A Canadian wilderness river, right in our backyard.

This September Kate and I paddled the Weikwabinonaw River, in Ontario.  The Weikwabinonaw has intrigued me for years, due mostly to its closeness, but I had never been able to find any good information about it.  Since we did not have time this spring for our usual Canadian river trip, we thought we would take the short drive to the Northern Light lake area and give the Weikwabinonaw a try.

The river wildly exceeded my expectations.  The river itself was very scenic, with beautiful rapids and rocks.  Portages were in good shape, rougher than most BWCA/Quetico Portages, but much better than many farther north portages we have done.

In the last few years I have come to believe that that the best way to enjoy a trip is to do enough planning to make sure the trip is safe and feasible, and not much more.  Why spend your time looking at someone else’s photos of the campsites and scenery of your route, when you can discover it for yourself?   To me a large part of the appeal of wilderness tripping is the sense of exploration and discovery.  When you reach a remote enough area, while you certainly aren’t the first person to travel that route,  you can see it through that first traveler’s eyes.  Knowing what is around every bend makes that feeling nearly impossible.

Although this trip was fairly short and through an area that is fairly easy to access, it served as an affirmation of the above ideas.  The river was totally different than I had imagined, and the landscape offered many surprises each day.  The route was easily doable in the four days we had.  We must thank Robert at Red Pine Outfitters for his advice, hospitality, and for facilitation our car shuttle.

Starting out on Weikwabinonaw. It was a classic shield country lake filled with rocky points.

Starting out on Weikwabinonaw Lake. It was a classic shield country lake, filled with rocky points.

Looking up river, towards Jacob Lake.

Looking up river, towards Jacob Lake.

Start of the Weikwabinonaw River

Start of the Weikwabinonaw River

Kate, preparing to portage in a heavenly glow

Kate, preparing to portage in a heavenly glow

Lunch stop on our first day.

Lunch stop on our first day.

Checking out the area around our camp on Koss Lake.

Checking out the area around our camp on Koss Lake.

Cooking fire at our Koss lake site

Cooking fire at our Koss lake site

Day 2 started in a heavy fog.

Day 2 started in a heavy fog.

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The Start of a long rapids. With spring or even early summer water levels it would have been a fun and straight forward run.

The start of a long rapids. With spring or even early summer water levels it would have been a fun and straight-forward run.

It rained on and off for our second morning.

It rained on and off for our second morning.

A rough road crossed the river at a large rapids. There was a nice established campsite on the portage.

A rough road crossed the river at a large rapids. There was a nice established campsite on the portage.

Looking at another larger set of rapids.

Looking at another larger set of rapids.

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Kate, waiting patiently for me to be done looking at the large set of rapids.

Kate, waiting patiently for me to be done looking at the large set of rapids.

We found a very scenic site on a small lake that the river passed through. after determining that we would stop for the day, Kate paddled the canoe around to a better landing spot.

We found a very scenic site on a small lake that the river passed through. After determining that we would stop for the day, Kate paddled the canoe around to a better landing spot.

Even at the

Even at the “better landing”, the site was still difficult to access from the water.

The evening view from our site

The evening view from our site

Saying goodbye to our site in the morning

Saying goodbye to our site in the morning

The last stretch of river was very scenic, with high rock faces and fast water,

The last stretch of river was very scenic, with high rock faces and fast water.

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popping out into Northern Light Lake. We fought a strong wind for the rest of the day.

Popping out into Northern Light Lake. We fought a strong wind for the rest of the day.

Lunch on Northern Light. We later found a serviceable campsite within a couple hour paddle of our take out point.

Lunch on Northern Light. We later found a serviceable campsite within a couple hour paddle of our take-out point.

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A First BWCA Solo Trip

This was a premeditated spontaneous trip, meaning I had been wanting to do this all summer but on Monday I made up my mind to do it and began planning in earnest. I left the Bearskin staff dock at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2015.  It was cool and a little overcast but it was predicted to be clear and warm by the afternoon, so I was optimistic.  I was full of nervous energy, excitement, and some trepidation.

This wasn’t my first solo trip.  I have car-camped plenty of times by myself, took a two-month bike and train trip last year, and have done a lot of hiking solo — but this was my first solo trip into the Boundary Waters.  I was still unsure of how to pack the solo canoe and portage solo, but like most of my adventures I figured I’d figure it out sooner or later.

I had planned on going to Crystal Lake, but being unsure of how long it would take to paddle and portage my backup plan was going to be Canoe Lake.  When I arrived at the first portage, from East Bearskin to Alder, I was quite the pathetic-looking site but I did manage to get all my gear and the canoe over in one go.

On the paddle across Alder I worked on how to better carry my gear without looking like a complete beginner.  The portage from Alder to Canoe went much more smoothly. I had an extra bungee cord so I attached the paddle across the braces and the seat, leaving my hands free. I actually looked like I knew what I was doing.

Canoe is pretty small with lots of beaver activity, but no sightings of the wily beasts.  The portage to Crystal was longer than the others and a little steeper, but all-in-all not bad.  I made it to the first campsite in Crystal by 4:30 and immediately set up camp before I went looking for some more wood. After a short scout for wood (someone had graciously left a nice little stack of pine), I headed back to camp.  I knew night would sneak up on me so I set about getting dinner ready and the fire started.  Good thing I started early, it took a while to get it into a full-fledged fire.  I did it and even cooked dinner over it.

(One of several beaver lodges on Canoe.)

As twilight approached the two loons that were close by in the lake made a different call than I had heard before and as it faded away, I looked up at the sound of wing beats.  I witnessed a young eagle fly above the treetops and at the spot where the loons were the eagle turned and flew over them, but they had spotted him/her and dove beneath the water.  Definitely gave me chill bumps. The night was warm and the stars were brilliant, so I stayed up for a little bit trying to pick out the constellations.  The call of the loons is an eerie and beautiful thing in the day, but it seems to take on a mystical quality at night.

The next morning was beautiful and warm.  I sat on the slick rock out by the lake where the sun had managed to touch the shore and made coffee, wrote in my journal, and read. I closed my eyes and could hear the squawk of the jays, the screech of the squirrels, and the slight hum of a few sparrows in the pines behind me.  After a second cup of coffee, I packed up camp and headed back to Canoe Lake where I was going to hike the portage to Johnson Falls.

The Falls were stunning. Not going to lie, I thought they’d just be some small little cascades of water but I was pleased to find some nice size falls.  Hung around for a bit and then headed back and home to East Bearskin.

(Crystal Lake as I drank my coffee in the AM.)

(The first set of falls at Johnson Falls.)

I would say it was certainly one of my most memorable trips thanks to the sunshine, easy paddling, and empowerment of learning a new skill.  I can’t wait to go again!

— Tammi

Ladies’ Trip

Tammi and I met this summer and quickly became close friends. Tammi has traveled and lived in many places and although she is a native Midwesterner, this summer is Tammi’s first time in the BWCA.

We decided it would be a fun adventure to take a BWCA trip together. It would be my first “only-female” trip and I was excited to see what it be like compared to the trips I have taken with mixed-gender groups. We only had two days off from work, so we decided on a short overnight paddle on Seagull Lake.

Seagull is a big, beautiful lake with a ton of cool islands and a few lakes to portage to. On the day of our trip we woke up to rain, mixed with fog and a chilly breeze. In fact it was rainy and cold for almost our entire trip. We knew we would have to be creative and stay positive to make this a fun experience.

Due to the rain and wind, Seagull’s waters were choppy and a bit unpredictable. We found a campsite on an island with great trees that created a wind barrier. After setting up camp we spent the day paddling and exploring different islands. We then portaged over to a small lake called Rog Lake with one campsite on it. Tammi was having a blast getting out of the canoe and exploring random places and I had a blast attempting to leave her behind.

Ladies trip 1Ladies Trip 2Ladies Trip 3

After being cold and wet for most the day, we headed back to camp, ready to spend the evening warm and dry. We decided to forgo attempting to build a fire due to Tammi’s brilliant idea to make a fort out of our tents and some tarps.

Ladies Trip 4

It was a fun process deciding how to set up this amazing fortress, and made us feel like kids again.  It allowed us to spend the evening warm and dry in our tents, hanging out and cooking.

The next morning it was still raining, but we were determined to start a fire. It took quite a while to cut the wood, make kindling and tinder, and peel lots of birch bark in order to get our fire started. We spent another hour or so babysitting the fire before we decided it was too much work to keep it going. We decided to pack up camp and make our way home through the moody waters of Seagull. We ended our trip with a warm sauna and reflecting on our adventure.

Overall, I realize there was a different energy about our experience than other trips I have been on. We communicated about every part of our adventure, made decisions together, explored, shared stories, laughed and kept each other in positive spaces. Tammi commented that she thought it would not have been as fun if it has been warm and sunny. Something about having to endure the rain and cold, being creative and depending on each other was a truly connecting and unforgettable experience.  I can’t wait for our next ladies’ trip.

— Lindsey

Ladies Trip 5

The Grandpa Roy Loop

The Grandpa Roy loop

The Grandpa Roy loop

Last week Kate and I paddled one of our favorite day trips, the Grandpa Roy loop.  The loop starts and ends at Trails’ End Campground, and takes you through Saganaga, Roy, Grandpa and Seagull Lakes.  It is a very scenic route, with two small remote lakes sandwiched between two huge island filled lakes.  The route sticks out to me because of how pleasant and beautiful the two portages from Roy to Grandpa and Grandpa the Seagull are. Walking them is one of the most enjoyable parts of the loop.

— Quinn

Entering the BWCA

Entering the BWCA

Roy lake from the portage

Roy lake from the portage

Strolling along the portage from Roy to Grandpa

Strolling along the portage from Roy to Grandpa