BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
July 05 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
Dads and sons- Mudro loop thru Horse, Crooked back thru Gun and Fourtown
July 16, 2009
Number of Days:
Our two hour drive to Ely is filled with stories from Pete of of B’Dub. It gives the group an idea of what to expect. Can a story do the BWCA justice? All the reading and planning for me on the web…is it enough? I expect not. Bob at Canoe Country is ready for us when we arive. We go over route and gear. He throws in leech bucket and fishing nets....some things I can't bring from Atlanta. We sense he tries to talk us out of the loop around Crooked and back through Gun, etc. I want to remain flexible, but I am set on the route. I will let the weather and availability dictate the camp sites. He speaks fondly of the current area of Crooked. I am pleased with the route chosen. I imagine good fishing in that area. We have the complete ultra lite outfitters package and all the gear looks good. We pack our personal packs in a cabin provided by CCO. Again, the outfitter does an excellent job. We will sleep here tonight before leaving early in the morning. A bit of rain in Ely keeps us close to our temporary home and we go to the Italian joint for food and a last cold beer. We are home close to 9PM and most are in bed by 10PM.
Many things I can not control…what I’m most concerned about are injuries, excessive wind, bugs. I have sprayed with Permithium but can’t plan for injuries or wind.
I assume this happens to many of us, I was awake at 3AM and stay in bed until 4:30 AM. I get up, quick shower, cup of coffee and paper from across the street. I am ready to go. Most start to move at 5:15 AM. The canoes are already loaded, our packs go into the trailer at 6:15AM. I am back from the bait shop with more tips and two pounds of leeches. (more is better than less) A pound will go in a leech tamer, a pound will go in leech bucket provided by Canoe Country. We are on the road by 6:45 and on the water by 7:30 AM. The water is a bit low at Mudro. We have to walk down 30 rods to put in. Pete is gone in a flash and we are off in a bit of spitting rain. It is a rain we hardly notice. The wind is at our back but I have a small goal of a site on Horse somewhere. If I knew I could, I’d get to the Lower Basswood Falls area, but that is a risk I am not willing to take. I do not want to spoil a good start by too many portages and the mad scramble for a site. This leaves Dick a bit disappointed…..he wants to move on. We hear all the sites were taken on Horse the night before. At the risk of paddling into the wind to the desired site near the mouth of the Horse River, we take the spot in the narrows on the south side of the lake. It turns out to be a very good site. We have a good view of the whole lake form the edge, high ground away from the spitting rain, plenty of wood, good spots for tents. We arrive close to noon and learn the ropes….tents, gear, etc. After a bit of camp set up , we try some of the leeches, crank baits from shore. Nicholas catches a few large pan fish along a weed bed. The wind is still blowing as I try to single paddle the Kevlar down the shore for some wood. The front end catches a breeze, I tip over in a second in 5 feet of water. Brian watches from shore and saw an odd look on my face.If there is a good place to tip, it is close to shore with an empty canoe. I did not think I would be the one tipping. I ‘ve now tipped a canoe in Georgia, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Minnesota. I walk to shore , put on my other clothes and lick my wounded pride. This is the only time on the trip a canoe tips….good news. Dick and I go out for wood in one canoe and the boys go out in the other two canoe for wood. By 5PM, we have wood for tonight and the morning. The steaks and potatoes cooked by Dick are a great first meal. Dick and I spend a bit of time on the water soaking leeches. It is too windy to go too far, but we get bit close to camp by a few smallmouth and pan fish. For me, any fish tugging is a good start. I want walleye for all of us but, mainly, I want the whole party to have something tugging on their line. A bit of daddy juice, discussion around the fire and our first day is over. We are in bed by 10PM. We have a big travel day on Friday…..somewhere on Crooked.
In a perfect world, we get out of camp at 6 AM on this travel day. I guess I know this is unrealistic and hope for 9 AM. We are off at 9:30 ish. The wind has changed and we are into a pretty strong wind heading toward the Horse River. Overcast, a bit of spitting rain but we only notice the wind. I’m a bit edgy as we head into this wind. I suspect it is a good idea to keep the front of the canoe into the waves. This is Nicholas’ and my first good test in a canoe. I wish he wouldn’t lean so much as he paddles. When did I turn into a crotchety old man? I find out all three parties have the same concern. Bryce, Cole, Nick all turn out to be very strong padddlers….when they want. The mouth of the Horse is a welcome rest. Little did we know the low water on Horse would give us our first good test. We probably missed the first short portage on Horse. We were told it was not marked and we never really found a path. We made due like the voyagers of yesteryear and put back in after a short jaunt thru the woods. We made our own portage….glad it was short. How do you miss a portage? Where was it? Three portages are marked on the map for Horse. We portaged 7 times. We knew we were in the river, but we were behind where we though we were. If we missed on the map, it was in the Horse River. From my office in Atlanta, I expected the Horse River to be a nice float, catch some fish, take a break going down current. We worked our a**** off. Nothing we couldn’t handle but a bit of a surprise. Pete, an instructor at the local college called the Horse a “forming river….its only 10,000 years old, Mitch!” Maybe this is why it such a crapshoot on the Horse. Again, the opening to the Lower Basswood Falls area was welcomed. I had considered going east to Upper Basswood, but we were behind schedule. We were all impressed with the Lower Falls area and spent some time picture taking, and looking around. Much to my surprise, a few sites right around the falls were available. We considered staying but felt we needed to put some distance behind us. We carried on toward the Pictographs. I think I oversold the Pictographs. Maybe we should have spent more time discussing origin, people who made them, why they were in the region. We moved past in a few minutes. The wind was still an issue. You did not want to linger too long. It was time to look for a site. At this point, we had our choices; we saw very few people and sites were available. We were selective and did put on some distance between the Pictographs and our site of choice. We passed a few sites....the next site "was only 100 yards farther." It was in some narrows with a nice rock as a table, moss bed for a tent, plenty of fire wood, good fishing close, overlooking our Canadian friends. The two bald eagles we spent the next 24 hrs with rotated from US and Canadian side. They are a beautiful National symbol. The long day ends at 4 PM at this very nice site. After another well built Brian fire we had good food, good fire for the night. Brian and Dick cooked, again. Dick and Cole had a good night of fly rod fishing in the area. As we watched the fire, we could hear Dick yell out when something struck Cole’s top water presentation. I can appreciate his excitement for his son’s success. The big fire kept us up a bit longer as the clouds tried to part. Bryce predicted 3PM sun…..maybe it was 3AM?? The boys had hammocks at the last spot and more hammocks for tonight’s spot. Bed by 10:30….no stars with the breaking up cloud cover.
I sleep better in the woods on the ground than in my own bed sometimes. Another good night sleep and awake at 5:30 AM. It is amazing how you can forget what day it is when you are in the woods. No cell phones and TV’s….nice. When you are up early, you go fishing. Dick put me in the front of the boat for some fly rodding. The first point produced a nice largemouth. A northern pikes hits my popper off the edge of a tree. It is a good fight. Not much more, but a flyrod top water bite is worth 50 other bites. Brian is making coffee and fishing from shore when we return. He knows how to make a fire….We have a limited travel schedule today. The kids sleep in a bit, we have a nice pancake breakfast and are off by 10 AM. The wind is still strong into us and we are in a narrow channel. We are all a bit nervous (are the kids?) as we head into the channel working hard to keep nose into the wind/waves. I ask for a strong effort from Nicholas for the next mile. He gives it to me as do the other kids. We turn east and the wind subsides. The Table Rock is at our left. I would like to stop but we have worked too hard in a short time. Who did make the table rock? We are now where I want to be in Crooked Lake….lets find a good site. The three canoes that past our site at 9AM this morning has our first site of choice. We work past them on the island and find a better site on the other side. We are glad to grab this site. We land and settle in. Good site for tents and fire. We have some firewood but well need more on Sunday. We have time to set up tents, hammocks and the rest of the site. We’ll be here for two nights. It is mid afternoon and we have time to fish. We all walk the shore and throw flukes with success with the northerns. Bryce, Brian are doing a good job of catching from various parts of the island. We haven’t found the walleyes, yet but I will cut up some northerns for dinner. Nicholas and I work our way around the island and find some current on the east side. I’m told this current can be too strong to paddle in the spring. It looks great for any fish species. I convince Nicholas to put on a Dardevle. He wonders why a chunk of metal will catch a fish?? I plead with him and convince him this classic lure may do something. The first big Northern smashes the lure right at the island. He has it for a second , but loses it. He hooks a second within 5 minutes and has this on for some time but loses it at the end. The hole and the current produces two more fish. He lands them both. A great time for both of us. I bleed like stuck pig getting one of the fish off the hook. His teeth are sharp….he slashes and cuts the stringer and we lose the few fish we caught. Regardless, we have a great time.
The clouds are parting and we will have a nice night. We clean fish, find wood, make a big fire, eat fish. The stars come out tonight and we have a great night around the fire. Atlanta has light pollution….we see a lot more stars up north. We see the Milky Way and what the boys say are iridium flares. They look like shooting stars but may be reflection from a satellite. Whatever they were, the sky is lit up on this night. We’re up until at least 11:30 with a big bright sky. We'd like to see northern lights.....no luck.
We are staying at this site for another day. It is nice not to have to break camp. The kids can sleep as long as they want in their hammocks. I sleep in a bit longer and Dick beats me into a canoe for some fly fishing. He starts a solo path around the island. I get up close to 6 and start to walk the shore with a topwater bait. Nothing biting for me. I run into the fly fisherman in 45 minutes. I jump in the canoe grab the fly rod and catch a few smallmouth. This is always a good way to start the day. We head back and as always, Brian is working on a morning fire for coffee. That percolator has been well worth bringing on the trip. This will be a lazy morning with no set plans. We all go out for a father/son fishing excursion after breakfast. It is late morning. We all have some success and we’ll have to clean some fish for a sampler before dinner tonight. It is turning out to be the best day with the weather. It will be 80 and sunny today. We have lunch and many look to be about to nap. I take a canoe down the island ( no tipping) and load it up with a bunch of wood. I want a big fire tonight. I find some good birch. I get back , unload and swamp my canoe to cool off. This will be my first bath for the week. The water is cool but feels great. Everyone is up from naps and all jump in to cool off and get cleaned up. I conclude my wood pile is not big enough and find a second load. The second load will get us thru a good night and the morning coffee and cooking. We plan to eat a bit early to to get on the water at prime time ….7-9PM. We get a great cooking fire going , eat well with a fish starter and even a chocolate cake provided by the outfitter. We are skeptical but the cake tastes pretty good. The food is not a priority on this trip ( other than a few fish meals) but the food provided by Canoe Country is just fine. Another possible disappointment avoided by the outfitter. We are done with food and chores and can go fishing by 6:30. We leave the three boys behind and I get in the middle of a three man canoe. We want to find some walleye in the channel. I think they must be near the current around the corner, but Dick suggests we head to where we caught one or two yesterday. The water is calm but a small current moves the canoe just enough. It doesn’t take long to find our first fish. We narrow in and both Lindy rigs and jigs with leeches catch nice walleye. I am so glad these guys felt a walleye bite….isn’t that a great feeling? Dick catches a nice 20+ fish. Without a net, we have to figure out a way wrestle it in from my middle position in the canoe. Other good eater size walleye follow. We finish by 9 to have enough light to clean the fish. It is a good fishing session. The great day continues with a big fire, sky full of stars and such, good camp fire conversation. We are all down by 11 AM. Tomorrow is a big travel day …..we’d love to get out of camp early.
We get out of camp earlier than expected at 8:15AM. We have plan to go out Friday Bay , thru some of the small lakes, get to Gun, Boot, Fourtown. We’ll have the one mile potage and wonder if there is water in the creeks connecting the small lakes. Worse case….we’re walking thru a mud bog.[paragraph break] We have good water to start and paddle in smooth water until we head south into Friday. As usual, we get a headwind. If we get to the south end of Friday Bay by 10:30, I’d be happy. We end up getting thru our first portage by 10:15, so we are ahead of schedule. The creeks have plenty of water and we fire down to the start of the 300+ rod portage. The boys have been good about carrying the canoe, but I want to do this one. We have never tried to single portage …this will be no different. As we finish this long one, I wonder how many people can or want to do that?. We pass some Boy Scouts and leaders on the trail. They are struggling. We help when we can and carry a pack back on our free trip. Today is a dry portage and not so rocky. We get through and have lunch before we take off again. We were probably finished in about 90 minutes. I timed how much I walked one stretch with a pack on. Could I do a mile in 16 minutes? It was closer to 25. It was a good accomplishment but I glad were done.Back into the canoes by 2 PM.We are still into a wind in the barrel of Gun Lake. A group going the opposite way is canoe sailing the other way. They are moving with their tarp sail, but not terribly fast. It looks better than going into the wind. We move past Gun and Fairy and the short portages associated. It is time to look for a site. The first and second site we want on Boot are taken. The third site is less than desirable. The next two are taken. We have one more on Boot or we’re making another portage into Fourtown. The site is available….we take it. We’ve spent 8 hrs traveling today. We’re all glad to get off the water. I think we traveled 15 miles today. We have enough time to set up camp and eat before a bit of rain starts to fall. After dinner, the dads go out to see if we can find more walleye. We have been following to same two guys most of the day. They’ve expressed interest in catching northerns and we stop by to give them a a few Flukes to see if they work for them also. A few rock bass but no walleye on the points of Boot tonight. The mosquitoes chase us back to camp where the boys have a decent fire going. We are not too far from bed time. We put in a good day of travel. It’ll make tomorrow easy. Mudro exit by 4PM.
Nicholas and Cole sleep in their hammocks and I hear the rain start at sometime late in the night. I turns out to be about 4 AM. They have a tarp over them which can handle most of the light rain, but not the heavier stuff I think I hear. Eventually, Cole comes in our tent and quickly falls asleep in the middle. I have no problem going back to sleep, also. My last though is…..I wonder what Nicholas is doing? When I get up, the rain has stopped and I find Nicholas stayed out in the rain. He is in a soaked bag with about 25 gallons of water being held up by the tarp. As everything else on the trip, he handles it well. It is good this isn’t a spring or fall trip. The temperature is in the 60’s. We have a wet camp but nowhere to be until 4 PM this afternoon. I am determined to start a morning fire and work on that while the rest work on pancakes. I find plenty of birch bark and semi dry birch, small semi dry pine. It takes awhile but I get hot coals and help it along with some extra white gas. The pancakes are great…. we have a double batch. We eat as much as we can to lighten the load. We are as lean and mean as we can get other than the added weight of all the wet gear. I wonder how many pounds of water we are carrying? A slow camp breakdown, extra coffee, more stories (how did you meet your wife/mom? Have you ever been in jail?) we take off in a driving rain near 11AM. The kids eat up the heavy rain…as heavy as it has been the whole trip. We only have a few 100 yards to our first short portage. Funny, after a few days in the woods , you laugh at the 40-60 rod portages. I wish we time to spend in Fourtown. It looks like a great lake. We see very little activity on the water or at the campsites…there must be some folks out there?? I drag a line behind for the last time on the trip. Dick is catching smallmouth doing the same. The wind is not so bad today, so you can pay attention to your pole without concern of navigation. We are getting near the end with a few portages, 10 rod, 141 rod, 30 rod, ahead. The new CCC should get rid of that 10 rod….Am I not paying extra taxes for a stimulus package?? To this point,the 315 rod portage has been the most difficult. This 140 rod, with hills, rocks (wet rocks), is a really good test. We take a pack over just to see the trail. It has good elevation change and plenty of rock. The rain makes if very difficult. I have been very concerned and expressed this to the group….be careful on the portages. We will make this trip with no injuries , if we make this portage. I conclude I can not do the canoe alone. Bryce is the only one who tries and succeeds. He takes it as a challenge. I still don’t know how he made it. Two of the canoes are taken over with two people. I am dripping wet inside my rain coat from sweat after this portage. Again, a good feeling when done. One regret is not getting pictures with someone carrying a canoe. The last portage is uneventful and we are into Mudro Lake. We were at this spot 6 days ago but going up the other shore line. I like our loop route…..no duplication. The creek to the EP is lower than a week ago. The last 100 yards is pushing the canoe over the sand as opposed to floating. We left last Thursday morning at 7 AM; we arrived back Tuesday around 3:30PM. As we get our first pack out of the canoe, Peter from Canoe Country walks down the path. More good timing and service from Canoe Country Outfitters. We take a few finishing pictures and load the stuff in the trailer. I share a victory cigar with Dick as we finish the work. I still have some leeches left any they all wonder why I portages them the whole way. One reason….they are still alive. We wish Chain Saw Sisters was still open. Also, I can not believe Tom Watson almost won the Open, Tiger missed the cut. Pete did not know who won the GMO or how the Brewers did that week. We find out we are not at war with Canada.
The hot shower feels especially good in Ely before dinner at Ely Steakhouse. We all appreciate civilization and other people. The boys enjoy texting their girlfriends.Dinner is great with stories and laughs. I don’t feel it yet, but a letdown is coming. Wow….what a trip.
A few thoughts:
I am tough on cameras in the woods. I have lost too many into the water.I received a new Olympus Sylus 1030SW waterproof/shockproof camera for fathers Day. It handled the trip very well. It was in my pocket when I tipped the canoe. I also put on a floating lanyard. It won't sink to the bottom. I worked on some underwater shots as well as video. I'll get better at it.
The bugs were basically non existent. A bit of an issue at the latrine, but nowhere else. No black flies or ticks. I got a tick on the first round of golf when I got home. Guess where I hit that drive?
Wind was a bit of a factor.It would have been nice to paddle with the wind or no wind more often. We were never blown off the lake or lakebound and never tipped with gear in the canoe. Compared to the portages, paddling was a rest time. I did love the challenge of the portages. Longest was 328, but most difficult was a 140 with elevation, rain, and rocks. The Kevlar canoes were a joy. Certainly, easier on the portages. I was really glad when I saw an aluminum go by. The canoes were great in the water....very manageable even in the wind.
The weather is the weather. We appreciated the nicer days, but the spitting rain was a non factor.The heavier rains were fun while falling, but made a portage tougher.My military issued Gortex was great.Mild temperatures made the rain easier to accept.
We avoided any serious injuries. A few good falls on some slick shoreline rocks, but nothing longstanding. There might be a few bruises.The boys swinging axes, slick rocks on portages...we did good. My hands end up like hamburburger just like every other extended outdoor trip.
I drank the water direct from the lake. Never close to shore, always over deeper water. I only stuck my arm elbow deep.Most of the group was usuing the filter or boiled water. By the end of the week, all was drinking direct from the lake. It is a week later....no sickness.
This was a first for eating northern pike. The meat was great, but I did butcher some fillets. The You Tube video on removing Y bones only goes so far. Nothing replaces practice. The walleyes were a joy to cut.
Can't say enough good things about Canoe Country Outfitters. As I said in my opening remarks, I was waiting to be let down. It never happened. They met every expectation.
I'll have to return for another "trip of a lifetime"....I wonder when I'll get the chance?