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!