BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
November 29 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1406 feet
Crab Lake & Cummings Lake - 4
Boy on Slim
August 25, 2011
Number of Days:
We left Thursday evening, after work and after loading the car. We had to make a stop and pick up some fishing tackle and a small hard plastic tackle box that would easily fit in our packs. [paragraph break] I wasn't expecting so much traffic heading north on a Thursday evening. The I-35 highway was stop and go with construction closing a lane or two. I made the decision to take back roads after our pit stop near Wyoming, and we headed west to avoid the traffic. We found a decent road heading north (out of Cambridge?) and took it. It was just perfect! Nice pavement and few other cars. [paragraph break] The main event on the way up occurred when ds was sleeping. I found out that Natalie Warren and Ann Raiho had succeeded in becoming the first women to paddle a canoe from the Twin Cities to Hudson Bay! They arrived at the York Factory on this day, safe and sound with their dog Myhan. The kids had met them along the Minnesota River in June, and would meet them again at REI upon their return later in September. What a thrill for me to hear they had made it - I parked the car and cried... yes, I am that sappy. [paragraph break] On arrival in Ely, my friend Lynn was still working at Voyageur North, so I got our key and permit, and Lynn and I chatted in the parking lot for an hour (eek!) while DS slept in the car. At last, bed called and DS and I bunked downstairs at the VNO bunkhouse - comfy as usual. The next day was our big day!
We rose early, stopping to get leeches & nightcrawlers (and fishing pointers) from Jim at The Great Outdoors (TGO). [paragraph break] Then we stopped at a grocery store for screw top tupperware to protect the bait. Next, on the Echo Trail to the parking lot by 8:30am. The day was sunny and breezy. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] I figured we should take the 1st campsite available, since the parking lot was full and there was no way I was making the long portage out of Keanu looking for a spot to camp. We loaded up and started down the portage, putting in about 9am. I found DS just inside the woods, flat on his back, complaining about the weight of his pack :) I passed him and said I'd come back for him, but soon he was up and following behind. By the lake landing, he was all smiles again and stripped down to match the warm day. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We opted to skip a swim at the landing (but it was tempting) and paddled against the wind south to check out the lower campsite. Alas, it was taken by a solo female paddler. The landscape on the way to the south end of the lake was odd-looking. Rock all covered with moss or lichen. Hills surround the lake, so there's always shade somewhere, but rarely a flat landing. That south end of the lake is secluded with lots of islands and nooks and crannies. We turned around, and again headed into the wind, this time paddling north (figures). [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The next site we saw was available, so we grabbed it and made camp. The Taj 3 was a palace for the two of us and nestled into one of 2-3 small tent pads. We were set up and lounging in our hammocks before 10:30am. DS's new fishing vest was the bomb! We used all the pockets. He found the perfect climbing tree, but I reminded him that "911" didn't work very well in the BWCA, so he stayed close to ground for me - thanks kiddo! At the campsite, the well-worn latrine trail led to an old latrine, removed except the support boards. DS stood and peed on it and declared "The latrine works!" with a huge smile on his face. Quote of the trip. The replacement "facility" was a long hike away. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Our campsite was near a nice wide bay. I paddled for DS to fish. We were all ready to try a walleye dinner... but the fish would have nothing to do with us. As we fished this bay, the wind would sometimes push us and sometimes pull us - it was literally changing direction about every 15 minutes. Kind of freaky for me. The water was clear, and you could look down and see large boulders. Eventually the line sprang off the reel and we had a nice mess for me to fix, ha! [paragraph break] [paragraph break] I napped and read in the hammock a while, and worked on getting the fishing line back in shape for another attempt at catching a fish. We had the fileting instructions with us and we were ready to catch something! The beautiful view from my hammock location - couldn't have asked for a better spot. Nice tree shade, place for rocking it with my foot, and what a view!! The campsite was opposite a fairly large island, with smaller islands on the edges of the big one. A channel went between the big island and our site. A small island became our "food caching" island. Bears swim well, but we figured if the food didn't smell, & wasn't on a trail, bear would have no reason to swim. We were right! Later this fall, campers at this site had 3 packs destroyed by bear. [paragraph break] DS didn't sit still too long, he was off and paddling to the "big" island to explore on his own. I stayed comfy in my hammock, working on that dang fishing line still. [paragraph break] The pita pizzas for supper were a hit - I forgot how fun it is to cook for (only) two!
The night before, DS had wanted to sleep right in his hammock. I was OK with that, but not willing to deal with skeeters/flies in my own hammock nearby, so DS opted to come in the tent with me. [paragraph break] Needless to say, when his alarm went off at 4am, he opted to keep sleeping :) We did get up around 5:15 and DS was paddling for the food pack before 6am. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The lake was even MORE like glass if that is possible. It was so still, you could see a film on the top of the water and all the bugs moving to and fro. I'm not sure I've seen anything that still before. It looked like a solid, not a liquid and there we were paddling out on top of it, every stroke ruining the surface with ripples. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] As we approached the entry point portage, mini-tornadoes of mist were rising from the lake in that last cove. They were only about 3 inches in diameter, and maybe 3-5 feet high. I tried in vain to capture them on film, but they are burned into my memory. Very cool! [paragraph break] DS portaged to the car without complaint - maybe because he knew we'd be dining at the Chocolate Moose for breakfast! Always a motivator to know you're gonna get a good meal without needing to rehydrate something :) [paragraph break] [paragraph break] A meal, some Piragis shopping, and a drive home on 169, past Lake Mille Lacs to avoid the I35 traffic. A shorter trip than intended, but precious nevertheless. I treasure the memories and photos still! [paragraph break] The ride home was long, if uneventful. I had time to replay the trip in my mind and savor the memories. I loved that DS had a million things he wanted to do - climb trees, swim, fish, read, make fires, eat... repeat! I loved the smiles over Yahtzee! and the hammock tricks and the swimming. I loved DS's sense of humor as he peed on an imaginary latrine :) or dressed backwards and posed for a picture. I am determined that we will CATCH A FISH there some day together; and filet it and eat it up. [paragraph break] I know this was supposed to be "DS's" pre-middle-school BWCA trip, but if I'm honest, I also know that the trip is really for me. To mark time in his life while I still have him at home - before he gets too grown up and too busy to paddle with his family. I cherish these times and he knows it, and he goes for me, if for no other reason. I will be eternally grateful for that. Maybe, just maybe, some of this magical place will rub off on him - he may not admit it yet, but I suspect it's already happened. [paragraph break] Just as soon as the trip was over, I was looking forward to "the next time", which I guess will be dad's turn before high school and my turn before college. That is both too far away AND much too close! [paragraph break] Thank you son - I love you with all my heart!