Friday, July 06, 2012
We’re up a little earlier. Pancakes, the rest of the hash browns, and bacon for breakfast. We get it taken care of at a moderate pace and before long we’re ready to head out. We’d wanted to get going about 9, and we end up on the water at 11:50 for our daytrip loop around some of the nearby lakes. We’re about halfway across our lake when Dan realizes he left his camelbak and walkie talkie back at camp. We keep going and they meet up with us on the other side of our first portage. Most of the loose stuff is lashed inside the canoe so the carry across is fairly easy. Our next portage is one of the longest ones we’ll encounter, just shy of 100 rods. As we’re waiting for the other canoes to cross the lake I find a little friend at the portage. He struggles to get away at first, then gives in to his fate of being held for a minute while getting his picture taken and then let go to continue on his way.
Gavin continues to carry the light, loose stuff while I take the canoe across. When we get to the other side I tell Gavin to go back across with me and help the others with their stuff. At first I’m met with some resistance, but once he understands that we’re all there to help each other he begins to understand and meets the other canoes that are about halfway across the portage at this point. The only other thing on the far side is the food pack, which Dan has in his canoe to help offset the lighter weight in the bow. Rick could benefit from the ballast too, since both of the other boys are pretty skinny. Gavin’s tall and solid for a 10 year old, measuring in at 5’1″ and 110lbs so it isn’t as necessary for me. I walk across the portage, take a couple pictures, and come back with the food pack.
We all clear the landing and we continue on. Its an overcast day with the winds coming out of the SE – we’re paddling into or across the wind for much of the day. It’ll be nice, later, when we’re headed back to camp and it’s on our backs…. Soon we’re at the next portage and Gavin doesn’t argue when I send him back across to help bring gear over. Dan does the ironman thing on this portage and carries both the canoe and the food pack across, so there’s nothing for me to get this time. A short paddle later and we’re at our next portage. I’m first across, followed pretty quickly by the boys. As we get to the opposite side, I set the canoe down and look down the shore to my left – there’s a doe no more than 30 yards away just standing there getting a drink. The boys all see the deer, but by the time I get my camera out its gone. I go back across again for the food pack. This is the other really long portage of our trip, just 1 rod shorter than the other long one. The food pack is light on my back, though, and I’m happy to carry it.
The landing here is wide and sandy, with a large tree fallen across the edge of the water. Had I known then, I probably would have recommended we stop for lunch there, or at least nearby.
Ah well, we all load back up and again before too long we’re at other side of the lake. Along the way we see a group of probably 10 girls line up along both sides of a royalex-looking canoe and carry it funeral-style up the hill into their campsite. It was a little amusing to see…. There were two campsites at that spot, so I’m sure they were within their ‘legal’ group size of 6 per site.
This portage landing is also nice and sandy, and the portage is maybe 15 rods. We’re across it in no time and then we start thinking about lunch. I don’t want to linger at the portages because of the rules & general etiquette, and I want to set a good example for the others in my group. So, we head out in search of a sandy-ish spot where we can hang out for lunch, the boys can swim, and hopefully we can catch a fish or two to eat. We wander along the northern shore of the lake for a while, every potential spot getting dismissed for one fatal flaw or another. Jeffries split from the rest of the group to go investigate a spot where a hiking trail meets the water while Pawlaks stay mostly by us. While we’re looking around we come across another family of loons, this time with two adults and two chicks. Again, they let us come in fairly close… Close enough to hear the chick’s calls. Dan gets video of them while I take a couple pictures.
One of the adults signals we’re too close for comfort by stretching & spreading his wings, so we continue on towards an empty looking campsite. We get to the site, Squirrel B, and it is indeed unoccupied. I contact Rick on the walkie talkie and they found the hiking trail but it was no good. We decide to stop where we’re at.
The boys splash around in the weedy landing while we get some food out and start eating. One by one the boys come up to nibble on what we have – trail mix, granola bars, string cheese, various dehydrated fruit & leather, and summer sausage with crackers. Pawlaks try their hand at fishing but don’t get anything, I briefly try but don’t care for my options… Its really weedy and thick brush all along the shore.
We spend nearly 2 hours at the site, and seeing what’s building in the North we decide to start packing up to finish our trip. Just as we’re getting the canoes loaded the wind shifts and starts to blow from the North. Great. We’re about to paddle through a series of thin channels and the wind’s going to be in our faces. We shove off and head into the first choke point. Almost immediately both the Pawlaks and Jeffries get spun around by the wind, almost as if they hit some kind of barrier. Gavin and I make it a little further before we, too, get spun around. We make it back to the relatively protected landing of the campsite while we weigh our options and gauge the wind. I can’t see Jeffries or Pawlaks any more as they got blown around the point from this campsite towards Squirrel A.
After about 10 minutes the wind lets up and we try again. We make it past where we got turned around and I look back to see the other canoes are following. The next half hour is spent mostly hugging protected shorelines or going straight into the wind. At one point we did get to pause and watch a bald eagle swoop in on a fishing run, only to be thwarted and circle back to his perch atop a tree. Jeffries and us push on while Pawlaks linger to get some video of the eagle. As we approach the exit of the channel into a larger, open, part of the lake, I can see the wind’s blowing pretty good again. Gavin & I make a push and get spun again by a gust. Same happens to the Jeffries. We take shelter near shore and contimplate our options again. I suggest to Rick that they may have better tracking if he paddles the canoe backwards from the front seat, as his weight will be slightly more centered and his son further towards the bow, but he’ll have to put up with the thwart under his knees. A very awkward ballet unfolds in front of us, as the moment Rick’s son got out of the canoe the bow shot up and Rick found himself nearly pinned under a tree. By this time, though, Pawlaks had caught up to us and with their assistance the Jeffries were successful in changing seats.
Ready to give it another shot, we head out and this time make it around the windy point. Without any prompting from me, Gavin gets off his seat and kneels in the bottom of the canoe but more importantly he does a really good job of paddling. About 20 minutes later we’re safely at the portage back to our lake. We stop and talk to a couple in a rowboat near the landing while we wait for the others to catch up. Reunited, we cross the portage and get back to camp about 7 hours after we had left.
Back at camp, they boys kept themselves amused while we went about getting dinner made. On the menu for tonight are some bear creek soups & pasta sides I brought. Dan starts on the chili while I begin to make the garlic & cream pasta side. As we’re getting going, we notice the sky of to the North is starting to look ominous. Dan suggests that I get all my stuff in one place in case we need to bug out to the tents due to storms. It was a good suggestion and I took his advice. Back to cooking, I just about got the pasta done when the first raindrops started to fall. One boy took refuge in the tent while everybody else hung out under the tarp. Pretty soon the ground was saturated and we had little rivers all around us. After maybe 30 minutes we decided to keep cooking since we had committed to these dishes. The soak had worked well for both the chili and garlic pasta, as all they required at this point were a warm up. Portions were dished out and everyone ate in relative quiet as the rain poured down. Gavin thought the chili was a little too spicy while I thought it was good & the Pawlaks agreed that next time they’d bring some tobasco along! =) We were originally also going to make a bear creek chicken pasta in the same dish as the garlic pasta, thinking the chicken would benefit from the garlic, but ultimately the weather forced our hand and instead we cleaned up and secured the campsite for the night. The scotch made several rounds around before it too was put away and we headed in to the tents. I tried to write in my journal for a while, but kept discovering I was napping mid sentance, so I too turned off the light and fell asleep to the sound of raindrops.
Miles paddled – 7.4. Lakes visited – High, Kerr, West Bear, East Bear, Mountain, Crooked, High