By Christopher Perreault
Every year we plan a trip on the boundary waters in Minnesota. With social distancing becoming a thing, we decided to start our 2020 trip by planning a route that covered the boundary line between the USA and Canada. We usually plan our trip based on the portages people do not like so we see less people but due to the pandemic, we noticed a lot more permits being used so we decided we would go further north and include the Canadian waters, near the Quetico.
This year our route would start at the small Larch Creek entrance which only allows one entry permit per day. This route would allow us to bypass the popular Gunflint and Magnetic lakes. The route included 37 miles, 9 lakes, 3 rivers, 14 portages and 1 creek.
The start of our adventure was two weeks prior with a lot of equipment and food prep. Two Canoes and five sets and portions of everything. My wife, Emily took the lead on this as she dehydrated things you would not think possible and vacuum packed all for three meals per day for 10 days. Food is always one of the hardest parts of the adventure since our five-year-old daughter, Evelia has gluten and dairy allergies. Meanwhile I was in the process of acquiring another canoe, outfitting the trailer, getting new paddles, and loading up.
This year we limited ourselves to seven drybag backpacks. This made portages doable in one trip, not the usual two, which in past adventures was the infamous line in the sand for the kids. I finally found a lightweight canoe the night before we left, loaded it up and enjoyed our last comfortable feeling bed for the next two days.
We started the trip with a 1.5-mile paddle down Larch creek to Larch Lake. Along the way, we spotted multiple painted turtles, crossed over nine never dams and got uncomfortably close (~50’) to a young black bear. Once we made it to Larch Lake we need to paddle across to the east side for our first portage. If you have never been to the boundary waters and double backpacked two 35-pound packs and then added a 65-pound canoe, let me tell you, this is where you will test your will, your muscles, and wish that you see another lake around every tree.
We crossed the first portage with ease to arrive at Clove Lake which would be our first campsite of our 10-day adventure. After two great nights and multiple bald eagle sightings, we headed north for our next stop at Gneiss Lake. We traveled through the Granite River and fished Granite Lake in Canada, northern pike and small mouth bass found their way to our dinner plates for lunch and dinner every day. Thankful for high water and whitewater experience, we were able to run rapids on four sections rather than portage since water flows north in this section. Arriving at Gneiss Lake we found an island campsite for our next five days. This would be our base camp for all our hikes and water trips to Maraboeuf, Devil’s Elbow, Saginaga, Cross Bay, Ambush, and Prayer lakes. We found a moose tracked beach for some needed play time and some adventure hiking. After five days we were ready for our next campsite. We decided to head back to Clove Lake and see if the rock campsite was available.
The trip back to Clove was not as easy as the one going in. We started with a short portage of canoes and gear then power paddled up two sections of rapids, wish I could explain how well my 12-year-old daughter, Emara utilized the draw stoke and J stroke to get us up this current. The next two sections were not something we felt we had the horsepower to paddle up safely so we headed to the mosquito peninsula portage and walking a eight-inch wide plank for way too long. Once past that we came to our last portage of the day that would get us from Granite back into Clove and to our campsite for the next two days. After enjoying some the diving rock and cool breeze on Clove and watching the Loons and ducks all around, we packed up and headed for Larch Lake. The last night we would spend on an island on Larch Lake. We found a great campsite with a lot of northern pike and moose sightings. After one more night we packed up all our gear for the last time and headed out Larch Creek. As we reached our take-out we seemed to slow down as if our bodies were telling us we did not want to leave. We put all the gear in the truck loaded the canoes on the trailer and headed down the road for a nice drive down the North shore looking at superior on one side and wilderness on the other. I could not help but feel like we were driving on a line that separated reality from the dream world and that we just woke up from our dream.