Tuesday August 14, 2018
I wake up early today because I want to capture a time lapse of the sunrise. The alarm goes off at 5:30 and miraculously I wake up on time and jump out of the tent. The rocky point looks to be perfect for capturing both the sunrise and last night we were treated to an orange ball sunset due to smoke from fires in Canada. I set the GoPro for 2 second intervals between shots, point it in the right direction, and hit the button before going back to the tent to snooze for a while. Here’s the result of the time lapse. I find something mesmerizing in the wave action….
Back in time & in the tent, I wake around 7 to the sound of animals really near the tent. I can’t figure out what it is and decide to check it out. Turns out, 3 red squirrels live in the trees above the tent and they’re just racing around the branches, scrambling up and down the trunk, and just being raucous. I try to get a couple pictures of them but they just end up blurry.
Today is a layover and breakfast requires a fire. I throw some more water & grounds into the perc and go about building the fire to get some hot coffee. On tap for breakfast today is my usual layover breakfast fare: pancakes, bacon, and hash browns. The kids are roused by 9 and breakfast gets made. A curious thing I’ve noticed on canoe trips, especially with the kids/family, is how long meals take. Granted, I’m cooking on a campfire that has to be constantly tended and has it’s own personality in terms of hot and cold spots, but still… It’s after noon before we’re done cleaning up from it.
We’ve used up about all the welcome wood that was at the site when we arrived, plus what additional I found in the woods yesterday. Evie also wants to go hunting for blueberries. Camp is tidied up and while checking and putting things away I find a dragonfly hanging out on Devin’s wet shorts from swimming yesterday and a wild looking caterpillar on my knife sheath.
Camp secured, we load up into the canoe and shove off to scope out the area near our campsite. Finding firewood in the BWCA is usually a trivial matter, you just have to go a little ways away from campsites and one typically can find plenty with minimal effort. We paddle around towards the South, across from out campsite, looking for not only decent-looking firewood but also good blueberry habitat. Much of the shoreline on Alpine away from campsites is rugged – granite slopes rising from the water, deep holes near shore, and in some places both. Eventually we find a suitable looking spot on the backside of the larger island across from the portage that also has two campsites on it. I let the boat float and just tie it up securely to a nearby tree and then we’re searching.
Right away we find both of what we’re looking for – there’s plenty of dead & down trees dating back to the Cavity Lake fire, possibly even to the 1999 blowdown and there are definitely blueberries to be picked. We’re on the North face of this island and it has a decent granite slope – bare in places and in others covered in a bed of moss, lichen, duff, and plants. In many places, wherever you look are blueberries. Some smaller than a bb, others about average sized for the grocery store. All are ripe and have that flavor that only wild blueberries have.
I turn around to soak in the view and take a 180 degree panorama. If you look closely, our campsite is about 3/4 of the way to the right on the photo and has a couple bare patches which is the rocky point (which also has a couple trees growing on/near it.
According to the GPS we spent about 45 minutes here. Surprisingly, Devin didn’t eat a whole lot of blueberries while we were picking. They and strawberries trade places for favorite fruit in his world. I know I’d be in hog heaven, probably picking and gulping down handfuls. We collect enough to ensure our next pancake breakfast will be blueberry pancakes. I’ve found a decent amount of wood, too, and once the canoe is loaded with our precious cargo we head back towards camp but not before we fulfill a request of Evie’s and check out a couple smaller islands closer back towards camp. Ever since finding a small island covered in blueberries in 2016 Evie thinks this is more of a thing. We find a spot to land near one of the islands and while there’s no fruit there it’s okay for a swimming spot for Devin.
Back at camp, the firewood is unloaded and brought back by the firepit. Devin is free to go jump in the lake and go swimming and he wastes no time. I join him for a while, mostly to rinse myself and my clothes off. Evie comes and takes some pictures from shore before giving me the camera and retiring back to the hammock and a book.
The water is refreshing and it feels great to rinse off all the sweat and dirt from the last couple days. Devin swims for a while longer before I greet him with a towel and dry clothes. After swimming both kids want to try their luck at fishing and for a while I help facilitate that. I think this is also the point I did the only fishing for myself on the trip. Unsurprisingly nothing is biting and the bait we went out of our way to get is dead and turned into a nasty smelling goop… ugh, nothing smells worse than dead night crawlers that have got too warm.
While processing the firewood earlier in the day, I discover that a 5′ tall long-dead pine tree I dragged back to camp is very aromatic the further down the trunk I worked. The cause for that is quickly revealed to be that I apparently selected some naturally occurring fatwood – the wood fibers are saturated with dried pine resin.
I take care to set the more heavily saturated pieces aside and eventually split it into a collection of tinder that will be left near the fire pit as my own welcome to the site’s next inhabitant, along with whatever leftover wood we will have after the evening’s fire.
Dinner tonight is soft tacos using taco meat that I cooked and dehydrated at home ahead of time. We just need to rehydrate the meat for a while before tossing into the pot to heat up. Thankfully we get dinner cleaned up early and there really isn’t a whole lot to clean up anyhow except for the pot and our plates and a spoon or two.
We take advantage of the extra time to take in the exquisite sunset that is unfolding to our West. There is no wind at all, not even the slightest hint of a breeze, and the lake is glass. Me and Evie both take some photos of the beauty before us.
The Canadian wildfires have certainly helped to produce some interesting effects around sunset. And while the sky is nearly cloudless there is still color and drama to the sunset thanks to the smoke. The kids head for the tent to wait out the skeeters. Tonight we’re going to watch the stars for a while, hoping to get a glimpse at some Perseid meteors.
The mosquitoes don’t last very long tonight and by 10 the kids are back out to stargaze. Devin, being 6, doesn’t have a super long attention span for this kind of thing even though space is his favorite topic. The sky is crystal clear, however, and the moon is but a sliver quickly setting in the Western sky. We sit out on the rocky point for 45 minutes or so. Taking in the Milky Way, spotting satellites and airplanes crossing high overhead, pointing out different constellations, identifying planets, and watching for meteors. We’re rewarded for our efforts with a half dozen or so streaks. Devin sees less because he doesn’t understand just relaxing your gaze and instead is looking all around the sky. We also get very nice views of Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter, strung across the East to West sky like pearls or diamonds on a necklace.
Back by the fire, a quick snack is had before settling in to the tent for the night.
Tomorrow is an early start for the kids. We’re packing up camp and continuing on our adventure!
Miles paddled – 1.4
Trip total mileage – 9.3
Lakes paddled – Alpine