BWCA Trip Day 1 – July 19 2015

Sleep is hard to come by when you’re already keyed up, and you have to get up by a certain time that’s way earlier than the usual wakeup time.  Carousing boy scouts don’t help the situation any. Five AM finally arrived.  Time to get dressed, pick up the gear, and head out.

I dropped the gear off in the outfitter’s van, and wandered over to the gas station for breakfast.  A peanut butter crispy bar and coffee, breakfast of champions!  I was alert enough to notice that we were about to take off without some necessary gear, like a paddle and life jacket.  Apparently my driver was less awake than I was.  After that was straightened out, we headed out right about 6 AM.

After I was dropped off, I loaded the canoe and set off.  It was quiet, at first.  A point of land in the lake sheltered me from the west wind for the time being.  A loon swam not ten feet from me as I left the landing.  Whatever else would happen today, it was a beautiful morning.

As I passed Waters Island, the wind kicked in.  I learned that the canoe turns into a sail in the cross-wind, and I got tossed around quite a bit.  As I got closer to Dollar Island, the wind seemed to shift out of the south, pushing me further north than I wanted.  I ended up reaching the old entry point, which had gotten shut down a couple years ago due to a landowner dispute.  Eventually, I made it south to the proper entry point at about 8 AM.

As I prepped for the portage, two guys were coming back.  They reported that they had seen no one else on the lake, and had camped on the west side of the lake for a couple of nights in a beautiful spot.  Nice, a few days of solitude intact.  Trip 1 down the portage began with the backpack and the gear bag.  The portage from Entry Point 4 is over a mile long, and it feels like it.

It didn’t occur to me how heavy the canoe would be.  Especially when I had the massive food pack on my back.  I managed to haul both about a third of the way up the trail before I finally gave in.  If I had continued, it would have taken hours or I would have injured something.  Either option would have had a real negative impact on the trip.  I left the canoe at the clearing, then came back for it after dropping off the food pack.

While I was hauling the canoe to Crab Lake, I met another couple coming the opposite direction.  A third group was at the landing when I arrived.  So far, this didn’t seem like that isolated a place, but at least everyone I had met so far was going in the right direction for solitude.  Finally, I had arrived at Crab Lake with all of the gear.  It had taken over two hours to get to this point.

The wind was no better on Crab Lake.  The outfitter had recommended a couple of camp sites on the lake.  After getting tossed about by the wind, I arrived at the first one.  On any other day it would have been a nice site, but today it was fully open to the gale.  I stopped for lunch at the second.  It seemed OK at first, but it seemed pretty exposed.  Not as bad as the first site, but I thought it might still be a problem.  There was another on the lee side of the lake that looked promising.  As I approached, I  noticed a couple in a boat behind me.  They ended up at the camp site right across from me.  So much for having the lake to myself.

This site was ideal, and I began setting up camp.  Between fighting the wind, the portage, and the early start I was almost too tired to think.  I checked my phone, and found that I had service, though the signal was weak enough that battery life would be an issue.  I texted home to let the family know I was all right and not as isolated as they thought I’d be.  Then I set the phone in airplane mode and went back to work on my home for the next couple of days.

Once I had camp set up to my satisfaction, I did some fishing on the lee side of the island next to camp.  An anchor sock (or an anchor) would have been handy, as I spent half the time trying to get back to spots where I thought I was getting nibbles.  A couple of bass almost made it into the boat, but they proved to be excellent escape artists.  After getting bored with not catching anything, I explored the area a bit and checked out the portage to Little Crab Lake.

The first dinner of the trip was freeze dried Sweet & Sour Pork.  After the exertions of the day, a meal for two was barely enough for one.  With evening coming, the bear threat seemed real, so  protecting the remaining food became a priority. They may not be an issue in this area, but one can never be too careful.  After a few attempts, the food bag was hung in a tree, maybe even in a way that would prevent non-humans from getting to the contents.  Time will tell how effective the attempt was.

As the sun set, the mosquito army drove me into the tent.  The treated clothing had worked like a charm all day, but even they were no match for thousands of blood thirsty insects.  Sleep didn’t come quickly, hearing loons and other birds making their evening calls, along with the roar of the wind through the trees.

Wildlife spotted today:  blue jay, roughed grouse, loons, some type of squirrel with a small body and large head.