BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
March 24 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1406 feet
Crab Lake & Cummings Lake - 4
Seeking September solitude
September 21, 2015
Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake
Number of Days:
Having spent the previous afternoon in Ely, (besides enjoying a leisurely day), we took the necessary steps to ensure an early departure today. Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters would be towing us across beautiful Burntside Lake this morning and they already had our canoe loaded and ready to travel, so it was just a matter of eating a quick breakfast before departure.
Only a modest ripple broke across the watery surface of Burntside Lake on this sunny, though cool, morning. Of course, when planning a trip, a person never knows what Mother Nature will dish up; and since we were hopeful of reaching Cummings Lake today, the tow had seemed a prudent option regardless of paddling conditions.
A spacious landing greeted us as we pulled ashore ready to embark on our 8 day adventure. We would soon discover that this mile long portage could be broken down into 3 stages. The first section was the most technically challenging leg of the trail, being rocky and occasionally undulating until it reached the swampy mid-section where a couple of diminutive bridges aided in the traverse. Finally the trail opened up (minus the mud & rocks of the previous sections) and straightened out over an elongated gradual climb before concluding at a luxurious sandy beach.
Crab Lake proved to be slightly confusing but, in spite of the ever escalating waves washing ashore, we eventually navigated our way to the Little Crab portage. Fortunately Little Crab Lake offered tamer paddling conditions, and we would soon enter the relative sanctuary of the Korb River.
Initially we had planned on taking the 70 rod portage (on the west end of Korb Lake) to Cummings Lake. But, with the way the wind had been wreaking havoc out on Crab Lake, we decided to take the Korb River to the 35 rod portage and trace the eastern shoreline of Cummings up to one of the 5 star sites near the elbow of that sizable lake. Voyager maps indicate a very short portage prior to reaching Korb Lake. But, we were able to paddle without interruption (including no beaver dams) through the entire course of the weedy Korb River.
Of course once we reached Korb Lake the wind had receded. Unconvinced, we stuck to our revised plan. Upon arrival at the 35 rod portage, we find a long standing beaver dam acting as part of the landing. Large troublesome boulders constitute the more permanent portion of this landing. Thankfully the lion's share of the trail is along a reasonably decent path that shoulders the creek to where it washes out into Cummings Lake.
As we push off, conditions are invitingly placid. Working our way northward, a steady escalation of both the wind and waves creates some tenuous paddling circumstances as we approach our hopeful destination. Per usual, our Souris River 18.5 canoe is rock steady and we pull up to a vacant 5 star island abode dry as a bone but, none the less, still appreciative to be off the tumultuous waters.
We had previously visited this site 4 years ago with Aurora when she was just a few months old. So, even though there is also a 5 star site directly east of this island site; for sentimental reasons, we chose this island site as our primary target and we’re grateful it was available. The site was pretty much as we remembered it. An immense kitchen area complete with its own large rock table highlighted this open and expansive site. A bountiful canopy of large red pines offered all the usual trappings associated with such an envious allotment of these campsite sentinels, and there were even a couple of unique trees just outside of camp that provided some diversity.
The incessant howling of the intensifying wind served as a raucous backdrop while we got camp setup. Supper was our traditional rib eyes with potatoes. Although, we delectably complimented our usual fare with some green beans from our own garden and some freshly grated asiago cheese melted over both the beans & potatoes.
In her explorations of camp, Aurora found and marveled at various large fungi that were peppered in & around the perimeter of camp. Of course the resident squirrels also provided free entertainment as they busily made their winter preparations. So, even though she brought some toys from home, there were still plenty of natural wonders that kept her mind occupied as well.
Daily travels – 3 portages totaling 395 rods.
Burntside Lake, Crab Lake, Little Crab Lake, Korb Lake, Cummings Lake
A beautiful, quiet, crisp morning greeted us as we emerged from the cozy confines of our Hilleberg tent. Ova-easy eggs, supplemented by rehydrated onions & peppers, provide our breakfast fare. We are in no hurry but, eventually we load up and head out for some relaxing exploration.
Over the years I’d repeatedly heard/read about the splendid attributes of the camp just across the way from our island home. So the first order of business was to paddle over and check and see what all the fuss was about.
There’s a decent landing that leads up to a sprawling expansive site that also offers a top notch kitchen area. Literally, there would be room for 20 people! (If that were legal) It was an absolutely gorgeous site; yet we remained thankful for having claimed ours yesterday, as this one was slightly exposed and wouldn’t have offered the degree of protection we received from yesterday’s strong winds. After our cursory evaluation, we proceeded northwards up the bay to hike the portage trail to Big Moose Lake.
This trail was perhaps the dominate reason why we chose this area for our fall trip. Our last foray across this path led to the creation of many indelible memories that served to draw us back for another look see. Not the least of which was the iconic (at least for us) photo Vickie took of Aurora & I while taking a break along the way.
This time Aurora would be getting herself across the trail. In fact, she insisted on leading the way much of the time. I was also able to better appreciate the surrounding beauty, since this time I was able to leave my canoe helmet behind. Once again there was several rock cairns & unique fungi garnishing the path, and the deciduous trees were beginning to sport their colorful seasonal plumage as we hiked our way across this mammoth portage. I even noted a nice stand of impressive red pines at about the half way point.
In due course, we did make it all the way to Big Moose Lake. While enjoying a snack, we sat on the shores fondly reminiscing and telling Aurora stories of our visit here 4 years ago.
Alas, all good things must end. So, after kicking back and restfully lounging awhile here at the landing, we retraced our route back, once again taking time to fully enjoy and appreciate the wondrous wilderness environment we were passing through. Vickie hoped to capture another unforgettable photo of Aurora & me. I don’t know if it measures up to the picture from 4 years ago? But, I thought it was still a nice picture and certainly provokes warmhearted memories of yet another great day in canoe country.
Paddling back to camp, we noticed a bald eagle was perched atop a tree just north across the narrow channel from our site. That must have been its’ favorite spot, since we would see it there again on a few other occasions. It was reassuring to know we had someone watching over us during our stay here.
While Vickie baked some banana nut (Aurora’s favorite) muffins, Aurora kept herself occupied playing near the tarp; so, since the winds were considerably calmer tonight, I retreated to the hammock for a short siesta. Afterwards, we enjoyed the warmth of a quaint crackling campfire and the indulgence of fresh muffins before retiring for the evening.
Daily travels – 1 portage totaling 620 rods.
Cummings Lake, Big Moose Lake
As forecasted - a gray gloomy morning; that threatened rain, greeted us as we crawled out of the tent. Fortunately, the rain held off during breakfast and while we packed up. We donned our rain gear as we pushed off, heading west towards the Buck Lake portage.
The wind wasn’t a problem this morning but, none the less, we decided to stick close to the northern shoreline of Cummings Lake. Along the way there was an interesting large pointed rock out in the middle of the lake that drew our attention. Things went pretty well and as we approached our portage, I let Aurora take the helm for a short while. Of course she was just lily dipping but, she was very proud of her contribution and Vickie & I were equally proud of her as she begins to acquire the necessary skills to (one day) make a more significant contribution.
We had no trouble locating our portage, and there was an adequate landing from which to embark upon this lengthy 470 rod portage. As we trudged our way across, a large swamp was always in close proximity. The trail even crosses a few wet swampy areas along the way; which will likely create an additional challenge in wetter conditions. There were a few very minor ups and downs but, after factoring in the considerable length, quite honestly this trail couldn’t have realistically been much more level & free of troublesome rocks & roots. Although I will say there were an inordinately high number of downed trees across the path near the (very tall) grassy Buck Lake end, which could pose a more serious problem earlier in the year if the grass doesn’t get sufficiently trampled down.
Our strategy for this portage was to leap frog it. And, as with all portages on the trip, I would triple this one; so I had my work cut out for me. As I was wearily bringing our blue barrel (in a CCS barrel pack) ahead through the largest swampy section just past the mid-point on the trail, I heard what sounded like a tank moving through the woods in very close proximity to my present location . Instantly, I froze! While I have always considered gazing upon a moose in canoe country as a rarified blessing; encountering one (especially a rutting bull) here, up close and personal, in a swamp with nothing but glorified saplings for cover and our heaviest pack strapped to my back wasn’t an enviable situation. A thousand fuel injected scenarios raced through my mind as, mercifully, the sounds of snapping twigs & branches slowly faded. This was one time that I was thankful for NOT seeing a moose that I knew was there.
Needless to say, fueled by 100% pure adrenaline, I was able to catch up with Vickie & Aurora at the sandy beach landing on Buck Lake where Aurora was having a blast playing in the sand. I regaled them with the story of my recent escapades, telling Vickie I would go back and get her second pack on the other side of that swamp. So I actually wound up nearly quadrupling this portage! Later, as I jadedly sauntered back to the beach landing with the last load, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was time for my spanking. Some reward!!!
Actually, it was my birthday; and apparently, she was giving me my just deserves. Afterwards, as we loaded up, a light rain started up but, quit for good a short time later. We’d heard good things about the campsite down towards the SW end of the lake, so we paddled off in that direction with hopes of claiming it as our new home.
If there was going to be one lake along our route that I felt we’d most likely have completely to ourselves, I would’ve bet the farm that it was going to be Buck Lake. So, ironically, it was here where we would encounter the first other people we’d see on this trip - at our desired campsite. Having just paddled past the other vacant site on the lake, it wasn’t a totally disheartening discovery; so, I took the opportunity to throw a line out and let Aurora fish a little while we paddled back.
In short order she pulled in a smallish northern, then a decent eater sized walleye. While not quite the same as catching them all in one trip; these fish completed the canoe country grand slam (for this season) for our little fisher woman. Not bad for a 4 year old!
Of course Aurora now wanted to stay out and fish but, as it had all day, it looked like it could rain at any time and Vickie & I wanted to get camp setup before it did; so we pulled into the nearby mid lake site on the northern shore to do just that.
This campsite isn’t marked on many maps but, thanks to pre-trip research, we had known that it was there. There was a decent landing with a nice spot to stash the canoe. A short climb leads to a totally exposed fire grate that was out on an elevated rock knob. There was decent seating and good views in both directions down the lake. Of concern, the lone discernible tent pad was rather lumpy and (if used) left nowhere nearby for a respectable tarp setup. Although, after some further exploration, I found an exquisite tent pad; the problem was that it required a very steep climb up a fairly lengthy path. Subsequently after some short deliberation, we did use it; setting our tarp up over the other tent pad. Later, we discovered the trail to the latrine also entailed climbing a steep trail too. Still, this quaint site would ably serve us as our humble home for the next couple of nights.
Daily travels – 1 portage totaling 470 rods.
Cummings Lake, Buck Lake
Gray gloomy clouds once again dominated the morning skies, and did little to motivate us as we lazily ate our blueberry pancake breakfast. (We’d dehydrated some blueberries that we had picked on our July trip to Saganaga Lake). For the second day in a row it looked like it wanted to rain throughout the afternoon. Fortunately no discernible precipitation ever materialized, although everything was saturated from the heavy morning dew. Eventually we would get our act together and got loaded up for our daytrip to Pine Lake.
The portage to Chad Lake was located on the north shore running along the SW side of a large rock outcropping. This trail wasn’t nearly as long as yesterdays trek but, was certainly more technically difficult. While there were no big hills, troublesome rocks & roots plagued this twisting path for the duration of its length. However – they paled in comparison to the boulders located in the charming dried out creek bed that paralleled the mid section.
Chad Lake offered a more expansive feel than Buck Lake and the islands on the western end splendidly enhanced an already eye-catching body of water. As we approached the portage to Pine Creek, a lone snow goose patrolling the shoreline waters provided an unusual (though up close) wildlife sighting. No sooner did we get started portaging, when we ran into a beaver pond that we needed to paddle across. It was quite muddy on the other side but, the trail soon climbs up to firmer footholds. This trail was much the same as our previous portage, with the addition of several muddy sections. Near the Pine creek end there is a nice overlook before the trail drops down to a mushy landing.
Shortly after beginning our paddle to Pine Lake, I decided to take a picture. While verifying the image was acceptable, I also took note of the time. Coupling that information with how long it took us to get here & how far we had yet to go (then multiplying it by 2 for the trip back), I conservatively deduced that we wouldn’t make it back to camp on Buck Lake until nearly sunset tonight. Knowing tomorrow would likely be a long day of portaging, we made the on the fly decision to cut our day trip short and return to Chad Lake to try some fishing and eat our trail dinner there. A reasonably early return to camp; as well as affording us the opportunity to further enjoy the picturesque amenities that Chad Lake offered, was thus insured.
As we paddled through the islands (in route to the campsite near the portage to Buck Lake), I got Aurora setup to fish. Soon she gleefully informed me that she had one! It was a decent sized bass that treated her to a classic battle that they are famous for. To date, it was the largest bass she’d ever caught. The reason I mention it is because, in the future, I don’t know how often she will be able to honestly claim to have caught her personal bests of 3 separate species of fish on the same trip. Beyond the self serving facet of catching these fish, in my opinion, the most important aspect was that she was totally enjoying herself while doing so. I think it’s safe to say she’s now ‘hooked’ on this outdoor activity. The seeds we planted this spring had taken root and really began to sprout here on this trip.
She merrily continued fishing until we pulled up to the campsite. This was a slightly exposed site with a couple decent tent pads and a great view of the lake. There was even a nice point that looked like a promising pier from which to do some shore fishing. Vickie got dinner going while I brought Aurora back to the potty train.
After finishing our chicken alfredo dinner, we loaded up and proceeded back to Buck Lake. Once there, much to Auroras delight, we resumed fishing. As we paddled back to camp, she caught & released a few eater sized walleyes. With a hint of arrogance, she informed Vickie & me that she had caught more fish than either of us. This, of course, signaled her completion of the final prerequisite; having now graduated into a truly savvy angler. Once back at camp we dried out a bit & enjoyed the quiet peacefulness this evening provided. We also tried out the dehydrated rice pudding (Camp Chow from Trail Center) dessert we’d brought along. Aurora didn’t care for it and Vickie & I thought it was just OK. Never the less, we all enjoyed the glowing ambiance and warmth of a nice fire before calling it a night.
Dailey travels – 2 portages totaling 510 rods.
Buck Lake, Chad Lake
We don’t get the earliest of starts today. Our first portage is just SE almost directly across the lake, still the tall shoreline grasses kept the landing well concealed until we were right on top of it. While the trail looks like a straight shot on our Voyageur map, there are more than a few twists & turns as the path follows the profile of the nearby swamp. It also felt like it was longer than the stated 80 rods. Perhaps the spooky feeling and all the boulders along the way contributed to that assessment?
On across Western Lake we paddled. There were some large boulders to avoid as we neared the landing to the Glenmore portage. This trail was slightly overgrown and chock full of hazardous boulders throughout much of its length. When the boulders did give way, the trail turned muddy & there was even a fairly long boardwalk that proved to be incredibly slick. As a consolation, there were a few impressive old growth pines along the way.
Unfortunately, Vickie tweaked her ankle on this portage. Our optimistic goal for the day was to make it all the way to Crab Lake. We still had several portages in front of us, including a 205 rod trail into Schlamn Lake. Concerned, I questioned Vickie about the wisdom of proceeding. She felt confident that she would be able to continue. Still I told her not to push it & force a worse situation; there were campsites on each of these lakes that almost certainly would be open. She quipped, “I’m not camping on this glorified beaver pond!” The point was well taken.
Providentially, after the initial climb out of Glenmore, our next portage was along a very user friendly trail. Only a short rocky area near the Schlamn end was the only cause for concern. And, finally, a spacious landing greeted us at the end.
With this portage now behind us, Aurora declared it was time for a potty break; so we paddled over to the lone Schlamn Lake site to take a brief reprieve from our travels.
It wasn’t much of a site but, it did serve our purpose and provided a panoramic perch from which to appreciate the tamarack bog across the lake as we enjoyed a snack.
Onward we pushed until we entered the creek. Our Voyageur maps show a portage here at the start of the creek but, we were able to paddle through without the slightest hindrance; and seen neither evidence nor reason for the portage.
A short while later, just after pulling over a small beaver dam, we did pull up to the 60 rod portage. It had a nice landing and the first leg of the trail was an excellent path. However, the trail then crosses the creek before continuing on. As I approached this obstacle (carrying our canoe), I instructed Aurora to wait for mommy before crossing.
I proceeded down the progressively worsening trail, finally reaching the weedy, mushy landing. Returning for my next load, I was mildly surprised that I didn’t cross paths with Vickie & Aurora. I brought this load across, and again didn’t see them. I figured they must’ve walked off in the woods to go potty. Going back across for my last load, I began calling their names as I went. No response! I brought this load to the other end doing the same (just yelling louder) and still got no response. At this point I became really concerned. It was a relatively short portage that essentially followed a creek its entire distance. My immediate thought was, “there’s no way they could’ve gotten lost.” So where were they?!?! I grabbed the whistle out of my PFD as I anxiously started back across the trail, looking for any evidence as to their whereabouts. I blew the whistle as loud as I could only stopping to listen for a reply. I made it all the back across, and still no sign of them! My mind was racing with indecorous thoughts now! I figured since I was here, I’d grab Vickie’s second load and go back across scanning the woods ever closer for anything unusual. Shortly after crossing the creek, I noticed a faint trail (with a couple of small boulders ominously stacked at the start) to the right, away from the creek. The trail soon opened up a bit. I dropped Vickie’s pack and began running down this trail, blowing my whistle. After awhile, the trail began to become excessively overgrown with large branches stretching across it, considerably slowing my progress. While initially excited about the discovery of this trail, I thought to myself, “There’s no way Vickie would have gone this far down the trail.” It was only a 60 rod portage, and I dare say I came at least that far since the fork. Besides, why would she stray away from the creek? They weren’t here either. In total disbelief, I started back anxiously pondering what to do next. By this time I had the portage trail committed to memory, and this fork of the trail was the only rational explanation of where they could’ve gone. So I did an about face and began blowing my whistle again. As I listened for a response, this time I heard a faint, though familiar voice call back. THANK GOD!
Indeed they’d taken this fork of the trail! Upon our reunion, Aurora was moved to tears and, it’s safe to say I certainly ran the gamut along the emotional roller coaster as well. I asked Vickie why she didn’t turn around when she started seeing all the branches across the trail. “Because I’ve seen you make it across trails like this before!” I suppose I could’ve taken her response as a compliment but, I began to interrogate her further. Then I stopped and realized all that really matters is - that they’re both here and both safe. While Vickie headed back to grab her pack, I took a moment to say a brief prayer of thanksgiving.
This trail must’ve been an old logging road that grouse hunters still use. While grateful for the joyous outcome, needless to say, this little escapade set us back. There was still one more portage to negotiate before reaching the next campsite on Lunetta Lake. Both of us readily agreed that if that site was open we’d claim it. We’d had enough adventure for one day! The last trail of the day was mostly flat but, a bit on the rocky side. Considering how long of a day it had been, it touched my heart with unspeakable gratitude when Aurora insisted on accompanying me back across the portage when she had no reason to do so other than to keep me company. Even though reaching the 5 star Little Crab Lake site would require no further portaging, we contentedly claimed the vacant 3 star site here on Lunetta Lake. A well deserved hearty beef stew supper was devoured after getting camp setup. And, for the first time in the last few nights, we were able to sit up and watch the stars light up the sky.
Daily travels – 5 portages totaling 600 rods.
Buck Lake, Western Lake, Glenmore Lake, Schlamn Lake, Lunetta Lake
While Vickie & Aurora tried their luck shore fishing, I cooked up some cinnamon fry bread (another Camp Chow entrée) for breakfast on this foggy morning. Once again, Vickie & I thought it was “OK” but, Aurora really liked it; continually munching on the leftovers throughout the morning.
After breakfast, Aurora volunteered to help me gather firewood. She insisted on bringing the dead logs back to camp once I cut them up. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me to watch her eagerly take part in these traditional camp chores.
After we put up some wood, we decided to hit the water. In our pre-trip planning we had hoped to visit the chain of smaller lakes just to our south. But now, considering Vickie’s tender ankle and how portage rich & paddle deficient that area was, we decided to keep it simple and head for Little Crab Lake. Since we would be coming this way (fully loaded) tomorrow, this day trip also served as a reconnaissance mission. The bay leading to the creek was exceptionally weedy, and this condition persisted throughout the winding course of said creek. However, there were no beaver dams or any other serious impediments to contend with. Today, after a 3 day hiatus, the sun finally replaced the gray clouds. And as it rose into the late morning sky, the intensifying warmth enticed us to shed a few layers before we reached Little Crab Lake.
As we exited the creek, the lone campsite on Little Crab was located almost a directly straight east across the lake. We paddled over to check out the site we had hoped to reach last night before fate had stepped in. A reasonably decent landing led us up to an excellent fire grate area that had several large premium tent pads within eyeshot. All this was majestically canopied under a cathedral of large red pines, which naturally also offered a plush carpet of duff. This truly was a five star site.
According to Miron Heinselmans excellent book, “The Boundary Waters wilderness ecosystem”, the reason we have these excellent stands of red pines in this area of the BWCA is because of progressive logging practices used by Samuel A. Grahams (of the Oliver mining company) logging camps in the Crab Lake area approximately 100 years ago. Heinselman argues that if these practices had been employed in other areas that were logged (back then) in the current day BWCA, the second growth forests might also look very different than the vast areas of nearly pure aspen & birch.
We split up as we further explored this awesome site. Vickie soon happened upon a disturbing scene. Curious as to why someone would spackle the latrine with ‘mud’, she investigated further by peering down the hole. She let out a shriek and called me over. Apparently a pine marten had fallen down the opening and wasn’t able to extricate itself. Not sure how or why this happened but, the poor creature had very recently died down there. Vickie felt our delay yesterday was Gods way of keeping us from reaching this site and its horrific latrine. Needless to say, no one used the latrine during our stop.
After leaving this bazaar scene, we returned to our canoe and headed out to the lake to continue our exploration of this picturesque little lake. Of course Aurora wanted to try some fishing, so I got her line rigged up & out in the water. Fishing was slow & she only managed some tiny smallmouth bass. So, after a single exploratory circuit around the lake, we paddled back towards our camp on Lunetta Lake.
Once back on our home waters, we continued paddling around the lake to see what there was to see. The fall foliage displays were not yet in full explosion but, there was still the occasional radiant burst of color here and there. After our relaxing paddle we returned to camp to leisurely enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
Back in camp I retreated to the hammock to try and do some reading. Alas, there was a busy mouse that kept distracting me with its incessant to and fro, so eventually I decided to go pick away at the pile of unprocessed firewood that Aurora had hauled into camp earlier today.
Much like the Little Crab Lake site, our home here on Lunetta Lake was also blessed with a nice grove of mature red pines. These were located back away from the main kitchen area but, they still served to give this site that particular north woods feel. Another less enviable similarity was a less than stellar latrine. Thankfully this one couldn’t boast an animal carcass in the hole, but it was negatively affected by a fallen tree. When we arrived, it appeared someone had tried to resituate the seat. But this led to a severely slanted condition, which still resulted in an extremely uncomfortable condition. I ripped up the entire setup and reset the seat. I was able to get it level but, it was so high, even my long legs dangled when sitting. Still, it was significantly better than it was and, we made the best of this circumstance.
We had one last Camp Chow dessert to try tonight - it was their cheesecake. We even threw in some of our own rehydrated blueberries. All of us thought this one was off the charts, and will definitely be bringing this one along on future trips.
It was nice to finally have another evening where we could sit up and watch the stars pop out. Vickie had bought one of those packets that make a fire change colors. Don’t know how legal this was up here in canoe country? But, it proved to be an agreeable evening activity before Aurora went to bed.
Lunetta Lake, Little Crab Lake
Today was something of a staging effort, as we would travel across familiar territory to (hopefully) claim a campsite on Crab Lake near the portage to Burntside.
Our lone portage of the day was across the 20 rod Little Crab to Crab portage. Of course this one is virtually a wilderness highway. Still, it was inspiring to watch Aurora insist on doing what she could to help get all our gear across. It was a beautiful morning for a paddle, and good fortune was on our side today; as the campsite nearest the portage was open. Someone had put a fair amount of effort in creating a sizable rock dock as a landing here. As with many of the sites in this area, this one also boasted several nice red pines and the luxurious pine duff carpet that is usually associated with such trees. There’s was a great view, several top notch tent pads & even a nice pile of welcome wood.
Having had a short travel day afforded us the luxury of getting camp moved & re-setup very early. Crab Lake was bordering on mirror like conditions, so we took full advantage of these enviable paddling conditions. Initially, we were just going to stay in our arm of the lake and do some fishing. Fishing proved to be totally unproductive, so we ventured further out onto the lake. Rounding the western point, we paddled to the campsite located back in that arm of the lake.
I’d read that this was the best site on the lake but, I must admit, as we first pulled up I didn’t think it looked like much. My opinion changed dramatically as we began exploring this sprawling site. There were multiple large level tent pads, trails running in all directions & a nice little channel of shallow water with a sandy bottom separating it from the main land. And, as we had been doing all throughout this trip (regardless where we were), we scared up some grouse.
As we paddled back to camp, fishing was still dreadfully slow; but Aurora had already caught enough fish to make that aspect of the trip exceedingly memorable, so we took it with a grain of salt. Instead we took this opportunity to appreciate the ever increasing colors of autumn that were on display.
Once back in camp, we got a nice fire going before it got dark. Light rain showers intermittently interrupted us a few times but, eventually stopped for good. It was a peaceful evening and we sat up listening to the sounds of the forest & enjoying some more of Vickie’s freshly baked muffins. As we had each night of the trip, Aurora got a wilderness themed bedtime story read to her before she retired to the tent.
Daily travels – 1 portage totaling 20 rods.
Lunetta Lake, Little Crab Lake, Crab Lake
After a quick oatmeal breakfast, we loaded up and paddled the short distance over to our last portage of the trip.
We had scheduled to be picked up and towed back across Burntside Lake. So while we didn’t necessarily need to be in a hurry, we did have a definitive goal to achieve. Save for a large toad that Aurora & I watched hop across the trail, there were no surprises today. We even had our pickup timed about right, as Troy pulled up about 15 minutes before I brought our last load across. The clouds of early morning had moved on as we enjoyed a sunny ride across the big lake.
After getting everything transferred into our van, I erroneously took a right turn on the Van Vac road. Little did we know that this navigational faux pas would lead us to a momentous wildlife sighting? As we slowly rounded a curve in the road, a timber wolf casually trotted across the road right in front of us! It lingered in the brush on the other side of the road for a few moments. But, it slowly vanished into the woods before Vickie could dig her camera out. This was only the second time I’d ever seen a timber wolf in the wild, and the first time for Vickie & Aurora. So, even though this detour caused us delay, we all felt it was well worth it.
Once we got back on track, we eventually did make it back to Ely and grabbed drinks & burgers at the Ely Steakhouse. From there, it was just a matter of putting miles behind us until we got home.
This was certainly a portage rich adventure. A few days after we gotten back home, Vickie sat down with the Voyageur map & a calculator. Of course it would be impossible to get an exact number for the entire trip; but, in just calculating the portage lengths and multiple trips across, Vickie figured she had walked about 24 miles, and, I had trekked about 35.5! While there were certainly moments of fatigued exhaustion, it certainly didn’t seem like we’d covered that much ground. I guess when a person’s doing what they love, it easy to lose oneself in the moment.
Personally, I derive varying degrees of pleasure from virtually all aspects of canoe country travel; fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking etc. But, what keeps me coming back year after year is the unfailing attainment of an evocative spiritual connection due to the reasonably easily attainable solitude that splendidly enhances each and every experience.
All our traveling paid off handsomely in the way of achieving the solitude we were seeking. Besides the aforementioned occupied site on Buck Lake, the only other people (or evidence thereof) we’d seen were 2 separate soloists on Lunetta Lake on Saturday. So, it should go without saying, this adventure provided an idyllic backdrop for attainment of those spiritual treasures. Having a spouse and child along to share these wonderful experiences, instantly catapults a trip like this into the stratosphere of heavenly memories.
Daily travels - 1 portage totaling 340 rods.
Crab Lake, Burntside Lake