Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Another 'Annual Fall Trip'
Since 2001, I've headed out on a kayak trip with some cronies the week after Labor Day. This is the perfect week because kids are in school, most adults have resigned themselves to putting their noses to the grindstone for the next few months, the weather is still decent, and the mosquitoes and black flies have pretty much checked out for the year. This years trip, like last years, was to the island group between the US/Canadian border and Thunder Bay, ON. Also like last years trip, we did not see another kayaker on the water and only ran into people at the Wray Bay dock and sauna on the very northeast tip of Thompson Island.
It was a pretty uneventful trip, with some flat water, some big water, warm days, cold nights, and a pretty laid back itinerary. The scenery is spectacular and this year, unlike last year, Isle Royale was clearly visible and kept us company less that 20 miles to the southeast. Thompson Island is a miniature, skinny replica of Isle Royle and lies parallel to it along the Canadian coast. The lead image in the post was the end of a very large rainbow that started on the mainland and arced all the way to Isle Royale, viewed from south shore of Thompson. I've never seen anything like that and we couldn't figure out what it was until we turned around and saw the start of the giant rainbow on the mainland. We even got a nice sunset or two as well.
One very nice perk along the way was the very lovely sauna in Wray Bay. I believe its on crown land and the boaters from Thunder Bay hauled the materials out to build it, along with an ingenious dock set up for larger boats. The deal is that all can use the sauna if you pay with a bit of sweat equity. Saw some logs, split them, and pump the water buckets full. I've heard the complaint that kayakers roll in, use the wood and water, and then blissfully paddle off. We made damn sure we had the folding saw and splitting wedges, filled the water buckets, and then used the broom to sweep out the changing area. Things work really well if everyone does that and it makes we kayakers look like equal contributors to a lovely spot and fine amenity.
About the same time the tragedy in the Apostles was unfolding on Friday night, we were listening to Environment Canada tell us that rain would begin at dusk with 20-25mm (that's an inch folks) expected and winds shifting to the southeast with 25-30 knot velocity and waves 1.5 to 2 meters. The GreenThumbChef, stepping in for the VoiceOfReason as we boys fantasized about surfing to the car on 6 footers in the morning, said that packing wet gear, making breakfast in the rain, and roller coastering to the take out just didn't sound like that much fun. We menly men were a bit reluctant but when the additional concept of driving to Grand Marais, booking a cheap motel, and having a couple beers at the Gunflint was added, the idea became much more attractive. That's exactly what we did.
The next morning the rain and wind had arrived as predicted from the east south east, and the BadHatter and I went out and made sure we could roll in the wind and 2' to 4' rollers. Its always a confidence builder if you can practice a skill in the conditions the skill is likely to be used in rather than in the flat calm lake 5 miles from your house. We had the perfect bailout as well because if we screwed up we would blow right in the harbor mouth and be planted literally on the doorstep of the Gunflint, a short stroll across the street from the landing beach. It was also decent surfing as the waves curled around the breakwater and stacked a bit, making for a few nice rides. It was a very nice end to a very nice week.