Last weekend, Sarah and I went up to Allequash Lake in Northern Wisconsin with our friends Sheri and Bryan.
We had reserved a primitive wilderness campsite on the lake that had water-only access. So, Sheri and Bryan loaded their two-person kayak on top of their car while we loaded the canoe on top of our car. Both cars were filled with camping gear and food, so we all were somewhat concerned with the number of trips it might take to get all of our gear from the dock to the campsite a mile+ away. In addition to a car filled with gear, Sarah and I brought Dalla. We started from Madison about 13:30 on Friday. Using a pair of CB radios, we were able to travel in an easy caravan from Madison to the Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest, where the lake is located, in just under five hours.
After a brief stop at the contact station to register and pick-up some firewood, we found ourselves at the Allequash Lake boat launch. We were all somewhat intimidated by the thought that we might have to make four or five trips in the canoe (because it could hold more than the kayak) to get all of our stuff out to a campsite that we couldn't even see.
However, once we got started loading things into the kayak and canoe, our outlook changed radically. Two factors were in our favor:1. We hadn't packed as much as we feared 2. The water-going vessels held more than we thought they would So, after some creative packing, both vessels were full, and the cars were empty. We pushed off from the dock, and started paddling to find our campsite.
Dalla had only been in the canoe once before, and that wasn't one her favorite experiences. To make this one better, we put a rubberized mat on the canoe floor so that she wouldn't spend all of her time slipping crazily on the floor of the canoe. In addition, she was between my knees so I could keep an eye on her (there wasn't any other place in the boat she would have fit at that point, anyway). She wasn't too happy with the canoe trip, and she started whining once we pulled away from the shore. After a couple of minutes she stopped whining, and started to show an interest in the water gliding by the canoe's walls. We both thought this was a sign that she was relaxing and learning to enjoy the canoe. As we entered a relatively shallow portion of the lake (about three feet deep) with lily pads floating on the surface of the water, she jumped out of the boat and into the water! She probably thought that the lily pads were just lying on some sort of funny looking ground. Imagine the look of surprise on her face (and ours) when she cleared the canoe wall in one quick leap and entered the water.
This very contingency had been in our minds, so she was wearing her harness and leash. The leash was around my wrist, but it was also tangled around her because of the leap. She was paddling like mad, and she quickly turned around to face the boat. As soon as she came within reach (she was never more than a couple of feet from the boat), I reached out and pulled her back into the boat by a combination of the scruff of her neck and the harness. Of course, I placed her back on the floor of the canoe between my knees. Bad idea, but I had no other choice. She immediately rewarded me for pulling her out of the water by shaking three times and soaking me. For the rest of the trip, she showed very little inclination to jump out of the boat.
The campsite itself, once we reached it, was great. There was a circle of stones for a fire pit, a nice picnic table, a relatively flat area for tents, and a sandy beach. There wasn't another campsite within a mile of us, so we had almost complete privacy. Allequash Lake has a horsepower restriction, so the only boaters were campers like ourselves, or people engaged in fishing. All the waterskiing yahoos were at the other lakes where they could run their motors at full throttle leaving us with relative peach and quiet.
There were loons on the lake that could be heard calling morning and night. A pair of bald eagles were roosting in a tree near the lake. An immature bald eagle could be seen walking in the tree and flapping his wings (though he could not yet fly). We also got to see the eagles swoop down on the lake and pull out fish which were then dropped into the nest. We saw deer (of course), crawfish, signs of bears (scat) and beavers (dams), and other birds.
We spent some time Saturday afternoon trying to get Dalla to try voluntarily swimming. She would wade out into the lake just until she needed to start swimming, and then she would make haste for shore. Eventually, once we were all in the water, she took some very tenative steps into the deeper water which turned into a frantic swim towards me. Once she got to me, she started clawing at me, so I picked her up and she calmed down. She then swam to Sarah who was in deeper water than I was. Sarah was using a pink water noodle to float, and once Dalla reached Sarah, she put her front paws on the noodle and rested for a few minutes before returning to shore. She only swam for a few minutes, and it was obvious that while she floats easily, she swims frantically and it quickly tires her out. So, before we take her on any more canoeing trips, we'll probably have to get her a doggy PFD. If the canoe tipped while she was in it, she wouldn't swim to shore, she'd swim to us. Well, if we were both struggling to right the canoe, neither of us would have both arms free to keep the dog from clawing at us in a frantic attempt to keep from drowning. So, a doggy PFD is probably the logical solution.
After the dog had retreated back to the shore, we stood around in the lake looking at all the fish and crawdads in the water around us. Bryan got his fishing pole and he was able to land several sunfish and a blue gill using pancake batter for bait.
Saturday night, a racoon got into our trash. Dalla (a.k.a. the Mighty Hunter) did not bark, but did sit up in the tent and watch the whole affair. So, we all had to get up, secure the food and trash better, and joke about what a great "watch" dog Dalla is.
The weather was just about perfect: sunny days with highs in the mid seventies, and cool, clear nights in the fifties. The bugs were unpleasant around sunrise and sunset, but during the day they weren't much of a bother. The lake itself wasn't nearly as cold as we expected. While that made for pleasant wading and swimming, it somewhat put the kibosh on our plan to use the lake as a cooler. The beer we put into the lake wasn't much colder when it came out than the air temperature.
We all agreed that our site on Allequash Lake was a truly sublime campsite and that we'd all go back again.