Just Keep Paddling - A Labor Day Adventure

Labor Day Weekend -
A couple days off and some last minute planning led me to Voyageurs National Park. 

  • 3 Nights Camping
  • 2 Canoes Rented
  • 1 Adventure Partner
  • 1/2 My Back Recovering from Injury

The first night (Friday Night) was spent at Woodenfrog State Campground doing some luxurious car camping. Vegan beer brats for dinner that we picked up on our way out of Minneapolis from the one and only Herbivorous Butcher. Woke up the next morning with a nice stiff back thanks to an injury the day before we left and the rock I discovered in my sleep and so carefully placed myself on top up of. 

After some stretching, shenanigans in IKEA bags, and breakfast on the dock off Kabetogama Lake we set out for a day full of adventure. 

Onwards - we stopped first at the park office to get the keys for the next days canoe post hike - don't worry I'll explain that later. Then we went to Northern Lights Resort where we were renting our main canoe from for our 3 days of water travel. We packed up our gear and headed out into some wild choppy waves across Kabetogama. We were pretty nervous at first with the 25mph winds we were fighting but got into a groove, ducked behind and onto islands to explore, break for snacks, and navigate. I don't know what time we set out or arrived at our campsite but we made it. Having read a blog post detailing the route taken on a windy day trip across//around the lake, we were able to apply some of the author's knowledge to avoid making the same mistakes. 

Stopped on an island in the Grassy Island group where the campground labeled K9 is located so we could check nearby islands and navigate to our destination. (And just enjoying the view)

It was tricky navigating our canoe into the small inlet our campsite was located at but we made with still plenty of the day left to get set up and relax a bit before dinner. Our campsite that second night was one of the front country sites named Northland-K24 on the North side of Kabetogama Lake just to the East around La Bontys Point. Despite the calls for rain that evening and next morning we lucked out with some dry weather and were able to enjoy the beautiful views of the sunset. For dinner we had some delicious curry and rice after having snacked all day prior. Warm food is always a refreshing change after those kinds of days. 

And luck would have it we were able to start a fire to sit ourselves around despite the high winds and found a bundle of firewood leftover that had been stashed in the bear box! Warm and sleepy by the fire we scurried down to the tent in the cool night air and settled in for what was personally my best night of sleep the whole trip. 

The next morning we scarfed down some biscuits and gravy then headed just a bit further east along the shore - a short paddle - and stashed the canoe at the entrance to the Locator Lake Trail. We strapped our lifejackets onto our backpacks and hiked the two mile trail in. It was amazing seeing all of the beaver dams and swamp areas along the trail (despite the mosquitos that came with it). A hike just long enough that we arrived just as we were getting antsy and I was singing childhood rhymes.


We emerged at Locator Lake where our canoe from the park was locked up. A bit of water had to be squirted in the lock to get it open before we were back on the water. Locator Lake was no Kabetogama. It was calm - smooth - reflected everything around and you felt emerged in your surroundings. We took a few deep breaths while the paddles rest on our laps, finally not fighting choppy waters.  We briefly explored the outskirts of the lake before gliding to our last campsite - Backcountry site B9. 

Dark clouds rolled in and we knew we couldn't avoid the storms much longer. We set up camp, made some pad thai, and put up a tarp incase we wanted to cook or hangout outside in the rain. The storm continued to hold off. We decided to try our luck again and go explore the connected War Club Lake - we waved to the family camping and pushed on towards Quill Lake. We reached the portage area just as it was starting to drizzle. We headed back paddling to avoid the rain still - successfully - snacking on fig bars as we went. 

Back at the campsite we settled in under the tarp as the sky turned deep blue and rumbled with thunder. We huddled together and watched the rain poor down - the camp stove heating up some chilli and tea brewing. The sky grew dark fast. Pitch black in fact. Tea reheated and a peach cobbler type dessert made by headlamp. 

A photo posted by Jess Aryn (@jess_aryn) on

Cards in the tent before bed and sleep. We both woke up early in the morning - 5am maybe - needing to pee and listening for the rain to lessen. The tent always makes the rain sound like its falling harder than it is so we made our run for it and then we were just....up. This was the first morning of the trip I didn't have back pain when I woke. Barely raining we took our opportunity to pack up the gear and make some oatmeal. Canoe packed  the drizzle began - we pushed away from shore and the rain came down harder. Pooring rain - just keep paddling - we'll get there. We were going to be soaking either way. This is what we had been preparing for all weekend. 

Back to shore it stopped. The hike was careful over slippery rocks but uneventful. We powered through the paddle back across Kabetogama in 2 hours, went to the park office to change into dry clothes, and hopped into the car to get home. A stop in Duluth for fish sandwiches and then onwards to home. Oh the feeling of your own bed after a few nights in a tent.

There was a bit of hiking, exploring, and adventures I have left out but I hope you will settle for a few extra photos at the bottom here instead of me continuing to blab.

Thanks  for reading.