Saturday, May 21, 2011

Taking a Dump in the Boundary Waters

We've done the Boundary Waters twice now being led by others. We decided it was time for us to take the lead ourselves. So we invited Bozo's sister and her sister's friend Lisa to check it out with us over a weekend. Just one night out and 2 days of canoeing. Easy breezy!

We did great in our planning! Really. We gave good advice to Bozo's sister... including not bringing nice smelling lotions, you don't need traveler's checks in the woods, and bring gloves. When we got to Ely on Friday night, Bozo's sister and Lisa were already there so we dumped some stuff off and went to pick up the bits of gear we needed to rent and then headed out for food.

Back in the hotel, we had them dump everything out of their bags and removed anything that seemed unnecessary. Bozo's sister had an unmatched set of gloves, which worked great. Funny part that one of them had rhinestones! heheh Otherwise everything was pretty good... just too much. We all know that I am very guilty of that myself so I cannot judge.

We got a good night's sleep and woke up bright and early to meet our shuttle to the lake. The plan was to put in at Lake One then tour through the numbered lakes until we found a campsite, preferably on an island, for the night. However, Lisa woke up with a migraine and was not feel well at all. So we had to slow down the plan to see if she would be able to go. Our options were to go without her and leave her to sleep in the dark in the hotel all day, none of us go, or we all go and hope the headache subsides. We compromised on not going out for the night but just for the day instead and that we would all go.This is where our lack of experience came into play...

We didn't need all the stuff we had packed up on Friday night so we started removing things and replacing things so that we had one Duluth pack to carry with everything we would need in it. Somehow in the rush of everything, we didn't use the proper waterproof bags and forgot to bring some basic gear... matches. Of course we didn't know that until we were about to get on the water and a nice couple gave us a couple of the matches and some fire starters. Phew!

We got the canoes on the water just fine. Canoeing was great! Neither we nor the Outfitter could figure out if there was an opening along the Canadian Border into Lake Two so we checked that out first. Nope! So back we went past where had put in and toward our first short portage. Angie and I were in a canoe together and Bozo was with Lisa. The portage was so short that we just lugged the canoes with the stuff in them. In Lake Two we spent some time trying to find the correct portage. There were two and they were pretty close together and also close to some small rapids. I finally spotted the one we needed, which was on the other side of some small rapids and sortof hidden away. Angie and I got near it but were at an awkward angle so we went back to try again. Bozo and Lisa went upstream and made it to the portage. I decided to just cut across the last little bit of the rapids and off we went. And then we were in the water! The water was moving pretty fast and carried me away from the canoe and everyone else... though I held on to my seat pad Nalgene bottle, and the map! Once I took a deep breath and calmed myself, I was able to swim toward the canoe and just rested on that. Of course we all had our life jackets on. That made it much more comfortable. BUT... we were surrounded by cut rock and no way to get out of the water. The canoe was slowly sinking a little deeper into the water with all our stuff attached underneath.

So we kicked and Bozo and the friend tried to push with their paddles. Eventually (read: 40 minutes later) we were able to get out of the water on a small ledge. There was just enough foot space to be able to stand pretty sturdily. I was able to get the bag out of the canoe and hand it to Bozo and Lisa. In retrospect, that wasn't a very good choice as the weight of the bag as I handed it to her could have capsized them as well. Thankfully that didn't happen.

Then Angie and I spent several minutes working on getting our canoe righted. We'd get some water out and then it was slide back down. Eventually we were able to get it to a point that we could lift it. The water had made it too heavy to lift. So we lifted it and flipped it right side up. We got back in and began heading to a portage site that would take us back toward home. Angie started shivering pretty quickly so we needed to get her dry and warm and also try to get me dry and warm before I started shivering too. She had gotten her hair wet while somehow, much to Angie's chagrin, I was able to keep my hair dry and not lose my sunglasses in the whole process. On our way to the portage site, Angie and I took a detour to pick up a Nalgene bottle that was floating nearby, which Bozo had just given to her yesterday. That was funny!

After portaging a half mile or so, we were back in the water heading to a campsite we'd seen on our way out. We stopped there, got a fire going eventually, and started removing clothing. I ended up in just a rain jacket and someone else's shorts, Angie had a sweatshirt and some dry shorts. Another learning experience... we should have been more adamant about fast drying clothing. I think because it was such a short trip, we were lazy and wore too much cotton.

Finally dry enough to get moving while still wearing our strange outfits, we took off again to the last portage before the put in. All went without incident. But we were very early in our return. So we asked some people who were returning to Ely if they would stop at Voyageur and let them know we were there in case they could come early. They did! Voyageur has cold beer and cold soda in a cooler for people when they return to civilization! We hadn't been gone that long but the coke still tasted good! It started to rain a bit while we were waiting for the shuttle but rained even harder once we were in the vehicle. Phew again!

Back at the hotel, they didn't have our room available anymore but we got a suite with 2 bedrooms and a separate bathroom. That worked out well so we had more space to spread our wet clothes and things away. Lisa went to sleep while Bozo, Angie, and I went to get some food... and drink.The next day we were tourists in Ely, which I had always wanted to do. That was fun! Did some great shopping and then headed home at a reasonable hour.

Items damaged by my dump into the water included my cell phone and solar radio and charger. I was able to get them both replaced free because I had insurance on them. (= My Spot was under water for a little while and it turned out just fine. What I learned from that was I should have it on ME not on the pack! I'd rather Search and Rescue find me than my stuff! Especially if it's at the bottom of a lake! lolI'm glad we all made it home safe and sound! Bozo and I learned some really good lessons. The main being that if plans change and equipment needs to be rearranged, take our time and do it right for the environment. Doing that could have made things a whole lot less stressful! Though it wouldn't have kept us from capsizing... that was mainly just lack of experience on my part.