It was Monday. Not a bad day for a layover day in canoe country. Thoughts of what was going on around my workplace barely entered my mind. Today would be the only day we would not have to break camp and set up camp during the trip. We had a nice site with lots of room and a beautiful and massive cliff across our little bay to contemplate. The day began with alternating sun and clouds and the wind continued to blow strong and steady into our west-facing bay.
Rosie and I relished in the absence of any pressure to get moving and leisurely made and ate breakfast. It was another Cache Lake bread this morning, a cranberry breakfast bread that, topped with raspberry jam, was delicious. It was of course washed down with plenty of coffee.
We had decided to have our layover day on Kekekabic for several reasons, but one was the sheer quantity of activities and destinations that presented themselves for day trips:
- The lake is known for its lake trout, a fish I really wanted to catch for the first time.
- On the south shore of the lake in this end, there were American Indian pictogaphs (which we had also never seen)
- and a spur of the Kekekabic Hiking Trail (which crosses the entire Boundary Waters). There aren’t many hiking opportunities in the Boundary Waters, and by hiking up this trail we could find
- the location of an old fire lookout tower. The tower is gone, but the hill would present another good view of the surrounding territory.
- There was also little Kek Lake, a five rod portage away and supposedly a neat lake to check out. Small and exceedingly deep, with high bluffs rising up all around.
All of that sounded like a great field trip. Pack a lunch, our rain gear and the camera, leave camp set up, and do some exploring. Back in time for dinner and some rest and relaxation.
Unfortunately, two Boundary Waters truisms were illustrated this day: things don’t always go as planned, and you can’t control the weather.
The weather history for that day shows wind speeds of 10 mph, maximum speeds of 18 mph, and gusts up to 34 mph. It was blowing and blowing hard. All we had to do was look up from anywhere in the camp and see the rollers out on the main lake to know that we had no interest in going anywhere until it settled down.
So, after breakfast we set about taking it easy, which is not very hard to do in the Boundary Waters. We passed much of the morning and afternoon reading, napping and fishing off the rocks into a drop-off on the north side of our camp. We caught nothing but rocks and logs, though it was still fun.
For a couple hours in the afternoon, while Rosie hung out in the tent, I read, sitting out in the main part of the camp, with a great view of the lake, with a rock sticking out of a patch of grass at the perfect angle to serve as a backrest. I was reading Carl Sagan’s book Contact and was totally wrapped up in it, which gave me added incentive to try to stay put when it occasionally started to rain.
Every so often, clouds would blow over the bluff from the northwest and let loose with a little rain. I could always see the clear skies around the clouds and knew the sprinkles wouldn’t last long, so I’d pull the hood up on my rain jacket and try to outlast it. The rain always seemed to crescendo just to the point where I had no option but to get up, grab chair and book and go under the tarp, back in the brush my the tent. About as soon as I got comfortable there, the pitter patter on the tarp would slacken and then stop and I’d get back up and move my little setup back out in the camp.
Though I’ve always considered lounging around a Boundary Waters campsite to be one of the finest things in life, I struggled all day with the frustration of not being able to explore Kekekabic like I’d wanted. I felt a certain melancholy all day, combined with the slight worry of what we would do if the wind was blowing like this tomorrow, when we were due to paddle down much of the length of the lake on our way west.
As the sun began to dip toward the western horizon, we did get out in the canoe for a little while. We paddled out into the middle of our bay and dropped anchor (our Bell anchor bag, probably overfilled with rocks from shore, held us quite well the couple times we used it during the trip, even though both times were in strong wind) and tried every combination of heavy jigs and artificial bait we could think up, hoping to hook a laker. No luck.
Shortly after we dropped anchor we saw the first other people we had seen since early the previous day (on the South Arm of Knife Lake) and the first people we had talked to since the first day of the trip three days prior (on the portages from Birch to Knife Lake). A pair of guys paddled into the bay and asked if we were camped at our site. We said “yes” and they promptly turned around and headed back out of the bay.
We headed back in after a while with thoughts of dinner in our head. That night, we had what turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the trip: cheese-filled tortellini with a creamy pesto sauce, chicken and peas. The tortellini didn’t take long to cook over the stove, the pesto sauce was powdered and just required a little dehydrated milk and non-dairy creamer, and the chicken and peas were both dehydrated. All of it mixed together was simply delicious and I amazed myself with how much I ate. I was also amazed again at what a good hot meal can do for your spirits.
As the sun set, the skies cleared some and the wind died down a little. It was a familiar pattern already and I knew it was no guarantee of calmer weather the next day. Rosie soon went to bed but I didn’t quite feel ready. The potential difficulties of the next day were already palpable to me, thought it might have just been the thought of getting back on the move again after a stationary, stress-free day.
I leaned against the chair rock and read by the light of my headlamp for a while, then turned off the light and went up on the flat rocks where I could lay on my back and look at the stars. I waited until I had seen a couple shooting stars and retired to the tent.