Thursday, August 16
I’m up again about 6:30. Thankfully we didn’t fully unpack yesterday as it became apparent that we were moving again today. I heat the rest of the coffee again and then once I’ve got a cuppa then I turn my attention to heating water for a Mountain House Breakfast Skillet and if either of the kids want hot cocoa or something else. Before long the kids are up and after they pack up some stuff it’s time to get out and get some breakfast. We turn the skillet into breakfast burritos, however Devin isn’t really liking his and ends up eating plain oatmeal that we try to jazz up with some leftover blueberry granola. Plain oatmeal, especially when it’s been sitting since your last canoe trip, really just doesn’t taste all that great no matter how you try to dress it up. Devin tried his best, though, and he managed to eat most of it.
We pack up at somewhat of a leisurely and are leaving the campsite around our usual time of 10:30. It’s another nice day to be on the water. Not as quiet as yesterday, however the breeze is gentle and refreshing. We weave our way between Long and Gold islands as we head towards the busy Sag Corridor. The paddle is uneventful, along the way we encountered a few fishing boats, some canoes headed out, and several outfitter tows. Oh, and this family of ducks.
We’re in the corridor now, and the boat traffic picks up. We’re also starting to see cabins studding the hills around, they always look so out of place after your eyes have adjusted to the visual aesthetic of the wilderness area.
We make chit chat with canoes going the opposite direction while steering to avoid getting thrown too much by motor boat wakes.
On our way through the corridor, first Evie, then eventually Devin starts requesting the rest room. Despite us not being far from our planned portage through the Trail’s End campground and the vault toilets one would expect to find, we eventually have to pull over at Voyageur North.
Both kids scramble out of the boat while I hang out. While I’m waiting for them to come back I chat up an employee who just returned from bringing in a tow from Sag, and ask for recommendations for campsites on Sea Gull. He has a couple however they’re all pretty close to us in comparison to what one would normally do when on a canoe trip, and Sea Gull would be an entry lake so his recommendations are limited.
The kids are back at the canoe now so we get situated and finish the Gull River before coming into Gull Lake proper. The night before Ken, Joe, and I started our trip a decade ago we spent a little time fishing on the edge of Gull in the twilight, otherwise this is all new territory to me. We paddle along Gull, wondering at the various cabins and buildings along the shore and wonder about who might live in them.
As we go around a curve the boat landing comes into view. There is a 30 rod portage along the rapids between Sea Gull and Gull, however it’s been recommended as easier (albeit much longer) to portage along the East side of the road that goes around Trail’s End Campground as it connects the boat landings on Gull and Sea Gull. My feet are sore, and I’m carrying the canoe plus a pack – Evie ends up getting out of sight ahead of me so I wonder what happened upon arriving at the boat launch to find it deserted. Some calling out & it’s determined that Evie didn’t know where to go and was just following the road. Could be a lesson to be learned there having to do with sticking with your group, especially in unknown places….
On our way back to the Gull side landing we have a rare encounter – a large dog-sized black bear walks on to the road probably 20 yards in front of us and as quickly as Evie can say “Bear!” us and the bear make eye contact and it disappears down the embankment on the other side of the road, not to be seen by us again. The rest of the portage goes without incident and soon we’re loaded up again and ready to shove off, back into the lake we started on and will soon be our finish.
Out in the main lake body we head back towards the Wilderness Boundary sign and discuss campsite options. All day, whenever he’s got the map, Devin has said “I want to camp on Fishhook Island!” Personally, I wanted to camp a little further away from the entrance and especially not on an island that is half in the wilderness, half out, and home to a summer camp. We paddle around, checking a few open campsites and moving on each time. We’re all getting tired, I can feel the illness pulling on me, but darn it if I want our last campsite to be a good one. We keep on, stopping for a few minutes at the site on Fishhook Island that looks promising but is a little rockier than I’d like (and it’s right on the edge of the BWCA) before deciding to check out one more campsite that was recommended by the guy at Voyageur. If that site is occupied then we’ll go back to Fishhook. 5 minutes later and wouldn’t you know it, we were beaten to the recommended site by another group who by the appearance of it just got out of their canoes.
We turn around, head back to the rocky site on Fishhook, and are immediately greeted by a “Friendly Bee” who I tell Devin must have liked us so much from Englishman Island that it followed us here.
We’re pooped. It’s been our longest day on the water yet and we’re all hungry. Evie gets to work making PB&J roll ups using some of the tortillas we had left from tacos and breakfast burritos. We take some time to rest and recover.
There’s some perfectly spaced hammock trees and after it is hung I get to work pitching the tarp. Evie volunteers to reorganize the food barrel. Devin does his usual – swimming some, then shifts his attention to grappling around on the rocks before casting his lure around some. The weather radio at this point is all about letting everyone know about an air quality alert for fine particulate matter from fires up in Canada and the sun disappears an hour early tonight due to some distant clouds lurking above the horizon. There’s no chance for precipitation tonight, and at Evie’s request we’re leaving the rain fly off the tent. In retrospect, we could have done this every night for the entire trip.
What breeze there was has died as daytime transitions to twilight. Dinner tonight is one of Evie’s favorite camping meals – Garlic shells with pouch chicken. As with other meals, I overbought on the shells and so we opt to only make 1 package of shells to go with the pouch of chicken. Dinner is gobbled up by us all in short order, thankfully there isn’t a lot of dishes to be done tonight.
The kids go into the tent when the mosquitoes come out and play cards for a while as I sip some wine and tend our campfire until it’s burned to a safe point, then I go join them for some games before getting ready for bed. By now, I’m pretty sure that this scratchy throat I have isn’t just from being around campfires or Canadian wildfire smoke.
Miles Traveled – 11.3
Total trip mileage – 28
Lakes paddled – Saganaga, Gull River, Gull, Sea Gull