HEGMAN LAKE PICTOGRAPHS
a story awaits you
By Bill Tefft
With millions of acres of state parks and forests, national parks and national forests, and wilderness areas available for the choosing, think about going out there. Whether 300 miles or five miles lie between you and “there” seems inconsequential once you determine the “where” of “there.”
Once you have settled on the “where,” and visited “there” a few times, you will have stories to tell. Remember the time you picked blueberries and a bald-faced hornet stung you – the lunch and tree climbing at a campsite – the slipping out of the canoe to walk on the floating bog – the snow rabbit someone built on the ice – the vulture’s nest hidden in the shoreline ledge rocks – the boggy portage into the next lake. Many years have passed and more lie ahead of you to continue your experiences “there.”
Photos by Ken Hupila Consider one of the area’s most popular, and one of my favorite, “there” adventures. Just over 10 miles up the Echo Trail is a parking area on the east side of the road providing access to South Hegman Lake. I suggest you get a MacKenzie Map or some other topographic map of the area before you make any decisions about going “there.” Examine the character of the land. South Hegman Lake forms the southern point of a peninsula of BWCAW land. You will see that the lakes of that area lie in north-south valleys between bedrock ridges.
The map provides a mental lay-of-theland. Zero in and use numbers to help build a picture of what you should expect. From the parking area, the portage entails walking 86 rods at 16.5 feet per rod (or slightly over a quarter-mile) with a drop of about 80 feet in elevation. The first building block of “there” unfolds as you set foot on the portage and walk through a forest of red, jack and white pines to steps descending to the lakeshore.
Winter ice provides a travel route across South Hegman Lake toward North Hegman Lake and then on to Trease Lake. The portage after the first is a 5-rod portage that parallels the stream between the two Hegmans. While traveling in summer or winter on the flat lake surfaces, it is difficult to tell if water is flowing north toward Angleworm Lake or south. But between examining your map and examining the stream flow next to the portage, the evidence shows that water flows from north to south and out of the southeastern corner of South Hegman towards Nels, Picket, Mudro, and then northward through Fourtown Lake towards the Canada/U.S. border. North of Trease Lake there is a watershed divide that separates the water of Angleworm Lake headed north and Trease Lake water headed south.
In winter, a lake trail becomes packed on the snow surface by many travelers across the lakes. The 1.5 mile trek may be packed and frozen or it may have areas of slush as it leads to the Pictured Rocks (pictographs) on the west side of the northern end of North Hegman just before entering Trease Lake. Obvious in winter and absent in summer, this pathway makes it evident that “there” is a destination of interest awaiting anyone willing to ski, snowshoe or walk.
The Pictured Rocks are a special “there” within a larger “there.” Although they comprise only a few square feet on a wall of ledge rock located in a nearly four square mile peninsula of BWCA land along waters headed towards Hudson Bay, they have the power to redirect attention from the landscape to the specific. Books, like Magic on the Rocks and Talking Rocks, have been written to enable people to explore for pictographs and to consider the purpose of the American Indians who created them. Some native people consider this specific “there” to be a sacred site due to the spirits related to these images painted only a few hundred years ago.
Focusing your attention in the effort to locate these inconspicuous pictographs may lead to additional discoveries and questions while you are “there.” Who were the painters of the pictographs? What animals made the tracks across the snow? The lichens grow right out of bare rock. Wind and sun sculpts the snow. What were the geologic processes that formed this landscape? A story of this “there” could be told with all of the plants and animals adapted to winter, playing characters.
Another day, another season, another “there” and another story engages someone in the northland. Are you that someone?