After a very restful night in the pines, I ignored another mid-50's reading on my thermometer and got moving. I had done this long part of the route before and also had seen a wolf just after the first portage. I knew that early starts were important for wildlife viewing and this was prime territory. Maybe lightening would strike twice.
The first portage had been cleared and I thought this a good omen of conditions ahead. After I passed the spot where I had seen the wolf cross the river in front of me, I saw that the area had changed. The remains of the 1999 storm were in various stages of being absorbed into the ground; but a fire had burned some of the area recently and the new growth was mainly short grasses.
Between the fire and the falling of storm-damaged trees all the portage trails were obliterated. To make a long story short in about two and a half-hours I only covered 2.8 miles with 10 short portages. Some were around rocky rapids; others were over variously aged beaver dams. My GPS recorded the pattern: .3 miles of paddling followed by a .1 mile portage. Many of the "portages" were just rock hops with a little lining of the canoe. Others required bushwhacking through high grass, which hid burned logs and rocks. Wildlife was abundant in this stretch. In two different places otters poked their curious heads out of the water to look at me. A group of four eagles (1 mature with pure white head and tail and 3 mostly brown immature) circled ahead of me. I also got very close to a large beaver and saw a mink moving through a well-burned area.
A typical short portage:
Here I lined the canoe most of the way:
Burned area on the upper end:
Finally the very little Indian Sioux grew some and the ten-minute paddle periods gave way to a long uninterrupted hour and a half session. I saw several deer along this section. Interestingly, they were redder and larger than their Tennessee cousins were. At this point the river goes through some higher hills and is also an area that was flattened by the 1999 storm. There are three short portages here (only two marked on the McKenzie map).
I chatted with two young guys who were preparing for the portage into Little Trout Lake. They had missed the portage when they paddled up from Bootleg and were glad that I could confirm that this was the portage. The remains of an old dock are the only clue to the trail which goes over a grassy bog until it gets in the woods, which is another area totally flattened in the storm. They told me that I would have Bootleg to myself. These guys were the only people there yesterday and today was a day that no one entered. So I never met up with my neighbor at the Paddle Inn.
Finally a wider river without rocks:
Now began a long 4.5 mile paddle following a wider but meandering river. Progress along the river was good. My new canoe seemed to have a good amount of rocker that allowed easy turns through the meanders but enough straight-line stability on the more linear stretches. I saw many UFD's (unidentified flying ducks), two muskrats and a pair of geese along here. With all the meanders my actual progress south was slow but I finally made it to the Bootleg L. portage. This is a longish portage that slowly ascends for most of its length. When you finally start down, the lake appears quickly and you know it is almost over. There's a long section along bare rock where the way is marked with cairns and wolf droppings. I stopped at the first campsite because rain was threatening.
This site lacks suitable trees to put up a tarp and I learned that my Brawny tent was not entirely waterproof. It's a single layer tent and achieves its low weight by being low to the ground. My portage rod was the pole in the center but then I had to find 3 small branches with forks to hold up tie ropes on the sides and back. It also saves weight by not having a zipper. You tuck the netting under the floor of the tent. It sounds very funky but it works to keep mosquitoes out. A few ticks follow the netting up and inside but remain on the netting. But it turns out that it really needs a flat area to be waterproof. A shower came and in the corner that wasn't tight due to a rise in the ground some water came in. But I was up on several inches of my air mattress so it didn't matter. I think not carrying 3.5 pounds was a good trade.
The Brawny tent (note forked stick):
Pink sunset on Bootleg:
So after this long day I was feeling my 58 year-old body. (The teenager was quiet). I had done about 13 miles in 8 hours with a good deal of time spent inventing portages. I called my wife on the sat phone and learned that my mother was back in the hospital. She was allergic to an antibiotic they had given her and was much weaker. I began to think of stopping my trip when I got to the Echo T. the next day. I decided to sleep on it.