Day 1 of 6
Saturday, July 9, 2011[paragraph break] Today started at my home in central Wisconsin. Woke up at about 6:00 am and headed out. Made it up to Grand Marais by about 3:00 pm. I wanted to go to the Lake Superior Trading Post to pick up a Voyageur Map as a backup to what I had already brought along. It was windy, rainy and cold. The city was having some sort of festival and I had to park a long way from the store. Finally found a spot and made it to the store. Wall to wall people and it took a little time to wiggle my way back to the map section of the store. I had never been to the Trading Post before, it is a nice place to pick up any last minute items before heading up the Gunflint. I walked around town a little bit and checked out some of the tourist trap stores. I then headed over to St. John's for confession and Saturday mass (be prepared, you never know what might happen on a solo trip!). After church I headed up the Gunflint Trail to the parking lot on Poplar Lake and spent the night in my van.
Day 2 of 6
Sunday, July 10, 2011[paragraph break] Poplar Lake, Lizz Lake, Caribou Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Allen Lake, Pillsbery Lake, Henson Lake, Omega Lake [paragraph break] I woke up in the van at about 5:00 excited to get out on the water and start my journey. The van floor was quite comfortable and I would have slept pretty good except a few annoying mosquitoes kept buzzing my ears during the night. Drove the van from the upper lot down to the lake boat ramp and got everything loaded up in the canoe. It was foggy and muggy and you could already feel the heat of the day coming on. The fog would cause some havok on my "get going early" plans. I pushed off from the boat landing and me and my (actually borrowed) Old Towne Pack were off. [paragraph break]I ran into problems right away. It was hard to pick out shore line features and islands because of the fog. The fog and mugginess were also steaming my glasses up about every 30 seconds which made map reading very difficult. These problems coupled with the fact that I had envisioned Poplar Lake as being larger than it actaully was, caused me to get lost. The portage to Lizz Lake is about half way across Poplar Lake. Without knowing it, I had gone almost all the way across Poplar before I knew I was defiantly off course. I knew most of the time that stuff wasn't making sense, but I buried that thought deep down. My ego wouldn't let me believe that I was lost on the first lake of my trip, and technically not even in the Boundary Waters yet! After going around some islands a few times, paddling into dead-end bays that "surely must be islands" I finally realized where I was. All said and done, it took me 2 hours to paddle Poplar Lake and it should have taken about 30 minutes. [paragraph break]I made it to the Lizz Lake portage and met about 2 groups going in the opposite direction. Crossed Lizz and met a couple of more groups heading the opposite direction as me. I think that there was some pretty heavy rain and thunderstorms the day or two before my trip. The portage trails were muddy and full of mosquitoes. I think this is also why I ran into so many groups heading out on my way in. The rest of the day I made my way through Caribou Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Allen Lake, Pillsbery Lake, Henson Lake and finally made it to Omega Lake. These are all long skinny lakes that run East- West. The wind likes to funnel down the length of them and pick up speed. Of course the whole trip, the wind was in my face...but that goes without saying. I arrived at Omega at about 12:30pm. My goal was to get the campsite on the point that is about half way across the lake and basecamp there the rest of my trip. The spot was open and I set up camp. True to the reviews of BWCA.com it was a 4-5 star camp site. The only thing it lacked was a good boat landing. I put up the tent unpacked a few things and then hit the tent floor for a nap. My back and shoulders were sore from fighting the wind all day. I used a double bladed paddle and this worked a little different set up muscles than usual also. After my nap, I had supper and then went trolling around the lake. The wind was gone completely and the lake was like glass. This was the only time on the trip that this happened!!! [paragraph break]It was kind of funny, I was trying Fireline out for the 1st time convinced I wouldn't have to use leaders for those pesky toothed critters ( Note: I am not much of a fisherman, but enjoy trying). The first fish I caught on my brand new fireline, bit me off right at the boat. Most of it was my fault, I was not really prepared yet and while the fish was on I was farting around trying to untangle my net and pliers. Had I been ready, I would have had him in the boat long before he cut me off. I tied on a leader and continued on. I caught about 10 northerns in a hour. None with any size though. I headed back to camp and called it a night. [paragraph break]LESSON OF THE DAY: If land marks and your maps aren't making sense...STOP and figure out why. [paragraph break]
Day 3 of 6
Monday, July 11, 2011[paragraph break] Omega Lake, Kiskadinna Lake, Muskeg Lake, Long Island Lake [paragraph break] Woke up at 6:30am ready to go for a day trip to Long Island Lake and try my hand at some deep lake trout fishing. It had rained for about 10 minutes during the night. I hit the water at 8:30am and like usual battled the wind all the way to Long Island Lake. Kiskidinna was especially tough in the wind. I tried trolling Long Island Lake for quite a while. The wind was really against me. It was certainly nice for trolling with the wind, but then to paddle back into it for another pass was another thing. I tried different lures different locations, but no luck. I was getting frusterated quickly. In good conditions, it is hard to orient the boat and fish by yourself, the wind only makes it so much worse. I kept going at it, paddling and drifting, paddling and drifting, paddling and drifting. I had brought some extra long anchor rope in hopes of anchoring and then vertical jigging, but it was just too windy for that. I was afraid to anchor in such wind and waves. There were times, where I was actually worried while I was trolling that I might actually get a fish on. If I had, there would be no way I could stop paddling and reach down and reel him in. [paragraph break]I stopped for lunch at an Island campsite. While I was eating lunch, I saw a group of two canoes pull up along one of the shores and do some cliff jumping into the water. Bright people!!! Did a little more trolling then headed back to Omega. This time, the 1st and only time, the wind was with me! Got back to Omega, had supper and trolled around a little bit with no luck. Into the tent by 8:00pm. I was very tired and sore from paddling the wind all day. [paragraph break] LESSON OF THE DAY: If it is windy, don't fight nature all day and get frustrated trying to fish... adapt and do something else. This is the Bounday Waters, you don't have to follow your original plan.
Day 4 of 6
Tuesday, July 12, 2011[paragraph break] Omega Lake, Winchell Lake [paragraph break] Woke up at 8:00am with something on my mind. During the night, I had thought of something that would bother me the rest of the trip. Before I left for the Boundary Waters, I had set up some training at work for a new piece of equipment. The only problem was that I forgot let anybody at work know when the training was going to take place, or so I thought. The people coming in to do the training had the schedule, but that was it. The training was scheduled to take place the Monday I was coming back to work from this BW vacation. Well, long story short, this bothered me the rest of the trip. It didn't ruin it, but it was always in the back of my mind weighing on me. I am normally not the type of person that worries about work. At work, I make sure I get everything taken care of and organized, but when I go home I leave work at work and don't think about work again until the next day when I go back. Anyway, come to find out I HAD sent out the training schedule and there was really nothing to worry about. [paragraph break] My plan for this day of the trip was to go to Winchell Lake and repeat what I had tried the previous day, fish for lake trout. The day went pretty much like it did the previous day. Me paddling my a$$ off in the wind, getting frusterated and killing myself physically. I did hike up to the top of the hills on the south side of the lake. It was dark and overcast, but it was still a nice view. I even brought my cell phone (I am not a cell phone person, and normally can't stand them) to see if I could get a call out to work and let them know about the training. I actually had 2-3 bars of service. However this was due to that fact that I was so high up the powerful towers could get their signal to me, but there was no way a little cell phone could punch back out to the towers. At least that was my theory. I came back down the hills and checked out the small falls that I believe empty out of Tremble Lake and into Winchell. Small falls, but neat to check out. I headed back out onto the windy lake and made my way back to Omega. I did get a 27" northern and cooked 'em up for supper when I got back to camp. Mmmm, fresh fish in the BW...good eating!!! Hit the tent for a late day nap. Got up cleaned up camp and got ready for the next day. Tomorrow I will be heading back closer to the entry point for my final night. [paragraph break]Heard some good news from my weather radio just as I was going to bed. The wind direction was flipping 180 deg and I will be paddling into the wind on my way towards the EP tomorrow. The whole time I was paddling in on the first day, I kept thinking to myself, "it will be nice on the way out, this head wind I am paddling into will be a tail wind!" Well, no such luck. Drifted off to sleep exhuasted and sore.[paragraph break] LESSON THE DAY: Same as yesterday! If it is windy, don't fight nature all day and get frustrated trying to fish... adapt and do something else. This is the Bounday Waters, you don't have to follow your original plan.
Day 5 of 6
Wednesday, July 13, 2011[paragraph break] Omega Lake, Henson Lake, Pillsbery Lake, Swallow Lake, Meeds Lake, Caribou Lake[paragraph break] Up at 6:00am and ready for my travel day. It got down to 45 degrees during the night. Great sleeping weather! Packed up camp and was on the water by 6:30. Made my way back towards the entry point. I Decided to go to Meeds Lake and possibly stay there for the night. Slightly different route than what I came in on. I arrived at the West island site and found it to be pretty nice. There was even a LARGE stack of firewood already cut and ready to go. Decided to press my luck and headed for the East island camp site only to find it occupied. Kind of embarassing, I was talking to myself as I came up to the site before I realized it was occupied. I was commenting to myself on how long it took to paddle from the West site to the East site in the wind. But I don't think they heard me. After all that work to get to the East site I didn't want that to be in vain, so I pressed on to Caribou Lake. I checked out the two sites on points on the West side of the lake that looked pretty good on the map, but they were both occupied. I just missed getting one of them, they were just starting to pitch tents! Decided to take the 1st site on the North shore when coming from the Meeds Lake Portage at about 10:45. It wasn't that great of a site, but I didn't want to press my luck looking for another open site and then have this one get taken too. Even a bad site in the boundary waters is better than any site at a camp ground anywhere else! Didn't really do much the rest of the day. Went fishing a couple of times, had supper, and then fished a little more. No luck, but beats being at work! I did see one of the sites up from me was open, but that is the game you play...especially close to an entry point.
Day 6 of 6
Thursday, July 14, 2011[paragraph break] Caribou Lake, Lizz Lake, Poplar Lake [paragraph break] Woke up at 5:30 and hit the water all packed up by 6:00. It got down to 45 degrees again during the night. Traveled the last little bit of Caribou, through Lizz and back out on Poplar. Didn't get lost on Poplar this time! Had the van loaded up and was back on the road by 8:00am. [paragraph break]
This was a good trip for me. The weather, minus the wind, was nice. No rain really, the temps were good during the day and nice and cool at night. I learned, on a solo trip especially, don't be too focused on fishing or any activity for that matter. Take what mother nature gives you and don't try to fight her. [paragraph break]
1st solo trip...would prefer to go with people but wouldn't hesitate to do it again if nobody could go with me.[paragraph break]
With all the alone time, I had some time to think about some things in my life that I would like to change and took stock of all the things that I take for granted.