We were all awake in our bunks by 5:30am (…well, I may have gotten up at that hour to do an little run). The morning was beautiful and my route was a long gravel road surrounded by dense green trees to the tune of complete solitude and sunrise. We moseyed down to breakfast and loaded up, knowing the next few mornings would be oatmeal. As we ate, looking out the glass windows at the water, we noticed that despite a bluebird sky sunny day, the winds were picking up and chop was starting in the lake. While we all scoured the weather forecasts for rain and cold temps, what we neglected to look at was the wind forecast.
By the time we wrapped food, packed up, got our tutorial from Mandy, Lindsay, Brian and staff, it was pushing 10 when we loaded up for the 15 min drive to the dock (site #54). The wind had continued to pick up, and while a relaxed character, Brian informed us that they ‘had seen this coming’ for a few days and they had already sent off 5 groups before us (we were the last). He even told us there was ‘no shame in heading back to the lodge and pushing off early Tuesday’. The thought crossed my mind (an evening at that awesome bar?) but alas, we launched. I was more concerned for dad than any of us, but I also know he is the most experience of us all in the canoe, despite being skinny and well, 72.
Off we went into Seagull Lake, crossing a small bay with some serious chop and 1-2 ft whitecaps. It woke us up quick! Derick and I led, Dad and Will followed; I was in the bow (that’s ‘the back’), Derick in the stern; I tried to simply follow his lead (his yelling at me), and Dad and Will did the same. The winds were so strong it was a challenge to hear him, but we just paddled like crazy, trying to keep the canoe in the right direction so as not to get broadside to the waves. Thankfully, after a stressful first 20 minutes, we approached a small cove, and things settled a bit. Our goal today was to get past 3-mile island, into Red Rock Lake and camp here for 2 nights. As we paddled on, we realized this may be too aggressive given the conditions. We made it past 3-mile island and stopped on a small island which opened up to a vast section of Sea Gull; when peering over, we saw significant white caps. I got cranky, hungry, and nervous. Thankfully we all agreed to paddle back a mile or two and set camp on 3-mile island; on what we named Sandy Beach we had passed a bit earlier.
It was about this time that Derick said “Hey Will, you should be trolling (wikipedia: ‘fish by trailing a baited line behind a boat’).” Will looked back at us blankly, asking “Where are the fishing poles?” When dad didn’t know either, we realized; fishing poles had been left at the van, at the dock, prior to departure. Shit.
We paddled backwards (not literally), and about 3pm rolled into our site for the night. We unloaded and immediately Derick and I set back out to the dock we started at (~2 miles away into the chop) and once to the dock, to the pay phone in the woods (people, this is how we communicate out here; 1.888.Gunflin). Brian tells us that he realized we had left them soon after our take off only to come back, screaming at us. Despite having clocked out, already enjoying a beer, Brian drove back to deliver our fishing poles. This is the kind of people at Gunflint! I enjoyed some brown water while waiting. (brown water = scotch. Derick and I brought in a bottle of Singleton). While we had made the paddle there in 35 minutes, the trek back threw us some shifty winds and this took over an hour, but by 5pm, we had completed Day ! Not without some adventure.
Dinner tonight was Italian chicken sausage, macaroni and cheese and a spicy dried veggie packet mixed in for flavor; and it tasted amazing. We sat around the campfire and enjoyed some brown water (Derick & I with our Singleton, dad with his 7 oz flask of Jim Beam); Derick his cigar, and were sent to our tents ~9:30 by the flesh devouring mosquitos.
We all slept soundly barring the 11.30pm scream by Will. I guess he had a dream which he does not recall, so dad yelled out and got out his flashlight; Derick also yelled “Will! Will what’s wrong?” I heard some yelling, but didn’t rouse too much. Then it was silent; Will stopped, and Dad and Derick never left the tents. We all kept sleeping. Clearly, if Will had been attacked, they weren’t too concerned.
Ironically, the next morning after breakfast, Derick noticed some scat near the tree where we had rigged our food bag. He asks “Who pooped by the food?” and proceeded to pick through it with a stick, as it was fairly fresh. It was full of maggots. Intriguing, as it wasn’t from a small animal. My theory is that a bear was approaching the food bag only to hear Will scream (then dad, then Derick), and he took off as we scared the shit out of him. I was just thankful that we hadn’t lost our entire ration of food for the week on Day 1. However, it would have made for a good story, eh?
Photo 1: I call this one “The Forgotten Fishing Poles”
Photo 2: Sandy Beach Campsite; not too bad
Photo 3: Our first campsite!
Photo 4: I mean seriously how much did we dodge this bullet? If Will can almost grab our food bag…
Photo 5: Bugs were bad. Clearly Derick was too cool. (or that cigar thing really works)
Photo 6: Bugs were so bad. We almost died. Cept we had these net heads.
Photo 7: Scotch tastes good.