5/24/09 Day #33 28 – 6 5º Wind Calm Sunny / Savanna Portage
Awoke at 5:00 AM in a near hypothermic – hallucination state, hearing an undefined yet wonderful symphony-like chorus in surround sound. Focusing to shake my confusion, I realized that the beautiful sounds were trumpeter swans singing at dawn.
Determining my location, I navigated by compass, bushwhacking west-southwest through thick brush. This was the end of the six-mile long portage trail, although today unidentifiable and completely overgrown. So thick was the brush that I would drop my canoe and packs at 20 foot intervals, leapfrogging the outfit to maintain direction. I always left Kitigan to guard the food pack, given the abundance of bear sign, fresh tracks and scat.
At 9 AM, after 4 hours of “crashing,” I came upon a ditch that I recognized as the eastern end of the maintained portion of the Savanna portage. Here I breakfasted and dried gear before resuming the long carry. I double-packed, double-carried until dark, camping at the Continental Divide, 4 miles into the portage but 12 miles of actual distance covered due to the double-carry. Hundreds of wood ticks, dozens of deer ticks, mosquitoes thick.
5/25/09 Day#34 40 – 55 Wind Calm Overcast Continental Divide Finished remaining two miles of Savanna Portage. Very sore and tired but in good shape overall.
5/26/09 Day #35 40-55 Light Rain Rest Day Layover day at Savanna Portage State Park. Kitigan and I both slept well.
5/27/09 Day #36 Big Sandy 45-60 Wind NE 5-15 mph Cloudy Resumed travel down West Savanna Creek, Prairie Flowage, and across Big Sandy Lake. Portaged around US Army Corps of Engineers dam and paddled down Sandy River 1 mile to confluence of Mississippi River, then up this mighty river. Made 15 miles. Saw a lot of geese, ducks, turtles, herons, beavers and eagles. Mississippi River has high water and powerful fast current. Poled upriver along bank more than paddled. A terrific feeling to have crossed the Savanna Portage/Continental Divide and enter the Mississippi River.
Paddled 250 miles from start, 750 miles to go!
** Historical Note: According to local historian Larry Luukkonen, author of Between the Waters, the last officially recorded excursion to complete the Northwest Trail (Lake Superior to Mississippi River via Savanna Portage) in a birch bark canoe was made in 1878 by Minnesota State Geologist Newton H. Winchell, 131 years ago. Very few others have traveled this route since that time.