We spent the first half of this hitch on Fall, Pipestone, and Newton lake, and the second half on Little Gabbro, Gabbro, and Bald Eagle lake. Our efforts were concentrated on removing a few types of noxious weeds: hawkweed, a weed that has vibrant orange, red, or yellow flowers, the oxeye daisy, which can be identified by its white petals and yellow center, tansy, which is not flowering at this point in the summer and appeared as a small green herb, and the prickly Canada thistle.
Canada thistle proved to be the easiest to pull due to its short taproot, and small patches of hawkweed, tansy and oxeye daisy could be removed by digging up their roots. But when we came across overwhelmingly large fields of hockweed and oxeye daisy we resorted to “mowing” the flowers close to the base of the plant to inhibit seed production. Our tool of choice was the hori-hori, the super tool of garden spades that can both dig out roots and cut stems!
We were able to catch sight of some cool animals, such as beavers, bald eagles, and several turtles. Even a moose! On the first day of our hitch, while nearing a marshy area of a portage we were working on, Clare’s hushed call came from ahead, “Moose! Moose!” We tiptoed forward and craned our necks around the trees to catch a glimpse of the huge creature. The moose stood with its head lowered in the tall grass of the edge of the marsh, munching on aquatic plants. He slowly lifted his head towards our group and seemed to regard us with little concern. For a moment we stood locked in a staring match with the animal; those of us who had never seen a moose before were bubbling with excitement and awe. The moose slowly sauntered into the woods at the fringe of the marsh, looking back every few steps as if he wanted to stay and finish his meal of marshy plants despite the interruption. We thought of this awesome moose sighting as a harbinger of a good hitch to come.
Our days ended with a pre-dinner swim in water brisk enough to make us shriek and run for warm tents or campfire. Our dinner planning turned out to be a learning experience. While we certainly made several delicious meals, a couple were perhaps too experimental. Pizza barley night was one good example. Although it was yummy and filling, we cooked far too much barley and put in an enormous amount of cheese…Jason and Nick took one for the team and finished the pot o’ pizza barley, a digestive feat which showcased their steel stomachs. A few nights later we discovered that measuring in handfuls of flour leads to an extreme excess of pancakes. Despite an overwhelming amount of dense dough, this meal was culinary creativity at its finest—each person ended up making about 5 pancakes with a hodgepodge of unique ingredients. Nick’s concoction of dehydrated strawberries, brown sugar, and cinnamon mix clearly won the best pancake award. But when we had stuffed ourselves to full capacity we still had about 5 pounds of pancake mix to carry out. Luckily, the next day we stopped by civilization on the way to the next set of lakes and didn't have to carry the load too far.
The last day that we were on the water, the weather started to pick up and we ended up battling some 3-foot swells and very heavy winds. It was a test of our strength and canoe skills and it was… AWESOME! We were soaked to the bone by crashing waves and falling rain, only to find that we had overshot our portage. In one final push we took the wind head on and made it to the portage. When we finally arrived at solid ground, we couldn’t help but smile after surviving the elements… and seeing Nick’s vibrant red union suit blow in the wind.
While working, we saw an interesting mix of wildlife and campers. Many of the sites we visit are designated campsites. If there are campers present at the sites, we introduce ourselves and ask if we can inventory and pull some of the invasive weeds at their campsite. These interactions become opportunities for informal environmental education about invasive plants and other plant species in the area. We found that most of the folks camping are interested and thankful for the work we are doing. This hitch was successful and we learned many things that will help improve our next hitches!