BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

August 17 2017

Entry Point 4 - Crab Lake & Cummings Lake

Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 23 miles. Access from Burntside Lake with a 320-rod portage to Crab Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1406 feet
Latitude: 47.9337
Longitude: -92.0269
Crab Lake & Cummings Lake - 4

Crab/Cummings with Rookies

by Ho Ho
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 23, 2010
Entry Point: Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
This trip was a four-day adventure into the Boundary Waters with two rookies, Michael and Josiah. Michael is the 19-year-old son of an old college friend of mine whom I had recently gotten back in touch with. She, her husband, and Mike were coming out for a week at the cabin, and Mike wanted to try a wilderness canoe trip while his parents held down the fort with cocktails back at the cabin. We had never met Michael but I was pretty sure he would be a fun guy to take out on a trip, which definitely proved to be true. To round out our crew, we invited Josiah, the 15-year-old son of different friends, to come out with us too. He had been to the cabin for a few days with his family a couple years ago, and had been angling for another visit and canoe trip. David and I have both known Josiah since he was born and we knew he would be fun to have along. Mike has always lived in Boston, and Josiah has pretty much always lived in New York City, so the Boundary Waters was going to be a new experience for these city boys, who had never been on a wilderness trip (much less a wilderness canoe trip) before. And so after a few days at the cabin getting our gear together, practicing some basic canoe strokes, and just hanging out with Mike's parents, the fateful morning for the beginning of our adventure arrived . . .

Day 1 of 4


Day 1 (July 23, 2010) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/Day-1.jpg[/img]

Our entry point was Crab Lake. We picked this entry because we thought it would create a challenging (but not TOO challenging) trip that would lead quickly to a fairly remote area and give the guys a good idea of what the wilderness is all about in a just a few days. The key is the long portage into Crab, which keeps the riff raff out. Of course, our new guys had never portaged in their lives before. But they are young athletic guys, and our approach to portages is easy-going, so I was optimistic it would work out well.

David and I have paddled across Burntside to get to the Crab Lake entry in the past, but we thought with a couple of new paddlers on this trip, we should get a tow to start the mile-long portage fresh and avoid potential whitecaps on Burntside. I arranged with VNO to get the tow pickup right at the cabin dock, which was really convenient and really fun. Waiting for the tow, from left to right, Josiah, Ho Ho, David, and Mike -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1692.jpg[/img]

Mega smile (with the Harlem Little League baseball cap) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1695.jpg[/img]

Kevin the towboat driver arrived, we loaded up, waved goodbye to Mike's parents, and were ready to go -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1698.jpg[/img]

Heading out -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1701.jpg[/img]

Kevin at the helm -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1703.jpg[/img]

Mike, probably thinking "what am I getting into with these guys I just met a couple days ago" -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1707.jpg[/img]

The tow had its own element of adventure because the motor was barely working. At first Kevin said it sounded like it was running on one cylinder. Later he said a half cylinder. Still, we were making slow but steady progress across Burntside, and I was glad we had arranged the tow because we were facing a strong headwind and there were good-sized rollers on the open part of the a lake.

Then, somewhere around School Section Bay, the engine just up and died. I was pretty sure that we were going to be paddling the last couple miles of Burntside to the portage, including some rough water, but after about 10 minutes of fiddling with the motor, Kevin got it started again and kept it going to our destination. Kevin is a good guy to get a tow from, it was very enjoyable, complete with mishap. When he dropped us off, he called back to VNO to let them know he might be stranded out on Burntside, but we found out after our trip that he kept the motor limping along all the way back to the public access, so no rescue was needed.

We offloaded at the portage and were ready to leave motors behind -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1709.jpg[/img]

While we were organizing our gear and applying ample bug dope, a couple of youngish guys paddled up in a green Penobscot. I tried to make a little pleasant conversation while they unloaded, but they were pretty taciturn. It looked like they were planning to single portage, each with one pack (not canoe packs) and one guy with the canoe. But the one carrying the canoe sure was having trouble getting it resting on his shoulders the right way with the pack sticking up. I had a good idea what the problem was, but since they didn't seem like they would be too receptive to suggestions, I kept my advice to myself.

Shortly after they headed down the trail with the canoe in an awkward position, we were off ourselves -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1710.jpg[/img]

We decided to leapfrog the mile-long portage in 1/3 and 2/3 segments, carrying the first load 1/3 of the way across, going back for the second load and carrying it 2/3 of the way, then getting the first load to carry to the end, then finishing up with the second load. Before we got to the first stopping point, I passed the two guys with their canoe down on the ground. A hello was not returned. We went on and then dropped our loads at the approximate 1/3 point, at the place where the new rougher part of the rerouted portage meets the older smooth and level trail. Not far behind us came the two guys, carrying the canoe two-man style with one under the bow and one under the stern. They didn't look that happy.

For our part, I was glad we were double portaging as we got a drink of water -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1714.jpg[/img]

David took some pictures on the trips back between loads - though not as many pictures as usual on our trips, because we were more focused on introducing Josiah and Michael to the art of painless portaging. We did stop to look out over the beaver pond that is about half way across the portage -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1715.jpg[/img]

I'm not sure what this flower is -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1720.jpg[/img]

I think this is Pearly Everlasting -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1721.jpg[/img]

The big beaver meadow (an extension of the pond) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1727.jpg[/img]

Another perspective on the meadow -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1728.jpg[/img]

I like carrying canoes (at least the lightweight kind). So I was taking both of them across, while the rest of the guys carried the packs. But when we went back for the last leg of the second load, Mike offered to carry the second canoe to the end. I appreciated that, but thought maybe it was still a little far for a first canoe carry. So I said he should give it a try on the next portage, and I finished the last leg of this portage with the canoe myself.

By the time we got everything to Crab Lake, we were ready for lunch. We headed for the first campsite on the north side, where David and I had stayed on the last night of our trip with my sister in September 2006. The water was a lot higher now than it was then, lapping almost up against the fire grate. As we ate we could see the two guys in the green Penobscot paddling around Crab. By the time we were ready to move on, the clouds had thickened to the west, and we got on our rain coats for the paddle up the lake to the next portage. But on the way there the sun came out again, and it we got pretty warm in our rain gear and PFDs (which we were wearing on this maiden voyage with the rookies).

The easy 20-rod portage from Crab to Little Crab was the perfect place for Mike and Josiah to try portaging canoes the first time. Mike went first with the Champlain and, not surprisingly for a big young guy in good shape, he had no problem with it at all - once it was on his shoulders. The initial lift still needed some refinement. Then Josiah carried the Spirit II. When he got to the end and set it down, I asked him how it went. His initial answer was "not bad," but then almost immediately his shoulders started hurting and he revised his assessment. The pads were too wide for his shoulders. I'll give him another year or two before he becomes an avid canoe portager. Then look out.

Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of this initial foray into canoe carrying. Once the rest of the gear was across, we loaded up -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1729.jpg[/img]

Mike looks a little concerned here, maybe he was wondering if I was going to tip the canoe when pushing off -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1731.jpg[/img]

No concerns from Josiah -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1730.jpg[/img]

We quickly paddled up Little Crab Lake to the Korb River, which starts with a riffle through narrows with a tiny submerged dam that I think beavers made but maybe it was some other natural force or humans. Then the river widens out into a broad boggy route. With Mike the powerhouse in the bow, our canoe tended to stay well in the lead. As we went down the river I paused to tell Mike about Pitcher Plants, which were present in abundance. There was a downside of being in two canoes, which was that David had the camera and because they were a bit behind, he didn't pause as much to take pictures in this beautiful stretch as we would have if it were just he and I in the same boat.

Soon we came to the rocky stretch and beaver dam just upstream from Korb Lake. We portaged around the rocks and dam here when we went through with my sister in 2006, but now the water was higher, so we threaded our way through the boulders and lifted over the dam. This was a little harder for Mike and me than for David and Josiah, since we had the bigger canoe and heavier load - a disadvantage that would pop up a lot on the last day of our trip as we headed town Crab Creek back to Burntside.

After getting over the dam, it was just a bit further down the river to Korb Lake, where we quickly came to the 70-rod portage to Cummings. Looking back at Korb from the portage -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1753.jpg[/img]

Mike was gung-ho to carry the Champlain across another portage. Getting ready to lift -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1732.jpg[/img]

Not bad -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1733.jpg[/img]

Seems like it's going okay -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1734.jpg[/img]

Excellent -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1735.jpg[/img]

Oops! -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1736.jpg[/img]

Fortunately, he could strong-arm it back into place -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1742.jpg[/img]

Ready to go -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1745.jpg[/img]

He's off -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1748.jpg[/img]

I grabbed the Spirit II while Josiah got a pack -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1750.jpg[/img]

At the other end, I asked Mike how the canoe carry went. He said he liked it - although he couldn't believe I had carried both canoes a mile each on the first portage. I explained that it's one of those things you get used to, and I have no doubt he'd easily do the same on the next trip. Heading back for the second load -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1751.jpg[/img]

Once across the portage with all our gear, we loaded up on Cummings to start our search for a campsite. We wanted a good site for a two-night stay. I was thinking the island site just north of the south bay in the main part of the lake would be nice to explore, and we were pretty optimistic because every single campsite we had passed so far was unoccupied.

But the campers have to be somewhere, and it seemed they were all on Cummings. There were canoes and campers in the south bay, staying at the southernmost site where we spent two nights with my sister in 2006. The next site up at the entry of the bay was too close to the first group for comfort, so we made a bee line past it for the island I wanted to explore. But as we got close, we could just barely see the tent of the people camped there. We could also see people and tents at the site on the eastern side of the entry to the north bay. And scanning with binoculars revealed a tent on the island a little west of there.

With no open site we wanted to stay at on the east part of the lake, we headed to the site at the narrows to the western part of the lake and checked it out. Mike and I got there first, and he went up to scout. He quickly confirmed it was the campsite with the fire grate, but when I asked how good it was, he looked around and said, "I don't know how to tell." Which was understandable. So he came back to hold the canoe while I scouted. It was a crummy site, just an open grassy spot with the sun beating down, surrounded by scrubby brush. And so I said we needed to look further.

At this point Josiah, who had been a complete trooper, voiced some concern. "How much further?" I looked at the map and said the next site was a half mile west, and we'd hope it was open and nice. It had been a good first day so far, but obviously the guys had done a lot, so I hoped for the best. We went through the narrows and faced a pretty strong headwind, yet spirits stayed strong, and we soon came to the next site on the western point of a long peninsula. It was hard to find a good landing with the wind and waves, but Mike and I jumped out in a rocky area, and I went scouting. Yep, this would be our home for the next two nights.

We all unloaded and decided the first order of business was a swim and snacks. There was a nice granite dome down to the water, and the cool dip in the lake and snacks restored our energy. (Josiah ate a whole pack of beef jerky. Before the trip, he said, "I don't eat much." One thing I learned on this trip is that teenagers don't have a clue how much they eat, and it's more than you would ever imagine.)

Next we set up the tents. This site had a couple great tent pads among open pines with a nice breeze blowing in from the west to cool us off. The only downside was that there were a fair number of mosquitoes for the daytime when you were out of the wind. Now that we were replenished, Josiah agreed that it was a good thing we paddled a bit further to this spot. Once the tents were up, we did a few more chores, like setting up the bear ropes. Here Mike and Josiah proved invaluable. They both are good baseball players and easily got the ropes in place -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1757.jpg[/img]

Josiah filtering water -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1765.jpg[/img]

Mike helped me gather and saw wood. We got enough for two nights because rain was predicted overnight and we thought we could keep tomorrow's wood dry under the tarp. I got a blazing fire going for steaks on the grill -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1759.jpg[/img]

David and Mike tending the steaks -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1762.jpg[/img]

Are they done yet? -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1766.jpg[/img]

There was also grilled asparagus, and basmati rice cooked on the stove. Dinner's served! -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1768.jpg[/img]

Good eating -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1769.jpg[/img]

After we ate, Josiah grabbed the camera to take a few shots. Ho Ho and David basking post-dinner -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1771.jpg[/img]

Mike reclining by the water -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1777.jpg[/img]

Footwear drying -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1778.jpg[/img]

Contemplation -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1772.jpg[/img]

We did dishes, hung up the food packs, tied down the canoes, and otherwise tidied up camp, then enjoyed some Maker's Mark or other age-appropriate beverages. About 15 minutes after sunset, the mosquito hordes came out in an awe-inspiring force that I have rarely seen south of the tundra. We quickly brushed our teeth and ran for the tents. David and I read for a while and then turned out the headlamps.

Even though rain was predicted, we decided to leave the flies off the tents due to the warm weather. About 1 in the morning I got out of the tent to pee and could see it was overcast. Unfortunately, a bunch of mosquitoes followed me back in, and I didn't manage to find and kill them all. I tossed and turned for about an hour wondering if it was about to rain while a couple skeeters buzzed me, until the first drops of rain fell. David and I dashed out to put the fly on, and I called back to the guys in the other tent, which was further back in the woods. There was no response, so once our fly was on, we got back there and roused them and put their fly on too. Fortunately it hadn't started raining hard. We got back in the tent and killed most of the mosquitoes that had followed us, while a soft rain settled in accompanied by the Cummings Lake loons.

 



Day 2 of 4


Day 2 (July 24, 2010) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/Day-2.jpg[/img]

The rain lingered into the morning. Since we weren't in any hurry, the mosquitoes were out in force, and the young guys seemed to be big sleepers, I stayed in the tent a lot longer than I usually do, finally getting up around 8:00. David got up too and helped me get the food pack down so we could have coffee. Enjoying a cup of joe -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1785.jpg[/img]

The expanse of Cummings stretching westward -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1786.jpg[/img]

The shoreline to the south of our point -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1787.jpg[/img]

Rock and pine -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1788.jpg[/img]

The two of us hung out with the bugs for a couple hours and then decided it was time for breakfast and rousted the guys out of their tent around 10:00. I asked them how they slept, and the answer was not so well. It seems that a mess of skeeters got in their tent at the start of the night and they failed to kill them off before lights out. Then another squadron invaded when they got up to put the fly on. We counseled taking strict search and destroy counterinsurgency measures after getting in the tent in the future.

Michael and Josiah also said that they thought they heard wolves soon after going to bed last night. I was wondering if they had heard some particularly crazy loons, but I had described to them what wolves sounded like, and they thought they were a match. David said he heard them too. Well, my hearing is not what it once was!

I made bacon and pancakes for a breakfast, which was a hit with the guys -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1789.jpg[/img]

We lazed and dawdled for a while after breakfast. When I was filtering some water in the late morning, a 3-person canoe came by heading west. We could see later that they set up camp a couple miles away at the western end of the lake. Otherwise we didn't see anyone else today.

Eventually we got into gear for a day trip. We decided to paddle to the western end of Cummings, lift over into Otter, and then explore the beginning of the Little Indian Sioux River. From the map, it looked like the LIS has a bunch of portages connecting little pools in that first section, so we probably wouldn't get very far down the river, but it seemed worth exploring.

Josiah wanted to try out being in the stern, and I suggested to Mike he might want to try too. He was dubious but gave it a go. I reviewed the steering and j-stroke instruction I'd given back at the cabin, and we were off -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1794.jpg[/img]

Mike had some trouble getting the hang of steering. It was hard from the bow to tell exactly what the problem was. I'm not sure he was doing the j-stroke right, but I think the bigger issue was that he had trouble anticipating when he had corrected enough, so the canoe would swing first to the right, then be overcorrected too far to the left, then be overcorrected too far to the right, and so on. It probably didn't help that we were in a big unloaded canoe with a fair amount of rocker. Fortunately, there was little wind, because with our disparity in weight it was hard to get the canoe trimmed right (we did have our food pack as far forward as possible). So we ended up zigzagging down Cummings. Which was just fine, because the journey is the destination. Another shot of the two of us -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1797.jpg[/img]

Mike was still smiling -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1812.jpg[/img]

For his part, Josiah picked up the j-stroke and the overall steering concept pretty fast -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1803.jpg[/img]

Does this picture look posed? -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1806.jpg[/img]

Eventually we came to the little rapids and liftover to Otter Lake. Mike and I had probably covered twice as much distance as Josiah and David, but Mike got us there nonetheless. He said we definitely needed to switch places at the portage, though. I think Mike is a confirmed bowman. Which was fine with me, because I like paddling in the stern. And Mike provided a lot of power in the bow.

Looking through to Otter Lake as we approached the liftover. This was the only time David and Josiah beat us anywhere on this trip -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1816.jpg[/img]

It's a scenic little spot -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1819.jpg[/img]

Otter inlet -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1823.jpg[/img]

Waiting to get going -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1821.jpg[/img]

We made a beeline across Otter, which is a pretty little lake, to the headwaters of the Little Indian Sioux. I wasn't paying too close attention to the map to see where the first portage was, since we were just exploring anyway, but later I looked and it seems like it might start right at the end of the lake. We never checked, and I'm not sure the portages are maintained much or at all along this part of the river (anyone know?). We threaded our way through a shallow, rocky area with a decent current to a small pool that quickly came to a screeching halt at a giant beaver dam. (I think the dam is actually a little further west than I marked it on the map above, at the far end of the first big pool in the river.)

We made our way through various obstacles to the shore and I got out to try to take a closer look at the dam -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1827.jpg[/img]

Mike looked on skeptically -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1828.jpg[/img]

Deeper, deeper. . . -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1831.jpg[/img]

This dam must be at least 150 feet long (maybe much more) and probably 6 or more feet high. It's hard to tell because you really couldn't get a good view of the whole thing or the downstream side. Another view -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1834.jpg[/img]

Looking back at the flooded meadow -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1838.jpg[/img]

I came upon a blueberry patch while scouting in vain for a path to the downstream side of the dam, so we stopped to snack -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1842.jpg[/img]

The sky had been clearing for a while now, and it got hot when the sun came out -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1843.jpg[/img]

We scouted around a little more to see if there was a way around the dam, but figured that whatever portage there was must start back by Otter. By now we were ready for lunch and decided to turn around and stop at the Otter campsite to eat. The shade when we got to our lunch spot was a blessing-

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1845.jpg[/img]

Filtering water -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1846.jpg[/img]

After lunch we decided to make a beeline back to our campsite to swim and loaf. It didn't take long to retrace our route (without any zigzagging this time). The rest of the day we just hung out in camp, grateful for the shade and thankful when the breeze picked up to cool us in the open pines and clear some of the daytime mosquitoes away. In a serious breech of protocol, we completely forgot to take any pictures.

For dinner we made Zup's brats with wild rice over the fire, boiled up and buttered some red potatoes, and had some baby carrots. We were eating much better than David and I normally do at dinners. After cleaning up, battening down the camp, and taking yet another swim, we enjoyed some evening beverages on our big west-facing dome of granite before the post-sunset horde of mosquitoes forced into the tents.

 



Day 3 of 4


Day 3 (July 25, 2010) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/Day-3.jpg[/img]

We got up earlier today than yesterday (which would not be hard). David and I had coffee, and at a very reasonable hour Mike crawled out of the tent as well. I asked whether the mosquito situation was better than the night before. Yes, the lesson had been learned, Josiah and Mike went on a search and destroy mission right after they got in the tent and slept soundly after that.

Since we were going to travel today, we also rousted Josiah out of bed at a reasonable time. Breakfast today was bacon and oatmeal. The oatmeal did not receive the same warm welcome from the youngsters as yesterday's pancakes. Good thing we planned pancakes for tomorrow.

We broke camp and went for a dip before launching, since the day was already warm. Then we headed east back across Cummings to take the alternative route into the Korb River, instead of portaging directly into Korb Lake. In stark contrast to when we paddled in two days before, the campsites we passed in the eastern part of Cummings were empty now. Today was Sunday, so maybe the weeklong base campers had headed out in between. Or maybe it was just randomness that made it full one day and empty the next.

It wasn't long before we arrived at the 30-rod portage from Cummings to the river -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1849.jpg[/img]

Josiah and Mike after unloading. Good thing no one else was around, it seems we blocked the portage -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1854.jpg[/img]

Mike was of course carrying the Champlain across. The portage was not long so that part was no problem for him, but he still had to perfect his lift. I gave a little advice on roll and momentum, and he was off -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1860.jpg[/img]

It helps to have a long wingspan -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1862.jpg[/img]

Smoothly up it goes -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1864.jpg[/img]

Score! Right in place -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1866.jpg[/img]

At the other end loading up -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1868.jpg[/img]

And down (actually, up) the Korb River -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1874.jpg[/img]

The scene along the river -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1875.jpg[/img]

We paddled along the river and through Korb Lake, which is like a wide part of the river, then caucused about lunch plans. Everyone thought we should keep going at least to Little Crab before lunch. After Korb Lake we quickly came to the main beaver dam in the river, this time going up stream, and lifted over. Then we paddled upstream to the submerged dam/riffle at the outlet of Little Crab Lake and powered through. Josiah was paddling stern the whole way with David in the bow of the Spirit II and was doing a great job.

Now it was time for lunch. It was hot in the sun out on the river and we were ready for shade. Fortunately the campsite on Little Crab was available and provided some welcome relief -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1884.jpg[/img]

During lunch we talked about our route out tomorrow. Did the guys want to try going down Crab Creek, which might be more of an adventure than the portage? Everyone was for it, so it was a plan. Say cheese -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1881.jpg[/img]

Looking out from the campsite -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1882.jpg[/img]

After lunch it was a quick paddle to the easy 20-rodder to Crab Lake. Josiah wanted to take another stab at carrying the Spirit II here - mostly for the photo op, of course. Off to a good start -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1885.jpg[/img]

The kid has style -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1886.jpg[/img]

Going great -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1887.jpg[/img]

Uh oh -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1889.jpg[/img]

Ouch, that has to hurt -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1891.jpg[/img]

Saved with a smile -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1893.jpg[/img]

Mike carried the other canoe across the short portage, and we hauled the packs over and were back on Crab, where we planned to camp for the night. Now we just needed to find a site. We headed first toward the site on the northern point where the main arms of the lake cross. That site always looked good from the distance in the past, and seemed like it would be shady and catch the breeze on this nice day. It didn't look occupied until Mike and I got right up to the shore, when suddenly a big tarp with two guys under it came into view. Alas, the site was taken. We waved hello but didn't get much of a greeting back. As we paddled on we realized it was the two taciturn guys we had seen on the Crab Lake portage on the first day of our trip.

With that site taken, we went to check the site at the northeast tip of the lake where Crab Creek begins, since we were planning to go out that way tomorrow. But when we scoped that site, we decided it was subpar and we should look further. We aimed for the next site south, but spied a couple tents there as we got closer. Fortunately, the next site on the western tip of the big point was open. As it happened, this was where we camped with my sister on the last night of our 2006 trip, and where we had lunch on the first day of this trip too.

This was a nice site when we stayed here in 2006. Now the water was higher and virtually lapping against the fire ring, and someone had left the big logs around the fire pit in a heaping mess. But after David and I cleaned up the "furniture" it was looking good again. Josiah set up the bear rope on some big pines back behind the tent area. It's great to have the baseball players along.

The only problem with the site was that the trees by the shore did not provide much shade from the sun beating down from the west. That didn't seem to stop Josiah from falling asleep in the sun -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1898.jpg[/img]

There was a hubbub of activity on Crab Lake after we set up camp. First, the two guys who we had met on the portage a couple days ago and were occupying the site we wanted earlier today loaded up and paddled out. Mike dubbed them Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Thanks for telling us you were about to leave the site, guys. But it was all for the best, because then a big crew of just-older-than-teenage young women paddled into the lake, searched for a site, and claimed the one abandoned by T&T, which was probably its highest and best use anyway. The young ladies were not the quietest group, especially when some fisherman rounded the point as the girls seemed to be skinny-dipping. Shrieking ensued. A family group also spent some time paddling around looking for a site. But all the activity did not detract from the pleasure of being there.

Between swims, some of us read a little. Mike reads Latin, so this might have been some ancient text, but I think it was about the war in Afghanistan -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1899.jpg[/img]

I found a shady spot nearby to read, and then set up the stove back in the shade too. We were having bean and rice burritos with cheese and salsa (yum!) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1901.jpg[/img]

The campsite scene (Mike still reading) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1902.jpg[/img]

We went for a swim (actually more than one) after dinner. As we got out of the water, we saw a group of Green Sunfish lingering near shore. They ended up providing entertainment for quite a while. Josiah was intent on catching one by hand. I related how a few years ago we just happened to swat a fly and toss it into a lake where there were some Green Sunfish nearby and the Sunfish darted to the surface and sucked down the fly before you could bat an eye. So we killed a few insect victims and tried it out. Bingo! Those Sunfish are fast as lightning when a maimed bug lands on the surface. Josiah tried to grab the fish as they came to the surface, and almost managed to do it once or twice, but they were too fast for him. Finally the kids got out one of the fishing rods we had been lugging with us but not used -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1904.jpg[/img]

Eventually a Sunfish was caught and released. Unfortunately, we do not have the photo to prove it. Take my word for it, though, it was about 14" and probably weighed 4 pounds. Really!

After "fishing" and another swim, it was time for evening beverages -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1905.jpg[/img]

One of the nice things about this site was that (unlike our site on Cummings) there were essentially no bugs during the daytime. But we knew they would come out not too long after sunset, so Josiah armed himself with a flyswatter -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1908.jpg[/img]

After the sun had gone below the horizon, Josiah took preemptive refuge in the tent, while the rest of us enjoyed the post-sunset light -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1909.jpg[/img]

Not too long after that, right on schedule, the mosquito hordes emerged, and Mike, David and I scrambled to get our teeth brushed and get in the tents. Once in the tents, search and destroy missions were executed to eliminate any invaders. I read for a while, and when it was time for lights out, I sat up in the tent and could see a beaver swimming by. I had to smile because the last time we stayed at this site a whole beaver family could be heard felling trees all night. I noticed too the mosquito buzzing had already stopped. They disappeared as fast as they came. So I got up for a quick commune with nature before falling into a deep night's sleep, punctuated now and again with the calls of the loons and the girls camped across the lake.

 



Day 4 of 4


Day 4 (July 26, 2010) -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/Day-4.jpg[/img]

I got up at about 6:30 at our Crab Lake site and made that great first cup of coffee -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1915.jpg[/img]

It was a beautiful calm morning -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1917.jpg[/img]

The rest of the guys got up fairly early too. We had pancakes and bacon for breakfast, took a dip, and broke camp. We'd decided to go back to Burntside Lake via Crab Creek back instead of taking the portage. The folks at VNO told us that some other customers took the creek a week earlier without a hitch. With the water level reasonably high, it seemed like a good time to try this. We explained to Mike and Josiah that there could be lots of beaver dams to lift over and they would have to be ready to jump out of the canoe anytime, possibly into deep muck. We also said we'd never gone that way and didn't know what to expect ourselves. It could be an adventure, and not necessarily easier than the mile-long portage. They were all for it, especially Josiah.

We had scheduled our pickup on Burntside for 2:00 to give us lots of leeway our last day. As it happened, we paddled out of camp around 9:30, which gave us tons of time (unless the creek turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated). Here Mike and I are heading into the northern tip of Crab Lake as it narrows to become Crab Creek -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1922.jpg[/img]

Entering the creek -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1925.jpg[/img]

Near the beginning of the creek there's an area where there seemed to be a lot of submerged wood. Bowman Mike guided us through an opening, and only when we were right on top of it did we realize that the wood was an old structure - presumably a bridge or crossing for an old logging road -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1928.jpg[/img]

Josiah in the stern of the second canoe at the "bridge" -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1934.jpg[/img]

A nearby log garden -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1930.jpg[/img]

Mike and I continuing downstream - there was an amazing number of water lilies in here -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1935.jpg[/img]

Soon we got to our first beaver dam of the day. Mike hopping out onto the dam -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1941.jpg[/img]

I joined him and we maneuvered the canoe around -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1955.jpg[/img]

And over -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1973.jpg[/img]

Don't let go! -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1987.jpg[/img]

At this point I had the bright idea that I would get in the stern (which was next to the dam) and Mike could wait on the dam until I paddled the canoe around with the bow facing back up. The problem was that with the narrow waterway and rushing current below the dam, it wasn't so easy to do. I managed though. After Mike hopped in, we had to turn around again and were on our way.

Once the path was clear, David and Josiah tried a different approach: paddling over the dam full speed ahead. Josiah had a theory that it worked better if he whooped a war cry as they went over. With their smaller and lighter canoe, and following after we had pulled over, they were able to go over a few dams in this way that Mike and I got hung up on and had to lift over.

Getting back in after another dam -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1993.jpg[/img]

Below that dam the creek narrowed. But the water was remarkably clear, it was plenty deep, and there was a pretty decent current -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_1995.jpg[/img]

Downstream a ways we came to an impassable part of the creek where there was a portage on the left side. I don't think the Forest Service maintains the portages in here, and this one was more like an average interior Quetico portage than the clear BW paths we had been on so far this trip. Mike leapt out of the boat and scouted part of the way, then came back and got the Champlain and was off. This portage was the real test of canoe portaging skill, because there were several obstacles like this -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2009.jpg[/img]

I had to bow down pretty far to get under that tree with the Spirit II. Mike had the bigger Champlain and is the better part of a foot taller, and he told me afterwards that he was really squatting going under this tree. But he made it past this and several other obstacles with no problem. Good work!

This portage was maybe 80 or 100 rods (it's not marked, much less measured, on the maps), and paralleled a series of unnavigable rapids on the creek -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2002.jpg[/img]

Can't have a trip report without at least one portage fungus pic -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2004.jpg[/img]

Old wolf scat -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2007.jpg[/img]

The far end of the portage had a section of muck. Josiah was portaging in Keen's and lost one in here, but he managed to fish it out -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2012.jpg[/img]

The very last stretch went through a wet grassy area -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2014.jpg[/img] Mike and I loaded up and were ready to go -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2015.jpg[/img]

The next stretch of the creek has wider water meandering through a big marsh. It twists and turns a lot, so you have to paddle much further than the linear distance on the map. It ends at another impassable stretch of creek where there is a second portage on the right side of the creek. Looking back from the second portage -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2020.jpg[/img]

This portage is maybe 40 rods. Josiah carrying a pack over -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2024.jpg[/img]

It was very mucky at the downstream end of the portage, but we could load up on land and slide in over the grass and muck -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2022.jpg[/img]

The last stretch of the creek was more wide meandering water making its way slowly through the marsh. It was really great, but unfortunately we didn't take any pictures in there. As we got further downstream we could sense the fresh wind blowing in from Burntside. The transition from the meandering marshy creek to the big island-studded lake is marked by a small rocky rapids. There's a spot where people have lifted over the smooth granite to the side of the little rapids, but I thought we should line down. Of course I managed to slip while wading in the current and gashed my leg on a very sharp rock just below the water's surface. It scabbed up within a few days and is now in the process of becoming a nice scar as a souvenir.

There is a campsite on the small bay on the west side of Burntside where the creek empties. Kevin our towboat driver told us he would look for us at both the creek and the portage, and said if we came down the creek the campsite would be a good place to meet. We were way early but didn't mind basking at the campsite for an hour and half while we had lunch and chilled. There's a picnic table there and we relished the luxurious comfort it provided. We even got out the stove for some lunchtime coffee. 

The crew at the Burtnside site -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2028.jpg[/img]

Kevin showed up right on schedule with a different boat and (more importantly) different motor than on our way in. We were happy to have a tow as we sped across windy and rough Burntside Lake. Getting back close to home here -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2032.jpg[/img]

The Dave-O held down the bow -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/IMG_2037.jpg[/img]

Mike's parents were waiting on the dock and got a picture of us coming in -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/XComingaround2.jpg[/img]

We unloaded and carried stuff up to the cabin. Mike carried the Champlain up. His parents were duly impressed -

[img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v213/billnwashdc/BW%20July%202010/YFinalPortage2.jpg[/img]

Postscript -

This was a great trip. It was really fun for David and me to introduce Mike and Josiah to wilderness tripping. They were great traveling companions who easily rose to the challenges of the trip and both learned some new canoe camping skills. We would welcome either or both of them back anytime. And they've both said they're up for more.

We planned our route for this trip to be somewhat challenging and adventurous for the new guys, but not too crazy. We also told them that we could revise the plan at any time - except for the entry and exit times and place. I think the mile-long portage could have been a bad way to start if David and I did not have such a mellow attitude to portaging. Still, the guys seemed a little tired at the end of the first day. But we kicked it back the next day, and had a good mix of activity and relaxation.

With the rainy mid-summer, the bugs on this trip were pretty bad, especially at our first campsite on Cummings, which was otherwise fantastic. Josiah counted the mosquitoes he killed as they sucked his blood (for some reason he called them all "Steve") and finished the trip with something like Steve 72. I actually didn't think that was so bad. Still, it will be nice if the guys get to experience the area with a little less bug activity in the future.

Michael's and Josiah's mothers are both also interested in going on a canoe trip (not so the dads). But we got a note from Josiah's mom afterwards saying Josiah told her she was too much of a wimp for this trip. Ha ha! Well, sorry to say, but I think he's right. We might need to take the moms on a slightly different trip. But it will be fun too!

When we got back to the cabin after the trip, there were lots of cookies and beers to be consumed by the crew . Then we all popped open our laptops and plugged back in. For a lot of the rest of the afternoon the four of us played Scrabble with each other over the Internet. Sure, there was a real Scrabble board available, but what fun is that? It was kind of a funny contrast to how we started the day, but we really enjoyed it.

We ate much better dinners on this trip than David and I normally do. We're now revamping our dinner plan for our upcoming Quetico trip. The new guys ate an enormous amount of food. It's a good thing we didn't get windbound or something, because we pretty much ate every last bite by the end of the trip.

On the gear front, we had a major failure with our new Katadyn Vario filter. After the first couple liters, it was almost impossible to use in the setting designed for water that has a lot of impurities (like the BW in mid-summer). So that setting does not really work in the conditions it's purportedly designed for. What's the point? Its performance improved when we switched to the easy-flow setting, although that clogs the filter faster. But then the attachment where the intake hose attaches to the filter body just broke off. Fortunately we were able to fix it with duct tape for the rest the trip. I was kind of surprised the fix worked, given how important airtight suction is for a water filter, but it did. Three cheers for duct tape! Needless to say, though, we returned the filter to REI when we got back. I like the old, simpler Katadyn filters better. This is a case were "new and improved" is a step backwards. Now we've taken the plunge with a Steripen for the next trip.

And we'll see how it works soon. David and I are heading to Quetico on September 1. By then I'll be 50 years old. Look for a trip report from an old man later in the year . . .

 


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