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BWCA - September 2011

Page 4: Days 5-6
Gabbro Lake to North Kawishiwi River

Day 5 – Sunday, September 11 – Up the Kawishiwi River


I leave the Gabbro Lake site fairly early, but the wind is already up.

Approaching an island in the SW part of the lake, I hope to get some shelter by passing it downwind, only to find the passage blocked. It's a tough carryover.


The channel from Gabbro Lake to Little Gabbro Lake is a nice little mini-rapids that would be submerged in normal water. Again, I'm able to line through.


More smoke:


There are several campsites in the S-turn that comes after the 30-rod portage. Other campers' assessments of these sites indicate all of them are good ones. My chief criterion of a good campsite is whether it has a level tent pad; all else is secondary. Although they have nice views and kitchen areas, none of them meets this standard. One of them, site 14 (C1128), was given a 5-star rating by someone whose campsite evaluations are occasionally published in the Boundary Waters Journal. I'd give it 2 stars, only because of its grassy tent area, large enough for three or four tents, which is the site's best feature. There is a big pine tree that provides the only shade, as well as hundreds of little sap droplets that are - to make a gross understatement - a damn nuisance.

I carry two portages of 121 and 30 rods, then line and pole past the two 15-rod portages. Those are fun. You can't cheat the portage gods, but I come close today. At the end of the 121-rod portage out of Little Gabbro I meet two young couples who had entered at Farm Lake. They tell me the Clear Lake end of the 175-rod portage is hip- and waist-deep mud for the last 30 yards or so. I'm glad I decided earlier not to go that way.

Here's one of the two 15-rod portage bypasses:


Today is a tough day on two counts.  One has to do with paddling for seven hours to cover 11 miles, mostly into the NW wind, which blows up to 20 mph.  But this is nothing compared to the fire raging to the SE.  Later this week I learn that today's wind causes the fire to spread 16 miles.  Considering all the critters in its path, I can't help feeling very humble and grateful to be alive.

My target is one of the sites near the confluence of the North and South Kawishiwi Rivers, but all six sites in the area are occupied by people who entered at Lake One but could not go into the Numbered Lakes due to their closure from the fire. I head west, hoping one of the two sites before the 210-rod portage on the North Kawishiwi River is open.  While paddling I think about how to ask for tent space if they're occupied – or worse, where I might set up a spike camp. I find the second-last site open – site 9 (C1143) - coincidentally, the same site Steve and I stayed at on my birthday last year. On that trip we judged the site on Conchu Lake as unusable, so I feel very lucky to be here, although I learn later that the fellows at the last site would have gladly shared their space with me. I'm prepared to offer space to anyone needing it but no one comes by.


More smoke, viewed from this campsite:


I find this island particularly photogenic, more so with smoke and the moon:


Dinner is Hawk Vittles Linguini with Mushroom Sauce – 1,000 calories and every one of them needed – and a sip of Chambord for dessert.

The full moon shines into my tent, just like the last four nights.  It's a nice way to end the day.


Day 5 summary:
Total distance 10.9 miles in 6:45
2 portages of 151 rods in 1:15

Day 6 – Monday, September 12 – Kawishiwi River Layover


The next morning reveals the continuing fire:


A storm front is moving through, with rain likely this afternoon.  It’s windy – 10-20+ mph from the SW, then NW.  Somehow I manage to focus on some important tasks this morning:

Set up the tarp
Eat breakfast
Take down the tarp and reset it
Eat some of my lunch
Tweak the tarp
Fix the paddle I broke on Bald Eagle Lake with super glue and duct tape
Take a few pictures
Tweak the tarp (an ongoing task)

It doesn't rain, but ... what the hail? It also blows, and the addition on the side makes for a cozy little shelter.


I have a nice view of the storm passing by to the south and how it combines with the smoke in the background.


After the storm passes over I check out the photo ops. This little guy was quite a cooperative model.


Sit! Looks like my dog begging for treats.


It continues to blow all afternoon and evening. Some time after dark, around 8:30, I'm in the tent and I hear a tree break nearby. That gets my attention so I get out and look around, but it's dark and my headlamp reveals nothing.  It takes a while to settle down after that. Later I look out of the tent and notice a swath of deep red along the horizon to the SSE, farther west than the fire supposedly reached.  There's also some ash and a smoke smell in the air, despite the wind having been W-NW. I still don't know how extensive the fire is, but it's clearly a big deal.


Tomorrow: To Kawishiwi Lodge and Ely


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Last updated November 14, 2011
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