Tuesday, July 03, 2012
6:30 the alarm goes off and we awake to sunny skies. Our target is to be on the road by 9 & that includes a stop at the camp shower house before leaving. I get the rest of our stuff sorted into groups of stuff going on the trip or staying in the car, then finish packing up. I shake the rest of last night’s rain off the fly and strike the tent. Gavin & I manage to make it to flags at 7:50, then we head in to the dining hall where we have what will be Gavin’s last meal at camp as a Cub Scout. Next summer when he comes back he’ll be in Boy Scouts….
Breakfast isn’t much to talk about, just a kellogg’s ‘take away’ pack. We finish up, say bye to the staffers in the dining hall, and head back to our campsite. We finish packing up the little odds and ends into the car and I get another adult to help me put the canoe back in top of the car.
We stop at the shower house to get clean, then we’re stopping back at the dining hall one more time so I can get a cup of coffee for the road. We meet up with the Jeffries and Pawlaks at the main camp office. Bye Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan!
We hook up with WI-55 which after some twists and turns, plus a couple other roads, eventually lands us on US-45. Funny thing about 45, it passes almost in front of my house and it’s one of the main roads I take to work daily. We see lots of sights along the way. Shortly after leaving camp we pass by a house where a large tree got knocked down in last night’s storm. We stop in Eagle River to pick up eggs and a couple other odds and ends, then we’re back on the road. We stop again at Sunrise Lodge in Land o’Lakes where my folks are staying for the week with my wife, two other kids, my brother, sister in law, and their son. I had sent our frozen steaks along with the rest of the food pack up with them so it wouldn’t sit in the heat of the back of my car for half the week.
We stop for gas again at the BP & Subway on the WI/MI border and get some subs for lunch, then we’re back on the road. Once we get to the US-45 & US-2 intersection in Watersmeet, there’s a little confusion with the directions I got from Google. We pull off, get straightened out, and head West instead of East to the outfitter. We’re in and out fairly quickly, having paid for the two rental canoes and various lures and plastics and getting issued for PFDs & paddles. The next stop is the ranger station at the entrance to Sylvania. We chat with the ranger for a few minutes, get our permit, parking stickers, a couple maps, and watch the LNT video. 10 minutes later we’re pulling into the boat launch and unloading.
We unload quickly, but then take a good half hour to get the bags ready as Pawlaks didn’t have a portage pack & Jeffries’ pack is pretty full. I brought along my old food pack, a Granite Gear 3.5 that could possibly be as old as I am, just in case and am glad I did. Pawlaks get most of their stuff in there and the rest goes into the other packs. As we’re getting our stuff straightened out a group from a summer camp descends upon the landing and suddenly it’s clogged with canoes and other people’s gear. They’re polite enough, though, and when we ask them to make some room for us they happily oblige. We drop off the cars in the parking lot above the launch, and about 3:30 we’re on the water.
I’m happy we have only a short paddle and portage to get to the lake our campsite is on. Sylvania’s different from the BWCAW in several ways, but probably the most prominent is that most campsites are reserved. Thankfully for us that means no wondering if our site will be taken by somebody else. Crooked Lake is a nice little paddle, and before too long we’re looking for the portage. This is Gavin’s first time on a canoe trip, actually I’m the only ‘veteran’ present although Pawlaks and Jeffries all have backpacking & camping experience. After some coaching we spot what is most likely the portage and its about where I assumed it’d be. We all unload and I tell Gavin to take a load to the other side. He reappears a minute later saying, ‘I don’t know where the trail is!’ I take a moment and point out the path & note how to the unexperienced eye it could be easily missed. I think for our first portage we did a triple, with all the gear we have along. Because we’re base camping I opted to bring the folding camp chairs, not knowing what the campsite would be like.
Our campsite is on High Lake, which is a smaller sized lake with one large and one small island and two campsites. The water is also sapphire colored and exceptionally clear. Many times during the week Gavin or I will comment upon how clear the water is & how we can see stuff on the bottom a good 20-30 feet down. Both campsites are on the western shore and ours is the 2nd site. Another difference between Sylvania & the BWCAW is that campsites are clearly marked with a post containing the site’s name. Our home for the next several days is the Bobcat site.
We find the site and soon have all the canoes unloaded and are exploring the area around the campsite. The latrine is located, up the hill from the campsite but with an obstructed view (thankfully!).
There’s a lot of old growth maple and other deciduous trees mixed with pine, cedar, and furs. The forest floor away from the main campsite area is littered with several year old maple seedlings.
Tents get pitched, gear unloaded, and soon its time for dinner – steaks and mashed potatoes. It all goes over really well with everybody. After dinner the boys & Stanley want to go fishing so we get poles set up.
Before long, though, the dusk mosquitos descend and chases the boys from the waterfront back up to camp where the smoke’s keeping them mostly away.
This last week has been very warm and muggy. It’ll feel nice to take a swim tomorrow. The weather radio’s calling for clear skies and lows around 70 tonight with highs tomorrow in the 90s. ‘Low hundreds across southern Minnesota and southern Wisconsin’ has me wondering how my garden’s faring. My neighbor’s supposed to be watering it & I hope its in good hands.
1.6 miles paddled. Lakes traveled: Crooked & High.