Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A wild encounter...

I've never had a job before where I haven't always been looking towards the weekend or my next day off. Just over a month into my job at Birch Trail I am sitting in a cafe in Spooner enjoying my second day off, we get three days off per session (a session is 4-5 weeks), it sounds worse than it is though as we do get a few nights off here and there throughout the session as well. To say I love this job is an understatement, I am having the most amazing time and I spend a lot of time thinking to myself, wow I'm getting paid for this! The days are long and when we go out on trips even longer, but it doesn't feel like work and I get to hang out with at least 11 fun new friends every day, I am already hoping that I will get to come back and do it all again next year!

After an altercation with a cast iron fire grate I have been on light duties for the past 6 days, my hand is much better and I am hoping that by Friday when I head out for a three day river trip I will be ready to grip a paddle again. My first trip was a 6 day paddle of the Boundary Waters where I got my first taste of Canada as I straddled the two countries during one of our many portages. The Boundary Waters is a series of lakes and waterways spanning the boarder of the US and Canada that don't always connect so inevitably a trip there involves portaging your canoe and all of your gear from one lake or waterway to another. My co-tripper Casey was keen for a portage intensive route, me on the other hand, not so much. I found portages hellish, canoes are heavy - fact. I'm not one to balk on a challenge though so we came up with a 36 mile route that hadn't been done by Birch Trail in recent years and involved at least two portages a day, the longest 111 rods (1 rod is a canoe length). The heavy lifting was worth the effort, on two occasions we enjoyed an entire lake to ourselves, although we did have bugs as company! Looking across a silky satin lake as the sun rises and watching the mist rise is a spectacular way to start the day. 

The trip was not without a few funny moments, I took on a wild turkey, and I don't mean the bourbon! The girls had set off down a portage trail laden with bags and canoes and I loaded up and followed a few minutes later, about half way down the trail I could hear commotion; giggling and the girls yelling that a big bird was blocking their path. Thinking to myself, 'bejesus just scare the damn bird and get on with it!' I strode to the front of the pack and was confronted with a wild lady turkey very determined to protect her chicks that I could hear chirping from the sidelines. Still believing this shouldn't be too difficult I commence the shouting, hand clapping and shoo-ing. Lady bird would not budge and after I continued this for about 5 minutes she had enough and proceeded to launch herself at me, pecking my leg and scaring the daylights out of me, which in turn scared the girls and began a fit of laughing as lady bird and her chicks made tracks into the brush. 

One of our more intensive portages was called the Stairway Portage, encompassing 76 rods and 121 heavenly steps. After reaching hauling all of our gear we decided to take a well earned break, we grabbed a snack and headed back to the top for a picturesque view of the waterfalls and a last glimpse of Canada before we headed South. Thinking that we wouldn't be long Casey had left the dry bag containing snacks open on the ground with the rest of our gear, when we returned about 45 minutes later one of our trash bags had been ravaged and rubbish scattered around, we cursed the chipmunks and proceeding to clean up when we noticed that our red dry bag had vanished. Confused we contemplated the situation, clearly a chipmunk was not about to carry away an 8kg dry bag of food, it was then we realised that a visitor was a little larger and most likely of the bear variety. Still in disbelief of the possibility that a bear had picked up and carried off one of our bags of food we loaded up our canoes and then decided to do a little scouting of the woods surrounding the trail... after about 10 minutes, 20 feet off the trail Casey came across our dry bag, sitting upright and unscathed! We weren't going hungry that night....

Our last full day of the trip brought a well deserved 'duff' day, after a sunrise paddle we set up camp early in the day overlooking Moss Lake and were lucky to be enjoying the sole campsite of the lake. After an afternoon hike and a three course gourmet backcountry meal I got into the fight with the fire grill, which brought several second degree burns to my right hand and a night of the most pain I have ever experienced. Luckily Casey's first aid skills were stellar and after a very expensive visit to the hospital the following morning I am happy to report I am now healing nicely. Fighting with fire grates - not recommended.

My return to camp brought much attention as I sported a fluorescent pink bandage, my sense of humour had returned so reported to the kids that Casey had pushed me in the fire, to which he replied that I had 'sassed him' and deserved it! The following days brought a few evenings off, several cold beers and a night of karaoke at our local The Buck. 

Tomorrow is July 4th and another day off for me so no doubt more beer and monkeyshines will the on the agenda as we celebrate the US National Day and the imminent birthday of Mealy. Thursday its back to business as I pack out for my next trip, a three day paddle on the Namekagon River with a group of the younger campers and my girl Shae-dynasty. Should be fun!

Campers Lexi & Paige paddle the Boundary Waters

Campside chill time

Pines and satin waters

Dessert favourite 'Ashpalt'. Basically warmed up brownie mix. Awful!

Sunny days

One of an abundant gorgeous sunsets


Straddling the US and Canada

Sunrise Boundary Waters style

Above the waterfall, stairway Portuguese locked up

121 steps later but worth it

4am start for a sunrise paddle

Casey in quiet contemplation

My hand 6 days after the crime