Wednesday, August 2, 2006

BWCA Journals: Paradise Island

July 15, 2001

Rained all night and by morning, the cheap tent that I was sharing (not mine) was leaking like a sieve. I waterproofed my gear so that it would remain dry, put on a poncho and got up to enjoy the rain and to cook breakfast for distribution among the tents. After breakfast, Don and I packed up our gear, the general camp gear and had the boats loaded before the other two even made it out of their tent. We weren't in any hurry to move while raining so we just watched as the fumbled around and got ready. After an hour and a half of waiting, they were finally ready and just as we pushed off, the rain stopped.

We paddled and portaged through Wanihigan, North Cone, Middle Cone and South Cone lakes. In South Cone Lake, there was a horrible looking campsite on an island that Dave really wanted to camp at even though it was still mid-morning. We vetoed him and pushed on into Brule Lake where he immediately found another campsite that looked extremely buggy. Again we vetoed him and pushed on to the big island, which is where I was hoping to go, and just as we arrived there, another group was leaving. We scurried in behind them and unloaded the boats. It is a magnificent site out on the point of an island with big rocks for lounging on all around. Better yet, we had the entire island to ourselves and with the lake breeze, there are no mosquitoes!

I strung up a rope for drying stuff for those whose gear got wet in the morning rain and then we ate lunch out on one of the big rocks. Had we found this site on day one of the trip, I would have been content to just daytrip and keep returning here night after night. After lunch we napped until we couldn't nap anymore and then I borrowed some binoculars (the old and very heavy kind) to look around and stare at my maps. I played a mental challenge that I always do and tried to orient the map first and then check how close I was with my compass. However, whenever I laid my compass on the map, it kept saying that it was 90 degrees out of rotation and what I thought was north was actually west. Since I knew the sun doesn't set in the north, I thought my compass must be broke and borrowed someone else's only to have the same thing happen. After much thought and trying different things, I finally noticed that there must be a vein of magnetic material in the rock and could actually trace it with the compass. I move a few feet away on the rock and suddenly I proved that my initial map orientation was in fact right.

During this time, I happened to see a duck and a dozen or so baby chicks go swimming by which I dutifully photographed along with a gull of some sort doing some fishing. Since the sun wasn't out and the mosquitoes didn't know about this island in the middle of the lake, we hit the fishing hard and finally caught some legal sized fish to eat with our boxed chili and vegetable soups for supper that night. But the fishing wasn't without peril. Two of our members took the canoes out solo to fish a little farther off shore. One went one way and another paddled around to the side of the island where I was fishing. He neglected to tend to his paddle and I watched it slip over the side as the canoe drifted off. By the time he noticed it, he had drifter perhaps 50 yards away from it. He saw me perched on the rocks and pleaded for me to go get the other boat and come rescue him. Since the other boat was who knows where and he wasn't in any real danger, I simply told him that I preferred to watch. After much thinking, he finally started paddling by hand back to his paddle still floating in the water. Quite entertaining to watch I might add.

No bugs were out so after the others had washed dishes by flashlight, we stayed up long into the night talking and wishing that we could have had a fire. Although we didn't know it, the fire ban had been lifted due to the rains but someone had thoughtlessly not choppered or paddled out to tell us. We enjoyed our last night in the wilderness talking and planning on when we would return. I just didn't let it be known that the next time I returned, it would be with a different group of people.

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