July 21, 2023
It’s go day! We wake up about 6 and it’s a clear sky morning. Our interpreter meets us at the cabin about 7 and we head out for breakfast. We also need to finish our outfitting so we can hit the water. We progress through outfitting fairly quickly and other than some issues getting the food to fit into the two food packs we’re making good time.
By about 10:45 we’ve finished all our outfitting and we’re ready to head down to the landing and get the boats loaded up. By now, there’s building clouds to the West but for the time being it’s safe to paddle.
We head out on Moose, following the shore mostly, but occasionally have to turn into the wake from passing tow and fishing boats. About 90 minutes into our paddle we hear the first rumbles of thunder, but they sound like they’re to our South. At first I’m the only one who hears it, but pretty soon everyone in my canoe confirms they hear it too. We stop paddling and let the other two canoes catch up.
By the time that happens the thunder is getting louder and is more to our West – we need to get off the water ASAP! It’s probably for the best, everyone is ready for lunch. We pull off the water about 10 minutes before the rain comes, and in the end the rain is less of an issue than the thunder was, but we still end up putting up the tarp for protection. Everyone enjoys a baloney sandwich or two, plus other sides.
After an hour the thunder has passed and we can get back on the water. We pass through Sucker Lake, and at one point we round a corner and see something swimming across the lake. Is it a beaver? No, not the right head shape. Based on what we could observe, we believe its a cow moose. That’s the first moose I’ve ever seen in the Boundary Waters! We slow our paddle and let the other boats catch up. We greet them with calls of ‘Guess what we saw?’ ‘A moose!’ Our interpreter is visibly bummed he missed it, but he’s in a canoe with two youth and they tend to be a few hundred yards or further back from us, the lead boat.
We come to Prairie Portage, where we opt to take the shorter portage on the Canadian side of the border. Thanks to the Webster-Ashburton treaty dating back to the 1850s, temporary entry into Canada or the US for Canadian citizens is allowed for the purpose of completing a portage along established trade routes. We’re on the border, and Prairie Portage sits directly on the historical fur trade route.
We complete the carry at Prairie Portage at about 3PM and we paddle across Inlet Bay on Basswood Lake. I think the other guys in my canoe are spellbound by the scenery as there’s lots of ‘oh wows’ and other quiet exclamations as we travel through canoe country. Unfortunately, nature isn’t done with us yet as more distant rumbles of thunder are heard and our guide tells us its time to find a campsite. We end up getting off the water a little after 4PM at the campsite across from Green Island.
It’s a challenge finding adequate pads for our group – We have a 4 man tent for the adults, a 4 man tent for the Scouts, a 2 man tent for our interpreter, and I need decently spaced trees for my hammock and fly. This campsite will do, but our interpreter and I are fairly close together, but they’re the only trees spaced far enough that don’t also have trees too close on the sides – I’m paranoid about my fancy rain fly getting poked or torn by branches.
Thankfully the rain is brief, again, and skies clear for a decent sunset and dinner. At one point, while heading to the latrine, I hear some nearby bird calls and end up spying a pair of grouse in the woods. They were just a few feet from the portage trail and mostly didn’t care about me. I’m reminded about stories I’ve read online about people doing fall “blast & cast” trips up here, where they’ll also hunt for grouse and I make a mental note about trying that sometime in the future. ‘How would I travel with a shotgun?’ is probably the biggest question I would need to solve.
Lakes paddled: Moose, Newfound, Sucker, Basswood
Mileage: 9.0 today, 9.0 miles total
Portages: 1, 1 total.
The day’s GPS track.