Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quetico, Part 2

Day Four was going to be different than any day we had ever spent in the Quetico or BWCA. We started the morning going down the Mack Creek. A series of four beaver dams had kept the water levels high enough to float us. After the last dam, however, there was very little water. Bruce and Tom ended up pulling the canoes (with gear and wives) through several inches of water. All this time it was raining. It was a warm day but our canoes were accumulating enough water to add considerable weight. The gals bailed. The shallow water of the creek last only for a couple blocks and we were able to float some of it.

Suddenly we were in the Wawiag River. With three to five foot high mud banks and no rocks, it is quite different from what we normally see. The river is 50-75 feet wide. It easily floats canoes and gave us a small current at our backs. That was the good part of the river. The difficult part was that it was continually winding around. The rain kept coming down and we had no idea how long until our destination – Kawa Bay.

Finally we came to the first portage around a log jam and rapids. The portage also had a campsite. We decided to stop for lunch. Since we were all soaking wet, Bruce and Tom got a fire going. The fire warmed us from the outside.. A cup of hot chocolate warmed us from the inside. After a long lunch break, we took off again.

It seemed like we paddled forever. There were lots of beaver houses and freshly cut beaver wood. High bush cranberries (American Viburnium) grew on the banks. Lots of Arrowroot plants were growing in the water. We saw moose tracks on the banks but no animals. Much of the river had been burned over and seemed to have about 10 years of new growth. There was a second portage. We also had 4 log jams to negotiate. Going through them is a good test of any marriage as we picked our way, push floating logs around and tried to paddle over a couple large logs. After about 2 ½ hours of paddling, we reached Kawa Bay. It was a welcome sight. There are almost no other spots in the Quetico/BWCA area where you paddle a river all day long.

We paddled to the first campsite on an island. A large white goose-like bird was in front of us and calling loudly. From the sound he made, we think he must have been a trumpeter swan. The campsite looked lovely as we pulled in. By this time we were all pretty quick about getting our gear set up.

Day Five was our first rest day. It could not have come at a better time and place. The sun was out in the morning. The guys took off to get some fish for dinner. Melissa started drying stuff and organizing. I was not too interested in that project until she shamed me into it. Everything got a nice dose of sunshine. Melissa and I washed our hair and bathed. The guys went swimming after lunch.

Shortly before lunch, Tom and Bruce returned with six beautiful walleyes and a canoe full of dry fire wood. After a full day of rain, we were not too concerned about forest fires.

This picture shows our lunch that day – 3 walleyes. I don’t know if we enjoyed the fish or the stump stools the most. Dinner that night was more walleye with fried onions and broccoli/cheddar rice. After a day of rest, we even had enough energy for a couple games of Yahtzee.

On Day Six we got up at 6:00 a.m. and ate a quick breakfast. It was to be a long day of paddling and we didn’t want to fight the wind. As you can see from the picture, there wasn’t much wind that day. It took us two hours to get to Kawnipi. Next was to start up the Falls Chain.

On the 3rd portage Bruce remembered having good luck fishing last year so he decided to cast from shore at the base of the rapids. Within a couple of minutes, he hooked a bass and started reeling in. A northern came after the bass and tried to take it away from him. Bruce jerked the bass out of the northern’s mouth. Still the northern came after the bass. By now both fish were in very shallow water along the shore. The northern was very intent on getting this bass. Bruce quickly reached down and grabbed the northern with his hand. Here was our appetizer for dinner!

After the fourth portage we saw our first people since Cache Bay. It was a family of six in three boats. Ma, Pa and a small child in one boat, a young teenage boy in a kayak, and Grandma and Grandpa in a second canoe. They looked a little out of their element.

We camped that night in Sidney Lake. Played one game of Yahtzee after dinner but were too tired for a second game. In addition to 4 portages, we had paddled 17 miles that day. We were tough but it was still a long day.
Bruce and I have to go to Duluth later today and will not be back until Friday. I will post the final story of our canoe trip either tomorrow night or Friday morning.

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