Hitch #1: Sailing Forward

by Darrin Gobble

It all started with a 3-hour drive to the Pow Wow trail, where Superior team two finally started their newfound love for the outdoors. The Pow Wow trail was the site of the Pagami fire last year that burned down 92000 acres. Our priority was identifying spotted knapweed and removing it from the immediate area around the trail.

We met some locals that used to work in the area before it became a wilderness. When he was 16, he was working on an old horse barn there and escorted us to the site. The next day was spent the entirety of the day hiking to the furthermost priority spot on our map to remove more spotted knapweed, Canadian and Bull thistle. Even though all the trees here are burned down and falling, this place still has its own beauty. We finished the day with some cheese grits casserole. YUM!
Our last day on the Pow Wow trail we finished eliminating the knapweed from the beginning of the trailhead. After which, we canoed to a couple of non-priority sites on Lake Isabella and found small clusters of oxeye daisy which were quickly done away with. Since we finished early we found time to go swimming and fishing. The water was cold but it felt good to wash up a bit. We then headed back to Ely for the night but not before cooking our leftover peanut butter noodles.
Saturday the 16th we woke up around 5:30am to start cooking breakfast so we could get an early start on our next part of the hitch. We packed and drove 20 min to Fall Lake. We had an 80-rod portage to our first site, which was overrun with yellow and orange hawkweed and oxeye daisy. We did as much as we could to eliminate them. We hit one more 90-rod portage and arrived on Pipestone Bay. We eventually reached a site that notoriously became known to us as the “Back Forty”. We arrived to this site with a seemingly endless array of oxeye daisy. We spent a good 3 hours there before we heard the storm coming. So we decided to leave the rest until another day so we could acquire a site before the storm showed up. So we canoed about 20 minutes before the rain came. We then continued to canoe across the lake, using a chain of islands to help block out the wind as much as it could. We finally found a camping site that was open and just took all of the Duluth packs and hung out under our kitchen tarp to stay out of the rain. Here we spent the next hour and half under the tarp sharing trail mix and playing card games. The rain eventually gave and we set up camp and cooked dinner. Day one on the water: a success.
The next day we decided to go for our main priority site, which was composed of cypress spurge and tatarian honeysuckle. We identified both the native and tatarian honeysuckles, so as to not remove the wrong one. We were also careful to not mistake a small pine sapling from a cypress spurge. They look very similar. We knocked out that site pretty early and set us up to be ahead of schedule the rest of the hitch. We then went to every site on our map to check for invasive plants. Finished the day off with a bit of sailing our canoes back to camp. A very favorable south wind took us straight back. We lashed our canoes together and used a couple rain jackets on the paddles for a sail. It was a great end to a full workday.
Our second to last day we packed up our camp and headed south, back towards our final exit. The next handful of sites had little to no invasive plants besides the last portage we had of the hitch. There was yellow hawkweed as far as the eye could see. So we just pushed it back about 30 feet from the portage trail and continued on our way back home. After a very relaxing lunch on top of a rock in the middle of the lake, we finished up the last 4 sites of the day and found a mosquito-infested campsite to end the evening. We made lentil rice cakes, which may have had about 100 mosquito larvae and 2 minnows in, however we ate it anyways. They sat very well in our stomachs. Dave made some popcorn with some curry seasoning. Coupled with a fire to keep the mosquitoes down, this night was awesome.
Our last day consisted of finishing up the last three sites from where we were the night before and our final destination. The last three sites went by really fast and we ended up back in Ely by noon. So we decided to plan for a few hours before calling it a day. All in all, this first hitch was a success and we look forward to our next four hitches.