BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 25 2019
Trout Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Cook, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 30 miles. Access from LakeVermilion via 60-rod canoe portage or 180-rod portage that allows the use of portage wheels. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1381 feet
Trout Lake - 1
Turtle Watch !
June 04, 2012
Number of Days:
** Travel – Sat/Sun, June 2nd-3rd ** It was about 4:15 a.m. as I pulled up quietly to the curb in front of Matthew’s house, killing my lights and drifting to a stop. I could see his gear stashed up on his porch, and the light through the front door. Unlike last year, there were no hitches to be had here at the get-go of the first-day road trip. He was outside within 2 or 3 minutes, we loaded his stuff into the back of the Jeep, re-tied our cargo net, and headed out, stopping briefly to top off our tank, and onto the road. Stopping only for gas, we blazed the I-35 trail from Fort Worth, TX until about 6:00 pm that evening, and after 910 miles, we “made camp” in Albert Lea, MN. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner at a restaurant beside our hotel and turned in just after dark, enjoying the pillows and comfy beds while we could ! We were up by 6 a.m on Sunday, enjoyed a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, then hit the road just after 7 for the balance of our North-bound trip, about 350 miles, to our outfitter’s place in Babbitt, MN. We pulled into their place just after 2, and admired Jim’s driving skills on his riding lawn-mower,until he saw us sitting there watching him ! The four of us (Bret drove over from town) visited- went over our gear and paperwork – and caught up until about 4, after which Matthew and I drove to Blomberg’s for our fishing licenses, then to The Hideaway. After a light dinner, a few games of pool (both of which Matthew won), and laughing with some of the locals, we made back to Jim’s and turned in for the night…neither admitting it..but both barely holding back the adrenaline that was already building for the next morning.
Part 1 of 8
** Day 1 **[paragraph break] My phone alarm began to beep at 5:00, but both of us had already been half-awake. Within 20-30 minutes we had our gear out by the suburban – eager for our 6:15 planned departure time. Jim made up some fresh coffee over in the Kitchen Haus, along with a few boiled eggs, and as a new treat, FRESHLY BAKED, and I mean STILL warm, sweet rolls from a place over in Babbitt. Nice touch![paragraph break] We all chatted for a very short bit, then wished Jim a good week as we loaded up, and headed out for our drop off up at Nels Lake. Our entry permit was for Mudro, but, in one of his several route suggestions for the year, Owen had proposed going in at Nels, then crossing thru Picket, and putting into Mudro from there.[paragraph break] The drive took almost no time it seemed, maybe 45-50 minutes, and we were there. Bret unloaded the canoe, helped with our gear, took the obligatory “first day shove-off” photo, then wished us well and headed out. Matthew and I paused for a prayer here at the start, as we always do, then took a brief moment to just take in the reality of being here finally, and to breathe that fresh air.[paragraph break] Nels was quiet and still, almost glass-like. We tried to disturb the water as little as possible as we loaded up, set up our flag on the stern, and pushed out to begin this year’s adventure. Within the first 15 minutes, we saw our first Loon, heard the first chatters of chipmunks, and saw a small, beautiful waterfall on the Southern shore as we headed East. It was all we had hoped for here at the start – and as always – one of those moments that had me whispering Thanks for all that I had.[paragraph break] The portage to Picket Pond was on the right near the end of the lake, marked by a faded pink ribbon in a Pine tree on the shore’s edge. We both laughed, wishing we’d had a marker of some kind on some elusive portages in the past, but at the same time, very GLAD that there had NOT been any. It was part of the allure of being in the Boundary Waters for me – finding your way – doing the best you could with what you had, in this case : your head, a map, a compass, your eyes, help from your companion, etc..[paragraph break] The trail across would have been easy if not for a downed tree, right across the path at a downward slope, that made for a small bit of improvising, but running on 1st-Day adrenaline, it was nothing. The water levels were high. It allowed us to put in very early, and made this first long portage seem like two. We put back in to cross a small pond-like area…and in going across a narrow spot, got hung up just enough to come to a stop in the moving water.[paragraph break] I rolled up my pants and got out into knee-deep water, to get weight off the back and free us, but it was in the middle where our gear was that had us held there in limbo. Matthew leaned over to push off a rock, and almost instantly I heard him say, “That’s just great”. His wedding ring had slipped right off his finger. Neither of us really believed we would find it at all, but we just stopped what we were doing, situated the canoe just enough to create a water break and still up the water at the bow where he had been leaning over. We slowly and carefully turned and moved several rocks, letting the silt clear to see if we could spot it through the rushing water. After almost 20 minutes of slow-motion reaching and peering into the water, Matthew pulled his hand up out of the water, and there it was ! Neither of us could believe it, and both agreed, as he secured it onto a locking necklace he wore, that “removing jewelry the night before the trip” would be a new checklist rule.[paragraph break] We got going again, and soon reached a dam that made us get out again, then across a short 20 rods, not too difficult, double-carrying our canoe. On both portages I inadvertently picked up some unwanted passengers, a total of 5 ticks in the brush, but thankfully, I felt them on me before they latched on.[paragraph break] It was a long, quiet pull over Picket. About halfway across we saw our first Bald Eagle – it made me wish we could see them more often. I was surprised to see the private pier, and cabin, off to the left of the old bridge piles, but then remembered we were outside the BWCA, and the strangeness passed ![paragraph break] We got near the end of Picket and drifted up to the two big drain pipes under the road crossing. There was a mass of folks unloading their gear and canoes, all clearing the road and readying to put in at Mudro. We both shared our wishes NOT to get hung up behind all these guys, and as we drifted up to the end of Picket, saw that the water running through the left drain seemed deep enough, and that the pipe was plenty clear all the way through. “Let’s do it”, Matthew said, and as one young man looked surprised to see us coming up from the other side of the road, his look became doubly-surprised as we waved, then paddled right under him and into the drain pipe![paragraph break] On the other side, there were a few branches on each side of the stream, but nothing major, and with the water level up, we paddled right on down that stream, beside all the people humping it down the Mudro portage trail, with many looks of disbelief and someone even saying, “Hey, that isn’t fair!”. LOL !![paragraph break] Right at the portage put-in, we veered out of the stream mouth and paddled right on by 5 or 6 canoes loading up at the water’s edge, getting set to start their trips. “How lucky was THAT?”, I said, as we began the long, curvy channel that headed over to Mudro-proper from the portage. Getting caught behind 5, 6 or even more canoes would’ve been miserable through here.[paragraph break] We came out onto and crossed Mudro, paying attention off to the left where the portage over from Horse came in. Further down. the portage into Sandpit was short, but a little strenuous. It was a steady uphill climb at first, then a very steep, rocky downhill backend, and very muddy down at Sandpit.[paragraph break] The wind had begun to pick up on us, but we paid it little mind – today was already half over for us, as things were going smooth and steady, with the exception of the ring incident. We crossed Sandpit, and in drifting up to the small takeout at the portage over to Tin Can Mike, found ourselves waiting on a group of 4 in front of us, fully unloaded, at the water’s edge. They saw us slow as we approached, and continued on with their conversation. We sat and waited patiently . A few minutes passed….and we waited some more, as none of them made any effort to move their canoes, or gear that was unloaded and right beside their canoes, away from the water. “Go Left”, I said to Matthew, who was already putting his paddle in the water to head that way. Only after they saw us coming on in - slide over to the far left - and both get out into the mud, did any of them start to react and begin to move their gear.[paragraph break] We unloaded, and headed off with the first load. It was a 160-rod crossing, broken up into two sections. The first half was easy, and the second had a long, raised plank section leading on into TCM. I bet that part would be awful in a good rain ! Even though the other group was single-portaging, we still went back, got our balance, and were in the water before they even began put their canoes in the water.[paragraph break] For the first time up here, or at least that we noticed, we saw a mass of butterflies at the shores edge, a ton of them, all clambering over each other on the shore near the water's edge – must be mating season or something for them, but we saw this several more times over the week.[paragraph break] The wind had picked up even more to the stage of “annoyingly gusty” as we hit the water and crossed TCM. The two campsites we saw actually looked pretty nice – reminding me of someone’s comment on bwca.com that TCM was his favorite lake. I could see why.[paragraph break] The portage into Horse was marked on the TCM side by an old, rusted tin can jammed onto a branch on the side of the trail. It looked to have been there for quite some time, and we wondered if someone did that because of the lake’s name, or if the lake was named after it ? Our conversation about it took up most of the time for the 90 rod trail, and into the sandy put-in on the Horse side.[paragraph break] We bypassed the campsite up on the hill in the channel, even though it had been noted as a good one, hoping for a site at the river’s mouth, making our jump-off the next morning an easy one, but, both were taken. The first looked really good, as did the second. We ended up on the Northern end of the lake on an island site at about 2-2:30.. It was ok, and if it hadn’t been for the wind blowing hard out of the South, we talked of paddling back down to the empty channel camp. We unloaded our gear, checked out the island, then set up our tent at leisure. We were glad to have a short first day.[paragraph break] As soon as we were done with the tent, Matthew broke out the fishing gear and started working the shores while I took a short nap. I think this is his favorite part of the trip, and after last year’s disappointing numbers, he seemed eager to get going right away. He caught a nice little Northern, and later in the afternoon, I snagged a nice Smallie on the other side of the island. As few as I catch on trips, I even carried it around the shore to show him ! It was the LAST time we would be tied all week ![paragraph break] Later in the evening, closer to sundown, we began to hear all kinds of scratching noises on the rocks around camp and the shoreline. We also noticed lots of turtles that we thought were just checking us out from the water’s edge. Turns out they were all, and there were a LOT of them, coming up out of the lake, crawling up over - in - and around the rocks – trying to find a place to dig. It is always amazing to stand there and watch the sheer power of Instinct, and to try and comprehend Nature’s big wheels just a turnin’. We walked around and watched them for several minutes, clambering over each other, struggling to get up over an 8” climb when they could just slide one way or the other and keep moving, and trying to dig right through solid rock. As silly as it was, it was even more amazing at the same time, and I was so interested in watching them that I didn’t think to grab my camera.[paragraph break] Despite some brief thunder and passing showers earlier around 4-5, it was a cloudless sunset, and night. The wind was virtually gone - It was very pleasant. We crawled into the tent near 9 for the night.[paragraph break] I was awakened sometime early in the morning, 1 or so, by Matthew coughing. I finally sat up and asked him if he was alright…he said No…that he was going to be sick. I immediately “woke up” and said, “then get out of the tent!” We grabbed for a bag of some kind, found a plastic grocery bag, and he did his thing…still in the tent…sitting up right there in his sleeping bag…however…he realized that there were a few holes in the bottom of it !!! We spent the next 20 minutes cleaning it all up – knew we’d have to finish the job the next day after we set up camp. Outside it was a full moon, and as said before, completely clear…and quiet. So as it was easier to see what we were doing, it also meant that all of our noise was echoing down the lake. We laughed (the next day) that we weren’t camped closer to another site. Needless to say, we kept a “good” bag on either side of the tent every night after - a new contingency plan for in the future. *** Nels Lake, Picket Lake, Mudro Lake, Sandpit Lake, Tin Can Mike Lake, Horse Lake ***
Part 2 of 8
** Day 2 **[paragraph break] Sunrise came early the next morning, 4:45-5:00. We stirred out of the tent about 6:00 or so. It felt perfectly still – scattered puffs of clouds in the pure, blue sky – the warmth of the rising sun - birds singing close by – the sound of running water somewhere off in the distance - and us. Beautiful.[paragraph break] I took some pictures, we ate a quick breakfast, broke camp, and were on the water by 7:00. Off to the river! We waved at the folks on the site right by the mouth and made a mental note of it for a future trip maybe.[paragraph break] The first set of rapids were well high enough to go through, and we did – a first for us up here for something of that size. I mis-read and thought this was the second set of water, hoping we had skipped a portage, but we figured out soon enough we hadn’t. Further up, as we drifted up to the drop above the 2nd portage, a big bald eagle lit out of a tree right at the put-out, startling us. We had been so occupied looking below the running water that we didn’t even see him sitting in the tree. It was too bad – could have been a really great photo opp.[paragraph break] Made short time of the little crossover, meeting a few groups during and as we put in, and made the long, casual paddle up and around the river towards the last of the 3 portages.[paragraph break] We passed and waved at two female Park Rangers coming South from the portage as we drifted up towards the takeout. I tipped my cap and said, “Hello, Ladies.” The one in the front smiled back and sort of laughed, and as we made a little distance between us, Matthew started to laugh and said, “Way to go Dad..the one in the back was a dude!” Oh well, I thought they were a skinny version of John Denver.[paragraph break] We made quick time of this portage, and wished we could have seen the rushing river water we were hearing beside us, but the brush was too thick. We would get our fill of white water soon enough, though! The rest of the Horse River was a nice leisurely paddle, and although we didn’t see any larger wildlife, we were pretty certain something was in the thick brush off to our right at one point. The greenery shook and rustled, and even though we slowed to a stop and got really quiet...nothing appeared.[paragraph break] When we reached the small bay above the falls, we went left first to check out the lower falls on the U.S. side, but didn’t see a take-out, so we back-tracked over towards the Canadian shore above the main water. As we took out on the shore, we noticed the water was moving quite a bit faster than we had expected, and after we headed over with our first load, we saw why.[paragraph break] The falls were much larger, longer, and stronger than I had envisioned, and they were easily the fastest moving water we had seen in the Boundary Waters. I have been to Niagara Falls, and even though these paled in comparison, it is exactly what I thought of when I walked through the trees to have a look, and take a bunch of pictures. This was pure, raw, natural power, and it was very humbling to stand before it, with an occasional white wave splashing towards me on the rocks. I couldn’t even imagine trying to take a canoe through it, and we hoped no one had ever been pulled into the current above in getting too close.[paragraph break] Matthew didn’t linger as long as I did to take it in, and soon enough, we got the rest of our gear and put into the moving water below and around the bend from the falls, able to see the campsites on the American side from where we were. For a moment, I thought I saw that park ranger from earlier on the far shore..watching us…perhaps thinking of catching up to us to give me some kind of mistaken-gender citation..but surely not. Matthew laughed again for my mistake![paragraph break] We headed Northeast, surprised by, but very much enjoying, the current that pushed us along on our way. Besides the few people we saw back at the falls on the opposite shore, we would see no one else on Crooked as we made for the pictographs. (Note: Crooked, at LEAST up to Wednesday Bay, should be called Crooked River…but that’s just my take).[paragraph break] The pictographs were easy to spot on the left side going North, spaced out on the face of large granite rocks that served as someone’s canvas years ago. Matthew and I were both impressed, and more so, amazed. One of the paintings clearly looked to be a Mammoth, others something like a Moose, and the Sun, or Moon, and other figures we couldn’t make out or recognize.[paragraph break] But, the neatest thing to me, floating beside these walls, was trying to imagine just who drew these, and when ? The picture of the mammoth kind of gives a time-line. What kind of “paint” did they use that would last this long ? How did they reach up that far from the water, IF there was water here then. Or, did they hang over the rocks to draw this? Matthew and I also wondered - Could this have been just a couple of young kids doodling? Early graffiti? Regardless of the circumstances, I felt connected in a way to the artists. It was one of those moments that you will always remember.[paragraph break] We paddled (floated) further up river to the camp we were hoping for, just below Wednesday Bay, on the left-hand, U.S. side of the channel, no more than 60-70 feet from Canada on the opposite shore. I thought it was one of the best campsites we had ever had. We even caught a few fish over on the Canadian side of the water – Thanks, Dudley Do-Right![paragraph break] There weren’t a whole lot of spots due to the moving current that you could sit and fish in the canoe. We had to get the hang of paddling back up river, and then letting it carry us down again as we fished the shoreline, but later in the afternoon Matthew latched onto a monster Northern, the biggest our group ever caught! (Sorry, Bear-Bait! You’re still second, though) It was a great thrill watching Matthew bring him in…and into the canoe. We would have fished more, but with the wind steadily picking up, and that strong current, we decided to do most of our fishing from the camp shoreline and hope for better luck in the evening.[paragraph break] Had a good meal/easy cleanup, a good campsite, we laughed and talked a lot, waved at the few folks that came by later in the day, and turned in at dark. We were already excited for the next day, and hopefully lighter winds for good fishing. *** Horse Lake, Crooked Lake ***
Part 3 of 8
** Day 3 **[paragraph break] Woke up early – mostly clear – cool – no wind – again, perfect. We decided to cook breakfast before fishing, waved at the early-movers going by as we ate, and unfortunately, the wind also started picking up, as if on cue. (Note: Fresh bacon infused with hot chocolate is NOT good!) The wind also brought over more cloud cover, and as the sky darkened a bit and light rain began, we covered our already packed gear, and climbed back into the tent to just relax, go over the short day’s route, and wait it out.[paragraph break] After about 40 minutes it ended and we headed North, paddled up to and around Table Rock (wasn’t overly impressed with) and over into the start of Wednesday Bay. We made the long Northern strait, then turned towards Thursday Bay. I was surprised that even after the distance we had traveled from the falls, the movement of the current flowing North was still clearly evident.[paragraph break] We had hoped for the campsite on the Southern part of the NE’stern island, but, it was taken. It did look nice though.(Later in the afternoon when we passed by again on our fishing rounds, we chatted with the folks staying there and lo and behold, two of them lived within 40 miles of us back at home! It’s a small world) Instead we took our second choice of camp up around the island, through some neat, unique little rapids, just below the 90 degree bend at the upper corner of the lake/river bend.[paragraph break] It was an okay camp, very open. Whoever stayed before us had completely dismantled the firebreak around the grate – all the rocks laying everywhere – to have what looked like a big, sloppy bonfire. I just can't see someone needing to make a fire that large out here, but, we spent a good hour after setting up camp re-building it, quiet well I would say. It was NOT something you would want to leave the way you found it, but it sure didn’t bother the chipmunks and squirrels from hanging out. There were lots of up-close and personal visits.[paragraph break] We headed out to fish straight off from camp, in the water coming down from the rapids in that 90 degree bend. Matthew hooked a nice Smallie, then immediately had 3 or 4 strikes in the same cast – “Throw your line in Dad!” – It was a little feeding frenzy around us. No luck for me, but Matthew had fun with it. After the brief flurry, the luck ended. We even fished in a shallow side finger, Matthew literally bumping his offerings against the heads of fish just sitting in the shadows….nothing.[paragraph break] Later, we piddled about camp for awhile and had a light lunch. I napped again – funny how the middle-of-days up there have that effect on me – Matthew explored around near camp, and we made two more trips out to try our luck on the line again. We had a bit of fun paddling up the rapids coming down from the North side of the island…let it float us back down a couple of times before we meant business and pushed up through the choppy water. On the Eastern “backside” of the island we had better luck, or rather, Matthew did, in the shadowed shores along the little inlets.[paragraph break] Along one of these nooks we were working the bank, when something on the shore, about 8 feet from our canoe, slightly moved. We couldn’t tell what it was at first, until it moved again. It was two beavers, nestled up in a little alcove at the water’s edge. They seemed fine we were there, until we slowed and then backed up to get a better look. I thought it was a male and female, and she looked either really well-fed…or quite a bit with baby beaver. We moved on so as not to disturb them anymore, even though the male swam in, stalked us for a few minutes, then emerged about 20 feet in front of us and gave us the big tail-slap. At that, Matthew and I both agreed the other must close to birth and he was letting us know it was time to go.[paragraph break] We ate dinner around 6:45-7, caught a few more Smallies on one last fishing run, and turned in while barely still light, only because the mosquitoes had gotten really bad. Thank goodness it wasn’t ticks, like the first day.[paragraph break] As we laid there rehashing the day, we got one of those nice loon calling-shows you hope for to lull us to sleep. Life was good. *** Crooked Lake ***
Part 4 of 8
** Day 4 **[paragraph break] Out and about at 6:15. We swapped our cooked breakfast for a quick-start, packed our camp up in a jiffy and headed out for Friday Bay, shooting for the camp on the Southernmost, Eastern camp. We had talked the evening before of leaving open the possibility to portage on into Papoose, if we felt up to it, and, if the camp was taken.[paragraph break] There was almost no wind today, just a light breeze, and paddling over Thursday and down into Friday was quite nice. When we did reach that site, there was a solo and his dog breaking camp, but we still decided at that point to keep on moving, out of the bigger water, and back into smaller lakes.[paragraph break] The portage from Friday into Papoose seemed longer than the 139 rods as shown on the map. It was really muddy with lots of rocks almost right from the start, as well as swarms of mosquitoes, which were bad from the beginning, too, and downright awful when it opened up onto the creek. There were also several large wolf tracks…that looked pretty fresh. We made quick time of our second trip and got the heck out of there ![paragraph break] Papoose Creek was pretty straight, compared to most, and clear, right on into Papoose itself. The lake wasn’t the cleanest we thought, as we cut across the center and into the creek towards Chippewa. We stopped to check the campsite there, which was empty. It had a nice view of the little lake, but it wasn’t nice enough to entice us to stop for the day.[paragraph break] We moved on down the creek towards Niki, and right out of the chute, came to a dam, our first of this trip. (What a difference a year can make – last year’s trip seemed to be nothing BUT dams). We picked what seemed to be a perfect spot to step out, and it was – pulled the canoe up and over in two strokes, hopped in, and off we went. Now THAT’S the way that should work![paragraph break] The rest of the creek was a bit more twisted, but with the high water still, it was easy to navigate, and made for a nice, leisurely trip.[paragraph break] As we eased out onto Niki, our question to stay or go was answered immediately when Matthew saw someone walk across the sole camp site. Without even slowing, we kept right on across to the portage. There was a little stream that played out right beside and above the portage that trickled/drained across it, making the footing a bit slippery. Then, the first 20 rods or so of the trail were pretty steep with lots of rocks, making for a tough cardio workout, with extra attention to the calves ! The backside was better though, with a really nice spot to load from into Wagosh.[paragraph break] Good fortune held for us, as the only campsite on the lake was open. We both were ready to push on if need be, through the next mile-long portage. After all, we had been trained well by Lewis himself: If there’s no camp – you go back, or go forward. That’s it.[paragraph break] The camp did not seem often-used, but it would be plenty sufficient for one night’s stay, and to rest us up for that long, early morning portage the next day…and some afternoon fishing. Except for the wind gusting through the trees, and an occasional chipmunk..it was actually pretty quiet, and, the beautiful view didn’t hurt our feelings too much either.[paragraph break] We piddled most of the afternoon with the lake all to ourselves, seeing only one canoe move across the middle heading towards the Niki portage. Matthew figured out something we had not been doing in setting up our tents all this time…making it feel much bigger inside..and making us feel pretty silly at the same time for not having known it – and there it was right there in the printed instructions…which we never looked at![paragraph break] I made a solo trip out to pump water and was reminded of two things. First, an empty canoe in a strong wind isn’t nearly as easy to control while pumping water, and secondly….I needed to use way more sunblock on my nose![paragraph break] We ate a late lunch then went out for a mid-afternoon fish – lots of bites, but nothing in the canoe. The fish just seemed to be interested in slapping only, not taking the lure, so we explored the shores a bit before heading back to camp. Over by the portage out, we happened upon a Loon sitting on a nest in the reeds, right at the water’s edge. It was the first either of us could remember ever seeing one on land.[paragraph break] Within minutes of us getting back, Matthew caught a decent Northern from the camp shore. Perhaps it was time for them to feed, but we decided not to go back out just yet. The way the camp was situated, it began to get darker a bit sooner. It was up on a high point, right near the edge, facing out due East. The walk up to the upper level from the canoe put-in was fairly steep, enough to feel the strain on your calves., with the tent pad(s) and biffy back behind, in the trees.[paragraph break] One thing we had actually been looking forward to during the day was our dinner. (We talked with our outfitter this year about using more of a brand of dehyde’s where you just poured in your hot water, stirred, sealed it up, waited, and ate. Tonight’s menu was red beans and rice. Matthew and I kidded around in our worst Cajun accents as we did our separate tasks to make dinner, but as I opened the package, the balloon of excitement deflated. The package had been mis-labeled at the manufacturer, and our red beans and rice experience was now some kind of chicken with rice….and as it turned out…not a very good kind either![paragraph break] We mouthed enough to get by and cleaned up and on a whim, decided to go back out for some better fishing luck while daylight still held. Matthew pulled out a lure we didn’t us much, and talk about night and day – Winner-Winner Chicken Dinner! They were all Northerns. Even though they were just ax-handles, it was still a lot of fun after nothing all day. Even DAD pitched in with a few. We both agreed we hoped for some Smallies on the next lake.[paragraph break] As much as we hated to stop the fun, we did and hooked it back to camp, getting set to turn in well after sundown, but not quite totally dark.[paragraph break] As said before, the tent pad was up in the trees. We ventilated the tent as best we could, but there was just NO air moving in there. It was right on the verge of uncomfortable, and about 9 or so when we crawled in the tent, the mosquitoes chasing us to the zipper.[paragraph break] We went over our plans for the morning: an early breakfast of bacon and eggs, then to tackle the mile portage over to Gun, then Bullet, then down to Moosecamp. And, if we felt up to it, float the Moosecamp River into Fourtown, where we planned to have our layover day. *** Crooked Lake, Papoose Lake, Chippewa Lake, Gypo Lake, Niki Lake, Wagosh Lake ***
Part 5 of 8
** Day 5 **[paragraph break] It was sprinkling early in the morning, so we kept hitting the snooze button. Finally, maybe near 7:30 or so, there were some breaks in the cloud cover blowing from West to East and some blue sky began to appear. We rolled out, quickly made our breakfast, and began to load up to leave. As if on cue, several rolls of deep thunder made us think twice about leaving just yet, or even of putting up a tarp in case the rain came. We crossed our fingers fro just light rain, and went ahead and pushed off, but kept our slicker-tops handy just inside our Duluth packs.[paragraph break] Not two minutes from camp, the drops began to fall, and soon turned into big fat ones. Within 10, it was a good, steady hard shower. Both of us already had pulled out and donned our rainjackets, but we, and the gear, got nice and wet. The rain eased off, of course, just as we pulled into the portage takeout. Almost simultaneously, the sun began to break again through the moving clouds. The portage was close to where the Loon had been nesting, and still was, as its mate circled and dove out in the open water, both watching our every move. We unloaded, shouldered the first load, and off we went.[paragraph break] There were a few random spots of mud and slippery rocks,especially after the recent rain, but for the most part, and with some of that good ole Forestry Service ingenuity, the walk actually wasn’t that bad – just LONG. It was much nicer a walk coming back empty for the last, when you can truly enjoy the walk, and seemed even shorter on the return.[paragraph break] On this last leg, we met a good-sized rabbit/hare hopping down the path right towards us, carrying a mouth full of greens. When it saw us, it hopped just off the path, about 8 feet, and watched us go by, munching on his meal. We lingered for a minute and enjoyed the encounter, figured the animals have to get from Point A to Point B just like we do, as was also evident by the numerous Moose tracks we saw, too.[paragraph break] We put in on the Gun side, then headed straight across for the short 10 rods into Bullet. When we go there, the water was high enough for us to float right on through! It was a Day 1 bonus, all over again ! The only thing not “all roses” at this point was the wind, which again began to announce its presence..gradually, AND steadily.[paragraph break] Bullet was a fairly easy paddle. We made the short 44 rod portage over to Moosecamp with only a few slippery rock steps. About halfway across there was a boulder smack dab in the center of the path. You don’t see that often![paragraph break] Once on Moosecamp, we headed East towards the river. I had planned on stopping at the last campsite before the river to check it out, but being occupied, we just waved as we passed. It was one of the few times I remember waving and no one waving back. Here at the beginning of the river, it was thick with lilypads, and at some spots, really choked. I mentioned to Matthew how it was almost like last year’s trip, in very low water, struggling to pole through the pads and mud. Matthew didn’t even turn around as he said, “Don’t even go there, Dad.” LOL! I had also been told before our trip that the reedy mouth of the river was a hotspot for Northerns, but it totally slipped my mind that morning.[paragraph break] The going was slow as we hit the first beaver dam. (We already knew beforehand there were several on the river between Moosecamp and Fourtown). There was a log in the water to the left of the dam, and as we drifted up to it, a beaver surfaced suddenly and swam right behind that log, around to the left. We decided to play “Follow the Beaver”. Sure enough, as we pulled in behind the log, there before us was a nice “chute” beside the dam, and also the landing to take-out and carry around it. We both got out, guided the canoe thru the chute, and stepped right back in below it. Now why couldn’t they always be that nice?[paragraph break] There were 7 more dams of varying sizes and difficulty, and only one that required us(me)to get out, but it had a similar chute running down and across the bottom of it – I just had to walk it along the chute for about 10 feet. The others were all passable without even getting out. If we had been going up-river from Fourtown though, I think we could have done 2 only without carrying around on shore, or pulling up and over.[paragraph break] Besides the beaver, we also happened upon an otter in the narrow water. It swam beside us for a few seconds, checking us out, then made its way back the way we had come. The river offered some of the best conditions, if there are any, to see moose. We hadn’t seen any in several years, and it wasn’t to be this time either, but the silence within the long stretches were golden,regardless.[paragraph break] It took a good hour and a half to paddle the entire stretch, though we didn’t really time it. The river was a nice change of pace, but it was equally nice to make that last curve, and know we were about to open up into Fourtown. What was NOT nice though, was the gale force wind that “greeted” us as we came out onto the lake.[paragraph break] It felt like a steady 20-25 mph, and right into our faces, coming at us from our front right, with gusts of, well….much more than that. Without even talking, we headed directly for the camp on the peninsula just across (Southeast to the left) from the river mouth. The 2 shore sites around to our left were open as well, but we paddled hard straight for the first site.[paragraph break] It was nice, very open, and an obviously very used camp. We set up our tent in the trees on a great pad, the nicest either of us could remember, and laid out everything that needed to be dried – which wouldn’t take long! Without “adventuring”, and that’s what it would have been, across to check out the other 2 sites, we KNEW this was the better of the 3 sites…and glad we chose it.[paragraph break] Though I took a short nap after we were settled, and Matthew explored a bit, we mostly sat in our chairs and just watched the wind blow, and blow…and blow. We couldn’t really fish, or couldn’t really cook. It was a bit disheartening. We knew it would let up…we just had to wait for it to do so. But still into the late afternoon, no let up.[paragraph break] Matthew napped. I wished I had brought a kite.[paragraph break] Instead, I went out to a big flat rock jutting out into the lake, just in shorts, facing the dropping sun, and sat there watching the clouds and the day go by. When I closed my eyes, I could have easily been on a beach somewhere 2000 miles way. The waves lapped at my feet as the wind blew. All I needed was some sand, and a cold beer. Yeah – that woulda been nice![paragraph break] Matthew stirred later and we ate some sandwiches, then finally, FINALLY, the wind began to subside.[paragraph break] There wasn’t much daylight left, but since we already had our gear ready to go in the canoe, we hopped in and went out to rake ‘em in…but not even a bite. However, with the clouds strung out across the big blue sky, it made for one really nice sunset.[paragraph break] We turned in just after dark. As one more conciliatory gesture for the afternoon, a single loon swam up near our camp and serenaded us as we went to sleep. *** Wagosh Lake, Gun Lake, Bullet Lake, Moosecamp Lake, Fourtown Lake ***
Part 6 of 8
** Day 6 **[paragraph break] We woke up before sun-up, but stayed in bed as this was our planned layover day and snoozed in. A squirrel finally clambered onto one of the trees right beside our tent and began to chatter, non-stop, until we came out. Talk about a wake-up call![paragraph break] The sun felt exceptionally hot for the BW, and I was soaked in sweat before we even got going around camp. The afternoon before, we had talked of perhaps NOT staying over on Fourtown today, but maybe moving on to Mudro, and staying there.[paragraph break] In retrospect, that wasn’t the best of ideas: Number 1 – The campsite on Mudro turned out to be adequate, but nothing to write home about, and not nearly the lake to explore as Fourtown. Number 2 – It would have been better to just check out another site on Fourtown, perhaps for a future trip to this lake.[paragraph break] Matthew fished along the shoreline a bit while I pumped up some water for our bottles, and the day. Together we cooked up some breakfast, and as I cleaned up, Matthew broke off and took down and packed up the tent. At our leisure, we gathered our gear and tidied up the campsite.[paragraph break] As we started to carry our packs down to the shore to load, we saw three canoes emerging from river mouth off to our right. We hopped in and tried to beat it out from the peninsula and through the channel going South, but they were really making good time, and zipped right on by and ahead of us.[paragraph break] The wind was gusting a bit from the big body ahead and made the going a little tougher than we would have liked here early in the morning. We figured those guys must've had a pretty powerful breakfast, because the wind didn't seem to bother them much at all, or, we guessed they had somewhere to be today, because they were movin'! We had pushed off from camp close to 8, and if it took an steady hour to make the river from Moosecamp, they must have left their camp extremely early, or, been the group that we passed the day before that didn’t wave back at us.[paragraph break] As we began to reach the large island in the center of the lake, Matthew pointed out 5 or 6 canoes coming in from the right, and I saw more back in the Western bay. Besides us, there turned out to be 12 other canoes that we counted at one time, all converging towards the middle part of the lake, and heading South towards the Mudro portage. It felt like we were part of the BW Spanish Armada! We had been in several backups at portages before, but this had the potential to be the Mother of all bad log-jams.[paragraph break] We looked to see if a site was open on an island on the lower East portion, but, no. Instead, we both agreed to drop out of the convoy and put some time and distance between us and all the traffic to try some more fishing here along the island shorelines, and glad later we did.[paragraph break] Matthew had several bites and caught a few nice Smallies. On one little inlet, we drifted unknowingly right up on a deer lying just above the shore, not 15 feet from and just above us. I took several pictures as we enjoyed the close encounter. The deer didn’t seem fazed by our presence at all. It just watched us and chewed its cud.[paragraph break] Just as soon as a nice calmness settled in here though, it left. Four canoes came paddling down the lake behind us, towards that island camp - singing songs, yelling, you name it…as loud as they could, obviously very entertained with themselves, but with absolutely NO regard for anyone else’s privacy, or solitude. Any silence that was across the bottom part of the lake was just shattered by their presence.[paragraph break] “Grandad would paddle right over there and tell them to shut up,” Matthew said, “and if they come anywhere near here, I’m going to.” I was as irritated as he was. In fact, I was sorely tempted to paddle right up to that camp island and outright ask them if they were affiliated with any organization, or Scout group. But, good sense got the better of me, and we just paddled on down the shoreline further away. I knew any contact at all would just make things (them) worse, and, likely create some sort of confrontation, which was the last thing anyone is looking for out there. We laughed later, because if they had been scouts, we could have put them in for their “Obnoxious” Badge.[paragraph break] After fishing and exploring for about an hour, we finally paddled on down to the portage. All the canoes were gone and through, and it was a GOOD thing.[paragraph break] The takeout for the portage was down on the left, just below where the running creek rapids flowed in. It was almost straight up the side of a rock face, then up the top, and into the trees. It followed the creek above, then dropped gradually back down to meet the water above the rapids. We met some nice folks there as we carried across the first time, helped them a bit with their gear going back for ours, then made the last leg back. It was a short paddle up to the next portage.[paragraph break] It was another rocky uphill start, a 140 rodder, and definitely another cardio workout and calf-burner! We were GLAD to see this one behind us. It had everything: Rocks, roots, mud, incline, 30-foot drop-offs RIGHT beside the path…everything.[paragraph break] We met another really nice couple at the end of the portage on the creek bed. It was a fella with a first-timer girl, and did I ever feel sorry for her. As we visited, she was telling us how the 30 rod portage they had just done was sooo hard..did she ever have a surprise coming right now, behind us. Maybe it was the fella I should have felt sorry for![paragraph break] We paddled up a few yards to the next/last portage along the creek – the 30 rod section the girl had just talked about. We met 3 guys coming in with only one canoe...and a ton of gear. The canoe was metal and had a blunt back end. We couldn’t help ourselves and hurried back across, just to watch the 3 big guys load themselves, and all their gear, into that one canoe, and paddle off. It looked liked a river barge![paragraph break] Back on the Mudro end of the portage there was a flotsam dam to put in off of, with the rocks climbing up beside it. It wasn’t too awfully precarious, but, I wasn’t too thrilled to stand across two wet logs in the water to load off of! Earlier when we met the nice newbie couple, we had asked if they saw anyone on the Mudro camp, and they had said “yes”. We both had frowned, but hoped they were wrong, or had seen someone early before they left. As we paddled up the shoreline from the portage, Matthew and I talked about the possibility of heading over to Sandpit, or even Tin Can Mike, where some camps looked nice a few days ago. Or, we could go out Mudro and over to Pickett. It wouldn’t be what we had planned on doing, but hey, it was all good.[paragraph break] As we rounded the curved shore though, we saw that the sole camp here on Mudro was open. It was a bit of a relief for the moving part of the day to be over (it had been quite a bit more taxing than I was thinking when we pushed off from camp that morning), and even though this was a 1 or 2 star camp at best, we were proud to have it.[paragraph break] We spent another long, HOT, windy afternoon there on Mudro – exploring the paths and rocks up behind camp – fishing when we could from shore – napping (though that was somewhat uncomfortable with the heat) – watching random parties passing through here and there from our chairs, including that group of obnoxious guys from Fourtown the day before.[paragraph break] We heard them WELL before they came into view from the right, coming out of the portage. There were 4 or 5 canoes, I can’t remember exactly, with 2 persons per, and they were just as loud and raucous as they had been the lake before. They splashed, yelled, chased, even rammed each other in their aluminum canoes, all the way down Mudro, until they disappeared into the narrow channel heading up towards Pickett. Matthew and I looked at each other and just shook our heads.[paragraph break] There was some fun with wildlife though. At one point a “pod” of otters swam by our camp, heading towards the direction of the Mudro entry point. They way they moved up and down through the water reminded me of a school of dolphins. I whistled, and they stopped. They bobbed there for a few seconds, heads only up out of the water, looking right at us. One briefly swam towards us as if to investigate, but they soon resumed their course and disappeared across the lake. We also had been hearing occasionally throughout the afternoon a deep resonating sound, echoing across the lake. I thought it was some kind of woodpecker – Matthew thought a frog.[paragraph break] Finally, closer to sundown, the wind petered out like it had the night before. We went out to work the shores down towards Sandpit, and had lots of bites – Lots. Even I had several. Matthew hauled in 6 Smallies, with at LEAST that many hopping off either in tow, or RIGHT AT the brim of the canoe. As much fun as we were having, we wanted to have some coffee and cocoa here on our last night in the BW. After about an hour on the water, we headed back.[paragraph break] We enjoyed our beverages as the darkness fell, tidied up the camp, and turned in after dark. It was super quiet, and still. Even after sundown, it was overly warm for up here, and with no breeze at all, quite uncomfortable laying there.[paragraph break] We guessed we weren’t the only ones disliking the heat. Matthew heard a mouse or something scratching at and trying to climb up the outside of the tent under the fly. We laughed and told him “Sorry. No vacancy.” Right after that, we saw the outline of a snake trying to scale the side of the tent and sliding back down. It didn’t take me long to plug the small hole at the zipper and push my pack up into the corner to seal it off![paragraph break] Soon after, we began to hear some kind of bird, that sounded like a car alarm going off. Canoe alarm might be more appropriate! It was relentless, and must have had the lungs of an Ostrich. It would call about 18 to 20 times in a row, then fly to another tree nearby, and repeat. This went on for about 20 minutes. Finally, and THANKFULLY, it worked its way down the shoreline, towards the Fourtown portage.[paragraph break] When everything at last settled down, we eventually began to doze off for a good, sound, last-night’s sleep here in the Boundary Waters. I actually didn’t want to fall asleep. The week had gone by so fast, or at least it seemed so at this point, but, sleep finally took me. *** Fourtown Lake, Mudro Lake ***
Part 7 of 8
** Day 7 **[paragraph break] Maybe around 4, the canoe alarm found its way BACK to our camp – IN our camp – not 10 FEET from our tent. It was loud, obnoxious, and had to go! I didn’t even bother to put on any clothes or shoes, nor think about the snake or whatever else was there – I unzipped the tent and was out in a flash - grabbing whatever rocks or gravel were just outside - and threw them in the direction of that silly bird – letting him know in a hurry to SCRAM. He did, and I felt like a champion, until he started right up again, in a tree just a tad downshore. Ugh![paragraph break] We snoozed on and off as he came and went, and finally stirred out of the tent around 7:30-8:00. At extreme leisure, we began to break camp, eating a bit of breakfast and enjoying coffee and cocoa as we worked. We noticed that Matthew’s pole down by the canoe appeared to have fallen. It was bowed over like the tip had stuck into something. He went to check it out and almost immediately called for me to hurry down there.[paragraph break] The pole was laying over against the rocks, with the tip almost to the breaking point, the very end bent right into a hole in the exposed roots of a tree there. Matthew picked up the pole, both of us figuring it had fallen and by the most extreme coincidence had landed just perfectly, and gotten stuck in the hole. As he started to pull it out, it was obvious something had a hold of it. “Something has the worm in its mouth…I think it’s a snake!”[paragraph break] Not being too anxious, and with steady pressure, he finally got the culprit to appear. It was a snake, and sure enough, it had that lure securely in its mouth. Needless to say, neither of us volunteered to reach out and touch someone. After several minutes of resistance, the snake finally allowed Matthew to pull it out of the hole. It was a good three feet in length, and as it cleared the hole, another snake’s head poked out, as if to see what was going on. No telling how many more were down inside that mass of tree roots in the rocks.[paragraph break] Matthew did the best he could to get the snake off the hook without injuring it, but there was just no way around it. I told him if he had cut the line, it would have just ended up swallowing it and died anyways. As soon as it realized it was “off the hook”, it zipped back into that hole like white lightning, but not without bowing up like it wanted to strike first…prompting us to step well back.[paragraph break] We weren’t sure how to properly record that first-time catch…but it will definitely have an asterisk next to it. Later we asked our outfitter what kind of snake it was, and he said it was probably just a common race, and harmless. Matthew and I laughed, remembering how we BOTH had jumped when IT did! All we could figure was that in foraging around in the night, saw or smelled that artificial worm, somehow got a hold of it suspended up in the air, and then dragged it back down into its hole.[paragraph break] We finished breaking camp, being especially careful down around those rocks, and packed everything up, killing time as best we could – watching several groups come in from the Mudro entry, most of them heading past us towards Sandpit.[paragraph break] One single canoe seemed surely bound for Fourtown, but then began to veer towards our camp. We didn’t think anything of it – maybe they just wanted to check the FT portage, and were headed for Sandpit. I was digging in my pack when Matthew said “They’re gonna ram us”, and laughed. I looked up, and sure enough, they were about 40 feet from shore now and headed directly towards us. As they reached the shore, we could tell the guy in the back was trying to figure out how to stop or turn the canoe, and the woman in front seemed clueless as to what was even going on at all. Bam! They ran right into the rocks on the shore beside some trees.[paragraph break] I thought this was probably the first time for either of them in a canoe before, and as much as I wanted to holler down “Can we help you?”, the look of embarrassment on the man’s face told me to just leave it alone. They finally pushed back enough to clear the rocks on shore and began to zig-zag their way along our camp shore, and towards Sandpit. After they disappeared, Matthew said, “They are gonna have a LONG week”. I replied, “Maybe not – if they stay on shore.”[paragraph break] We loaded up, and pushed off about 10 towards the entry point. A loon flew over just as we paddled off from camp and gave us a friendly “goodbye” call. It was a bittersweet reminder that this year’s adventure was nearly over for us.[paragraph break] Even though we took our time crossing Mudro, and going through the crooked creek section out towards the Pickett portage, we found ourselves there in no time.[paragraph break] We drifted up to find 4 canoes, all sitting side by side, being loaded simultaneously by a group of men, taking up the entire put-in, in absolutely no hurry to do anything. They were looking at their maps, discussing how to load, where they were going, etc…even saw us sitting there, but made no effort to clear a spot.[paragraph break] As we sat there, hoping no one ELSE came down the trail behind them, or came up behind US, we contemplated paddling UP the stream towards Pickett, the same way we floated down 6 days ago. But, we could already tell the water was a bit lower, and paddling upstream in that moving water wouldn’t be as easy as the other. Plus, we had our poles out and still together, and didn’t want to risk catching any of the low-hanging branches. So, being in no rush since we were running very early today, we just waited patiently until they were satisfied to have talked everything through while standing there, and paddled in as they finally clambered in, and pushed out.[paragraph break] The trail up to the lot was a very easy 30, and we stashed our gear on the Picket side of the road, then set up our chairs there in the shade. We took a brief moment for prayer and offered our gratitude for the week.[paragraph break] We fished a bit there on the end of Pickett, Matthew more than me. He even caught one more nice Northern just above the drain, over in some reeds. As he reeled it in and pulled it out of the water, a young boy whose group was unloading on the other side of the drain watched him with big wide eyes, and a smile. I figured he was hoping for that kind of luck soon.[paragraph break] Because we started the day on Mudro, and not Fourtown or TCM, we got to the EP much sooner than we had planned and had to wait a bit for our outfitter. It was no big deal. He turned out being earlier than we had discussed at drop-off anyways. The waiting gave us time to reflect on the week together, and for Matthew to help me with any details I might have forgotten for my journal. We read through it and tried to fill in any details that we didn't want to forget.[paragraph break] We loaded our gear into the Suburban, hopped in onto those glorious cushioned seats, and gladly took the cold soft-drinks he had brought for us. *** Mudro Lake, Picket Lake ***
Part 8 of 8
** Wrapping it up **[paragraph break] It was another fabulous week of deposits for each one of our Banks of Life.[paragraph break] We saw and experienced many things we had never seen or heard before out here, or anywhere. From the awe and power of Basswood Falls - the history and uniqueness of the pictographs – the wonder we felt in observing those turtles on Horse - the fun and fellowship in fishing – and so much more.[paragraph break] We encountered, sometimes close enough to reach out and touch, a wide variety of wildlife, including some more Firsts for us. Again, we weren't fortunate enough to encounter any Moose on this trip, but, maybe next time.[paragraph break] Despite some rain here and there, the much hotter and humid than normal days on the last two, and that stubborn mid-day/early-evening winds, the weather really cooperated with us, and for that, we were very thankful.[paragraph break] The fact that I was able to share it with my son was the best part of all, and made it all the sweeter for me. We already couldn’t wait for the next year’s adventure, and what surprises it would hold in store for us.
discuss this trip report (2 comments) - last post on September 26, 2012