Gene Returns to the Boundary Waters

Pushing Off at Baker Lake July 9, 2018

North Temperance Campsite day 1

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Realized a wish this July with a return to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Been on my mind with the current threats to it; amazingly and thankfully, I didn't dwell on them while I was there. Instead, just reveled in the beauty and serenity of being there, especially on a solo trip. I like groups and would love to have Karen along, but this is good, too.

Karen dropped me off early at Baker Lake, just east of Sawbill. My new Wenonah Prism is all it was supposed to be: light at 36 lbs. and paddles straight. And the weather was gorgeous, clear and mild wind. Only a 10 minute paddle to the first portage around a small rapids. The put-in on Peterson Lake is at the head of the rapids and some care is necessary. Lots of aluminum coated rocks in the short passage beyond. This trip was up and over the Laurentian Divide so the first half was up-current and upwind--not much wind; just enough to stay cool. The transition from Peterson to Kelly Lakes is a pour-over I was just barely able to paddle through. The narrow lakes were a lovely paddle with "wilderness Rorschach" (tree lines reflected in the water) much of the way. The white and yellow water lilies were in bloom as well as the blue flag iris. Also saw heal-all, bunchberry blossoms, yellow aster and buttercups, and toadflax.

The portage from Kelly to Jack was a bit hard to find until getting out at it and is overgrown with brush and has some water to walk through, thankfully with a good sand bottom. Pleasant to listen to the small rapids along the way. Then on through Weird Lake and a no-name lake above it with a lift over a developing beaver dam, usually a bit precarious. Pleasantly surprised that portaging came back to me so well after ten years and being 70+ years old.

My goal was North Temperance, but the longest portage--240 rods--was into South Temperance and up next. It was still late morning. Took one rest and it went well with some up and down and ankle deep mud-water; some strategically placed rocks would help the worst so that folks didn't widen the trail so much.

July is the month for mushrooms! Found lovely lobsters Hypomyces lactiflorus on the portage as well as many large chromefoot boletes Harrya chromapes, several queen bolete look-a-likes, bitter bolete, and lots of Russulas, Amanita muscaria and cf. bisporigera, Hygrocybe, red-lipped polypore, Laccaria cf. laccata, and other LBMs.

Met the first people of the day on the campsite I might have liked on South Temperance, so continued on to North Temperance and camped on the NE campsite pictured above which was very nice. The wind picked up, so used my canoe as a wind deflector. This was the only night I built a (tiny) wood fire to grill the pork I brought along and made polenta; very good. A song Sparrow came to visit that evening, and loons, white-throated sparrows, hermit thrush and veery alternated in the chorus. My fave red breasted nuthatches moved in the trees telling their secrets to each other.

The next day had the hardest portages in terms of elevation and I was on the water by 7:30. Into Sitka and then the biggy into Cherokee (take-out is hidden behind a point) were strenuous, but actually very do-able. Lots of fungi and some water to cool your feet off on the way through. I intended to stay on Cherokee and had an island campsite in mind...which, of course had some tents on it. Met the next folks on the way north into Long Island Lake: a nice couple and group of teenagers I talked with at the next couple portages. Just before the entrance to Long Island there is a developing beaver dam to lift over. A nice lake but decided to get a jump on tomorrow and took the short portage over into Karl and camped just north of the other side at a 'well-used' but nice campsite.

The weather forecast when I put in was for thunderstorms that night, and I had breakfast to skies clouding over. My intention was to take the several fairly short portages to Cross Bay Lake where there was a campsite that would be protected and then decide whether to proceed via Ham Lake or the longer and more strenuous Snip to Round Lakes. Recurrent sprinkles got my poncho out and the skies showed a significant front moving in. Of course the campsite was taken and I decided that I might want to get to Ham and consider my options. The stretch of zig-zag channels with current on the way is the prettiest part of the trip and I took my time. Sad to leave the BWCA, the rain was getting serious, and the campsites on Ham were pretty beat. Soooooo......decided to continue to Cross Lake and see if I could snag a bunk at Tuscarora Lodge near the take-out. But it wasn't through with me yet: in the narrow passage just into Cross Lake stood a large bull moose with velvet antlers contentedly munching and watching me. His ears are turned to listen even when the rest of his head is under water. I enjoyed looking at him for at least twenty minutes until he meandered to one side and I zipped by him and he took off. Always amazed at how such a large and gangly-looking animal is so graceful in motion.

As a bit of an anti-climax, I walked to Tuscarora. They had lots of room and I cleaned up and rested up, and was able to email Karen about the change in pick up plans using their wifi and a hangouts call.

Continued the 'vacation' with a pleasant stay at Susan Scherer's just up the Gunflint Trail which is always a joy. Great meals and company. Karen brought up veges from our garden to share.

A perfectly lovely trip. Where to next??