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.


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: 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.