BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 19 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
One New Fisherman
August 29, 2011
Mudro Lake (restricted--no camping on Horse Lake)
Number of Days:
This trip started years ago when I stopped at the Wilderness Journey Guide and Outfitters booth at the Quiet Waters Symposium in East Lansing, Michigan. After talking to the guy there, I signed up for their online newsletter. Since then I have read each edition with interest. This spring I received an email stating that I was the winner of a fully outfitted and guided canoe trip.
I had never fished, so while talking to Ramsey, the guide who would be taking me, it was decided that he would teach me to fish and our trip would emphasize fishing.
In May I attended a meeting with all the parties being guided by Wilderness Journey. Most attending were “newbies”. Information sheets were handed out with rules, lists for personal clothing, what to include in each personal pack, and suggested fishing equipment. One thing was made clear: the guide does not DO DISHES!
The scheduling of the trip was complicated. When was the guide available, when was our granddaughter (whom we had taken for a cabin week the past four years) available, and when could we be gone for three weeks so that Spartan2 and I could have a 6-day trip? After many communications with everyone involved, my trip was scheduled to begin on August 29th.
Next I needed someone to assist me in gathering the fishing equipment. I contacted Jason Olmsted (oldgentleman on bwca.com) and he agreed to help me. We set a date and I traveled to Lansing and took him to lunch. We then went to Gander Mountain, where he works part-time in the fishing department, and worked off the list. Total was under $200.
On August 17th we traveled to the Chicago area and picked up our granddaughter and we were on our way. Our travels included a visit with friends in The Cities, then on to Rockwood Lodge on the Gunflint for a week in the cabin.
After our daughter picked up her daughter, we traveled to Ely, where Spartan2 would stay in a cabin while I was on my “fishing” trip. We met with Ramsey on Sunday afternoon and made final plans. He would pick me up at the cabin at 5:00 AM.
Day 1: Mudro to Sand Pit, Tin Can Mike, Horse, Horse River, Lower Basswood Falls, Crooked (Wednesday Bay and Thursday Bay).
Day 2 and 3: In camp
Day 4: Thursday and Friday Bay, Pappoose, Chippewa, Niki, Wagosh, Gun, Fairy.
Day 5: Boot, Fourtown, Mudro.
Monday morning Spartan2 had me up and fed before 5 AM. Ramsey was on time. We loaded my personal pack into the van and we were on our way. He stopped at the gas station by VNO and bought coffee, a muffin, and a banana. By 5:45 we were unloading the van in the dark parking lot for entry point #22, Mudro (Horse restricted). He had drunk his coffee and eaten the banana.
The water level was very low and later while pulling the canoe through rapids, I think he wished he had also eaten the muffin. We didn’t see anyone until we arrived at the portage to Tin Can Mike, three guys with one canoe going our way. Their method of carry was one on each end of the canoe with gear inside. We passed them on the portage.
Ramsey had it arranged so he would double and I would single on portages. His first trip was the equipment pack and the canoe. On the second he had the duffel and his personal pack. My load was the food pack, my personal pack, two chairs, three paddles and the fishing poles in a tube. If at all possible, we didn’t portage, just dragged the canoe through the rocks.
On one the water was so low we portaged around it and he said that it was the first time in 8 years.
As we ended the last portage on the Horse River, a party of eight, three adults and five teenagers, were unloading three canoes and were blocking the landing area. They were very disorganized, but while Ramsey went for his second load they cleared space for us to put in. A lady with shorts and low shoes inquired about leeches. I told her with my socks and long pants I hadn’t seen any. Ramsey said later that she had asked him the same question when she saw him on the portage.
The next portage was around Lower Basswood Falls. Again the water level was very low, nothing like it was when I was here in 1985. Here are pictures of the falls and of Ramsey waiting while I took the pictures.
At about 12:30 we stopped for lunch at the first campsite past the falls. All were empty and no people. This is where we had the discussion about whether we should camp or continue to Thursday Bay. Many of his groups continued on, but due to my age (66) and health concerns (diabetes and kidney transplant) he didn’t want to push too hard. I indicated that I felt fine and as long as I kept refueling with granola bars and Gushers I was able to go. I ate a total of eight that day.
So on we went at about 1:30, past the pictographs,
and table rock where Spartan2 and I had camped in 1985,
and past these scenes on the way to Thursday Bay:
We stopped at a narrows at the top of Thursday Bay due to low water. It is near a campsite that Spartan2 and I used as a warm-up spot on our 1985 trip, after a cold, rainy trip from Curtain Falls.
After a very windy paddle on Thursday Bay, we arrived at our campsite about 5:00. It seemed amazing that we had passed twenty-five campsites and had only seen three of them occupied!
Here are photos of our campsite before and after the tarp was erected:
Dinner tonight was hamburg, cheese, and onion burritos with rice and beans.
It was a long day, but enjoyable. Ramsey said we traveled 22 miles.
It was my responsibility to filter the water. The filter wasn’t working very efficiently, so it was a tedious task, and not my favorite one.
When I started preparing to do the dishes, he said the normal procedure was to use cold lake water. That made me uncomfortable with my health considerations, so I used filtered water for rinsing. After that he would warm some filtered water for washing.
At 7:05 the temperature in the tent was 54. Outside was bright and sunny, with no wind and mist on the channel. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with green pepper/cheese/onion, potatoes with green pepper/onion, and sausage patties. He only had regular coffee (I have to have decaf) so I didn’t have any this trip.
Ramsey set up my fishing gear and we went out for about three hours. I trolled in the bow and he paddled and trolled from the stern. I caught 2 walleye
2 pike and 2 snags, losing one lure.
Ramsey caught 3 walleye, 1 pike and lost 1 lure.
For lunch we had walleye and rice with almonds. The temperature was 84.
During the afternoon there was a canoe that came by looking for a campsite. They camped at another site on the bay.
Between lunch and fishing, I went exploring back in the woods behind our campsite. During this trip I found pieces of a Styrofoam cooler. One piece had a little 3” pine tree growing in it. The pieces were collected so we could haul them out.
In the late afternoon we went fishing for about two hours. This time I caught a 24” walleye, a 30” pike, and a bass. While reeling in my line by camp a pike just bit off the lure. Ramsey caught four fish, including a 36” pike. Here is a photo of Ramsey losing my 30” pike over the side of the canoe.
Dinner tonight was Hamburger Helper lasagna.
There was light rain during the night. It was 60 degrees in the tent and outside it was misty or light rain all morning.
About noon we went out for about two hours on a wood gathering and fishing trip. I caught a 19” bass and 2 pike.
I also caught a 5” or 6” bass with a pike attached. We didn’t land the pike. Ramsey also caught several fish.
Mid-afternoon it was 64. While out we saw a loon family of two adults and one chick.
For a late lunch we had grilled chicken, garlic potatoes, asparagus, and a nectarine.
I had told Ramsey the story of how on a trip to Pine Lake years ago I had found a teeny-tiny tree in a downed log and how Spartan2 had planted it, hoping it would survive. Then about going back years later and not being able to identify for sure where she had planted it. Ramsey then took my folding trowel and planted the little tree I had found.
About 6:00 we went out fishing for about an hour. I caught 2 pike and 2 bass. Ramsey caught several fish, too.
Dinner was pike and walleye with mac and cheese.
At 10:40 it was 62 in the tent.
Today it was time to start out. Again there was a discussion about our route. Should we go to lower Basswood Falls and out to the Horse River or exit through Friday Bay, which would include a 300-rod portage? The weather was light rain with some thunder. Ramsey felt that going back the way we came in was the easy route. I preferred exploring new areas, so wanted to go through Friday Bay. This route would take me through four lakes I hadn’t been on before.
At 11:00 we left camp for Friday Bay, which was windy. We saw an otter and a juvenile eagle.
After traveling through Pappoose, Chippewa, Niki, and Wagosh Lakes, we stopped for lunch at the landing for the long portage. It started to rain and continued while we did the portage. Fisher and Voyageur maps say the length is 300 rods and McKenzie has it at 328 rods. We made the crossing in about 35 minutes. While I was on the landing at Gun, there were two groups, one going in each direction. After Ramsey made his second carry we had a nectarine, and the sun had come out. Ramsey remarked that the group headed to Thursday Bay would really have to push it or they would arrive very late.
Ramsey had heard about a nice site on Fairy Lake that he wanted to check out, so we crossed Gun, and the Fairy site was open. There are several tent pads and we chose the upper ones.
Dinner tonight was pork tenderloin with mac and cheese and asparagus.
This morning was very cloudy.
I took some photos of the campsite as we were getting ready to leave.
We traveled through Boot and saw an otter and two eagles. We also saw the campsite that Spartan2 and I stayed at in 1985. On Fourtown we stopped for lunch on the west side of the southern narrows. As we were packing up we noticed an old trash dump in the rocks just back from shore.
After three difficult portages we were on Mudro, and out to the parking lot. For the last ten rods it was so shallow that we had to walk the canoe.
Ramsey dropped me and my gear off at the cabin where Spartan2 was waiting to hear all about it. Then he was on his way. Trip over.
The next day we went into Ely to do laundry and Ramsey was at the Laundromat. He went home and got his camera card, allowing Spartan2 to copy his pictures.
This was a very different type of trip. I wasn’t doing the majority of the heavy lifting. Was in the bow, not the stern. Didn’t have to navigate. The emphasis was on fishing, not on scenery or photography. We had fresh food for dinners, not freeze dried. Going with someone I hardly knew versus someone I have tripped with many times. Having a SPOT along to send messages to someone waiting for us.
Not better or worse, just different.
I had a good time. I always have a good time in the BWCA.
If you would like to see Ramsey’s “take” on our trip, go to www.gowildernessjourney.com and it should be featured in the next issue of the monthly newsletter.