Portage and Kayaking in BWCA


Greetings ALV, xt-yoke

My wife and I just returned from an eleven day BWCA kayaking trip.  The XT-17 and 15 performed flawlessly, and with the portage yokes I designed and built portaging was as comfortable as portaging ever gets (I’m attaching photos of the yokes).

I knew the Pakboats would be the perfect kayak for the Boundary Waters.  With the deck easily removed they’re a snap to load and unload quickly and portage just like a canoe…The Yoke I designed puts no stress on the hull fabric that wraps over the frame.  The coaming frame is folded and tucked under the seat and the deck is folded and held on the belly of the kayak by the strap that cinches the yoke to the gunwales. CG can be easily changed for perfect position.

Our trip started at the end of the Gunflint trail, entry point 55 on to Lake Saganaga.  We camped at a little used campsite on Munker Island, tons of dry pine blow down, great campfires.  Our Hammocks, Hennessy and Warbonnet, kept us high and dry for the next 2.5 days of high wind and rain.  Laura brought a couple of good novels so we could hunker down in our hammocks reading during the monsoon…problem is I read too fast.  our extra gear kept dry under the decks of the kayaks and we covered up the cockpits with the covers.  That’s good – When I’m in the water, wet is A-OK.  But when I’m on land camping, dry is very good!

kayaks-in-bwcaFrom that point we headed towards the Otter Track flowage, traveling around American point; camped near the Ottertrack because another storm hit us.  Late in the evening, had a couple of fellows show up at our site lost, six to eight inches of water in their canoe, they were drenched and shaking badly.  I told them to get off the water, set up at our site and get dry and warm; couldn’t talk sense into them.  Sometimes I just do not understand people.  They took off into the darkening horizon, shaking uncontrollably and not even sure if the next few campsites would be available.

Stormy weather subsided a bit so we were on our way to the Otter Track.  It was beautiful, gliding down a narrow scenic lane protected from big waves.  We took the 170 rod portage into Ash Dick Lake.  After three days of rain the flat portions were knee high muck and the steep portions (very steep) were slick as goose &%$#, but I’ve got a tough wife so it was OK; she’s Sherpa I think (chuckle).  We stayed at Ash Dick a couple of days as we had the lake all to ourselves and it was nice to not see other humans for awhile.  Ash Dick presently has only one campsite and it seems nobody was willing to do the long steep portage from the Otter Track.  It poured rain every night and most days we had a couple of showers.

Then, on to Esther Lake; nice lake; portage was a measly 55 rods…lots of rocks, boulders, roots and muck again.  Love it.  Camped on the south end of the big island; probably the nicest campsite I’ve ever stayed at in the BWCA, huge, with nice size trees for hanging the hammocks.  The first evening two painted turtles came out of the water, made their way up to us and sat right by us for about three hours…turtles coming to visit…strange behavior; made me chuckle, and when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and the turtles come to visit you end up talking to them (chuckle). bwca-scenery

Then, headed north to get back to the Otter Track, couple of 80 rod portages, including the monument portage on the Canadian border and a carry over 10 rod portage.  On the carry over, we did a two person carry with fully loaded boats.  The I beam frame seemed to carry the load easily.  Again – I like that I beam frame!  Played around on the Otter Track stopping here and there to take pictures.  I really like the Otter Track and I’m going to try doing a long distance section of it one of these days.

Camped on American point on the last night, doubled up on dinner portions and enjoyed the beautiful evening.  On our last day we paddled from American point all the way back to entry point 55.  Wind was fierce and waves were high…we hid behind every island on our route back resting in calm water out of the wind.  I was glad I took my deck compass on this trip; normally don’t take it into the BWCA, but in the wind and rain it was great to plot a course, put my hand compass away and use the deck compass to navigate.  It was a nice adventure and the temperamental weather made it just that much more satisfying for us.  We had just enough clear sunny times and glassy water to sit back and glide and smile.

The boats performed extremely well and everyone we met were amazed at the ease of loading, unloading, and portaging the kayaks and with all the rain they were jealous of the decks.  And, of course, we had been out paddling and playing in conditions that it would be unwise to take a canoe into.  I love those boats; they do exactly what I want them to do!  Oh yes, and the seats – They are simply the most comfortable kayak seats I’ve ever set my butt into…we can paddle for long periods with no pain!!!  I have paddled both hardshell and folding kayaks for years and own a nice tandem folder from another company, but your kayaks are my favorite by a good margin! bwca-sunset

Lastly, we did have a very minor failure of equipment:  The Fastex type buckles that cinch the stern deck fabric all broke at various points along the way.  I had a bit of forethought as I previewed our gear before the trip and I brought four Gear Aid (McNett) 3/4 inch repair buckles with, so in 5 minutes that took care of that and the Gear Aid buckles are bullet proof, so I expect they’ll be with us for a long time.  Also, I’m rethinking using your Pakpod deck bag for our next big water/ coastal trip instead of my old standby closed cell foam paddle float.

I’m attaching a couple of photos from the trip.

Take care ALV and God Bless!


Todd Schwartz 

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