Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BWCA 2011: Day 2

Boundary Waters Adventure with Lisa, Eric Z., Jessica H., and Kate S.
August 8-12, 2011

Day 2 - Back to Day 1 - On to Day 3

I woke up just after dawn, watched the sunrise, and fished a bit.

Sunrise on Lake Agnes
Then I went back to sleep for about two hours.

When I got up - for realsies this time - the rest of the crew was having breakfast.

As I was taking down our tent, out of view of the lake, I heard a yelp and a splash. I ran to investigate and found Lisa, fully dressed in her jacket and rain gear, in the water on her hands and knees. She had been trying to rinse off her camp shoes when she slid down the rock into the water.I was tremendously relieved when I saw her stand and I knew she wasn't hurt, but my heart sank when she tried to stand and walk back to shore only to slip and splash again - the rock shelf that extended from our campsite into the water was just too slippery. Finally, Jess, Kate, Eric, and I formed a human chain extending from an area we could get a solid footing down into the water, and with a fallen branch to provide extra reach, we gave Lisa a solid handhold and she was able to make it to shore. Her arms and legs were soaked, but, critically, the core of her body was dry, and she decided a change of clothes would be unnecessary. Even more importantly, she was still smiling. Soon we were underway, heading north to Lac La Croix, along the Canadian border. 

On Day One, Lisa and I were in one canoe and Eric, Jess, and Kate were in the other (the middle person in the three-person canoe did not paddle). For the sake of variety, and to share time in the non-paddling seat, we rearranged seating for Day Two: Eric and I were in one canoe, and Lisa, Kate, and Jess were in the other.

My journal entry for the day begins:
Awoke Tues am on L. Agnes. Broke camp in intermittent light shower. Paddled north to Boulder R., at north end of L. Agnes. Paddled/poled thru rocky section marked as "rapids" on Fisher map. No rapids per se, just big rocks with narrow channel between. Then two portages (23 rod and 69 rod) into Boulder Bay on Lac La Croix. Capsized the canoe while putting into Boulder Bay. All main packs fine - they floated - but day pack got wet. NOAA weather radio inoperable. Emptied canoe, repacked, and paddled across bay to an empty campsite to use the "biffy".
Rapids along Boulder River. I never get tired of scenes of water flowing over rocks.
Eric and I shook off the embarrassment of capsizing the canoe - in full view of the ladies! - while loading it. I was pretty peeved that the weather radio got dunked, but I had no one but myself to blame - inexplicably, I had stuffed it into a very non-waterproof day pack rather than a dry bag that morning. I should have taken it apart immediately to allow all the water to escape, but I didn't do so until we made camp that afternoon. 

As we paddled out of Boulder Bay, it started to rain off and on. I think everyone's extremities were wet by this point, so we didn't mind too much. Critically, everyone's core was dry; otherwise, we would have stopped immediately. Still, I was really, really happy that, on a whim, I had decided to treat myself to a pair of neoprene paddling gloves when we made our last stop at the gear shop in Ely.

As we turned the bows of our canoes back toward Lac La Croix, the wind picked up. My journal entry continues: 
North wind – which had been blowing all day – got stronger. Also rained on and off. Paddled along west edge of peninsula separating Boulder Bay from Tiger Bay, straight into the wind. Then turned east to cross to a campsite on a boomerang-shaped island we had heard was good. Waves hitting beam of canoe made for unpleasant ride. As we approached, saw that the site was apparently occupied by just one man with no gear. Waited a moment to see if he showed any signs of leaving, but we couldn’t linger as lake was getting rougher. Decided to cross channel to another island with sites at N and S ends. As we approached, saw that this other site was also occupied. North wind stronger and lake rougher, so beached on sandy beach just N of second site – out of wind in cove – to regroup.
After resting a moment, we decided to paddle into the lee of the island we had landed upon and check another potential campsite (in the BWCA, camping is permitted only in designated sites with a Forest Service pit toilet and fire ring). When we rounded the southern tip of the island, we saw another party waiting out the wind in the lee, and shortly thereafter we found the hoped-for campsite occupied. We decided to cross the open channel back to the boomerang-shaped island and look for a campsite in that area. 
Paddled back to S tip of island with intention of making a break to easternmost end of boomerang-shaped island. Crossing very rough. I steered one canoe (Eric in front), Kate steered the other (Jess in front, Lisa in middle). North wind now very strong and lake very rough. Taking waves on beam could have swamped or even capsized a canoe. Decided to paddle straight into wind and waves for a bit, then turn sharply to go south toward boomerang island with quartering/following waves. Used lots of rudder to keep canoe from being turned parallel to the waves. Took on water splashing over bow when moving upwind. Finally reached lee of boomerang-shaped island, a little rattled by the crossing. 
At this point I became convinced that Boreas, the North Wind, was out to get us personally. Perhaps the Her Majesty's government had summoned the wind to keep us away from Canadian territory on the other side of the lake.
Decided to go talk to the lone dude on point of the boomerang-shaped island to see what his plans were. Sent Jess to hike around island to be our diplomat. Too rough to leave lee of island in canoes without good cause. Jess returned some time later with the news that the site was occupied by a father and son that had set up base camp there and were planning to stay a few days, but that they would share the site with us if we could find no other – "come back if you can’t find anything else," they said. This would be ok per BWCA regs since there would be only seven people and three canoes all together [in the BWCA, a maximum of nine people and four canoes may travel or camp together]. Decided to check a few other sites. Decided to send Kate & Jess to check two sites on bigger island to E, since that area was mostly out of the wind. The returned within three minutes, so we immediately knew the sites were occupied. In fact there were so informed by a passing canoe so they didn’t bother to check.  With this news, and the wind strong as ever, we decided to prevail upon the kindness of the duo on the boomerang-shaped island. We lined/walked the canoes around the windward side of the island. 
Walking the canoe into camp

Once we had introduced ourselves to the father and son and thanked them for accommodating us, we set up tents and clotheslines and set our wet gear out to dry. 

Boreas, the North Wind, toyed with us while looking for a campsite on Lac La Croix. We walked/lined the canoes from east to west on the north shore of the boomerang-shaped island.

The clouds broke up and the sun warmed our faces and, with the still-strong wind, quickly dried our gear. We filtered water, had some snacks, and gradually discovered that we occupied what was probably the most beautiful campsite on the lake.

Looking north from our campsite toward evening

We discovered that, as a teenager, the father had gone on a Boundary Waters trip with the same summer camp that Kate had attended and later guided for. He also mentioned that before the previous evening's rain, the fly-fishing action for smallmouth bass on Lac La Croix had been outstanding. I had quit fishing on Lake Agnes earlier on that evening and, if the theories of the influence of barometric pressure on fish behavior are to be believed, missed the bite: Micropterus dolomieu 1, me 0. But as we watched the sun set and the stars appear over the rocky point at the edge of our campsite, I didn't mind too much.

Sunset on Lac La Croix
Back to Day 1 - On to Day 3 

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