8 - Ignace Driftwood, April 20, 2011 east. In fact I was right at the foot of the Giant Ski Area.
Monday, August 25 I had fun paddling down the Kawishiwi, no current except at the 7 portages, all of which I was able to run in the high water, getting my feet wet 3 times. Met Jim Ceasar from Owatonna, Minnesota, who makes sure that he canoes the Boundary Waters with each of his kids. Got invited for a cold root beer and a chat with Vince Wyckoff and family on upper Birch Lake. Son Sam had taken a 9 week canoe trip into western Ontario. Neighbor Bob Beamon has written books on the canoeing both parks. After I got to Birch Lake, I dried my shoes and socks in the warm sun as I paddled to the Birch Lake National Forest campground. With my Senior Pass, the cost was only $6, a good deal for water, garbage, recycling, and bathrooms. There was still another 8 miles of Birch Lake ahead of me as I was finding my way to the Embarrass River. 14 miles Tuesday, August 26 I cooked oatmeal with dried corn and nuts, nice morning, good start by 8:45 a.m. Brisk wind against me, especially after I turned from northwest to southeast at Birch Point. I paddled diligently to reach a boat launch at Mattula's Resort at 11:15. I wheeled 3 miles into Babbitt, mostly on a nice bike path. Bought $70 worth of groceries at Zup's while they charged my phone for me.
First time the bag boy ever delivered groceries into a canoe. Bill Demich offered to drive me the 15 miles to the town of Embarrass. While we drove back to his house in Babbitt to finish canning his tomatoes and meet his wife Sherry, the grocery clerk promised not to let me leave a second time without my phone and the bank clerk promised to watch my canoe; the Babbitt Weekly reporter may have written something on my trip also. I charged $56 worth of gas for Bill on my credit card so that he could give me back $30 of cash that I would likely need in the days ahead; I never have remembered a password for any of my credit cards to get cash directly. On the way out of Babbitt we stopped to see Bill's garden. As
Bill figured, the Embarrass River was very shallow and weedy before it reached the town of Embarrass. (It turned out not all that deep after the town either.) Putting in at the bridge near the isolated Post
Office, the first quarter mile was rocky with 3 rapids to drag over, followed by a huge tree to portage, then nice flat water to paddle or occasionally wade. I took a break at the Highway 135 bridge and talked to a resident who mentioned a snowmobile bridge in about 5 miles; I camped there as darkness gathered. Bill and I broke a ratchet strap as we loaded the canoe into his truck and lost a critical part of it. I also must have left my Minnesota Atlas and highway map in his truck. 26 miles, 15 by truck Wednesday, August 27 Rained a little in the cool morning as I was rising so I quickly went to the canoe a 100 meters away and gathered up my new groceries and stashed them in my duffel bag I had emptied in Atikoken. The river became more scenic after camp, meaning about a half mile of shallow rock; while the Quetico was drying up, northern Minnesota was even dryer this late summer. I made 2 carries through the woods, a golf course, and more woods to the mouth of the river at Sabin Lake, then dragged the near empty canoe over the rocks with some short pools, about 4 hours for the entire portage. It was also hard exercise as the aluminum to rock coefficient of friction is over the top of whatever scale might be applied; I should have shouldered the canoe through the woods and wheeled it along the paved golf trail. Sabin Lake flows into Wynne Lake where I found a little park and table to sort and pack my new food. With a little time off from canoeing, I could appreciate the scenery more. The Embarrass cuts south right through the Mesabi Iron Range that runs southwest to north-
I was able to canoe the river about 2 miles to Embarrass and the Vermilion Trail campground where I walked a half mile into Biwabik and the Lucky 7 store where I charged my cell phone and bought a ratchet strap and a $30 new mapbook. These new maps were very good but didn't cover my ticket out of Minnesota, the Kettle River; the store also had a snowmobile map that would probably help. I bought candy bars and grapefruit juice, somewhat for the bottle. I paddled to the far end of Cedar Island Lake, finding no secluded place to camp as the shores were well developed. I spotted a house with a canoe and a light on and took a chance on hospitality, striking rich again. Bernie and Eva Shain welcomed me to their
backyard, giving me water and apple juice. As I got out to wade the little rapids into Cedar Island Lake, I noticed something shining in the river bottom and fished out a ring with a pretty blue stone, surrounded by the letters, USWA and RETIRED. Under my dissecting microscope I can make out a little figure of a worker overlaid on USA, surrounded by the words "United Steelworkers of America, founded 1936". Hoping to get the full story behind this ring, I left it with Bernie and Eva and they put an ad in the local paper describing it and where it was found, but got no inquiries. They sent it back to me. It would be cool if this book elicited a response. It rained overnight as I attempted to dry 4 pairs of socks. 9 miles Thursday, August 28 The Shains were old enough to retire but were still working hard and were gone by the time I arose the next morning at 7:15. I had peanut butter and bread with apple juice for breakfast. I paddled some easy shallow areas followed by 2 miles of Esquabana Lake, some friendly river then 6
portages dragging the canoe and 36 places I had to saw through for about 5 miles and 9 hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
to reach the St. Louis River. Saw a mink and what seemed to have been a rat. At the junction, the 2 rivers looked about the same size, but together they were much easier paddling. I camped on the bigger river on a stone/sand bar about a mile downriver. After so much brush and branches and in and out of the canoe, I washed the packs and the canoe. Thunder and lightening with a tenth inch of rain welcomed me at 5 p.m. and no sun after that. Slept well. 8 hard miles Friday, August 29 Kept my feet dry all this day, though had to lean on my paddle several times to get through some shallows; for these situations I like my sturdy, home-made white ash paddles. Did I mention I like floating downstream? Not much current up to the dam on Highway 16/53 where I wheeled up a portage path and down to the boat launch. I talked to Rob from Cloquet who was meeting some one there. Current picked up after that with several class I rapids according to my new mapbook. It sprinkled on me twice but I was able to dry everything but 6 socks as I canoed. I saw no fish above the dam, but saw a few minnows and several fishing sites below the dam. I
found an established camp site, cooked rice and veggies with 3 eggs, and made pudding with nuts, all good; of course, for a positive judgment, it helps to be hungry. 10 miles Saturday, August 30 Up at 8 a.m. Two kids from Duluth canoed by as I started out. I wheeled the canoe to avoid the big oxbow and met Bob Briski on a bridge, watching his
grandkids start the 4 hour float to the next bridge where I put in; probably saved me 2 hours, but Hey! Wasn't this supposed to be a canoe trip and wasn't this even downstream? I guess I was ready to get home. But I had plenty of pleasant hours on the St. Louis that day. I
canoed medium hard from 12 to 6. I met a man and his daughter canoeing (but lost
their names) and talked with a couple fishing with minnows
who caught just 4 small bass that day, but walleye, northern and catfish on other days.
Four guys (The LaValle bunch, named for the township) generously gave me a beer, good only because it was cold. I found a nice camp site on a sand bank and made a supper of cereal, last of my bread, peanut butter, jam, corn, and cocoa. Made up fry bread dough for the next day. Near dark, Brett and Beca Schelde kayaked by, doing their evening exercise. 15 miles
Sunday, August 31 Last night at about 11 p.m., Brett kayacked down by head lamp to deliver a big CARE package-broccoli, bread, flour, sugar, trail mix, granola bars, sugar wafers, apples and a diet coke. How nice! I gave him a sample of bread dough to fry up at home. In the morning I had a hard time lighting a fire to cook the 7 fry breads. I left about 10:20
a.m., canoed a pretty, pleasant, boring, flat river against a stiff wind to Floodwood and then a half mile up the Floodwood River to a boat launch and Riverwalk Park at about 6:30 p.m. I talked to Jim Erickson there who offered me a couple of 24 inch northerns, but I had easier food in mind. I walked to the BP and spent $20 on candy, bread, hot dogs, a 12pack of Mountain Dew, oatmeal pies, and Fritos. I charged my phone and left a message for friend Ralph Fischer saying that I would paddle home rather than arrange for a pickup with him at the Wisconsin border. I changed the message on my home phone to let callers know where I was. 17 miles Monday, September 1 I left at about 8 a.m.; the wind blew all night and was brisk against me back on the St. Louis River. The wind rippled the water so much that I couldn't see rocks and channels and blew me off course when I could see a path. I was glad to leave the river after 4 miles because of the wind, but also because I knew there were some severe rapids before the river got to Duluth and Lake Superior, about 40 miles away. I scouted out the area by the power lines and eventually met Laurin Lindstrom feeding his Angus cows, donkeys, and
miniature and regular horses. I went back, loaded my stuff on wheels, and had easy wheeling of the canoe up his farm road to his house where I showed Laurin, his wife Debbie, and Debbie's father Jim my outfit. Debbie gave me water, cheese snacks and an apple. I wheeled down their driveway to Highway 2 where I encountered two stranded motorists. For a change I was able to be the helper, rather than the helped, and gave them some cold water and the warm Diet Coke from Beca.
I wheeled 14 miles down Highway 86 and Highway 73 to Cromwell. John offered me a ride just before Highway 73; he would have gone home and come back with an empty trailer and truck. I felt good at the time and declined with thanks; however, I had no trouble taking an hour nap 5 miles later at Cross Lake when I saw a patch of grass in the shade. In Cromwell I spent $11 on the usual treats. Upon the advice of worker Nicole and her dad who came to meet me, I wheeled 1.5 miles to the boat launch on Island Lake for the night. 18 miles Tuesday September 2 Nice walk on hard gravel and pavement east on Mowers Road, then south on Highway 21 to the Kettle River, weed-choked but deep enough to float only because it was surrounded by swamp. Right after I put in, a hard rain began to fall; I waited a half hour under the bridge and then paddled in light rain for 2 hours. When I got to the Highway 4 bridge, I hit a half mile of basicly water covered rock. After that the water was deeper but I had to drag over a beaver dam, push through two
log jams, portaged twice and hauled over or through many times. I noticed blood on my socks and found 5 leeches attached with the biggest about 1.5 inches long. The river got better near a bridge for the Kettle River Snowmobile Trail (#92), then bad with rocks but no log jams to the next bridge, County Road 156. I said no thanks, thanks a lot, to this part of the river and wheeled a few meters to a nearby newly cut hayfield for camp at 7 p.m. Geez. 2 miles wheeling, 7 miles total (Continued next week...)