This is part two in my Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely, Minnesota series.
I recently found this blogger. His goal and adventures to paddle at least one paddle in each of the 50 states is an impressive goal. His wrap up at the end of each of adventures is very informative. Environmentally progressive. A thrill to read.
(State #34/50) Shane and I laid in the tent at 7 a.m., trying to sleep through the passing roar of eighteen-wheelers — turns out the country road we had pitched by wasn’t as lonely as I had hoped. We heard the sound of a vehicle pulling off the highway and crunch of gravel as the wheels drew near. “Ah-ohh,” said Shane. The engine cut, a car door opened and a voice called out in that distinct Minnesotan accent, “Sheriff’s Deputy here, step out of the tent please.” Perfect, I thought.
Unzipping the tent, we emerged to a cloudy morning and a man in uniform. After we learned we couldn’t camp there, the officer asked what my Texas plates were doing all the way up in Minnesota. I explained. “All fifty? Well, oh boy, gee, what-a deal.” said the officer, if only in my imagination. But, Captain Hoppe…
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How could I resist a book with a title of Portage and a vintage canoe drawing on the cover? I picked up this book at the Gooseberry Falls State Park nature store after our September BWCAW trip. Still on the paddling high, I was sucked in by the cover and the title. Plus, I was ready to load up on winter reading material for those long dark rainy days in The Netherlands.
Problem is, that once I opened this book, I was hooked. I couldn’t set it down until I finished it. This book was finished before I got on the plane out of Minnesota!
Sue Leaf retells her family canoe adventures in this wonderfully written book. Each chapter covers a different paddle experience and are varied in location and type.
I felt like I was personally along for the ride as Sue told of her family paddling along the rivers and lakes of the upper Midwest and Canada. I felt the fear and excitement as they travelled down the Kettle River in Minnesota. I could almost hear the birds she describes along the many canoe routes her family travelled.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in canoeing or just enjoys cuddling on the couch on cool days to read. Sue Leaf has artfully married the connection of canoe, nature, family and relationships into a wonderful rewarding reading experience.
I am a wimp! Yes, I drag my kayak as a 50+ woman in and out of the water. Throwing it on the roof of my SUV. I packed heavy packs across portages almost a mile long only to return for a canoe that I carried the same distance. Carefully maneuvering the 19 foot long 42 pounds along a well beaten trail through the woods.
I was proud of myself.
That was until after reading this book about the French Voyageur of Canada. This book written by Grace Lee Nute takes the reader on a journey through the history of toughness and endurance of the early traders/canoers of the interior frontiers of Canada and the United States. The voyageurs headed into the unknown wilderness areas long before the hordes of Europeans settled the East Coast. They set up a series of trading posts, harvested pelts and traded products with the indigenous peoples. Their mode of travel being the large birch bark canoes and foot, packing hundreds of pounds through dangerous untamed waterways into and out of the interior of the continent.
This book was written originally in 1931 but is now being published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
At times I found it was a bit hard to read as it is throws numerous historical well researched facts at the reader. I was a bit on overload with so much information that I would have to stop, process it, read it again, and then proceed.
I found that as I read (even with all the information I had to process) this book, my appreciation for all the contributions these early explorers and traders had in the history of Minnesota was interesting and entertaining. The feats that these men endured in their daily lives humbled my once in a while recreational canoe/kayak activities. I found myself being thankful to these men for establishing the paddling skills we all use in our hobby.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is history buff. A must read for all those who adventure into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of Northern Minnesota. You will look at the well established portages with new eyes and deep respect for those who first traveled those trails.
How to fix a hull buckle in a kayak.
Our Sept 2017 BWCAW trip in Northern Minnesota
Entry Point: Fall Lake #24
Type: Day trip to Newton Lake from Fall Lake Federal Campground on 08/31/2017.
Equipment: Rental canoe from Spirit of the Wilderness outfitter, bent shaft paddles, camera, day packs, lunch, first aid kits and rain gear.
We started out from Fall Lake entry point # 24. Already this paddle seemed nicer than the prior day paddle on Snowbank Lake. Calm water and blue skies helped push us towards our goal for the day, catch some fish on Newton Lake.
This was the first time we portaged the canoe and we had to figure what the best way to haul things over.
Once across the portage we met several groups who were heading towards Fall Lake after longer trips into the BWCAW. All reported good fishing.
We paddled close to the Newton Falls and took pictures and I fished but caught nothing. We then paddled towards a small island close to the falls on the south end of the lake and fished the weed beds as I had heard that the bass were biting there the previous week. No luck!
We decided to head to our lunch point if it was available the next campsite up on the east side of the lake. Campsite #1991 was a bit hard to find as it sits on a shoreline surrounded with a weed bed and wild rice. I thought that the campground it’s self was not as nice as some we had already stopped at or seen and when I went to look for the latrine I walked a trail for a very long time and never did find it. I did scare up a grouse.
Newton Lake campsite #1991
This campsite does have a nice rock/sand shore and we ate our lunch and watched at least 12 canoes come through the Newton portage and past us heading towards Fall Lake. While on the water we also had a motor boat with a guide and customers fishing. This is a very busy route and area.
After lunch we decided to head to the other side of the island in the middle of Newton we had just passed and see how the fishing was in the channel. There was a good swampy area just off the channel and I felt it could be a good place to sit for the afternoon. That is just what we did without a bite.
The weather was perfect so sitting on the lake and not catching anything was not a big thing. I then suggested to investigate a small stream or channel that came from the swampy area. It was easy to get the canoe back through the area and had a good flow of water and we were saw birds that were hiding in the weeds. It was a good place to feel isolated from the world.
Again, no fish on my line at Newton Falls next to the portage.
Midafternoon we headed back to Fall Lake and encountered some nice older guys from St Paul who had just spent a week on one of the interior lakes. They were packed to the gills and both now looked like the trip had worn them down. They had packed their map in the middle of their stuff and asked where the Fall Lake landing was located. We told them to follow us. They did for a while but I think that they must had been pretty tired of paddling as they showed up a good half and hour after us at the entry point.
This was a great paddle for us and renewed our bruised confidence after our Snowbank Lake day trip. We paddled a round trip total of 7.8 miles on this paddle and saw that maybe we didn’t need as much stuff as we saw in other canoes.
A small note here: Fall Lake entry point is crazy busy all the time! Most people are quickly in and courteous to others but we found the opposite also in big supply.
Meaning those who had no regard for anyone else at the landing. For example; people fishing off the dock with fishing equipment, people, and dogs right in the way that made no effort to move as the paddlers or boats came in. People who were rude pushing their equipment in front of our equipment at the launch without a word of apology or consideration. This we found was a bit much and quietly went about our business but were disappointed that the world has turned so rude.
I will leave on a high note. We did encounter some nice people along this landing who were helpful and kind. We saw that they mostly had kids with them and so maybe leading by example will create a more courteous generation of paddlers and lake lovers.