Boundary Waters Search Party

What I’m about to tell you is not a joke and it’s all second hand information. If it tastes like a fish and smells like a fish then it is probably fish, at least fishy in this case.

Saturday evening a request was made to help locate a man who had gone missing on nearby Grandpa Lake. Grandpa is just one portage off of Seagull Lake and the man was camping with 5 other men assumed to be in their late 20’s or 30’s. This wasn’t their first time in the BWCA according to one member of the group, it was their 8th trip into the wilderness.

This is their story…

“We were fishing and we let “John” (let’s just call him John, it’s not his actual name), out onto shore to go and take a crap. We waited and waited and after about 20 minutes when he didn’t come back we started yelling for him. We went to shore, started looking around but couldn’t find him anywhere.”

First of all, where they were fishing was super close to the campsite. I don’t know too many people who would rather land their canoe on a rocky shoreline to squat in the woods over going back to their campsite to use the latrine. But that’s their story.

After searching on their own for 4-6 hours two of the men portaged out of Grandpa Lake and started paddling back on Seagull Lake. Here they encountered a USFS person who then used his radio to call the Sheriff’s Department to dispatch Cook County Search and Rescue. I don’t know the exact time but sometime after 9pm.

Don’t ask me who governs what for Search and Rescue. Once upon a time all search and rescue was done through the Sheriff’s office, then we had our own branch on the Gunflint Trail known as Northern Lights Search and Rescue, then it switched again and I thought everyone was part of Cook County Search and Rescue again.

In any event, I don’t think anyone from town responded but members of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department responded.  They boated to the portage, portaged canoes in and searched the shoreline and shore until after midnight.  The search was called off and volunteers were asked to meet at 9am the next morning.

I’m not sure why 9am was chosen since it starts to get light at 4am these days and our sunrise is around 5:15am.

The next morning, upon hearing about the lost man I assumed foul play. How can someone get lost going into the woods to go to the bathroom with 5 people in canoes waiting for him? It didn’t add up. I immediately thought back to the most recent story of the couple who got rescued by a Black Hawk Helicopter near Ely. I thought the group either killed the man or they wanted to try to get a ride from a Black Hawk.

I have spent numerous nights on Grandpa Lake as it is in our backyard. After 20 plus years of paddling and exploring in this area I have a bit of knowledge.  I suggested someone go back to Gulf Lake and Romance Lake which are small lakes in between our place and Grandpa and Roy Lake.  The man was basically land-locked between these lakes with just a little over a square mile of land.

They did send a boat onto Sag to have people portage into Roy Lake to check out that area. They also searched on Grandpa Lake again and sent up a Beaver aircraft to search as well.  Sometime after noon the float plane spotted some splashing in the water of Romance Lake. It was the man, standing on a rock in the water, splashing to get their attention.  They landed on Romance and picked up the man who had no shirt on but was wearing shorts and flip flops and had a flask of Fireball alcohol with him.

He said at one point he could hear his friends calling for him but then could no longer hear them. He said he spent the night hunkered down covered in moss to prevent bites. He said he had found Roy Lake and Romance Lake but wanted to keep walking around searching for Grandpa Lake. Most likely, upon hearing the plane he decided to get to an open area so he could be spotted.

I told you it was fishy. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Almost everyone knows if you get lost you are supposed to stay put, especially when there is a party of 5 people who are expecting you to return momentarily.

Was it a game of Hide and Seek gone bad?

Did they want a Black Hawk helicopter ride?

Were they all high and drunk?

Was this guy a couple of eggs short of a dozen?

I don’t know the real story but if anyone knows more to the story I sure would appreciate hearing it.

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