Day 64 – 6/24/09 Crane Lake 65-80 o F 2-miles SW Winds 5-10 mph Sunny
Left Crane Lake from Nelson’s Resort at 7 p.m., paddled north 2 miles and camped at King Williams Narrows campsite. The paddle across Crane Lake was scary, as a southwest quartering tailwind with 1-foot, white-capping waves combined with a resupplied 75-pound food pack and a leaking canoe stretched my abilities to stay afloat. Mosquitoes, black flies (gnats), and no-see-ums quite horrendous! I use only long sleeve clothing, leather gloves and headnet for protection (no insect repellent in 20 years). At dark, Kitigan alerted me to an adult black bear. We watched it walk by, silhouetted by the lake, but it never came closer than 75 feet. Still, an uneasy feeling falling asleep in active bear country.
Day 65 – 6/25/09 Loon River 24-miles 60-80 o F N Winds 10-25 mph Sunny
Up early to break camp, pitch canoe and paddle through the Narrows before the winds and motorboat traffic picked up. Paddled by the ‘Face in the Rock’ and pictographs. Met Bill & Joni who were boating to Kettle Falls (friends of birchbark canoe builder Ferde Goode) who gave me transport to Little Vermilion Lake to bypass the motorboat traffic and serious wakes in the Narrows. Paddled up 56 Rapids and carried over Loon Falls Portage (75 rods ),(1 rod= canoe length=18 feet, 320 rods=1 mile). Talked with fellow Ely musher/trapper and friend Charlie Cowden who operates Loon Falls Marine Railroad. Camped on Loon Lake at ‘Deer Skeleton Point’. No-see-ums at peak population.
Day 66 – 6/26/09 Lac La Croix 14-miles 50-80 o F Calm Sunny
On water by 5 a.m. Portaged Beatty Portage (50 rods). Lac La Croix water calm as glass. Passed by ancient pictographs: sacred Anishinaabe rock paintings (often representing significant dreams) which should never be photographed, and placed tobacco offerring in nearby cliff. Stopped at Lac La Croix Ojibwe First Nation Reserve at outlet of Namakan River. Met and talked with tribal game warden Andrew Jordain. Had a great time meeting and visiting with many very nice new and old friends. Taken in and slept at the home of Leonard Ottertail, chi miigwetch!
Day 67 – 6/27/2009 Lac La Croix First Nation Reserve – Windbound 45-60 o F E Winds 20-45 mph
Portaged from Village Powwow Grounds to nearby campsite with assistance from Jeff Morrison, Lac La Croix Ojibwe, and exchanged gifts (Lac La Croix First Nation Eagle Cup & Manoomin (Wild Rice). You helped me portage and greatly inspired me, Jeff, miigwetch! Met Delbert Whitefish, Lac La Croix Band of Ojibwe/Quetico Provincial Park “coexistence” conservation ranger, who motored out several miles in extremely rough seas to check and make sure I was OK, miigwetch Delbert!
Day 68 – 6/28/09 Windbound – Lac La Croix 55-65 o F W Winds 25-50 mph Intermittent Rain
Intense Blow. Repacked and organized outfit. Hunkered down under 300-year-old red pines and savored the song of the storm.
Day 69 – 6/29/09 Iron Lake 20-miles 40-55 o F NW Winds 10-30 mph Drizzle
Re-pitched canoe. Early start to cross largest body of Lac La Croix in medium-rough seas. Carefully picked my way from island to island, taking an occasional wave over the gunnel, despite hip-rolling the canoe for protection from each wave, “knocking-down” the whitecaps before they hit the canoe with well-placed underwater paddle backthrusts, and simply outrunning the biggest sets of waves. Kitigan is surprisingly calm in rough seas. Visited with a canoe group using Joe Seliga wood canvas canoes from Ely’s Camp Widjiwaagan, while taking a lunch break in the small wind-protected bay of Fish-Stake Narrows, on a 23-day trip enroute to Sioux Lookout in Northwest Ontario. Passed beautiful cliffs with many pictographs. Climbed Warrior Hill, so named for its very difficult, steep, bare rock ascent. Found ripe blueberries on the very top of Warrior Hill (a month early). Carried over Bottle Portage (80 rods of deep mud). Camped on Iron Lake at dark.
Day 70 6/30/09 Crooked Lake 8-miles 45-55 o F NW Winds 10-30 mph Drizzle
Crossed Iron Lake to Rebecca Falls. Carried around Curtain Falls Portage (120 rods) to Crooked Lake. See Eagles every day of trip. Fishing from camp each night continues to easily fill the fry pan, which I cook with wild rice, crackers and most everything else into what’s known as Kala Mojakka (Finnish: Fish Stew) or Rubbaboo (French-Canadian: Voyageur Pemmican-Soup). With rough seas, chose to camp early and rest. Studied maps and pitched canoe. Camped in “Sunday-Night Bay”.
Day 71 – 7/1/09 Wheelbarrow Falls – Basswood River 23-miles 45-60 o F NW Winds 5-20 mph Drizzle
On water by 6 a.m. Stiff tailwind by 9 a.m. Big Otter eating fish on rock island. Five individual deer on shore, one deer swimming between islands. Old 1920’s Model T Ford on Canadian Side of Thursday Bay of Crooked Lake! Big reflection swells pushed me upwind and upcurrent for a good quarter-mile dogleg. Several less experienced canoe parties traveling the same route keep passing me (I paddle slower but very direct, whereas they paddle fast, “kevlar cruisers”, often losing direction and find me way ahead of them again and again). Saw first moose of trip in Canadian Moose Bay. Lunched with nice couple at Table Rock. Passed Crooked Lake pictographs. Portaged around Lower Basswood Falls (80 rods) and Wheelbarrow Falls (70 rods). Camped at dark along Basswood River. Friendly beavers visited at dusk as they do often.
Day 72 – 7/2/09 Basswood Lake – U.S. Point 8-miles 45-65 o F NW Winds 5-10 mph Cloudy
On water by 6 a.m. Lined up several rapids. Carried over (ran, with Kitigan pulling in harness) Basswood Falls Portage (380 rods/1.2 miles), double-pack/double-carry in one hour (17 min. 1st trip, 10-min return, 18-min 2nd trip, plus minimal rest and unloading/loading). Made camp at 1:30 p.m., before rounding U.S. Point on Basswood Lake at my very favorite campsite/location of the trip. This was the mental crux, or pivotal point, of the journey for me, and I knew that once I rounded U.S. Point I would again see motorboats, increased canoe groups and less remote canoe wilderness. The lakes and forests from Lac La Croix through Crooked Lake and into Basswood Lake are my favorite of the journey thus far, as I have many good memories of previous trips in this region, and because of its sheer beauty and rugged landscape. I let Kitigan run loose all afternoon and evening, as I pitched the canoe, cooked, and made a nice camp. I relaxed and wrote and felt very enlightened. It’s as though I’ve mentally relived my life, past and future, in the duration of this canoe journey, and been able to think about and focus on personal and cultural values most important to me, such as stewardship toward a healthy earth, its wildlife, and a sustainable, healthy society; protecting and providing for my family; and traditional living which promotes personal health and happiness. As the skies cleared and the sun shined through for the first time in a week, so did my thoughts, and I slept as though on a cloud, as a 3/4-full, waxing moon shined bright overhead.
Day 73 – 7/3/09 Prairie Portage 14-miles 50-70 o F NW Winds 5-10 mph 1/2-Sunny
Awoke very early to an old woman talking in the Basswood Lake wind. Hiked a 145-foot high ridge south of the campsite with Kitigan and found a beautiful vista with faraway views. Timber wolf scat (showing deer hair) and wolf trails along ridgetop. Collected spruce and pine resin for the pitch pot. Broke camp in late morning and paddled around Canadian Point and into rough seas in Bayley Bay (known for its high winds and waves) at the east end of Basswood Lake. A huge fish came up under the canoe and swirled, knocking loudly on the bottom of the canoe, which made me feel befriended by the old-timer. Carried over Prairie Portage where 25 years ago my late mentor, and Quetico Park Ranger, Stan Walsh once showed me wildflowers and forest floor life for hours, a vivid memory which inspired my direction in life. Camped at Sucker Lake, where 3 beavers and 3 loons visited with Kitigan and me at a very close distance for a long time at dusk.