Friday, October 29, 2010

2010 BWCA Trip Report


We arrived at the outfitters on Saturday, August 21st at around 5:30 AM. The drive up was long, maybe 18 hours, but largely uneventful - and yes, traditional stop at Arby's was included. Upon arriving at the outfitters (LaTourelle's), we shifted our gear from Mike's van into the outfitter's van for about a 60 minute drive to the entry point 16 (EP16). A little tired and groggy at that point, I think we were all ready to get on the water. Many cars at the EP16 parking lot - not a good sign when seeking quiet and solitude.

So we stretched a bit, got things in order, and headed out on our first portage of 2010. First portage was about 160 rods (r), and pretty flat - obviously well used. Came across many people - a common theme for this trip, particularly over the first couple of days. Put into Moose River, a thin, marshy river that took us up to Nina Moose Lake ... a couple of small portages along the way. Passed a few folks on Nina Moose Lake who said they had been catching some large panfish there. A beautiful, clear day. Nice little beach area on the northern end, near the opening that we took into the Nina Moose River. A couple of portages (70r and 96r) along this stretch - pretty spots, with nice rapids (good spot for lunch). Had to work our way over one beaver dam, but made our way into the southern end of Lake Agnes. We were all a bit tired at this point after all the time in the car, so we grabbed the first campsite on the southeast end of Agnes - it was a relatively nice site, but a rough landing area. Got set up at camp and went out to wet a line. Scotty caught a walleye and a pike, positioning himself well for the trifecta award - just needed that smallie.


Woke up Sunday morning feeling a bit rough, but not too bad. A beautiful morning, with a calm, fog-covered lake. Clicked off a few photos as we got around to breakfast. Nobody moving too fast this morning, and it was late morning by the time we broke camp. We fished our way up Lake Agnes, having a bit more success at the northern end. Eddie and Mike began to chip into Scotty's lead in the fishing tourney. Did a short portage (24r), putting us into Boulder River I believe. Stopped for lunch on a windy point. Caught a pretty garter snake cruising thru the water - always a good sign. After lunch, we did a 65r portage into Boulder Bay --- short paddle, then a 75r portage that brought us out near a couple of buildings (not used to seeing structures in the BWCA). We were working our way to the Bottle River, with the hope of taking that through to Iron Lake. Wellll, that didn't work out too well. Bottle River was not passable, so we had to adjust plans. Because of our late start, and fishing along the way, it was a bit late in the day as we started considering alternatives. We ended up paddling around Tiger bay and Boulder Bay, checking 9 campsites before finding an open one. We were pretty shot by that point, having to battle some winds/waves on the big water. Although most of the campsites were occupied, we did see what looked like some really cool island sites up in this area. We were greeted at our campsite by a grand bald eagle who was standing in the water near the campsite ...a very nice welcoming committee indeed. We were all pretty happy to have found a spot for the night. Tried not to concentrate on the fact that from our campsite, we could see the portage we completed earlier that day right after lunch. So, despite a lot of paddling, we didn't cover much water in the end --- one really big loop --- but still a good day in the overall scope of things. An amazing full moon that night, a constant companion for the entire week.


Needed to cover some water on Day 3, so on Monday morning we headed east pretty early. Back to the 75r portage we had done on day 2. From there, after much searching (bad map reader - another common theme for the week), we did a 65r portage into a mucky little lake. Bushwacked in there to locate the 240r portage that got us into the western end of Iron Lake. Had heard good things about the fishing there, so we did wet a line briefly ... but mostly paddled on to make up some time. Made it to Curtain Falls later in the afternoon. A beautiful spot - lots of fish, but also lots of people. I believe this is where Eddie wrapped up the Trifecta. 140r portage from there got us into Crooked Lake. "Can't go wrong on Crooked Lake". Ended up grabbing an island site in Sunday Bay. Mike had some shoe issues that resulted in a tumble, but fortunately he came out unscathed. A pretty nice campsite, we were once again treated to an incredible moon.


Tuesday morning we awoke and headed east - some big water, and fortunately the Wind Gods had our backs - literally. The winds pushed us along, so we managed a pretty reasonable pace with not too much effort. A beautiful lake. Scotty nailed a really big smallmouth in one pocket at about the same time that Mike caught a monster pike. Continued on, trying not to get lost in the maze of islands and coves, and ultimately settled on an island site in Thursday Bay. A really nice campsite. Good landing area. Elevated fire pit with beautiful views. Saw a buck swimming up the lake - we watched him for awhile - not sure where he was going, but he was making good time. Had a few sprinkles that evening, but then the clouds parted. More amazing moon reflections off the lake's surface.


Wednesday called for more Crooked Lake, as we headed east for a bit before dropping south. A really beautiful stretch through here, and we caught some nice smallmouth. Another beautiful day - bright blue sky, with a few fluffy clouds. Very impressive collection of pictographs along the western shore of Crooked just south of Frolic Lake. Grabbed a quick shore lunch at the southern end of Crooked before paddling over to Lower Basswood Falls. Pretty spot where, with water running in at two separate points. All campsites taken. Caught another snake - hooray. Short 33r portage, then paddled up to another area of double falls - Wheelbarrow Falls. Good fishing here, so we loitered a bit. 50r portage and then we continued along, selecting the second campsite. Another great site. Good landing area. Great elevated view of lake. Really nice site. Started the team fishing tourney here, and Team Zig Zag jumped out to a lead - catching smallies in a nearby cove on unweighted plastics. What fun. Followed a beaver around for a bit at dusk - he was curious at first, but then said his good-byes complete with a resounding tail smack. Another great moon.


Thursday morning. Week is going too fast. Short 30r portage, but not before first grabbing a couple more smallies. Then continue along Basswood River. Had hoped to paddle some of this stretch but had to portage - including one listed at 340r. Scotty and I had help from a Scandinavian Goddess - many thanks! Popped out of the river and entered the big water of Basswood Lake. Headed east, again with the gracious cooperation of the Wind Gods. Stopped for a shore lunch along a beach at a campsite just short of US Point. Beautiful spot. Rounded US Point, and started looking for our campsite. Ended up grabbing the second one after the point. It too was sandy - which we learned had both good and bad aspects. More bugs here than we had seen the rest of the trip. Possible wolf tracks in sand, with nearby scat - pretty sweet. Got to watch a loon going through all its primping. And caught a pretty camp snake (garter). Water just amazingly clear here. Continued team fishing tourney - Zig Zag maintained its lead.


Not a good day for the navigator - #%*@&* - what should have been a fairly easy trip south became a bit more eventful, as I managed to get things turned around a bit. Ended up spending some time in the English Channel, north of Ottawa Island - and that was not part of the plan. Fortunately Eddie was catching lots of smallies, so that helped a bit. Found my bearings a bit at Lincoln Island, but then struggled a bit again working our way into Wind Bay. And we were dealing with some wind then too, so each navigational mis-step meant more paddling. Sorry guys. Paddled to southern tip of Wind Bay and took a portage listed at 130r - felt longer. Pretty marshy. Popped us into western side of Wind Lake. Wind picking up pretty well at that stage. We paddled along and grabbed an island site for our final night. Everybody pretty spent after long day of paddling and map, uh, challenges. Eddie and Mike did pretty well fishing from the shore. Scotty and I hopped into the canoe and fished a shoreline that was protected from the wind. Caught quite a few smallies - nothing very big, but they were cooperative. Wind continued picked up, so we headed for the landing to settle in for remainder of day. Wind really started humming, and we started to wonder what the next morning had in store for us.


Not much sleep that night, as we all listend to the wind roaring outside the tent. Expected the worst when we popped up early Saturday morning --- as it turns out, it wasn't as bad as feared. Yet again, the Wind Gods were with us. Some difficulty getting off the site, but once off, we managed the wind just fine. Short paddle to the 175r portage. Maybe more wolf scat on portage? Completed the portage, which put us into a protected cove on Moose Lake. Not far from the outfitters, but we knew we'd have to cross the lake. How bad would the wind be outside the cove? Well, we paddled out there, and sure enough, it was humming pretty well. We put our noses into the wind/waves, and selected what seemed a reasonable angle. After much paddling and cursing, our canoes touched shore at the ourfitters. Shoulders pretty tired. Phew!
Unloaded. Stretched. Grabbed a pop at the outfitters. Took a very welcomed long, hot shower. Then headed into Ely for stops at Piragis, the Brandenburg gallery, and a good lunch at the Chocolate Moose. Ahhh.