Lately, Andy and I have been searching for Mavis.
No, not that Mavis; Mavis Lake, located a half mile south of Round Lake and just east of Missing Link Lake. It’s a little puddle of a Boundary Waters lake that the DNR keeps stocked with brook trout. You can access Mavis from the easternmost point of Missing Link Lake via a 40 rod portage.
But what if there was a way to get into Mavis directly from Round, allowing you to bypass Missing Link altogether?
According to local old timers, back in the Leeds’ family time at Tuscarora, there used to be a portage from Round to Mavis that took off not far from the Round to Missing Link portage and cut southeast along a flowage. In fact, this portage was the preferable route into Mavis since the Missing Link to Mavis portage features a pretty steep uphill climb.
The trail’s not just a figment of locals’ imaginations. If you go onto the DNR’s LakeFinder website and look at Mavis’s fish survey, the DNR indicates that as of Autumn 2003, there was indeed a portage trail from Round Lake to Mavis.
Curiouser and curiouser.
There’s just one little problem. While 2003 isn’t exactly ancient history, it doesn’t take very long for BWCAW forest to reestablish itself and reclaim a portage path. Anyone who’s tried to bushwhack through Minnesota woods known it’s a very slow process mostly spent untangling yourself from balsam and aspen saplings. If the trail really hadn’t been used for over a decade, we also knew some of those saplings were going to be decent sized trees by now and portage’s path wasn’t going to be too obvious.
But even if the chances of success were low, we couldn’t not look for this neglected path. “Because it’s there,” as George Mallory would say.
We set out a couple weeks back, choosing to cut up the Round Lake shoreline just below the cliffs near the Missing Link portage. We waded through snow, clambered up cliffs (and occasionally slide down cliffs), had amble amounts of snow fall down our necks and while I was sure we just had to make it over the hillside to reach (or at least see) Mavis, Andy’s GPS told a different story. After a half hour crashing through brush, we’d only made it about 2/10ths of a mile away from Round Lake. We ceded defeat and turned around. At least we enjoyed some great views on a beautiful bluebird day.
But we weren’t going give up just yet. Thanks to some information that came in from a Leeds’ family member, we were able to pinpoint the starting point for the elusive Round to Mavis portage. Last Sunday afternoon, we set out again, slightly more hopeful that we’d clamp eyes on Mavis this go-round.
We found the starting point easily enough along the shoreline and we wound our way through the young forest, trying to determine if we were going through growth that wasn’t older than 12 years.
But it didn’t take long before we ran into this particular winter’s obstacle of brush bent over by the weight of a very heavy snowfall back in mid-December. The bent over brush really changes the look of the forest and it was hard to tell how to navigated around the low areas most affected by the “bend over.”
Undeterred, we pressed on. . . through waist deep snow that pushed up our pant legs and through low hanging balsam branches that tried to steal our hats. It was pretty clear we weren’t on the right path, but by the time we acknowledged that, we were closer to Mavis than to Round and it made more sense to just keep moving forward, albeit at a snail’s pace through the thick forest.
Then, at long last, in the words of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame: “Ocian in view! Oh! the joy!”
Beautiful Mavis lake.
By the time we were back at our starting point, it was about two hours later and we’d gone a whole . . . wait for it . . . mile.
Moral of the story: It’s totally possible to make it to Mavis Lake from Round Lake. But for this winter at least, the Missing Link to Mavis portage is the best bet. We’ll leave rediscovery of the Round Lake to Mavis portage for a time when there isn’t 30 inches of snow and miles of downed brush in the woods. For the time being, Mavis remains both lost and found. Until next time . . .