Wednesday, 9/21. Day 4
Staying put today. One thing about having the weather radio as background noise at night is we’re fairly in tune with the forecast. Yesterday was SW winds that pushed us in to Iron. Today the winds are going to be even stronger constant with 30+mph gusts, and coming from the NW. Had we even considered moving today (never was an option) the main body of Iron is going to be a washing machine of rollers. Tomorrow’s supposed to be nicer conditions, gentle north breezes, that kind of stuff.
Weather radios are essential for wilderness travel. NOAA & Canada both broadcast on dedicated channels for compatible radios, and having a mental picture of what the sky may be doing is pretty important when you’re living out in the elements. I used to have a crank radio but the crank eventually got snapped off (solar charging still works!). Based on others feedback, I replaced it with a Sangean DT-400. It’s a digital radio and in addition to weather it gets FM & AM. It can also be set to sit idle and go off if a weather hazard alert is sent. When not in camp, I keep it in a small pelican box as the device is not IP-anything certified. One of its best features is a lock switch on the side which prevents accidental turn-on. The only downside of the device is you need to use an external antenna which connects in the same jack that headphones would use. Luckily, Bose’s wave radio uses a headphone jack for its antenna and it’s ridiculously long – which is a boon for the BWCA because sometimes you gotta chuck the antenna up into a tree to get rid of static. The tarp’s many loops along the perimeter will work as a great channel for running & managing the antenna wire.
Because we’re staying put today there’s a bit more video content. Also, this is a cool campsite!
Okay – surprisingly, today I wake up before Joe. I think this may be the only day of the trip this happens. We stick true to our no alarm choice from the night before and we sleep until a little before 9. The boulder by our tent most definitely provides good wind protection, as when I had to get up in the middle of the night to relieve myself as soon as I step away from the tent the wind’s blowing in my face.
Today dawned partly cloudy, and the clouds are racing across the sky. Lots of drama in the heavens and on the lake, as the constant NW wind already has a trail of foam connecting Canada to our island. Further out in the lake there’s whitecaps.
Putting up the hammock yesterday was comical enough, and where I have it hung all it does is catch the wind and twirl around its suspension, effectively turning it into a baby hammock. It’ll be taken down & stored before breakfast is even started. Nobody’s going to hang in the breeze today.
The pattern we seem to be establishing on layover days is to have coffee as soon as the water is hot, often using the backpacking stove I brought to get that first pot of water going. Then a light breakfast of oatmeal or some of our other snacks, followed by exploring around/camp chores. By noontime we’ve developed enough of a hunger that our attention turns to making a proper breakfast. Today’s offering will be hash browns, chocolate chip pancakes, and bacon.
Camping hack #1 I have gained from this trip – I will never bring pancake syrup again. We actually forgot it for this trip, and originally were going to use the strawberry jelly that Joe brought for PB & J rollups. We also had a couple just add water muffin mixes along, thinking we may do some skillet cakes a few nights. Instead, we added one package of muffin mix to the pancake mix and used enough water to make it a runny-but-thick consistency. The end result is perfectly sweet pancakes that are slightly crispy on the edges and sides when fresh. They were AWESOME and like I said, the syrup stays home from now on. Syrup invariably gets on stuff by the end of the trip, no matter how careful you are & even if you keep the bottle in a bag. Once it starts to get sticky, its game over.
So, while Joe is making the hash browns I’m perfecting the tarp setup & fine-tuning it for the change of wind direction. This CCS tarp is doing a great job of deflecting the wind, and the reinforced pole pocket in the center lets us keep the fabric high enough away from the fire so the tarp is safe and there’s plenty of headroom for me to walk around without needing to duck. Had I brought my usual tarp, it is shaped sort of like a kite but with catenary curved sides… sort of like a sailboat sail. There’s no way we would have had the protection that we did with the Tundra Tarp.
Joe taps out on cook duties when it’s time for the pancakes. The downside of our awesome wind wall is that all of the smoke from the fire is basically blown directly in front of the grate and into the face & lungs of whomever is nearby. I’m still clearing my lungs 10 days later.
Pretty soon we set up for our brunch feast, and according to the timestamp we’re eating by about 10 after noon. We eat until we’re full and a new problem arises. There are 4 chocolate chip pancakes left! What to do??? Wrap them in tinfoil and save for later!
We clean up from breakfast and then head out down the southern shore of Three Island to where there’s less wind to contend with to try to fish. I get a little bit of interest on my lure, but pretty much its a bust. It’s still nice to get out of the wind for a little while and just soak in the warm sun.
Shadows are getting long, so we head back to camp. Lots of photos are taken of the sunset. This campsite is very good for sunset and sunrises, with all the various rocky outcrops all along the shore. I set up my camera to do a time lapse photo of the sunset while Joe & I discuss tomorrow’s travel plan. We’d like to get to the last campsite before the portage out of Lac La Croix to Pocket Creek, West of Fish Stake Narrows. Tomorrow will be decent weather and the day after is so/so, so we can get ourselves staged for moving on to interior lakes, or stick it out and then go out via Agnes. We have two portages before the open expanse of Lac La Croix, where you can go 25 miles from one end to the other.
Once the sun goes away the wind decides it has better things to do too and lets up. We’re treated to a couple hours of clear skies where we try our luck at night fishing, but the fish still don’t want what we’re offering. So we switch to some fun photos instead before wrapping up and hitting the sack. Still searching for that 9AM or earlier departure.
On Iron I suffered a gear failure – my Platypus water filter, which has been on multiple BWCA, Sylvania, Turtle Flambeau, and Philmont trips, had a stress crack develop on the seam of the bag near where the cap is located. Most likely its from flexing over the years. We attempt several versions of a patch with gorilla tape over the course of the trip and at best are able to get the failure to a slow drip.