BWCA 2022 Day 2

Monday, 9/19. Day 2

The word salad continues.

Today’s a planned rest day. We had discussed last night whether to push to Iron today or stay put, and in the end staying put was chosen. I have a hard time in canoe country sometimes, there’s so much to see and places to explore but yet don’t often slow down enough to just take it in. I tend to plan these grandiose routes which often cover lots of miles with the cost of a faster or harder pace. I think any of the campsites we stayed at on this trip would be worthy of a week at each, and even after that the area would still feel like wilderness. Avoiding lighting the fire in the morning on layover days would also probably help with getting out of camp to explore, because once the fire is lit it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of tending to it all day. On the other hand, how else are you going to cook your home fries, bacon, and fried eggs at the same time? Certainly not on a little 8″ skillet that also doubles as the hard top to the cook kit.

Monday…… Today dawned partly cloudy with chances for rain later. After we both were up, Joe’s usually the early waker, and had coffee we set about starting breakfast only to discover a disaster – During the night one of the eggs Joe got from his sister-in-law cracked inside the carton & leaked its eggy contents all over the carton as well as elsewhere inside the barrel. Thankfully, it was only one egg, but still… It was the topmost egg in the carton, and the carton was stashed vertically within the food barrel which meant that we had white and yolk all the way in the bottom of the barrel. Good thing our latrine kit included a lot of wet wipes! Another good thing is that much of our smaller packaged food was within organization bags within the barrel. Joe took care of wiping down food packages and the inside of the barrel while I took the less-than-dozen eggs as well as the barrel bags down to the lakeshore and gave everything a very thorough rinsing. Handily, I set up a clothesline yesterday and I swapped all of yesterday’s now-dry stuff with the wet items I just rinsed. 

Two hours later from when we first started breakfast we were finally able to move forward with the cooking. There’s not a lot to it… we chopped up the potato first and threw it into some melted crisco on the hot side of the griddle, then when they got browned I tossed on a small yellow pepper I brought from home, followed by the bacon and eggs. Once it was done cooking our shady morning fire pit area had been transformed to full sun, so we moved our chairs around the corner to a nice gentle slope that overlooked the main lake. Much like the steak from the night before, breakfast was a “now you see it, now you don’t” kind of affair. Every single bite was delicious and awesome, especially the potatoes. Need to do that more often!

BUT – trouble was brewing. In post-event talks, the best we could come up with what happened next was I must have food poisoned myself when doing the cleanup at the lakeshore, despite hand washing with actual soap (Dr. Bronner’s peppermint even!) and using a decent amount of hand sanitizer afterwards. Because, not two or three minutes after setting down my fork I began to feel weird and sweaty. I got out of my chair and straight laid on the rock, hoping it’s dry coolness would help me feel better…. nope! Up came breakfast and for the next 10 minutes I proceeded to give that 6′ pine more nutrients in the form of my breakfast than it has probably received in its life to this point. I’ve never defiled a campsite like this. After assuring Joe that other than the puking I actually felt pretty OK, he left me to my dry heaves and proceeded to clean up breakfast. Once I started to get my sea legs back, I brushed my teeth and then dug the hammock out of one of the packs and set it up. I laid in there for maybe an hour & played with the InReach a little while Joe handled the rest of the morning camp chores. 

On the subject of the InReach, Beth got it for me last Christmas and it’s sat dormant until last month when I activated the device. Since it’s a satellite communicator, it’s a two way device and there are airtime charges to talk to the mylar space birds. I wanted it for the basic use of being able to share a track with friends and family back home, and the ability to set preset quick messages ahead of time and who they get sent to let us keep in touch. It can also summon SAR if we were in a true life-or-death situation, but that rescue is still hours away when the button gets pushed. It’s basically satellite based texting, where it could take as long as 10 minutes to send your text and another 20 or longer to receive the reply. I wanted an InReach over similar devices because of the ability to suspend and resume service on a month to month basis versus being locked in to an annual subscription. There are newer generation devices that have the communicator functionality built in to a handheld GPSr, but I really do believe in having discrete navigation vs SOS. I could have also used my phone, paired to it via BT or without, as our navigation device, but then I’m definitely having to need to charge it daily, possibly both devices even, and then it turns into a question of how large of a battery bank do I really want to carry? A single pair of lithium AA batteries in my eTrex 30, which stays clamped to the boat the whole time, will last several weeks based on typical canoe trip usage. And I can load on my own maps including the same USGS topographics that McKenzie uses so the screen looks damn near identical to the printed map(s) I also carry.

Enough about tech. Back to the canoe trip.

Feeling recovered, I get up and do my best to erase the trace I left at the base of the tree. Joe & I go do some exploring & firewood scavenging down the shore from camp. We ended up on this peninsula covered in pink granite, moss, and lichen. In the cracks and crevices all kinds of plants were growing including some wintergreen complete with berries! I don’t often see wintergreen berries in the forest of Northern WI which is my usual “up north” so what starts as a visual and tasty treat will by the end of the trip become “hey, it’s another patch of wintergreen with berries.” Down on a protected shelf is a large patch of blueberry plants but honestly, blueberries are everywhere up there. If you don’t see any in camp, try going to a portage, or go bushwhack around a northern-exposed slope, or, really – just look around. Chances are a lot of the ground to knee height bushy stuff you see in the BWCA is going to be blueberry if it’s deciduous.

We drag a couple portions of long dead tree back to camp and set it aside to break down for use later. Firewood is always about pile management… you got your kindling pile, your skinny sticks, your thicker pieces, beaver-wood is often best because it’s dense AF and burns hot and long. Occasionally your punky, half rotten birch log can be employed in a pinch. Not throwing the poker stick into the fire as fuel is achieved by keeping it on the opposite side of the rocks as fuel.

Eager to try out the toy Joe brought, we set out for an afternoon paddle along an area marked on my map as being good for walleye. Joe powered up the finder and dropped the transducer in the water. Before long it started chirping like mad, but he couldn’t see anything on the screen other than the bottom 15-20 feet. In the end the finder was set to auto zoom, and zoom should have just been turned off to display the entire depth. We still gave it a decent try throwing various things overboard but sadly got no customers. Defeated we headed back to camp for our backup meal – PIZZA!

A note on food – we ate like kings this trip, and anything that is shelf stable, comes in plastic (no glass or metal allowed), and needs minimal refrigeration is perfectly suited to canoe camping. 

A “relic” from times gone past served as the lid for our firegrate-cum-pizza oven. Normally we’d have to find large rocks that weren’t in the lake (steam explosion hazard) to drape a sheet of tinfoil over the pizzas to melt and brown the toppings. Instead, we had this 3 sided rusty box that came from god-knows-where but it fit perfectly on top of the grate. The minimal breeze of the day had died down, and while our pizzas baked we were treated to dead calm reflections of the sunset and opposite shores.

After pizza we were visited by a different frog than the night before, and then later just before bed by a very stern looking toad. In between, I turned the camera in towards camp and got some fun star shots with light and action in camp before we turned in.

1.5 miles paddled today, 11.5 total; 0 portages today, 6 total; 0 rods portaged today, 754 rods total; 0 additional beaver dams encountered today. 

Stuart Lake

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