Posted by: esimula | May 17, 2009

Grand Marais to Carlton (5/1-17/09)

Indian River

Indian Point -- Spirit Lake

5/1/09 – Day 10     Layover at Grand Marais     35 – 45 o F     E winds 10-15 mph     waves 1-2 ft     cloudy

Trimmed 30 pounds weight from outfit, mostly from dogfood, food, extra headlamp batteries, white gas and extra maps.  Cut toothbrush in half, mostly symbolic.  Acquired new canoe seat with backrest and PFD boat cushion for Kitigan.  Helped Dawn (Simula) sew canoe cover.  Rested well.

 5/2/09 – Day 11     Windbound     30-40 o F     E winds 10-20 mph     waves 1-3 ft     snow/rain   Finished sewing canoe cover.  Studied maps.  Rested.

 5/3/09 – Day 12     Grand Marais to Fall River – 3 miles     25-45 o F     SE winds 10-15 mph     waves 1-3 ft     clear

Departed Grand Marais from North House Folk School with new canoe cover fully operational.  Gave presentation about trip to NHFS students prior to departure.  Battled strong headwind for two hours.  Camped early at Fall River.  Studied Lake all afternoon.  Slept under canoe.  Kitigan chewed my life jacket PFD zipper.  Repaired life jacket to functional condition with secure rope ties. 

 5/4/09 – Day 13     Fall River to Temperence River – 27 miles     25-55 0 F     winds calm-5 mph     waves 0-1 ft      sunny

Up at 5:20 a.m., on water at 6:40 a.m.  Made good time on calm water.  Found a rhythm.  Felt the north Lake Superior current, 1-2 knots, out from shore 1/8-mile, helping me along.  Cormorants, 37 in single file, flying north fast, just above water.  Bald eagles, loons, and seagulls came from near and afar to check out the interesting birchbark canoe and occupants.  Passed the Butterwort Cliffs bald eagle nest, with one adult and two young eaglets in the nest and the other adult in a nearby treetop.  Put tobacco out upon seeing the eagles, as I’ve been taught by elders.  A loon swam 20 yards in front of the canoe leading me for several hundred yards.  Saw first great blue heron flying north.  Visited with friends Eric Kemp, Adam Harju and JD at separate points near Lutsen.  Paddled until dark, 14 1/2 hours on water, made 27 miles.  Camped near Temperence River at “Duck Cove ” as wind and waves were building.  A wonderful day on the water. 

 5/5/09 – Day 14     Windbound     35-45 o F     N winds 10-25 mph     waves 2-4 ft     cloudy/heavy rains

Up at 5 a.m.  Too rough to load or paddle.  Two-cup coffee day.  Arms and fingers tingling pain in early mornings.  Kitigan likes jerky, dried apples and peanuts!  Studied Lake: waves, swells, reflection waves, river currents, winds.  Starting to see patterns in the Lake I’ve never noticed before.  The Lake is always rougher than it looks from shore.  Canoe bark fading white from sun.  Pitch is fading grey from cold water.   Thunderstorms in evening.  I sense Kitigan and I both feel the constant up and down Lake swell motion in our equilibriam, even on land.

 5/6/09 – Day 15     Temperence River to Little Marais – 18 miles     40-60 o F     waves 0-1 ft     N winds 0-10 mph     sunny/cumulo-nimbus (thunderhead) clouds in afternoon

Re-rigged canoe cover for more secure gunnel attachments.  Hard loading canoe in swell; kept losing rock anchors.  On water by 10 a.m.  Big swells early in morning.  Ferried Temperence River with high rain water current.  Lake current 2-3 knots.  At 8 p.m., approaching Shovel Point, got swept out  about one mile from shore by invisible outcurrent.  At first recognition, headed straight for shore, fighting current and landed safely at dark. 

5/7/09 – Day 16  Little Marais to Palisade Head – 5 miles     40-70 o F     N,S winds 0-25 mph     waves  0-3 ft     Heavy dew/fog/clear

Up at 5 a.m., on water at 6:20 a.m.  Re-pitched canoe lightly.  Heavy fog: navigated by compass around Shovel Point.  Huge fog bank on water by Palisades.  Red rhyolite intrusions in dark basalt rocks made many abstract images, similar to Ojibwe artwork I’ve seen.  Sudden wind change (N to S) at 11 a.m. building to 3 ft seas: windbound.  Afternoon sun drove temperature to 80o F, which softened canoe pitch which I compressed into seams with a wet thumb.  Camped at Dead Deer Cove.

 5/8/09 – Day 17     Palisade Head to Beaver Bay – 5 mi.     45-70 o F     Calm a.m., N,E,W,S winds 10-20 mph p.m.     waves 1-3 ft     sunny

Up at 4:30 a.m., on water at 6:00 a.m.  Light S headwind for two miles, past Northshore Mining and through Pillar Rock Portal.  N Tailwind to Beaver Bay.  At 11 a.m. N wind shifted to E, W, then S winds.  Waves 2-3 ft.: windbound.  No leaks in canoe all day.  Saw first visible land on South Shore.  Back strain, cracks in fingertips and tingling arm pain all still severe.  Made camp near mouth of Beaver River.

 5/9/09 – Day 18     Windbound     30-40 o F     E winds 10-25 mph     waves/swells 2-5 ft     cloudy/fog/drizzle/snow/rain

Up at 4 a.m. to check weather.  Too rough.  Slept until noon.   First aspen and birch leaves budding out.  Feeling wave/swell vertigo.

 5/10/09 – Day 19     Beaver Bay to Two Harbors – 26 mi     40-50 o F     waves/swells 0-3 ft     sunny

Up at 5 a.m., on water at 7 a.m.  Gentle N tailwind, turned brisk S headwind at Gooseberry River.  Strong N tailwind to Two Harbors.  I feel a strong sense of “Lake Pace”: a sense of being in rhythm with my environment, one which the birds sense as non-threatening and calming, making them curious and come close to visit.  I could see the tallest Duluth buildings from here.  Made camp 1-mile south of Two Harbors on shore ledgerock at dark.

 5/11/09 – Day 20     Two Harbors to Lakewood Station – 16 mi     45-65 o F     S,E winds 5-10 mph     waves 0-1 ft     clear

Stiff  S headwind first 4 miles.  Active cormorant nesting rookery at Knife Island near outlet of Knife River.  Paddled with kayaker John Abrams several miles to Stony Point.  Saw and visited with stepdaughter Shannon Braford on shore near French River.  Paddled until dark.

 5/12/09 – Day 21     Lakewood Station to Indian Point/Spirit Lake – 14 mi     45-55 o F     N winds 10-25 mph     waves/swells 2-5 ft     cloudy/sprinkles

Up at 4 a.m., on water at 5 a.m.  Very rough loading canoe in dark and swells.  Secured canoe cover.  Strong tailwind and big swells: made good time.  Red sunrise, then cloudy all day.  Canoe took on water through openings in cover in Duluth lift bridge canal due to rough “clopotis” (confused seas) or high “chop” waves.  Helped out by Duluth Fire Dept. responding to a call from concerned bystander.  In retrospect, I should have landed on the lakeside shore and scouted the canal (like any other potential travel hazard) before attempting to pass through to Bay side.  Somehow, I had a false sense of security from the piers and channel and no warning of increased danger.  The canoe was performing well in rough seas as I entered the canal.  I thought I could make it through to the Bay.  Historically, the native people and voyageurs portaged across this area before the canal was dug. Visited with Mike Anderson, Sam Cook and Andrew Slade.  After re-pitching the damaged canoe at the US Coast Guard station, paddled 6 miles through the Bay to Indian Point Campground on Spirit Lake.  The Bay crossing was very difficult due to high NE tailwinds and shallow (1-3 ft) areas and shorelines of the Bay.  Avoided many exposed and submerged hazards, but bottomed out on hidden rocks in troughs of swells several times in shallows.  Used all available windbreaks and canoe cover.

 5/13/09 – Day 22     Layover at Indian Point     45-65 o F     Windy/Clear     Rain at night

Layover rest day.  Reorganized outfit.  Visited with family and friends.

 5/14/09 – Day 23     Windbound     40-60 o F     W winds 5-20 mph  clear

Indian Point is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever camped.  It has huge, old trees, sits high on a sunny, south-facing bank above the waters of Spirit Lake and is protected from winds by several islands.  Rested.  Studied maps.  Pitched canoe.   “Arrowhead Journey” campfire chat open to public 7-9 p.m., approx. 20 people attended. 

 5/15/09 – Day 24    Indian Point to Fond Du Lac – 10 mi, Fond Du Lac to Carlton – 8 mi     35-45 o F     E winds 15-25  mph     waves 1-2 ft     clear/cloudy/heavy downpour rain in evening

Up at 4 a.m., on water at 7 a.m.  Stiff E tailwind.  Tricky crossings in Spirit Lake due to wave height and high E winds.  Made excellent time.  Entered St. Louis River at New Duluth and encountered mild current, paddling upriver/upcurrent.  Saw 80 fishing boats on river, very few catching fish.  Saw alot of Canadian Geese, mostly in pairs on nests, some with day-old gosslings.  Saw first painted turtle and first red-winged blackbirds.  Also first smell of skunk.  The rocks and cliffs of the North Shore now replaced by sand banks and cattail marshes along the river.  Upon reaching Fond Du Lac (French: End of the Lake) at noon, I met my father, Vern Simula, and transported my outfit and canoe by auto 8 miles up to Carlton, bypassing Fond Du Lac Hydro Dam and the Thompson Dam (no portages).  We hiked the  first and only mile-section of the original Grand Portage of the St. Louis River (the upper seven miles of the Grand Portage of the St. Louis River and the next immediate four miles of the Woman’s and Knife Portages no longer in existence).  We both found our first woodticks of the spring.  We also scouted the St. Louis River and Thompson Reservoir on foot (very high water level).  Visited and camped at the home of my sister and brother-in-law, Becky and Dennis Randelin, in Carlton.

 5/16/09 – Day 25     Windbound     30-45 o F     NW winds 15-25 mph     sunny/cloudy

Visited with my mother, Naomi Brigan, in Carlton, and picked up two cached food packs.  Updated online jounal.  Studied maps of next leg: Carlton to Grand Rapids.  Tomorrow, will break camp at 5:30 a.m. and transport outfit 7 miles from Carlton, around Scanlon Dam, Cloquet Dam and Knife Falls Dam (all three dams have no portages around them), to Cloquet.  Kitigan and I are both rested and healthy, ready to paddle, pole, line and portage up the St. Louis River in the morning from Spafford Park in Cloquet, headed for Grand Rapids.  167 miles travelled, 833 to go.  Again, safety and respect are foremost.  Allez! Mazhaa! Let’s Go!



  1. Hi Erik, We’re glad to hear your adventure continues to be eventful to say the least! So glad you made it to Anna’s graduation….very cool! We look forward to Shannon’s big day this weekend…the kids have all grown up way too fast! Paddle on and know your monument family is thinking of you!

  2. Just wanted to pass along that I came across Erik and his Dad and dog by the Bigfork river. Everyone looked well and happy. The canoe seems to be holding up very well. Spirits are good and the water is up. Good to see you Erik. Paddle on!

    • Hi Bob Walker,
      I’m a birch bark canoe making student of Erik’s from his first class at Gr. Portage in 2005. I’m hoping to track down Erik tomorrow, June 2 and take some pictures. I’m surprised he’s already in the Bigfork–can you give me a guesstimate where he might be on Tues. June 2nd or June 3rd? I’d appreciate it if you can. Thanks.
      Jay Hutchinson,

  3. Erik,
    It was great to see you, Vern and Kitigan last night. By now you are probably near the Bigfork exchange. Those who are following can see a video on the Weekly News in Review at – you have wait for the middle of the program- it is an interview of Erik in Grand Rapids.

  4. Erik,
    Great to talk to you this evening, congrats on the portage to the Mississippi side today!
    See you and Kitigan this week.

  5. Erik’s adventure is possibly the greatest thing I have ever read! Incredible…

    As far as the canal thing, at least they weren’t ICE agents and good that he wasn’t detained and interrogated as an illegal…though the ticket for the PFD, c’mon.

  6. Hi Erik, Just checking in to say Boozhoo to you on opening day here at the monument. You are missed! It’s all good here…..a great crew on deck and we all wish you were here! Glad to read that all is going well and that you are enjoying the journey thus far……have fun, be safe, and happy paddling to you and Kitigan!!

  7. Eric,
    It was a pleasure to meet you! I hope that the trains didn’t keep you up all night!! Take Care!!

  8. You Animal!…that’s diggin it. I’ve done these rivers at this time down stream….can’t image going up…Hats off


  10. Good luck Eric, thinking of you & miss working with you this summer.

  11. we travel with you in spirit, eric, and imagine quiet waves against birchbark. travel safely; may the sun warm you.

    a reader in kansas city. waves of songbirds are passing through, and they will soon sing to you at the water’s edge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: