Day 94 – 7/24/2009 The Meadow 12-miles 45-65 o F Thunderstorms
Up at 3 a.m. to rain sprinkles, high gusty winds and low pressure feel. On water by 5 a.m. with clouds of mosquitoes. Crossed North Fowl Lake two miles in heavy rains on calm water as thunder rumbled behind me to the west. Saw six otters swim across the sandbar narrows crossing into South Fowl Lake. I nervously paddled as hard as I could to cross South Fowl Lake two more miles in downpour rains, as lightening and thunder chased me. At 6:30 a.m., an abrupt, stiff, south-southeast wind picked up, kicking up whitecaps and driving (wind-ferrying) me the last 1/4-mile southeast to arrive at Goose Rock, the head of Fowl Portage (320 rods), just as severe (hair-raising) lightening and thunder overtook me. After carrying to the first pose and the thunderstorm passed, Kitigan and I hiked to the top of Goose Rock, where I saw a bald eagle and two peregrine falcons. Completed Fowl Portage double-carry in four hours. At the foot of Fowl Portage, I watched a frog try to cross the Pigeon River (which here is only 10-feet wide and 18-inches deep) in three hops, with a northern(fish) lunging at the frog on each hop, finally snatching the frog in mid-air!
Paddled three miles of beautiful flat water along the Pigeon River with many ducks and wild rice still in floating stage. Saw a big cow moose at the mouth of Stump River. Watched a downpour rain on the water surface approach, but stopped within 10 feet of the canoe! At the head of the two-mile section of shallow rapids, I started the Caribou Portage (100 rods), with hopes of carrying around this entire bad stretch of river (including English and Big Rock Portages, both now completely overgrown). However, only the moose have kept this trail packed, and only for the first 20 rods, where it then turned south and merged into an overgrown logging trail. I attempted locating, even re-establishing (scouting and flagging), the original portage trail, only to backtrack after two futile, exhausting hours of floundering in near impassable deadfall and overgrowth. I lined the canoe down two miles of rapids, with Kitigan and I walking in shallow water, dragging and pushing the delicate birch bark canoe over hundreds of aluminum and kevlar-coated rocks. The canoe leaked so bad I bailed continually, approximately 50 gallons every three minutes. I cringed at the thought of shredded hull bark. At 7 p.m., exhausted and drenched, we stopped at the Meadow, the flat riverbank below all the rapids, where the Voyageurs routinely camped. To my surprise, the bottom of the canoe held up quite well, with minimal bark damage, although all the pitch was gone and a few lenticels had split open. I was never so happy to make camp. Today was the most intense and one of the hardest days of the journey!
Day 95 – 7/25/2009 Partridge Falls & Lake Superior! 60-65 o F Rain
Dried gear and canoe in morning sun, covering with tarps every 20 minutes from rain. Repaired canoe for five hours using all my available pitch. Departed at 2 p.m. Canoe leaked minimally, but did not have to bail water at all. Arrived at Partridge Falls at 4 p.m. and cached canoe and outfit in woods. Kitigan and I hiked six miles down Partridge Falls Road and Old Highway 61. Saw a small black bear cub near section 33 clearing under old white pines. Caught a ride from Amber Porter and Jeanne Spry the last six miles from Mineral Center to Grand Portage. Kitigan and I sat together on the shore of Lake Superior, elated like never before! What a Feeling! We did it! We had returned home to Lake Superior!
Days 96 – 104 Layover at Partridge Falls – Arrowhead Trail Cabin
Days 105 – 108 Grand Portage Rendezvous – Finish of Arrowhead Journey
What an adventure it has been! But, it’s not over yet. I’ll rest up for ten days, reunite with my sled dogs, and repair the canoe at my cabin home on the Arrowhead Trail. Then, on August 4th, I’ll resume travel for the final 12 miles from Partridge Falls Portage (120 rods), paddle three miles down Pigeon River to Fort Charlotte, and complete the Grand Portage (2,720 rods) with my canoe and outfit (and Kitigan), planning to arrive at the Grand Portage Rendezvous on the afternoon of Friday, August 7th, 2009, to officially finish the Arrowhead Journey.