BWCA EP23: Mudro-Horse-Fourtown Loop, October 11-14th, 2013

EP23 MUDRO HORSE FOURTOWN loop

Overview: This trip was a last gasp of the summer canoe tripping through an entry point that I had never done.  Mudro (EP23) was enticing for the opportunity to get into both Horse and Fourtown for late season/early fall fishing, pilot a “parallel solo” opportunity with a fellow paddler, as well as a chance to experience a couple of lakes without mosquitoes and hordes of other canoeists!

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Day 1: Left Twin Cities at 4AM to meet up with another BWCA forum solo who was looking for one more trip into the same lakes before the season closed out. I arrived in Ely around 8:30 Friday morning and picked up a Le Tigre SR17 from the good folks at Voyageur North outfitters and headed up to the EP at Mudro. Rolling into the parking lot I unloaded and trucked everything down the grassy banks passed a very low-flowing Picket Creek. John, my parallel solo partner arrived shortly after me and we were soon floating down the creek, rock-dodging.

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As the sunshine built over us, an eagle or two soared over us on the portage from Mudro to Sandpit. A good omen. With little wind we pushed on with easy paddling to find the well-disguised portage into Tin Can Mike, another short paddle and the quick, easy portage (stepping over the wolf scat) into Horse.

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Now the wind was coming up. We set our strategy for campsites and pushed up the west shoreline of Horse passed the river entry to Fourtown portage. Although not thrilled with our options for campsites, we stayed at campsite 1117 on the west shore because the winds had picked up and crossing Horse to the two sites on the opposite shore next to the Horse River was now, not an option.

The camp itself is okay with a  lot of space at the top of gently sloping rock face. The take out is a bit clumsy but if you paddle around to the backside of the site, the protected bay offers a couple of better options. Two tent pads are easily identifiable with a lower one on a grassy surface to the left of the fire pit and a second upper one situated on a half-dirt pack, half rock ledge but definitely pitch-able.

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I nestled my solo into the trees behind the upper tent pad in a stand of trees an grass in between a root or two but very comfortable. Tarp pitched in there as well although a bit awkward and tight.

Day 2: Early morning dawned grey and a stiff breeze. Fished the point to the west of the campsite and brought in a couple of 15 to 16 inch pike but nothing much else before breakfast. After a hot breakfast, we triaged our options with winds gusting 10 to 15mph by early morning and whitecaps building out on Horse.  We set out north from our camp for a windy island saddle up the west shore and then a series of back bays for our fishing. Not having much luck initially, the second bay up the west shore from our camp gave us a couple pike, a SM and a small walleye. Not much else seemed to  biting. John however brought in a decent sized pike (probably in the 18-20in range) which was the largest that either of us caught and a respectable SM which kept us entertained and enthusiastic to keep casting for a few more hours.  Rap 11cm brown/gold Husky Jerk, silver #5 Colorado-blade-spinners with black 1/4oz jigs, plastic leeches and fire tiger crank baits seemed to be the preference (although I had a sneaking suspicion that the pike I caught were just desperately hungry and sensed a long winter setting in!). About midafternoon, our own hunger was building and we decided to head back to camp for own hors d’oeuvres and dinners.  Just for fun I set up a deep tail dancer/inline sinker and trolled home for one last chance to reel in dinner.  As we rounded the last point on our way south, the southwesterly winds brought up a bit of squall and we fought our way back to our campsite in strong gusts and foot to foot-and-a-half breakers to make us earn dinner. When we finally landed, I reeled in a 13 or 14 inch pike from the troll that I was too busy to land with the frantic-wind-fighting tandem paddle that we needed to reach land! Setting in for the evening, we made dinner as misty rain moved up the lake from the south. We were in for a wet evening as we crawled into our respective solo (dry) tents.

Day 3: Next morning the winds had subsided, temps were slowly rising and the sun was rising bright orange over the ridge to the east. We set out for Fourtown portages just down the shoreline to the south and west. We had to extend the first portage an extra 30 rods or so as the beavers had been at work building up an 8 to 10 foot wall of mud, sticks & logs! Dropping in on somewhat steep rock face, we paddled out. But then we didn’t have to worry because we had to hop back out of our boats, albeit one-at-a-time at the next rocky, single-exit portage.

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Curious here why the portage was not cut on the reedy other bank which is flat and wooded but looks to be an easier passage. The put-in on the other side of this portage is an even steeper, sheer rock face which just makes dropping one’s canoe back in an isometric endurance test! Paddling onward we were out of our canoes in less than 30 seconds for the final 10 rod portage as the boulder field was impassable, even for attempting to line-a-canoe. By now, the rocky, steep put-in was expected.

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Dodging submerged rocks as we each shoved off in our turn, we paddled out again for a short arm-stretcher until we reached the final 5 rod-portage-through-your campsite before reaching Fourtown. There was sandy beach at the other end of this short portage which made this transition easier. Had a good chat with a fellow paddler from one of the 5-stars at the mouth of this entry to Fourtown who reported “not being able to buy a bite” the day before as they were fishing on Fourtown. I guess we were lucky.

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Saying goodbye to John, my parallel solo partner who was heading into Boot for a solo night, I turned south to troll my way down to the triple-portage into Mudro where I was spending my last night in.

There is not much to say that hasn’t probably already been said (or written) about the Fourtown portages.  They are rocky portages that I didn’t find particularly difficult – except for that first “10 rod” portage which is actually more like a 40 rod portage that is a sheer rock face to climb!

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However, I found the actual take-out from the north side and paddled back to it to portage my canoe (thankfully) and made it into the small unnamed beaver pond without a problem. Even dodged “Mr. Aggressive Beaver” cruising silently down to my end of the pond like a guided missile to check me out!

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My mantra on these portages was “keep your feet” because an ankle-turn on one of these would mean dropping your load with a  crash and crawling out! The next 140 rod portage was actually a lot easier than I was anticipating: a short “up” and the trail levels off pretty quickly — and then it was just a carry through the autumn leaves with the creek rushing down below me to my left. I had to break up the impromptu beaver damn of a few fresh logs that the industrious rodents has started at the end of this portage — so that I could line my canoe a few rods into a deeper, “floatable” part of the stream before paddling the ½ minute or so to the final 30 rod portage. More rocks. Rocks. Rocks. Rocks. Basketball sized. Broken. Uneven. Pulling out my gear, I hoisted my rented boat as carefully as I could over my head and threaded my way through the labyrinth of the boulder field for 30 rods to Mudro.

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Getting my gear loaded, I paddled the final 2 or 3 minutes to the one-and-only campsite on Mudro just to my left and around the bend from the put-in. Pretty site, fairly spacious with room for at least 2 and perhaps 3 tents and fairly well developed fire pit with a couple log seats. Nice bear hanging tree or two. With a cold night coming on, I quickly set up camp and made dinner. Being too tired to fish (is it possible?), I doused my abbreviated fire, hung my depleted food bag and dove into my bag as the temps dropped into the 30s.

Day 4: Beautiful sunny morning. Eschewing coffee and hot breakfast for a quick departure, I loaded and left thinking “ I bet the fishing this AM would be good after watching them rise late last night in the moonlight….” Oh well. A reason to return next Spring.

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A quick paddle found that the recent rains had risen Picket creek enough to effectively dodge submerged boulders and travel the length of the creek to the sandy beach takeout, shortening my final portage by about 20 or so rods.  A nice present for the end of the trip ( I hope the young couple heading in to Wheelbarrow portage with the wonderful, energetic husky had a great week on the water— I wanted to turn around and head right back in with them!).

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Lerome/Sue Falls-Cirrus Solo, Explore, Fish: September 14, 2013

Description of Trip

A solo trip to base camp, explore ‘upper Cirrus’ and fish that I had wanted to take since the beginning of the summer. I had also considered taking my family in through this route in July but opted for Beaverhouse-Cirrus (which was a better option!). It was a 5 ½ hour trek heading in as I searched about for portages and fought a bit of wind. Coming out I faired only a little better taking 5 hours from my campsite outside of Sue Falls to the take-out at the Lerome Lake access just off the Trans-Canadian.

Day 1 of 5

Started the day from the Twin Cities. Warm and a bit breezy but a delightful day and easy drive. Had a quick detour over to Ely to pick up a used Thermarest Guidelite series pad from an outfitter. Road work almost completed on 169 which was a blessing and I zipped in and zipped out of town quickly. Finally made it to International Falls by 9PM and stopped at the Voyageur Hotel. A great little place that is run by an older couple like a bed & breakfast. Felt as though I was walking into their living room when I entered the lobby. Good night sleep.

Heading North from the Twin Cities on I-35!

Day 2 of 5

Awoke at 5:30AM. Red sky morning sunrise and out the door at 6:30 to head for the border crossing. Made Atikokan by 8:30AM and self-registered. Stopped by Robins to pick up a blueberry muffin and fresh coffee since I didn’t have time for breakfast in International Falls (a great place!). Headed back west on the Trans Canadian for the 5 ½ miles to the Lerome Lake access/put-in. Windy! Winds blew from the SW at 12km/hr (7-10 mph or so) with gusts a bit higher. Was blown back into the first bay and had to fight my way through a small islet of reeds into next bay on the eastern coastline where I was promptly blown back into that bay!

Voyager Hotel IntlFalls   Dont Bumpadahead

Since I need to make time, I got out, moved from the bow (I was trying out paddling backwards) to the stern, readjusted my packs and hugged the shoreline down to where the portage was supposed to be. Had a bit of difficulty as I always seem to have with locating the first portage but finally there it was.

No Name lake put-in was very windy – sort of a natural wind funnel there I guess — but once away I was able to paddle down the Jackfish creek portage. Despite the stinking, loon-crap muck at the put-in Jackfish creek water levels were up high enough for me to float my boat without having to do the extra 114 or so rod “bog-trot” that Beymer describes. Beaver dam lift-over was not a big issue and found myself paddling easily across Bewag to next portage.

Portage Lerome NoName Lake        Jackfish Creek portage

Located a steep takeout on southwest shoreline as I aimed off where I thought the portage should be. Found a steep, rocky 10- or 15- rod goat-trail climb that levels out and gently drops down to Lark Lake. As a word of caution: Don’t take this portage! Continue southeast about another 200 to 300 yards along the south shoreline of Bewag and you will find a gentler, sandy/grassy takeout with a gentle rise and then level carry into Lark (found this out on the way out on Day 4!)

This was becoming an adventure on shore-hugging and portage –location. At the back of Lark I had read about “entering the marsh”. With a bit of trepidation, I paddled the 5 minutes or so across Lark to the south shore and entered a narrow marshy, lily-pad

SF portage take 2

strewn swamp-lined channel with red pitcher-plants. As I wound my way south, a beaver dam stretched in front of me west-to-east. I found the short white rock at the eastern edge of the dam that marked the take-out into another stinking, oozy mess that I thankfully only sunk about calf-deep into with my canoe-hat. Good thing that my Wellingtons stayed on my feet for the 20 rod carry into what I’m guessing is the upper part of Cole Lake.

Navigating the narrow, but pretty switchback into Cole Lake is actually a treat as an eagle or two soared above this secluded water, lined by largely pine and various conifers. Finding the entry to Cirrus Creek, I paddled south on the highly-flooded stream and swamp to the portage just east of the beaver dam across the creek and carried down to Sue Falls.

SoloCirrus 1st night camp     Campsite night one Cirrus

It was now 3 in the afternoon and rain was starting to threaten overhead. I took another half hour to set up my trolling rig, snack, rehydrate and consult my maps before pushing off into the little bay protecting Sue Falls. Paddling to the west, I trolled past a set of islands and picked up a smallmouth bass dinner. Perfect. Located my campsite (A2) on a well-sheltered point of land shortly after that and made quick work of cleaning the fish, setting up camp and starting the fire…..as rain started to patter down….one drop…at….a…time. Hate to say it, but good nutrition suffered that meal as fish was followed by s’mores to facilitate a quick cleanup before diving into my tent at 8:30. Fatigue was also setting in!

Fish in a pan 1st night Cirrus   Smore dinner night 1 Cirrus

Day 3 of 5

Next morning, startled another eagle that soared across Cirrus from the stand of trees at my site. Beautiful sun peeking out. Caught a small walleye about 6 inch from the point of the campsite and released. Had to move on as I wanted to get down to the lower “upper part” of this upper arm of Cirrus (just above the north-south channel that connects both parts of Cirrus Lake). Started moving out under light winds on the northern shore of lake. With wind picking up, made a stop at a nice 5 star site (94) across the lake from the “pinch” in the land where the eastern upper arm meets the “lower” eastern arm.

Quick mid-morning break. After my own internal debate, I opted for the more conservative route which is to make a wide “C” by hugging the northern bay from this site and exploring the great little islands and potential sites back there. Beautiful potential camp sites back there! Then shot a gap between two islands guarding the bay and hit the opposite, southern shoreline which guided me to the pinch and I easily dropped down into the lower upper arm of Cirrus. Winds abated. Beautiful paddling now under sunny skies.

Island Campsite on lower arm of Cirrus Lake – Night #2 of trip by Nandagikendan

Finally made my destination campsite on an island (34Y) above the north-south channel but it was already taken by the only other two souls that I’ve encountered on the lake. So, disappointed I begin picking my way down the north-south channel ruling out potential campsites that turn out not to exist until I find the island campsite (3F) at the end of the north-south channel. This is familiar ground as my family and I paddled past this site when visiting the other great campsite at the end of this channel this past July!

Setting up camp first, I then get to work fishing some jigs and a husky jerk and a spinner but no luck even as evening sets in. No fish today with dinner as I’m appropriately humbled. Crawl in early as I’m beat from a long day’s paddle and tonight is supposed to get down to freezing.

Day 4 of 5

Fog! Woke early this AM to find the rain stopped and FOG had rolled in! Couldn’t see past the trees on the top of the island campsite and definitely couldn’t see the water below. Unbelievable. Was supposed to have frost during the night (Atikokan saw -2 C temps) but no sign of it — just the lake evidently cooling off and the air above starting to rapidly warm. Quickly burned off though as the sun came up over the trees to form a truly spectacularly beautiful, sunny morning with no wind. Time to get going!

Island Fog Cirrus from island camp day 2  Fog lifting from island camp Cirrus AM day 3

I could not resist throwing in a floating rap for a couple of casts. A few nibbles but I had to get going to make Sue Falls by midday in case anyone else had similar plans.

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Heading north via channel connecting lower and middle arms of Cirrus Lake, by Nandagikendan

Set up trolling with a storm thunder stick and jigging rod in channel. Caught and released a walleye and SM while trolling shadows about 10 to 15 feet off shoreline. All told there were 5 small mouth and one pike of 24 inches that morning. Finally had to pull in the line so that I could finish paddling up to Sue Falls which I reached shortly after midday.  Chose my campsite (BD) on one of  peninsulas after a 4-hour paddle start-to-finish with two seat breaks and one to tie up fish on my stringer and dump them in my 50L dry bag doubling as my day tank. Dried out gear. Cleaned fish and ate a late shore lunch/early dinner.

24 in Pike Cirrus   SM 15 and 17 together

Checked out site and did my part by partially relocating and rebuilding the lower fire pit. Finally located the upper fire pit and campsite. Apparently 2 or 3 other tent pads have been covered by the large blow downs up there and the undergrowth – would need a bit of work with a swizzle stick, crossbow saw and maybe a chainsaw to hack out a tent pad or two in that area, as well as a bit more fire pit construction both upper and lower to turn this back into a 5-star. Unfortunately, one of last residents had tried to burn tin foil and drink mix wrappers in fire! Picked up what I could. Need to return at some point for camp maintenance and cleanup….and more fishing.

Day 5 of 5

The regret of any trip is when you realize that it’s moving day and time to head back out! Broke camp at 7:30 which is a bit of a record for me – as much as I love an early start, I have a hard time motivating myself to get out of my comfortable sleeping bag (and now pad!) before 6:30AM on any trip. Gorgeous sunny day with no wind so off I went for a trudge up the falls and into Cirrus Creek where the fish were jumping! Finally made No Name before being buffeted by winds for about 2 or 3 minutes and fought my way into the wind tunnel (think Venturi effect in fluid dynamics!) that is the 5-rod portage back into Lerome. Expectedly with winds coming again out of the south/southwest, the southern shore was calm once I exited the wind tunnel portage. Hugged the shoreline all the way home taking my back passage behind an island through a swamp that probably is impassable in low water levels until I made landfall back at the take-out. Five hours start to finish! Time for some Gatorade and a rest!

The only question that remains is when do I get to go back?!

BWCA EP 16: Nina Moose to Agnes: A Family Excursion, August 30-Sept. 2, 2013

By Nandagikendan

Friday, August 30, 2013

Night before, we stopped at Kawishiwi Ranger station to pick up permit from the nice folks there. Beautiful late summer afternoon drive up the Echo Trail. Arrived at Jeanette USFS campground about 35 miles north of Ely on Echo Trail. Peaceful, bucolic, small campsite nestled at base of a very pretty lake. Lots of longer-term residents there enjoying the last of summer fishing and camp community. Probably 11 or so total sites? Beautiful cool evening with lots of stars. We all slept well. Crawled under my Matrix to retie a banging heat shield from driving through the construction on 169 and the Trail. Bail fail off one of my 3 reels in transit so the Gladding Southbend 725A reel had to stay in the car. Oh well, that leads to LESSON #1 of the trip: ALWAYS pack a back-up reel!
Jeanette, Lake

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Saturday, August 31, 2013
— The PUT-IN.

Day dawned beautiful, cool, clear with only a few clouds and little to no wind at all. Great to take off. Up at 5:30 to make coffee. Quick breakfast and rousting of our two kids out of the tent. Finally packed and ready to go at 8:30AM (an early start for us!), reached trailhead at Moose River EP16 at 9. Unloaded and …disaster struck. After trucking the canoe down to the put-in and the family was in-process of staging the rest of the gear, I popped the watch pins out of my sport watch while struggling one of my packs (Lesson 2: Always put the watch in a pocket). Then the spine ripped out of my beloved, 25-year-old “recently repaired” Lowe Alpine internal-frame pack as I was gingerly struggling that one onto my back ( Lesson #3: ALWAYS bring a spare backpack. Luckily we had another large daypack and lots of 55L dry bags to shift gear around in.

Around 10:15AM, we finally shoved off down the river. Beautiful day! Immediately after the first 25 rod portage we found the impromptu sandbar portage of 3 rods which we “lifted over” and then walked the shallow rapids down about 20 yards. Then we came to what would be one of the 6 portages we did this day, another impromptu portage of about 10 rods around a set of half-submerged boulders in a 25 – 30 yard stretch of the stream (on the way back we artfully navigated through these – the hell with portaging that again!
96rod portage north take out nina moose river 45 rod portage north side falls take out nina moose river2 IMG00601-20130831-1048
Rest of the trip upriver was uneventfully beautiful. We lunched on “the beach” at the north end to the left of the Nina Moose river inlet. A thunderstorm was building to our south/southeast that my son was nervously tracking for us and he rightfully suggested that we take cover! So, we landed, ate, were rained on briefly and then reloaded to paddle on with sun already beating down on us again.

Couple of notes: Nina Moose and Moose Rivers were both a bit high due to recent rains making beaver dams easier to glide over. Also managed to turn my ankle over on the 45 rod portage. Not to worry as I have a habit of packing neoprene ankle braces for just such occasions (still smarted though!). Also want to TIP MY HAT to the young guide from Ely Outfitters and his companion for grabbing our last 3 bags on the 95-rod portage and giving us great advice on campsites and fishing on Agnes! I owe those gentlemen a beer or tow!

So we made it to campsite #1804 per BWCA map by 3:30PM (about a 5 ½ hr. journey with our half hour lunch break and rather lazy double portaging). This is a lovely 5-star on the east shoreline of upper Agnes. It’s located on a peninsula that juts out into the lake. Approaching from the south, the camp is the 3rd in a line going east along that peninsula shoreline.
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Storm from Hell: We set up camp, stowed gear and began making dinner while lightning, clouds and thunder built up in the west/southwest. There is no apt way to describe what hit us while we were under our cook tarp prepping dinner. Rain, wind gusts (25? 30? Mph), lightning bursts, ear-splitting thunder and zero visibility across the lake. When the winds picked up our canoe (stowed about 25 yds. on shore) and tossed it into the water, it was time to 1) frantically dash to grab and lash it to anything on shore with the errant mooring line flagging behind, 2) dash for the tent (God bless our Kelty Salida 4!) and 3) comfort our poor kids who were very brave but more than just a bit unnerved.
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A lesson or two I learned: ALWAYS tie down your boat, even on shore (came through with only a minor pin-prick puncture). Check your weather radio with “stuff” rolling in. NOAA wasn’t kidding about the “violent thunderstorm” that we heard after-the-fact”. We did however congratulate ourselves as a family on competently tying down our tent, tarp and stowing our gear (nothing was lost!) as well as planning on the correct foul weather clothing to pack and wear.
Tie down the Boat!

Sunday, September 01, 2013
– Dry out and Recover.

The rest of our trip in comparison is rather anti-climactic given what happened on the first day! We spent the morning hitting the reset button in camp. ). I started the day at 5:30 by doing a bit of jigging from shore, trying out the TGO, and flinging the husky-jerker into the saddle between us and the island across from the site. But no luck (think I caught a clam on the TGO-method!). Making coffee and exploring our camp, I found my socks on opposite sides of the site: one had been left on the line and remarkably had only blown around camp (and not out into the lake) and the other was near the fire pit. With a bit of misty rain and overcast in late afternoon, my wife suggested we catch some fish for dinner so we paddled out into the lake, scooped water for our gravity filter and then I plied the small bays with jigs, Mepps (little too mid-summer still for that) and the jerker. Having no luck, we skirted the rocky points with a #11 blue/silver deep shad rap. Bingo. Pulled up a 14” walleye that we released. Paddled north around other points into the north bays, crossed the lake to the west and came back the way we came. Rounding the final point in front of camp site 2 (1803), we picked up an 18 in pike. Not a stellar fishing outing by most standards but then again, we only fish for that “one fish” we need for our meal. So it’s usually a once-and-done adventure which is fine for us.

IMG00610-20130902-0727 North beach nina moose paddlers on lake IMG00611-20130902-0727

Monday, September 02, 2013

Labor Day — Pancakes a plenty. Bacon. Fruit. Rivers of dark coffee (adults only ?). Packed up by 10:30AM which was also quick for our family. Sun peeking through this morning with water smooth as glass. An eagle on the rock across from our site where we left the pike carcass the day before. We can see the way out of the lake to the south peeking through the mist. A slow graceful paddle with lots of memories. The storm-of-the-century taking its place in our family’s shared legacy and dominating the conversations. Sun’s out, rivers are up. Break again at “the beach” on Nina Moose where we met a group of 3 canoes heading out after a long trip (in #14, LLC, out #16).
IMG00617-20130902-1059 IMG00616-20130902-1059   sand bar moose river
Finding Nina Moose (river entry for Moose actually) by sight navigation a bit of a trick. Pushing a bit harder upstream to glide over beaver dams, we find the portages easier and quicker to navigate. Finally, we land at the 160-rod trailhead take out that I silently nickname the “160 rod Zen Walker Canoe Portage”. It’s 4:15PM. I find this portage easier to stroll up than it was to put-in. Happily fatigued and weary, we load up and drive down the Echo Trail to Ely for Chinese takeout in Ely is in order before the 4 ½ hr. drive back to the cities. Arriving home in SW Minneapolis at 11PM, everyone is toes-to-the-ceiling shortly thereafter.

EPILOGUE: In hindsight, it was a fantastic trip. Expectations were adjusted based on the energy level of the group, particularly the shorter ones. We knew going in that we would “get as far as we could get” and that “it would be beautiful” wherever we landed.

Quetico: Beaverhouse to Cirrus and Quetico – Family Basecamp & Fishing, July 27-31, 2013

Family Canoe Adventure
Entry Date:07/27/2013
Number of Days:4
Group Size:4

Trip Introduction:
This was an introduction for my family as a whole to Quetico. This trip would be a base-camping excursion with a chance to do some exploring, a bit of fishing, and a more laid-back family adventure.

Day 1 of 4: Ugh! July 27th

Rain. Wind. Cold. A trifecta of weather greeted us as we woke up in the Atikokan Hotel — this is a great place to stay by the way.

Atikokan Hotel. Photo by Nandagikendan, Sept. 2013

Atikokan Hotel. Photo by Nandagikendan, Sept. 2013

We packed up our gear and headed down en masse to the dining area as we watched the slanting rain and listened to it pelt the windows. Breakfast was enormous though. Word of advice: It’s worth not rushing over this as the food here is excellent. A local couple was in the dining area and proclaimed this little restaurant the “best in town”.

Atikokan Hotel located in Atikokan, Ontario, photo by Nandagikendan, Sept 2013

Atikokan Hotel located in Atikokan, Ontario, photo by Nandagikendan, Sept 2013

Finally around 11AM we pushed off from the QP ranger station in Atikokan after my son (10 yrs.) and my daughter (8 yrs.) passed their orientation quiz with the ranger. Driving in to Beaverhouse via the turnoff dirt road was fairly straightforward. Soon we found ourselves on the narrow one-way logging road to the parking area and with a bit of coaxing, had everyone packed into the canoe and shoved off around 2:30PM — when the rain came again this time with a bit of wind.

Portage from BH into Cirrus (160r): Finding that first portage into Unnamed Lake is relatively easy and quick. We were there in less than 10 minutes or so even with the wind from the put-in. We hung up though on a submerged rotted pylon from the old bridge which was bit of bummer. Unloading, we trudged the 115 rod portage but is really closer to 160 rods – oh well — the maps can’t always be dead on! Arrived at the Unnamed lake fairly wet now and needing to coax everyone back in the boat and shove off just to stay warm. After some wondering around the northern shore, we paddled south on this condensed oval lake. My son found the portage trail which is tucked back to the left (east shore) only about a 5-minute from the put-in. Unloading quickly, we trudged the short path to Cirrus and shoved off into the little inlet, paddling somewhat sheltered from the weather until we found a fantastic campsite at #32. Here’s the proof: Cirrus evening west again

Cirrus Camp 32Cirrus Camp 32

 

 

Day 2 of 4: Here is where things started to improve! July 28th

It stopped raining during the night and began clearing on Sunday morning. Winds were fresh but actually calmed a bit as the sun rose. Taking our time over breakfast, exploring and camp chores, our little intrepid group of my wife, myself and our two little ones headed out with fishing rod and picnic lunches for campsite #3J at the southern end of the channel out of the upper part of the lake. My plan was to troll a deep tail dancer and experiment with an inline 1 ½ oz sinker rig — which I had never done before. Everyone else’s plan was to let me fish a bit, not fall out of the boat, get some exercise and fight back the boredom (from our kids’ perspective).

We found the campsite in excellent condition after reading some reports of a toilet-paper strewn environment. This had thankfully been cleaned up by others before us and the site was impeccably tidy and clean. Camp 3J cleanedWe found a perfectly gentle sloping rock face to spread out on and lunched on cheese/crackers/salami, pb&js, trail mix, and lots of water. I had no luck fishing either the little bay in front of our lunch spot or from the point in front of the site, but mid-afternoon in bright sunlight is probably a fairly lousy time to fish. I made up for it after the paddle home as we crossed Cirrus heading to our site. I jigged just off of our the campsite and landed a healthy 18in-smallmouth bass. Is there anything like the taste of fresh fish?

Here are a few pics of the campsite 3J and the meal:

Fish fry second round first LTDay 3 of 4: Early Riser, July 29, 2013

Rain during the night pelted our tent as we slept. I awoke early this AM to find the rain stopped and pulled out a Lucky Heddon 13 to try my luck in the little cove to the west of our site. I hit pay dirt with a few casts and another 18-20 in smallmouth which we released. With optimism and moods greatly improving amongst our group of intrepid canoeists, camp breakfast was extensive. Fresh blueberries were gathered from the hillside, pots of coffee to go with the pancakes, eggs & bacon and oatmeal seemed to hold over our kids for the moment so we decided to head-out about mid-morning into the brilliant sunshine and windless day. Cirrus eveningOur destination were the pictographs on Quetico. The portage from Cirrus into Quetico that seemed easiest to reach was directly across the lake from campsite #3J that we had visited the day before.

This is a beautiful rock channel bounded by about 50 foot cliffs on the east side and steep sloping conifer forest on the west. The water was high which meant using the first of two paths to the east of the channel. The initial 20 or so rods pass under part of the rock cliffs and wind through the forest to end at a small cascade to the right and a small pond. The rest of the trail to the left was blocked by at least three, 12-inch blowdown trees and a lot of low-hanging branches. Scouting out the trail, we put in before these, ferried our canoe across the shallow pool below the cascades and lined our boat down the shallow rapids. Cirrus to Q Portage StreamAll of this to the delight of our kids who loved the fact that everyone could get their feet wet — and off we went into Quetico lake.

We didn’t photograph the three pictographs that we saw probably because we couldn’t get our phone/cameras out of their hiding places in our dry bags and because the Anishinaabeg ask you not to. No matter as they were impressive to find & see.

On the way home, I kept us to the southern shore of Cirrus and crossed in front of 2Z to our campsite, hooking a niceMen and LT#1cirrus713 LT of about 21 or so inches for our dinner that evening. My son greatly enjoyed the filleting part while my daughter stayed at our campsite, mourning the loss of this wonderful fish – the dichotomy of emotion was very much in the spirit of the place. Cirrus evening west againAfter dinner, chores were quickly executed to give us a bit of free time before bed. Evening blanketed us in a peaceful twilight and early bed.

 

Day 4 of 4: Rain and a bit of wind moving back in. Kids were very excited to pack up although they were sad to be leaving “their Ethan on Beach Cirrus 713campsite” and were practically begging my wife and I for reassurances that we would return next year here to “our spot”. We acquiesced. As we paddled away, I trolled another deep tail dancer, a neon-tiger striped deep diver rap as we pulled into the middle of the lake passing campsite 2Z on the southern shore. The rod tip dipped precipitously towards the water surface meant “LT” or another humongous snag on the bottom. I had a devil-of-a-time reeling in with my 6’6” rod (next time I’m bringing the Shakespeare Ugly Stick 7 footer). My wife paddled us to the southern shore as I clambered out, still thinking it was a snag — the fish had bottomed just a couple of yards offshore and I couldn’t bring it up — I opened the bail to release the snag and then starting to reel in again and the 26 in lake trout emerged on the surface.

We paddled out of Cirrus to the first portage where we found a rock ledge on a peninsula guarding the cove for the put-in. Eating ripening blueberries on the point, we got down to work filleting our catch.

The rest of the paddle home was uneventful although the last portage created a mini-mutiny amongst the 4.5 foot-and-smaller crowd. Reaching the take-out we found, unhappily, that we had left a light on inside my car and now had a dead battery! Fortunately for us, some wonderful folks from Sudbury who had driven 16 hours arrived. They managed to double-up jumper-cables and we were off to Dawson to camp, clean up and rub our aching muscles…..What a trip! I can’t wait to do it again!

 

BWCA: Family Excursion on Lake One/Two, July 3-7, 2013

Family Canoe Excursion

Lakes One and Two
Wenonah Champlain 18′
Date: July 3-6th

Day One: July 3rd
Our family started this trip on July 3rd after camping at Split Rock with another family. We arrived in Ely and did some restocking before heading down to the ranger station, picking up the permit, having some lunch and heading down the Fernberg to the Lake One put-in. My wife met us at the EP30 put-in after finishing teaching down in the Twin Cities at about 2PM. It took us some time (about 2 hrs) to organize our gear after the camping and transition into the canoeing mode which in hindsight probably isn’t the best way to approach something like this — but then you work with the time you have off and this was the way it shook out.

We pushed off and floated away finally at about 4PM. Weather was good, still sunny, flies were manageable and water was calm. We found the first 19-rod portage to get into Lake One with little difficulty. However, the first portage into Confusion had some fairly vigorous rapids and strong current that you have to fight through. We were forewarned by another party of 3 canoeing families that the current “will push you right into the rocks/rock wall” and that you should “approach from the right bank (where the rock wall is). Good advice!

However, we approached that way and were pushed into the rock wall but then swamped a bit and backed off. Long story short, we paddled around the granite-faced corner of the ridge abutting the portage (opposite the 20r. portage into Kawishiwi) and dropped off my wife and two kids to bushwhack over to the portage trail while I attempted to get the canoe into the portage.
I approached the rapids this time from the left where there is ‘quiet water’ and turned quickly right to cross the rapids which are only about 10 feet or so wide, but strong — I was still pushed into the wall of rock but was light enough not to swamp and was then able to paddle myself into the portage trail.
My wife and kids made it through to the trail — a bit scratched up but happy! 🙂 After this portage trail, we pushed off and headed for the next portage which found quickly after winding our way through Confusion and finally arrived at Lake One. Loading up our gear, we recalculated our position with our maps and compass and shoved off.

I think Beymer describes Lake One as a confusion series of islands and channels that keep you referring back to your map and compass. We certainly had our challenges as we paddled out a bit too far south by southwest into the lake before heading east towards the next portage. Actually at this point we were tired, hungry and willing to settle for any open campsite. Landing the canoe on what we thought was the northern shoreline of Lake One and a promising campsite or two, turned out to be false alarms. Actually we were on the southern side of one of the two larger islands that block the view of the last three campsites on that shoreline on your way to the portage (first) into Lake Two. There was even a fire grate and ring (but no latrine) on one of the sites – must have been an old site. Turning the corner, we realized our error, shot a narrow channel between two islands and quickly found our cove campsite (#2).

Day Two: July 4th
Fourth of July: Our nation’s birthday. The day broke with plenty of early morning sun and calm winds. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs and pancakes and plenty of coffee for the adults! Made plans to explore Lake Two while the weather held. View campsite from swim island Lake Two 713Around midday we made our way (it was truly a lazy day!) to the first and second portages into Lake Two. We decided to scout out a few recommended campsites for the next potential trip. Found a site about 2/3 of the way through Lake Two (inhabited) that was surrounded by the burn but had a wonderful stand of conifer and deciduous forest surrounding it. Swam and ate lunch at a little island just to the east of the campsite. Was able to do a bit of trolling with daredevil on the return journey just so I could claim it as a fishing excursion! No luck but then at about 3:30 or so in the mid-afternoon, my expectations were very low . View burn area south on Lake Two 713While we sorted out dinner, was able to start working the rocky structures in our cove with floating rap and then later with a jig, but still too early in the day. Dinner was great with a s’mores ending — always a great treat at the end of a day.

Day Three: July 5th
Got up early to give the fishing another try. Worked a ¼ oz jig again and landed a smallmouth which brought great excitement from our kids. Wind had been picking up and dropping down all night. Morning brought considerable breeziness, up to 10 with 15mph gusts. Oregon Scientific weather radio confirmed we were in for a bit of breezy day. Packed up the gear after a few excursions to fill the water gravity filter bags and get food set for the day’s excursion. We decided that it was a good day to stay on Lake One, find a place to swim and eat lunch close by to camp. So off we ventured, battling the wind and staying close to shorelines as we worked our way back to the portage out of Lake One. A little island haven with a wonderful campsite became our home for about two or three hours as jumped in to cool off, ate and joined the two families for another swim who were already camped on this deceptively, expansive little haven before heading back home to base camp. It was closer to 5PM when we made our back and the wind had died down considerably.

Day Four: The Pack-up and Journey Home

We decided on the return journey to go up Lake One arm all the way to the Kawishiwi Outfitters, do the “U-turn” down that pretty little narrow channel and cruise back into the Take out at EP31. A smarter choice for us! 🙂

There were some excellent camp sites on Lake One right next to the portage and also on a very small island directly in line of sight of portage off to the southeast — we stayed just a bit further on where there are the last three campsites on the north shore on the way to the portages for Lake Two (an excellent wooded, flat site with a rock wall at one end) by the way in a little protected cove and beautiful views out onto Lake One!

BWCA: Eagle Mountain and Whale Lake camping, June 22-24, 2013

Eagle Mountain and Whale Lake camping
Posted by Nandagikendan
Trip Type:Hiking
Entry Date:06/21/2013
Entry Point: Eagle Mountain
Number of Days:3
Group Size:4

Day 1, June 21: Setting Out for Eagle
Our first family trip of the season was getting ready for a new experience: portaging. We had camped on Horseshoe Island on expansive, magical Saganaga, the favorite of Sigurd Olsen. This year we would begin the carry to be able to reach lakes hopefully further off the beaten path.

Leaving the Twin Cities around dinner time we fought the inevitable traffic north. We made it as far as Temperance River State Park around 9PM and pulled off Highway 61. Bedding down to the murmur of the grey, foamy surf stirred by an angry Lake Superior we drifted off in a misty rain.

Day 2, June 22nd: Practice for Portaging

The next morning we made our way to the trail head for Eagle Mountain some 30 minutes or so north of Grand Marais located up dirt logging roads and thick dense boreal forests.

With June in BWCA comes winged pests. We swatted the clouds of gnats and mosquitoes swarming around us as we dragged our backpacking packs out of our car, loaded up our kids with their packs and water bottles and began our trudge to Whale Lake below Eagle Mountain.

Trail to Eagle Mt

Trail to Eagle Mt

A deciduous forest envelopes the pine needle-covered trail. Mossy, bog patches litter the route as well. It’s mostly a flat path to the lake.

Uploaded to summitpost.org by Milanite (2010) on August 2011

Uploaded to summitpost.org by Milanite (2010) on August 2011

About 40 minutes or so, we reached the entrance to the BWCA and took a quick lunch break, slathered ourselves with mosquito dope and quickly shouldered our loads. Upon reaching Whale, we checked out two available sites, one is the first to be reached on the west side of Whale but we thought it a bit too weedy and wet to work.

Hiking around to the north side of the lake we found the wonderful 4-star site which was already taken by a family! They graciously allowed us to camp nearby on a craggy outcropping just outside of the fire ring. The pewter grey skies threatened rain so we snuggled in right after a hasty dinner.

Day 3, June 23rd: The Climb to the Top
Skies broke a bit with lighter patches of grey but no sun. We were hopeful. Packing up a quick lunch we began a slow methodical climb up the rocky, inclined path the Eagle Mt. summit. Our son, Ethan decided to stay behind to hang out at camp and explore. Our daughter Leah accompanied my wife and I up the trail, stopping frequently to gather flowers and munch granola trail mix.

The climb to the top is not long. Perhaps 20 or 30 minutes depending on your hiking speed and conditioning. We made it a bit closer to 40 minutes and were rewarded with an panoramic view over the Misquah Hills and southwest over the forested ridges. We couldn’t quite make out Gitche Gumee or Brule Lake which were too far for the naked eye but the view was stunning none the less. We realized at that moment that we weren’t actually standing on the highest point in Minnesota. That led us to explore and find the marker which was further up the summit by climbing the granite slab just northeast of our perch to a wooded grove.

By DuskTransfixed , May 6, 2011 upload to Google Earth

By DuskTransfixed , May 6, 2011 upload to Google Earth

After a couple of hours up top enjoying a picnic lunch, resting and enjoying the view, I began straggling down with my daughter to allow my wife a few extra moments up top before descending. We carefully picked our way down the trail to our camp to find our son happily ensconced under our tarp munching snacks. Dinner, a walk-around the various short trails and camp chores were followed by all four of us tucking in a bit early. Tomorrow was pack-out day and we needed to rest our aching muscles.

Day 4, June 24th: Pack Out to Salvation
Our last morning in the woods was a bit clearer. No rain in the forecast was followed by sun peeking out from time to time to encourage us for our 2-hour walk back to the trailhead and our car. Loading up after a hearty breakfast of pancakes, fruit and oatmeal, we again made the human-mule train-of-four beginning the trek homeward. The trail around Whale is quick rocky and rooted. The rain and mist from the previous two days left everything slippery and treacherous which slowed our progress. The mosquitoes had also not abated. As long as we kept moving we were fine. Pausing only briefly this time at the BWCA boundary, we pushed on. My son Ethan was in the lead at times with my wife and then I passed them both with my daughter to take the lead in the last stretch of our route. Finally, the trailhead came into sight. We dropped our sacks at the car, ate some snacks as we changed out of our grimy camping garb and reloaded everything back into our car. Tired and happy, we celebrated our survival with chocolate bars and leftover trail mix.

 

Quetico : Nym – Jessie – Sturgeon Loop, May 31, 2013

Trip Intro: This is a relatively early-season trip report because it falls
at the end of May into first week of June in Quetico. It’s
essentially a solo paddle to meet up with a group of 4 doing
there separate trip for a couple of days before solo looping
back to EP (Nym)

Part 1: The Adventure in the Rain
Friday May 31: The good part of this portion of the trip was the lack of bugs and the beauty of both Nym and Batch in the light misty rain. nym put-inI set out Fri. AM from Nym and shoreline hugged to the east all the way down to the portage because I was a bit apprehensive in a new 18 footer Champlain (it was new, used boat) and didn’t want to get blown around. I loaded down the bow and stern with about 70 pounds of ballast in water jugs in addition to my own gear. It seemed to work pretty well although it took my 3 or 4 times longer to reach the portage! Not a recommended approach unless safety (yours) is required.The portage itself was in very good shape and well maintained at this point however the sky unleashed a torrent of rain and lightning so I joined a father/son group and paddled west to the point where two campsites are located and bedded down until the next day. Not a very productive first day out but given the cold water temperatures, better than dumping in the cold, chop of Batch.

Part 2: The Adventure Continues — Rain Rain Blown Away.
Saturday June 1st

Day opened calm and glassy but soon changed. I paddled away from my bucolic point campsite back towards the portage on the Batch side because the sky was grey and potentially threatening. I had a weather radio but the forecast was simply predicting on/off again rain showers, cool temps and winds 10-15km/hr (6.2-9mi/hr) or so….so I paddled on. About equal with the w7 five-star campsite on the eastern shore (where the peninsula juts out) I was slammed with driving rain and short 1ft rollers. Nothing terribly tricky but I had to fight it pretty hard to keep the bow pointing down wind. Cutting to the chase — I realized I was cold and tired — I bivvied at the necked down landing campsite halfway down this coast line as I was getting a bit hypothermic and needed to dry out — I pitched my tent, slept and waited for the members of the group that were to meet up with me — which they did about 3 hours later. Setting out again in lighter mist and after wondering about for a bit, I finally made it to their campsite, across Batch Bay on the island just outside of the rapids that enter Pickerel.

Part 3: Stopover on Jesse
Sunday June 2nd

We paddled out late this day around 10:30 AM after a leisurely breakfast and made the Maria portage (not too muddy) and then the Jessie portage ( a longer slog with a bloated dead beaver at the take-out). Sunny, light breeze. After reaching Jessie, the group decided that the mainJessieFullsite island campsites were worth a stop-over, drying out, and fishing a bit. boats evening twighlight JessieExcellent fishing luck for most — 4 pike, 2 walleye (a third walleye caught by one of our group measured 30 inches and was landed late in the evening well-after darkness had descended. Not a bad day! We all settled into our tents on  a perfect evening.
Jessie Twilight

Part 4: Long Paddle Day with the Fight Upstream
Monday June 3rd

Began our day under sunny skies a bit earlier around 9ish. Not an early rising but timing was improving. We found the portage and off we went to Elizabeth after viewing the dead, decaying moose carcass in the bay by portage. The trail itself had 3 or 4 mud holes with corduroy. The whole trail looked as though it was building towards its usual full summer muck status. This was a longish trail compared to what was coming. Walter is a pretty lake with the sun now shinning brightly reflecting off the blue water. It was a long paddle to next portage but winds were light and in the narrows leading to the take-out, we lunched on a rock face and soaked up the sun just 50 or so rods from the double portage. A couple of us, including me slipped into the water as we hauled our gear and boats over the rock face takeout. It’s a short portage onto a shallow, sandy creek to next portage with lower rock portage before the cascade and riffle that flushes Walther out into Lonely. Pretty day, sunny, no wind to speak of and a longish paddle down to the portage into Sturgeon. Beaver dam or remnants thereof after second portage below falls and then into nor’eastern end of Sturgeon. Here began the really long paddle. I fell a good 15 to 20 minutes behind the rest of the group of tandem paddlers. I watched them disappear as they turned north around the point and ascended the Sturgeon Narrows. I reached the far eastern end of Scripture and kept paddling, alternatively shoveling granola into my mouth, paddling with one hand, and swilling water. Thankfully, Sturgeon was still calm as glass, there were few if any bugs, and ample daylight left as the sun still road high in the western sky.

“I’m still here”, I’m thinking. Paddling very slowly with the fatigue that comes with regular canoe tripping, paddling and portaging. Slowing making my way up Sturgeon Narrows, I finally reach the narrows that leads to Russell around 6:30PM. No one else in sight. Current is flowing steadily and strongly down this stream, banked by steep wooded hillsides. I try unsuccessfully twice to paddle up the strong current but fail and must float back out into the little bay and back to Sturgeon Narrows. Locating a makeshift campsite on the southern shore, I attempt an impromptu bushwhack to a little cove I spy on the other side. Maybe if I can get through, I can paddle the calm waters and then bushwhack the next hill. Perhaps I can leapfrog that way to the short portage trail that is just out of site up this raging stream? But it’s a no-go. The thickets are too dense and I’m tired, thirsty and hungry. Finally forced retreat, I paddle a short distance east and then north to a rocky peninsula to camp. It’s a steep rock ledge takeout but I’m rewarded with a fantastic view of southern Sturgeon lake. The campsite’s not bad with an upper pad that could accommodate a 2-4 person tent. A lower site and fire ring is just perfect for my 1-person backpacker tent. I snuggle in after a quick dinner of soup and a few crackers.

Part 5: Tuesday & Wednesday June 4-5th
Climbing out of my tent, I’m greeted by blue skies and sunshine. I vow to check out the far bay to the southeast in case I’ve missed a portage or entrance somehow to Russel. No luck. It’s now 11AM and I turn my canoe northward, paddling slowly but deliberately up the lake. My muscles ache from yesterday but I’m making good progress.

I lunch at a perfect campsite in the upper Sturgeon area with an easy sloping rock embankment, sturdy camp “furniture” and evidently plenty of tent pad space, all nestled in the trees. Loading up again, I find the entrance to Deux Rivieres and happy to find enough water to easily float the paddle upstream. Entering Twin Lake, I finally locate the flooded portage to Dore.

My packing comes back to haunt me on this portage as my system breaks down into triple-portages. Making Dore, the afternoon is slipping away. I lose myself in the wrong bay but finally locate this flooded portage as well and am soon into Pine Portage. Wind is picking up and I’m a little nervous as a first-timer in my 18′ Champlain. I pull over at what appears to be an abandoned camp on a peninsula. Nothing but a fish livepool and a some fire rocks remain but I take it as wind kicks up whitecaps on Pine. I wouldn’t discover until the next morning that the campsite, a 4-star that I was looking for was mere meters across the inlet separating my bivvy site from it. No matter. I’m tired and it’s been a full day.

The next day, I am lucky again to have excellent weather.

Sunrise over Pine Portage

Sunrise over Pine Portage

There’s a very short portage into Pickerel Lake which I quickly located that morning. A gentle breeze at my back, made the paddle up the picturesque Pickerel Narrows a relaxing paddle up the Narrows back to Batch. I even cross paths with the father-son duo that I met in the way in. Wind was now picking up (doesn’t it always?) on Batch and I had 1 to 1 1/2 ft rollers/chop along western shore of Batch all the way up to the takeout. One last long portage over a familiar friend-of-a-trail. I took a long break and ate, watching the winds across Nym and betting that by 5PM or so, they would calm down enough for me to attempt a very hard, fast, solo paddle. As my luck continued to hold, winds died and I was chased by a threatening sky at my back across Nym all the way to the takeout where one last 10 minute wind blast tried to blow me out of the inlet — but I was home! Exhausted. Gratified. Heading home.