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Home » Adventures » BWCAW » Day 6

Wednesday, June 21 — Furry Little Animals

Day 6 Route

Route I Paddled This Day
8.8 Miles
6 Portages (430 rods)

I enjoyed another lazy morning, with no pressing need to rush onto the water. This delay allowed my path to coincide with a variety of wildlife. First, a small fawn gently chewed on plants near the portage to Trapline Lake. While actually crossing that lake, a beaver swam alongside my boat and dove in its vicinity. Further along I spotted a bald eagle on Beaver Lake (although no beavers). I turned abruptly to capture a detailed picture, but each time I was nearly within range the bird flew to another treetop farther away. The eagle must have known my camera’s effective range and purposely relocated at the most frustrating time, laughing the entire time he flew away.

As I approached the portage to Adams Lake, it seemed like I had made yet another navigation error. A solid, formidable rock face lined the water’s edge where the trail was supposed to lie. As I drew near to investigate this quandary though, the path appeared tucked snuggly at the foot of the cliff. This hidden portage headed into the woods and was one of the most picturesque I traversed. A pine needle carpet led from the initial towering rock wall into a luscious forest. Mosquitoes must have enjoyed the scenery as well since annoying, biting insects packed every inch of the trail.

Besides an entire regiment of mosquitoes occupying every portage, ticks also frequented the areas. Following every trip across land, at least two or three clung to my pants. Throughout the entire trip, only one or two penetrated this outer layer, but I constantly had to check myself for ones trying to hitch a ride.

A Storm’s Abrewing

Approaching storm clouds

The approaching storm

Rain clouds stalked me as I started across Adams Lake. I changed into rain gear and rigged the boat for dry running in preparation for nature’s pounce. Dark and ominous storms clouds ready to devour their prey surrounded my tiny vessel, but the precipitation held as I glided anxiously across Adams Lake. Thunder rumbled and lightening crackled in the distance as they joined the assault. Floating on open water surrounded by lightening is extremely dangerous, so I high-tailed it to my next portage and dry land. I should not have even begun the risky trip across the lake with an approaching storm, but I lacked that much foresight.

The siege began slowly, with rain gently falling as I neared the relative safety of land. Since the storm’s rage was building, I naturally had difficulty locating the trailhead among the lily pads engulfing that portion of the lake. I was apprehensive and in a hurry to evacuate the lake before the storm fully arrived. The worrying only disturbed any clear thinking, which would be needed to locate the trail quickly in a stressful situation. Between the rush and my nerves, I could not find the official first portage, but by plowing through a grassy marsh and manhandling my boat over a small beaver dam, I landed in a small pond slightly closer to shelter. The rainfall increased as I crossed this body of water, desperately seeking refuge at the portage to Boulder Lake. I finally found the trail and took cover, flipping over my boat to keep my gear dry. I tried to squeeze underneath as well but could not comfortably fit. I resorted to waiting in the rain shielded by my trusty Gortex while a solid roof protected my supplies. The ensuing storm was intense, but short lived.

After the adverse weather cleared, I continued onto Boulder Lake and soon blue sky shown overhead, eliminating any evidence of the recent storm. I had to walk my boat through some small rocks in the final rods to Boulder Lake, and through clumsiness and laziness soaked my shoes more than the entire rainstorm — real smart.

Sunshine, Lollipops, but no Rainbows

Departing storm clouds

The aftermath of the storm leaving Kekekabic Lake.

My trip across Boulder Lake was elongated by a little navigation snafu, but through persistence I arrived at my longest portage — 220 rods or about five-eights of a mile. I rested for lunch and dried some gear at the trailhead, which was a canoeing etiquette no-no. After that brief impolite hiatus I undertook the trail. My extended portage was really two separate ones with an extremely short boat ride between them. The puddle was deep enough to force me into my boat, but so narrow as to not even require a paddle.

With my renowned navigation skills, I even mistook this first drop of water for the trail’s end and tried to paddle down the narrow channel. The route was non-navigable though, which eventually forced home the point that I was in error. Before the impassible waterway enlightened me, in order to mistake my position I had to discount that the carry went too quickly and having never encountered the trail’s T-intersection. I did not think critically and ignored that small detail, telling myself it was overgrown or I missed it. Thankfully the environment did not allow me to proceed down the wrong path.

The newly realized second half was worse than the former. It started with a very steep ascent, as if climbing stairs. Although flatter after the initial climb, it meandered through countless turns and seemingly dragged on forever. I endured through the two necessary trips, covering over two and a half miles in order for all my gear to arrive at Cap Lake. All it cost was some time in the woods and one incredibly aching back.

Capping It All Off

A seemingly familiar headwind greeted me at Cap Lake and horrible flashbacks to my first day across Seagull Lake darted through my head. Fortunately, I had a much shorter paddle to my campsite, which was halfway across Cap Lake. I struggled through the strong wind, being tossed around, but finally wound my way to my destination.

The site was awesome, atop a large rock ledge protruding into Cap Lake. Although breathtaking, being exposed to the elements diminished its practical value. I found a non-ideal, but more protected area farther back among the trees and pitched my tent there. I would be a little crooked sleeping, but also sheltered from the brunt force of any wind. Vindicating my conservative housing location, the afternoon stayed windy accompanied by a couple raindrops.

For the rest of the day, I just relaxed and enjoyed an isolated, gorgeous evening in the Boundary Waters. I had gone to bed early or avoided raindrops the other nights, so I stayed up later to behold the sunset. Nightfall this far north during the summer was quite late, so I had to be patient waiting for darkness. The evening show was not overly spectacular, but I try not to complain while enjoying any wilderness sunset.

Last of the Day’s Thought

Overall, the scenery I had thus far encountered had been lovely but nothing exceptionally breathtaking. I am not sure what I was expecting, but the tree-lined shores appeared ordinary. I enjoyed the views, but since I was accustomed to that terrain bordering waterways in Iowa, it did not seem overly spectacular. The scenery varied slightly, but was mostly continuous forest along the shoreline. Also, many of the different lakes appeared very similar and blended together as the days and hours elapsed. The repetitive cycle of paddle, portage, and pack did not help to distinguish between the areas. I am not complaining since some of the lakes definitely had their own personality and I discovered some excellent vistas, but I had to search for those sights.

Of even greater concern was that although I was only about halfway through my adventure, my food store was already lower than optimal. I could hold off from transitioning to hunter-gatherer mode or gnawing at my arm, but my outstanding rations would barely suffice for the remaining days. People in backcountry usually carry slightly more food than required, incase weather or an unexpected occurrence forces a delay. If that happened at least they would have food while stranded. Yet another rule I violated. It looked like I would enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet once I returned to civilization a little more than originally anticipated. The root cause of my lack of calories was not planning or rationing individual meals, but only estimating based on past trips. I need to be more meticulous on the important issue of food.