I see three canoes heading north toward this island. They made up my mind for me that I wasn’t going any further today. The time now is 1556 hours. A few minutes after I saw those canoes, I saw another C-2 coming around the corner. The adult male in the stern was singing the song with the words Black Betty in it. He wasn’t singing all that well, either. The sound sure did travel over the water.
I believe they are camped on the other side of the island, but I haven’t heard anything from them. I’ve seen one of their canoes twice when they have gone out to paddle later on in the evening.
The wind laid down in the late afternoon.
I think this is my best campsite of the trip so far. It’s very large, faces to the southeast, lots of big red pines, cooler and fewer bugs so far. The tent area could be a little better, but now I’m really getting picky.
I’m sure I’ll get through Sarah Lake tomorrow. I have two options tomorrow so I better get my maps out and see where I might go. Prior to this trip, I bought an overall map of Quetico Provincial Park, The Adventure Series. The portage crew told me those are the portages that are maintained within the park. They told me I couldn’t depend on the McKenzie maps because they aren’t updated.
Part 11 of 14
July 10th, Tuesday, 1002 hours
McIntyre Lake, still at the campsite on southeast side of the island GPS Location: N 48 degrees 14.985’, W 091 degrees 36.722’, Elevation 1318’
Lakes Traveled: McIntyre Lake
Lay-Over Day / No travel
This morning I heard it start to rain sometime around 0400 hours. It was just a little rain at first. I nodded off again, and I think it stopped raining altogether, but then it started back up.
I was ready to get up at 0522 hours, so I began to do my lower back stretches while wondering if the rain would stop by the time I was done. I could hear the wind blowing harder and it began to rain harder, as well. When I looked out of the tent I saw that the wind had switched to the southeast. The wind was blowing up some waves in the distance.
I’m not that affected by the wind here on this campsite as I would be to the south past the point which is directly to the south of me.
This is day 9 for me. I have at most, 2 ½ to 3 days, travel time left. Figuring if I had to lay over a day it wouldn’t be a big deal, since I’m a couple days ahead of schedule. Although I don’t like lay-over days, since I always like to be on the move, but I may not have a choice today.
It kept raining so I just stayed in my tent until around 0830 hours, then I got out made some breakfast and coffee.
The wind was still blowing strong and I could see white caps on the lake south of me. I could hear the roar of the wind blowing through the red pine trees on this island. Again, it’s such an eerie sound to listen to.
I was wondering what the guys on the northwest campsite were up to and what their plans were. Are they base camping, moving on to Brent Lake or what.
There were four canoes heading south past the island at 0935 hours just after I had finished breakfast. When I saw them, I started thinking I should be moving today, also.
I watch them as they pass by. There is the lead canoe that was a ways ahead of the middle two canoes and last canoe is further back yet. I see the first canoe go south pass the point and I loose sight of them. I go back about my business. A short time later I caught the sound of a voice being carried by the wind so I got my binoculars.
I look to the point and I see where the last three canoes are gathered on the lee side. I see the whitecaps on the lake just past the point. After about 5 to 10 minutes, these three canoes decide to paddle on toward the rougher water around the point. I don’t know for sure if this is the same group I saw yesterday as everyone had full rain gear on, but the canoes were positioned the same way as yesterday.
I think the wind might be slowing down as I see fewer whitecaps in the distance and the sound of the wind blowing through the trees is not as loud. There still are some strong gusts.
There are a couple things that are preventing me from packing up and moving today besides the wind situation. If I traveled today I would only go to the south end of Sarah Lake, as there are several rough portages starting with the first one after Sarah Lake. My plan was once I start those portages to keep going until I was done with them, there are approximately 9 portages and what I’ve heard they a very rugged. I really don’t want to do the portages in the rain or shortly after a rain, if possible, since they will be even more treacherous. The other reason is that I’m heading to Sarah Lake which is one of the entry points for Quetico. I don’t know how busy this lake will be and if there would be any campsites available. If there weren’t any campsites I didn’t want to start those portages. Far as I know there might not be anyone on the lake, but I don’t know and why leave a good campsite for the unknown. I might just be compounding my problem only to gain about 6 miles which is at most two hours paddling time.
1032 hours: The sun is trying to peek out of the clouds, but it’s still dark to the southeast. I keep looking at the waves and wonder how big they really are. There’s a difference of breaking camp and then realizing that it was a mistake and then having to continue on in the rougher water, if it was even possible. I have a hard sitting still when I travel by myself. I keep thinking I need to be on the move. I may have said that already.
Oh, well! I’m going to stop writing for now and look at my maps again, after that, I’m finally going to read some of the book that I brought and have been hauling over every portage. The book is, Quetico Provincial Park, An Illustrated History, by Shirley Peruniak. I thought I would have time to read it on this trip, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I’ve been putting in some long hours paddling, writing in my journal and getting up early in the morning. I just haven’t felt like reading because I haven’t had the time. The time now is 1038 hours.
I just pulled off my white long sleeve top and noticed that my white short sleeved t-shirt is now a tan color.
1045 hours: I heard a voice. There are three canoes coming past the island from the north. Now I see four. They have no gear and it appears they are fishing. A closer look with the binoculars and this is the group that’s camped on the other end of the island. The waves can’t be too bad for the C-2’s. It appears they are in an area where the waves should be larger than any where else on the lake. I see one of the canoes from this group paddling closer to the other shore where he isn’t being affected as much from the wind.
It’s getting dark again to the south. Sure looks like rain. I hope it’s going somewhere other than my direction. I see three of the canoes paddling into the wind now. I’m beginning to see more whitecaps.
1106 hours: There was a very strong gust of wind that went through the campsite making a very loud roar.
I looked at my maps earlier and tomorrow I have the option of two different routes. Once I get to Isabella Lake I can either go north on Isabella Lake to the Isabella Creek or from Isabella Lake and head southeast toward Point Lake. Once I get to either Isabella Lake or Point Lake then I’ll make the decision on if I will continue on further. I don’t know how bad the portages will be so I have no idea what time it will be when I get to those points.
1218 hours: I’ve been in my tent over an hour because it has been raining. The rain has been coming down hard and steady. Only now does it seem like it might be letting up some.
1402 hours: It rained for almost two hours. I got out of the tent when I heard a noise. I saw one of the guys from the other campsite paddling by my campsite. I later spoke to him and his name is Bill B. He works for the fire department in Dayton, Ohio. He told me that he was listening to his weather radio and there’s a cold front coming and the temperatures are going to drop. He mentioned temperatures in the 40’s tonight with a 30 % chance of rain tomorrow.
Bill told me the next portage was short, but very steep. I asked him about the one just a short distance south of that one, but he told me it went somewhere other than Sarah Lake. Bill admitted another member of his group is the navigator. I don’t believe they are aware of the second portage just to the south of “The Wall” or the “Hill” that is longer, but easier than the steep portage. I figure I’m a canoeist, not a rock climber so I will be going to the longer, 60 rod portage, instead of “The Wall” where the rocks will be very slippery from the rain.
Bill said the portage from Sarah Lake is long. I’ve seen one name for this portage as “Heart Stop Hill”. Sure sounds like I’ll have a full day tomorrow.
When I got out of the tent there was only a light wind and it had changed directions, it was now coming out of the southwest.
1536 hours: I don’t know what time I had to go back into the tent, because it began raining again. I decided to get out of the tent at 1517 hours. I just got out of my tent when I saw three canoes crossing the bay coming toward my campsite from the south. There were three aluminum canoes with nine people. I’m sure they’re looking for a campsite, but when they saw me they veered off to go around the west side of the island. I walked around to the northeast side of my site and I saw the canoes continue north the same way I came from yesterday. I know there’s another campsite further north, but I never checked it out. These canoes were bobbing in the large waves that were being produced now by the strong northwest wind. There’s a heavy mist in the air and it feels like more rain.
Now it’s mid afternoon, 1542 hours, and now I can say, I’m glad I didn’t have to travel today after all I’ve seen today. I can’t believe this wind. I actually described the wind with some stronger language in my journal.
1601 hours: The wind keeps getting stronger and stronger. The wind is roaring through the trees. I kept getting up and looking out my tent toward the huge waves. I see them crashing on the far shore from me. I don’t think any C-2 would be able to paddle in these conditions now.
I’ve tried lying down to sleep, but I can’t because of the very loud noise from the wind or the drops of rain on the tent.
1633 hours: The wind is still blowing strong. I heard a noise so I got out checking on things. I checked my canoe that’s been tied up, its fine, the cooking area is OK, and I’m not sure what the noise was.
I can feel the temperature is getting cooler. It's time to put on my warm knit hat.
1808 hours: The wind is still blowing strong out of the northwest. It hasn’t let up any. There hasn’t been any major down pours since earlier, but there has been a constant light rain. The wind is something else. It sounds like it winds up and the roar just keeps getting louder and louder.
I think around 1900 hours if the rain doesn’t lighten up any, I’m just going to eat something quick and cold. (I was able to cook a hot meal)
The temperature keeps dropping.
Luckily, my tent is in a pretty good location on the island (southeast part of the island) and the majority of the northwest wind is being blocked otherwise I would need to put some guy lines on my tent. So far only a few erratic gusts have rocked my tent.
Part 12 of 14
July 11th, Wednesday
Burke Lake, an island campsite just north of the portage to Bagley Bay of Basswood Lake GPS Location: N 48 degrees 05.926’, W 091 degrees 28.336’, Elevation 1330’
Lakes Traveled: McIntyre Lake, Sarah Lake, Side Lake, Unnamed Lake, Unnamed Lake, Isabella Lake, Isabella Creek, North Bat of Basswood Lake and Burke Lake
Total time: 11:50
Total miles: 19.5
What an unbelievable day!!! Today was the adventure!
This morning I woke up a little later at 0437 hours. I thought at first I might try and fall back to sleep, but with yesterday off I was ready to go. It was 0450 hours when I started doing my back exercises.
This was the earliest I got on the water at 0634 hours. The wind was already starting to blow out of the southwest. I started down the east shore south of my island campsite to the point. I tacked over to the west shore so I didn’t have to fight the waves as much while making my way south to the portage, then I followed the west shore around the point in the narrows.
I found the take out to the short, 20 rod, steep portage known as the “Wall” or the “Hill”. Going a little ways to the south I found the easier, but longer 60 rod portage. I opted for the easier one. My knees aren’t like they used to be and I have to be very careful. The longer portage starts with a nice incline, but then levels off.
Sarah Lake was calm where this trail comes out into the little bay. I started being affected by the wind approximately 2 miles, north of a big island. I stayed on the southwest shore of the big island and headed east to the next portage.
Having never been on these lakes before, I had no idea what these portages were going to be like, I guess with a name like, “Hearth Stop Hill” this should give me a pretty good indication. This portage is 125 rods.
This was actually a difficult portage and with the rain yesterday it sure didn’t make it any easier. It immediately started off with a steep incline, leveled off, then up some more. The trail then followed the stream in the wet marshy area next to some rock outcroppings. The trail that followed the stream area was wet and underwater in large sections from yesterday’s rain. There were sections of boulders that I needed to walk over, also. This portage had a little bit of everything.
I got to Side Lake and paddled toward the south end of the lake. While I approached the portage, I saw someone putting a canoe into the water and then they disappeared back up the portage trail. Eventually, I met a father and son who were headed toward Sarah Lake. They said they were from Ohio.
I thought the previous portage was bad. This portage starts off fairly level all the way to the trail that goes off to the left at the “Y”. Not too far after this left turn I came to a very steep section that seemed to go on and on at the speed I was walking. This was mostly a dirt trail with medium sized rocks. Actually, the footing in this section was fine; it was the length and steepness of the incline that was the killer. All I seemed to do is put one foot down, slowly bring up the other foot and place it a little ways in front of the other one, over and over again. Robert Beymer in his book described this section as,”It climbs abruptly for the next 20 rods- suitable only for mountain goats with strong hearts.” There were other tricky, slippery areas that I had to be concerned about as well. This was a very rocky portage.
Taking my time on this portage, like I had a choice, I got through it safely. The younger guy from Ohio warned me about the next portage as well. He told me that the portage from this unnamed lake going to the next unnamed lake is down a steep granite rock face to the put-in.
I paddled across this unnamed lake to the next portage. The portage wasn’t bad until I came to the steep rock face that I had to walk down to the put-in. I had to be very careful in this section, since it had rained after I began this portage. I was hoping to get across it before it rained too much. Well, so much for hoping. All these portages were triple portaged, except the first 60 rod portage.
Besides these portages being treacherous by themselves, the rocks and ground were wet from yesterday’s rain causing more problems. It rained enough while I was doing the “Y” portage to slick it up, again.
When I had talked to the father and son from Ohio they told me they had come in through Isabella Creek to Isabella Lake. They told me there would be enough water in the creek to paddle it. They said there was a portage at the start, some shallow areas and a few beaver dams to pull over.
I had lunch at the end of the portage on the unnamed lake with the steep rock face going to the put-in. This is the unnamed lake just before Isabella Lake. I put on my rain gear just as the sky let loose with a 5 minute hard rain.
There were three aluminum canoes that I saw on the other side of the unnamed lake and it appeared they had come from the portage from Isabella Lake. They disappeared out of my sight and I wondered where they went since they weren’t paddling up to this portage. There was a small point off to my right that I couldn’t see around until I began paddling across to the other side of the lake. They had paddled up to shore and they were getting out of their canoes. I paddled over to them to make some small talk before I crossed to the other side. I asked them if they came from the portage. The older adult male asked, why, weren’t we supposed to? Some others in the group told me I needed to paddle past the dead cedars to get to the portage. Enough of this awkward small talk, time to move on to the portage. I considered none of these portages as easy.
Isabella Lake is where I had to make the decision on if I would go southwest through Point Lake, then take the 175 rod portage into Nest Lake, take a couple more “skips’ before reaching the North Bay of Basswood Lake. My other choice was to paddle northeast on Isabella Lake to Isabella Creek then out to North Bay.
Somewhere I read that the 176 rod portage to Nest Lake was easy. Well, what is easy? Even if easy was an accurate description it’s still over a half mile carry one way.
You guessed it, I paddled northeast on Isabella Lake toward the creek. There wasn’t anyone on the campsite that’s located about the middle of the lake on the east shore. I had to find a place to pull over and grab my rain jacket that I put away at the last portage. I was having a problem finding a place to pull over because the water was deep right up to shore. It began raining hard just as I put on the rain jacket. My regular pants were totally soaked from this downpour because I didn’t put my bibs on.
Isabella Creek begins in a bay at the northeast end of the lake and that’s where my first portage begins. I got out and started to make my first trip across. This portage immediately came to a “Y” in the trail. I followed the lower route first and it took me to the area I needed to get around. I backed up and took the trail that went right up to higher ground. I’ve been this way before, but the opposite way, and I don't t recall any steep sections on this portage. Anyways, I made the first trip across and headed back on a different trail. I found out that I needed to actually walk in the stream to get back to my canoe and this avoided the steep incline at the start of the portage.
I paddled down the stream and there were I believe three beaver dams I needed to pull over. There was a couple more times I had to get out of the canoe because of the very shallow water. On the second shallow area I jumped out of the canoe in the shallow, swift water to avoid having the bottom of my canoe scratched some more. The Isabella creek has a firm, gravel base. Well, when I swung my legs up over the gunwales, I got a Charley Horse on the inside of my upper left leg when I jumped into the Creek. The pain was excruciating as the large muscle contracted. I limped over to the side of the marshy beaver area of the creek, while I lined the canoe behind me. I sat on shore with my pants down rubbing the muscle on the inside of my leg for a few minutes. That was some tremendous pain as the muscle tightened up. I was back up and ready to go in about five minutes. There was one more pull over at the last beaver dam and then in a couple minutes I was on the North Bay of Basswood Lake.
Wanting to make Burke Lake I passed up the first campsite on the point as I entered the North Bay. Looking across the large bay I couldn’t believe how relatively calm the water was. I rounded the point and began going slightly southeast cutting off a small portion of the north shore of the bay.
There were a couple people standing on an outcropping of granite off in the distance to my southeast. They appeared to be looking my direction. I thought it appeared strange! What were they looking at?
When I turned around and looked behind me all I saw was a sky that was completely black from top to bottom. It appeared to be a wall. This large solid black wall was moving quickly in my direction. I still had another minute or so before I would reach the east shore. I paddled as fast as I could while looking for any place to land the canoe. I pulled the canoe up on the sharp rocks. No time to worry about the canoe now. I threw all my gear out of the canoe, and then grabbed the canoe. Next, I ran the canoe up into the woods where I secured both the bow and stern lines on the canoe to some trees. The lines were tied parallel to the wind about twenty yards into the woods to prevent my canoe from being blown away or damaged.
Now I could hear the loud roar of the wind approaching and it kept getting louder and louder. I was in an older stand of red pine trees and there wasn’t anywhere to put my tent up. I got both of my packs up from the shore, as well as my camera case and water bottles and brought them further up into the woods past my canoe. I pulled my tent out of my pack and put on my rain gear even though I was thoroughly soaked already. The lake now had waves two feet or higher. I’m sure the waves were even higher further down the bay.
I pulled the tent over my body while I sat at the base of a large Red Pine that was about two foot in diameter to prevent the straight line lines from directly striking me. The rain came down very hard and it also hailed considerably.
I’m not sure how long this was going on as I was only concerned about my safety. I was in a survival mode at the time. The tree canopy was above me, so it blocked the full impact of the hail and rain. Not knowing how long I would be in this situation I began taking off my boots while I was underneath the tent. Since there was a good possibility I might be there for a while I knew I needed to get out of all my wet clothing and change into some dry clothing as soon as possible to avoid hypothermia. I began to cool off due to the inactivity.
I changed into some dry clothing after the real heavy rain ceased, but there still was a light rain coming down. I still had no idea how long I would be in this situation.
The worst part of the storm seemed to have come and gone, there was still a pretty strong wind, but nothing like a little while ago. Would there be another cell popping up?
I really wanted to get to a campsite so I could put up my tent and crawl inside my nice warm sleeping bag as it was still cloudy and cool. I re-packed my pack the best I could. I folded up my wet tent and just stuck it on top of the pack above my plastic liners.
I began paddling south along the east shore looking for the first available campsite. There are about 6 sites within the first ¾ of a mile and every one of them was taken. In fact, I got out of my canoe at one site and walked up to the main area before I saw any tents. There wasn’t anyone outside of their tents. Apparently, they were all snuggled inside their cozy tent or very frightened from the storm. There was another camp site where I got out of my canoe, but I didn’t go very far before realizing that it was taken.
I continued fighting the waves that got larger the further south I went. I finally got to the portage that goes to Burke Lake. This is a very rocky 48 rod portage.
There was a guy with what appeared to be a brand new Prism canoe like mine at the portage who said he was going to do some fishing for the next couple of days. He asked me if there was anyone camped on the island directly north and I told him I didn’t think so, but I didn’t check. He then mentioned that there were a couple deer on the south part of the island. I looked and saw them. They were the only large animals I saw while on this trip, but at this point I really didn’t care to be observing wildlife.
I asked him how the next portage was and he told me I wouldn’t need to do it. That was a big relief.
This was a very rocky portage, but fairly flat. There were a couple other people walking from the other direction that I said hi to as they walked passed.
Arriving at the end of the portage, I put my pack down at the end of some rocks where I was going to put my canoe when I returned with it. There were some other canoes coming from the south toward my direction while I was putting down my pack.
I walked back with my other pack and canoe to where my first pack was and the group I saw earlier was still there blocking my access. Now I had to carefully step on the racks to get my canoe close to the water in another less than desirable spot. This group didn’t say a word to me and I didn’t say anything to them as all my attention was directed at safely negotiating the slippery rocks.
I paddled a short distance to the next portage that was marked on my map as 18 rods, but the other solo canoeist said I wouldn’t need to do it. What was he thinking, I had to do this portage and there’s no way he didn’t do it, either.
The further south on Burke Lake I went the northwest wind kicked up the waves. The first two campsites were taken. The first time on this trip, I was starting to get discouraged. I had one more island campsite to check out before I got to the portage that goes to Bagley Bay. I know there are two campsites to the east of the portage, but I didn’t want to do another long portage to find that they were taken, as well.
I could tell I was back to the border lakes as most of the campsites were taken. There wasn’t going to be any more solitude. It seems that most of the people don’t travel too far past any of the border lakes, either on the Canadian or American side.
Well, the island campsite was available and I pulled my canoe up on the south side of the island at 1824 hours. This was 10 minutes shy of a 12 hour paddling day. This was a long day!
Looking around on the campsite I found the best area for the tent. I put it up immediately so it could dry out. The northwest wind was just howling through this site. I put on some warmer clothes and the warm hat went back on. I laid down on my Therm-a-rest pad for about 15 minutes to rest my sore back and to just rest my whole body.
I had to get things organized to eat. I knew I would feel much better after eating. I did have some gorp, while I boiled water for coffee and dinner.
My clothes were still wet from earlier and from the cold northwest wind it didn’t appear that things would be drying out anytime soon.
There was a nice sunset so I took many photos of the sky; afterwards I went inside the tent around 2130 hours.
This was a very physically demanding day with all those portages and the number of miles I paddled today. It really isn’t the number of miles that I paddled, but all the rugged portages that I had to triple portage.
The portages were extra treacherous because the trails and rocks were wet. They would be difficult enough under normal conditions. Again, I also have to be very careful since my left knee is so bad. The thing I noticed when I tripled portaged was I became very familiar with those portages. I’m not really saying that’s a good thing just a fact.
Part 13 of 14
July 12th, Thursday
Written in the evening of the 12th on Pokegama Lake near Grand Rapids, MN
Lakes Traveled: Burke Lake, Bagley Bay of Basswood Lake, Inlet Bay of Basswood Lake, Sucker Lake, Newfound Lake and Moose Lake Total time: 4:00
Total miles: 11
Every time I woke up last night I heard the wind blowing. The wind never stopped blowing all night. In the back of my mind, I knew I had more big water to cross today so that wasn’t a good sign that the wind was still blowing strong.
My last morning of this trip and I woke up at four something. It was way too early, but I wake up with the birds. Next thing I knew it was about 0500 hours. I thought I might sleep in, but I began my back stretches at 0522 hours. My body was a little stiffer this morning. Was it because of all the physical exertion or because I was too tired to do any stretches before I fell asleep last night?
The wind was still blowing out of the west to northwest. Here’s my dilemma. Do I break down camp, start paddling and then get stranded somewhere else that wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable.
There were two guys that paddled by my campsite at 0630 hours. I later found out one of them was Bill HoHo. There was a chop on the water to the north of my campsite. The wind wasn’t affecting the area around my island campsite, but I knew the wind would be really blowing on Bagley Bay. I decided if they could be out that I would do the same. It really was the only way I would be able to tell what the wind was like and that was to cross over to Bagley Bay.
While I made breakfast, drank my coffee, I put on my damp long pants and long sleeve polypro top to finish the drying process. The heat from my body would help dry them off quicker.
Well, I shoved off from shore at 0758 hours. It took five minutes to get to the portage directly south of me that went to Bagley Bay. It began to sprinkle as I got to the landing. Opening my pack, I got out my rain gear and put it all on just before the down pour.
When I carried my packs across the portage trail, there was a stream of water running down the well worn trail. The stream of water began running toward Bagley Bay when I crossed the height of the portage.
Looking across to the south of Bagley Bay I saw the waves. I started paddling in the small bay where the portage trail comes out and the two campsites are located to the east and each of them was taken. The first campsite I didn’t see anyone and I saw a few people at the next site just standing around.
Eventually I had to pull over on Sunday Island. My concern was with all the white caps I saw off in the distance. While I waited, I kept reassessing the situation. I’m thinking I was out of my canoe a half hour. I got back into my canoe and was testing the waves as I inched out further and further into the bigger waves.
I had just about made up my mind to go when three aluminum canoes with nine people came around the other side of the island.
It was time to go. I figured if something would happen to me that this group just wouldn’t leave me. I knew I probably wouldn’t have a problem, but it sure eased my mind. I paddled along the shore not too far from the other group.
Only when I got to Inlet Bay did I have a chance to speak briefly with this group. They were a Boy Scout group from Boston. I continued on as they hung back and took a quick break on the calmer water.
The Boy Scouts arrived at the landing while I walked up and told the receptionist at Prairie Portage I was back. She never stopped doing what she was doing, so I left right back out the door. It appeared if I wasn’t going to get a permit and pay my money, she didn’t really care to listen to me. I might be totally wrong, but that’s what I thought.
My last portage of the trip was about to take place. (Not counting the one at the Moose Lake Landing back to my vehicle). It sure felt good to have that last one done, but I still had the wind and waves to contend with all the way back to the landing.
I saw several large groups, probably mostly Boy Scouts, paddling north. The wind was still blowing strong. There was one group that rounded a point on Moose Lake to Newfound Lake. There were three canoes, the first one had a little problem making the turn due to the wind, the second canoe did alright and the stern paddler in third canoe actually jumped out of the canoe. I don’t know if he knew it was shallow there or he was just lucky. When this happened the middle person in the second canoe leaned over to his right and almost capsized that canoe.
While I paddled south back to the landing I saw several groups of canoeist. Some of these groups I had some concerns that maybe they should pull over for a while. It did appear that every campsite was full from canoeist that already had pulled off. I really don’t know if they pulled off because of the wind or that’s as far as they were traveling.
I got to about ½ mile from the landing when I saw some people in three canoes that I don’t think should have been paddling on a day like today. It looked like they were fairly inexperienced and not prepared for the day. It looked like they were only out for a day paddle. The reason I didn’t think they should be out was because of couple of them were fairly large. That wasn’t the problem, it was that their canoe was rocking side to side; meandering and when they switch paddling sides the paddle went way up in the air. There is a large island that is a short distance in front of the landing blocking the full brunt of the wind. These people were about to get the shock of their life as soon as they passed the northern most point of the big island that was blocking the strong wind and the large waves. I hope they made it safely. I’m glad that people want to get out and paddle but they have to be aware of the overall conditions and know their limits. Maybe I’m wrong in my observation about them, but I don’t think so.
There were some other people and canoes on shore when I got back to the landing at 1158 hours. It took me about 1 hour and forty five minutes to paddle back from Prairie Portage. This was 15 minutes longer than it took me going the other way at the start of my trip.
I talked briefly at the landing with some people from Wisconsin who were going out to do some fishing.
While I was putting my gear into my Suburban I saw the couple who were in line before me speaking to the receptionist at the Ranger Station at Prairie Portage when I was there on July 2nd. They came up to the landing while I was packing up to leave. I spoke to the girl who said they had a good time and they fished a lot. I saw that she received a lot of sun on their trip. She told me they were from Prentice, Wisconsin.
I drove out of the landing at 1301 hours, headed toward Ely. I called my father to told him I was out and OK. I stopped at the Dairy Queen and got a hamburger and fries to eat. I stopped at Piragis’s and got a few more items. Then I went next door to the coffee shop and order two coffees to go and some Strawberry Rhubarb pie that I had at the start of my trip.
Several hours after my paddle today, I could still feel my body in the canoe dancing in the waves.
The Prism, she is beat up, but she handled extremely well in the rough seas. I will need to do some repairs, again
This was an extremely rugged trip. I had planned this trip for 13 days, but finished it in 11 and that included a lay-over day. Early on, it was the hot sun that I had to contend with, there were the extremely rugged portages throughout this trip and what can I say about the wind. The wind…nothing, but the wind!!
I say this was a rugged trip, but it’s not something I concentrate on while I’m doing the trip. I do what is needed to be done on a daily basis to accomplish what is needed at the time. Only afterwards, do I realize what it took to accomplish this canoe trip.
Although, this was a challenging canoe trip it was also very satisfying and rewarding.
To those people who have experienced the BWCA/Quetico ecosystem know what I’m talking about when I mention trees, rocks and water. Those three words and many of you can visualize the area that I’m talking about without being on this trip. Although the scenes may change slightly as I paddle through the area, those three elements are always present. What someone may not visualize is the vastness of this area, unless it’s traveled by canoe.
I have not fully described all the fabulous scenery that I saw or everything I experienced during this fantastic canoe trip, but again, I wouldn’t be able to adequately describe it. The only way to truly experience a trip like this is to simply do it.
Part 14 of 14
The following was some new gear that I took on this trip:
Nikon D80 Digital Camera with two lenses, a Nikon 18-135 mm and [Tamron 28-300mm –not new]
Olympus Stylus 770SW Digital Camera
Manfrotto 725B Tripod
Garmin 76CSx GPS
Pelican Model 724 Hard Case
Silk sleeping bag liner
Katadyn Vario Water Filter
Cabela’s Light weight Gore-tex Rain Jacket
Evernew Expedition Titanium Series 4 DX nesting pots