07-May-2002 -- Trip report:
BWCA 48N x 91W Degree Confluence visit
During the summer of 2001 we learned about the degree confluence project. At that time we had two trips to the Boundary Waters scheduled for that year already, neither of which allowed sufficient time to attempt a degree confluence. Having been to that area many times, we were aware of the difficult terrain, and determined that we would need a full day to bushwhack in to the confluence at 48x91, which at that time had not been attempted yet.
Our normal BWCA crew discussed the idea and four of us decided to make an attempt at this confluence in spring of 2002. The four adventurers would be Lloyd Baker, Doug Haines, and Doug's two son's Eric and Justin Haines.
Subsequently an attempt was made at the confluence in August 2001 and the report confirmed all of our suspicions about the terrain that we were planning to enter.
A look at our schedules and the schedule for the fishing season opener in Minnesota made us decide to make this attempt the week of May 5th. We posted our intentions on the degree confluence project web site and began planning our route and how long we wanted to take to achieve our goal. Since we live in southeastern Lower Michigan, it is a 17-hour drive to the Gunflint trail area of Minnesota, and we wanted to make a full week of our adventure.
We started our trip on May 3rd in Highland Michigan. Driving to Tuscarora lodge on the Gunflint trail via Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
We arrived at Tuscarora Lodge on Saturday May 4th and spent the night in one of their bunkhouses. On Sunday May 5th we began our trip after getting our wilderness entry permit.
We paddled and portaged as far as Bat Lake and spent the night of May 5th there. It was cold and snowing when we stopped to make camp, with the wind coming from the East. For outdoorsmen everywhere this is not usually a good sign…
On the morning of the 6th of May, after a welcome breakfast of warm oatmeal, we set off for Little Saganaga Lake. We had winds out of the North that Day increasing in velocity throughout the day. When we arrived on Little Sag we selected a campsite on an island directly across form our chosen starting point for the confluence attempt.
The morning of May 7th broke with clear skies and bright sunshine. We delayed a while, hanging out wet things to dry, knowing that this type of weather can be short lived in the BWCA.
We set off about 10:00 to start our adventure, paddling across the lake and portaging into Hop Lake. It did appear the fishermen sometime go in this far, based on the occasional silver mark on top of rocks in spots that the canoes had to be lifted over some small rapids.
We went to Jump lake to see if the river flowing upstream into Twinkle lake would be navigable. This would make the trip to the confluence much shorter. After following the stream, on foot, for a few hundred feet we decided that it would not be practical to try to portage the canoe up to Twinkle Lake.
We had lunch in a beautiful spot looking out over Jump Lake, knowing that we had already seen parts of the BWCA that very few people ever go to.
If we didn't make it to the confluence we were already satisfied that this trip was worth it.
After lunch we paddled back to Hop Lake and went to our secondary planned starting point, if the Jump Lake/Twinkle Lake route didn't pan out.
We left the canoe at 2:30 PM and went due east up a ravine, turning Southeast near the top of the ravine. We followed a Moose trail towards the South-southeast for most of the distance toward the confluence. We encountered several small marshy areas that had ice in some spots. We were very glad that we had come at this time of the year and not a couple of weeks later when this area would have been swarming with bugs.
We arrived at the confluence location on a small knoll at approximately 4:00 PM. On a spot about 15 feet from where our gps showed the confluence to be there was a couple of birch logs that were down in a near perfect X.
We joked about X marking the spot, and given the accuracy of GPS, it is quite possible. We took some photographs in each direction, and one of the acquired waypoint on the GPS unit, showing 48.00.000N by 91.00.007W.
Then it was time to begin the return trip to the canoe and get back to Little Sag before we ran out of daylight. The return trip to Little Sag was basically uneventful and went pretty quick. After we arrived in camp we had a good dinner and planned our return to Tuscarora lodge. We decided to take a different route back and cross the Tuscarora portage, which is a 366-rod (roughly a mile) long carry.
We had the wind from the South the morning of the 8th of May and experienced a little sleet while portaging around the rapids from Mora to Little Sag.
By the afternoon the wind had shifted and was now approaching from the East. We had lunch at a campsite in the Southeast corner of Crooked Lake and headed over into Owl and then to Tuscarora Lake. When we reached Tuscarora Lake the wind was to fast to attempt a safe crossing, so we returned to Crooked Lake, made camp and waited until Thursday the 9th of May. Thursday we skipped breakfast and got under way before 7:00 AM in order to try getting across Tuscarora Lake during the morning calm. We made it just in time. And had a hot breakfast around 9:00 AM on the Eastern point of Tuscarora lake near the 366 rod portage.
We took our time portaging with several stops along the way and left the BWCA via missing link lake, returning to Tuscarora Lodge around 2:00 PM on the 9th of May.
When we returned home and had a chance to check the Internet we were surprised to learn that the people who had attempted the confluence in August 2001 had returned the day before our scheduled trip and had actually been there on the 4th of May. Perhaps they placed the crossed birch logs there although their trip report didn't say so.
Although we were not the first to visit this confluence, we are still pleased that we did it. It was the challenge of the journey, not being first ones that mattered most to us.
All in all it was a great trip that included all of the good stuff that we have come to expect from the BWCA. We saw and heard plenty of wild life and beautiful flora. We experienced wind from all four directions, rain, snow, sleet, hail and sunshine. Temperatures ranged from warm to cold. All of the sensory challenges that nature has to offer were presented to us, upon a pallet of greens and browns, signaling renewal and growth.
For those interested in seeing more of the photographs from this trip, there will be a web site with the detailed trip report and information about the routes and lakes covered, equipment used etc. It will be found at home.netcom.com/~scouter3/
after May 31st 2002.