Distance-wise I didn’t cover many miles today but I put in a grueling 12 hours making my way up the Basswood River. I portage around 8-9 rapids, on each one I broke my own trail. I pretty much went nonstop all day. I did a system where I broke the trail on snowshoes with a heavy pack and then hauled the canoe after that. Making only two trips saved a lot of time. The trails varied, all in deep wet snow, through the woods, alder tickets, up an almost vertical ascent from the river. There was a very strong west wind that propelled me dangerously fast upstream, making me susceptible to tipping with the many boulders that lurked everywhere in the river. It was almost one rapid after another. Paddling above the rapids I have to be very careful with the current and the strong wind. A tip over might be a life-changing event or in many places I would end up going down several rapids. So I was extra careful, but relaxed.

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Distance-wise I didn’t cover many miles today but I put in a grueling 12 hours making my way up the Basswood River. I portage around 8-9 rapids, on each one I broke my own trail. I pretty much went nonstop all day. I did a system where I broke the trail on snowshoes with a heavy pack and then hauled the canoe after that. Making only two trips saved a lot of time. The trails varied, all in deep wet snow, through the woods, alder tickets, up an almost vertical ascent from the river. There was a very strong west wind that propelled me dangerously fast upstream, making me susceptible to tipping with the many boulders that lurked everywhere in the river. It was almost one rapid after another. Paddling above the rapids I have to be very careful with the current and the strong wind. A tip over might be a life-changing event or in many places I would end up going down several rapids. So I was extra careful, but relaxed.

I got into the hard work, remaining in the present, enjoying the day and almost mechanically I did one portage and another with a little excitement of paddling always in between. Making landings and launching all take delicate movement. What was left of the shore ice is now breaking up and rafting down the river in green plates. The wind kept it really cool, ideal for the portages. I barely overheated.

After each portage everything had to be lashed down, tedious job, in an odd way I like doing. I certainly know each piece of gear intimately. I like the simplicity of solo travel. I have lost track of how long I have been out here. I miss nothing, thoughts being somewhere else aren’t even thoughts.

I am in perfect condition. Expedition condition. The first week I did have some concerns, mainly about pulling a muscle. But there is a certain way of moving, it’s hard to explain, but you are always aware of everything you do. It’s not a thought of being aware, it’s just being there, an intuition that I’ve built up for 55 years. One reason I need this expedition is they set me at my mental and physical baseline, it’s like being at your best. The only way I can achieve this is through expedition. The 12 hours a day of hard work, day after day and the mental stamina. It’s like erasing the attitude and barriers that we set up for ourselves, the barriers that make us old. Few people would choose this life, and I am not judging anyone. In this sense I don’t have much in common with most people. There is no comparison of anything, but I don’t bother talking about it. It’s the experience that I walk away with and this is what it is about. I needed, at age 69, to experience that. I have a difficult time running around Lake Harriet in the city. It is so, so, so, tedious, but I can do a 12 hour day here, because there is an adventure around every corner.

Well, I have some big lake travel coming up and then I am home at my cabin, my destination. I will set out early as usual and hopefully it will get cold tonight. I could have perfect conditions, or I could get a foot of water and slush. We’ll see.

Last night I could hear a barely audible sound. It was a muffled roar. I could almost feel it more than hear it. The only reason I could pick it up was I have heard the sound before and when I have it brought a fearful uneasiness. In the evening I could pick it out. It was different from the light whispering of white pine that I camped underneath. It was the sound of big water going over falls or heavy rapids. It’s muffled roar was in the direction I would be heading the next day. I made a couple satellite calls last night. I had a thought that maybe these would be my last calls. Last night I had a feeling of danger and high adventure. The danger and fear come from the thought of the anticipation. I have experienced this before and knew, way down deep, the action tomorrow would be different from my hesitation I felt before I fell off to sleep at 8 o’clock.

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Out of the tent at 4:30 AM and spent too tedious hours by headlight making the portage that goes around Granite Falls and the rapids below it. I broke the trail by snow shoe the evening before and it had set up well overnight. The down hills were dangerous, the canoe would take off like an out-of-control rocket and with my feet post-holed in the deep snowshoe prints it would be easiest to break a leg or hip. The canoe had no regard for the trail, it slid on the icy surface and a couple times it shot off the trail and downhill toward the rapids. I made it to the end of the trail, the actual Granite Falls right at sunrise at six . It was a spectacular sight. Hauling conditions were perfect and navigation was very tricky with islands and big bays with more islands and peninsulas. I took one wrong turn that cost me 1 1/2 hours. The map for the very south of my route was packed away and I got tangled up in Saturday bay. I was able to travel as it thawed only because I was traveling in narrows and around islands where the sun had enough heat to melt most of the snow. However in one narrows I was starting to notice black spots of ice. This is a danger sign of very weak ice caused by current. I noticed a black ice about all around the narrowing, so I followed the snow on the shoreline . This is it was my first alarm of what was to come. There is a major flowage through these islands. Tomorrow the narrows continue to get smaller with rapids and falls. The next 30 miles will be by far the most challenging and adventurous part of the trip.

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Well, I decided to go for it and head for my cabin in Ely rather than ending at the Nina Moose Landing on the Echo Trail. I am now will beheading east on the US Canada border lakes and rivers. It adds a lot more miles and especially a lot of unknowns. I will be traveling the river system on the Canada/US border, it is part of the voyager route. This time I am going upstream which is safer because there is no worry concerns of being swept over falls or rapids. This system has at least five times the volume as the Maligne River so it’s big water. There’re also some extensive lake travel on the route.

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Today it was in all out 11 hour day with only two 10 minute breaks. There is a heavy thaw upon the northland right now. I can still travel during the thaws on the lakes, so today was a race to get off the rivers, and being hemmed in by the deep shore snow . If I didn’t make the lake country today I may be stuck for two or three days in deep snow that is impossible to travel in. So it will be up at four and hauling in the snow on the river at four forty-five . I had skied ahead the afternoon before making a ski trail around the holes and bad spots. It was cloudy and pitch dark, but I was able to make fast time on ideal frozen surfaces using my headlight. It didn’t freeze that hard and it was urgent to make good time while the surfaces held. I made it to the end of my trail when it started to get a little light. I traveled fast but at 6:30 I was stopped by open river. I waterproof everything, secure everything with lashing and decked myself out in my hydro-skin system.

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Temperature dropped last night-10. I slept on the shore of the Maligne River. It is a wide section of the river here and the entire river is frozen except for the usual holes and thin places and dangerous shore ice. All night the river snapped and boomed as the temperature dropped. It was really peaceful to sleep to the sudden rumbling noises. I got up at five, did the usual routine. Oatmeal, wrote in the journal, etc. Out and packed and underway at 6:30. The surfaces were firm and not that bad hauling at first. I hauled the wide sections of the river and then crossed Tanner Lake. I could hear the Tanner Rapids shortly after I left camp. The roar got louder as I crossed the lake. The sounds of the rapids were amplified by the cold calm air. Hauling was harder on the lake, the soft powder drift gave a lot of resistance to the canoe.

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Woke up at 6. It was not too cold last night, around 0 degrees. I slept warm. There was 4 inches of new snow overnight. The morning was heavy grey overcast with a blustery NE wind blowing down the river. I did the usual morning routine. Write in the journal and broke camp. I waterproofed everything and securely tied down every piece of gear. I had my hydroseal outfit on, neoprene socks, gloves and helmet. Shoved off at the bottom of the rapids and off I went. There was blowing snow, the water was very black, contrasting the snowy landscape and the snow covered shore ice that crept out into the river on both sides. It was a treacherous surroundings, stark and extremely beautiful. The danger was the black water because it covered up rocks and if I hit a rock midstream it could take my life.

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Got up at 2AM for the planned night travel across sturgeon lake. I would navigating by the stars. Within an hour I had breakfast done, all 3 thermoses filled for the day, tent and all packed and loaded and heading on a S., SW bearing. Using the blue white star Spica in the consolation Virgo as my bearing. Pulling was moderate, but I was making time. On one of my few breaks I heard an almost inaudible roar in the direction of the Maligne River. I listened attentively and recognized it as the sound of rapids or falls. On each break the sound in the darkness of the night got louder.

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Slept the coldest so far last night. My dreams when I did fall into deep sleep were wild and crazy in an adventurous way. I was always with someone. The cast of characters varied, sometimes, old friends, sometimes I was flying, lots of lovable cats. Fun times but in the back of everything I knew I was alone on this solo. And then the long hours of cold half sleep. I thought a lot about warm blankets. Sleeping cold is a tough tour. It was -25 the little hollow that I made camp in the night of the blizzard. I switched stoves from the two burner Coleman into the light weight 1 pound Optimus stove, which is a climbing stove, and I like it a lot.

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