Day 6: Hoist the Sail Mate
To get an early start we woke up at 4:30AM. We knew we had a long day ahead of us. We headed north and took a 32 rod portage by Little Falls then a 56 rod portage past Koko Falls and a 48 rod portage at Canyon Falls. Onto Kenny Lake. About one mile later we made a 4-rod portage around Kennehas Falls entering the straights to Atkins Bay. Here we spotted another bald eagle. We enjoyed some beef jerky and continued onto Atkins Bay.
We were headed East and had a strong wind coming from the East to the West. We decided to line the three canoes together side by side with the duffers holding them at the yoke and rear thwart. The Bows man held up the longest paddles with the dinning fly strong across them like a sail. The tie down cord was handed to the two duffers in the outside canoes to make sail adjustments and hold it steady. The sterns man utilized the remaining paddles to rudder the craft. We were sailing in no time getting speeds of up to five miles an hour. It was fun, easy and a welcome break from the daily paddling. We were fortunate to keep the wind long enough to cover approximately five miles where we lowered sail to search out our first pictograph on Kawnipi Lake.
We found the first pictograph on South-facing rocks just east of the entrance to Kawa Bay. It contained one drawing on a tan panel rock, immediately below a distinct diagonal fissure. The drawing was of three Maymaygwayshi in a canoe. The canoe is drawn so that it runs left to right, but the figures sitting in the canoe are facing the viewer. That is they are sitting sideways in the canoe and looking at you over the gunwales. Each figure has a large rabbit like ears, horns, or two feathers in their hair. Their arms are bent with elbows out, so that their hands are on their hips.
After observing the magic of the rocks we paddled a short distance to a small island just east. Here we secured our canoes and enjoyed lunch. There were many fresh blueberries on the island, which we picked and ate. We then resumed our travels heading south-southwest into McVicar Bay. We needed to travel another 4 miles before our next portage. The wind was strong, the water choppy and we found it very difficult to get a good pace. We tried to sail but the wind was more of a side wind and made it not possible without a different mast system and riggings. Thus we just paddled on. McVicar Bay is approximately ¼ to ½ mile wide with many peninsulas and smaller bays on both sides. For a short while we lost track of our exact position on the charts and we entered a bay to search out our portage. It was nowhere to be found. Tyler was certain that we needed to continue south to the next small bay but Maeve thought that we may have passed our portage. We all huddled and let the scouts decide our course of action. They agreed with Tyler and we continued south.
Within a half hour we found our portage, you could see the pride on Tyler’s face as we all approached the shore to start the portage. All at once the scouts started to scurry about in excitement. They were all squatting to the ground at the foot of the portage laughing and joking. I wondered what could cause such commotion and then they started to pick up little frogs. Now when I say little, I mean smaller than any frog I had ever seen. These frogs were about 1/8 inch long and there were virtually thousands of them. They were everywhere. It was impossible to walk without stepping on little frogs. The boys attempted to clear the path but eventually gave up because it was an impossible task.
We made our 20-rod portage to a small pond and quickly came to a 36-rod portage to Anubis Lake. By now my I wondered if my shoulders could handle another portage. I was feeling the pain from the canoe even when I did not have a canoe on my shoulders. This was a lingering pain that not only was felt in my shoulder blades but also on the base of my neck on my back. Unfortunately at the south end of Anubis we encountered a 64-rod portage.
It was obvious that the terrain was almost impassable, extremely narrow, filled with jagged rocks, requiring tall step-ups over huge rocks, bending below tree branches and keeping the bow from getting caught in the brush. I assisted everyone get their load on their backs and as it happened I turned out to be the last to get loaded up and begin the portage. No one was in site and shortly no one was in range of my voice. I came across one of those long and wide smooth slipper rocks that were at a 50-degree incline. I slipped a couple of times and fell once. With the weight of the pack on my back and the canoe on my shoulders I found it very difficult to get back up on my feet. I was alone, no help in sight and I kept repeating to myself “In time this too shall pass”. I managed to get up and continue up the steep trail and came to a bolder in the path that was three feet tall. The only way to move forward was to step up over the boulder in one large step. It took all I had to stretch my leg up enough to get my right foot planted on the top of the rock, but I was lacking the strength in my legs to propel my weighted down body up. I tried and tried and fell. I was lying on my side pinned down by the pack and canoe. I was frustrated, discouraged and feeling quite alone. It took me a couple minutes before I could regain my footing and get back up on my feet. Again I tried to climb the rock and finally made it. I continue onward continuing to repeat “In time this too shall pass”. Then I came to a small gorge where the trail required me to cross a small stream while balancing on a slippery log. I was certain that I was going to kiss the ground again when all of a sudden Tyler and Travis appeared. They had made it to the other end of the portage, dropped their load and came back to assist others. They were a very welcome sight to my eyes. They took the canoe off my shoulders in a two-man carry allowing me to complete this portage with only the pack on my back.
Bird Lake (Map F-18) is about 1 mile north to south and ¾ mile east to west. It is shaped like an odd shaped horseshoe with an island at the southwest section of the lake. Just west to the southern portion of the island is a small marsh area that meets up to a much smaller island. Just west of that is a 60-rod portage to Agnes Lake. Of the three canoes I was in the back canoe as we headed across Bird Lake in search of our portage. As we approached the marsh between the two islands one could observe tall marsh foliage in very shallow water. Above the tall weeds I saw something rather large moving west. I stood and could see three moose feeding. I did everything I could to get the attention of the other crewmembers in the canoes in front of me. They were now on the west of the small island and out of view of the marsh. I did not want to startle the moose so I found it quite difficult to get the attention of those in the other canoes who were having a conversation rather loud. I knew that if they cleared the island and were still engaged in conversation the moose would quickly seek cover.
Finally I got their attention and they all became instantly silent. They carefully turned there vessels east as they clearer the island toward the moose rather than west toward the portage. Joe V took several photos while Tyler was attempting to get an unobstructed view. By the time we cleared the island only two moose, a cow and her calf, were in view. They were making their way back to the cover on the large island. I did not have time to get my camera out. Once they were out of view we changed course and went to our portage.
This was a rather long portage and would be the last for the day. It was long and difficult. By this time I had observed that Joey Z was always one of the first to make a portage and he would always drop his load at the other end and run back to assist others. He had turned out to be quite the trooper. I was very proud of him.
Once onto Agness River we quickly came upon an uncharted portage to Agnes Lake. Unfortunately this turned out to be a 100-rod portage. We all made the trek and eventually reloaded the canoes.
We headed south for a couple miles in search of two uncharted camp locations that others had provided to Maeve. We traveled a couple miles and found the remote island just North of a larger island. On the Northeast corner a camper had taken one of the uncharted camps. We had made prior arrangements with Charlie crew that we would attempt to meet up at this camp and we were hopeful that they had beaten us to camp. As my canoe got closer I called out to the camp and discovered that the camper was not from Charlie crew. Instead it was a solo canoeist named Lisa. Lisa is a Middle School Principal from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She frequents the boundary waters and Quetico often. This was her third time doing it solo. She indicated that she had planned to be on the lakes for a 23 day sabbatical. She did tell us that the other uncharted campsite on the opposite side of the island was vacant and welcomed us. We paddled around the island and unloaded our gear. We would take the next day off and spend two nights at this location in an attempt to refresh our selves and hopefully meet up with Charlie Crew.
Once on the island we noticed an abundance of fresh wild blue berries. Maeve indicated that if the scouts picked a couple cups she would make a blueberry pie for dessert. This was all it took to get Joey scrambling for the berries immediately after setting up camp. After about a half hour or so the other scouts joined in to assist him go from location to location in search of ripe berries. They all stopped when it was time for dinner.
Everyone was very worn out from the long day. We built a small campfire, rested, swam, enjoyed a chocolate brownie Maeve made and eventually went to bed.