Our first night out in the wilderness in Voyageurs National Park went well. Today, we hiked back to Agnes Lake for another night of camping. It was a beautiful, peaceful night as we had a campfire and listened to the calls of the loons.
I slept well and got up as the sun was rising through the trees behind our tent.
I did some reading and watched the loons on the lake while Linda slept in.
Eventually, Linda got up and was pleased that she got some sleep. She fired up the WindBurner and boiled some water for coffee.
After that, she boiled some more water and we enjoyed some very tasty pineapple-coconut oatmeal for breakfast.
I filtered water and filled our water bladders for today's hike back toward the trailhead.
We considered paddling around the lake this morning, but decided against it. I locked up the canoe, and then we slowly started breaking camp.
We packed everything into their compression bags, and unlike all prior camping we've done, all our gear fit back inside their sacks like they are supposed to.
We walked out of camp around 9:30 and it was already quite hot and humid. I DEETed up more than yesterday, and the bugs left me alone for the most part. Of course, Linda had her head net and plenty of DEET herself.
Having my buff (a modified bandana) helped. I wetted it down and placed it under my hat to help keep me cool.
My pack felt heavier, and my hips were aching a bit. Muscles were being used that hadn't been used in a long, long time. It was amazing how much the weight of the pack was felt through my feet. My head wasn't on a swivel looking for wildlife like it usually is. Today, I pretty much concentrated on the trail, ..... and we didn't stop for nearly as many blueberries.
We went about three and three quarters miles, and I was really exhausted by the time we walked down some steep rocks into our campsite at Agnes Lake. I was thinking "This is a baby backpacking trip, and it just kicked my butt". Linda was right again - sheesh - four nights would probably have been too much for our first time out.
At the Agnes Lake campsite, there was a designated tent pad and a bear pole away from the main campsite. There was also a picnic table (in worse shape than the one at Cruiser Lake), and a firepit.
There was also supposed to be a latrine. We had to search harder for this one but eventually found it up the hill and on the opposite side of the campsite from the bear pole. This latrine was in an outhouse-looking structure, quite unlike the one yesterday.
I woofed down the items in my lunch bag, and most of what was in my snack bag, while Linda removed her hiking boots, put on her lightweight camp flip-flops and walked into the lake with her clothes on to cool off and wash up.
She hung our clothesline, and put her hiking pants and shirt on it to dry. I took off my hiking shirt, boots, and socks, and I zipped off the legs of my hiking pants. I dipped my buff, and put it over my head to help cool me off.
I practiced putting the tent up by myself in this very pretty setting.
The site, in addition to being lakeside, was surrounded by blueberries.
We got everything else unpacked and set up as well. Then I broke out the fishing gear, put on some sunscreen, and tried my luck .....
while Linda sat out in on the rocks enjoying the breeze off the lake and doing a little reading.
After just a few casts, my little trout lure was hit, and I managed to land my first ever Northern Pike.
That made my day.
I hooked it on the side of the mouth so it couldn't cut my line with its sharp teeth and it gave me some great leaping action. I think I'm supposed to have a wire leader when fishing for pike, but I didn't have any.
One of the heavier (for its size) items I brought on this trip was a multi-tool (1/2 lb.) which I kept in one of the pockets on my backpack hip pads. It's sort of falls into the same category as a first aid kit in that it's one of those "just in case" items that can come in really handy if you need it. Fortunately, I only had to use it for hook removal and cutting fishing line.
Pike are like freshwater barracudas with their teeth, but maybe even more aggressive. Later, I hooked another one, but it cut my line before I could get it in.
At least I knew they had teeth. Tim, the water taxi/fishing guide, told the story of the guy from Oklahoma that came up to fish for Smallmouth Bass. He wasn't having any luck, so Tim rigged him up for pike fishing. But Tim forgot they don't have pike in Oklahoma and forgot to warn the guy about the teeth. When the Okie caught his first pike, he tried to "lip" it like a bass and the fish bit down on his thumb and wouldn't let go. It cut up his thumb pretty badly. Oops.
I fished for just a while longer, and then joined Linda for some quiet reading.
Later, we were interrupted by a hiking couple that asked if they could come down and replenish their water supply. Clark and his wife were from Iowa, and they were also out on backpacking test run. They were staying at Ek Lake on the southern and western side of the Cruiser Lake trail system, and were out for a day hike today.
He started pumping water out of the lake through his filter and was struggling, so I told him to take it out of our folding bucket of water to make it easier. His wife was shy and stayed up on the rocks, so I helped him filter and fill their water bottles.
The Agnes Lake campsite is between two trail intersections and only a few minutes from the trailhead and dock, so we knew the possibility of having company might be a little higher. We could also hear boat motors from the big lake, but they were just a distant drone and didn't take away from our peaceful surroundings.
We felt afternoon naps coming on. So, we retired to the tent. Linda stuck it out and got some shut-eye, but it was just too hot in there for me.
We determined that, at least for this type of backpacking where we have significant time in camp, it might be nice to have a hammock. We'll have to look into that.
I took my Helinox chair and sat by the lake with my Kindle with my feet in the water to stay cool. I was so relaxed ..... until I felt something crawl across my big toe. I looked down and immediately knew it was a leech. Yuck. I kicked it off and saw it in the water. It was the biggest leech I'd ever seen and it freaked me out a bit.
I can deal with ticks, mosquitoes, biting flies, spiders, ants, snakes, and most creepy crawly things. But I draw the line at leeches.
I retreated back to a shady spot away from the water's edge. When Linda got up from her nap, she asked "Why aren't you out by the lake?" I relayed my leech story, which I knew would give her the heebie jeebies, especially since she had been in the water up to her knees.
I said, "Yeah, leeches are a common fish bait up here, but I didn't want to mention that while you were washing off. Aren't you glad you didn't go for a full-blown swim?" I thought she was going to strip right there and make me search her for the little bloodsuckers.
We continued to relax and read. I downloaded two books before our trip and finished one last night. I was well into the second today. And I know Linda finished one last night as well. There's something about reading out in the wilderness where it is sublimely quiet with no distractions.
Before dinner, I did some more fishing and walked around to take some photos while Linda was getting the campfire started.
It was another lovely evening on another serene lake.
Back at the campsite, Linda boiled water and we split a serving of couscous with apricots, macadamia nuts, and chicken. This whole pre-planned, organized meal thing is working out great. It's simple, tasty, and filling in addition to being lightweight.
Before it got dark, and with overnight rain a possibility, we added the rain fly to our tent.
And we hung our food on the bear pole.
With the campfire going, we sat by the lake .....
listening to the loons. Linda got some video to record the sounds of the crackling fire and the echoing calls of the lake birds.
Just like last night, we fought off mosquitoes for about an hour before they finally gave up.
But for me, dealing with the bugs and the heavy pack was still worth being out in the wilderness surrounded by nothing but the sounds of nature.
Sometime after 11:00, we crawled into the tent, read a little bit, and drifted off to sleep with the call of the loon in my ears and a big smile on my face.