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Boundary Waters Gear List

Bell Wildfire (Royalex)

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-cane seat installation
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BWCA - September 2009

Page 4: Days 6-7


Day 6, Sept. 14: Lake Insula to Ima Lake

Map (opens in a new window)

The big challenge for today is the Insula to Kiana portage. Or is it the six portages that follow on the path to Ima Lake?

Getting up this morning at 6:00, I enter a world of pea-soup fog that begs for a few pictures.

Insula fog 1


Insula fog 2


Before leaving the campsite I remember to get a shot of the single clam, the one separated from its fellows, the Odd Man Out.

Odd man out


Despite having packed up as much as possible last night, I leave Williamson Island at 8:20. Heading out into zero visibility, I follow a compass heading for the narrows to the north and find it with no trouble. The fog burns off before I reach The Big Portage.

Lake Insula reflection


The portage from Insula to Kiana is long - my GPS measures it at 168 rods, or just over 1/2 mile - but not terribly difficult. Five trips (three loaded and two return trips) take me just about 1:40. With temps in the low 60s I don't overheat, and when it's done I still feel fresh. That's a good thing because I have six more portages to go.

Somewhere on Thomas it occurs to me to document how well my new thwart works. The pack tucks under it quite nicely, making trim adjustments a snap. It really earns its keep this afternoon on Ima Lake.

New thwart in use

The difference is apparent when compared to last spring's trip:

Old thwart

I stop for lunch at a campsite on Thomas Lake that reminds me of a moonscape, not having even one near-level spot for a tent. It's located just south of the portage in the NW corner.

The second portage out of Thomas brings me to Hatchet Creek. On the trail I see what looks like a primitively gift-wrapped object. Are those ridges animal sinews or mineral deposits?

"Wrapped" rock


Shortly after this portage, the creek narrows and then makes a sharp right-hand turn. Daniel Pauly's book Exploring the Boundary Waters says there's a 15-rod portage here, but I'm able to line the canoe through the rocks, in one spot lifting a gunwale to help it get by, and then clambering over the big rock on the right.

River to line through


My Voyageur map shows a 28-rod portage after the river turns right, but it never appears. I'm delighted to get an 18% discount (one portage out of six, never mind the little 7-rod surprise in Lake Insula a few days ago). I don't suppose this sort of thing happens very often. Now I have clear paddling to the final portage, 50 rods into Ima Lake.

After loading up at Ima I see waves and some little whitecaps, which my sailing experience tells me indicates a 15-17 mph wind. It's out of the NNW, which of course makes it a dead-on headwind. No problem. I push the pack a little farther under the thwart and make the 3/4-mile crossing in about 15 minutes, an average of 3 mph and not much slower than on calm water. About halfway across I pause for a moment to determine whether I'm really passing a tandem with two adults and one child paddling in the same direction. I've been focusing on good technique and it pays off. But it's hard to get back up to speed and I don't pause again until I reach the sheltered north shore.

I head for another campsite I've heard is a good one, on an irregular peninsula at the east side of the bay in the NW corner of Ima. It isn't the most appealing place but it works. The accesses on both sides look easy enough but they're blocked by enough rocks to make them very tricky; the many multi-colored splotches I see is proof enough. I manage to unload without leaving more than a tiny red spot. The peninsula is full of blown-down trees, mostly pointing south; the one next to the fire area pictured below is one of the few pointing north. Like the other sites I've stayed at, this has one level pad which is just barely big enough for my little two-man hexagonal tent. The view is nothing to crow about and the site is all dirt, rocks and roots. I'd rate it 2.5-3 at best.

Ima Lake campsite 1


Ima Lake campsite 2


There's a campsite on a point just east of where I am that looks nice from a distance, with a flat sloping rock for access and fairly open woods. I was tempted to stop there on the way. In the future I'll listen to such urgings.

Of the many loons I see and hear - and try to photograph - this one is the most cooperative.

Ima Lake loon


The west-side access may be choked with rocks, but it works at sunset.

Ima Lake sunset


Today's statistics:

Distance 9 miles
Total time 7:45 including 1/2-hour lunch break
Paddling time 4:00 (3:30 net)
Portaging time 3:45

Six portages of 298 rods (all triple carries):
1. Lake Insula to Kiana Lake: 168 rods, 1:45
2. Kiana Lake to Thomas Lake: 35 rods (not 25 as shown on maps), 25 minutes
3. Thomas Lake, first portage (into the pond): 10 rods, 25 minutes - including a nice chat with another solo paddler going the other way
4. Thomas Lake, second portage (out of the pond and into Hatchet Creek): 10 rods, 20 minutes
5. Hatchet Creek, 25 rods (not 20 as shown on maps), 15 minutes
6. Hatchet Creek (Lake?) to Ima Lake: 50 rods, 35 minutes.

Tomorrow: Rest


Day 7, Sept. 15: Ima Lake

I wake up this morning around 6:30. A thick fog and no agenda put me back to sleep for another two hours. When I finally get up I feel well rested. It's another beautiful day. I watch, read, nap, make bannock, eat, take some pictures, and generally enjoy the peacefulness.

Ima rock


Throughout the day I take a couple dozen pictures of the only rose still blooming, trying to capture the petals' subtle lavender. Only two come out, the second being the more realistic.

Rose 1


Rose 2


I am utterly delighted with today's blueberry bannock. It plays well on both Side A

Blueberry bannock side A


and Side B.

Blueberry bannock side B


The orange-cranberry marmalade was worth lugging around. The book is Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, the story of her childhood in south-central Africa during the turbulent 1970s and '80s. Highly recommended. The little pot holds 1.3 quarts and I use it for both cooking and eating. Its lid holds a pint and is both a measuring cup (it has markings on the inside) and a bowl for chocolate pudding.

Bannock with marmalade


Around 5:00 the wind shifts from a light easterly to 10-20 mph from the south, and at dusk a thick grey cloud bank rolls in. There's no rain in the forecast but I batten the hatches anyway. Just before dark I see a small orange glow from the campsite on an island across the lake. I'm touched to think of the warmth around that fire. I enjoy solitude, but I also appreciate companionship. I wish them well and turn in.


A few notes on wildlife:

In addition to the ubiquitous loons, I see red squirrels, chipmunks, dragonflies, various winged and crawling bugs (very few of them mosquitoes), a moose print, two otters, several eagles, geese, gulls, a merganser family practicing synchronized diving (or fire drills), a Solitary Sandpiper, and what was most likely a grey jay (too big to be a shrike).

Yesterday at around 6:00 p.m. I saw the same behavior as I noted at Lac La Croix last August. One loon swims about, not diving but paddling slowly to and fro and looking around. It eventually spots another loon farther out in the lake and makes its way over. For several minutes the two birds swim around each other, dipping their heads under water but not diving. Perhaps a friendship ritual?


Tomorrow: Disappointment Lake


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Last updated October 20, 2009
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