Thursday, February 11, 2010

Following Verlen and Valerie-XVII-Through the Boundary Waters to Lake Superior

The Newsletters don't reveal much about Verlen and Valerie's trip through the Boundary Waters. Verlen had been in the Boundary Waters several times, canoe racing and on his 1971 trip and again in 1983 with Valerie.

In One Incredible Journey Verlen and author Clayton Klein devote an 18 page chapter to the 1971 tandem canoe trip up the Boundary Waters and Rainy Lake with Clint Waddell.

In 1983 on the Ultimate Canoe Challenge homeward bound part of the trip Valerie rejoined Verlen in North Dakota and stuck with him through the Boundary Waters and Grand Portage to Lake Superior. Then she returned to Seattle and Verlen went home to Jenny.

In The Ultimate Canoe Challenge Verlen describes their trip through the Boundary Waters in 1983. I assume the same description would fit their 1986 journey:

"The Border Route is historic canoe country. We were now paddling in the shadow of hundreds of years of French-Canadian voyageurs and thousands of years of Indian canoeists...We went up through the big border lakes - Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand point, La la Croix, Crooked, Basswood, Knife, Sagana, Gunflint. This was the BWCA-Quetico country, familiar not only from history, but from the thousands of canoeists who travel these waters each summer. I had paddled there many times and knew it well...Most of the paddling was flat water with some short, challenging portages...wherever possible we paddled up rapids or lined the boats through, but some portages could not be that evening we had covered 32 miles and had crossed 11 portages to a camp on Knife Lake.

In the next few days we passed the Height of Land between South and North Lakes, then paddled down the lakes and Pigeon River to the Grand Portage. Here the voyageurs cut cross-country to avoid the last miles of the Pigeon River, which are steep and violent and have several waterfalls, including 120-foot Pigeon Falls."
I imagine they used the Ralph Freese furnished canoe wheels on the Grand Portage. In One Incredible Journey Verlen describes the Grand Portage: "The Grand Portage Trail itself is a big, open and well maintained path that you could drive a Jeep down. It appeared to be used frequently by backpackers or hikers, but seldom does any one carry a canoe down it."

I took my time and used the seagull approach and thoroughly covered various routes between Rainy Lake and Lake Superior. I even went backwards up much of our 1948 Turtle River route and back down.

Next: Wintertime Paddling on the Big Lakes

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