Friday, May 29, 2015

Sylvania Wilderness Canoe Trip

A wet, buggy canoe trip in the Sylvania Wilderness beats a dry, air-conditioned day in the rat race anytime. So off we paddled, with smiles in our hearts and bug nets on our heads. Our long weekend in the Sylvania Wilderness started out bright, sunny, and buggy.

Located near Watersmeet in Upper Michigan on County Road 535, the Sylvania Wilderness provides a closer to home option for canoe tripping than the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) for those driving up from Southern Wisconsin and Illinois.  The portages tend to be shorter and less rugged than those found in the BWCA, and the campsites are fairly large given that the undergrowth is minimal. On the downside, the Sylvania Wilderness is relatively small (30 sq. miles) in comparison to the BWCA (1,703 sq. miles).

Deer bedded down near camp.

Sunrise at Mountain Lake Day 2, the last of the sun for our trip.

We camped at Ermine 1 on Mountain Lake. A fairly decent campsite but short on flat tent spots. Due to the slope, I pulled myself and my daughter up from the bottom of our sleeping mats about a dozen times each night. Getting to camp required a paddle across Crooked Lake and one short portage to Mountain Lake on Day 1. As typical of the Sylvania Wilderness, our campsite felt spacious due to the lack of undergrowth beneath the trees.

Patiently waiting for someone to take her fishing.

A little more fishing before bed.

After some fishing, dinner, and a brief sit around the campfire, we dozed off listening to loons calling, and woke to their calls again the next morning.

Making breakfast while mosquitoes follow in buzzing clouds around our heads.
On Day 2 we paddled a loop just for fun, exploring East Bear, West Bear, Kerr, and High Lakes before circling back around Crooked Lake and Mountain Lake. We encountered plenty of mosquitoes, loons, and wild flowers. Although overcast, the heavy winds and rain held off until we returned to camp.

Pair of loons.
The sound of rain put us soundly to sleep. We rose on Day 3 to a wet, but still mosquito infested campsite. Even the rain didn't slow the little biters down.

We didn't mind paddling out in the rain. The night's wind had died down, making for a cool, relaxing paddle. We enjoyed some amazing views of osprey, eagles, and loons, particularly when an eagle swooped a loon quite near our canoe. Perhaps the rain had something to do with their willingness to allow us to get so close? Or maybe they were so focused on their business, we had become the least of their concerns. Would have made for amazing video if it hadn't been raining. The camera stayed in the dry bag, but what an awesome memory.

We ended the trip on a delicious note, stopping for burgers and fries at Brews Pub in Land 'O Lakes. When we finally got home, we took much needed showers. Then our daughter became re-aquainted with her electronics addiction, while my husband and I dove into our jobs of cleaning and drying our gear. Before we knew it we were back in the rat race dreaming of our next outdoor adventure.

Mountain Lake Day 1 - enjoying a sunny bug-free spot.

Map to camp.


Meals:                        Food Planned:
Camp Snacks               Cashews, Beef Jerky, Marshmallows, Gummies
Canoe Snacks              Granola Bars
Breakfasts                    Oatmeal with Nuts and Dehydrated Fruit, Hashbrowns with Bacon
Lunches                        Dehydrated Spaghetti, Freeze-dried Corn (Skipped - Out Paddling)
Dinners                         Dehydrated Beef Stroganoff, Freeze-dried Peas, Cinnamon Apples
                                       Tortilla Pizzas with Pepperoni


  1. You forgot to list the best meal of tortilla pizza.

  2. You're right as usual. How to I forget these things so quickly? At least I didn't do my usual packing forgetfulness. I think the worst thing I ever did is get all the way to Northern Minnesota, then realize I was still wearing my office shoes and forgotten to pack outdoor shoes for the Boundary Waters. Those shoes were fit for the trash can by the end of the trip!