Day 1 of 5
Day One -
[paragraph break]We left for Crane Lake around 11:00 a.m. so we could catch Zup’s last jet boat tow to La Croix. We stayed overnight at Zup’s Resort so we could get an early start the next morning. After a nice breakfast, we left the resort in a towboat around 8:00 a.m. In less than 30 minutes we were at our drop off point on the Canadian side, at Island 45 (on LLC they number the islands). Checking the map and my compass, we figured out the right direction & followed the shoreline south around Island 41 and to the 80 rod portage into Gun Lake.[paragraph break]Gun is a very scenic lake with large peninsulas with high cliffs. It is also 140 feet deep, has lake trout & smallmouth bass and has a nice campsite on the east side (about 10 years ago we camped here with Lynn’s brother & a friend of his). During that trip I was able to take a very nice sunset picture and it is the one we use for the backdrop for our booth at sport shows. We paddled through Gun to the 85 rods portage into Eugene Lake. This trail starts up hill out of Gun and then levels off to a good trail. I started to feel my back aching on this portage, most likely because I had thrown my back out in August & it was still healing. I also realized that when I carried a pack & the canoe, it didn’t hurt but when I just took a heavy pack, it did. What actually made the difference was that when carrying a canoe I stood up straighter. Once figuring that out & changing my posture the rest of the time, it was just fine.
[paragraph break]Eugene is divided into three parts. There is a small channel connecting the first part of the lake with the rest. There are 2 campsites on Eugene and you can fish for northern pike & smallmouth bass. On the southwest side of the lake is a 60 rod portage to Fat Lake, which is your typical portage trail. Fat Lake is a small lake, just about 100 acres and 100 feet deep, full of lake trout. I hoped to be able to see the campsite from the end of the portage to see if the one & only campsite had been taken, but couldn’t spot it from there. After we paddled around the first point we could see the site was open & we were the only ones on the lake. In fact, we hadn’t seen anyone all day once we got off the towboat. The campsite is small but quite comfortable. It had a smooth granite hill which was a good spot for setting the pots & pans and other cooking stuff as well as being a good wind break for the fire pit and a great place to relax.[paragraph break]After setting up camp, we got the fishing rods set with ciscoes (frozen dead bait, much like smelt). Unfortunately, during this project I got my hook snagged and then broke the tip off of my heavy fishing rod while trying to get it loose. What a bummer! Lynn had built a fire and we cooked our steaks up for dinner. We still had ice in our Nalgene bottles (we freeze water in them before we go out), so we made up a lemonade & vodka cocktail afterwards.
Day 2 of 5
Day Two - [paragraph break]The next morning we slept in and then got up and ate a big, hearty breakfast. That day we went to check out the little known portage from Fat Lake to Slim Lake. The map showed the portage was south of a little creek that flowed out of Fat into Slim. We found the trail was actually about 300 feet away from the creek and looked good from the water.[paragraph break] It is a narrow trail that follows a ridge line by the creek. It has a few muddy spots but it’s not too bad. It looked like someone had recently been through there & had cleaned up some of the dead fall spots. As the portage gets closer to Slim Lake it goes downhill and is very brushy and has a few downed trees across the trail. Lynn paced it off & came up with a length of about 265 rods.
The Slim Lake side of the start of the portage is right before a grassy, marshy area and has a good canoe landing along with a large rock cairn to mark the spot.
The trail from Slim to Fat is tougher because it is more uphill from west to east. On the trail we spotted a number of animal prints; moose, deer and wolf. In fact I walked up on a deer that took off running before Lynn could spot it. I was glad that we got to check out the portage and that we were able to walk the long, tough trail without having to portage a canoe and gear. As we paddled back to our campsite I had Lynn troll Fat Lake for lake trout, but we had no luck. We laid around camp the rest of the day on the big rock ledge, catching some sun and reading & relaxing and enjoying another great day up north.
Day 3 of 5
Day Three - [paragraph break]We got up early, had a quick breakfast and broke down camp so we could head back north. It took a few extra minutes to find the portage out of Fat again because it is set back in a grassy area. [paragraph break] Our plan was to retrace our way back to Gun Lake and then go over to Takucmich Lake and camp there for a couple more nights. The 80 rod portage from Gun to Tesaker Lake is marked on the wrong site of the creek on the both the Fisher & McKenzie brand maps. These maps show it very near & to the left of the one campsite on the lake. This single campsite looks like it hasn’t been used in years. The trail is actually quite a bit left of the campsite & you need to search a little for it.[paragraph break] The 25 rod trails from Tesaker to Takucmich Lake is another hard to find portage. We searched along the shoreline for a while trying to find it. Then I heard voices & told Lynn that “I bet the trail is over there where those two guys are standing!” The people were Ron Bushbam & his dad, from Lac La Croix outfitters and were the first people we had seen since we had left the towboat that first day. After a bit of small talk, we found out that they had taken the campsite we had wanted to use. [paragraph break]The 25 rod portage is fairly flat and the Forest Service has constructed a boardwalk over a marshy area. Along the trail we spotted a number of bones from a small deer.
Mark Zup had told us that he heard that the island campsite on the lake was actually the nicest but we wanted to be closer to the portage out so we took the middle site. It was a very nice flat campsite and had a couple nice tent pad areas too. After camp was set up, I threw out a couple bobbers with nightcrawlers & we fished for smallmouth bass.
Day 4 of 5
Day Four - [paragraph break]We had our first rainfall that night and the next morning the lake was covered in a lacey fine mist.
We decided to “check out the neighborhood” as well as having Lynn troll along the way for lake trout. We paddled to the east end of the lake to check out the island campsite Mark Zup had mentioned. The campsite has a great view of the lake and a large fire pit area with lots of log benches, but has only one good place for a tent.
Lynn wanted to explore the island & take some pictures,
so I took that time to put new, longer line on her reel. She hadn’t been able to get deep enough to get lake trout with the other stuff. As we paddled our way over towards Trygg Lake, Lynn caught a nice 4 pound trout, just perfect for dinner.
We looked over the northeastern site that Ron had been on, nobody was there anymore. We took a couple pictures of the trout, put it on the stringer and then went looking for the portage into Trygg. This portage is very steep and at least 45 rods, not the 15 rods the map shows. There are rainbow trout there & at the top of the portage you can turn around & see a spectacular view of Takucmich Lake.[paragraph break] Back on Takucmich, we fished the bay by the portage for smallmouth. We hit a bunch of bass on the surface. As soon as the lure hit the water the fish would strike it. Bass was out of season so we released them all. As we paddled back over to our camp, Lynn trolled again. Then she caught a nice sized laker, about 10 pounds. I had it up to the boat and my hands on it when there was an “early release” and it fell back into the water. No problem, we had plenty of fish to eat already, it just would have been nice to get a picture. [paragraph break]Lynn brought some dried tomatoes, mushrooms and bell peppers and she filled the trout with that, some spices & butter and we baked the trout over the fire, wrapped in foil. It was delicious! After this great dinner we sat at camp watching the sunset and listened to one of our audiobooks on Lynn’s iPod.
Day 5 of 5
Day Five -[paragraph break]Our towboat pickup time was set up late in the day so we took our time the next morning. We enjoyed a few extra hours of sleep, a big breakfast and leisurely broke down camp. There was time to paddle over to the portage to Trillium Lake & take a quick look at the lake. From there we paddled back to the 20 rod portage that would take us back into Lac La Croix. We paddled past Dome Island and through a narrows to a small island where we waited for our 5:00 p.m. tow out.
All in all, it was a great trip. The weather was excellent, we checked out a new portage, we caught some fish and only saw one other group of people in five days.