Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Saxon Harbor

On Sunday morning we decided that the nearshore forecast just might allow us to dip our paddles in Gitchee Gumee. We couldn't leave CampO before breakfast however. Its not every day you get a breakfast of venison bacon, eggs, hash browns O'Brien, sausage, and blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. I am normally the cook for this meal and the large commercial griddle in the kitchen is a joy to whip up breakfast on. No one leaves hungry, there is plenty of everything available. If you ate this way every morning you'd be scheduling your bariatric surgery sometime in September but 'moderation in all things' is the operant phrase in this case.

Saxon Harbor is about 40 minutes north of CampO on Oronto Bay where Oronto Creek flows into the big lake. Its the start of an ancient Native American trade route known as the Flambeau Trail and the site of one of John Jacob Astor's fur trading posts from 1808 to 1830. They just spent a couple million bucks expanding the harbor, adding new docks, and stabilizing the shoreline. There is an inviting sand beach that runs all the way to Marble Point, two plus miles west of the harbor. Inviting that is, until you get an offshore breeze in the summer. Then the biting flies attack in a plague of biblical proportions and neither man nor beast wants to be anywhere near the beach or harbor. Fishing is great out of Saxon Harbor but once you clear the harbor mouth you are on the big lake and you need to really keep a 'weather eye'. There isn't a shred of protection between there and Canada, many miles to the north.

RonO and I launched a bit after 10am. The photo right was taken Friday night and there was no thought of paddling at that point. We headed east toward the Montreal River, which is the border between Wisconsin and Michigan. This river has high hazard class V rapids and an inaccessible canyon for a significant part of it. The 1985 PanAm whitewater competition was held here; its some serious water in the spring of the year. When we got to the mouth of the river the current and rough water it created went out at least a half mile into the lake. There was a north wind against the current that made it even more interesting. I believe this was the first time I'd been able to practice peel outs and crossing an eddy line on the big lake. Both RonO and I said we should have played around more in the current but we also needed to stretch out and knock a few miles off so we turned west and headed toward Marble Point and Graveyard Creek. That entire shore is high banks of red clay that erode, dumping trees and an incredible amount of clay into the lake when there is a big storm. Graveyard Creek is one of a handful of Lake Superior streams believed to have a naturally reproducing population of Coaster Brook Trout. There are no-kill fishing regulations in effect and it would be great so see the Coasters rebound, if we can manage not to screw up the stream habitat. We took a quick break to check out the creek and then paddled back to the harbor and our reluctant return to the work a day world. I need to do some serious work on avoiding that drive back to the city on Sunday evenings.


Nan said...

They've stabilized Saxon Harbor again? I wonder how much the shoreline will move this time. Each time they play with the breakwater, dredging, or stabilization there are interesting unintended consequences.

I have fond memories of Saxon Harbor, but have always been leery of the Montreal -- a friend drowned near one of the falls.

DaveO said...

As we were having a fermented malt beverage with RangerBob he mentioned your Saxon roots. It still makes me nervous entering the Bear Trap but I've gotten braver over the years. I agree on both the Montreal canyon and Saxon Harbor. I avoid whitewater and more and more of the hillsides wind up in the lake.The clay colored water ran out at least a mile and a half.

Nan said...

Ah, the Bear Trap . . . way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth my parents rented an apartment on the second floor -- it used to be a two-story building known as Smitty's Tap. It was, of course, a much, much cooler building than it is now.