Monday, August 6, 2018

Superior National Forest: Paddling the Hunting Shack River Canoe Route

Ever since we got our canoe over 2 years ago, we've been wanting to give canoe camping a try. Even Sierra has voiced her excitement to try getting to a campsite by canoe. We had considered a trip in Voyageurs National Park, but with big lakes even a breeze of 10 miles per hour can make paddling a challenge. We would need to go somewhere with smaller lakes. However, the Boundary Waters is too restrictive and our canoe is too heavy (85 lbs.) to portage. Instead, after doing some research on the Superior National Forest website, I found a PDF brochure about the Hunting Shack River Canoe Route. I checked the weather forecast for Sunday into Monday and things looked pretty good. There was a slight chance of rain and the wind looked reasonable. Last night we packed our sleeping bags and other camping gear and today we loaded everything into the car and made our way out the Echo Trail to where it crosses the Hunting Shack River on a culvert.
Hunting Shack sign

We loaded the canoe at the side of the road
at the put-in
and made sure to pack all the essentials, including Baa Baa.
Sierra Baa Baa and Mommy
There were lots of aquatic plants with clusters of purple flowers growing in the shallow stream.
purple flowers
We pushed off and started to make our way upstream against a gentle current.
on the river
There were lots of lilies growing in the water.
water lily
After a brief wrong turn (we headed up a tributary to a culvert where Forest Road 200 crossed the stream) we made our way further up the Hunting Shack
paddling Hunting Shack
to the pretty Astrid Lake. The campsite on the east shore that I had read was the preferred site, was taken and so we made our way in a light headwind to the campsite on the south shore on an elevated rock outcropping. We pulled the gear out of the canoe and then carried the canoe away from the water to higher ground.
canoe at campsite
We set up camp and explored the site a bit. Sierra was excited to watch the sunset from the rock outcropping near the water.
Sierra at campsite

After getting cap set up it was time for a swim. Noelle and Sierra found a small beach while exploring, but it led into a mucky lake bottom.
Sierra in water
Instead we opted to enter the water from the rock.
Daddy and Sierra swim
We probably spent about an hour swimming around
Sierra and Daddy swim 2
before drying off on the rock.
Sierra and Noelle on rock
Eventually the biting flies drove us into the tent for a break before dinner. At dinnertime I cooked up some noodle/rice dinners on the Whisperlite Stove. There was a nice log to sit on near the campfire ring.
eating dinner
Butterflies seemed to be attracted to the ash there.
After eating Noelle filtered some water.
Noelle filters water
Wildlife sightings included a loon swimming in the lake nearby, and a big, orange-colored garter snake that enjoyed basking on the rock we had enjoyed basking on earlier in the day.
Clouds rolled through and thunder rumbled in the distance. We never did get any rain though. In fact, by the time the sun set, the sky was largely clear.

This morning we awoke to cloudy skies and much chillier temperatures. I explored camp one last time before we started to pack things up. There were some Indian pipe
indian pipe
and bearberry in bloom.
bearberry flowers
The bunchberry flowers were gone though, replaced with bunches of berries.
There was lots of alder growing around the site.
alder cones
We packed up camp and got into the canoe for the paddle across Astrid Lake
paddling Astrid Lake
and back into the Hunting Shack River.
back on Hunting Shack River
We made a short side trip into Pauline Lake, but didn't spend too much time exploring before we made our way back to Echo Trail and the drive back to International Falls. It was a successful first canoe camping trip. I enjoyed it and we didn't have too much trouble with the wind. If we had done anything different, it would have been a good idea to bring more things (books or games) to keep Sierra a little bit more occupied when we were forced into the tent by the bugs.

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