Canoeing is a way to sit still and pay attention.

HomeCanoeingConsultingPhotographyDharma Talks



Canoe Trips

Boundary Waters:

Boundary Waters Campsites

Bois Brule River

Flambeau River

Kickapoo and Mecan Rivers

Menonomee River

Sylvania Wilderness

Wisconsin's Flowages

Wolf and Peshtigo Rivers


Boats & Gear

Boundary Waters Gear List

Bell Wildfire (Royalex)

Blackhawk Ariel

Mad River Independence (sold)

Wenonah Prism (sold)
-cane seat installation
-thwart replacement

Custom portage pads

Seat-mounted portage yoke

Outside canoe shelter

Inside canoe storage



BWCA - September 2013

Page 3: Days 5-7
Back to the Beginning


Days 5-6 – Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 16-17 – Water Doesn't Belong There

The day starts out foggy, as usual.


I load and launch the boat -without getting a drop of water in it - and head north into Lac La Croix under a perfectly clear blue sky.


After a few minutes I look down and, as though in a slow-motion, stream-of-consciousness movie, say to myself, "water doesn't belong there." After taking about two seconds to consider my options, I decide I don't trust the boat and turn around to go back. I don't relish the idea of having something serious happen when I'm in a remote area three days from any road. I also don't relish having to walk back to my car, which is at the Little Indian Sioux entry point, but I figure I can handle seven miles on gravel roads.

An interesting array of algae at a portage landing:


It's quite a nice paddle down the length of Lake Agnes, and I'm lucky to find an open campsite at the south end of the lake, no. 49 (C1816). The usual furry visitor is there, and I'm careful to keep my food containers closed.


Tomorrow's forecast is for south winds at 10-20 mph and I decide to lay over and wait for Wednesday, which is predicted to have south winds at 5-10. This campsite has a good landing and a couple of good tent pads, but it rates only about a C+. The tent area is ringed with trees, which restricts the view, and the tarping options are pretty limited. Despite shortening the trip and being stuck on a mediocre site, I feel only mildly disappointed rather than upset, disgusted, or any other strong emotion. It is what it is, and anyway, hanging out in the Boundary Waters with mostly nice weather sure beats a lot of other ways to spend seven days.


It's a perfectly calm and clear night with the full moon shining directly into the tent. Solitude is good but there are times when I wouldn't mind company. The forecast is 33-38 degrees but it's 45 in the tent. I sleep well and warm with the 25-degree bag as a blanket.


Day 5 summary:
Total distance 8 miles in 3:15
2 portages of 90 rods in 1:00


Tuesday morning is almost calm and I think briefly about hightailing it out of here. It doesn't take long for the wind to come up, and by 10:00 it's blowing a good 15 mph. By noon the whitecaps are breaking into long streaks of foam. This might be fun as a tailwind, but the prospect of paddling into it isn't very appealing.


The forecast for tomorrow is now south winds at 10-15 mph - not so much fun. I plan to leave at the crack of dawn and consider how to save time packing up. I know: pack up the tent and set up a tarp shelter. I've been wanting to try this for some time now, and since there's no rain in the forecast, this seems as good a time as any. After all the tweaking is done - some two hours later - I have a windproof and mostly waterproof shelter. For this I save about 20 minutes. That seems reasonable.


This nylon wedge cuts the wind nicely, and it's fairly roomy. The front door, which is six feet high, closes so well that I have to open it a bit for ventilation.


Day 7 – Wednesday, Sept. 18 – A Nice Little River Trip

I'm up at 5:30 and leave at 7:30. Even with the tarp tent taking only 10 minutes to put away, it still takes two hours to pack up. What takes so long is making decisions about what goes where for when it will be needed later. Any departure from routine just takes longer.

It's overcast today with neither fog nor the drizzle that was predicted. There isn't much wind, either, only about 10 mph. That makes for a nice little river trip.

At the beginning of the 95-rod portage on the Nina-Moose River there's another opportunity to explain Why We Portage. To complete the video, here's the landing:


Leaving Nina-Moose Lake I enter the Moose River.


From this point on it's narrow and twisty. Despite the boat's continuing leakage, I enjoy its responsiveness and maneuverability, even going upstream. I'd heard that the NorthStar was a good solo tripping boat, and now I appreciate its qualities even more.


Even the portages are enjoyable, but I don't pass up an opportunity to paddle through. It's hard to imagine the 10-rod portage around this section being needed in anything but the lowest water levels.


Somewhere in this narrow section I come upon a group of otters playing. One rises up in the water to get a better look at me. A few chuff/bark at me, I chuff back, and they return the call. They're amazing animals. John Tanner found that a man cannot kill an otter with his bare hands.

After the final slog up the 160-rod portage to the staging area, I put the boat and packs aside and change into my hiking shoes. It feels strange to know the trip is over, but so it is.


About halfway to the car I get a ride from a long-haired, middle-aged, overweight angel with a canoe on top of his battered pickup truck. I'm only too happy to thank him with a good-size package of beef jerky. I'm back in Ely in time to get a room at Voyageur North and my usual chicken burrito dinner at Rockwood. My back still hurts and I look forward to giving it some TLC in the next few weeks.


Day 7 summary:
Total distance 8 miles in 5:00
6 portages of 365 rods in 2:15


PS: It turned out that the boat was leaking from a single small hole just below the waterline in the stern. Yes, I had plenty of tape.




Back to top


Comments and suggestions welcome. Feel free to e-mail me.
Last updated October 5, 2013
Brought to you by Codabone Productions ©2009