Gunflint Day 2

06 Aug

Well, I’ve had a shower, I’ve eaten, washed the dishes and now it’s time to write. Sort of ironic that as I sit in the great room at the Cross River Lodge and write about my day hiking, I’m watching Owen Wilson run for his life in the movie “Behind Enemy Lines.” It has been a very busy day and I’m quite tired.

I thankfully had a good night’s sleep…I guess going to bed at 9:30 helped too. I slept pretty well until 6:30, and then lounged in bed for another half an hour before I got up. It was a nice morning on the lake, though I did notice that the wind was up which was not a good sign.

Sunrise on Gunflint, August 2012.

After breakfast I started my journey to the east. I was quite concerned about the state of the lake, as I could see whitecaps forming in the open water. Gunflint Lake is a very deep lake, surrounded by high ridges; when it’s windy the lake tends to get very nasty. It was going to be even more challenging since I was by myself, with no one else to help level and trim the boat. As it turns out it, my fears were confirmed and the lake was fairly tough to navigate. I was forced to creep along at half-speed (18kph), constantly watching my position in relation to the waves. So my 8km trip took quite a while!

When I arrived at the east end of the lake, I wanted to avoid some private property along the bay, so I was forced to beach the boat on a rather rocky shore. I had quite the struggle pulling up the boat, in the process smashing it into the side of my left knee. It’s quite swollen now and I’m sure it will be loads of fun tomorrow! Once that was all out of the way, I started walking.

My journey was going to take me just over 4km to the east, back to where I stopped my hike last year. I was immediately greeted by a number of rock cuts and embankments, which would set the tone for the rest of the hike. One of these embankments even had a very interesting culvert built into it. It appeared that they blasted a channel into the rock and the covered it with flat pieces of rock. Crude, but expedient…and it still works!

Rock culvert, Gunflint Lake, August 2012.

From there the grade crosses over what was a high bridge and then enters a wet, low area for 800 metres. Thankfully someone had recently driven along the railway which helped push down some of the new growth that has sprung up since the fire 5 years ago. It was really the only difficult section I had to contend with, and unfortunately kinda boring. Not much to see except chest/head high brush and burned trees!

After this tough stretch, the grade did improve. For the next nearly 2km the railway runs along the shore of the lake, about 100 metres or so from the shore and over 150 feet above it. With the trees gone, it provides an amazing vista of the lake. It was then on to the last major feature before my destination, another bridge crossing. I had visited this location in 1997 before the blowdown and fire, but I had high hopes with the trees gone. The drop to the creek from the grade is over 20 feet, but I wasn’t able to find any remains in the valley. With the rains in May and June the water level is a bit high, frustrating my search.

Gunflint Lake from the railway grade, August 2012.

Two hundred and fifty metres past the bridge I arrived at my turn around point, which was the intersection of the railway and the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad. The G&LS was a logging line that was constructed in 1903 and used until 1909. The junction used to be very easy to spot and there was a trail leading down to the lake. Unfortunately it was probably not used after the blowdown and is littered with deadfall and burned trees.

My journey back was smooth, except for the threatening skies. The forecast called for a chance of showers, even thundershowers, and it looked like it was going to happen (it only spat enough to nake the leaves a bit wet). I couldn’t stop at my starting point though, as I had to walk approximately 800 metres west to cover a section along the lake that I did not get to last year. As it turns out, I went 250 metres further than I needed to!

When I got back to the boat, I was shocked to discover, despite placing the cover on it, that the waves had splashed quite a bit of water over the transom. It took me about 15 minutes to bail out the water (gotta get a bilge pump), made worse by my tightening hamstrings. I had walked nearly 11km! Then it was off to creep back to the lodge at half speed, trying to stay pointed into the waves and avoid the reef off the point near Leeblain. I couldn’t believe the canoeists were braving the lake.

The break at the lodge was a brief one; enough time for a quick snack and to prepare my GPS for the next adventure. My host, John, was going to take me to the Narrows to look at the railway there and hunt for an “interesting” treasure.

Our first stop was at the home of one of the local residents; Jerry and Sharon had spoken to their neighbours and had agreed to take us for a look around. I was able to photograph and video the Narrows in the afternoon light as I wanted to. Our search for the mystery item was unsuccessful; we had the general location, but sometimes it’s like the proverbial needle in the haystack. Jerry has agreed to take me back on Wednesday morning so I can get some proper data and more images.

Well, I need to post this blog and turn in. Tomorrow should be a less strenuous day, with a visit to Leeblain and the Ontario side of the Narrows. There will certainly be a lot less walking, which is good since my knee isn’t too happy. Hopefully I’ll return with good news in my search for rock ovens and building remains. The forecast calls for a high of 24C and lighter winds…well see what happens!

Until then…

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Travel


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