by Daniel Fraser Watson
We started out this hitch at Isabella Lake near the Pow-Wow trail in the Gunflint District of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). This is the eastern side of the wilderness. We spent part of the first hitch in this area when we removed knapweed from parts of the Pow-Wow trail. When we pulled the knapweed back in June most of the plants were small. When we came back this hitch there was, unfortunately, a lot of knapweed growing and it was flowering. I think that since we treated this site so early in the summer the knapweed had a lot of time to rebound and there were probably plants that were still germinating in the soil when we first treated the site. In the future it would be more effective to treat the Pow-Wow trail for knapweed later in the summer and spend the first hitch in an area with plant species that flower earlier like hawkweed and oxeye daisy.
We launched from the portage at Isabella Lake and from there we paddled west to the Little Isabella River. Since the entire area was in the Pagami Creek burn area we had to inventory every site even if it was not marked for weeds from previous years. This was the first time that we got to paddle for any length of time on a river and I enjoyed the change in scenery. The river was wide and slow moving at some points and at others had rapids that we had to portage around. It was also very winding and often bordered by flowering lily pads and tall floating mats of grasses. We camped at the first open campsite that we found which had a large rock overlooking the river. On the second day we left most of our things at the campsite and paddled/portaged our way to Quadga Lake inventorying sites along the way. We pulled the canoes up at a campsite on the north shore of Quadga and from there hiked to the Pow-Wow trail which we hiked east on for two miles. Since the Pow-Wow trail is very marshy the most prevalent invasive along the trail was Canada Thistle. When we reached the extent of the previously marked sites we stopped for a snack. During the snack break the biggest dragonfly I have ever seen was graciously eating the deerflies buzzing around our heads. We dubbed this golden dragonfly Chauncey the Brave who delivered us from the hated deerflies whilst we ate our ClifBars.
After snack we made our way back to our campsite and that evening after dinner we saw our first moose of the summer swimming across the river. We ran to try and get a closer look, but unfortunately it lumbered into the woods before we could get a good picture.
On day three we moved camp to the Perent River on the east side of Isabella Lake at a campsite next to some rapids which were frequented by a pair of beavers or otters, which was not clear since they did not leave the water. After lunch at the campsite we continued upstream checking campsites and portages along the way until we got to a narrow section of the river with a large rock towering above the landscape. We took a break from work to climb to the top and take pictures.
Day four was a travel day so after striking camp and getting sites on Isabella Lake we drove to Kawishiwi Lake which is one of the more popular launching points into the BWCAW. The second half of our hitch would consist of inventorying and treating sites on the Kawishiwi, Square, Kawaschong, Polly, and Hazel Lake. We base camped at a nice site on Kawaschong Lake in the burn area on the night of day four.
Day five was by far the most demanding day of work we have had this summer. We decided that because of all the portages required to get from our campsite to our farthest point on Hazel Lake we would leave most of our things behind. Because of this we traveled 15 miles that day, 3.5 of which were portages and had to wake up an hour early and did not make it back to camp until 7. It thunderstormed on and off throughout the day and at one point we went into lightning position. At the end of the day we ate a dnner that probably consisted of about 1200 calories. I was glad that we managed to accomplish this though as it allowed us to do the rest of the work on day six and come back to Ely a day early.