BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 17 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
Boot Lake Basecamp
June 13, 2010
Number of Days:
Can this trip compare to last year's my brother and I are both wondering? Last year's trip (our 1st time here) to a basecamp on Shell Lake had been just about perfect in every way; great weather, no rain to speak of, great campsite, virtually no bugs, and good fishing. We are not expecting to have all those conditions come together again, but we are still both excited about our trip this year, planning to basecamp on Boot Lake. We have gone with Canoe Country Outfitters, mainly because they have a motel attached to their business and we want to be sure to have a place to stay both before and after. So after driving here yesterday and going over our gear one more time, we are off to an early start to Brittons for breakfast, then over to The Great Outdoors to pick up leeches. I wanted to go there since I had seen so much of him on the messageboards in the months leading up to the trip.[paragraph break]This years trip did not involve quite as much preparation as last years, since last year was our first and now we had most of our gear assembled. Still, repeatedly accessing this site and bombarding it with questions greatly enhanced my anticipation. What a great site this is! Like last year, my brother has a supply of mail order cigars sent to my house since apparently his family does not want him to have them. Prior to our trip I sneak them over so he can pack them into the bottom of his new duluth pack.[paragraph break]We get to the parking lot at Mudro a couple of years too late to see the famous Chainsaw Sisters saloon that I read so much about, but instead we get to see a snapping turtle laying it's eggs in the middle of the sandy parking lot.
We put in at Mudro, and paddle the serpent-like river through a sea of grass before emerging into the lake proper. The dreaded 3 portages to Fourtown are in front of us now, and I have read much about how arduous they are. Maybe because it's the beginning of our trip and we are fresh, or maybe because they didn't live up to their hype, but they didn't seem all that bad to me. Even the cliff-like put in to Fourtown wasn't that big of a deal really. I do play it smart and carry the canoe over the long middle portage, so I have a good excuse to let my brother do it on the trip back. Har, Har!! After triple portaging it is probably a bit later in the day when we get to Fourtown than when most people reach it, and after paddling it for a bit we are passed by a couple of canoes who say they are probably pushing thru to camp on Fairy. We are planning to camp on Boot so I'm not concerned. We enjoy the paddle and the easy portage to Boot, and it is all down hill from here. No more portages; the next time we unload it is basecamp for the week! We pass the first couple sites on Boot which are unoccupied, but look terrible. I had read on this site that the second campsite was pretty good, but it's claustrophobic and crappy in our opinion so we push on to check out the middle and northern sites. Sure enough; the group that had passed us and said they were going to Fairy is now engaged in setting up on the nice looking middle campsite. At least half of them are; one canoe is setting up camp there, and the other canoe is heading up to the northernmost campsite also! What the ____?!?!? My blood pressure goes down though when the "scouting mission" canoe returns to their main campsite without staking a claim to the northernmost site, which is now open and ready for our arrival. We beach the canoe, unload and set up camp at what in my opinion is the nicest of the campsites on that lake. Whoo Hoo!! We are set![paragraph break] As we are unpacking and setting up our tents I hear increasingly agitated noises and then a scream of primal rage from over by my brother's tentpad. Apparently the cigars he went to so much trouble to obtain didn't make it into his pack after all! (What did make it into his new pack was a nice rip from hauling it out of the canoe over a rivet instead of lifting it out.) Not exactly the start to his trip that he would have hoped for I'll bet. [paragraph break] We still have a couple of hours of daylight left, so we head out to do what we came for; to fish! A light rain has started, but without any strong wind it's bearable. The fishing is not great, but we don't get skunked either. Then it's back to camp for a dinner of italian sausage and planning out the attack for tomorrow,our first full day.
Today's day trip is to Fairy lake, which is the one north of Boot. I have read a lot of positive comments on this site about this lake and it's campsites and I'm looking forward to seeing it in person. When we get there though it seems nothing special; no different than any of the other lakes we have seen. And the fishing is terrible! We don't get a single fish; not even a strike. We stay on the island there for a while, then go to the western campsite to have lunch. The campsite doesn't live up to the glowing reports I had read about it either. We head back to Boot, and then finally in the southern bay of Fairy I get my first fish; a lunker northern! See photo.... Back on Boot we catch enough smallies on the way back to camp to have a fish dinner, but just barely. I would have to call it a mediocre day. Let's hope tomorrow is more memorable.[paragraph break]This actually happened on the 16th, but I'm including it on today's entry because it's the shortest. We are cleaning our catch on the rocks near the bushline, and there are some tiny, tiny flying insects that are irritating us. I notice they seem to be concentrated near the bushes so I move about ten feet away onto the bare rock and that seems to end the problem. My brother opts to remain where he is, near the bushes, with this result: The price of stubborness! :-)
Today there is very little wind, which is a nice change. We spend the morning fishing the lake around camp, and catch a few smallies and a sunfish that is barely larger than my lure. Just south of our camp there is a weedy bay with a rocky peninsula extending into it. To stretch our legs we beach the canoe and cast for a while from shore. Nothing for a while, then paydirt! I get a strike from a very nice northern deep back in the weeds and am able to work him back to shore without losing him. I feel pretty satisfied to have succesfully landed him since it is the biggest Northern I have ever caught. (32" long, although he weighs 2 lbs less than than the 32" one my brother caught on our first day) It's getting later so we head back to camp for a pancake breakfast before heading out for our daytrip.[paragraph break] We have already been north to Fairy lake, so we decide to head out east to Fourtown. We fish the islands in the bay just east of the portage from Boot, but with little luck. Since there is very little wind today we are finally able to throw lures other than spinners and I catch a tiny pike on a tube bait, but nothing else. There is a rocky edge on the western shore of one of the islands, and the map shows deep water near shore there so we stop to relax for a while, fish from shore and have a snack lunch. Before even unloading the canoe I take a few quick casts and right away hook another nice pike! My camera is back in the canoe and he seems firmly hooked, so I leave him on the line and go back for my camera. By the time I get back to my rod he is gone of course. Oh well, I'm not too upset since I have the pictures from the one this morning, and that was the bigger of the two. We also catch a few smallmouth on leeches, and get some with lures, and my brother catches a nice walleye with a rat'l'trap. (the only walleye we catch the entire week incidentally. strange...) [paragraph break]When we get back to camp we find something surprising has happened; something has eaten the guts out of one of the fish we had left on our stringer! Strangely, it seems as if most of the meat is left, but all of the organs have been chewed out. I think maybe it was a mink, or weasel. I'm not sure what animals live around there, but last year we saw something that looked like a weasel to me, so maybe that was the culprit. Strange how he left the other 4 fish totally untouched though. But thanks Mr. Weasel; at least this way everybody got a nice fish dinner. :-)[paragraph break] The sun breaks out for a while to illuminate the eastern shore visible from camp.
It's with a bit of sadness that I realize today is our last full day; tomorrow we pack up and leave. And the wind has picked up again, so it's back to spinners for us today. Maybe this turns out to be a good thing, because this morning I hook the biggest northern of my life. Not a real monster, but my personal best. I cannot land him from the canoe, so when the wind blows us into shore I step out and bring him into the shallows where I can pick him up with two hands. I have managed to pick him up in a very awkward grip, so I put him back down to adjust my hand position so I can pose for a few more photos. My barbed lure is all the way thru his mouth and out the side, so it won't hurt to lay him in the shallows for just a second. I place him back in the water, and in the time it takes me to switch my hand position this houdini of a fish has somehow manged to spit the lure and is casually swimming out to sea as I just stand there and watch; dumbfounded at how quickly it happened! I'm a bit depressed, but my brother did get me on video fighting and landing him, and I do have the one photo as proof that it really happened, so eventually I have gotten over it. [paragraph break] We catch a few decent size smallmouth in the 1 lb+ range, but nothing else to brag about so we go back to camp for breakfast. Since it's pretty windy today, and since we have already daytripped to the lakes above and below Boot, we decide to stay on Boot and fish the southern end of it where we will be at least somewhat sheltered from the southern wind. I catch another respectable northern, which somewhat eases my pain from losing the one in the morning. [paragraph break]We eventually get tired of fighting the wind, so we beach on an island at the southern end of boot to stretch our legs and fish from shore. Ken fishing from the island.[paragraph break]The skies are clouding up and we are having no luck from the island so we decide to head back to camp. We pull into a sheltered bay on the way back, and it's nice to get out of the wind. A light rain starts as we casually paddle and fish in this welcome shelter. All of a sudden one of us looks up and notices that the sky is looking black, and we hear the rumble of approaching thunder. We hurry back to camp, and not more than a few minutes later the skies open up! [paragraph break]We are happy that we set up a tarp for just such an occasion as this, and for a while we sit under it reading and snacking and watching the show. There are some incredibly loud thunderclaps that sound as if lightning must have struck pretty close to us. After a while though, the rain is so hard and steady that trickles start to flow in little rivers under the tarp. We sit up on life jackets for a while, but it gets to be too much and we both retreat to our tents. [paragraph break]Once in my tent I discover that it is not 100% waterproof; rain has come in through the windows I think, and formed a bunch of puddles. Luckily my sleeping bag was on a pad and has not acted as a sponge soaking up these puddles. I break out a camp towel and a pot and spend the next 20 minutes or so blotting and squeezing to get the small lakes down to merely wet spots. I'm envious of Ken over in his dry tent, but later I discover he had the exact same situation I had. The rain eventually tapers off and stops long enough for us to cook and eat dinner, and for a brief spell the sun even manages to break through right at sunset.
We wake to mostly clear skies, and are grateful the rain has ended. But oh, the wind!! I don't have enough experience on the water to realize what a pain this is going to be. This is the view looking south from our campsite. We will be canoeing directly into this wind almost all day. And I do mean DIRECTLY into it! It's like something from a nightmare; as long as we are headed anywhere close to south, or think we will be able to canoe in the shelter of land the wind direction changes just enough to be right in our face. [paragraph break]As we break camp my brother asks me if I want any of the water from the big jug. It's treated with iodine tablets and is the water we used to cook with; for drinking we used a filter pump. I say I don't want any so he dumps it, I have a mostly full quart bottle and a smaller one which I figure will be enough. We pack up, load the canoe and head out. As we head south, paddling directly into the wind, waves occasionally roll high enough to come in over the side, although I don't know this at the time because I'm sitting in front. Other than this we make it to the southern shore of the lake without incident, although we are both pretty tired by the time we get there. Once near the southern shore though the waves are no longer a problem and we head east to the portage to Fourtown. [paragraph break]We are hugging the southern shore to avoid the wind, but as we look to the northern shore we see a tree still burning that must have been struck by lightning the previous night. We paddle out a little to get a closer look, but we don't get too far out and even with the telephoto lens the picture I get doesn't really show much detail. In retrospect I regret that we didn't paddle closer to get a better look; how often in my life am I going to have a chance to see a still burning lightning struck tree? [paragraph break] We get to the portage and enjoy a welcome break from the wind. Once in Fourtown we are in a sheltered bay so the wind is not that much of a factor yet there either. The tree tops are swaying something fierce, but at water level it's not too bad. But once we make it out of this bay and into the main lake look out! The waves are a bit high, the wind is wicked, and we are getting pretty tired having to constantly fight it. We make it to another sheltered bay and stop to rest and scout out the rest of the lake. We had hoped that the wind direction was such that by hugging the western shore of Fourtown we would be protected, but this turns out not to be the case at all; the wind seems to have shifted enough to be directly coming from the bottom of the lake, so there is zero protection by the shore. I'm exhausted from paddling, and my water supply is low enough that I'm wishing I'd taken a big drink from that jug this morning, and topped off my water bottles. 20/20 hindsight.[paragraph break]There is nothing to do but get on with it, so we push out of the bay intending to head south to the portage. No dice! Almost immediately the wind is wipping the front of the canoe around such that it is impossible to keep it straight. The next thing we know we are broadside to the wind and waves, and our canoe is acting like a sail now. Turning back into the wind proves to be impossible, and we are pointing away from shore so going back there is not an option either! We are bobbing up and down pretty far from peak to trough, at least it feels that way to my stomach. After a few moments of terror on my part it seems like we are going to be able to stay upright, although now we are facing the far shore and like it or not, that is where we are going. [paragraph break] Looking back at where we came from. The far shore is where we got pushed off course and driven to this side of the lake. [paragraph break] We stop here thanking God we are still dry and have all our gear, and have a snack while deciding what to do. We regain our strength and decide we can make it past a rough patch to another southern shore where we will receive some protection from the wind. It is gruelling, but we do so without further incident. We are now at the southern end of the lake, and the waves are no longer the big rollers from earlier, but the wind has not let up one iota. Even though the waves are no longer scary, we fight the wind every inch of the way to the portage. [paragraph break] Looking down at our canoe from the top of the portage into Fourtown. It looks pretty high here, but actually is not as bad as it looks. Or maybe I was just so happy to be safely on dry land again that I wasn't being too picky. :-)[paragraph break] Looking north into Fourtown from the portage. [paragraph break] We take the three portages south into Mudro, and even on the brief stretches of water between portages the wind is an irritating factor! There are several places where trees have blown down across the trails, and the treetops are swaying back and forth like crazy while the wind howls down the canyon. A couple of times we hear the craaaaaaacking as trees must be coming down somewhere, althouth we don't actually see any come down. At the last of these three portages I drain the last of my rationed water and start looking forward to getting a nice cold Mountain Dew once we get back to Ely. [paragraph break]Fighting the wind all the way out on our last day was not a great way to end our trip, and even during the week the wind had most times been strong enough to keep us from fishing the way we would have preferred. Our enthusiasm about the boundary waters is not as strong as it was after our first trip. But then by the following weekend after I have downloaded and looked at my photos and movies I am already missing it. We were not able to go the following year; 2011, but we have a trip scheduled for this summer (mid June, 2012). I am writing this trip report in the spring of 2012, as a way of building my excitement for my upcoming trip. It's working! God willing I will be able to keep the BWCA in my vacation plans for the next several decades.[paragraph break]Note: I looked up the weather records for that date and Ely recorded winds of 25 mph, with gusts up to 38mph.