14 July 2009

BW Trip Badges

I was inspired by the "Latrine Inspectors" badge the kids talked about on the last day to actually create some.

The one that started it all ... for Kara and Storm.

One for Luis for his diligent duty playing Reveille and Taps every day.

For Mark as our crew leader

For the crew, because everyone got along and worked together all week.

And a general crew badge just because I was on a roll.

13 July 2009

BW Trip Day 8 - Homeward bound

I woke at 3:20 (50 degrees) and decided I needed to head to the latrine. I considered trying to hold out until morning but knew I'd sleep better if I got up and took care of it.

The moon was only half there but it was enough to make shadows. I didn't need my headlamp until I got onto the trail to the latrine. Back at the tent, I stood outside for a while looking at the stars. Venus was bright enough to leave a light trail on the surface of the water. I've never seen anything but the sun or moon do that.

We got up at 6. My plan to not hold out for dawn was a good one. We were on the water around 6:55 and hit the takeout about 7:45. True to form, we took a wrong turn on Lake One again.

It was warm enough I shed the longies before paddling. It's amazing how the temperature can change.

(Mark, Luis, Kara, Storm (behind) and me when we got off the water.) When our pick-up arrived, the driver got out of the van with what looked like an oversized bobber and set it on the ground and stepped away saying, "There's cold pop in there." He was smart to step away first...after a week of nothing cold to drink we all descended on the cans like a storm of locusts.

Check out at the outfitter was super simple. We just piled packs and gear in the designated corner and that was it. Mark asked the guy about inventory and he just sort of shrugged and said, "We get back what we get back."
We hit the road for home around 10. Kara had brought the remaining package of granola and we shared it around the car since none of us had had breakfast yet but it was kind of dry without liquid.

We stopped for food at a McDonalds on the way but otherwise we drove pretty much straight home, only stopping for gas or rest areas. We parted company at the Ankeny rest area again where Alan picked me up.

The end of the adventure.

12 July 2009

BW Trip Day 7 - Lake Four to Lake One

5:05am and 50 degrees. I got up and started breaking camp. By 5:59 we were on the water. It was perfectly calm with a little mist rising from the surface of the water. What a difference from 12 hours ago!

We crossed Lakes Four, Three and Two then did the 2 short portages (40 and 30 rods) to Lake One. We found a campsite on an island (our first and only this trip). It's a cool site in terms of rocks/trails to explore and it's on the lee side of the island so no wind to deal with. The tentsites aren't the best but I'm still glad to be here.

(view from one end of our island of the two smaller islands nearby) We landed and were setting up camp at 8:40am ... about 20 minutes ahead of when we would usually be hitting the water. Good thing too. When we were leaving the last portage, a woman came across with a pack and said there were 6 boats waiting. Before noon, our other group paddled by our island and said there was a huge bottleneck at the portage. They waited a long time to get through. I can believe it. We've seen a steady stream of canoe groups coming across the lake ever since we got here. Looks like we planned it just right. I'm not sure the wind we feared materialized ... I don't see waves or whitecaps ... but our timing to get a campsite has been perfect. We should be in good shape to meet our pickup tomorrow.

The kids (Kara and Luis, left) went through all our food to separate all the stuff we haven't eaten. Here's what we didn't eat...1 jar peanut butter, one bottle grape jelly (both unopened), 2 pkgs oatmeal, 1/2 a loaf of bread, 38 pkgs hot cocoa mix, 4 orange drink mixs (2 qt each), 1 lemonade mix (2 qt), 3 Kool-Aid sticks (2 qt each) cherry and one tropical punch, 3 pkgs cider mix, 7 envelopes powdered milk (1 qt each), 2-person French vanilla mousse, 12-person chocolate pie, 6-person lemon cream pudding, 2-person vanilla pudding, 5 coffee pods, uncounted pkgs of creamer and sugar for the coffee, 10-person garlic mashed potatoes, 2-person chicken goop, 6-person beef stew with dumplings, box of mac and cheese, pkg fruit/nut granola, pkg trail mix, fish fry stuff (batter mix, lemon juice, tarter sauce). We did not starve.

Storm and Kara made lemon pudding for lunch so cross that off the list above. I had the French vanilla mousse, so cross that too.

I took a hike around the island. It definitely got windier. Kara and Mark went off to the dam to fish.

I've come to the conclusion that Luis is just one of those people who needs stuff to do. We hit camp and he immediately starts a fire, goes to get water, cuts/gathers firewood.

When we got to camp today and were setting up tents, he wanted to lay all the sleeping bags out on the rocks to warm them. Why we need warmed sleeping bags at 11am, who knows?

We did lay them out once or twice previously because they'd gotten a little damp, but that's a different issue.

He also hung the tarp off to one side as a shower curtain so people could bathe in privacy. We're all looking at a hot shower by 9 tomorrow morning so no one was really interested.

Then he got this idea that we should empty out one of the food barrels to do laundry. He heated water in every pot we have and hauled the barrel down to the water so he could add cooler lake water as needed. He's agitating the clothes with a paddle and heating more water. Again, we're out of here early tomorrow so the rest of us have zero interest in doing major laundry today but he wanted to do his so more power to him. We've got all day and nothing on the agenda.

Personally, I'm spending my down time reading, walking the island, listening to the breeze in the trees at the top of the island...and NOT paddling.

I washed my hair, worked on my speech for Dad's birthday luncheon, studied some Spanish, treated some water. Just a lazy day at camp.

Luis says he's going for a swim, I say "Sure, wear a PFD." Then I putter around for a while before Storm says, "I lost him. I thought he'd drowned but then I saw the paddle again." and I'm thinking, "What?!?" "Where is he?" and "What's he doing swimming with a paddle?"

The answer to the 2nd question turned out to be: 2/3 the way across the lake, heading toward the camp on the far shore "to say hello."

To the 3rd question, I have no answer.

He was floundering along, the PFD was riding up over his shoulders, he wasn't making any progress and it looked like he was just flailing around. Storm and I got in a canoe to go after him. He towed behind the canoe until we could get to some rocks where he could actually climb into the boat. We paddled back to camp.

I am responsible for his safety out here and it freaked me out a bit. I probably gave him more of a dressing down than warranted but it was a really stupid thing to do...mostly heading off alone like that.

Storm and Kara made supper after Mark and Kara got back from fishing with no fish for supper. Instead, we had beef stew, mashed potatoes and chocolate pie (cross those off the "didn't eat" list). It was a LOT of food and I can't believe we ate it all. It's just that much less to pack out. I did dishes and packed up a lot of the kitchen stuff.

We're not going to do breakfast before loading out tomorrow...just get up, break camp and load out. We'll try to leave before 7 and be at the pick-up before 8.

That plan is somewhat hampered by the fact that we don't know exactly how long it will take. By miles on the map, we figure less than an hour...assuming there's no nasty wind and we don't get lost en route. Both seem unlikely...

We had another animal adventure around dusk...this time, mine. Luis was playing his mouthpiece on the far side of the island with Kara. Mark and Storm were in their tent reading. I was in my tent and heard snapping twigs, saw bushes and saplings waving around, and heard the sound of scraping and chewing. I was looking out the back window of the tent to try to see what it was and if it was going to come into camp...it was only about 8 feet from where I was. About then, Kara came over the island to the front tent door and whatever it was moved off toward the water. I said, "What was that?!" She said she thought it was her dad and I said, "No, he's in the other tent." She got freaked and dove into the tent with me.

Storm came out of the other tent and was trying to talk her into going to look for it (he's a lot braver today!) but she wouldn't budge. I put on my shoes and we went looking for it. I wanted to start with where I'd seen the branches moving to see if there were tracks. We didn't see any tracks but there were grass and weeds pressed down in the direction it took off in so something had definitely been there.

We tracked up the trail a little more and stopped to listen. We saw more branches moving but couldn't see anything. The movement and sound stopped but we didn't hear a splash like it had gone into the water and had no idea what it had done.

We decided to cross over the island and come at it from the other side. we tracked around and came at the spot from the other side. As we got closer, we heard something along the shore and went out onto the rocks to see better.

It was a big beaver dragging one of the branches that had been waving around through the water. That explains the flattened grass, the waving saplings, the scraping sounds and why we didn't see it.

We went back to camp to report. Kara, not wanting to be in our tent alone, had gotten into the other tent with her dad and was GREATLY relieved to hear the report.

About that time, Luis was calling, "Beaver!" from the other end of the island so he'd found it too. Kara and Storm took off to go see it. They must have really disturbed it this time because I heard the tail slap twice.

The kids all came back to camp, laughing over Luis' idea for "Latrine Inspector" badges for Kara and Storm.

They got flashlights and went to wait for the stars. It's 9:20 (59 degrees). They're going to have a bit of a wait. It's only dusk now and won't be dark for a while yet.

Cross "long underwear" off my list of clothes I brought but didn't wear. Last night I got a little chilly before morning and it was definitely a chilly paddle. I'm wearing the longies to bed tonight.

9:50 and 57 degrees...it's closer to star time...I'm going to bed.

11 July 2009

BW Trip Day 6 - Insula Lake to Lake Four

The alarm had been set for 4am so Kara and Storm could see the sunrise. It went off (wonder of wonders!). After the midnight adventures last night, I just shut it off and went back to sleep.
Closer to 5, Mark asked Kara for her camera. She sleepily handed it to him through a gap in the tent door, peeked out and said, "Ok, I saw it." then burrowed down in her bag to go back to sleep. (pic left is sunrise over the islands to the east of camp)

I put on my rain gear for warmth and went out to take a look. There's an island right where the sun was coming up so I couldn't actually see the sun. I took a few pictures and went back to bed.

I woke again around 6:30 (59 degrees), changed clothes and got up. It's mostly cloudy, chilly and only slightly breezy.

Somehow, in the midnight scramble last night, I seem to have sprained an ankle. I can walk on it but it's swollen and feels like I did something to it. Mark also had some injuries. In rushing around camp in the dark and barefoot (we both were) he managed to take a couple chunks out of the sole of a foot and is quite tender-footed today. The two should make portages interesting...

On the upside, my back feels much better. If the wind stays more or less calm, hopefuly we won't have to paddle like we did yesterday.

I wanted to start hot water for tea and breakfast but the storm last night blew our water bucket over. We'll have to paddle out and get water first.

It doesn't sound like anyone else is stirring. the smapsite across the way is inactive. I hear lots of loon calls. There's another bird that sounds for all the world like a toy train but I think maybe it's some sort of jay. 3 or 4 crows are harrassing some bigger bird over the island to the east but I don't recognize it's call. There are lots of chirpy little birds and some seagulls. The wind is whispering in the tree tops. The occasional wave laps gently at the base of the rock I'm sitting on. That's it for sounds. Morning on the Boundary Waters!

We got on the water around 9:30 and that whispering wind had turned into a howling banshee. We fought headwinds, whitecaps and 2-foot swells across Insula Lake. At the beginning of the portage to Hudson Lake, we met a family that had 3 home-made wooden canoes. Talk about works of art! At the end of the portage into Hudson Lake, there an eagle was fishing the little bay. We stopped at a campsite to have lunch of PB&J, mac & cheese, trail mix and whatever else we felt like eating.

With a "once more into the breech, dear friends" we headed out north to Fire Lake. We had planned to spend the night there but the latrine inspectors rated the latrines and sites as too uncivilized. We decided to push on to Lake Four and at least get us closer to where we HAVE to be tomorrow.

We passed up several sites on Lake Four then finally landed at one that faces the full force of the wind. It's a nice site except for the constant struggles with the wind.

We had a little pow-wow and decided that in the morning we need to get up early, break camp and get as far as we can before the wind kicks up again after the overnight calm. We'll see how that goes.

Tomorrow is our last real day of paddling. Our pickup is at 8am on Monday so we have to be at a campsite that's very close to the take-out. The problem is, we expect others to be doing the same thing so we have to get there early or we may have to camp far away and get up really early to meet the shuttle. The west winds are supposed to hold. Tomorrow's not going to be fun.

The kids made supper...bits and pieces of whatever we have left. After supper and dishes we were sitting around the fire ring when Storm chame charging breathless and panicked from the latrine trail because there was an animal of some sort on the trail and it came at him. He didn't know what it was...he thought maybe a badger...he didn't hang around to see.

He was freaked and Kara swore there was no way she'd use that latrine again.She's been worried about bears the whole trip and seeing the bear poop (see pic at left...this bear has been eating LOTS of berries) on the one portage didn't help any. He kept trying to get Kara to go check it out with him but she wouldn't so I told him I'd go with him.

We head down the trail (with him at a safe distance behind me) and when we get to the latrine, he points to where he saw it. We walked a little past the latrine and there was a frenzied rustling in the brush and Storm said, "There it is! That's it!"

I burst out laughing. It was a grouse. We walked back to the group and I was laughing so hard I was crying. Kara and Storm headed back to check it out and were already talking about the story they could tell about it.

After that little interlude, Luis taught me some tai chi. I got a bit of it but being exhausted leaves me a little fuzzy-headed. I figure after several days of me telling him what to do paddling, it's good for him to tell me what to do for a while.

The wind finally died and it's calm at the campsite. Hallelujah! I'm so sick of wind.

It's 9:00 and 66 degrees. We're planning to bug out early tomorrow morning to paddle some before the wind kicks up again.

I think we're all ready to be back. Mark talked about gulping a 20oz soda as soon as we get to Ely. I'll probably go for a shower first but a soda is definitely in my future, too...something cold and carbonated and with caffiene. Storm talked about flushing a toilet, just because he could...going into a restroom, like at a rest area on the interstate, and just flushing all the stalls. Kara wants real shampoo and a hot shower.

We were talking after supper about the little things we'd figured out this week. We were comparing pillow woes and strategies. Kara and I both have inflatable travel pillows which are great for travel but not so good for actual pillows because they're horseshoe shaped. Storm rigged up this conglomeration of shoes, PFD and clothes but said it falls apart at night. Others just use wadded up clothes but they don't hang together either. I said that just last night I'd finally hit on the perfect pillow. I solved the fall-apart problem by putting the stuff inside my polar fleece top and then tying the sleeves and putting the knot on the bottom.

Paddle gloves have been a godsend...both Luis and I have used them this trip.

The water treatment pills are a miracle and peace of mind...the guides at the outfitter said they never bother to treat the water with pills or filter. They just go out to the middle of the lake and dip it up. But I'd rather not take a chance... The real danger is giardia, which is a parasite that you can get where there are beavers in the water. Generally, you can avoid picking it up by not collecting water close to shore where the wave action churns up the cysts off the bottom. If you ingest the cysts, the parasite life cycle will take about 6 weeks for you to show symptoms. That's well after a return home but apparently it's NOT something you ever want to get. That's why we go out to the middle of the lakes to get water. The pills are for killing the bacteria. We're using 2-stage treatment...the first pill is iodine, which takes care of the bacteria; the second pill is something to neutralize the iodine and make the water more palatable. The other alternative is boiling for 20 minutes, which takes a lot of fuel. Or using a water filter that takes out the cysts and bacteria. I brought a filter from home but the group decided to use the pills instead so I left it in the car when we hit the water.

I've used every article of clothing I brought except the long underwear and extra pair of wool socks. I've also not needed anything other article of clothing that I didn't bring so that's just about perfect.

9:15 and 64 degrees, Luis is playing Taps.

10 July 2009

BW Trip Day 5 - Picture Rock & back to Insula

Halfway day...

Not a good night's sleep last night. Apparently, there was a big hump of sand I didn't notice when we set up the tents. It ended up being right under my upper back/torso. Lying on my back, it was a good chest opener, like lying over a bolster in yoga class. Trying to sleep with my head tilted back is not good though.

Trying to sleep on my side isn't much better. I tried scooting down so that my head was on the mound but that required too muchb bunching up. It was just a rest-less night.

The wind kicked up again in the nite. I could hear waves hitting the shore and tent parts flapping.

Early...5am or so...Reggie (it had to be Reggie, the little imp) sat on a log outside the tent and chattered/swore something awful. It woke me up and I laid there for a while but didn't go back to sleep.

I got up at 5:30 (64 degrees). Mark was already up, making a fire and had water on the boil. I made a cup of cocoa and watched the moon over the far side of the lake. It's just past full by a day or two.

You have to get up really early in the morning to see a sunrise here... I haven't exactly been viewing a lot of stars at night either. The mosquitos generally drive us to tents before dark and I try really hard to not have to leave again before morning.

We had planned to leave camp after breakfast, go to picture rock without gear then back to camp for lunch, load up and head back to Insula Lake.

However, there is such a wicked wind on the lake and small whitecaps that the thought of fighting that twice did not appeal. We decided to break camp, load the boats, battle the wind, dump the gear at a camp on the other side of the lake, go to picture rock then back to where we dumped the gear for lunch before heading on to Insula. It's less paddling since we would cross the lake 2 times fewer and only have to fight the wind once.

I'm SO glad we did it that way. It was a wicked, wicked wind. I told Luis that now was the time for his power stroke. He supplied it but it was still a struggle. When we got to the point where we needed to turn, we were paddling like mad and standing still. I told Luis we needed more power and he dug in more. We made it! I told him he did a great job. He really did.

We dropped the gear, made the 2 portages (20 and 70 rods) to Fishdance Lake and the picture rock cliff.

(example of one of the petroglyphs on Picture Rock...the reddish vertical marks near center...no idea what it means) I'm kind of dubious about the "ancient Indian petroglyph" thing. Yes, they look Indian-y and they're faded but I have a hard time believing that any sort of pigment could survive the elements on an exposed rock face like this for any length of time.

On the second (shorter) portage back to Alice, Mark decided to run the rapids. He made it...almost. He got hung up on a rock at the very bottom. He carried the boat back over the portage and ran it again. This time he walked back without the boat and ran the other canoe through.

We got back in the boats and headed to our lunch spot, fighting headwind the whole way. Luckily, it wasn't far but it doesn't bode well for the rest of the day.

So far today, we've seen only 2 other people...a guy on a rock on the point as we paddled across the lake this morning and a guy in a solo canoe at the picture rock portage. On Insula, we saw tons of people. We're headed back there now.

For lunch, we had beef jerky, trail mix, and granola bars. The French toast bread's gone moldy.

As we paddle along, Luis sings songs in Spanish (and English). Conversation bounces around between Eastern/Western philosophy, "Avatar" plots and outdoorsy questions. He's never without a load of ideas. He was brainstorming ideas for a modern remake of "The Odyssey" on the Boundary Waters with high schoolers. Between the wind noise and the level of concentration it took to keep the boat on course in the wind, I only heard about a quarter of what he was saying so I didn't contribute much to the brainstorming. Paddling with him is an eclectic experience.

On the water after lunch, I swear no matter which direction we turn, it's into the wind. Padding was brutal all afternoon.

We stopped at a campsite on Insula Lake. I would have liked to get farther but both Mark and I were wiped and it was just as far as we were going to get. It had been a real struggle to get there.

We set up camp. I washed my hair and face. I found that my travel clock had blown it's programming again...I think maybe the battery's dying.

I found a tick on me...dog tick, not deer tick. I wrapped it in a piece of toilet paper and threw it in the fire...blood sucking little critter.

This campsite is the most civilized of the ones we've had. Someone left a stack of cut firewood...real firewood, not just twigs and rotten pieces. They left it covered with plastic and several sheet of newspaper from Duluth dated around mid-June. There are 'amenities' like a nice flat table rock, pretty level well-groomed tent spots and not too many mosquitos. Kara and Storm pronounced the latrine acceptable...pretty full but a not-scary trail and a decent location.

We have a pair of seagulls that perch on a rock off shore and fish in the shallow water near camp. We named them 'Charles' (as in Lindburgh) and 'Amelia' (as in Earhart) (pic left is Mark coming back to camp with a fish and Amelia...or maybe it's Charles...perched on the rock)

Supper was 'chicken goop' and grilled cheese sandwiches. We tend to call the one-pot stew/casserole things "goop" because they have that texture. The sandwiches were supposed to be a lunch thing but we haven't exactly stuck to the menus.

Mark went fishing after supper and caught a pike almost immediately. We didn't measure it but it was bigger around than he could grasp with one hand and certainly longer than a foot...maybe 18 inches.

My back is really bothering me. Paddling in the wind is a killer. I took ibuprofen earlier but it's not helping yet. Luis wanted to trade lessons in tai chi for yoga but I'm just not up to it right now.

We stood out on the rocks around the point to watch the sunset. It wasn't spectacular but it was serene. (top left pic is sunset through the trees, bottom left is sunset over the islands to the west)

Kara and Storm want to set an alarm to see the sunrise. This has been our only east-facing campsite so far. I set my travel alarm for them but who knows if it will work. It keeps blowing its brain.

9:30 to bed (70 degrees).

At 11:47 (64 degrees) I woke up and heard it blowing a gale outside. Then I heard what sounded like our canoes blowing away. Then I realized it was Mark moving them and battening things down as it started to sprinkle. I threw on my rain gear and went out to help. We drug all the small stuff from up front by the fire grate back to a more secure location. It wasn't raining much, just sprinkling yet, but the way it was blowing, I was expecting a downpour at any moment.

We got back into tents and I lay there trying to remember what the trees we'd set up under were like...if there were any big dead limbs above us. I hadn't paid any attention, just set up in the spot where a tent goes. So I just hoped for the best.

In all the excitement and coming fully awake, I realized I had to make a trip up the trail and wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep until I did. I put on my rain jacket (it wasn't raining, just cold) and took care of that. By 12:20 it was all over. No more rain, the wind calmed to a gentle breeze whispering in the pine tops and I went back to sleep.

09 July 2009

BW Trip Day 4 - Lake Insula to Alice Lake

The site last night had a decent breeze so the skeeters weren't too bad. We didn't go to tents quite so early. Still, we were in tents by 9:30. I read for a bit while K journalled. It got dark enough that I lit the small battery-powered lamp I brought. Then I gave up and just lay there resting.

The Boy Scouts that Kara and Storm saw must be camped on the same lake. About the time was getting ready to sleep, I started hearing this strange plunking sound. I thought at first it was the wind blowing something against one of our food barrels but it was to same rhythm pattern over and over. I finally figured out it was drumming. It sounded like they were beating on food barrels. It's gotta be the Boy Scouts.

Next thing I know, I'm waking up, the light is out and Kara is asleep. Then I realize what woke me up.

The...well, there's no polite adjective I can put here so I'll just leave it out...Boy Scouts are at it again. It's a quarter after midnight and they're beating their drums again. And it goes on for the better part of an hour. I thought one of the things Boy Scouts were supposed to be is courteous. Hmph!

Eventually, I did get back to sleep. I woke up around 7 with Mark rustling around camp and making breakfast.

He made the scrambled eggs with bacon bits (awful!) and we had one of the coffee cakes (strawberry cream cheese, yum!) and some hot cocoa left from yesterday's breakfast. I also had half a PB&J. Kara didn't eat any of the eggs (smart girl!). There were eggs for 6...one pkg for 4 and one for 2, we only used the 4-pkg.

We also discovered that, while they gave us bread for the French toast we ordered, we didn't get anything to make the batter with. We have all these pkgs of powdered milk but other than the scrambled eggs with bacon bits, there's no other egg. We also have a couple granola breakfasts and a mac & cheese dinner that we didn't order. I think the food got a little messed up.

We hit the lake 9-ish. All we had to do was paddle across the cove to the portage. It was a weeny little 10-rod portage, pretty smooth and level.

Last night, Kara was talking in tent about how she wanted to try to portage the canoe but didn't think she could do it. I told her she'd probably be surprised. the canoe weighs something like 80 pounds but once you get it balanced on your shoulders it's actually pretty easy to carry. She'd already seen the portage, she knew it was short and easy. It might be the perfect portage to try it on.

We portaged the first canoe and most of the gear. She decided she'd give it a go. I was already loaded with a pack so I couldn't help her get the canoe up but her dad was on his way back and I told her to wait for him to help her get under it. Then I hoofed it to the other end to get my camera. If she was going to carry the boat, I wanted to get it recorded.

She and Storm came up the trail and she was carrying it! (See pic at left) Storm was up front helping guide it but she was under it.

At the far end, we loaded up in the same rotation as yesterday...Luis and me (stern), Mark, Kara and Storm in the other boat, this time with Mark in the duff postion.

Luis has a real power stroke. Unfortunately, it's the only stroke he has. He hasn't yet masterd the right amount of effort for the situation. But he's gaining! I got him to paddle more vertically instead of sweeping so it's easier to make the boat track straight. And when I remind him to ease up on the power, he does. He's good about taking instruction. I figure I'll give him some pointers on land where he doesn't h ave to turn around and it will help. He didn't really want to do the vertical paddle...he said it felt awkward...but when I can explain why, he'll get it.

We made it to Alice Lake and the wind caught up with us. Previous days had been almost calm. We paddled across to where the sandy beach sites were marked on the map. Our plan was to get a good camp site and do a layover day there. There's a small portage off Alice that goes to a place that has Indian pictographs on the rocks. We met another group at a portage that said it was worth the trip.

(our Alice Lake beach camp) We battled wind across Alice and paddled past one site. The 3 boat got there first and didn't stop for whatever reason. We got to the first camp on the far side and it looked good. It's slightly protected from the wind with a deep sandy beach. It looked good but Kara and Storm checked out the latrine and pronounced it "not so good." It was early in the day so we decided to go up the shore and check out other sites...figuring if none were better, we could come back.

We made it as far as the other side of the cove when the wind hit us...waves, some whitecaps, and lots of wind. We decided to head back to the first camp rather than fight the wind for no good reason. We were set up before noon.

Luis was an industrious firewood gatherer. Kara and Storm puttered around the beach. They had some sort of scheme to write something in the sand and take a picture of it but I think they lost interest before completing it. Mark napped on the beach. I wrote. It's a good short day.

Luis wanted to learn to play backgammon. I have a checkerboard and backgammon board drawn on one side of my Thermarest pad for just such an occasion. I went for a walk down a shore trail and found little pinecones to use for my markers. He picked up wood chips to use for his. We laid the pad across the food barrels, placed the pieces and played. (see pic at left) He picked it up pretty fast and played pretty well. Mark watched and when we finished, he and Luis played.

Kara and Storm went out to get water while it was still really windy and were gone a long time. We thought they were just padlding around but when they came back they told of their harrowing adventure of wind and waves and currents. They were kind of frustrated at the time but by the time they got back to camp they were talking about their "story to tell."

After the backgammon game, it was sunny and warm and I thought it a good time to go for a swim. I changed in to my suit and by the time I got to the water, it was completely cloudy. We'd heard thunder occasionally but only faintly. I was about knee deep in the water when I saw a streak of lightning far off across the lake with rain streaks in the sky.

I yelled up the beach that we should put the tarp up. Storm said they were putting stuff away. I ducked under to get my hair wet then got out, dried off, put on dry clothes and helped with the rest of the battening.

Then we all sat on a log facing the far shore and watched/waited for the storm. It never came. The sky lightened and we figured it missed us.

So we unbattened everything and started supper. Luis and Mark made chicken noodle casserole that was pretty tasty. We were about to start either dessert or dishes when Storm said he felt rain drops. We looked across the lake and could see the line of rain coming. We threw stuff under the tarp, got rain gear out and it started sprinkling. Then, about that fast, it was over without having actually rained.

We broke out the marshmallows and stoked the fire to toast them. Then we did dishes. It started sprinking again but, like the first time, it was short and that's all it was.

After the "rain," it was dead calm and the sun shone brightly across the lake a bit before sundown. Then the skeeters came out with a vengance.

Luis serenaded us with his practice on trumpet mouthpiece. He's auditioning for some position when he gets back and has practiced every day. No trumpet, just the mouthpiece. He's got chops... He finished up with Taps. It's 8:30 and 68 degrees.

The squirrels are very bold at this site. We named one Reggie. He races through camp and snaps up bits of noodle or marshmallow. There's also Regina. She turns up her nose at such things and instead steals my entire stash of backgammon marker pinecones.

After the storm, a pair of loons hunted in our cove and we could hear them call. I love the sound of loons!

Luis marked a mancala board on my Thermarest between the checker and backgammon boards and gathered small stones from shore for markers. We never got around to playing before day's end, though.

Kara and Storm are covered in bug bites and mosquito welts. Mark and I have been bitten but don't have any welts.

We heard and saw some seagulls. Alice is a big lake but no motors are allowed.

08 July 2009

BW Trip Day 3 - Hudson Lake to Lake Insula

(The lakes are mislabeled in this map. The Start lake is actually Hudson Lake. The lake labeled Hudson Lake is actually Insula Lake.)

I slept reasonably well, all things considered. The ground was kind of hard and my "pillow" wasn't very cooperative. I woke up several times to roll over and reform my pillow (pile of clothes). The temp dropped really fast before bed and I could tell it was really chilly whenever I woke up. It was in the 40s by morning.

The full moon made the night bright and I kept thinking it was near dawn whenever I woke up. By the time it actually was morning, I got up around 6 and wandered along the shoreline taking pictures of the mist rising from the water.

The rest of the crew got up around 7 while I was boiling water and getting ready for breakfast. We had oatmeal, tea, and hot cocoa. The breakfast pack also had a coffee pod (for a whole pot of coffee), a bag of powdered milk (to make a quart), and orange drink mix (to make 2 quarts). We didn't make any of that.

The fishing group paddled by while we were packing up. We hit the water about 9.

Almost immediately we had a killer 105 rod portage to Lake Insula...steep at both ends, rocky and long. With all that, it only took us about half an hour to portage everything across.

Navigating Insula was a little tricky but we did better than on Lake One. We stopped at a really nice campsite on a point for lunch then paddled a little farther to The Rock.

(Luis, Kara and Storm...taken from the top of The Rock) We traded paddlers at that point. It had been the 3 kids in one canoe and Mark/me in the other. Mark went to stern on the 3 boat and Luis took stern with me. He said he wanted to learn to steer better. We worked on it... Since he was behind me, I couldn't see what he was doing and could only give general sorts of help. He tended toward very deep, short, fast strokes that rocked the boat. Overcorrection is a problem too...mostly of inexperience.

We found a campsite near theh portage to Alice Lake. We'll head there tomorrow and plan to take a layover day there.

Luis wanted to make supper. He and Storm paddled out in the lake to get water. Mark, Kara and I set up the tents.

Luis made supper of spaghetti (yum!), green beans and pumpkin pie flavored dessert (bleah). The dessert was kind of nasty but we ate it anyway because the alternative is to pack it out. Kara and I washed dishes. Kara and Storm paddled across to explore the rapids and portage. While they were there, there were some Boy Scouts fishing below the rapids. A 12-year-old boy in their group caught a 32-inch northern and it was, needless to say, a red-letter day for him. That got Mark and Kara all excited to go fishing after supper. They did, but didn't get a nibble.

I took a bucket back into the woods to wash up. The site we're camped on is windy and I didn't want to swim. It felt really good to wash my hair but I didn't really appreciate all the bug bites in delicate places.

After supper, Luis knitted. I had to put on long sleeve as I was getting chilly. Plus, the wind died a bit and the mosquitos were coming out. Just about time to go to tents.

I had a long chat with Luis. Unique lad...he's never without ideas and plans. He's knitting a baby cardigan "for practice" that will go to an unwed mothers group and then he's going to knit the "real" one for a friend who's going to be a father soon.

Wildlife sightings for the day: a duck family, a bald eagle, a sort of rust-headed duck. Oh, and Storm found a leech at the lunch stop.

07 July 2009

BW Trip Day 2 - Lake One to Hudson Lake

I didn't sleep well at all last night. I was one of 5 in my bunkhouse room in a very squeaky triple bunk bed. I had earplugs but still didn't sleep well. The first time I slept, I woke up freezing outside my sleeping bag from a dream about being late for theshuttle and forgetting stuff and just generally being unprepared. I got up and went to the bathroom in the showerhouse and went back to bed (inside the sleeping bag this time). I woke periodically from other unpleasant dreams that had nothing to do with the trip.

The rest of my room got up around 5-something so I did, too.

We got up and repacked our group bags to include the outfitter supplied gear then went to the "free" breakfast at The Boathouse across the street. The breakfast was included in the deal that had been worked out for our group. We had choice of 3 breakfast options (excluding drinks and tip) between 6 and 6:30am. There were 28 of us in total. We ordered, then waited more than 45 minutes for the food. The waitress said she'd bring out each one as it was ready rather than wait until a whole table/group was ready so that it would be served hot but most weren't anyway. I do believe it's the only time I've ever had to cut a pancake with a knife...

But it was food and we ate it.

The first group was supposed to hit the road at 6:30, the next at 6:45, then 7:15 (my group and the fishing group). But we didn't get served until almost 7 so it was after 7 before we were done eating.

So it goes. Everything just started a little later is all.

It was about an 18 mile trip to our put-in. The fishing group hit the water in pretty short order but it took my group a little longer to get organized. Also, rangers arrived after the fishing group left and checked our permits, so that took some time, too. (photo left is Mark, Kara, Storm and Luis packing up our stuff to load in the canoe)

(photo is Luis, Storm, Kara, me and Mark just before we started paddling)

While I was waiting for everything to come together, I saw a baby duck splashing and cheeping across some lilypads off to the side of the put-in. I never saw the mama duck or other babies. (baby duck is near the middle of the photo)

We hit the water around 9am and promptly got lost. Lake One, like so many of the BW lakes is a mass of little (and big) island, inlets, coves, etc. Kara was navigating and, having never done it before, it's not surprising she got confused. We finally found our way through the lake to the portages (30 and 40 rods) onto Lake Two.

There were no portages between Lakes Two, Three, and Four and then there were two portages (25 and 10 rods) around rapids to get to Hudson Lake. (photo is one of the portages, you can see someone carrying a canoe just starting up the trail. A rod is 16.5 feet)
When we stopped for lunch, we didn't really know where we were...somewhere on Lake 3...or maybe Lake 4. We figured we'd follow the shoreline heading in the right direction and eventually figure it out.

We did.

I paddled most of the day with long sleeves and pants. It was warm and sunny enough to wear less but I'd rather not use sunscreen or bug dope if I don't have to. I had paddle gloves on most of the day but apparently not all, as I think the backs of my hands are a little toasted. My arms and shoulders are really tired and feel worked. I figure they'll be really sore tomorrow or Thursday.

Kara duffed most of the day but wanted to paddle after lunch so I moved to the middle and generally navigated when I wasn't paddling.

When we got to Hudson Lake, the fishing crew was already camped and out fishing. We checked out a couple campsites near them and decided on one. We set up the tents then had our separate pursuits for a bit. Luis worked on starting a fire, Mark organized gear, Kara and Storm wrote up their adventures for the day. I journalled. Then it was time to get water, decide on supper, etc.

Kara, Storm and I made supper while Mark and Luis collected fire wood across the lake. We made beef stew with dumplings. There was supposed to be garlic mashed potatoes on the side and chocolate pie for dessert. We decided to mix the potato flakes into the stew (so as not to dirty another pan) and skip the dessert. It was pretty tasty.

After supper, Luis, Storm and I did dishes while Kara and Mark paddle out to take pictures of the campsite, visit the fishing group and hunt for moose in the marshes we passed on the way to our campsite.

At some point, I took a dip in the lake to rinse off. It was a bit chilly at first but it felt really good to rinse off.

By 8:30 or so it was buggy so we went to tents. Kara was saying it was way to early for her to go to bed...she's a midnight-to-bed kind of gal. We chatted for a while. I rebraided her hair. (Boy, am I out of practice...it's been 15-20 years since I had enough hair to French braid). We read a bit and I think we were both asleep by 9:30.

I need ibuprofen.

06 July 2009

BW Trip Day 1 - Heading to Ely

Alan and I met Mark, his daughter Kara and Storm at the rest area near Ankeny on I-35. Storm is not in our crew but he and Kara are really good friends so they wanted to ride up together. They arrived before 8am and we had good driving weather all the way to Ely, MN. Mark drove until about 2 hours from Ely and I drove the rest of the way.

We arrived at the outfitter around 4pm. Check in seemed to take forever. We all had to watch the "Leave No Trace" camping video, get our gear, plan our routes, pay for outstanding balances, etc. We also did a little crew member swapping. Storm was supposed to be in the fishing group but he's really not into fishing. Bobby was supposed to be in our group but he is really into fishing so they traded. Now Storm is in our group. Our 5th member, Luis, rode up in a different vehicle.

It was almost 8pm when we finished and headed to supper at The Chocolate Moose. Service was a bit slow (that might have had something to do with them being about the only place open that late) but the food was very good. It was a little on the pricey side but then, everything in town is.

For supper, most of us ordered appetizers instead of meals. I had Thai lettuce wraps that were very good. Mark said his walleye cakes were good. Kara's quesadilla was really good.

I did in find 2 embroidered T-shirts for $25. I had to pay cash...for some reason their machine wouldn't take my card. The woman working the register said they'd been having problems with it.

After supper we sorted through all the group gear we'd brought to get rid of duplicates, stuff we didn't need, etc. I packed up my stuff that was weeded out and the clothes I was going to wear home and put it all in a daypack to stay in the car while we were out. (Picture is Mark, Kara and Luis sorting gear outside the bunkhouse where we spent the night)