Day One: Settling In

Our journey in the BWCA Wilderness began on Mudro Lake. There we learned the essential team work needed for a three-man canoe and got an early glimpse of the BWCA's natural beauty.

Between lakes and rivers are short spurts of land trails, each with varying degrees of length. Transporting the canoe, food and belongings over land - called a portage - proved to be one of the most difficult aspects of the journey. Portages are measured in rods. One rod equals 16.5 feet and 320 rods equals a mile. Below are images from our first portage, which measured 80 rods (1/4 of a mile).

This particular portage was supposed to be tough and, admittedly, it was, especially since it was our first. It involved a steep incline followed by a steep decline. Afterward we arrived at Sandpit Lake, pictured below.

Following Sandpit Lake was a flatter but longer portage of 160 rods (below, left). Tin Can Lake was next, followed by an easy portage of 90 rods. Finally we ended up in Horse Lake, which gave way to Horse River. Horse River was a beautiful meandering creek with mild rapids and three short portages of 50, 50 and 75 rods. Much of Horse River was filled with rild rice, pictured in some of the photos below.

Finally, after 7 miles of travel, we ended up on Basswood River, which in many portions more closely resembled a lake. A particular campsite on this river/lake was recommended to us, so we were in a bit of a hurry to nab it first. Fortunately we claimed it and boy was it worth it. The campsite had plenty of space and a commanding view of the river. We quickly set up camp and cooked lunch, which consisted mainly of hot dogs and cookies. After lunch we strung up our bag of food over tree limbs to make it out of reach of bears (a necessity). It did work to keep bears out of our camp, but a chipmonk managed to nibble through some cheese and crackers.

We took a refreshing swim in the lake and explored some of Wheelbarrow Falls, while Carson tried out (unsuccessfully) his fishing rod.

Basswood River serves as a dividing line between the American and Canadian border. While we could canoe in Canadian waters and were forced to portage there, we were not allowed to camp on the Canadian side. Cam, a Canadian citizen, felt right at home. In the pictures below America rests on the left and Canada on the right.

On our way back to camp for the evening we stopped by a massive beaver dam and took a few small pieces of wood to help kindle our fire. As we would come to learn all too well, leaches often infested beaver dams. Luckily none found their way to our skin this time, but in the picture below you can see one that attached itself to the bottom of our canoe.

That evening we cooked steaks for dinner and then sat on our rock outcropping. The setting sun splashed a beautiful array of colors over the sky and tree line. No one was there to see it but us. Basswood River had become our very own private paradise.

As the sun set I didn't think it was possible for the day to have brought more natural beauty than it did. But then darkness fell, and because of the lack of ambient light, the stars shined brighter than I had ever seen before. It was as if I could see each and every one. This place was truly a natural treasure, and the journey had just begun.

Click here for notes and pictures of day two.


Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
Experiencing the BWCAW, August 2009

Outfitted by Jordan's Outfitters
© Copyright 2009 Joshua Claybourn. All Rights Reserved.