BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

July 26 2017

Entry Point 16 - Moose/Portage River (North of Echo Trail)

Moose/Portage River (north) entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 27 miles. Access is a 160-rod portage heading North from the Echo Trail.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1348 feet
Latitude: 48.1230
Longitude: -92.0991
A favorite route offering many trip options and memorable things to see including;

World Class fishing for all four BWCA Species
Soaring granite hills and cliffs
Small lakes
Small rivers
Tumbling rapids and waterfalls
Wildlife, including Moose
Vistas from high points across the region if you're willing to climb. Rating Easy to Moderate. Day One. Get to EP16 off of the Echo Trail early. The initial portage is long, but well worn and smooth, sloping gently downgrade to the launch area. Load your canoe and head North. You'll be paddling with the slight current on this narrow winding river. The water is clear and make sure to tell the bowperson to watch for looming rocks!

Agnes - LLC - Ge-be-on-e-quet Loop

by TominMpls
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 30, 2017
Entry Point: Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
My middle-school-aged daughter and I took a week to do the Lake Agnes - Lac La Croix - Ge-be-on-e-quet - Oyster loop from the Moose River (north) (ep 16). It was the first time we went in together without anybody else. It was a beautiful trip, and she was able to use the skills she's developed, and to develop some new ones.

Day 1 of 8

Thursday, June 29, 2017 (day 0 in Ely) [paragraph break] We drove to Ely on Thursday and picked up our rental Northwind 18 at Piragis. In the past I've always rented from another outfitter, but I'm thinking of buying a Northstar, and Piragis was able to rent us the Northwind 18 that I wanted to try out. That big of canoe would give lots of versatility but I was concerned about it being too big, so a rental was a perfect way to find out. Unexpectedly, they also included a pair of BB Special paddles, and it turned out that my daughter M and I take the same size paddle, so there was one less thing to worry about. [paragraph break] The woman who handled our rental at Piragis was fantastic. M hadn't portaged a canoe before - until last year I thought she was too little, and since our trip last year had been a monster group with massive MN3 canoes, I'd decided against having her try to portage that. So the woman at Piragis showed her how to portage it and helped her practice getting it up on to her shoulders a couple times, with obviously much better technique than I have. [paragraph break] M needed new portage boots so we went into their retail store and ended up buying Chotas for both of us, and I got a pair of portage socks - I'd been planning to just use trail shoes, but it was obviously wet and mucky, and those boots looked a lot better than my trail shoes. [paragraph break] Per tradition we got dinner at the Ely Steakhouse and ice cream at Dairy Queen, and headed to Fenske Lake campground for the night. To simplify the morning, I'd brought a different tent, sleeping bags, pads, and pillows for the night in Fenske so we could leave all our trip gear packed for the morning. It was lightly raining, but that didn't keep us from looking around Fenske for a while before we piled into the tent, played some cards, and called it an early night. [paragraph break]


Day 2 of 8

Friday, June 30, 2017 (day 1, Entry to Lake Agnes) [paragraph break] We got up a little before 6 and took advantage of the last enclosed latrines we'd see for a week, had some pop-tarts, and broke camp. Unfortunately it was sprinkling, so I stretched out the tent and fly inside our car to dry as well as possible during the week we'd be in. [paragraph break] We got to the entry point about 8 and spent some time organizing our gear. We'd decided to commit to double portaging, so we had three bags - each of us had a regular hiking backpack with our personal items in it, and then we had a CCS Guide portage pack with our shared camp items. With a 150 rod portage to the water, the day started with a test of our packing and portaging, and for the first pass M took the canoe and I took the portage pack; we then went back and each took our personal backpacks. [paragraph break] The Moose River has lots of portages, and we quickly settled into a routine where I portaged the canoe and the portage pack, while she took my pack and then her pack. The portages were wet and mucky, and we had occasional sprinkles, so I was super glad I'd decided to get the portage boots and socks the day before - I certainly would have lost a trail shoe a couple times when my boots got sucked ankle-deep into muck holes. [paragraph break] Past the mucky portages, the Moose River took lots of turns and we quickly learned how much easier the Northwind 18 is to steer on tight twists than the MN3 we'd been using the year before. Though M was impatient to get to an actual lake, I enjoyed getting a feel for the canoe's handling, and there was lots of wildlife to see. Though we didn't see any beavers working, evidence of their handiwork was everywhere; water was high, and M did a really good job of spotting where we could pass through the beaver works without scraping the canoe. [paragraph break] I'd been worried about following the main channel to Lake Agnes and not getting diverted either toward Ramshead or up toward Oyster, but as we paddled it was clear that the only open channel was the one to Agnes. I noted this, since we were planning to come back down on day 6 from Oyster and bypass the 190 rod portage to Agnes, but the reeds were definitely obscuring any channel toward Oyster. So while it made day 1 navigation easier, I was concerned about what it might mean later. [paragraph break] We'd launched pretty much at the same time as a couple and their dog, and were leapfrogging them from portage to portage on the way up. They were very friendly and we enjoyed their dog, but their destination was also Agnes and I was a little concerned about how busy it might be. We left the last portage before Agnes just in front of them and paddled hard toward the lake, but while our goal was to get up to the farthest northeast corner of the lake before calling it a day, it became clear that their plan was to stay somewhere on the south shore, so we waved goodbye and stopped worrying about competition. [paragraph break] One concern I'd had about the Northwind 18 was how it would be to paddle across open water with just two paddlers. Lake Agnes gave us the first sense, with just a bit of headwind on a moderately sized lake. We made good time heading up the lake, and had no sense of the wind blowing us around, so I began to have some faith that we'd be okay on Lac La Croix the following day. While many of the sites on Agnes were taken, my target site - the seventh of eight sites up the north shore of the lake - was available, and we took it. This meant we wouldn't have to cross the lake in the morning, being positioned just by the portage to LLC. [paragraph break] The landing for the site was covered in tadpoles, which was fun, but it made it hard not to step on tadpoles. M played with the tadpoles a bit, we set up camp, and had some lunch. After lunch we paddled back out to gather water, she took a nap in her hammock and I played with gear I'd been itching to use. We had lamb chops for dinner - our only fresh-food meal of the trip - and moved under the tarp as first the bugs started up and then it began to rain again. We played some cards and made it an early night.~Nina Moose Lake, Agnes, Lake


Day 3 of 8

Saturday, July 01, 2017 (day 2, Lake Agnes to LLC) [paragraph break] We slept in uncharacteristically late the next morning, and took some time to make coffee, eggs, fry bread, and bacon for breakfast. As we were packing our gear, the couple with the dog paddled past our site toward the portage to Lac La Croix, and it was 9:30 by the time we pushed off from the site. I'd been worried about the wind on LLC, but as we left our site it was overcast but fairly calm. The first portage was quick and easy, but the second portage was clogged with about four groups, including a Boy Scout troop, all of whom were quite disorganized. Despite being the last of the groups into the portage, we still managed to be the first out, and we headed out across Boulder Bay on LLC. [paragraph break] This lower section of LLC proved to be some beautiful and easy paddling, and we managed to get to Never Fail Bay pretty quickly, where we stopped for an early lunch. The site we stopped at was at the tip of a peninsula and provided nice views of the bay, but unfortunately the site itself had been left in a really bad state by previous users of the site: a camp chair, compass, and random gear were strewn about the site, and furniture - including a makeshift table - had been lashed together out of wood on the site and left there. I like to pick up junk we find on sites, but there was far too much and it was too early in our trip, so we ate our lunch and headed back on our way. [paragraph break] Just north of our lunch stop we passed the couple with their dog again; they were heading back toward Lake Agnes as we headed north. I guess they were just taking a day trip and were base camping on Agnes. As we paddled on north, the gray day turned into a sunny one. Appropriately on Canada Day we passed our only segment of the Canadian border and saw one of the border markers as we turned east into the Fish Stake Narrows, determined to take the second island site in from the border. Unfortunately, as we came around the west side of the island we found that site taken. Winds were quite high on the Narrows but we crossed to Coleman Island uneventfully and found the third site west along the bottom of the island to be available. Fighting the winds a bit, we landed and decided to take the site. [paragraph break] Though M didn't particularly like the site, I liked that it appeared to have been almost completely unused - a daisy meadow occupied more of the middle of the site, and the fire grate, in the middle of that meadow, clearly hadn't seen any use recently. With little in the way of tree cover I struggled to find a place to hang the rain/bug tarp, but managed to rig something up that seemed reasonably solid, and we sent our tent up adjacent to it. [paragraph break] The weather quickly and unexpectedly changed about a half hour after we landed, as a huge rain cell moved in and got everything wet. The tarp wasn't ideally positioned, with the low sides propped up with canoe paddles and the high sides hanging from shrub trees, but we huddled under it to wait for the rain to pass. Though it reduced to a drizzle, it never did stop completely, so we played cards and then eventually fixed dinner under the now significantly-sagging fly. My enthusiasm for the site diminished further when it turned out that with all the meadow and flowers, the site was full of mosquitoes, so we had to carefully secure the edges of the bug netting on our tarp to keep out the mosquitoes. When we eventually went to the tent, we heard a constant loud hum as thousands upon thousands of mosquitoes were drawn to the warmth and light of our tent, desperate to get in. [paragraph break] At about 12:30 in the morning I woke as M smacked a mosquito that was buzzing by her head and said she thought we had a bunch of mosquitoes in the tent. I sat up and turned on the light, only to discover dozens of mosquitoes inside our tent. As M pointed out, she could tell they were inside because the ones inside were producing a hum about a half step higher than the ones outside. We started maniacally killing mosquitoes, but I got worried that they'd gotten in somehow, and we might have a really lousy week if there was a hole in the tent's bug netting somewhere. Eventually I discovered that when I'd zipped the door shut I'd left about a quarter-inch gap between the two zippers, and dozens of mosquitoes had found that tiny gap. I closed it, and we went on killing mosquitoes. About 20 minutes later we'd mashed over a hundred mosquitoes, and the walls of our tent were (and still are) stained with the blood and guts of what we now call the great Fish Stake Narrows Mosquito Massacre. [paragraph break] ~Agnes, Lake, Lac La Croix


Day 4 of 8

Sunday, July 02, 2017 (day 3, LLC to Ge-be-on-e-quet) [paragraph break] We woke up surprisingly refreshed on Sunday, and the rain had stopped. All of our gear was still wet, of course, but it wasn't raining, and the mosquitoes were less annoying. We still used the rain/bug fly to fix coffee and pancakes for breakfast, and broke everything in camp before the fly just in case, but the weather held, and we were on our way by 9. [paragraph break] Though it had really appealed to my orderly tendencies to have all the shared gear in the portage pack and all our individual gear in our backpacks, I was coming to realize that it wasn't appealing to my back and shoulders so much - two BV500s and a BV450 with food in addition to the tent, fly, cooking gear, fuel, etc. was making for a heavy pack, while the other two were very light. So I redistributed the load, moving a Bear Vault to one of the other packs and bringing light but bulky personal items into the big pack. It was still the heaviest pack, but substantially more manageable. [paragraph break] I'd worried about navigating from Fish Stake Narrows to the mouth of the Pocket Creek, because I wasn't sure how well M would be able to double-check my orienteering work, and I figured we'd need to actually orienteer our way across this lake. It turned out that I didn't need to worry, as M had just gotten home from Camp Birchwood the week before left, and at that camp she had learned proper map-and-compass orienteering this year, so she was in fact able to double-check my work, which was fun. Though the wind on Lac La Croix was high and the sky did look fairly threatening, we got from our site to the mouth of the Pocket Creek much faster than I expected - about an hour - and I was able to relax a bit. [paragraph break] This portion of the trip was my favorite part of the entire trip, mainly due to the solitude and to the illusion that we were the only people to have been here recently. We hadn't see any other people since arriving at our LLC site the day before, and we wouldn't see another person until 48 hours later, so this day we were completely alone. The portages on Pocket Creek looked completely unmolested - the first was actually flooded since Pocket Creek was quite high, and from the west side it wasn't really possible to even tell where the portage was, and the forest was tight around the portage too. The turn from Pocket Creek onto Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek was easy, and we saw a lot of frogs, turtles, loons, birds of various types, and evidence of beavers along the way, but no other signs of people. [paragraph break] Ge-be-on-e-quet itself was completely empty - five sites, all available, nobody fishing. So we chose to take the site closest to the portage on to Green Lake, which faces east, and set up camp before noon. [paragraph break] By now the sun was out and there was a cool breeze off the lake. We set up camp as though it might rain anyway, and learning lessons from the day before, I hung the tarp very high, with a steep pitch and with the bug screens well secured, although it would turn out that neither was necessary this time. We hung up all our wet gear and started drying things out. [paragraph break] Really digging in to our packs for the first time on the trip, I remembered that (1) I had a phone with a camera; and (2) since it was in airplane mode, it still had plenty of battery. So I finally started getting some pictures of the trip. I also started tracking our daily travels on my running watch, since I found the charger too. [paragraph break] Late that evening, after dinner and as the sun was getting low in the sky, I was surprised to hear the loud *slap* of a beaver tail on the water. Initially concerned that somehow were getting a warning from a beaver, I found instead that the beaver was fishing. We sat and watched it fish for a good twenty minutes, each time slapping its tail as it dove down, coming up about a minute later. Eventually it swam off. [paragraph break] The night was so clear and beautiful that we decided to sit in the hammock to watch the sun set and the stars to come out. So close to the solstice, it was a surprisingly long wait - at 10:30 it was still twilight, and we didn't finally start seeing much in the way of stars until after 11. Eventually we decided we'd seen enough and went to sleep, before the full depth of the night sky became fully visible. [paragraph break] ~Lac La Croix, Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake


Day 5 of 8

Monday, July 03, 2017 (day 4, camp day) [paragraph break] We took Monday as a camp day. M *really* didn't want to take a camp day - she likes moving, and would rather break camp to move one lake than stay in the same place. But I wanted to recover a little, read my book, and enjoy what appeared to be a beautiful day in the making. We woke up fairly early, and as we drank our coffee and ate our hashbrowns, eggs, and bacon, we sat on the exposed rock at the front of our site, watching down through the almost totally clear water, seeing all sorts of fish swim around our site as we regretted having chosen not to bring along our fishing equipment for this trip. [paragraph break] I convinced M to start reading "Call of the Wild" (by Jack London), which soon had her captivated, and I read Per Petterson's "Out Stealing Horses". By early afternoon M was getting anxious to move, so we used a water-gathering trip as an excuse to paddle around the lake a little, but I was firm in my resolve to take a camp day. Besides reading, M worked on her knots and did some carving, and we played a whole lot of cards, even going to the trouble of digging out our Dominion cards and playing a full game of that (which I lost). It was a relaxing and easy day that, she later admitted, probably was good for her shoulders. [paragraph break] After over 48 hours of complete solitude, we did see another canoe arrive on Gebe in the mid afternoon. They may have been passing through - if they took another site on the lake, we never heard any evidence of them again. ~Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake


Day 6 of 8

Tuesday, July 04, 2017 (day 5, Ge-be-on-e-quet to Oyster) [paragraph break] We woke up early on Independence Day and had a simple breakfast of oatmeal, which allowed us to get going by 8:30. While the portages this day were straightforward, each time M said she wanted me to take the canoe despite having said that she wanted to portage the canoe on all of this day's portages. The lakes today were aptly named - Green Lake was a dirty and somewhat unpleasant lake, and I was quite happy that I'd successfully convinced M that we shouldn't move from our lovely site on Gebe to the lone site on this lake the day before. Rocky Lake was much prettier, but the landings on both sides were tricky, with no good places to launch or land the canoe. [paragraph break] Coming through the portage to Oyster, the lake looked beautiful and clean but it also looked big and windy. M wanted to take the first site on the peninsula in front of the portage, but it was already in use, which I appreciated since I wanted to get across the lake. So we pushed to the end of the peninsula to turn toward the east end of the lake. [paragraph break] Turning around the point of the peninsula, we encountered the first really strong head/cross wind we'd encountered on the trip. Since one of my goals for this trip was to evaluate the suitability of a Northwind 18 for our paddling needs, I was thrilled to have the chance to fight the wind. M was determined to get to our designated site as quickly as possible, since we could see the site across the lake and could tell it wasn't currently occupied, but was sitting right by a portage on the other side. So we pushed hard, and the boat responded quite well. It was a bit more work to steer against the wind (which was hitting us at about 2 O'clock when we were perfectly on course) than a smaller boat, but it cut through the waves nicely and never made us at all worried about tipping. [paragraph break] We arrived at the site without any issues and without anybody else claiming it and I began to think I was silly to worry about it, but we hadn't been t the site for more than thirty minutes before two separate other parties came through the portage and toward the site in hopes of claiming it, so I was glad we'd worked hard to get there quickly. [paragraph break] We had lunch and then I considered the water situation - usually I draw drinking water from the center of the lake, but despite the boat's good handling I still wasn't crazy about paddling an empty canoe into the center of the lake against the very strong winds, and I figured the wind was forcing fresh water to the shore anyway, so we drew at the lake edge. The water was still almost as good as Ge-be-on-e-quet's water, which had been the best water on the trip. [paragraph break] Since we'd arrived at the site before noon and it was a beautiful day, we decided to explore a trail that seemed to head from the site toward the portage, and sure enough, there was a trail that connected from the site to the portage - just under a quarter mile away. We walked the portage in its entirety as well, and then walked back, and discussed whether it might make more sense to simply portage from the site rather than loading the canoe only to unload a quarter mile away, but decided that unless it was extremely windy in the morning, it would still make more sense to paddle to the portage. M also decided that she would definitely portage the canoe the next day, since she hadn't portaged it since the first portage of the trip. [paragraph break] The day was so beautiful, and the wind did such a good job of keeping our site bugless, that we didn't even set up the rain/bug fly. M gave me some trouble for having taken the camp day on Gebe when we could have come here before taking it, but I reminded her that this site may have been taken the day before - all evidence suggested that we were now too close to the entry point to assume any site would not be taken. [paragraph break] It being Independence Day, we looked and listened for fireworks, and heard a few at around 10:00. We seemed quite far from Ely, but after the trip another BWCA poster stated that one of the resorts on the Echo Trail sets off fireworks, and that's probably what we heard. [paragraph break] I don't believe I've ever slept in my tent without its rain fly - I'm too paranoid, too unwilling to risk waking up in a soaking wet sleeping bag when I have an excellent, stormproof fly right there. But I really wanted to see the stars without having to sit outside the tent all night, and the sky was so clear and cloudless, that we decided we'd do it, with all our gear stacked near the door and with the rain fly at the ready. We actually got into the tent that way, and then shortly after we'd gotten comfortable I felt the temperature start to drop and a few clouds roll in. So out I went, in my underwear, feeling totally like I'd failed yet again to just take the chance, putting the rainfly on the tent and dragging all our gear under the fly. [paragraph break] And then, about 12:30 in the morning, I was vindicated. Out of nowhere a massive storm cell hit, lighting up the tent with hard flashes of lightning against the total blackness of a hard downpour, with water hitting the ground with such force that it sprayed water and dirt up and under the front vestibule of the rain fly, still managing to soak one pair of shoes and getting the footbox of M's sleeping bag slightly damp even through the tent's mesh door. Twenty minutes later, it was calm and clear again.~Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, Green Lake, Rocky Lake, Oyster Lake


Day 7 of 8

Wednesday, July 05, 2017 (day 6, Oyster to Nina Moose) [paragraph break] I woke up super early on Wednesday, about 5:15, and decided I wasn't going back to sleep, so went ahead and got up and made breakfast. We ate spam, eggs, and scones with our coffee as we watched the lake come alive with morning. We talked through the day's plan, packed up, and were on our way by 8. [paragraph break] I prepared M for the possibility that we might need to do the 190 rod portage from the Oyster River to Lake Agnes, if it turned out that the lower section of the Oyster River was impassable, but especially with the early start we decided that it was worth trying and seeing if we could get through.  [paragraph break] Our original plan had been to spend the next night on Ramshead Lake. M and I both agreed that we'd rather head back toward Nina Moose. I was a little nervous that, with Nina Moose Lake as our target, we might have trouble finding a site - lakes so close to the entry are often full of base campers and first-timers who don't move, and I'd been on Nina Moose before when it was crowded. If we got to Nina Moose and found all the sites occupied, we'd have to make the difficult choice of either taking a pair of long portages to go onto Ramshead Lake from the south, or else exiting a day early, which neither of us wanted to do. So we were both motivated to get to Nina Moose early in the day. [paragraph break] M was good to her word, taking the canoe on both portages on the Oyster River, and we quickly found ourselves navigating the section I'd thought might be impassable. The channel kept narrowing, and we got to really test another aspect of the canoe's - and our capabilities, as the open channel looped around and around in a series of sweeping, meandering turns. M was using a bent paddle for the first time on this trip, and found that besides the obvious power benefits, she enjoyed the additional options for controlling the bow as she deftly dodged rocks, beaver dams, and other obstacles on the river. I found that, with several days' practice, the canoe was much more maneuverable that it had seemed on the first day, when I was just beginning to learn how it handled in comparison to all the We-no-nahs I've paddled over the years. [paragraph break] This section of the trip, buried in a very narrow channel in the middle of reeds and marsh, was phenomenal for nature viewing. Besides the wide array of flora we got to see, we saw lots of evidence of beavers working, and lots of waterfowl, including a family of three loons, the junior of whom was much larger than any other loon families we'd seen on this trip, and who was swimming on its own. This presented a bit of a challenge for us, since loons usually fly off or dive if you approach them, but we had to assume this little one was too little to do that. So we tried to give them a wide berth, but the narrow channel meant that they kept swimming in front of us, and we moved at a loon's pace for maybe a quarter mile before we finally found space to paddle around them. Sure enough, even as we passed them they didn't dive or fly off. I'd like to know why the junior in this family appeared awkwardly old for this time of year - like it was three or four months older than all the loon chicks we saw riding on their parents' backs elsewhere. [paragraph break] Anyway, though the channel kept narrowing, it never gave out on us, and as the Oyster River met the Nina Moose River we eventually found a super narrow channel that allowed us to avoid pushing our way through the reeds for the final 200 feet or so - at M's request we followed it, although I'd already resigned myself to just pushing through. So there *was* an open channel the entire way, though I can't imagine how anybody would ever find it if they were trying to go *up* to Oyster Lake from the Nina Moose River via that channel.  [paragraph break] Despite being so close to the entry point now, the Oyster River had been so secluded and isolated that we'd been able to pretend we were in a highly secluded place again, not seeing another person the whole time up to now. As we arrived at the first portage on the Nina Moose River, that was shattered as we came upon three canoes coming the opposite way. By this time in the trip our portaging routine was down to every last detail, and M took great pleasure in expertly and efficiently portaging the canoe past three adult men struggling with their canoes coming the other way, two of whom made well-meaning but stupid comments to me about my daughter portaging the canoe. Yes men, carrying an ultralight $2000 rental canoe over your head for a third of a mile may be more work than you do at home, but it's nothing a reasonably fit 12 year old girl can't also do - don't be so incredulous, or so full of yourselves. [paragraph break] Given that we'd done this section of the route the opposite direction just once, five days ago, and I hadn't been in this part of the BWCA in 15 years before that, I was surprised at how well we recalled and recognized every little detail of this short section. It reminded my why I prefer loop routes over out-and-back routes, and why I'd originally planned to go over to Ramshead to avoid doubling back on our route, but it was uneventful, and we got down the Nina Moose River really quickly. [paragraph break] Fifteen years ago, on a trip with three friends that may have involved a greater amount of mood-altering beverages than I now would take into the BWCA, my group had decided to switch from a site on the west shore of Nina Moose to the northernmost site on the peninsula in the middle of the lake, the first site visible as you come down the river onto the lake. It's a beautiful site, with a small sandy beach next to a giant boulder that sits right off the shore. We had just moved all our gear (and we had a *lot* of it because we didn't really know or care how to pack better then), and instead of immediately tying down our canoes, had decided to relax and have some whisky. One member of the group was back in the woods and the other two were in a heavily altered state; I had been standing close to the shore when a giant wind gust came along and picked up one of our two kevlar canoes. I couldn't rationally think through what to do - I only knew that with four people and one canoe we'd have a terrible trip, so without thinking more I reached up over my head and grabbed the canoe. My two friends who were watching wouldn't have been able to do anything, and in the intervening years the event has grown to legendary status about my quick reflexes and massive strength - and of course I downplay how massively sore my shoulder was for days after that.  [paragraph break] Anyway, I told M the more basic version of the story as a cautionary tale of why you should tie down your canoe, but also said it would be fun to stay at that site. Unfortunately it was taken, but as we paddled by she got to see the site and understand how dumb we'd been to leave a canoe untied in that location. It's my goal to make sure that when *she* leads trips out here with her friends when she's in her 20s, she knows better and makes better choices. [paragraph break] Despite my fears there were several sites available on Nina Moose, and we chose the first site north of the mouth to the Portage River on the eastern side of the lake. It's a fairly broad, open site with lots of wind to keep the bugs down, and we really enjoyed the site. Being well before lunch time, we decided to have lunch early anyway, and settled in for a long day in camp. [paragraph break] We hadn't been there too long before a relatively large group of 20-somethings showed up at the site directly across from us, and the combination of their being very loud and the wind blowing from their site to ours meant that our beautiful, quiet site became full of their chatter for a little bit. They never really set up camp, and after several hours on the site they went on their way; maybe they were on a day use permit, or were fishing away from their base camp, or something, but we weren't sad to see them paddle off. [paragraph break] This was by far the hottest day of the trip, and the only day that was actually *hot*. Nina Moose is really shallow and has a mostly sandy bottom, so I changed into water shoes and went out into the lake while M put a tarp over her hammock and played with tying knots and making bracelets for a while. I'd packed Trailtopia meals for our dinner this night, and more to the point, one of their Apple Crisp desserts, to celebrate our last night of the trip, and when it came time to have dinner that was the most delicious dessert either of us could ever recall eating, at least at that moment. A beautiful, sunny day led to a gorgeous sunset, and the cool, clear sky that evening made for an excellent night's sleep.[paragraph break]   ~Oyster Lake, Nina Moose Lake


Day 8 of 8

Thursday, July 06, 2017 (day 7, Nina Moose to EP16 and exit) [paragraph break] M and I had decided the day before that we wanted to get out early on Thursday, since we needed to get back to Minneapolis that day and we wanted to have time to do some of our favorite things in Ely before leaving. So we had packed most of our gear up the night before and chose to skip most of our favorite morning things. Sticking with the plan, we both got up about 5:15 and immediately packed up our gear. The night had been dry, and with our site's view it looked clear overhead, with some ominous-looking clouds far off to the northwest but a good day to paddle as long as we went early. We had granola bars - and no coffee - for breakfast, were packed up, and pushed off from our site just after 6:30. [paragraph break] As we rounded the end of our island suddenly we could see that we'd been in an isolated clear spot - right in front of us was dark gray and very ominous. We could hear thunder in the distance. Maybe this would be a little wetter than I'd anticipated. [paragraph break] We crossed Nina Moose Lake to the mouth of the Moose River quickly, and in dry conditions. Just as we turned down the Moose River, however, we started feeling drops. The sky darkened quickly, and about half way to the first portage the rain started in earnest. While our rain gear was at the top of the portage pack, it wasn't accessible enough to get to in time before we were both wet. It was pretty warm, at least, so neither of us was too cold, though that presented another problem - my glasses were totally fogged over and wet, and the rain was coming hard. Fortunately, M could see pretty clearly, and we pushed on. [paragraph break] If we'd been on a lake I would have paddled us to a shore and gotten out. If it had been a day other than the last, I probably would have turned around and headed back to a site. M was determined to push onward, and the lightning and thunder were far enough away that I decided that at least until we got to the portage, we weren't taking any risk beyond getting really wet if we just pushed on, at least if conditions didn't deteriorate, though it was beginning to make me nervous and the rain got harder. [paragraph break] Since the storm was east-southeast, and we were paddling south, we were moving south faster than the storm was moving south, and we managed to outrun the storm just before reaching the first portage. It was almost bright as we unloaded the canoe, with just a sprinkle falling on us, so whereas fifteen minutes earlier I'd been sure we'd be waiting out the storm on the portage, it now seemed like maybe we could keep going. M knew I was considering waiting out the storm at the portage, which lit a fire under her to get us through that portage as fast as possible. She took all three bags and told me if I just got the canoe we could go right on. So I did, and we put in on the south side of the portage just as the storm was catching up to us again. This time we managed to actually get a little space between us and the storm before we came to the unmarked 3- or 4-rod portage at a bend in the river, which we managed to do in about five minutes without the storm substantially catching us. We got through the next portage quickly enough, and we took our canoe out at the end of the paddling section of our trip a little before 8:00 AM, with the storm raging perhaps a quarter mile north of us. [paragraph break] Of course, the final canoe landing is 150 rods from the entry point, so we started portaging everything back to the entry point, and the storm caught up with us again as we were portaging. Deep in the trees, with no more threat of lightning catching us on water, we simply kept going through the muck in the thunderstorm, and had everything back to the entry a bit after 8:30. There were two groups - a couple with their own canoe who clearly knew what they were doing, and a large group of boy scouts with four canoes who didn't - trying to decide what do about starting their trips as the thunderstorm rolled by. The boy scouts asked us how many sites were available on Nina Moose, clearly hedging their bets on covering much ground that day. We strapped our canoe to the roof and headed for Ely. [paragraph break] Back in Ely, we first stopped at the Ranger Station to report the trashed site we'd had lunch at on July 1 in Never Fail Bay and to get some information for next time, and then we went to Piragis to return the canoe, where their board showed the day's weather forecast as thunderstorms and they were a bit surprised to see us so early. Returning the canoe was quick and friendly, with their inspection revealing that we'd done no damage to the canoe (of course) and no extra charges. We looked at some shops, relaxed with some coffee at Front Porch Café, had lunch at the Ely Steakhouse, and headed home to Minneapolis after what's probably the best trip to the BWCA we've had. [paragraph break] ~Nina Moose Lake


Lakes Traveled:   Nina Moose Lake,

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