BWCA 2023 Day 5

July 24, 2023

Had one of my worst nights in the hammock last night. It wasn’t “thundering migraine followed by puking” bad, but close. I was coughing so much it kept waking me up. I must have only slept a few hours and spent the rest of the time hacking up a lung. Ugh. This is my second time being sick on trail, the last time was when I took Evan and Devin on a loop around Seagull and Sag. 

I’m one of the first ones up again today, thanks partly to my illness, and I wonder how I’m going to get through traveling today as I feel like junk. I let the other adults and our interpreter know about it, and Thomas tells me to keep him in the loop as we get closer to the end of the trip in case we have to do a “sick arrival” back on base. I dig through the first aid kit for some day quil, something I’d never pack except it was on the required list for Tier, and down a pair of capsules. I kinda hope we’re going to stay put today, that’d be swell for my condition, but the crew has other plans.

After breakfast we pack up and head out. For the first time ever, I think, I give up the stern position and sit in the duffer seat so I can rest. The gps reflects this as instead of a straight-ish line there’s a marked wiggle in our track. That’s ok though, as we’re basically staying with the rest of the boats in our group. Our first leg is a scant mile-and-a-half from the island across Basswood to the Horse portage, which is a one mile one way walk which bypasses Upper Basswood Falls as well as some rapids and is a straight line versus the curl northwards that the river takes along the border. We hope to find the first campsite on the portage, which is rumored to be a nice site and only 100+ yards down the trail, unoccupied. We get to the campsite to find it empty, yay! By this time the dayquil has kicked in and I’m feeling better. We drop canoes at the spur trail to the campsite and drop packs in camp. 

The plan is to set up camp quickly, hang extra food, then daytrip to the pictographs past Lower Basswood Falls. I find a decent spot for my hammock and get it set up quickly. I debate whether or not to use the rain fly, but since we’re going to be out of camp for several hours I decide its in my best interest to set it up, too. After about an hour of in-camp time we’re back on the portage trail with daypacks and a single portage pack containing lunch and some snacks. The rest of the Horse Portage is every bit of a mile, and occasionally there are side trails to other campsites or water access places. I take a wrong turn once down to a landing, but it wasn’t the end of the portage.

Once we get to the proper end of the portage and get loaded back up, I’m back in the stern and it’s a couple miles on the water to the Wheelbarrow Portage. Thomas is rather proud of this portage, as the majority of the summer he’s been doing OA Wilderness Voyages and his work crews have been doing improvements on this trail. In fact, we run into a crew with a foreman that Thomas knows, and they’re working on the portage as we pass through. The portage is not long, but it’s obvious that it needs the kind of attention it is receiving from the work crews – there are mud holes in places and the footing isn’t always the greatest. I expect that some day if I travel through here again I will find a vastly improved portage trail.

It’s about a mile on the water until we encounter Lower Basswood Falls. It is a 20′ drop down to the Basswood River with a massive of rock cleaving the falls into two sides and the water is thundering over the precipice. We cross the portage fairly quickly since we have such a light load, and once we’re across we occupy an island to get a bite of lunch. After lunch, we get back on our way towards the pictographs which are about a mile further down the river from our location. 

We spend a half hour at the pictographs and Thomas explains what he knows about them. Apparently these were made after voyageurs started coming to the area, as one of the drawings of a canoe has a flag on the end which is indicative of a brigade from the Hudson Bay or North West Company. It’s a lovely sunny day, and we all soak up the sun while looking at the paintings. Before long, however, its time to head back to camp. We don’t know it at the time, but today will be our longest mileage day.

We make it back to the Horse Portage by about 4PM and are in camp by 4:30. One thing about this portage is it is blanketed with blueberries in places! While other people may be looking mostly at the ground to watch their step, my head is on a swivel looking for wild edibles. The berries taste so good up here and they’re EVERYWHERE wherever its clear and the sun can reach the ground. This was one aspect of a July trip that I was looking forward to, and the wilderness did not disappoint. Back at camp there are more blueberries and serviceberries scattered around, and my hammock is right next to one of the larger blueberry patches. While the Scouts set about getting ready to swim or fish I’m all about foraging for some food!

After I get my snack, I hop in to the pool next to our campsite and float around for a bit. The water feels refreshing, and the current produced by the waterfall which is immediately upstream from us causes me to float around in a circle of sorts. It’s actually a little hard to break out of the hydraulic that is pulling me closer to the falls, but eventually I get back to camp and out of the water.

This is a campsite I wish we could have spent more time at. Other than being along a portage trail (the trail to the latrine crosses the portage) it’s pretty nice. I don’t recall if I fished here or not, but I do know that one of the Scouts hooked up with a walleye in the pool but it was too small so we let it go. Dinner this evening was some kind of pasta dish which included bacon bits.

Lakes paddled: Basswood, Basswood River
Miles paddled: 14.3 today, 36.2 total
Portages: 5 today, 6 total

The day’s GPS track:









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