Jim Colten,
As promised (much) earlier, a flatwater padding report ....

Mentally transport yourself to a large island on the south end of Cherokee Lake, in south-central BWCAW about 7 miles north of the Sawbill landing .....

It was the end of the third day of our trip. No-one else was interested in paddling, so I set out alone right at sunset. The mission was to circumnavigate the island and to unwind. The evening sun was painting the clouds in soft red-lavendar and the calm lake was showing the same color.

At first I was absorbed with the details of solo paddling. I don't do it often and each time is an experiment and a re-learning experience. About 1/4 of the way around the island my concentration was broken by the sound of a beaver diving behind me. I remind myself that I am here for more than just the paddling and start observing my surroundings.

No more wildlife came into view for a while but the trees, rocks, moss and water made a wonderful picture. The reflections stopped just short of perfect ..... much like looking through very old window glass. Frogs were just starting their evening chorus.

After rounding the north end of the island a blue heron glided overhead, eventually disappearing over the center of the island. When I looked down from tracking the heron, I saw a beaver swimming out from the shore. Two strong paddle strokes kept my momentum going and I quietly set the paddle down. The beaver and I were on a near collision course. He allowed me to approach until we were only about a canoe length apart before he submerged with a loud ka-plop of his tail.

Paddling onward, I started to hear the sound of moving water from the southeast corner of the lake. This clearly deserved to be investigated. As I approached the shore a narrow gap appeared in the shoreline trees. I steered the bow in that direction and glided in, needing to duck a little to clear the low overhanging canopy. It was like entering a sanctuary. This alcove was at most two canoe lengths long and maybe ten feet wide. The stream was descending 10-15 feet in a series of small drops between bathtub sized pools. The sound of the water drowned out every other noise, I was visually separated from the rest of the lake and for a very long moment, time stood still. I have added to my personal list of 'magic places', and what a place it is!

After backing out into the real world, I spoke briefly with a group in another canoe. They told me that the beaver I saw earlier had surfaced behind me and followed right behind me ..... I never saw it.

The sky was getting darker now. I was in a narrow channel between our island and the main shore. The reflections were near perfect. A pair of loons were floating about a hundred yards ahead. I fumbled for my camera and a telephoto lens but they dove long before I got it ready .... I sure could use a zoom lens:-( The loons on this lake seem quite nervous, they are about impossible to approach. The channel soon widened and I saw another beaver crossing from right to left. This time the camera was ready to go ... click, click, HEY look at that, the loons have surfaced about 20 feet beyond the beaver, click ... I hope these pics turn out! (low light).

One more little corner to turn and there is our campsite just down the shore. It has been a fine little paddle session, one of several highlights during four great days in the BWCAW ... mission accomplished.

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