Namekagon River 2019

Friday, August 16, 2019
First canoe camping trip for grandson Will Pelton (8)!   With oldest son Scott, who has not taken a canoe trip with me since the first Brightsand River trip in 2013.

The Namekagon River is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Managed by the National Park Service, the Namekagon is one of the original eight Wild & Scenic Rivers in the nation. Most of the Namekagon is undeveloped, offering a genuine wilderness experience (we saw just two old cabins).

Our 26.4 mile route started at the County Road K Landing (Mile 31.2) near Trego, WI and ended at the Namekagon Trail Landing (Mile 4.8).  See Map.

We arrived at Jack’s Canoe Rental shortly after 9:00 to pick up the shuttle.  The shuttle followed us to drop off the canoe and all our gear at the County Road K landing. Then he followed us to the Namekagon Trails End landing to park the truck, before we jumped in the van before he drove back to drop us off at our canoe.  Very friendly driver.

We loaded the canoe and we were off!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe quickly realized that we were too top heavy.  We made it about 50 yards before pulling over to repack the canoe.  We were quickly back on the river.Namekagon_Scott_Will_Crew (2)

Beautiful day on a gorgeous river.Namekagon_Scott_Will_Bow

Given the amount rain received in Central Wisconsin, I was surprised to learn that water levels were only average. We had to get out of the canoe a few times to get through some low spots. We successfully navigated the heavily loaded 18.6′ canoe through several Class I rapids, but we slid off the side of a submerged rock that tipped all three of us into the water. We quickly jumped to our feet in the very shallow water and dragged the water filled canoe to the shore. Lost one paddle, but we could see it floating downstream (we found it later hung up on a tree limb). We took out all the gear and placed everything on shore, before dumping out all the water from the canoe.  Namekagon_Scott_Will_Water_in_Canoe

We moved Will to sit behind Scott and laid down the biggest bags in the widest part of the canoe.  This setup proved to be the most stable.

We stopped at a sand bar for a snack and saw tracks from raccoon and deer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANamekagon_Scott_Will_Selphie (2)

We saw a doe with 2 fawns.  They looked at us for awhile before jumping into the brush.Namekagon_Scott_Will_Deer

We stopped at the Whispering Pines Landing (Mile 21.3) and were impressed with the nice landing. We unloaded the canoe, only to find out that no camping is allowed :(. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We repacked the canoe and stopped at the beautiful campsite at mile 19.8 at 4:00 pm.  Glad we found this site early, as several canoes floated past looking for a place to camp, one guy shouted out “You have the best campsite!”   We setup the tents and chairs.  Hung a clothes line to dry out our wet gear.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Will stayed busy collecting firewood and managing the fire.

Scott and Grandpa played catch with Will, who practiced his one handed catch of the football.

Grandpa made pizza – a big hit!  Enjoyed a clear night with bright stars with a nice campfire.  Nice to talk with Scott after Will went to sleep.  We reflected on our day, we covered 11.4 miles, saw a bald eagle, two hawks, a big turtle, a doe and two fawns.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Saturday August 17, 2019
Woke up on a crisp, clear morning.  The river was like glass as the morning mist rolled over the water.

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Made pancakes for Will and egg, sausage, cheese breakfast sandwiches over English muffins for Scott and I. Namekagon_Scott_Will_Grandpa_Will_Sit

Heavy dew covered our tents as we broke camp.  When we turned over the canoe, we noticed that the  wood support for the front seat was broken.  Some duct tape and ratchet strap held everything together for the rest of the day.  We were on the water at 10:00 am.Namekagon_Scott_Will_Canoe_Seat

A perfect day for paddling!  Sunny, warm, with a light breeze.  Deeper water, with fewer obstructions allowed Scott to paddle hard.  We passed a number of groups tubing or slowly canoeing down the river.  One guy in an aluminum canoe had a charcoal grill going as they floated downstream.

We stopped twice to stretch and have a snack.  Namekagon_Scott_Will_Canoe_Packed

We arrived at the Namekagon Trail Landing at 2:00, we covered the last 15 miles in just 4 hours!  Busy landing, we almost bumped into two women that were wading in the river. They helped us stop the canoe in the strong current.  A large group of ATV’s were congregated in the parking lot behind the truck.  They moved out of the way and we were able to load the truck quickly.

Given that we finished several hours ahead of schedule, we discussed various options on where to go to spend the night.  Will wanted to go to Grandpa’s house.  Will was a trooper for the entire trip and I did not want to push him too far, so we headed home.

Will enjoyed driving the pontoon and tubing on a beautiful evening.  Namekagon_Scott_Will_Pontoon_Will_DriveNamekagon_Scott_Will_Pontton_Grand_Will_DriveNamekagon_Scott_Will_Pontoon_Tubing (2)Namekagon_Scott_Will_Tube_Sunset

Grilled some cheese burgers and enjoyed a campfire.  Watched a red full moon rise in the east and fireworks over the lake.  Reflected upon a wonderful trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvania Wilderness 2019

Friday, Jun21, 2019
With oldest granddaughter Brianna in college and the next oldest Grace working, it was time for Kara’s youngest, Alex (aka AJ is12), to make his first wilderness canoe trip!

The Sylvania Wilderness is an 18,327 acres protected area located a few miles west of Watersmeet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – just across the Wisconsin border. Sylvania is located entirely within the bounds of the Ottawa National Forest and is managed by the US Forest Service.  It is a very unique place, without ever being logged, it has huge mature trees and 30 small clear lakes. Paddle Planner has a nice interactive map to help you plan the route and choose campsites.

We loaded the boats and packed the truck the night before, so we were on the road at 8:00am with a stop for brunch in Eagle River. Registered at the Sylvania Wilderness ranger station, watched the video and consolidated some of our packs. We unloaded the truck and put in at the north end of Crooked Lake.

As we were ready to push off shore, a boat pulling a fully loaded canoe pulled up with two 70 year old guys just finishing a week long fishing trip. One guy had lost both feet and two fingers, so he had two prosthetic feet with hiking boots. We helped them unload their gear and load the canoe on the trailer. We had to admire the determination and positive attitude of these two friends that did not let anything stand in the way of their enjoyment of the wilderness together!

After a long cold spring, we were greeted with outstanding weather!  Blue skies, crystal clear water and a slight breeze – perfect conditions for AJ’s first canoe trip.

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As Alex perfected his paddling stroke, we paddled generally south on Crooked Lake to the Badger 1 camp without a portage. We had stayed at the nicer Badger 2 campsite in 2017. The camp sites at Sylvania are set back from the water and often on a ridge. You hardly notice the camps when paddling on the lakes – very pretty and pristine. Water levels were very high, making the landing mucky.  The bugs attacked us immediately, so head nets allowed us to function.

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Alex found his bivouac tent to be very small and claustrophobic, so he decided to bunk with Mom.  Flat tent pads were tough to find, but we quickly setup the tents.

We decided to explore with empty boats and tackled the 112 rod portage to Clark Lake right away.  There was a large group of kids, mostly 13 year-olds being directed by three experienced 16 year-old councilors with 5 canoes. They were very polite and respectful to make room for us at the landing.  I took the canoe over to Clark Lake while Alex and Kara tried unsuccessfully to bucket carry the kayak.  I came back quickly to help Kara.  The beautiful sandy shore of Clark Lake was a perfect place to wash up and cool off.

We explored the South and West end of beautiful Clark Lake.  Kara does so well in the kayak.  The 5 gallon water jug strapped  to the back of AJ’s seat to helped balance the load.

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Saw loons and two eagles.

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The sky became more overcast as the sun was setting.  The wind picked up and we had a slow and tougher paddle back to the portage.  Kara found that it was easier to carry the kayak over her shoulders.

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After dumping the water jug out before the portage back to Crooked Lake, we had a difficult time navigating the short paddle to the Badger 2 campsite.  The sun broke through the clouds as we got into the calm waters closer to camp, which made this picture quite spectacular!

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As dusk approached, the mosquitoes attacked us when we returned to camp, scrapping our plans for a big dinner.  I am reminded of John Bigsby, who traveled what is now the BWCA in 1823 as part of a British commission to determine the borders. He wrote in his diary that “the mosquitoes were in the billions. As soon as the tread of man gave notice of his approach, I saw them rising to feast.” With our head nets on, we were able to slice up some sausage and cheese to supplement the trail mix for nourishment. Once we collected dry firewood and got the fire started, the bugs were almost manageable.  The skies cleared and the wind died down for a nice sunset on the longest day of the year.

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Saturday June 22, 2019

Clear skies dropped the temperatures overnight and reduced the bug problem.  I was up early to write in my journal and read while making coffee.  The lake was like glass!

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Kara added eggs to the Garbage Can breakfast (hash browns, sausage, onion and spices) she prepared at home and double wrapped in aluminum foil. She cooked the meal over the fire. After a light supper the night before, the hungry crew devoured this tasty and filling meal. We broke camp and loaded the boats to head to the short 13 rod portage to Mountain Lake. Ermine-1 is a very nice campsite on the west side of beautiful Mountain Lake.

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Crystal clear water, nice landing (although it gets deep quickly), huge mature trees, little underbrush and lots of dry firewood.  We setup camp quickly, Alex was a big help!

We wanted to explore East Bear Lake, so we decided to team up and take just the canoe, with Alex sitting on the pad on the floor of the canoe. The mosquitoes greeted us at the landing. Kara and Alex pulled on their head nets, Alex put his sunglasses over the head net, which made me think of the classic black & white movie The Invisible Man.

We paddled around East Bear Lake looking for the portage to West Bear Lake without success. The park ranger had warned us about the bugs in this area, so we decided to head back early to Mountain Lake. When we got back to camp, Alex collected firewood and started the fire.

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I had time to write in my journal while Alex learned to whittle sticks into toothpicks.

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We all thought Mountain Lake was so pretty, we took a moment to reflect on the beautiful and quiet of this special place.

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Kara reflected on her brightly colored toenails after enjoying a refreshing swim.

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We found two nice stumps that made for a perfect kitchen and allowed me to make pizza two at a time.

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We topped off pizza night with a tasty dessert – freeze dried Raspberry Crumble, which Alex called Raspberry Crème Brûlée!

A nice breeze and a great fire kept the bugs down and allowed for great conversation around the campfire.  Alex wanted to hear stories from other camping trips, so I told him about our annual trips to Canada (see stevepelton.com ) as well as camping and canoeing with my brother and parents when I was a little boy.

Sunday June 23, 2019

The clouds rolled in and it was not as cold overnight.  A breeze out of the Southeast made keeping the stoves hot difficult.  I made AJ’s favorite breakfast of pancakes, syrup and breakfast sausages, but they were not exactly works of art.  With rain in the forecast, we broke camp quickly.  Alex did not want the trip to end, but we loaded the boats and headed toward the truck under mostly blue skies.

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We crossed the buggy portage from Mountain Lake into Crooked Lake, which we followed to the landing on the North end.  We saw a few Loons that got pretty close to the boats.  The Loons are nesting on the islands and can be quite defensive as we paddled past.  One Loon put on quite a show, flapping her wings and crying out to her partner.

We loaded the truck, tied down the canoe and kayak and we were on our way back to civilization. What a wonderful trip!

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Boundary Waters Canoe Area 2018

Friday, July 6, 2018

With oldest granddaughter Brianna in college, it was time for the next oldest – Grace who will be 15 in August, to make her first canoe trip!  I realize it is my first return to the BWCA since making two trips in 1981 and 1982.

Made the long, but pretty drive to Ely, MN (337 miles 6 hours).  Checked in at our outfitter, Piragis Northwoods Company.  They were very organized, the BWCA permits were ready and we went through the food we ordered for the trip. The mix of fresh and freeze dried food was mostly sourced from local businesses.

Enjoyed a unique beer from Bauhaus Brew Lab called Wonderstuff – clean, fresh and refreshing on a warm day, as well as a poutine burger at the Rockwood Bar & Grille.  Stayed in Budget Host Motel – clean, simple room.  the owners were very friendly and offered a light breakfast in the office.  We were excited for the trip!

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Up early, but the wind was already blowing.  Followed Hwy 169 through Winton, the road changes to County Hwy 18 or Fernburg Rd which ends at the landing at the Lake One Access.  Loaded the boats, parked the truck and we were off with Grace in the canoe with me and Kara in the kayak.  Bright blue skies and calm waters in the protected channels as we headed for the North West arm of Lake One.  A bald eagle greeted us, soaring high above us – I thought it was a good omen.

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Strong winds met us as we got out into the open water.  We hugged the north shoreline, ducking behind islands to find temporary relief from the winds.

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We found that we needed to put all four big packs right behind Grace to balance out the canoe with Grandpa in the back.

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Made the two (30 & 40 rods) portages into Lake Two.  These are very busy portages.  Met a diverse collection of young families, church groups and older paddlers – all enjoying this beautiful place.

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Again hugging the north shoreline, we stopped for lunch at a quiet cove.  While we had planned to make it to Lake Four, given the wind conditions, we decided to take the next open camp site on Lake Three.  We found a beautiful campsite, nice fire ring surrounded by logs, several nice openings for tents and the breeze from the west kept the bugs down.

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After setting up camp, we enjoyed a nice dinner of red beans and rice with sausage, spicy and tasty, but it would have tasted even better with a cold beer. Apple cobbler dessert was a treat. A nice campfire ended a fun first day.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Storms rolled in over night.  When the rain quit, we made a nice breakfast of eggs and sausage under the rain fly, but the next band of storms forced us into our tents.

Our plan had been to pack up and paddle the circle route through Fire and Hudson lakes. We studied the maps to find a day trip we could make in between periods of rain.

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We decided to try to paddle to the south end of Lake Three and find the portage to Horseshoe Lake.  The Horseshoe has a special meaning now, after the removal of a benign brain tumor left a scar in the shape of a horseshoe on Kara’s head.  Her hair is growing back nicely, but the memory remains.

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Horseshoe lake was impacted by the 2007 Ham Lake fire.  Amazing to see the damage remains after 11 years!  The Pow Wow hiking trail was closed due to down trees.  Grace thought it looked like a scene from the Lorax movie.  Fire also renews the forest – the thick fresh growth of pines are covering the hills again for future generations to enjoy.

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We got caught in a strong, but brief thunderstorm on Horseshoe lake, but it passed quickly and we enjoyed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Pita bread.  We made the portage back to Lake Three.  Grace in the kayak was having a hard time keeping up with Kara and I in the canoe, so we tied a rope behind me in the canoe to the front of the kayak.  As we got into the open water, a gust of wind blew off my hat and became stuck on the rope.  We backpaddled close enough where I though I could reach for the quickly submerging hat, but I could not, so I pulled the rope, which tilted the canoe as both Kara I leaned over the side and into the water we went.  I grabbed the hat and our personal packs were tied to the canoe.  Fortunately the water was warm and neither of us were hurt.  Grace calmly retrieved the water bottles and Kara’s paddle.  We were close to shore, so we slowly pushed the half full canoe to shore.  We pulled the canoe up on the rocks to empty out the water.  We got back in the canoe and off we went again.

After exploring Lake Four, we paddled back to camp to dry out.  With dry clothes, we made pizza for dinner.  Grilling the pizza crust in the fry pan and using the big pot cover to bake the pizza and melt the cheese.  Pepperoni pizza in the wilderness was quite a treat!  Kara and Grace experimented in making pizza S’mores by melting the chocolate and marshmallows on the pizza crusts, sprinkling crumbled graham crackers to complete the dessert – yummy!

Another round of thunderstorms at sunset, took away our chance for a campfire and chased us into our tents for the night.

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The morning broke clear blue skies and calm waters.   Breakfast of eggs and sausage was complimented with Kara’s freshly baked bread!  We packed up camp, still wet from the last full day of rain. 

Grace had a burst of energy, paddling with a nice strong rhythm.  Kara had trouble keeping up in the kayak.  Grace’s energy continued as she wanted to carry the heavy kitchen pack across the portage to Lake One.

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We noticed that most of the campsites on Lake One were already taken, so we thought we should grab the next available site.  We found a site along the channel going back toward the Lake One landing.  The campsite was a mess!  Someone had tried to burn the huge logs that typically people could sit on around the campfire.  The fire pit was filled with partially burned garbage and Kara found 8 potatoes, wrapped in aluminum foil, left in the fire pit.  A trench was dug around one of the tent sites.  These people clearly did not watch and follow the instructions provided in the video we saw when we got our permits!  Kara cleaned everything up nicely, packing out the trash in our garbage bag.

Tents were up, clothes and gear were hung up to dry.  Grace is a friend to all creatures, naming the minnows and got very close to this beautiful butterfly.

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Grace enjoyed sitting on the rock, watching the turtle rise and swim.  While I thought it sounded more like a train whistle, the loons responded to Grace’s call.  Grace learned many things during this trip, including how to ask for a knife like Crocodile Dundee

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Grace took a nap, so Kara and I paddled west along the north shore of Lake One towards Carefree Lake.  Just the thought of heading towards Carefree was relaxing.  Back in time to make Grace’s favorite meal – macaroni and cheese.  The freeze dried version was easy to make with just boiling water in the packets.  The mixed berry cobbler dessert was a wonderful treat. The winds died down for a nice campfire at sunset, but the bugs forced us into the tents.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Woke up early to enjoy the sunrise colors and the mist over the still waters.

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A fresh pot of coffee and a breakfast of hash browns, eggs and bacon prepared us for our last day.  We broke camp, packed up the canoe and we were off for our short paddle back to the Lake One landing.  As we were not quite ready to leave, we stopped to photograph the white lilies (named for Grace’s friend) and this beautiful area.

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Quickly packed the truck, loaded the boats, changed clothes and we were off – heading back towards civilization after a wonderful trip.

The GPS shows how we wondered about for a few days in the wilderness.Canoe BWCA 2018 GPS

Reflecting on the words of Henry David Thoreau “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.

Sylvania Wilderness 2017

Our granddaughter Brianna was preparing for a 9 day canoe trip in the BWCA, so with her mother Kara, we scheduled a final practice run in the beautiful Sylvania Wilderness area.

Our five children gave me a Mad River 18.6′ Kevlar canoe for my birthday/retirement present – the perfect opportunity to test out this great gift!

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The Sylvania Wilderness is an 18,327 acres protected area located a few miles west of Watersmeet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – just across the Wisconsin border. Sylvania is located entirely within the bounds of the Ottawa National Forest and is managed by the US Forest Service.

Friday July 14, 2017
Packed truck and drove 137 miles to the Sylvania Wilderness with a stop for lunch in Eagle River.  Registered at the ranger station, where she told us that the bugs were bad at the Deer 2 campsite we had reserved, so she rebooked us at Badger 2.  Unloaded truck and put in at the north end of Crooked Lake.

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Paddled south and learned how Crooked Lake got it’s name.   After studying the maps to get to Deer 2, I was not fully prepared to find the new camp.  We quickly learned that the lakes are smaller than they appear on the maps and the portages are longer! We setup camp at the Badger 2 campsite. The camp sites at Sylvania are set back from the water and often on a ridge.  You hardly notice the camps when paddling on the lakes – very pretty and pristine.

Kara and Brianna found their new bivouac tents were very small and one did not have all the right ropes – a little duct tape was needed to make them work.

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Enjoyed a good dinner of Beef Stroganoff with Noodles followed by a nice sunset before a campfire.

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Saturday July 15, 2017
Enjoyed Brianna’s favorite breakfast of eggs, biscuits & gravy.  Broke camp and made the short paddle to the portage to Clark Lake, then a short paddle on South East end of Clark Lake and the long portage to Loon Lake.  The huge mature trees made for roomy portages!

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Camped at the Eagle 1 campsite.  Dinner of Lasagna with Meat Sauce and enjoyed a nice campfire.

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Brianna took a nap, so Kara and I decided to explore with empty canoe to the South end of Loon Lake, then a long portage to Florence Lake, a short paddle to the South end of Florence Lake, short portage to Big Bateau Lake and a longer paddle to the South end of Big Bateau Lake to visit Wisconsin.  While the area of the park in Michigan is completely wilderness, we found a couple private homes and a camp in the small southern tip of the part that enters Wisconsin.

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Sunday July 16, 2017
Breakfast of Pancakes & Syrup.  Made the long portage to Clark Lake that opens at a large beach.  A good place to rest before getting the last load of packs.  The water is crystal clear – a beautiful place!

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After a short paddle to the North East and the long portage to Crooked Lake
Long paddle North through the narrows we realized we were close to the truck.  My sandals had broken and my feet were bleeding – tossed the sandals in the trash can.  We decided to head home a day early.

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Kickapoo River – June 2016

The Kickapoo River has so many connections to my life, located between my two grandparent’s farms, one outside of Tomah (Clifton) and one La Crosse (Coon Valley); I spent many days wondering through the hills and valleys of the beautiful driftless area in South Western Wisconsin. I often dreamed of living high on the bluffs overlooking the Kickapoo River as it cuts a crooked path through the fields and forest of this enchanted land.

My parents took me canoeing on this river when I was a child. It is still a great place to introduce canoeing or kayaking to new paddlers of any age. The gentle current, with no real rapids makes this shallow river a safe place to learn. With the many twists and turns, the river provides quick and clear feedback on how to figure out how to navigate your craft.

Our daughter Kara and granddaughter Brianna had such a great time last year canoeing flat water on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, we decided to try paddling the Kickapoo River in June 2016. Our plan was to meet after work on Friday, load the canoe and kayak and head for the Wildcat Mountain State Park, but all of the camping spots where taken on this beautiful summer weekend (what a surprise). We found a nice spot for our tents at the Tunnel Trail Campground near Wilton WI. The campground is on the famous Sparta to Elroy bike trail. Seems like bike riders and canoeists have much in common – both enjoy the quiet beauty of this area.

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We drove to the small village of Rockton to drop off Brianna’s Jeep at Landing #12, just past Bridge #11. It was a lovely day, sunny and warm. The bluffs were green and lush, while the river looked full. We scouted out the spot in Ontario where we would launch our canoe and kayak in the morning, then drove back to our camp for dinner and a campfire.

We enjoyed a hardy breakfast of biscuits, sausage and gravy, which formed a solid base of energy for the day. The girls made sandwiches for lunch on the river and we packed a small cooler with water for what will be a hot summer day on the water. We parked the truck and launched into the brown warm water near Bridge #1 in Ontario.

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With several canoe rental operations based in Ontario, we found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of other paddlers. We watched people help older women into kayaks, perhaps for the first time. Young families with the kids riding in the middle of the canoe enjoyed a slow ride down the river. Even saw a couple with their dog in a life vest. Other young people confused the Kickapoo with tubing down the Apple River, pulling coolers of beer behind their kayaks. We paddled hard to get past the loud, rowdy groups, so we could relax and enjoy the stunning scenery surrounding us in peace and quiet.

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One of my goals was to have Brianna learn to handle steering the canoe from the back. I realized that I am most comfortable in the back of the canoe, but wondered when Brianna would learn these skills before she heads off to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area next year.

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Navigating the many curves and currents of the Kickapoo would have been a good place to learn, if we were alone, but navigating past groups of slow moving partiers in the narrow river was tough. After a few soft crashes into the banks, Kara took control of navigating the canoe.

We stopped for lunch on a shaded sand bar for a few moments, before we heard the sound of a noisy crowd drawing near. I resumed my normal spot in the back, with Brianna in front and Kara took over the kayak were she is most comfortable.

It was a hot sunny day, but the narrow river provided welcomed shade. Paddling near the cool, damp limestone cliffs, dropped the temperature 15 degrees. Pictures of the cliffs are stunning, showing the changing light conditions. Amazing how trees can drive their root systems into the smallest of cracks and hold on to the rock through all kinds of weather.

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The numbered bridges made it pretty easy to get a sense of pace. With most of the crowds getting out before Bridge #10, our last few miles to Landing #12 were quiet and relaxing. After pulling the boats up the landing, we realized my master plan of loading the canoe and kayak onto Brianna’s Jeep was foiled by forgetting to bring the tightening wrench for the roof rack L. We left the boats out of the way at the landing and drove back to Ontario to get the truck. Back to Rockton to load the canoe and kayak, then drove to La Farge to drop off Brianna’s Jeep at our final destination. A few extra miles, but it all worked out fine.

It was a muggy night and a shower at the campground felt good. Kara grilled hot ham, bacon and cheese sandwiches and we relaxed around the campfire. The owner of the campground drove around telling each camper to expect thunderstorms, some may be sever after midnight. The neighbors in the tent with two small daughters packed everything up in the dark and drove out. We tightened down our tents and headed for bed as the rain started and we saw the lightning. It rained hard, but we camped high and dry on an elevated area in a protected valley, so the storm did not bother us much.

I made breakfast omelets, bacon and coffee in the morning fog. Frying bacon with rain dropping from the trees can be dicey at times. We packed up our wet tents in truck and headed back to Rockton. We put in at Landing #12, with the brown water running a little faster after the rains over night. Brianna took the kayak and handled it great. The second leg of our trip could not be more different from our first. We did not see another single person over the 9 mile trip to LaFarge – wonderful!

We did encounter two large trees that had fallen across the entire width of the river, near Bridge #16. My guess is that the outfitters clean up the river between Bridges #1 and #10. One we could slide the boats under the tree while we walked around the tree in the mud, but on the other, we had to lift our boats over the tree.

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We stopped for lunch in a lovely sand bar overlooking another impressive limestone cliff.

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Bridge #18 has a distinctive red roof.

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We finished our journey at Andrew’s landing in La Farge, just before Bridge #20. Great trip!

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I introduced my wife to the Kickapoo River shortly after moving back to Wisconsin nearly 30 years ago. She remembers the beautiful scenery and swimming in the warm brown water. I remember having my grandpa pick us up at one of the bridges. Today it is hard to imagine coordinating the pickup time without cell phones, but somehow we made it work.

It has been too long and I am glad I made it back to this special river. Times change, life happens, but the Kickapoo River keeps flowing freely through the valleys of this beautiful area.

Full Circle in the Canoe

My favorite type of canoe trip is a circle route, where we park the vehicle in one spot, unload the canoe and gear, paddle for a few hours or several days, and then return to the same spot. Last winter when going through old photographs with my mother, I found a picture of my father taking my brother, Tim, and me out on a canoe trip many years ago. That photo made me realize my life with a canoe has come full circle.

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In high school, my best friend, Mark, and I often canoed the Kickapoo River near Ontario, Wisconsin. On one trip, after work, we raced to the river, however, night had closed in before we got to the first river camp site. Thus, we set up our small tent along the river in the only clearing we could find. During the night, we awoke to what sounded like a large animal outside the tent, and grabbed our box cutters (from our work at a grocery store) to fend off the impending attack. The animal moved on without incident and in the morning, we realized we were camped near a pasture – with the cows safely behind the fence.

I have always loved to introduce new people to canoeing. I once invited a friend who had never been in a canoe before to join me in a canoe derby. While roughhousing with some high school classmates near the start, I lost my eyeglasses in the river. Being terribly nearsighted, I completely relied upon my friend to tell me what he saw ahead so I could navigate the river safely to the end.

In 1977, after graduating from technical school, I bought my first canoe – an aluminum Michicraft. It’s had some hard miles but it’s still with me today. One of my first trips in the new canoe to the Bois Brule River that flows north into Lake Superior was a lesson in hull design. With a deep keel, it’s designed to track straight on flat water lakes, not the fast current and rapids of the Bois Brule River in early May.   My friend and I learned this lesson by dumping the canoe on the very first turn. We could still see our car back in the parking lot! Needless to say, we overturned the canoe several times before making it back to camp, cold and wet. Our friends with flat bottomed canoes had a wonderful (and dry) day on the river, and had a nice camp fire going when we arrived.   As I was warming my hands and drying my soaking wet jersey gloves over the fire, a friend told me to clap. I didn’t understand, so he told me again to clap. Why? Because my gloves were on fire!

Brianna, our 16-year-old granddaughter, has been canoeing and learning outdoor skills at YMCA Camp U-NAH-LI-YA near Suring for many years. She said that as part of her training to be a camp counselor, she would be taking a nine-day trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I asked her, “have you ever done an overnight canoe camping trip?” Since she said no, I thought it best that she have a brief introduction before going on an extended trip. After looking at maps of several great canoeing trips in Wisconsin, we decided to make a circle trip to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage near Mercer.

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Brianna and I paddled the fully loaded canoe while her mother and our daughter, Kara, kayaked alongside us.

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To also prepare her for the BWCA, we camped on an island. Brianna was a trooper, handling heat, bugs, and rain, without complaint! She will do just fine in the BWCA.

As my wife, Linda, and I enjoy quiet canoe trips near our home on the Big Eau Pleine Flowage near Mosinee, I realize that my life with the canoe has come full circle – passing my passion for canoeing from my father, to our children, and now to our grandchildren.

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Brightsand River from Harmon Lake to Seseganaga Lake

Brightsand River starting from Harmon Lake to Seseganaga Lake and other day trips
18 KM
5 Portages 830m long of 300m average 166m

Thursday August 7, 2014

After spending Wednesday night with my mother and stepfather in Saint Paul, I met my brother Tim at Eric’s house in Minneapolis at 6:50 am. Tim drove so I could join a few meetings via phone. Tim rented two Kevlar Wenonah canoes from Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior – handy location on our drive to Canada. Lunch at the Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais was good, but slow. No problems at the border. Stopped at Larry’s Bait in Kakabeka Falls for licenses, camping permits and beer.

The Graham Road was in good shape and we made good time until we had a flat tire at KM 100. Changed the tire quickly to get back on the road before dark. The Graham Road narrows North of Brightsand Lake, obviously no longer logging. The brown Brightsand River Provisional Park access point sign was missing at KM 118, but we found the access and parked the truck at the North East arm of Harmon Lake 49°58’22.76″N 90° 6’40.43″W enjoyed steaks and a few beers around the campfire.

Only one other truck, with a heavy duty trailer was parked in the lot. As we setup camp, a lone fisherman walked in. Turns out that he is from Stratford WI – just 14 miles from my house! Small World! He had fished the area for many years and provided some helpful guidance as we looked at the map.

Friday August 8, 2014
Woke to the sound of two loons flying over the tent. Cooked eggs and bacon with English Muffins and cheese. Packed camp into the truck and canoes. The access path to the water is wide, but muddy and strewn with big rocks. 300m portage to the water, a peaceful bay with a beaver dam to the East. Packed and launched the canoes on a nice day, blue sky and light breeze.

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Followed the North edge of Harmon Lake for 4.5 miles. Found the portage trail on the right of the rapids easily. Water was high, the rapids were fast. 50° 0’10.64″N 90°12’35.07″W Very nice camp, high above the start of the rapids. The 175m portage was well used and ends on a large rock expanse.  With the high rock walls, the view along the Brightsand River to Wapikaimaski Lake is lovely.

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Met with 2 brothers with their adult sons from Minnesota (one had worked in Owatonna for many years). They had entered Wapikaimaski Lake on the far East end by driving to the end of the Graham Road and waded their loaded square stern canoes with 2.5 hp motors through a muddy stream to access the lake. These would be the last people we would see until we left the Graham Road.

We zigzagged through the glacial cuts of Wapikaimaski Lake until we reached a short 20m portage with a nice camp. While the Brightsand River heads to the North East, we veered to the left (West) towards Seseganaga Lake. After going through one small cut, we quickly found the rapids flowing out (somehow I expected water to flow into the Brightsand River). 50° 4’5.14″N 90°11’5.89″W The portage is on the right before the rapids is easy to see. Well used portage, perhaps 175m with a noticeable elevation drop.

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Headed North West, around an island to see the rapids flowing toward Seseganaga Lake. The portage is on the left before the rapids, fairly well used, perhaps 190m, with an elevation drop that ends below the rapids. The small pretty open area at the end of the portage became our home for the next 3 nights. Set up camp in what is technically in the Wabakimi Provincial Park.  50° 4’35.50″N  90°12’23.00″W

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Caught plenty of Walleyes for dinner below the rapids. It was Italian night with fish fillets rolled in Italian breadcrumbs and noodles Alfredo. From the water, the fire pit is behind the tents, which was nice to have the smoke blow away from the tents to the East. Nice camp fire and a bright full moon ended our first night in the wilderness.

Saturday August 9, 2014
With the sun rising in the East over the hill behind the tents and the constant sound of the rapids, the guys slept in. It was cooler, with clear skies and a heavy dew. Enjoyed coffee while I wrote in my journal and studied maps to plan the day’s adventure and future trips. Enjoyed eggs and Canadian bacon for breakfast.

Traveling light with Eric in the solo canoe, we quickly crossed the two portages to the Brightsand River and Wapikaimaski Lake. We headed North East towards Antler Lake. With the river high and flowing North, we ran a small rapids to see a larger set of rapids, with a portage trail on the right. 140M trail was well used, with a beautiful camp high along the rapids.  50° 5’15.76″N  90° 8’30.62″W

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The next portage was not well marked, Tim and I got too close to the rapids and had to wade out. Big deep mud pit greeted us with a few down trees made for difficult 130m portage.  Ran a small rapids as the river narrows, then opens to a small lake. Heading straight ended with a small creek flowing into the river, the rapids are actually on the right side.  50° 5’26.86″N  90° 8’19.08″W

Since we knew that this was going to be a day trip up and back, we set a 2:00 turnaround time to make sure we got back to camp before dark. It was 1:37 and we had traveled 5.5 miles, so we decided to head back. Paddling against the current was tough at times, but we made it up the small rapids, then through the ugly portage and stopped for lunch at the beautiful camp high along the rapids. Had to paddle hard to get up the next step of small rapids, then battled a head wind from the South West for quite awhile. Made it back to the last two portages, then to our camp.

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It felt great to jump into the water for a swim to cool off after our adventure. While I caught a nice Walleye on my first cast, fishing was slower, but Tim caught some Northern for dinner.

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Tim broke his rod just ahead of the reel on a snag, so he went in to chop firewood and clean fish. Even the Northern tasted great in the Cajun breading with Red Beans and Rice. Nice campfire with a full moon fighting through the clouds. The bright light of the moon woke me up as I watched it shine through the tent screen.

Sunday August 10, 2014
Woke to a pretty morning, with the sun basking the trees on the other side of the river while I was still in the shade at camp. Heard a twig crack behind camp, I turned to see a cow Woodland Caribou standing in the portage trail, just behind the clothesline. Big eyes and ears and a dark brown coat, I first thought it was a moose. We starred at each other for awhile, before she slowly turned to show her white butt. She disappeared quickly into the woods. How cool!

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While I reflected on this encounter with a rare Woodland Caribou and enjoyed a cup of coffee and my journal, I thought about how fortunate we had been with weather. I wore shorts the whole week! Watched ducks fly past, just barely over the water. Tim picked fresh blueberries for the pancakes – hard to beat!

The wind kicked up as we explored part of the huge Seseganaga Lake. I was in the solo canoe and had a hard time keeping up, so I hooked up behind Tim and Eric. We decided to fish the backside of a big island to stay out of the wind and caught a few Northerns. Stopped for lunch on an island, where the rocks are cut to be a perfect chair. We could see the black clouds of a storm brewing in the west, so we headed back toward camp. Just as we made the last turn of the river towards camp, a few gusts of wind picked up Tim’s tent and flipped it over. We got to camp to reinforce his tent and secure camp before the storm hit. Rain always sounds loud in the tent, but it came down hard. Read Sigurd Olson’s The Lonely Land and took a nap. The loons called an end to the rain. Tim chopped wood for the fire, while Eric and I went fishing for dinner. I caught a couple of nice fat Walleyes and went into camp to let Tim fish for awhile. Eric caught two more big fat Walleyes, so we scrapped the rice and just ate 10 fresh Walleye fillets – pan fried with Italian bread crumbs. Nice camp fire with fresh split wood. Watched the full moon in the mist – beautiful!

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Monday August 11, 2014
Remembered that it was 25 years ago today that I left Fargo ND for Marshfield WI. What a long strange trip it has been.

It was a still, cooler overcast day – perfect for packing out. Guys up early. Tim picked more fresh blueberries to mix with our oatmeal. Packed our wet gear and made our 3 portages to Wapikaimaski Lake. Got lucky as the wind kicked up out of the North East to push us through the glacial cuts of Wapikaimaski Lake. Enjoyed lunch at the portage to Harmon Lake – a pretty spot with rocks high over the rapids. Hugged the North shoreline of Harmon Lake to stay out of the wind. Eric, who used this trip to train for a 24 hour bike race next week, kept up in the solo canoe, until the last mile when the Pelton brothers paddled hard like horses headed for the barn. Portaged gear and canoes to the truck. Quickly packed the truck and loaded the canoes.

Hit the road, driving a bit more carefully without a spare tire. Only saw 1 vehicle in the 118 km to Highway 17. Stopped at the Black Spruce, they were busy and had a new cook. 90 minutes later we had our bacon cheese burgers. Made it across the border without incident. Stayed at the Grand Portage Lodge.

Tuesday August 12, 2014
Up to a bright sunny, but cool day along Lake Superior. Dropped off the canoes in Tofte. Road construction forced us to take a detour near the ELC Wolf Center. After driving Highway 61 for 35 years, it was nice to get off the beaten path for awhile. Lunch outside at Canal Park Brewing in Duluth was a nice way to end a fun trip!

Brightsand River Background

Background

My first trip to the Canadian wilderness along the logging trail known as the Graham Road was to the Brightsand River in 1980.
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There were just four of us in my best friend’s girl friend’s (now wife) nearly new Ford Granada with two aluminum canoes on the roof, the canvas tent spread out in the back seat.   One canoe tipped over in the rapids not 50 yards from the car!  We learned early on to be ready for anything. We continue to fish different lakes off the Graham Road, for what is now over 30 years!  Over the years, our canoes where replaced by boats, 5hp motors replaced by 15hp.  Small tents replaced by 12×20 hunting lodges.  Cooking over the fire and a small old Coleman stove has been replaced with big fish fry units and even a camp oven.  Carrying gear and dragging boats to the lake has been replaced by a 6-wheeler to do the work.  Cots, lawn chairs and boat seats have allowed the old guys to find comfort in the wilderness.

The boys were born in 1983 (Scott) and 1987 (Andrew) respectively and they grew up hearing the stories of great fishing and adventure in the Canadian wilderness, so when they were old enough, they started to join in the fun.
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Andrew has only missed one year since he was 11 years old and has become a regular on our fishing trips.  As Scott got a sales job, completing his Bachelor’s and later Master’s Degree, got married and had 2 children of his own, he did not have time for the slow paced fishing trip with the older men, he wanted an adventure of his own.  He wanted something more physically challenging and something new, different.  This got me thinking about doing a real wilderness canoe trip again, without all of the comforts of fishing camp.

Brightsand River from Alysworth Lake

Brightsand River starting from Alysworth Lake
62 KM 3 days
6 Portages 1,455m long of 400m average 242m

I considered doing a Boundary Waters Canoe trip or maybe Quetico, but when I ran into an old friend that had recently paddled the Brightsand River, I knew that this was the adventure we were looking for.  My brother Tim was up for the challenge, and then a good friend Fred, an experienced woodsman, asked to join.  Just a few weeks before the trip Tim’s son-in-law Derek asked to join to have an even 6 men.  Just days before the trip, Fred strained his rotator cuff while loading his kayak on the truck, so we were back to five.

Over the winter, as I researched the route, I realized that very few people had ever done this trip.  This heightened the excitement of exploring an area with very fewer visitors and the potential for solitude and adventure.  I talked to the Park Superintendent, Scott Ellery, who is responsible for a huge geographic territory, including Brightsand Provisional Park.  He was very helpful and he sent me a nice map (bsr_canoeroutes Mar 03), but he was not very familiar with the actual route we had in mind.  He said we would likely not see anyone along the route of our adventure.  Fred found the best map – the Crimestoppers Explorer Map Series – Map #5
http://www.kestrelforestry.com/map_index.htm

We broke away from our traditional Memorial Day fishing trip to scout out the area with the GPS for a morning.  We found the landing that would become our base camp on Brightsand Lake and we found the place on Alysworth Lake where we would start.  We also followed Moberly Lake Road as far west of the Graham Road as we could to get coordinates for what would be a little less than half way.  This was our emergency exit if we needed to walk out.

Andrew, Tim, Fred and I did a practice trip on June 22, 2013 at our home on the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir.  Setup camp and cooked in some new land we recently purchased nearby.  Experienced some strong rain storms and realized a few adjustments were needed for the cook shelter tarp.  In planning for a 38 mile trip, I needed to know how far we could reasonable go in a day.  We traveled 15 miles in 5 ½ hours in my Old Town Penobscot 16.4’ and Fred’s 17’ aluminum canoe.  Realized that the newer canoes travel so much better than the old aluminum models.  Tim rented two Kevlar Wenonah canoes from Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior – handy location on our drive to Canada.

Thursday August 8, 2013
Andrew drove from Milwaukee to my house in time to join most of the rest of the family for dinner.  Scott flew into Central Wisconsin Airport after his national sales meeting.  We finished packing and loaded the Old Town Canoe onto Andrew’s truck.  Enjoyed a few drinks and headed to bed.

Friday August 9, 2013
Up early with excitement and on the road at 5:30.  Tim picked up Derek in the Twin Cities.  We had to stop and adjust the canoe on Andrew’s truck a few times.  Tim got to Tofte well ahead of us.  After some confusion over Sawtooth or Sawbill Outfitters, we met Tim and Derek and loaded the canoes.
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We left Tim’s truck at a trail head and had a nice lunch at the Blue Fin – enjoyed a nice burger and a cold beer on the deck overlooking Lake Superior. Andrew’s truck was pulled over at the border, likely due to Derek’s first trip into Canada, created another delay.  Stopped in the town of Kakabeka Falls for licenses, camping permits and beer.

The Graham Road was rough, but not much traffic.  No logging trucks, one fishing rig and 2 pickups.  Dropped off one canoe in the woods near  at Alysworth Lake (49°28’35.28″N 90°24’53.88″W) then headed North to our base camp of the Graham Road near KM 92 at Brightsand Lake (49°48’1.96″N 90°16’43.58″W).  With nobody else camping, we spread out our big tents.  Enjoyed steaks on the grille with toasted garlic bread around a nice campfire.

Saturday August 10
Got up for a breakfast of eggs, Canadian bacon, muffins and cheese.  Broke camp, loading the stuff needed for the river in the Suburban and the stuff for base camp in Andrew’s truck, which we parked in the back,  away from the landing.  Slow going, we were not on the road until 11:00.

Access off the Graham Road on small spur road on left at KM 52.  Look for a small brown sign on West side.
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The landing on Alysworth Lake (49°28’35.28″N  90°24’53.88″W) is rocky and steep, but a nice clearing.  Backed the Suburban down about half way (this would be a bad place to get stuck) to unload the gear, and then parked in a small clearing past landing opening.  The men were excited to start the adventure!
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Derek and Scott zigzagged their way across the lake, with Andrew and me next, followed by Tim in the solo canoe. We quickly realized that Tim could not keep up with the young guys in the solo canoe, so we hooked a rope to the back of Derek and Scott’s canoe.  Tim had the most detailed map and I was glad he was so careful on our route planning.  It was a good mix with two old guys providing direction and three big young guys to provide the power.
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We crossed Alysworth Lake to the west and north to first portage (49°31’38.05″N  90°30’43.04″W), 400m on left before rapids (marked with pink tape).  A young couple was having good fishing above the rapids – this would be the last boat we would see until the last portage.  The portage trail had been cleared several years ago, 2 down trees to get past.  This was our longest portage, a mix of rock and swamp.  We took two trips to carry everything, everyone pitched in to share the load.  At the end of the portage, there is a natural tendency to follow the open water straight west, but we needed to first paddle North to below the rapids to find the main river channel.

Went through Twining Lake to the North West and stopped for lunch on a nice clear rock outcropping.
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Followed the river to the big bay at the South West corner of the route.  Suggest following the right (North) shoreline to avoid getting confused in the islands and bays straight ahead and to the left.  As we followed the river as it turns North towards Moberly lake, we passed a fly-in outpost cabin – nobody there.  Boats neatly pulled up on shore.

Paddled past native rock paintings (pictographs) on the East side of Moberly Lake.  The red paintings are very visible on the rock wall.  Pretty cool!
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Found our first camp on the right side at (49°31’46.93″N 90°33’42.13″W).  It is a great camp site!  Nice fire pit at the top of the bank, table between trees and nice soft mossy area for tents.  Lots of down trees for fire wood and a big cross cut saw was hanging on a tree!
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After making camp, we boiled water (Tim’s water filtration system worked great!) for the Mountain House freeze dried Beef Stroganoff, which was a big hit with the hungry men.  Cut up some firewood and enjoyed a nice fire overlooking the river.

Sunday August 11, 2013
Woke to the sound of a loon calling.  Water was still at sunrise.  Caught a beautiful picture of the sun rising over the river, with the top half of the trees in the in sun and the bottom in the shade, the reflection on the still waters with the canoes in the foreground was perfect!

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The freeze dried eggs and bacon was not much of a hit.  Packed up quickly and we were on the water for what would be our longest day of paddling. With Scott and Andrew in one canoe and Tim and Derek in the other, I tried the solo canoe with my kayak paddle, I could not keep up either, so I hooked a rope to Tim and Derek.

We never found the next camp marked on the map before the nature preserve – I am glad we stopped where we did the night before.  Went past a small green building with a solar panel on the roof – not sure what it is used for.  Paddled to first portage, 260M on right (49°37’10.58″N 90°34’35.14″W) and then quickly to another short portage – 260M on right (49°37’20.13″N 90°34’26.69″W).

Stopped for lunch on a nice sandy point at (49°39’4.58″N 90°33’41.12″W) that would make a nice camp site, before entering the South end of Little Metionga Lake.
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The wind picked up from the West as we paddled North then North East toward the portage to Metionga Lake.  Passed the second fly-in outpost cabin – again nobody there.  It was easy to see the portage opening on right of rapids at (49°41’51.28″N 90°30’17.61″W).  The portage was well used, 215M in length, with some vertical rise.
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Entered the big open water on the South shore of Metionga Lake and immediately passed last fly-in outpost with several cabins – again nobody there.  Talked to the manager while he was standing on the dock with a cup of coffee.  No customers, but lots of maintenance work to do.

With a strong wind at our back, we crossed the open water to the East while hugging the South shoreline through the islands.  I disconnected the rope as we rode some pretty big rollers on the East side of Metionga Lake.  It was tricky to navigate through the islands to the North East into Brightsand Lake.  Rain started as we entered Brightsand Lake, but the wind died down as we raced across the North end of the largest portion of the lake.  Saw a double rainbow as the hard rain stopped.
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We could not find the camp site marked on the North East end of Brightsand Lake, but found a nice beach  to use as our camp at (49°44’44.38″N 90°22’12.46″W) – not a lot of space for the tents, but we had room to make Beef Stew for dinner.  The young guys made a fire pit on the beach and collected firewood for a campfire before the rain chased us to the tents.  Five tired men after 18 miles on the water.

Monday, August 12, 2013
Woke to light rain and calm waters as we made oatmeal for breakfast.  We packed the wet tents and took off with Tim and Andrew, Scott and I. Derek took the solo canoe and we could not keep up with him.  Clearly an operator problem with the old guys!

Headed North East on the glacial cut lakes and rivers to the next portage at (49°45’47.15″N 90°21’15.30″W).  The portage is poorly marked on the left.  The big stone landing was slippery after the rain.  Not long at 120M, but the portage trail is poorly maintained.  Many people must run the rapids, which look doable if not heavily loaded.

The detail map marked rapids that we did not see, nor listed on the map from the Park. It was easy to get confused on the zig-zag route in the rain.  The final portage is around the Brightsand River Road bridge is easy to see on the left at (49°47’46.06″N 90°17’47.57″W) is 200M and well used over the road leading to the Brightsand Road bridge, which is marked as closed to traffic, but we saw a truck there.

Made the final paddle across the lake, behind the island to the landing at (49°48’1.96″N 90°16’43.58″W).  Nice to enjoy a cold beer after 38.6 miles/62KM.  We unpacked Andrew’s truck for our base camp.  Tim, Derek and Scott went fishing below the rapids while Andrew and I went to retrieve the Suburban.
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Scott caught a very nice Walleye below the rapids, tied the stringer to the canoe and then promptly hit a rock and flipped the solo canoe. Wearing the life jacket, he was unhurt and he was able to collect the canoe and the floating stuff to wade to shore.  Tim snagged the rod & reel, so not much was lost.  He flipped the canoe back up, got in, talked to Tim and Derek for a moment before he headed to camp for some dry clothes.  Andrew and I met him at the landing and listened to the story in the tent as he dried off. Got dry clothes and crawled into his sleeping bag to warm up.

Shared the camp with a couple drunks from Thunder Bay – the only disappointing part of the entire trip.  Cooked the fresh walleyes with Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice for a great meal.  Enjoyed a nice campfire (despite the noisy neighbors).  Nice to sleep on a cot again J

Tuesday August 13, 2013
Scott and Andrew wanted to get on the road early to get back to Milwaukee before the kids went to bed. Cooking pancakes was slow going with one fry pan.  Packed all of the gear we did not need into Andrew’s truck and they were on the road at 8:30 am.  They made it to Milwaukee before 9:00 pm.

Tim took the solo canoe, while Derek and I fished together for the first time.  Not much action and we talked about going back, but Derek asked to make another pass on the left side of the rapids.  He caught 5 Northerns is just a few minutes.  Derek played them well in the canoe, which was tricky with such light line.  Kept one Northern and a Walleye to take home.
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Packed up the remaining gear, loaded the canoes on the Suburban and we hit the road.  We drove from KM 92 to KM 40 without seeing a single vehicle, but then came across two First Nation guys that had lost a wheel on the rough Graham Road.  Looks like some lug nuts rattled loose and the others snapped off.  We agreed to call his son for help once we got cell phone service.  Tim called 4 times before he got an answer, but good to know that someone was on the way with a wrecker.
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Stopped to see Kakabeka Falls – the 130 foot drop is very impressive!
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Made it across the border without any problems.  Hotel at Grand Portage was full, so we headed to Grand Marais and got the last room at the Alpine Lodge.  A warm shower sure felt good!

Wednesday August 14, 2013
Breakfast at the hotel, then stopped at Tofte to get Tim’s Truck and the drop off the other canoe.  Nice lunch near Canal Park in Duluth, then parted ways after a great trip!