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Lake Chippewa Flowage mini-trip (Sawyer County, WI. Near Hayward)

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    Lake Chippewa Flowage mini-trip (Sawyer County, WI. Near Hayward)

    (Note that this trip was late September, 2019. I've been without in-home broadband for a while, so did not get around to posting)

    Looking for a place to get away for a day or two, fish or test out gear? Lake Chippewa Flowage might be just what you are looking for.

    I spent three days/two nights (Including drive time) doing a test run of my camping/tripping gear. This is my Story.

    Map is available here:
    https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/Chipp...low2019Map.pdf

    Got in on a Monday afternoon, and I put in at the CC South boat landing, the most directly accessible for where I'm coming from, about 3:30 PM. (Also, the only one with potable water). Wind is from the SSE, probably 10-12 MPH, with gusts. (This becomes relevant when explaining some gaps in my travels and photography.)

    I noodled around a little, testing the balance of my gear. (First time with a full camping load) The Flowage is about 15,300 acres of fairly deep channels and basins broken up by around 200 islands. The whole thing sprawls across an area about 5X10 miles, but it's so broken up that you cannot see half that distance in most directions.

    I mostly head west, just because I'm still getting used to all the tripping gear, and that wind... I check out Cedar Tops island, as the campsite there is supposed to be accessible (Checking for friends). It's occupied, so I don't get too close. End up cutting the evening short, as I don't want to set up in the dark, and make my way to the Little Bannana Campsite.

    If some of you more experienced trippers are looking at my distances and shaking your heads, please keep in mind that I'm an office worker that does not get to paddle nearly as much as he'd like. I'd rather underestimate my stamina than overestimate.

    I enjoy some camp-cooked food, and a truly lovely sunset, and figure that I'll do more exploring in the morning.

    Did I forget to mention that it was a little breezy? You'd think that this would die down for the night. Nope. It picked up. I'd borrowed some tent stakes for my (experimental) tarp. That's where most of the rant in This Post came from. Had to re-rig parts of that tarp during the night. Got maybe 2 hours of sleep.







    #2
    Thanks for sharing this. As shakedown trips go I'd say your day 1 was a success. Tried some things, learned some things, repeat. And what a sunset!
    Last edited by Odyssey; 05-22-2020, 03:21 AM.

    Comment


      #3
      Next Morning, I'm sort of ready for the day. Sleep-deprivation issues, but the camp-breakfast nostalgia gets me in a decent mood. Wind is still going, and my campsite is right on a tiny neck between two chunks of island. The upwind side of the neck has about two miles of open fetch (Milwaukee Bay) with the wind coming right down it. Waves are running 4-5' peak to peak, 12" deep or so. The water has worked up a fine bit of foam on that side of the beach - not a good condition to launch into, though the waves themselves are fairly steady and paddleable. The north side, however, is fairly sheltered by the Island.

      I'm reviewing my options, and they are a bit limited. I'm not exactly windbound, but I don't like the idea of getting stuck away from my camp.

      I've got a (theoretical) rule: If conditions make one direction of travel significantly harder than the other, always go the hard way first. Then, if you get tired or injured, you can conserve energy by floating back with minimal corrective/control input.

      Unfortunately, pretty much every interesting part of this lake that I came to explore is currently north of me, and very seriously down wind.

      I decide that, whatever happens, I don't want to camp here for another night, So I pull down and re-pack the canoe. (I've also found that the ballast that my camp kit supplies significantly improves my ability to handle the canoe in wind.)

      I head further west, skimming under the lee of the island, and then making a bit of a sprint across the open channel to Miles Point. At this point, the open water is do-able.

      It's at this point that I decide that the perfect craft for this particular body of water is something with a sail, and a good lee-board/centerboard.

      I take the channel toward Tyner Lake. This is more sheltered, but I'm still working upwind. This is not the most interesting bit of the lake, but I do get to enjoy some of the early fall colors. There are always a few trees that seem more eager than the rest to put on their fancy clothes.

      At this point, the wind feels like it's softened down a bit. I want lunch, so I noodle back to Chicago Bay, thinking that if conditions are right, I can skip between lee shores to the north, maybe up to the Crane Creek Channel. (Smaller channels and creeks are what I really like to explore)

      That idea only lasts until I start to cross the channel to Pine Island, where I want to have lunch (I want to take a few minutes to heat up some tea) The wind hasn't dies down, it's shifted more to the SE, and stronger. Milwaukee Bay has whitecaps, and the overall wave size is bigger. I'm now having to treat the waves like a large wake... quartering in, watching my timing if I need to course-correct, etc. I do make Pine Island, and have a lunch and a rest. I think I lost a picture of what conditions were like at this point, and after this I did not have time to mess with the camera.

      Pine Island is very exposed, and I'm hearing some weather reports that the wind is not going to get better. My current goal is to get back up under Little Banana, and either back to my original campsite or use the shelter of the shores to make for Turkey Vulture, which is a bit more sheltered. Doesn't work out that way.

      Comment


        #4
        This is the bit where, looking back, I'm wondering if I'm dumber than I like to admit...

        The bit of channel between Pine and the Bananas is a mess, which I don't fully appreciate until I'm out in it. Waves are now about 7' peak to peak, 24-30" deep. I can hold steady if I point directly upwind, but if I crab to the east, I lose ground fast. (Note: my round-bottomed hull really likes to side-slip if given a chance... Also, though it takes attention, I'm actually riding over these waves fairly well. I never took a splash over the gunwales.)

        Worse, the channel between the Bananas is not acting sheltered. It's somehow picked up a weird diffraction/ricochet pattern, and would be a choppy mess to paddle through, even right up against Little Banana.

        I end up losing enough ground that the only thing that looks viable is to slip to the north of Big Banana. This is, at least, sheltered from the wave action, though I end up having to stay within 100 yards of the shore, or the wind will start having a serious effect. Lacking options other than "Maybe wait it out?" I work my leisurely way east around Big Banana, and poke my nose out south of Cedar Tops.

        The conditions here are much better. The wind is still there, but the wave action is more straightforward, and the bulk of Scott Island seems to have reduced the effective fetch. It'll still be a workout, but at least the waves aren't big enough to eat my boat! The wind is strong enough that maintaining a quartering-in heading is taking a serious amount of energy. I slip sideways to Birch Island, which has a sheltered little lagoon to take a breather in. It's also directly downwind of the west end of Turkey Vulture Island, which is now my target.

        If you've been crazy enough to follow along with this on the map, you'll see that this is less than 3/4 of a mile. It took me two hours, running at a cadence that I would normally consider close to a sprint. I couldn't do in-stroke correction, as it lost me too much energy. If the canoe got more than a couple degrees off of "Directly Upwind" I'd have to fight to get it back under control. I had to resort to hit-and-switch, about five strokes to a side, to give my muscles some recovery time.

        I learned several things from this:
        - I can apply much more energy from a kneeling stance than from a sitting one.
        - I need a longer paddle for kneeling.
        - Scratch the above. I need a long touring double-blade, somewhere in the 280-300cm range!
        - The material in my cheap foam sleeping pad is an MVP! I need to buy a second one just to cut up for kneeling pads!

        I did end up making Turkey Vulture Island, which was more sheltered than I had been, with a fair bit of daylight to play with. I was not ambitious enough to try to do anything active with this time, so I decided to find out if you can do biscuits in a frypan on a camp stove. You can.


        --------------

        "More Sheltered" does not mean "Wind Free," and even if it did, I would still have heard the howling through all the nearby forest. Another night with minimal sleep. My tarp actually keeps the wind off of me, it's just noisy.

        The next morning is very dreary, and still windy. I take my time breaking camp (I'm running on at most 6 hours of sleep in the last 48) and then have ti fight my way upwind (again!) to the boat landing. I manage to get most of my gear loaded before it starts to rain.

        Comment


          #5
          I have learned in Nevada when it is windy and not that wet, the best thing to do is flatten your shelter. I rode out 60-70 mph winds on the Colorado River in AZ in Feb in my tent, but I took down all the poles. My dog and I were fine in there. The sand went right over the tent.
          Forester

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            #6
            Originally posted by ppine View Post
            I rode out 60-70 mph winds on the Colorado River in AZ in Feb in my tent, but I took down all the poles.
            Woah. Even I'm not crazy enough to try to go out in that - I'd have been sheltering in the tent, too.

            Comment


              #7
              So, would I go again?

              Absolutely! Even with the crazy weather, it was a lovely place to disappear into. I just wish I was able to go further back in.

              What would I do differently?

              Mostly gear tweaks. Many have to do with my overall kit, such as a paddle that is more suited to the stance I needed to take during some of the more challenging parts. One big thing I was missing:

              Fuel. I had half a dozen different ways to start a fire, and a liquid fuel camp stove, so I had a way to heat food and drink. However, I had no fuel for heating myself. I never really felt in danger of broaching or capsizing, I was always wearing a properly fitted PFD, and I my kit included a float bag and a couple of gear bundles that would have acted as extra flotation. "Going in" would have been short-term survivable. My issue would have been hypothermia. Even with dry clothes & a thermal blanket (Both in a sealed gear bag!) a fire would be very welcome.

              Cutting live wood in the National Forest is verbotten, and the deadfall on the camping islands is pretty well picked over, so I left my axe and saw in the car. I also neglected to bring firewood with me. In retrospect, this is the thing that could have killed me. I should have brought both along, just in case.

              Maybe one of those Pot-O-Fire wax things that were popular on here a few years ago?


              Comment


                #8
                Notes for those who are thinking about checking it out:

                - DNR sites are First Come/First Served, with an option to reserve the Cedar Tops site if you have mobility issues. (It's the only site that seems to have grass growing, and it has a floating dock, rather than just a sand/gravel beach.)
                - Lac Courte Orilles reservation sites need to be booked through the tribal website. The fee for a non-tribe-member is a little steep for a primitive site, but they very cheerfully explain that the intent is to take some pressure off the sites during tourist season. Just to make sure that there is always something available if a tribe-member wants to camp. No quarrel here.
                - On some maps, New Post (Pahquahwong) is blocked out as if it's a little more built up. This is a *tiny* villiage without even a corner store. If you need to buy something on the way in, stop further out. Radisson or Couderay if you're coming from the south.
                - Black Bears are a known issue. Some have learned to swim out to the islands to check for food, so standard Bear Protocol: Seal all food and food-garbage, keep it well away from your sleeping area. There are not any bear safes.
                - Wisconsin is trying to slow the spread of Gypsy Moths. Throughout the state, it's illegal to transport firewood more than a few miles, unless it comes from a certified supplier who kiln-dries it above a set temperature. You don't want to have to deal with the fine for that one, so buy in one of the local towns.

                The lake(s) themselves:

                This is a fairly strong fishing area, so even during off-season there will be some power-boaters about, hoping to find something finny.

                There are not many resorts on this water, as most of the shoreline is either National Forest or LCO tribal lands. Therefore, the watersports crowd is greatly reduced, even during the peak of the touristy season.
                Last edited by sailsman63; 05-22-2020, 07:23 PM.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I had an outdoor career and worked in the Rockies and Alaska. There can be snow in any month. I hate being cold.
                  I am always keeping an eye out for wood to build a fire in colder situations. I often collect some and put it in my boat in the afternoon before stopping for the night.

                  In the Sonoran Desert, we had the coldest weather of the year even at 200 feet above sea level, near the Mexican border we had frost every night in February. It got dark at 5 o'clock making for some long nights. We built fires with dried grass, a little driftwood and sometimes cactus. After a few days we came to a State Park that was closed for the winter. We had a nice beach, picnic tables and wood because there was irrigation and some Russian olive trees. We had the first good fire of the trip. There was a full moon, a river otter swam past camp, the coyote choir fired up, then the wild donkeys started. There were two great horned owls in the trees behind camp. From out location near a canyon, we could not see one light anywhere. It was actually one of the great nights I have had on a canoe trip.

                  But Wisconsin is a great place to paddle. I have made one trip to the BWCA. I have heard of the Chippewa Flowage from people around Chicago.
                  Forester

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                    #10
                    Very enjoyable read, thanks.

                    I would love to make it out Wisconsin way someday. Sand County Almanac always inspires me. As most probably know, it is great writing about the natural world in and around Sauk County, Wisconsin. Way south of Sawyer County where you were, but still. So much to see, so little time really.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by sailsman63 View Post
                      - Scratch the above. I need a long touring double-blade, somewhere in the 280-300cm range!


                      We have canoe length double blades from 250cm all the way to 300cm. The 300cm is a cherry double I made years ago in the Naashwalk style. It is not absurdly heavy, no heavier than an aluminum shaft/plastic blade 270cm Mohawk, but it is absurdly long. Too long for any canoe we own.

                      The 250cm double is as long as most composite paddle makers (once upon a time) made their paddles, and is a bit short in most of our canoes. The 260’s are, for me, using a low angle stroke, perfect in most of our solo and soloized canoes. The 270’s and 280’s are better in really wide (35” – 36”) canoes with a center seat.

                      Mohawk or Indian River still makes the DBCP in two different lengths. They are inelegant and now, using carbon doubles, seem heavy, but those Mohawks were the only double blade canoes paddles we owned for 20 years and our’s are still going strong as loaners. $44 is hard to beat.

                      https://www.mohawkpaddles.com/produc...e-info-prices/

                      Originally posted by sailsman63 View Post
                      Maybe one of those Pot-O-Fire wax things that were popular on here a few years ago?


                      I’m still making those fire-in-a-can things when I come across a 6” o 7” diameter stainless steel pot at Goodwill. Flick of a Bic starts a fire in seconds in any weather, and I’ve used them to warm myself and others.

                      The flap-flap-flap of my shelter in the wind would have been intolerable. My preference is for a (small) two-person, two vestibule tent just for me, and a well made tarp; I’d prefer my bedroom be separate from my kitchen and living room.

                      There are lots of small, good quality tents. I’m partial to the MSR Hubba Hubba for symmetrical ease of intuitive set up. A Cooke Custom Sewing Tundra tarp is pricey, and worth every damn penny.

                      I love our 20 year old wing tarp in high wind conditions. However a wing, with low ends staked very near the ground, unless very large, doesn’t provide enough coverage for more than two or three people.

                      And I’m not sure who makes a real catenary cut wing tarp with parabolic curves. Some of the “wing” tarps I’ve seen are not true wings.

                      EDIT: I realize I spent a lot of your money on a tent and tarp.


                      The last Hubba Hubba I bought was an REI outlet model that was replaced by a newer generation Hubba Hubba. It was something like $160. IIRC someone on the board, Yellowcanoe maybe, was selling a like-new Hubba Hubba.

                      And I believe Lance posted a link to heavily discounted Kelty Noah’s Tarps. The Noah’s tarp is very well designed and constructed, have webbing loops for a ridgeline set up and come in a couple different sizes.

                      Just sayin’
                      Last edited by Mike McCrea; 05-23-2020, 04:15 PM.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        ppine Sounds nice... maybe except for the donkeys?!? The Sonora can be a very pretty desert.

                        DaveO Yeah, Sauk County has some pretty country. It's right next door for me. If you do come, try to avoid major holidays, as the tourists can be a little thick on the ground. (Maybe not this year, but usually.) There are also worthwhile bits and pieces spread across several of the surounding counties.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Mike McCrea View Post

                          ....The 300cm is a cherry double I made years ago in the Naashwalk style.
                          ...

                          Mohawk or Indian River still makes the DBCP in two different lengths. They are inelegant (emphasis added)

                          ...
                          The flap-flap-flap of my shelter in the wind would have been intolerable. My preference is for a (small) two-person, two vestibule tent just for me, and a well made tarp; I’d prefer my bedroom be separate from my kitchen and living room.
                          Thanks for the info and links. I should clarify that my tarp didn't make that much noise, at least compared to what was happening up in the treetops. I will take a closer look at some of the tarp/tent options, at least to snarf ideas.

                          I'd probably go with a self-built paddle over those mohawks... not a bad price, but they'd be immediately relegated to "emergency backup." I can't imagibe they'd feel good in hand.

                          I'm unfamilliar with the term 'Naashwalk,' style, and the google-hive didn't seem to know either, other than it thought I might have meant 'nashwaulk,' but that wasn't helpfull either... any pointers on where i can learn more about what you mean?

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Nashwaak paddles were a brand of very thinly carved beavertail-like paddles made from one piece of wood.


                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by sailsman63 View Post
                              ppine Sounds nice... maybe except for the donkeys?!? The Sonora can be a very pretty desert.

                              DaveO Yeah, Sauk County has some pretty country. It's right next door for me. If you do come, try to avoid major holidays, as the tourists can be a little thick on the ground. (Maybe not this year, but usually.) There are also worthwhile bits and pieces spread across several of the surounding counties.
                              I really like donkeys. I used to have saddle mules. This Feb sleeping on a cot in Death Valley in the open some wild donkeys walked right past me at about 0300.

                              Forester

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