Wednesday August 15
I’m up and out of the tent about 6:30. It’s funny, back home lately I’ve been struggling to get up before 7 but in canoe country I find myself waking with the sun. It takes a few nights before I really settle in and get comfortable sleeping, and last night was still a little humid from the heat of Monday into Tuesday. I set up the stove to reheat what is left of the coffee and start packing up things around camp while I let the kids get a few extra minutes of sleep. Before long Devin is starting to make noise in the tent & I go over to marshal the troops.
Breakfast is dehydrated biscuits and gravy that I first didn’t get to eat while at Philmont in 2016. I brought it along to have with Matt & his daughter when we went up the Granite River in 2016 and then didn’t eat it that time either. Devin doesn’t care for it so much as the sausage is kinda spicy, and Evie and I end up sharing the bag. After breakfast is done the kids help pack up the stuff inside the tent and then we take it down to roll it up. Packing up the rest of camp is a leisurely affair, and we’re leaving by 10:30.
Originally I had planned for us to move to the next lake over for the next couple nights, but after having a talk with Evie about where we were relative to the whole trip it was decided that we’d instead push for past Red Rock Bay on Saganaga. The sun was bright with hardly a breeze to be found to start the day. The heat and humidity had left the area and a picture perfect August day was in store for us.
We find the portage to Red Rock easily and cross paths with a couple groups headed towards Alpine. The first is a gentleman with a kayak and a couple small bags. He’ll be gone by the time I come back for the last load of our stuff. We finish the portage quickly and load up the canoe. Right next to the portage we spy a collection of lily pads and Evie asks that we paddle over to take some pictures.
The solitary lotus flower in the center makes for an interesting subject and I especially like the color and visual contrast of all the pads in the group. As luck would have it, a honey bee was visiting the flower the same time we were.
We hold position for a while and then push on up Red Rock towards Saganaga. The area we’re headed towards could be favored by people looking to camp nearer to an entry point to facilitate a faster exit the next day. If it’s busy we could be searching for a while for a campsite. Sag is huge, it’s one of the biggest lakes in the BWCA and the Northern reaches of it are in Canada.
Red Rock is a pretty lake. About half of it burned in the Cavity Lake fire in 2006, however the Northern portion was spared the fire. These cliffs looked cool, and other than the iron staining on the face we couldn’t figure out how the lake got it’s name. A breeze has kicked up too, coming from the North. It would figure, headwinds. Thankfully this headwind is lighter than the winds on Monday.
The portage from Red Rock to Saganaga is almost a non-portage. Lighter packed groups might even be able to carry their loaded canoe across the portage and the trail is marked with deep grooves from aluminum craft getting dragged across. I presume this is from before this area was protected. as many of the interior lakes used to have cabins and resorts on them. According to the map it’s a 15 rod portage, and if there was a record flooding event it’d be likely one could walk a loaded canoe between the lakes on the little stream that connects them.
Now that we’re on big Sag the question is where do we want to look for a campsite? We could be staying here two nights again. At this point in the trip a couple things have come up – biting flies are a bit of a nuisance in the canoe today and in the end you end up whacking yourself more often than you kill the fly. Worse than the flies, though, is how I’m feeling. In the days before we departed Devin developed a 12 hour fever that was accompanied by a stuffy/runny nose and slight cough. Today I’m all stuffed up and my throat feels a little scratchier than it should from just camping and being around campfire smoke. I hope that it blows over, which is often how colds and the like usually happen to me.
We’re headed more or less North from Red Rock Bay, heading towards the cluster of islands on the edge of the main expanse of the lake. If I remember my research correctly, the campsite on Englishman Island we’re most interested in has a beach of some kind. I’m hoping the breeze will help to keep away the flies which are getting to become more than a plain annoyance. The closer we get to the island it is apparent that the campsite is unoccupied. The beach turns out to be pea gravel instead of sand.
I’m just happy to be done paddling for the day. I’m tired, not feeling entirely well, and really irked by the biting flies. We unload the canoe and before unpacking any further we make & have lunch. Today’s lunch is the triscuits with summer sausage and 3 year old cheddar we got from Mars on the way up. It’s stayed in decent shape, albeit it’s ‘sweat’ out a little bit of moisture. The cheese is sharp and Devin doesn’t like it as much. Most of the triscuits get eaten, as well as the whole sausage, and about 3/4 of the cheese. As we’re eating we make a discovery – the biting flies here are no worse than in the canoe and there are now big black & white looking bees buzzing around loudly like little bombers. They don’t seem to be harmful but buzz pretty close by you, so we called them ‘friendly bees.’ Later, after the trip I come believe they are actually bald faced wasps. Evie hangs around camp while me and Devin go out in the canoe to scavenge for firewood. We’re back about 45-60 minutes later after a trip around the island and return with plenty of wood. A fire is made, which seems to help scare off the flies some but the friendly bees are still around. Evie tried with limited success to take refuge from the flies down on the gravel beach, and as evening descends upon us I’m happy that tonight’s dinner only requires boiling water – we’re having Mountain House Chili Mac. I brought two bags, thinking we’d be eating a lot but so far this trip the opposite seems to have been the case and I’m reticent to make both at the same time only to end up having to pack out the leftovers in the trash.
After letting it stand for 15 minutes a stirring a couple times the Chili Mac is ready to go. As luck would have it, both kids really like it and it’s eaten up pretty quickly. I decide against making up a whole second batch and instead we supplement dinner from our cache of snacks and other food we brought too much of. Thankfully the dishes are pretty basic and are done quickly. Evie and I have another discussion about the trip and I find out we’re both leaning towards wanting to move again tomorrow. The flies aren’t letting up at all, and moving closer to the exit sounds like a good idea.
We secure camp and knock down the fire, then spend a little while longer outside before going in to the tent for the night. Its another beautiful, clear sky night in canoe country. Thankfully the mosquitoes aren’t around for long after the sun drops behind the trees across the channel from us.
We hang out in the tent, playing cards and reading books until it’s time to go to sleep. We’ve got another early wake up tomorrow.
Miles Traveled – 7.4
Total Trip Mileage – 16.7
Lakes Paddled – Alpine, Red Rock, Saganaga