Day 1 of 14
Sunday, July 03, 2011. We have been planning this trip for over a year. The only thing we couldn't plan on was our departure time. My Boys play lacrosse and we didn't find out about their summer schedule until late. We changed our departure date from June 18th to July 6th. because of their games but still didn't know when we would finally leave. Big Al had a Tournament At Gettysburg College on July 4th weekend. Starting on Friday and ending on Sunday depending on how well they do. Well they lost their first three games so I thought they would be ready to leave on Saturday and we could make Milwaukee by Sunday night. They won their next four games and had to play in the finals on Sunday. They lost to a team from Boston and we are on the road. What the hell it is only a game right? Three of the trippers played in that final game and were saddened by the lose but happy to get under way. We had been packing for a month but still need more time to get everything in order. I had put a power point presentation together to get everybody on the same page, I wanted to make sure everybody had all the gear they need and that we didn't duplicate any thing. We needed camping gear and travel gear so it got a little complicated. The Boys had spent the last two weeks at Lacrosse Camps and had a pile of dirty clothes that needed to be cleaned at the last minute. All the planning I had done and all the importance of getting ready didn't sink in to the Boys who had other agendas. It was a very hectic weekend to say the least and I was ready to start my vacation! The group consisted of two adults and five junior members; Scott is my friend from work, Nick is my oldest son, age twenty one and his friend Dan, Big Al is my youngest son and his friends Brady and Mike, all seventeen years old. Everybody was ready to get going.[paragraph break]We left Frederick Maryland around 12:00 noon on Sunday July 3rd. Everything was going good until I felt a little hesitation in the drive train as we got into the Appalachians. I didn't notice it as a transmission problem but thought it to be a carburetor problem and nothing to worry about. I had the Suburban checked out before we left but she has a lot of road under her belt. As we rounded Pittsburgh she was having trouble climbing. I thought to myself that this is not the time to have transmission trouble but didn't want to worry the kids. It didn't take long before everybody realized that the transmission was going south as we were headed north. We struggled through Ohio and Indiana and finally died at South Bend Indiana. I thought that this was going to be a big enough city to get back on the road and realized I had to modify our plans. The only problem is that it is the forth of July weekend, and our entry date is July sixth. We limped into a motel and prayed!
Day 2 of 14
Monday, July 04, 2011. I am seriously concerned! I have not had a very good night of sleep. Big Al and his friends are in one room and my oldest son Nick, his friend Dan and I are in the other room. I can't figure out our next move until the coffee brews. I don't have unlimited funds but I know I can't abandon our plans. My Suburban is dead in the water and nobody wants to rent us a vehicles and let us tow our trailer that is holding our four canoes and gear. I called my friend Scott who is going to fly into Duluth to join us and his suggestion was to rent a Suburban and not tell them we are towing a trailer (the sticking point with rental agencies). We catch a Suburban at the South Bend Airport from Alamo and just our luck it has a trailer hitch receptor! We change our trailer hitch to the new Suburban, drop the wounded Suburban at a transmission place and we are back on the road. Our original plan was to make Milwaukee on Sunday night, check out the breweries on July 4th and pick up Scotty in Duluth on Tuesday. We decided to bypass Milwaukee and head straight for Duluth. It is a long drive from South Bend to Duluth but we had fun. We stopped a couple of times for fuel and food but otherwise made good time. The new Suburban was great! We have never had a new vehicles. This one was nice! When we finally made the decent into Duluth we were greeted by fireworks over Lake Superior! The Boys were pumped up. Its was great. I was relieved that we were back on the road and the fireworks made us all feel good after the trying couple of days. We got a couple of rooms and drank a couple of beers and sang "Happy Birthday America".
Day 3 of 14
Tuesday, July 05, 2011 I arose early and let the Boys sleep in a little. We didn't have to pick up Scott at the airport until 12:00 so we were not in a hurry. I got a cup of coffee on the road and brought back a box of donuts for the Boys. They have accused me of starving them so far, they eat like frenzied pigs and I wonder how well they will adapt in the next week. We stopped by Gander Mountain and picked up a couple of things and headed for the Duluth Airport. The Air Force jet in front of the airport is impressive. Scott showed up right on time and I was glad to see him, finally the group was all together and we are on our way.[paragraph break] The road up to Ely is nice and the scenery is different then we are use to. We stopped in Cotton at a local diner and had lunch, the Boys were starving again. Our waitress was a Sara Palin look and sound alike, it was bazaar! The funniest thing was that her son had just mover back to Minnesota from a little town called Cave Town back here in Maryland about ten minutes from Scott's house, it is a very small world. We headed north again, passed the large iron ore mine and the Hockey Hall of Fame and finally started to see some lakes. We were pumped up when we arrived in Ely. We stopped in the different outfitters and picked up a removable yoke for Scott's one man Old Town. The Boys are always on the prowl for a meal or a pretty girl and once again they were satisfied. Being around a group of young Men/Boys is always a strange thing and I spent a lot of time wondering if I was just as stupid Thirty years ago. Scott and I would look at each other and roll our eyes at some of the things that came from their brains. We were staying at the Fenskie Lake Cabins, so we headed north and checked in. The owners are very welcoming and the Bunk House was perfect for a group of guys. The Bath House was clean but needed more hot water if you were number seven. We arranged our gear and headed back to town for our last good meal. We ate at the Boat House and really enjoyed our meal and beer. The Brew Master, Ben, gave us a tour of his Brewery like a proud father and rightly so, the beer was great. The younger Boys had to leave before 10:00pm because we were sitting in the bar. I asked my son Nick to grab a couple dozen eggs at the grocery and come back and pick Scott and I up after we enjoyed another beer and another song from the live entertainment. This is were it got weird. Scott and I grabbed another beer and listened to the music...........another beer.....more music.....another beer.....more music. Around 11:30 and still no Boys. We didn't have cell phone coverage and I am concerned.....again! I couldn't figure out why they were late and came to the conclusion that they must be in trouble. So we asked the bar tender were the police station was and away we went. We knocked on the door and were greeted by a policeman. I explained to him that I was missing a truck load of Boys and he invited us in. I have been invited into a police station before and never really liked the decor and this was no exception. He wasn't coming clean and Scott and I figured we would see five Boys in a cage at the top of the stairs confined for what ever reason that has caused them to be two hours late! To my surprise they were not there (you can tell that I have already counted on the worst). Now I am really, really concerned......still!! The officer takes all the information and offers to send a Deputy to the Fenskie Lake Cabins. Now I am thinking that all the Boys are in the cabin chugging twelve's and will wind up here at the cage anyway after they are busted by the Deputy. Ten minutes later as we are walking out of the police station two things happened at once; the deputy calls on the radio and informs the officer he has the empty Berb in front of The Boat House and Nick and Dan walk around the corner! I was never so happy to see them in my life. I am still mad as HELL but very relieved. They explain that they tried to find the Fenskie Lake Cabins and got lost going and coming. The ride back to the cabin was quiet. They knew they had screwed up and I was mad. When we got back to the cabin the other three Boys had made a beer pyramid and seemed happy to see us! At this point I have traveled through seven states, four of which were white knuckle, grab the wheel, and hope the transmission holds out states, and the rest of the miles are in a rental that is costing too much money. I spent a week before we left working hard to get ready and the last two and a half hours wondering if my sons and their friends are alive and well! I can't stay mad or hold grudges, I only want to know that everyone is safe and having fun and loving life. I don't know what it was that happened next but we all broke out into spontaneous laughter and merrymaking like a bunch of stupid pranksters and it lasted for two hours! I guess all I needed was to have a good time and that we did. I haven't laughed like that since High School.
Day 4 of 14
Wednesday, July 06, 2011. I woke up early and very thirsty, go figure. There were a couple of things I had to do before we left, and with out cell phone service I had to head back to town. I had to call the transmission place and make sure they were going to have the truck ready when we got back. Well none of the pay phones in Ely work either. If we can’t have a cell phone tower somebody has to fix the pay phones. Not all is bad that seems to be bad. I stuck two quarters in a cell phone at a convenience store and got nothing, so I clicked the coin return and got $5.50 back. Red Letter Day right? Still no phone service, so I go to the grocery store and stick two more quarters in and I get nothing, so I click the coin return and I get $12.75 back. This is like a slot machine! Still, no phone service. I asked the manager if I can make a long distance call and she is very considerate and helpful. Come to find out my wife has all ready taken care of getting the transmission place all the paper work they needed to fix the truck. It is good to know my lovely wife still has my back. I grab a box of donuts for the starving stupidoes and head back to wake them up, so much for the early start. We pack the truck and trailer, recycle the large pyramid, put some great tunes in the machine and head to Mudro. The first portage was a breeze. All the planning was worth it. I had made everyone a personal under the canoe seat bag out of duck cloth and decorated them with patches. One guy had a heavy bag and the other guy had the small canoe seat bags and the canoe, it worked out perfect except on the long portage from Mudro to Fourtown, we double portaged that one. Getting on the lakes was like magic. The water lilies were in full bloom and the weather was great. The sky was neon blue with white fluffy clouds and around eighty degrees. The second portage was a little rocky and showed the Boys what they were up against. The third portage was a killer, 125 rods of up and down. The scenery was great, a couple of high drop offs with a flowing stream underneath you. The last portage before Fourtown was the shortest but still tough. Fourtown is a beautiful Lake, just what I had expected. We headed for the portage into Boot. The Boys have found their rhythm by now and are starving as usual. We grab some deer bologna and some cheese and head across Boot Lake. Big Al spots the cliffs on the Northwest side of Boot and wants to check them out. We stop and check the depth under the cliff and see that it is deep enough to jump. Now I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, and I know there is very little help for those who get hurt in the wilderness, but these boys are jumping. They climb the side of the rock and found the right ledge. They looked smaller then I had figured. I guess your perspective changes when a human is involved. After some inflammatory remarks to the ones that were taking too long there was a splash. Then another splash, all seamed to have experienced an adrenaline rush beyond belief. I can't be left behind right? I climbed the rock and inched my way down to the ledge, I didn't want to look over the edge, let alone jump. It was high, and the crowd below was use to making inflammatory remarks to those of us who took too long. I couldn't see myself spending another week and a half listening to the Boys telling me that they could see up my skirt. I hit the water after what seemed like a very long time. One last portage into Fairy Lake and we are home for the next couple of days. We grabbed the camp site on the east side of Fairy and are pleased with the setup. There is plenty of room for our three tents and the canoe landing is perfect. We set up camp and settle down for our first meal. I was concerned about feeding five young men and keeping them full. I didn't think a diet of dried food alone would do it so we devised a plan to use real food. We have a U.S.Army bag that is used to keep medicine cold in the desert. The inside dimensions are about 18” high x 18” long x 10” wide. It is made of canvas and is heavy duty. We bought a backpack that can adapt to carry irregular shapes like barrels or other things. My friend Kirk runs a lab at Ft. Detrick and has access to freezers that can go to 80 degrees below zero. We purchased some steaks, chicken legs and thigh combos, boneless chicken fillets and two big pork loins and froze them for two weeks at 80 degrees below zero. The day before we left Maryland, I packed the meat in a large Coleman cooler with dry ice and strapped the cooler closed. When we got to Ely there was still some dry ice left in the cooler, the thermometer was buried and the meat was rock hard. I filled an asbestos like bag with ten more pounds of dry ice from the bait shop and filled the medical cooler with the meat in the order we were going to use it, last on bottom. I figured the pork loins to be the densest and left them until last thinking they would stay the coldest. I would only open the bag once a day and take out the next day’s food. It worked perfect, after six days the food was still frozen, after seven days the last of the pork loin was thawed but the bag registered 47 degrees, just about a refrigerator’s temperature. The meat was in vacuum sealed bags and was fine. The medicine bag weighed about 65 pounds at the beginning which isn't too bad. We enjoyed steak and mashed potatoes with gravy and a fresh salad for our first night out. We sipped bourbon or mixed a flavor pack with vodka and stayed up and watched the stars. Everything was coming together, I think I saw wonder in everyone's eyes!
Day 5 of 14
Thursday, July 07, 2011. Everybody has decided to sleep in, go figure… again. The first day is always the toughest. I start the fire, coffee, scrapple and eggs and the starving horde stumbles down the hill. While breakfast is cooking my son Nick throws a lure in and brings in a 30” fat walleye! We don't need any fish yet so it is pictures and back to the lake. This is the first real fishing anybody has done yet and bingo the game is on. They wolf down breakfast and grab rods for a days worth of fishing. We thought it was going to be as easy as Nick made it look but it didn't work out as well as planned. I think we caught five or six fish that day, not the bounty we were looking for. We swam, fished, ate, explored, read, and drank. The weather was great and we enjoyed every minute of it. Every time I looked up somebody was grabbing some thing out of the bear barrel. I don't want to be the Food Nazi but the young Boys are treating the barrel like a pantry. The key is to keep them occupied. More work equals less food. Is the fire wood cut? Is your tent clean? Are the dishes done? Do we have enough water? We had chicken thighs and legs over rice with gravy and broccoli. We saved the chicken bones for soup for our next lunch. So far our meals have been good. It is just tough making them wait for their next meal but they are learning. More sipping, stars and another good night sleep.
Day 6 of 14
Day 7 of 14
Day 8 of 14
Day 9 of 14
Day 10 of 14
Tuesday, July 12, 2011. This is our last full day on the Lakes and we decided to get our full. We started by jumping off the rock first thing in the morning, oatmeal jamboree with everything we could spare and to lighten the loads of spirits earlier then usual. We fished all day, read all day, drank all day and played all day. My wife is a Librarian and a School Teacher. She turned us on to Harry Potter in 1997 and we have been Potter Heads ever since. We have read all the books numerous times and enjoyed them, and we are looking forward to the opening of the last film on July 15th. Two of the kids on the trip have not read the books and are now fighting over the last book. They have agreed to, two chapters and a switch, it is very funny. I brought too many books for our trip hoping that the kids would submit to boredom and read and my wish came true. On the ride up, I would look in the rear view mirror and see some Kids reading and others looking bored, I would say "grab one of the books and start reading"! By the end of our trip they are fighting over the books.[paragraph break] We started to get our stuff packed up in preparation for an early morning departure. We had a great spaghetti dinner and finished off any spirits that were left. We laughed and joked like familiar friends do, and stayed up too late for an early start, but what the flipping flip it was our last full day!
Day 11 of 14
Wednesday, July 13, 2011. We have saved a nice chunk of Irish Cheese and about a 24"x 2" piece of deer bologna for a departure lunch. The remainder of the oatmeal, raisins, walnuts, granola bars, apricots and prunes were cooked up in the pot and distributed. We broke camp, and a feeling of euphoria was shared by most members of our group. Conversations about what meal was going to be bought at the Boat House upon return have been passed from young camper to young camper all week, but this morning they intensified. Only my oldest son Nick and I felt sorry for leaving and confessed to each other that our next trip would have to be longer. Each of us have studied our wilderness trips and discussed ways of enhancing them, we were both in agreement that this trip should have covered more ground and more days. [paragraph break] We are about to cover the most interesting scenery yet, the trip down the Moosecamp River was glorious. It was close, with high canyon like cliffs on one side and a sea of lily pads on the other. It seamed like a gorge at times. There was an abundance of wild flowers. We crossed numerous beaver dams. I imagined mountain lions looking down on us from their perch on some high cliff face. Why we didn't see our long expected moose was beyond us, it was perfect moose environment. There was swamp lands as far as you could see with the Moosecamp River snaking its' way through the wild flowers. What a way to end a trip in the Boundary Waters. It was just how I imagined it to be. It was perfect.[paragraph break]When we got to Fourtown Lake we noticed more people then we were use to. A lot of the camp sites were occupied. We saw our first eagles as we settled down for lunch, and they followed us south on Fourtown. We met a group of six women in two canoes and informed them we were going to commandeer their vessel, and splashed them with our paddles. Normally I would not allow such rude behavior from what I know are fine young gentlemen but I guess eleven days without female supervision has taken away our civility. I remember thinking how encouraged I was seeing the six female canoeist/campers and their accomplishments. I was humbled. We finished up our trip back through Fourtown and Mudro. The 125 Rod portage has not gotten any shorter. The truck and trailer was packed and back to Fenskie Lake cabins we headed.[paragraph break] The showers were unlike any showers we have ever had. The dinner at the Boat House was great and Ben the Brew Master turned us on to a new creation he was proud of. Ben Remembered our names. We returned to the cabin and celebrated (whooped and hollered like stupid school Boys, Please forgive us). No damage incurred.
Day 12 of 14
Thursday, July 14, 2011. We dropped Scotty off at the Duluth Airport. I could see the sigh of relief on his face as we departed, he did not want to drive all the way back. Scottie was going to fly to Baltimore and meet some friends and watch a great rock and roll show at a real cozy spot, we were going to spend all day on the road. We reserved a couple of rooms at the Renaissance Hotel near the Airport in Chicago. We got them cheap by booking early on some web site and were very pleased with the accommodations. We drank a couple of beers and found the beds to be ......like heaven.
Day 13 of 14
Day 14 of 14