Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

Days Off = Personal Suffering

By Riley Smith Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:July 1-3, 2018
Entry Point:4 - Crab Lake & Cummings Lake (BWCA)
Lakes:Battle, Burntside, Clark, Crab, Hassel, Little Crab, Maxine, Meat, Phantom, Saca, Sprite

This trip had bad idea written all over it. I had three days off from guiding and had time to kill. We usually guide from the same few entry points, so this was an opportunity for me to try something different. I set out solo with a big, heavy Grumman and a pack. I knew from experience that this recipe meant portaging three times (once with the canoe, a walk back, and once with a pack) as the Aluminum canoe doesn't play well with a double portage! I had my eye on this nice little chain west of Burntside. It didn't have many campsites, not many online reviews, and frankly it intrigued me. Now soloing with the Aluminum beast was probably my first mistake, but I made it through the wind on Burntside to the Crab portage without too much distress. I knew the Crab portage would be a serious test, 400 rods of portaging is a lot, but 1200 is monumental. When I reached the landing, there was a family there sprawlled out on the ground. The distress on their faces reminded me of what lay ahead. I dragged the canoe into the trees and took the first run with the pack. I made it across without breaks, despite a couple sections of shin deep water, and reached the Crab end. I took my jaunt back to the Burntside end for the Tin Can and who did I find but the family! By now they were sprawlled out on the ground, a couple of them appear to have expired. This portage truly took its toll it seems? I was in mid-season guide shape, so I foolishly thought. What's there to worry about? The 400 rods with the Tin Can was much more difficult than the pack. Once again, I finished without a break and was on my way. I spent over an hour running back and forth on this awful portage. Time to make up some ground. I paddled across Crab and portaged into Clark, marveling at the fairly recent fire through there. Once again, I took the portage three times, but I was wearing out already. I found the Clark campsite pretty awful and, being a grass is greener on the other side person, pressed on to Meat. Wasn't I disappointed then when Meat turned out to be little more than a glorified beaver swamp that had recently lowered substantially. At this point I was beat. 1800 rods of portaging had taken its toll, and I had a couple lakes to go to Phantom. I speant the night at Meat the beaver swamp. Gross place. The site could have been worse, but I was scared to drink the water even with purification. There was a beaver menacingly swimming back and forth in front of my site, doing his best to dump as much in the water as he could. I survived the night on Meat, but I am an optimist. I figured it would only get better from there. I portaged into Sprite and rehydrated from the Coca Cola colored lake (yah, the brown water is gross, but better than the Beaver water on Meat) and over to Phantom. I decided it best to cut the trip short. I was planning to spend the night on Boulder, a site I had heard was kinda nice, but I was feeling a little defeated and beat up at this point, so I pressed on. I portaged directly to Battle and found a knife that had been dropped there. On Battle, I saw the only other person I had seen outside of Crab and Burntside. So other people do come to this swampy chain? I tried to work the creak from Battle to Saca to skip some portaging, but to no avail. Thus the portage from Battle to Hassel, the low point in my trip. What a messy, awful portage. It was a bog on the Battle end before disappearing all together in the brush on the Hassel end. Mix that with a couple feet of visibility from the trail and fresh moose scat everywhere, and this was quite the memorable portage. And then there was that moment of hope when you see the next lake. "Yes, I made it." Not in this case. The Hassel landing is a small drop off into mud, no really good way to reach the water. Just one more obstacle I guess. After running the portage back and grabbing the bag, I paddled through the swamp of a lake called Hassel and portaged into Saca. This portage had taken a wind storm at some point and had not been cleared since, so there were a good number of log jams to negotiate. I guess this chain just doesn't want me to leave? I blasted my way through Saca and back into Crab. I found a site on the East side that was fine for me as a solo, but small if you are in a group (#311.) One of my coworkers was staying on Crab with his family for his days off, and acted as my safety net if something went terribly wrong for me on my solo trip. The next day we took a little fun day trip in the rain through Little Crab and back to a lake named Maxine. We actually found the old campsite there, thunderbox still intact, and took some pictures. This was better than playing in the swamp. All in all this was a really rough solo adventure. This little swampy chain is one I probably won't return to anytime soon, but check that off the list. And I broke my personal best/worst for portaging in 3 days: 3752 rods of portaging (1144 unloaded, 1508 with the canoe, 1100 with the pack) and a bruised collar bone from the Grumman. What a trip!

The Awful Hassel Landing

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