Brian set his phone alarm for six o'clock. Never thought of it before but I guess a cell phone does have its place in the Boundary Waters. No matter the nature of the trip inevitably time plays a role and a cell phone is smaller than an alarm clock. In keeping with the spirit of where we were our phones could have been left in the car. Also in keeping with where we were, they could have been stolen, though I find that hard to believe. Never heard of forestry road gangs unless that's what they call the crews who keep the trails clear of deadfall.
Around five-forty the alarm went off. Odd. Brian reset the time and we quietly laid there hoping some of the night would start to give up the ghost. At six it was still pitch black. Also odd. Fortunately Brian had brought a pair of headband lights that came in mighty handy over the next forty-five minutes as we gobbled down calories and broke camp. By the time we pushed off there was more than enough daylight to see where the lake ended and the trees began.
And boy did we cruise. Borderline canoe men. Our line was die straight and the light headwind had no effect on our progress. Less than half an hour later we'd landed and said goodbye to West Pike. Even the portage went faster now that we'd eaten twenty pounds and dumped what remained of the cooler ice. By the time we hit Clearwater the idea of a return next year was appealing. We even began to discuss a trip to East Pike and catch bass 'til our arms hurt.
Clearwater smoked by until we hit the big bend in the lake with three miles to go. That's right, I'd almost forgotten about saying something three days earlier about headwind in and headwind out. And our dead west headwind was a good one with rollers, whitecaps and an army of playful zephyrs to whack us in the face every half minute. Only one thing to do, suck it up, duck our heads and dig hard.
Looking back on the paddle it seems we couldn't have taken more than an hour to finish the lake. In truth it was closer to two hours for the three miles. Oddly I never felt we were in jeopardy though there were times when the canoe was moving sideways more than forward. But once we'd committed ourselves, the over-riding thought was nose to the wind. And that it'd eventually be over.
Finally we found a break from the wind with a quarter mile to go. There I began to laugh hysterically. Tears down the face. There was this picture in my head concerning the way I felt and just had to let Brian in on it. Wasn't all that funny but it sure tickled my fancy.
While we sat bobbing in the shallows I started in, "I'm so tired and numb at the moment that a pit bull could run up and sink its teeth into my testicles as we off-loaded our gear. Wouldn't bat an eyelash. Hell, I could drive all the way into the Grand Marais hospital with him still holding on. Walk in the door and ask if there was a doctor available to surgically remove the dog. While sewing me up the doctor would no doubt faint from all the blood oozing out. Leaving the doc laid out on the floor I'd walk into the lobby, naked from the waist down with the needle and thread still hanging and call out, 'is there a seamstress in the house?' "
Brian kind of stared and chuckled a bit, maybe even laughed. Can't say for sure since the tears were messing up my vision and my laughter drowned out any outside noise. Guess you would have to have been there. Me too. What seemed hysterical at the time now just seems odd.
Turned out we'd arrived at eleven o'clock like we'd hoped even though the headwind had added an hour to the trip. It seemed Brian's phone had somehow given us an hour and we'd gotten up at five instead of six. They don't call them smart phones for nothing.
We stopped in Grand Marais for coffee and phone calls. Let those who cared know we were okay and to charge up on needed caffein. The five hour drive to the cities was actually fun. Sure beat having to put nine hundred miles behind us like in the Manitoba days. Among other things we talked of a possible return. By then the pain of the portages was just a memory and I was already getting fired up about a possible next year.