Island Hopping, Dodging the Weather, and Campfires.
Duration: 4 days, 3 nights
Destination: Namakan Lake, MN
Miles Paddled: 30
We returned to the comfort of Namakan Island in the Fall of 2020. Seeking respite from the ravages of the COVID-19 virus we base camped at site N28 on the southern shore.
The changeable Fall weather kept us on our toes, strong winds, choppy conditions, freezing temperatures and beautiful sunsets.
The forecast of overnight snow strong winds from the west ended our trip on day four. Allowing us to detour and spend some extra time with our family on the way home.
Hoist bay was originally a railroad logging hoist camp for the Virginia & Rainy Lake Lumber Company. Piers of the former railroad trestle from the logging period are still visible. Ted and Fern Monson acquired the Hoist Bay property in 1938 and built rental cabins for a resort that operated until 1973. Hoist Bay is in southwest Namakan Lake.
We launched from the Ash River Visitors center, paddling East we navigated through the narrows and between the islands. After stopping at Blind Indian Narrows to stretch our legs we continued around the north end of Williams island before hugging the southern shore of Namakan Island until we reached our camp site. Our shelter for this trip was a new Hilleberg Tent, a four person Kaitum, which was palatial for the two of us. Dinner was an excellent three bean chili, washed down with a gorgeous sunset.
We woke to a stiff breeze from the North west. We chose to visit the logging camp at Hoist Bay, paddling directly south we arrived just in time to shelter in the cabins from the rain storm that came as swiftly as it left. After enjoying touring the camp and learning the history of the logging operation we wound our way through the islands towards Stevens Pine Cove Resort. Seeing many young bald eagles nesting and fishing. Lunch at the camp was followed by a gentle paddle back to camp.
The wind had risen over night and the channel to the south of the island had become choppy. After a warming breakfast we ventured south west towards Junction Bay, crossing the rolling waves and hugging the shore as we sought shelter from the prevailing wind. We threaded our way around the archipelago of islands . We found an unoccupied camp to stop at on McManus Island island for lunch. Then carefully threaded our way along the sheltered shores of a half dozen islands before we returned to the shelter of Namakan Island.
The temperatures dropped into the twenties over night. Frost on the ground and a forecast of snow greeted us as we rose. We decided to break camp and head home before things turned colder. Enjoying a more northerly route home we passed by a beautiful collection of islands including sacred burial grounds and modern fishing camps. We lunched on Sweetnose island before retracing our path through the narrows and back to Ash River.
Having spent many hours in and many dollars on tents, we have a good idea now of what makes a good camping shelter for us.
Unseasonably great weather allowed us to explore the length of the lake, discovering the magnificent Johnson Falls. Sitting out an electrical storm and surfing home on the backs of large wind driven waves, all led to a magical experience.
Beautiful Weather, CAlm Water, and Magnificent Scenery. Five days of glorious weather, gave us beautiful sunsets, and the ideal conditions to explore the sights of Namakan and Kabetogama lakes.
Staying on two islands gave us day paddling access to all our destinations, and allowed us to experience the best of both lakes.