BWCA Round Lake loop

May 18-27th, 2021

The background: 

I’ve always had a love for the outdoors. Even in my youth, I preferred the fog lifting off a lake at dawn to the smoke over a bar at closing time (and, yes, I’m old enough to remember when people still smoked in bars). 

I did a ton of backpacking and canoe camping trips while growing up but, as an adult, it has been mostly car camping with the rare backpacking trip thrown in and the last time I tripped with a canoe was as a kid in the Scouts. 

I decided, as I’ve gotten older, that I should transition back to canoe tripping so that the canoe could carry gear and it might take less of a toll on my body and, while looking for places to go, I ran across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (aka BWCA). I quickly decided that it would be my destination but, without any recent experience, I was at a bit of a loss about how to plan, where to go, etc. 

I started researching online forums, eventually joined one called, bought both of Robert Beymer’s BWCA route books, scoured the internet, read a bunch of trip reports, pored over and, once I had a little bit of direction, contacted a couple of outfitters and even a few people on the forum for insight & advice. 

I have 3 kids and several friends who enjoy the outdoors and I talked to those whom I thought I could enjoy being around 24/7 for a couple of weeks but none had the same vision for the trip that I had. My fishing buddy wanted to go a day or so in and base camp but I wanted to explore, my kids had other commitments (pending weddings, college internships, etc) and it seemed most thought it was too much “roughing it” to have much appeal.

I saved an extra week of vacation, laid out a preferred route and promptly got grounded by covid (the travel restrictions and an overabundance of caution, not the disease). Another year of hoping, fine tuning route and researching online and, finally, in 2021, I decided it was time.

My youngest daughter (the only one who could easily just pick up & join me) was concerned about a solo trip so I bought a Garmin inReach for my family’s peace of mind, learned how to set it up, programmed my 3 preset messages as well as their intended recipients, got my entry permit, two 26,800mAh power banks, took 2 weeks’ vacation and told the boss that, if I wasn’t back in two weeks, to use my 3rd week before considering me AWOL.


As so often in my life, I’ve got way too many irons in the fire so I did little to prepare beyond thinking “I need to take that” and buying a few freeze dried meals. I did take time to flip the bow seat around in the Sawyer so that I would have better trim adjustment options.

I had planned to build a dedicated solo strip canoe for the trip but I had way too much going on and my options turned out to be a We-no-nah Jensen 18 (fiberglass) which weighs around 60 lbs and is very quick on the water or a 16 foot Goldenglass Sawyer (model unknown) whose predominant attribute was stability but wasn’t a burden to paddle either. I’ve never bothered to weigh the Sawyer (as I did not want to know) but it felt lighter than the Jensen while in the backyard yet seemed to get heavier every time I picked it up in Minnesota.

In addition to worrying about my safety in the woods, my family was concerned about the  reliability of my transportation. My daily driver is a ‘94 Ford Ranger with 290,000+/- miles and, although I assured all interested parties that it was mechanically sound and would make the trip, my father was concerned enough that he bought me a AAA membership that covered towing up to 300 miles (I did not bother to tell him that it was around 1200 miles each way). I’ve worked around cars & garages most of my life and always thought that, if you didn’t think a car would make it to California and back, why waste the money to change the oil? Likewise, as I’m unafraid to put my money where my mouth is, I had no problem strapping the Sawyer to the roof and striking out.

My entry permit was for May 18th (Tues) and I figured it was about a 16 hr drive from my home in western PA. I procrastinated a bit with packing and finally started throwing things in a bag on Sunday afternoon. My camping gear is usually stored in or near my backpack so it was unlikely that I would forget anything (famous last words, right?)

The trip:

Early Monday morning, I hopped in my trusty, rusty Ranger, grabbed my usual large coffee plus a thermos of extra coffee, filled the (somewhat small) fuel tank & pointed myself toward I80 West. (deliberately avoiding the PA turnpike… if you ever travel through PA, do not, repeat DO NOT, travel the turnpike… unless you simply have too much money.)

The plan was to try and knock out 12 hrs on the first day so that I could enter the BWCA around noon on the 18th. PA, Ohio, Indiana & then Illinois faded into the rear view as I headed West and, somewhat surprisingly, traffic was light coming through Chicago. I turned North and made it to Rice Lake, Wisconsin by 8pm, grabbed a hotel and sent the first “Just checking in, everything is OK” message from the inReach.

On the way up, I remembered that I hadn’t packed an actual camera (just my phone), so a quick Google search, a few reviews and I decided that I would take a 20 minute detour into Duluth for a point and shoot at the Best Buy. 

GPS programmed and thermos refilled thanks to the generosity of the hotel, I was back on the road the next morning. I found the Best Buy and acquired the camera but I did not seem able to make good time. 

I had decided on the Frost River as Beymer’s books assured me that it was “one of the most remote and lightly traveled areas of the BWCA” and afforded some of the best opportunities to see wildlife. I’ve seen elk in the wild but never a moose and I was hopeful. I’d also heard there were wolves in the BW but I was just as hopeful that they would not be as plentiful as the moose and I would not be terribly disappointed if they were, distantly, heard and not seen.

One of the outfitters I had contacted several times and had found very helpful was Andy at Tuscarora Canoe Outfitters. I had laid out my intended trip and he assured me that it was easily done in 6 days (more on this later but beware taking advice from someone that is easily half your age) but that Cross Bay was a gentler introduction to portaging than Missing Link would be. I had the entry permit changed to Cross Bay and would pick it up at Tuscarora with the intention that I would also be able to pick up a zip lock map bag as well as anything that I’d forgotten.

I finally arrived around 4pm, grabbed my permit, the map bag and Andy once more reviewed the maps and the planned route. He again assured me that the route was do-able and I was off to the parking lot. 

Day 1 (ah, arrogance... thou art not merely for the young):

Arriving at the entry point parking area full of optimism and excitement for the adventure ahead, I wrapped the center thwart in pool noodle & duct tape as a poor man’s portage yoke, carried the canoe (and entirely too much gear) to the water, loaded up, glanced briefly at the map and pushed off downstream to look for my first portage.

I navigated the first set of riffles without losing TOO much blue paint, but when I got to the second, it didn’t seem right… I couldn’t imagine outfitters happily loaning canoes to scrape along this rocky stream, so I figured I’d missed the portage. The banks, at this point, were about 15 feet high so I exited on river left, scrambled up the bank to the road and proceeded to make my first portage an unscheduled one that took me back above the riffles.

Portage trail? 

Reloaded, relaunched and looking around, I spotted a faint trail leading up away from the stream. Analyzing the situation as: “it IS a wilderness, and it IS spring” though ignoring the fact that there were at least 10 other cars in the parking lot and 10 cars full of people would leave more of a trail, I unloaded and began my portage. The trail was little more than a bushwhack which suited me fine as I was hoping to see few, if any, people for a few days. (I mentioned the 10 other cars, right?)

After about 300 yards, the trail joined another, much more heavily traveled trail and I (in my infinite wisdom) decided that this must be the actual portage, so I put down the canoe and went back for my pack.

I carried this pack around the woods for an embarrassingly long time before it dawned upon me that I should probably put some effort into figuring out exactly where I was and what I was doing wrong. 

I know how to use a map and compass, I had just neglected to actually do it to this point so, after a little study, I decided that I was actually on a snowmobile trail North of where I should have been.

Back through the bushwhack (actually a game trail) I went, double-portaging the pack and then the canoe in order to return to the launch and start over so that, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 ½ hrs later, I was right back where I’d started, sitting on the dock but actually looking at the map this time. I discovered that I should have gone upstream instead of down and, although it may be hard to believe... This makes a difference.

I pushed off, paddled around a small point and, lo and behold, there was a path through the woods that had seen the soles of many shoes and looked far more likely to be the portage that I had been looking for.

The notion of this being the actual portage was confirmed by a gentleman coming out carrying a Bell Wildfire who seemed surprised that anyone was coming in this late. I neglected to inform him that I had actually launched a few hours before and "had spent an inordinate amount of time exploring the area immediately surrounding the launch".

He indicated that all sites on Ham lake were unoccupied and that the 2nd one was particularly nice so, without further ado, I set about the task of portaging again with every confidence that this one would be significantly shorter than my last attempt had been.

I arrived at the campsite (#551 on paddleplanner) around 8:30, emptied the canoe, flipped it over for the night (because I think that’s what canoe trippers do) and carried everything else up the hill to set up camp. I scouted the tent pads, found one I liked and then the slow motion train wreck that this trip was developing into continued...

As I mentioned previously, I brought entirely too much gear thinking that the canoe would carry the weight most of the time. Setting up camp, I discovered that one piece of gear that I had forgotten... was my tent. (yep... I didn’t bring the effin’ tent!) 

In anticipation of this trip, I had purchased a used MSR Hubba Hubba from another member and it came with a vestibule attachment called a gear shed. In the little time that I had used the tent, I discovered that I agreed with the previous owner: the gear shed is a pain in the butt and is not needed as there is room enough in the 2 man tent for a solo camper without the vestibule. When I pulled the “tent'' out of the pack, however, I found that I had brought the gear shed and the tent was still at home in my closet. 

Luckily, the excess gear I was carrying included a 9x12 tarp (that I thought would be useful covering the camp kitchen if it rained) so I set it up as a shelter and turned in. I will admit, at that point, I was seriously considering heading back to the truck in the morning with the thought that maybe the outfitter would have tents and I did not sleep particularly well wondering if I would awaken to a wolf chewing on my face (Then, as now, I know little about wolves).

Home for the night

Makeshift shelter

Map skills are only useful if you USE them.

Day 2 

I managed to survive the night and awakened with decisions to make. A return to the outfitter’s might result in the acquisition of a tent but would also require another entry permit and I was not hopeful that another would be available. 

The route I had planned led South to Long Island lake then turned Northwest down the Frost River and into Mora and Little Saganaga lakes. When I reached Mora (estimated day 3 or 4), I would be what I’d guessed to be about ½ a day’s travel West of the truck and I had planned it this way to give myself an escape route. If I had bitten off more than I could chew, I could bail by heading East, getting in the truck and heading home with the knowledge that “I came, I tried, it kicked my butt”.

I decided to proceed on the planned route using the tarp as shelter and re-evaluate my situation when I reached Mora in a few days; so I packed up, looked carefully at the map (lesson learned) and headed for the portage to Cross Bay lake. It is during this portage that I officially entered the BWCA (a day late but I felt that was splitting hairs… either way, no one yelled at me)

Throughout most of the BWCA, camping is permitted only at designated sites and they are defined by cast iron grates over the firepits and the presence of a “thunderbox” in the woods nearby. For the uninitiated; the thunderbox, as one might guess, is a latrine. Here they are made of fiberglass, originally equipped with lids, though only a couple that I saw still had them, and are placed above a shallow pit. There are no walls or roof but it does save one from digging cat holes and reduces the “toilet paper under every rock” problem that seems all too common in many public areas.

Both portages and campsites are marked on the maps but, unlike some other parks, there are no signs or other indicators in the forest. 

As I moved south I was surprised to find all of the sites on Cross Bay lake occupied and on the portage between Rib and Lower George I ran across an older gentleman fishing for smallmouth bass. He assured me that the well kept secret of the BWCA was no longer a well kept secret and, as he was a veteran of these parts, I asked him how worried I should be about wolves. He chuckled and said that, if I even SAW a wolf, I should consider myself very fortunate indeed. In hindsight, I’m not certain why I trusted a total stranger’s opinion when hanging in the balance was my face being chewed upon by wolves but I did and I slept the remainder of the trip without any fear of becoming wolf chow.

As with any new venture, there is a learning curve and portaging was no different. Up to this point, I had been carrying the canoe through first figuring that its weight would not change but the pack would become progressively lighter with time so my 2nd carry would become easier throughout the trip. Solid reasoning, I thought, until I found the portage trail between Karl and Long Island lakes partially blocked by a fallen tree. I was apparently the first person through since it had fallen as all of the branches were on it. It was at the perfect height to provide maximum inconvenience and my saw was, of course, in my pack at the other end of the portage.

I parked the canoe in a nearby tree, went back for the pack, cut enough of the tree to make it passable (while wishing I had a chainsaw) and from that point on, the pack went through on the first carry and the canoe afterward.

I also quickly learned the secret to finding portages and campsites... One simply had to paddle directly into the wind. 

I made my way through Karl, Long Island and Gordon lakes all the while running into more and more people who were headed to the Frost River. A couple of times we joked that we all must have read the same book during the covid lockdowns and I was starting to get legitimately concerned about the availability of campsites on Frost Lake. There are only 5 there and by the time I reached Frost, I had little energy left with which to backtrack. 

I needn’t have worried however as a few of the groups must have gone on and I found a really nice site (#878 on paddleplanner) near the portage out and it became home for the night. I was thoroughly exhausted and was asleep long before it was dark.

Day 3

I had decided to keep a journal to aid in writing up a trip report and my morning entry may not need to be edited or rewritten to adequately illustrate where I was physically and mentally at this point. It reads as follows: 

“5/20  Woke up to rain. Not terribly hard, so after dragging my feet through breakfast (and due to a lull in the precipitation), I’ve decided to move on. I’ll check Bologna lake and, if it’s empty, I’ll take a lay-over day tomorrow. I’m pretty certain I’ll be pulling out at Little Sag… I’ve simply brought too much gear and too heavy a canoe”.

There are not many options for decreasing the weight of a pack while in the field but the most obvious is the food pack. I had brought a few freeze dried meals and some oatmeal but mostly rice or noodle side dishes which were intended to be supplemented by fishing. I had also cooked up about 4 pounds of bacon (fun fact: it’s able to be stored at room temp for 6 weeks!), some freeze dried eggs and soft tortillas for indulgent breakfast burritos. In rooting through the food pack, I found that the tortillas were, by far, the heaviest item in the pack so they simply had to go.

I’m not at all a picky eater as I view food as fuel and whatever fuels the engine is fine by me. I fried up some freeze dried eggs (actually pretty good) and, with a few slices of bacon wrapped in tortillas, breakfast from now on would be a tasty exercise in pack weight reduction.

In what would become my norm, I loaded up, paddled out and, on the way to the portage, my shoulders loosened up and felt good. I arrived at the portage and, somewhere during that first carry, my body started to feel invigorated and the wanderlust that brought me here returned as all thoughts of a layover day vanished.

The only humans I saw on this day were a pair that had offered to double up on a campsite if all were full on Frost (they were tandem paddling & single portaging so they flew by me on both days) and a group of 9 that were coming up the Frost River in which one of the group said that they were training to be guides. They also said that they had encountered a group that had camped at Bologna lake the previous night so it seemed likely that the campsite there would be unoccupied. I located the portage and checked it out… Bologna lake was gorgeous and, although I hadn’t traveled far that day, I decided to hole up for the night.

Remembering the uncertainty of campsite availability the previous night and knowing that: (at least this Spring) the Frost river was far more heavily traveled than I had anticipated, that the tandem paddlers were planning to camp on Afton lake and that paddle planner had the site at Whipped lake marked as potentially closed, I left a note on a tree at the top of the portage. (If Whipped was indeed closed, the next site was all the way to Mora)

It continued raining lightly (not hard enough to warrant rain gear IMO) pretty much all day and with the wind (...still...always...) blowing, fishing was difficult and I came up empty. I gathered firewood along the shores, checked out a moose skeleton (the nearest I would get to a moose this trip, unfortunately), putzed around and enjoyed the solitude. (Although the offer to share the site was genuine, I was not disappointed that no one took me up on it). 

There was a pair of loons there that seemed relatively unafraid and had a definite preference for “my” end of the lake. While I think we have loons in PA, these were far more vocal than the ones with which I am familiar and I was surprised by the variety of sounds that they made. I was also somewhat surprised that they kept up the chatter all night (not that I cared; they had to put up with my snoring so I’m quite certain that they got the short end of that stick)

One of the most surprising things thus far in the trip were the blackflies. I had heard the stories, listened to the funny songs and had the gas station attendant where I bought my fishing license as well as the waitress at my lunch stop say that they hoped I’d brought lots of bug dope as the blackflies were particularly bad this year. 

I did find them mildly irritating as they seemed to swarm in areas and would get into your eyes, ears, etc and I can honestly say that I did not appreciate it when I inhaled some of the pests but I fully expected them to be more voracious and “bitey”. Perhaps, like mosquitos, they simply preferred other food sources but I stopped wearing deet for flying vermin and reserved it exclusively for spraying my pants legs to ward off ticks (who, seemingly, have no issues with my flavor... I’ve always been a bit of a tick magnet) and I picked up my first tick at this site. I had gotten up in the middle of the night and it felt like something was crawling on me when I returned to the sleeping bag. Flashlight on and there it was crawling along & looking for a nice spot to bite. 

Day 4

My daily routine appeared to be: wake up, debate a layover day and then decide to move “a little”. Then, several hours later (like 8 or 10), decide that the next open campsite will do just fine and that tomorrow will, almost certainly, be a layover day.

I soon discovered that the camera didn’t survive the previous day. While not hermetically sealed in a dry bag, I had tried to make sure it stayed dry but either I was not diligent enough or it was too flimsy to be suitable for my purposes so I removed the batteries and sealed it in a spare dry bag. I would try it a few more times during the trip but, as I write this, it is on its way to a service center to see if it was water intrusion that killed it or if there is something defective in the camera itself.

After the light rain stopped mid-morning, the day was absolutely beautiful and the only people I saw were a pair that I had seen on the way into Frost lake. They said that they had spent an extra day fishing there and had done pretty well. One of them (or perhaps it was a group from the previous day) lost a nalgene bottle on a portage and I picked it up. Before the trip was over, I would eventually add half of a broken ugly stick fishing rod, several tent pegs, a couple of rusted lighters and an entire stuff sack full of garbage (that some lazy… let’s say “idiot”... didn’t feel like carrying) to my pack while only losing a lighter of my own in the process. 

The bottle was a boon for fish suppers as it solved the problem of how to easily transport the filets. I carried it empty until I caught fish and, once cleaned, the filets were stuffed through the large opening of the bottle and the bottle was filled with fresh lake water. I would change the water periodically if it was a while before camping then simply rinse the bottle after supper.

The Frost river was a slow meandering body of water that was often only as wide as 20-25 feet and wouldn't be deep enough to paddle if not for the proliferation of beaver dams. It was reminiscent of the lazy river at any water based amusement park I’d ever been to except that the scenery was far more beautiful and other people were non-existent.

There were fewer portages than beaver dams on this day and it seemed that the preferred method of navigating a dam was to get up a decent head of steam and plow right over it. Almost all of the dams were fairly small and the drop in elevation was rarely more than a foot or two. I can only remember one place that was high enough to dissuade me from sliding over and, in that case, I stood on the dam and lifted the canoe over instead of portaging around.

While I suspect that the beavers may not view sliding over their dams in the same manner that I do, I can attest that it was a very enjoyable day to paddle, ram & slide my way down such a gorgeous and pristine area of the forest. 

In fact, it was so pretty that I had a hard time selecting photos for this report and I’ll include two extras here if you’ll pardon the interruption of the narrative 

I checked out the campsite (#2226 on PP) at Whipped lake on the way past and it appears to be open (has a fire grate and thunderbox… what more could someone want, right?) but the large widow makers that were overhanging every nice tent pad would have me sleeping in the canoe.

Shortly after leaving that campsite I learned that short portages did not always mean easy portages… Honestly, the carry from Afton to Fente, although listed as only 25 rods, was probably the most difficult portage of the trip. It started out going up an extremely steep, 2 part, climb that I would guess to be 50 or 60 feet up (total) and then an even more treacherous descent which, I would think, would be nearly impossible if it were raining and the rocks were slippery. (I read later that it is sometimes possible to line a canoe through the rapids but this didn’t occur to me at the time)

I will say that there was a lot of paint on the rocks where people had either dropped canoes or simply slid them down the grade. I, trying to keep as much paint on the canoe as possible, was extremely careful on this portage and still managed to fall on my butt about ½ way down. With the canoe landing on top of me, however, no light blue paint was added to this particular location.

Up. (destination is the opening just above the top right corner of the large rock) 

And over. (pictures just do not do this one justice) 

The remainder of the day was uneventful but remarkably beautiful. The portage out of Afton, however, had taken a toll and I was thankful for the first open site on Mora. (#527 on PP and a huge site that would be great for a larger group). I hung out a clothesline, rinsed the clothes I was wearing and hung them in hopes that I might have dry clothes in the morning.

I think it was around this point that I scrapped the idea of bailing early on my planned route although I did study the maps closely that night to see if I could minimize the lengths of the portages. 

The weather was perfect that night and I couldn’t ask for more. The “I’m OK” message went out at 8:15 and I was out not long afterward.

Day 5

I was awake at dawn and the day promised to pick up right where the previous day had left off with spectacular weather. I decided to follow through with the original route and strike out in the direction of Fishdance lake.

I portaged into Little Saganaga which is by far the largest lake I’d been on this trip and I can easily see how someone might lose their bearings with all of the islands. I was having some difficulty myself as every time I looked down at the map, the wind would take over boat control and I would have to fight it back to the desired direction. I wound up paddling like crazy to the lee of an island or behind a point, checking my heading, spotting the next location to be targeted and paddling like crazy again.

I checked out a nice campsite (#531 on PP) at lunchtime just to take a break from paddling and to stretch my legs, then headed toward Elton via the short ports & small ponds route. This is almost certainly not the typical route as the portages did not seem to have as much wear and, on the last portage into Elton, I picked up 14 ticks. (I had stopped hosing myself with deet and this was one of the few places in the BW that I found any of these repulsive vermin.) I picked them off my pants legs & threw them in the water as fish food. Hopefully that act reduces the population somewhat for subsequent years (but I’m doubtful). 

The wind started to pick up on Elton but I pressed on to Makwa where it turned into a real nightmare with the wind seemingly determined to drive me into the bank. I paddled like hell, sneaking up the bank to the campsite (#983… looked OK and seemed not overused) when the wind died down quite a bit so I struck out for the portage to Panhandle. Predictably, the lull did not last long enough to make the crossing but there was an island to hide behind around the ½ way point and I rested while watching a loon bob along in the wind as if it were anchored there. As is often the case, I suspect that there was far more going on beneath the surface than what was visible. 

Panhandle lake was next and presented a new twist. I found what appeared to be the portage easily but I was a bit surprised by how rough it was, including a wet foot crossing of a stream. It was obviously not a game trail but neither was it typical of the portage trails that I’d gotten used to. 

Upon arrival at Pan lake, I saw another trail leading away from the landing to my right. I checked the map, found no other lakes in that direction so I decided to investigate. It turned out that this trail was the actual portage and was in far better shape but there was no way to walk the shoreline to get back to my canoe. 

Back down the trail to Pan, I picked up a paddle and took the bushwhack trail back to the canoe, then paddled to the North end of the beaver dam and took the better (and actual) portage trail to the landing at Pan lake. 

By this time, the sky was ominous, the wind had really gotten serious and Pan had been whipped into whitecaps. I debated setting up the tarp on the landing instead of trying to go further. Instead, I decided to sneak along the shoreline to the 1st campsite (#1047). If it was empty, it would be home for the night. If not, I would allow the wind to push me back to the landing and I would sit it out there until I could safely cross Pan.

I made it to the campsite and found it unoccupied just as the skies opened up into a really impressive downpour. Thoroughly soaked even before I could get the rain gear from my pack, I set up camp only to have the rain stop around the time that I finished.  

I gathered wood, set up a clothesline under the tarp, caught a few rock bass and called it a day. I had only seen 2 other people and they had been several hundred yards away and headed in the other direction. 

The tree configuration wasn’t ideal for a tarp and there was a slight slope. As I drifted off, I remember wondering if the tarp was oriented correctly to remain dry and if the ground was level enough to keep from sliding off of the groundsheet…

Day 6

As one might expect, both concerns of the previous night turned out to be valid. The wind shifted during the night and I was awakened by the rain blowing in and the combination of nylon ground cloth plus plastic, inflatable sleeping pad and slippery sleeping bag had me sliding around a good bit. For the first time there (even when worried about wolves), I can say that I did not sleep well.

After breaking camp, I took a little time to modify the pool noodle “carry yoke” so as to keep it further from the back of my neck. I cut some noodle off of each end & taped it near the center so there was a double layer except for about 6 inches in the center of the thwart. I was reasonably pleased with the result as it was far more comfortable but I ran short of duct tape and had to hope that it was secure enough to hold. 

The morning was cold, dreary and breezy and I felt sure I’d be warmer if moving, so I packed up and headed for Fishdance to see if I could find some pictographs. I’d heard they were faded and hard to see so I decided that only a cursory inspection was in order and I would try to get as close to the 240 rod portage into Thomas as I could before stopping for the night. 

The day ended as it started (just plain COLD!) but in the middle was some really good stuff.

For most of the way down the Kawishiwi river, I seemed to have the place all to myself and it was both beautiful and peaceful.

Nice island site (#1969) on the Kawishiwi river

I saw a total of 3 people along the river and arrived at Fishdance around 4pm (I’ve noticed, looking at my Mapshare that I didn’t get out of camp very early in the mornings, which was fine as I had no schedule to keep, but it seemed like I was on the water earlier than that). I looked a bit for the pictographs but, without knowing what I was looking for or which cliff they were on, I didn’t have much luck and wound up taking a few pictures of mineral stains (or, possibly, lichen?) instead. (Yep, my Archaeologist daughter is so proud of me).

Note: I have since learned that the locations of the paintings are clearly marked on the Fisher maps although, in my defense, Fishdance Lake is split onto 4 different maps. (hey, a poor excuse is better than none, right?) ANYHOW….

NOT pictographs... (who knew, right?) 

Blissfully unaware of my photographic failure, I headed off to Alice and met a rather large group at the portage… native Minnesotans by the sound of them. They were base camped on Alice and portaged into the surrounding lakes to fish and said they were headed into Thomas the next day also (I’m unsure why they would want to tackle a 240 rod potage twice in the same day but a couple of the younger men looked pretty strong and to each his own I suppose…)

They were very friendly, remarked (as many did) about the old Sawyer I was carrying and I mentioned modifying the pool noodle & running out of duct tape in the process. One of them immediately started digging in his pack and produced a small dollar store roll, told me to keep it and refused any offer of payment. It stabilized the pool noodle “yoke” quite well and, if by some chance one of them should read this, I offer one more sincere “thank you” for the kindness.

I ported out of Fishdance, caught a couple of nice smallmouth in the riffles below, cleaned them, gathered a few armloads of firewood and then realized that I had one more portage before Alice. I had no intention of portaging firewood so it got stacked neatly near the end of the portage for someone with more energy.

Alice was big water as well but the wind was moderate as were the waves and I found a nice, though heavily used, site (#1167) about 1/2 way to the Thomas portage. It was blessed with a huge sand beach and the sand extends well up into the camp so that rocks in the sleeping area was a non-issue and one could place about as many tents here as desired (note: group size in the BW is limited to a max of 9 people and 4 watercraft). 

There was not a stick of wood to be found in the woods immediately adjacent to the campsite but, as with everywhere that I traveled on this trip, it was plentiful along the shores within a short paddling distance and there was absolutely no need for splitting tools as I didn’t have to cut anything larger than my wrist the entire trip. (potential pack weight reduction on a return trip: leave the hatchet at home).

I unloaded my gear on the beach, paddled a few hundred yards north to find a nice landing (also sand), went into the woods far enough to be out of sight from the water (freshly sawn deadfalls are remarkably visible), and the canoe was soon filled with branches and small, dead trees. I set up camp, fried fish and kept the fire going awhile just for the warmth and enjoyment. 

The inReach can receive messages as well as send them and it was here that my oldest daughter messaged that one of the cats was not doing well. I was, at this point, about as far from the truck as I would get on this trip so I instructed her to not hesitate to contact our veterinarian (a personal friend as well as a horse shoeing customer) and I would settle up with her upon my return.

I turned in with the feeling that I’d best not dawdle regardless of how wonderfully warm the sleeping bag felt in the chill of the morning.

Day 7 

The day dawned sunny & beautiful and by 6:30 it was already warmer than it had been the day before. It was to be a day of big portages and big water and I‘d already found out that I was not a fan of either.

It turned out that I was not nearly ½ way to the portage when I camped the previous night as there was a very long, and very picturesque chute to paddle through once I found the opening to get behind the barrier islands.

The portage out of Alice was brutal but probably not as bad as I had anticipated. At 240 rods (¾ of a mile), I had been dreading this portage since the drive up. The carry itself would not have been too bad except that beavers had gotten busy on the Northern end and the trail was flooded about knee deep. In hindsight, I suppose I could have dropped the pack at the beginning of the flooded portion, brought the canoe up and paddled across but that (unfortunately) did not occur to me until the 2nd trip when I had the canoe.  (fun fact: no shoe is waterproof when the water is higher than the shoe) 

At the Thomas end, I found a pile of boards so I suspect that the Forest Service is planning a boardwalk through the flooded portion but I’m quite sure that transporting enough boards to a location that is that far from any of the entry points is a monumental task. (But I will admit to wondering if they’d hire me to help) 

When planning this trip, I was particularly concerned about carrying a canoe through the woods for long distances and I was relieved when I read that the Forest Service provided rests along some of the longer portages so that one would not have to lift the canoe again. I had also read that these rests were not being maintained lately so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As it turned out, I never did see any evidence of rests, either in disrepair or otherwise but I did manage to find enough places where one could catch a breather without setting the canoe down. 

Thomas lake was big, beautiful and calm that morning with a number of islands to paddle around and enough visual distractions that, since I was busy gawking at scenery and not paying close enough attention to the compass and map, I had a bit of trouble locating the narrows from Thomas to Fraser (pretty cool to paddle through instead of portage) but, other than that, it was a fairly uneventful 2 hour paddle into a headwind that had me longing for the portage.  

People were more abundant that day as well. About ½ the sites I passed on Alice were occupied. I saw a few fishermen on Thomas & Fraser and met a couple of guys from Chicago on the portage out of Fraser who assured me that I’d have the wind at my back on Kekakabic. There was a large group base camped on the cliff site on Wisini (#1909) and I passed a group of four coming out of Kekakabic and headed for Fraser.

On the portage into Kekakabic, I crossed the North Country National Scenic Trail which runs on top of the Kekakabic trail here. This was cool for me as I do volunteer work with the Butler, PA chapter of the North Country Trail Association. Unlike the snowmobile trail, I did not mistake it for the portage and I continued straight across.

I started up Kekakabic lake with the wind at my back (nice change of pace) and all was good... Until it started raining... It wasn’t raining hard and the day was warm so I passed the scattering of campsites at the Southwest end and headed East in search of pictographs.

I’m not sure if I found the pictographs or just mineral stains (perhaps lichens?) on rocks but by mid-lake the wind had picked up to produce a pretty good chop, and had shifted so it was quartering from the rear.  Suddenly, the boat was paddling like it was made of stone. 

I spotted something on the North shore and paddled my stone boat across the lake (twice, quartering the wind both directions to avoid taking waves broadside) to get a few pictures, figuring my daughter could tell me if I got pictographs or just wasted a bunch of energy. 

Either way, the rain stopped during the double lake crossing and I found a nice campsite (#1426) tucked into a cove on the East end. Someone had gone to a ton of trouble to cut and split a mountain of firewood but it was early and someone else might not have the time or weather so I gathered what firewood I’d need from the shoreline and made one of the dehydrated meals for supper.

According to my journal, I thought, if I pushed hard, I could make Round lake the next day but, given the long drive, the better plan was to get close, camp and leave the following day. It just didn’t work like that....

Day 8

The morning was cool and the routine continued comfortably: Dress, start the fire, drop the bear bag, start coffee, tear down the “tent”, check the fire periodically while packing, cook breakfast when coffee was ready and then linger a bit before lifting the canoe off of the bank and beginning the day.

Up to that point, the daily goals had been pretty loosely defined but now, as the trip was winding down, I decided that I’d loop North to see the falls by the Eddy lake portage (into the South arm of Knife lake) then drop South to Gabimichigami, through Peter to Gillis and try to end the day about a half day’s travel from Round lake & the truck.

This turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the trip and I’ll apologize in advance for the length of today’s report. I saw quite a few more people than I had in previous days and four were quite memorable. 

As so often happens when meeting at portages, one exchanges pleasantries and there are a few, seemingly obligatory questions: when/where did you come in?, where have you gone?, how much does that boat weigh?, where are you headed / how long do you plan to stay out?

Somewhere in the Kekakabic ponds, I met 2 guys on the same portage. The first, Mark, was barefoot and packing even more gear than I was although his boat weighed about half as much as mine. He said that he had come in in April, had left once to resupply and typically stayed out until circumstances forced him to return to civilization.

As one might expect, he was extremely knowledgeable of the area and said that he collects old maps of the BWCA as they show older, now unmaintained but often still usable, portages into some of the lesser traveled lakes and through some of the primitive management areas.

He mentioned 2 trails to overlooks: one starting from behind the ranger station on Kekakabic and one from the cliff campsite on Wisini, where you can see for miles around and I regretted not having this information when I paddled past both the previous day. I would have checked out the ranger station trail for sure. The other; probably not as there was a large group camped at the cliff site and, without a better idea of where the trail started, that might have been a bit intrusive. 

He had some truly amazing pictures including a nice close-up of a bull moose in velvet and a picture of a storm where the colors were unbelievably vivid and the scene just looked surreal. He was a bit shocked at my “portage yoke” and told me that the pictographs on Fishdance were actually some of the most vivid while the ones on Kekakabic had fewer colors and had not weathered as well. 

We chatted far too long as he showed me an edible plant (sweet gale) that grows along the waterline of nearly every lake and makes a peppery, and delicious, seasoning for fish and he also offered some advice on the trip out to Round: He said that most people seemed to exit through Peter lake and I might find better campsites and less traffic by going through Virgin, West Fern and Powell. 

As we were finishing our conversation, another solo paddler came down the portage. I failed to ask his name but we chatted about gear and canoes a bit. He was toting the smallest portage pack made by Cooke Custom Sewing, said he loved it but that he was after them a little to make one slightly smaller.

Like the barefoot fellow, he was carrying a boat in the 30 lb range and I mentioned that I’d been trying for the past 2 years to get everything in order to build a dedicated solo strip canoe. We talked over some options for a few minutes and he highly recommended the Freedom solo from Bear Mountain. While I acknowledge that he is likely biased (he said he helped design it), he made a strong enough case that I will be ordering plans as soon as I can find (or build) a heated shop.

The day also included one of the easiest portages of the trip…

And a few of the most picturesque waterfalls. The falls out of Eddy lake were fantastic and there was an amazing amount of water flowing over them. 

There is a small side trail that one can take (almost a bushwhack) which offers a view of the middle of the falls too… 

After the falls, I turned South through Jenny lake and at the portage to Mueller I met Chris and Jack, a father and son tandem from Chicago. The trip was Jack’s 16th birthday present even though he was now 17 (he too had gotten the trip pushed back due to the whole covid thing) and, even though they were a couple days into the trip, his enthusiasm had not waned and he was obviously in his glory while Chris, being a bit less agile was, understandably, more subdued but seemed thrilled nonetheless to be able to share the trip with his son. 

He noticed my inReach and said that he had rented one from his outfitter but he was a bit concerned that the battery seemed to be fading faster than he would have liked and he was down to 30% in just 2 days. He had a battery pack of suitable capacity but lacked the USB cord to link the two.

Among the extra items I had packed happened to be an extra USB cable that fit neither my cell phone nor my Garmin and, although Chris needed a bit of convincing in order to believe that it was, indeed, merely an extra that had somehow managed to be included in my pack, he tried it. His inReach was able to recharge and they headed North toward Eddy Falls and the South Arm of Knife.

From Mueller lake to Agamok I once again crossed the North Country Trail and I was sure to tuck the canoe out of the way of other travelers before I started my gear carry and likewise set my gear well out of anyone’s way at the Agamok end. This allowed me to hike just a bit on the NCT without feeling I was plugging up the portage and when I reached it again I headed East for about ¾ of a mile to see the steel bridge that I’d heard about and seen pictures of in the newsletters. 

From there it was off to Powell lake & a fish dinner… until the wind got going. Some of the strongest wind yet and it seemed to be coming from every direction but mostly from behind.

By the time I reached Gabimichigami lake I was very hesitant about the crossing but the Sawyer had proven extremely stable and seaworthy in the past and I started across. This was, apparently, not acceptable to whomever was controlling the wind and the waves as I had only gotten across the lake far enough to think I’d gotten in way over my head when the wind increased even more and I had whitecaps intermittently breaking over the gunwales. I leaned back as far as possible in an attempt to get the wind to catch the bow, turned as quickly as I could and paddled like hell back to the safety of the shore.

I knew the campsite nearest the portage was occupied so I retreated into the wind and now a light rain to the first open site (#1847). With 2 or 3 large trees laying on top of the best tent pad this site gets little use and I may have been the first here in quite awhile. 

One oddity was the fire grate. Every other site that I’d been to had a grate that was marked with “Superior National Forest” cast into it but this one was “Minn. Dept. of Nat. Resources''. 

Because this was a recent burn area, most of the trees were smaller and I was forced to get creative with tent support. There were very few options for tent location and the best remaining one was pretty close to the fire. I tucked the tarp up against a row of cedars which helped break the wind and tied off at the rear to a decent sized tree. The front was then tied around the handle of a paddle and secured to the oddly marked grate with a rock protecting the paracord from the heat. 

The lack of larger trees also made hanging the bear bag impossible. In addition to hanging, all food, toiletries and any other items that had unusual odors were stored in odor proof zip lock bags (I use Opsak brand). I had tested them in the backyard with some bacon where the neighborhood cats ignored them but I wasn’t sure about just leaving them on the ground for a hungry bear (is there any other kind?) to sniff around. Without any other options, however, I scattered the bags a bit outside the campsite & turned in.

Overall, the site didn’t work too badly. It was certainly small but there was firewood everywhere (I didn’t venture back onto the water to gather it away from camp as I’m supposed to as I’d had quite enough of that nonsense for one day), the row of trees did a nice job of slowing the wind that continued to rage even as it was getting dark and I wound up with a couple of really nice pictures as the rain slowed and eventually stopped.

I did not, however, get my fish for supper so I shredded the last of my bacon into some wild rice and finished off the last of my (contraband) Lays potato chips. (for any unaware, plastic is only allowed in the BW in the form of reusable containers and my blue sleeve of salty indulgence... well; it just did not qualify).

Day 9

The wind roared around and through my shelter all night but the nylon held out until morning. One of the grommets ripped out (second one I’d lost on the trip) as I was cooking breakfast and that made the “tear down or wait” question a little easier.

Around 7, as I was finishing packing, it started sleeting which helped answer the question of “how cold IS it?”... It felt freakin’ COLD and I could see my breath...ugh! During the sleet, however, the sun shone through and I was treated to a beautiful rainbow. The sleet stopped, the sun and wind stayed and it was time to cross Gabimichigami. 

Even early in the day, conditions were only marginally better than the night before and, with whitecaps along the Eastern shore I was again hesitant but, the decision to leave was made and I wanted to get at it. I paddled along the lee of the Western shore headed North until I was across from, and slightly upwind of, a long point of land which formed the Northern shoreline of the bay that was my target. The object was to make the crossing as short as possible, tuck into the lee behind that point and hug the shore until the portage into Peter lake.

Unable to watch the compass, the shore, the waves and wind direction all at once, I opted for keeping the boat upright and not allowing it to get turned broadside to the wind. Kneeling down and paddling like hell, I made it to the Eastern shore while still seriously questioning my judgment. Those waves, while not as bad as they had been the previous night, were as close to “beyond my ability” as I care to come.

Once again safely tucked out of the wind, I set about trying to determine exactly WHERE on the shoreline I was and it turned out that I had been blown about half of a lake South of my intended destination. I had missed the bay completely and was just West of Rattle lake. With no desire to attempt paddling upwind in the mess I’d just left, it was time for Plan “C”.

I ported into Rattle, looped around the Northern end of Little Sag, briefly mistook a game trail for a portage (honestly, sometimes I’m a slow learner), retreated to the boat, found the real portage and carried into Virgin lake from the South. 

(Interesting side note: There is cell & wifi service at the top of this portage. On the first carry my phone blew up with texts & messenger alerts but, because it had been functioning as a “camera only” for so long, it didn’t even register with me what all the noises were until I went to take the next picture.)

From Virgin through West Fern, Powell and French, I saw no one and only a few on Gillis. This area was burned in the Cavity lake fire in 2006 and I was amazed by both the amount of regrowth and by the desolation that must have remained after the fire.

In researching the trip, I had read that the Forest Service views fire as a natural part of a healthy ecosystem and allows naturally-occurring fires to burn themselves out whenever possible. After the first couple of days, I was surprised that fires were not more common as the woods seemed to be filled with white birch, dead jack pine and small dead cedars.

I was unfamiliar with Birch trees as my home state of PA is blessed with thousands of acres of hardwood forests but I’ve only ever seen a handful of White Birch. Frankly, I was shocked by how volatile that tree appears to be. A peel or two of bark from the nearest deadfall would roar into flame as if soaked in lighter fluid and there was no need for other firestarters. 

I never did cut up a log to see how quickly it burned, although I should have, if only out of curiosity. I felt that the cedars and jack pine made a nice cooking fire and, while it didn’t last like the oak, cherry and hickory with which I am familiar, it didn’t burst into flame & evaporate like I suspected the birch would.

I portaged into Bat and debated about grabbing a site (all were open and the middle looked really inviting with its cedar grove) but it was early so I pushed on reasoning that, if nothing was open on Brant, I would just finish out and probably reach the truck by dark. 

The Brant entry point must be made for mountain goats. Every portage was rocky and uphill and it felt like I gained 200 feet of elevation that afternoon. From Flying lake to Gotter, there was a set of wooden stairs and, with no good place to lift at the bottom, I unloaded onto the lowest step and slid the canoe to the top.

The carry from Gotter to Brant was particularly rough as it was up & down with treacherous footing at times. As I was headed back for the canoe I met a young couple, Aaron & Jamie. She was particularly friendly and chatted away as Aaron stood, smiling, holding the canoe. She was well spoken, very pretty and very personable… With such a companion, I suppose I’d have been smiling too.

The second site on Brant (#545) was open and while I was checking it out, I found a stuff sack full of garbage along the trail to the latrine. My first thought was “how did someone forget that all the way up here?” but then I realized it was nothing but garbage and had been left there so that it was sure to be found and someone else would have to clean up after them.

I hauled it back to the launch, looked through it briefly in hopes that I could find anything to indicate who left it, made a quick wood run (although I always gathered what I would use, this was the first site I’d been to that there was none left from previous campers), set up camp, made supper and hit the sack.

Day 10

The morning was unbelievably cold again and when I went to the clothesline to see which pair of socks was driest, I found that yesterday’s were almost frozen and the other wasn’t too bad... No contest there.

The moon had been full and spectacular the night before and I wished the camera would work because the cell phone simply wouldn’t capture the images well enough. The moonrise past the point of land opposite camp, the reflection off of the water… honestly, one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen. 

This is the best that the phone could do.

I had run out of coffee the previous morning and was reduced to the backup supply of instant. Two thoroughly terrible cups later, some frozen socks and my daughter’s elderly pet sick enough to be at the vet’s… It was time to go.

The rest of the trip to Round lake went as expected… paddle, carry, repeat. 

As I was leaving camp, four young men paddling tandem passed by, both paddling on one side of the canoe then both switching to the other, disjointedly zig-zagging their way down wind, while chatting loudly and seeming to thoroughly enjoy what was likely just the start of their trip.

Staged for the final portage

The only others I met were on the final portage into Round lake. As I finished the first carry, there was a young couple unloading who said they were headed to Gillis for a few days. We chatted a moment and, as they had a TON of gear, I wasn’t terribly worried about meeting them on the trail with both of us carrying canoes. 

(I never did figure the exact protocol for portages… seems canoes should have right-of-way over packs and packs over people returning for the second load but then you add in uphill/downhill, apparent age, sex, etc… oh well… I wasn’t likely to have that issue…)

I shouldered the boat and started back when, lo and behold, about ¼ of the way into the trip, here comes this young man, wearing a large backpack on his back, a portage pack on his chest, canoe over his head and paddles in one hand. She was loaded down about as heavily and they were loping down the trail as if they were going for ice cream. Luckily, there was a wide(ish) area where I was so I stepped to the side of the trail to let them pass. Not that I’m “old” yet but… ah, to be young again... 

I paddled my craft upwind (of course) across Round lake to the landing at Tuscarora Canoe Outfitters where I promptly purchased the one item that I could not stop thinking about for the past two days.

It had been years since I’d taken an extended break from civilized society and, as tastes change, I had wondered what I would miss the most… Turns out that, at least this trip, it was dry socks. I happily paid the young lady behind the counter, put them on right there on the front steps and walked the half mile or so to get my truck.

The trusty, rusty Ranger fired up on the first crank of the engine, just like it had for the past 290,000(ish) miles and, just as I was ready to back out, I heard “Hey, Steve! I thought that was you…”  Chris and Jack from Chicago (and the Ogish to Mueller portage) had pulled in beside me and Chris returned the charge cable I had given him. We chatted a bit about how the rest of our respective trips went and Jack assured me that his 16th birthday present was everything that he’d hoped it would be.

I drove back to the landing, hoisted the Sawyer and the pack one final time and, after a quick stop at the Marathon Station in Grand Marais for a large cup and a thermos full of unremarkable yet completely delicious coffee, I was Southbound down 61.

A few gas stops later, I holed up for the night in Tomah, WI. 

A hot shower, a comfortable bed, climate controls right there in the room… Life was indeed good.

The wrap-up:

While I fully understand the “it’s not WILDERNESS” criticisms, I thoroughly enjoyed my BWCA trip and will likely return once I renew and save my vacation time at work. 

I really did like the fact that there were no signs to mark portages or campsites. Not only did it add to the wilderness feel but it made the experience feel like a one million acre scavenger hunt with maps & compass for clues. Sure, I got turned around a few times but the mistakes we make are often the most interesting parts of our stories...

I will bring less gear next time and I resolve to pack as if I’m backpacking. 

I will certainly take a lighter canoe. The old Sawyer served me well but I’m sure I can build a stripper significantly lighter than it is and, because I built it, I would consider it more disposable and not stress out about the scratches as much. (rocks were omnipresent and every campsite and portage seemed to require you to leave a little paint to mark your passing.)

I would probably spend a little more time exploring the areas and make doubly sure the trip had a little less of a “checkpoint-to-checkpoint” feel. While I tried to be fairly loose about schedule, there were a few times that it seemed like I was pushing to the next “checkpoint”. Perhaps a third week or a full month to complete the trip would lessen that feeling. I suspect that, if I can get total weight, with the canoe, low enough to single carry, this issue may resolve itself.  (I have NO idea why one would want to complete the loop in 6 days as Andy suggested was possible but I certainly would not want to even if I could). 

I will take more coffee... While I was close with my “this should be enough for 10 days or so” estimate, the instant that I took as backup was nothing short of foul. I can offset the weight reduction of the lighter canoe with additional coffee and consider that trade to be the best since the Detroit Tigers acquired Max Scherzer. 

I will take less fishing gear. I took two spinning rods (which still seems right) and a ton of different plastics with which to fish various techniques (drop shot, ned rigs, wacky worms, etc). All I really needed were a handful of lead head jigs and a package of green pumpkin Mister Twisters. If fishing to reduce pack weight by living off the land, I’d bet you could catch fish with this set-up by tossing into the tailrace of almost any beaver dam you came across.

Note: If you’re after walleye or trout specifically, you may want to take something else. I did not catch either but I did have success with smallmouth, rock bass, yellow perch and northern pike. (I released the pike as, being solo, I did not need nearly that much food and they’ve never been a favorite any way... I really would have liked a walleye or two).

I would not hesitate to go solo on a return trip. With the inReach as a security blanket of sorts, I never felt that I was in any danger (well, at least not after I learned that wolves were unlikely to chew on my face while sleeping) and not having to worry about anyone else’s enjoyment but my own was very liberating.

At the same time, I would also not be opposed to a partner if we were on the same page about trip agenda/goals and I was certain we could spend 24/7 around each other regardless of circumstances. We each remember things a bit differently and, I feel that reminiscing a shared experience with someone might enrich my own memories (added benefit: it would lessen the amount of times my kids have to hear about the trip).

I will absolutely activate and carry the inReach. I didn’t use it much for navigation (although one could) but I liked being able to give those at home a little peace of mind and I cannot believe how many customers / family members checked multiple times a day to see where I was. Most tell me they had a ball living vicariously through me. It was also good that the kids could reach me if they needed to.

On the next trip I will share the mapshare link on this site so that any interested parties may follow along as well. Honestly, I’d thought about it prior to the trip but thought, if it kicked my butt and I bailed on day 3 of a planned 10 day trip, it would be a bit embarrassing. (funny how social media works like that… worried about disappointing or being embarrassed in front of people that I am unlikely to ever meet in person… welcome to the 21st century...)

I will continue to hang bear bags wherever suitable trees are found. I liked the extra security of an odor proof bag but I’m not sure I trust them completely just yet. I’d much rather throw a line and hang the bag than to (potentially) go hungry for days.

I will, most likely, take a tent. 

I’ll certainly take a tent if it’s early or late in the year as the additional windbreak of the tent walls would have been welcome on multiple nights. If I were to take the trip later in the summer, however, I might just go with the tarp. Weighing both when I got home, the tarp weighed in at 1 pound 6 ounces while the tent is listed at 3lbs 8oz but, for whatever reason, tips my scales at 4lbs 6oz. Most likely, I’ll use 3 pounds of the canoe weight savings and cut into the coffee stash a little by carrying the tent but one never knows…

I’ll let you know after the next trip. Until then… Be well, keep your head between the gunwales and, by all means, get out!