Day 1 of 5
Sunday, September 05, 2021 This was my first time to the Boundary Waters in 10 years, and my first time being the "lead" on the trip. My 3 friends had never been before. The summer of 2021 was a historic drought in northern MN and fire bans were in effect and there were park wide closures happening in the weeks leading up to our trip. We were very lucky that the closure and the wildfires didn't affect us. The BW had just reopened the day before we went in. It was touch and go for a few weeks there about whether or not the trip would even happen. I feel bad for those who missed out on their trip this year. I know how much work and preparation goes into it. There was still a fire ban in effect, which was unfortunate but at least we got to go on our trip. And in addition, there would be very few people in the BW when we arrived because the place had been closed for 2 weeks. So it was almost as if we had the place to ourselves.
We were bringing all our own gear, but decided to go through Spirit of the Wilderness to get a taxi across Burntside. That ended up being the right decision because the morning we went in it was windy and choppy. Plus I was happy to support the local outfitters anyway we could. We also picked up some crawlers and a few lures for the week. SOTW has a bunkhouse but it was full so we stayed at the Paddle Inn in Ely. Nothing luxurious but a great place to crash and shower before heading in.
The first portage at EP4 is a long one but not difficult. In good shape, mostly flat, and well worn. When we reached the nice sandy beach landing at Crab Lake the wind was in our face and I knew we had a long paddle ahead of us.
We spotted one group on Crab Lake, other than that the place was empty. The paddle across Crab was directly into the wind. When we reached Korb we were protected from wind but then it started to rain, and it rained for about 30 minutes. Eventually the sun came out and it was quite pleasent. [paragraph break]
We decided to paddle the full length of the Korb River and enter Cumming at the far SE end. After a few short portages we reached Cummings and the wind was even worse. Our first campsite choice on the far east end of the lake was taken, but we got the island site 287 and we couldn't have been happier. We unloaded and set up camp and quickly explored the island.
The weather was great so we got our fishing poles out and fished from shore. Immediately caught a handful of nice eater sized smallmouth. We fried up our dinner and slept well.
Day 2 of 5
Monday, September 06, 2021 I really wanted to try to make a day trip to Buck Lake to catch some walleye and pike, because research had told us that Cummings had nothing but bass (which is what we discovered). We headed out around 9am from camp and paddled all the way to the west end of Cummings. It took us longer than I had planned, and I knew right away that if we wanted to get to Buck and back in a day without being totally spent, that we should have left sooner in the day. We were not looking to set any speed records on this trip so we decided to fish at the rapids going into Otter Lake instead . It had been apparent all around us that the lake levels were a good 18-24" below normal. And when we arrived at the Otter Lake rapids that was very apparent. The rapids were merely a trickle of water amongst a field of boulders. We fished Otter Lake from shore for a good 15 minutes with no luck. But then we began pulling in smallmouth and largemouth one after another. We had a quick lunch and then paddled back to camp getting back around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We relaxed and prepared for the impending thunderstorm that night.
Day 3 of 5
Tuesday, September 07, 2021 After a night of thunderstorms and rain, and knowing the forecast was calling for more scattered showers and thunderstorms we decided to not plan for much time in the canoes. (BTW, you do get cell service at Cummings. Not something I was really excited about, because we wanted to unplug, but it was nice to quickly turn the phone on and get weather updates). We decided to hike instead of paddle, so we went to the east shore of Cummings and picked up the hiking trail and hiked over 2 miles to Coxey Pond on the hiking trail.
Coxey Pond is beautiful and has some scenic points. Sorry I didn't take more photos. We brought our poles and immediately caught a number of nice smallies from shore but threw them back hoping for some larger ones. That was our mistake because the fishing shut down soon after. We struggled to catch anything over 10". We decided to hike down to Silaca Lake and try our luck there. We pulled in a few nice eater largemouth and smallmouth there and took them back to Coxey for a shorelunch. We brought our camp stove with and we fried the the fish up at the only campsite on Coxey.
Just about the time we finished the skies turned grey and we quickly packed up. The rain came hard and soon turned to hail. We started our hike back in the rain. Eventually it stopped but it tested our rain gear and boots, and unfortunately some of it didn't pass the test. Back at camp the sun peaked out for a moment. We soaked up the sun while we could because it wasn't long before the storms rolled back in.
And so the rain continued on and off the rest of the night
Day 4 of 5
Wednesday, September 08, 2021 The next morning was overcast and we decided that we would explore more of Cummings Lake. We had a little wind and rain on and off throughout the day. But we also had a little sun which allowed us to dry some of our clothes out. Fishing was slow. Cummings seemed to be filled with 8-10" smallmouth. We were catching them jigging in 30' of water. We would catch them trolling through 15' of water, and on the rocks at shore. The larger fish were few and far between. I can only imagine what this place is like in June. The smallies must be jumping in the boat.
More rains and even bigger storms were on their way so we got off the lake around 4pm and prepped camp for more rain. We hunkerd down under our trap. It poured hard for a while. We measured about 1" of rain in an hour. Nothing like getting all your gear soaked the night before you are going to pack it away. Seems to be the norm in the Boundary Waters.
After the storms passed the sun broke through for a beautiful sunset. I was quickly reminded how beautiful this place it. We quickly ventured with our canoes out onto a huge granite island to take in the views.
Day 5 of 5
Thursday, September 09, 2021 We enjoyed a dry night and woke to a foggy still morning. We were very happy to have calm water to make our trip out. We were quickly packed and on the water by 9am the next morning. Some bald eagles paid us a visit and were eating something on the rocks nearby when we left.
The guide from SOTW picked us up at EP4, they were even about 15 minutes early.
It was another amazing trip, and we can't wait to go back. We always hope to see some wildlife on the trip (moose, bear, wolf, otters, beavers), but that didn't happen this year. And not being able to have a campfire was certainly a downer. We did just fine without one but it certainly changes the mood and feel. So many memories of the BW involve warming yourself while sitting around the fire at night telling stories and cooking food and talking about the day. It was unfortunate but it didn't hamper our ability to make great memories.