After a three year hiatus, my wife and I were able to get back to the BWCA. Three years, whatever the reason is just too long. We explored some new territory this year, heading north out of Sawbill Lake up into Cherokee Lake country. It’s about 8 miles to Cherokee, and the route takes you through small lakes and creeks, with only a few portages, the longest 180 rods(320 to the mile).
The portages were fun, not difficult, and have good character, sometimes overlooking beaver ponds or valleys, often lined with bunchberries which appear to be at their peak of blooming. Along the waterways we spotted good-sized clumps of blue flag iris in full bloom as well as pitcher plant blooms. Wildlife included gulls, geese, countless loons, two moose, beaver, eagles, drumming grouse, a snapping turtle that tried to lay eggs under our fire grate, wolf and moose prints, and a number of songbirds(by song) including ovenbirds, white-throated sparrow, robins, least flycatchers and winter wrens.
Our weather went from warm and sunny to rain, to horizontal rain, to high winds and fog that made the lake look as though we were in the middle of whiteout conditions during a blizzard, to temps in the mid forties. Hot drinks and snacks were quite welcome on those days.
We spent some time exploring and found a neat little trout lake up a steep log choked portage that doesn’t get much use. Although I caught no fish I need to go back to that one! Nearby is some of the highest and steepest terrain I’ve seen in the BWCA. One little lake appeared to be at the bottom of a granite quarry. Needless to say the portages in that area were quite rocky, and with the humidity being high and the portages being shaded the rocks never dried out, making for some slippery conditions. In those instances you really tend to watch your feet while you are hefting a pack and canoe. It was here along a 100 rod portage about half way through a 13 mile day trip that the portage yoke thwart on the canoe broke, landing the canoe on my head, throwing me for a loop and causing me to struggle to maintain my balance on the rocks, straining a muscle in my back in the process. After a few choice phrases I reached into my pack to put on a long-sleeved shirt because the mosquitoes were taking advantage of the situation and the DEET I had applied on the last portage had since been rinsed off by my sweat and my wife had the DEET in her pack 50 rods ahead. Low and behold in my pack was the duct tape which I thought was 7 miles away at camp. AHA! We were able to double carry the canoe(not easy when you can’t avoid stepping on uneven wet rocks) to the end of the portage where there was a breeze and the DEET. I found a short piece of curved beaver wood that fit the curve of the yoke and made Red Green proud with my liberal use of duct tape. We were able to finish the day and the trip with the splinted yoke. The trip ended in typical fashion: we started the trip into a head wind, so why not finish the trip the same way. Making good time coming out we also made good time on the drive home and made it to my niece’s graduation party by 7:30. It was a long and full day. And a fun trip!