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Canoe Trips

Boundary Waters:

Boundary Waters Campsites

Bois Brule River

Flambeau River

Kickapoo and Mecan Rivers

Menonomee River

Sylvania Wilderness

Wisconsin's Flowages

Wolf and Peshtigo Rivers


Boats & Gear

Boundary Waters Gear List

Bell Wildfire (Royalex)

Blackhawk Ariel

Mad River Independence (sold)

Wenonah Prism (sold)
-cane seat installation
-thwart replacement

Custom portage pads

Seat-mounted portage yoke

Outside canoe shelter

Inside canoe storage



BWCA - September 2009

Page 3: Days 4-5


Day 4, Sept. 12: Lake Three to Lake Insula

Map (opens in a new window)

I wake up at 6:00 and look out to see that the air is dead calm with a light haze. I'm eager to get underway, knowing I have a long day ahead, so the Canon DSLR stays in its box.

This is the first time breaking camp on this trip. Experience tells me it takes a while so I've organized and packed as much as possible the night before. But one pair of hands makes slow work and I don't leave until 8:15. I vow to make it snappier in the future; we shall see about that. How long, really, should it take to put together such a simple kit?

Gear to load


Loaded up


Today's weather is incredible: partly sunny and warm with light and gentle breezes. More incredible is the fact that it's typical for this trip. High temps for the time I'm here are in the 70s, maybe 80, and lows are around 50.

I take pictures of portage landings from the boat, and for two reasons: as a visual record of what they look like, and to establish how much time it takes to do the portages as measured from approach to departure. Generally they aren't memorable, but this one, taken on the way to Lake Four, got my attention:

Portage to Lake Four


Shortly after the portage into Hudson Lake I pass the mouth of Wilder Creek and see nothing but lily pads. It looks passable - much like Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek - but I remember Frank's earlier comment, as well as what I've read about it being a long mud flat in low water. I happily float on by.

At 95 rods, the portage between Hudson and Insula Lakes is moderately long, but it's well-maintained. Except for the somewhat steep climbs up and down, it's actually one of the easier trails. At the Hudson Lake end I meet a three-person trail crew building steps like those shown below, which are at the Insula landing. Without their work I'm sure this portage would be much harder.

Portage to Hudson


I've been double carrying, but I break the load down into three trips for this portage. I find it's not only a lot easier, but I also get to walk more, and all the rest of the portages from this point are triple carries. (It's a good thing all the portages are dry; I'm sure I'd change my tune if they were boot-sucking mudholes.) Some say triple portaging takes a lot more time, but I don't think so. On one 40-rod portage the third carry takes an extra six minutes; and on the last portage - 140 rods - it takes another 20 minutes, measured from the moment I drop the second load to the moment I drop the third load.


There's a big island in the north part of Lake Insula that both of my maps show as being passable through a clear channel around the left side. Surprise! It's actually a 7-rod portage.

Portage in Lake Insula


I'm not the first critter to walk it. The print is 6-7 inches long.

Portage moose track


My goal is Williamson Island, which I'd heard has a very nice campsite. Here's the inviting scene as I paddle up to it.

Williamson Island panorama


Someone once said clouds are the Midwest's mountains. This is the "big sky" view from the campsite to the south.

Lake Insula


It was tough, putting up with those sunsets.

Lake Insula sunset


I stick my head out of the tent at about 10:30 to witness a stunningly clear and starry sky. I'm starting to get the hang of being here.

Today's statistics:

Distance 11 miles
Total time 7:15 including 1/2-hour lunch break
Paddling time 4:45 (4:15 net)
Portaging time 2:30

Four portages of 178 rods (the first three are double carries, the last two triples):
1. Lake Four, first portage: 20 rods, 30 minutes
2. Lake Four, second portage: 53 rods (not 25 as shown on maps), 30 minutes
3. Lake Four to Hudson Lake: 10 rods, 30 minutes
4. Lake Insula "surprise" portage: 7 rods
5. Hudson Lake to Lake Insula: 95 rods, one hour.

Tomorrow: Rest


Day 5, Sept. 13: Lake Insula

Finally, a really good night's sleep.

At 6:30 I peek out of the tent and clearly see the shoreline 1/2-mile away. Two hours later I peek again and it's completely shrouded in fog. I emerge from the tent around 9:00 into a Twilight Zone world where only this little rock I'm on exists, lit by a single bright area in the white sky. It's a strangely comforting feeling, with the only sounds a loon, the resident bullfrog, and the incessant swirling crickets in my head (tinnitus) that remind me I'm not dead yet. Then I hear a jet plane high overhead. Oh, well.

Spiders have been active during the night.

Web 1


Web 2


The sun finally burns through the fog.

Chair shadow


I explore the place and find the rock with the island's name carved into it, which is just north of the fire area (to the right in the second picture below). I've read that no one knows who Williamson was or what the significance of "Williamson Island" may be. A satisfying feeling of not-knowing overrides my usual desire to have the facts. What's knowledge, anyway, if it isn't informed by curiosity, a sense of mystery? Those letters are 4-6 inches high.

Williamson Island carved rock


The campsite is fairly compact. I'd rate it 3.5-4 on the basis of: only one level tent pad; just-OK access; great views; good fire area; easy to move around.

Williamson Island campsite


I finally figure out how to make a good bannock stove.

Bannock stove


The result is the best yet. The cloth isn't a napkin, but a wrapper that absorbs moisture the bread gives off. The bannock would get soggy in plastic.



A nice view to the east at sunset:

Insula pine


Evening light on the cedars makes them glow, even more than this picture shows.

Insula cedar


The sunset offers the usual awe and wonder, but I like this more subtle shot.

Insula sunset with pine


There is a one-boat group at the campsite to the north, at the narrows leading to the Kiana Lake portage. At dusk I spot someone paddling into the sunset.

Evening paddler on Lake Insula


Tomorrow: On to Ima Lake


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Last updated October 20, 2009
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