It’s a beautiful portage.
That became our mantra for the Paulsen portage which connects Seagull Lake to Paulsen Lake. A beastly 515 rod portage with such mystique that it even has a “formerly known as” moniker, The Jap Portage. Every time the vertical incline seemed to reached it’s vertical asymptote one of us would yell… “It’s a beautiful portage!”. Every time the trail crossed the creek on dicy looking glacial granite that liked to shift as soon as weight was applied… “It’s a beautiful portage!” Every time the swarming mass of tiny vampires found a hole in the head net… “It’s a beautiful portage!” You get the idea.
But you know what the kicker of all that is? It really is a beautiful portage. Every climb is rewarded with sweeping views of Seagull Lake or some nameless pond blushing with yellow water lilies. The babbling brook that likes to tug at our ankles is fringed with Blue Flag iris. And along the whole portage, Lucy’s boundless enthusiasm for her first official camping adventure was evident as she covered more than 3 times the ground we did with her little pack bouncing.
However, 515 rods is a long way and by the end we were all really glad to see that lake. With one more shout of “it’s a beautiful portage!” we quickly loaded up to find our campsite for the night. The campsite on the north side is spacious with plenty of open rocks to clamber around on. We chose the island site for the two of us giving Lucy an island to explore where she might not get in as much trouble. The trail to the latrine is a bit treacherous, the tent pad is decently flat, and the fire grate area had a great view. Lucy split her time between exploring the island and watching a pair of loons fish. The sunset over calm water on a quiet night just can’t be beat. The wolves sang us to sleep.
The next morning we headed south starting with Paulsen then Glossy, Elusion, Glee, Bingshick, Flying, Gotter, Brant, Edith, West Round, and finally back home on Round Lake. Not going to lie, if you take away the sugar coating, these were some vertically challenging portages. I spent a lot of time looking at my feet focusing on each step so as not to lean back accidentally and be pulled back down the trail by my turtle shell of a pack. But I like watching the ground go by, you see some neat stuff that way. Like wolf scat, Lucy paw prints in the mud, and TONS of little green blueberries just waiting to ripen in the July sunshine.
If you watch your feet too closely, you can take a wrong turn heading into Bingshick. The portage crosses the Kekekabic Trail which can turn a quick 53 rod portage into a 4 mile hike. We stopped for lunch on one of the two campsites. Both are designed to service hikers on the Kek so they are set a little further back from the water. The west campsite where we had lunch has plenty of space and showed evidence of little use. Bingshick is a quiet little lake out of the way of major canoe travel with a fishy little secret. It is stocked with stream trout.
The rest of the lakes are small and quiet, perfect for spotting the back end of a black bear as it slips into the woods. The pitcher plants and sundews were out in abundance in the boggy backwaters. Both are carnivorous plants which I’m sure are doing very well this year feeding on all the insects. And there is a major benefit of starting your trip off with a 515 rod portage…we did not meet another soul the whole trip. The woods were ours to explore, even though it was a beautiful Friday in June.
All in all, not a bad little trip for a quick overnight. Lots of seclusion, wildlife sightings, the promise of blueberries to come and one happy little puppy. Just goes to show, if you are willing to put in a little effort portaging, you can find yourself a nice little corner of the BWCA regardless of the time you have.