Day 1 of 7
[paragraph break]Saturday, June 23, 2012 The goal for day one was very challenging. Go from EP 14 to the northernmost campsite on Eugene Lake via the unmarked Slim/Fat Lake portage. We were on the water at 7:30 AM 6/23 and it was a beautiful day. Light breezes from the south and the northern flowing current made for easy paddling. We allowed for very little fishing as we figured this would be a difficult day of paddling/portaging. Fishing was limited to light trolling as we paddled but my son, Jake, managed to catch and release a nice northern and walleye in Loon and Little Loon Lake.
We arrived at the Eugene Lake campsite at 3:15PM. The goal was 7.5 hours and it took just a wee bit longer. We all single portaged with no real problems until we portaged the unmarked trail from Slim to Fat Lake. I had heard that the Steep Lake portage was a real bear so we thought this shortcut in paddling would make for a shorter day. This portage is not for the faint of heart. We lost the trail one time, worked around some deadfall and it was still mostly uphill. We were beat by the time we reached Fat Lake but at least knew that we didn’t have much further to go.
After a short refresher at Fat Lake, which was very clear we made it to the Eugene campsite in short order. The reward was filet mignon that we had frozen and prepacked in a thermos. A nice meal to reward a successful but tough day. An impressive one hour storm rolled through during the night and gave us a chance to test our equipment. After that nothing but sunshine the entire trip.
Day 2 of 7
[paragraph break]Sunday, June 24, 2012 We began Sunday (the Lord’s Day) with a devotion based on John 11. I am so thankful that my Creator and Redeemer has allowed me to enjoy this awesome part of His creation with family and friends for many years.
After pancakes for breakfast we headed back to Fat Lake to see if we could be successful fishing for Lake Trout. Another member of the group did catch one but overall it was just an opportunity to view a beautiful lake. I confess I’m not much of a Lake Trout fisherman but I’ve always said I could enjoy the trip even if I didn’t catch anything …today proved that point. After lunch we portaged back out of Fat into Eugene and then over to Steep Lake. Another gorgeous lake with time to explore and climb one of the very steep rock walls. In attempting to get a picture of a beautiful white pine on small cliff at the edge of the water I got an unexpected chance to swim in the lake with a nice set of bruised ribs. Oh well, it was worth it. The view from above the lake was spectacular. Back to the Eugene campsite with a variety of Mountain House specials to end the day and climb into the hammock to sleep and get away from the mosquitos.
Day 3 of 7
[paragraph break]Monday, June 25, 2012 Today we would explore the lakes to the northeast of Eugene. We paddled through Gun, Tesaker, Takucmich and took the portages to see Lac Lacroix and Trygg. We spent the most time on Gun Lake and it is spectacular lake that looks like it was carved out of a granite bowl. I wish I had taken more time to climb as the views would certainly have been incredible. We caught several nice smallmouth bass and had a great shore lunch on the eastern campsite in the narrows. I did catch a 20” smallmouth and the drag on my ancient fishing gear worked like a charm. As beautiful as Gun Lake was, Tesaker was just the opposite. It was fire scarred from the past and was a mosquito swamp. Not surprisingly the one campsite looked like it hadn’t been used in years. We saw a group of three young girls on the way through Takucmich to the LaCroix portage. They were the first people we had seen since leaving Loon Lake. We retraced our steps and made it back to Eugene for more Mountain House and time around the campfire.
Day 4 of 7
[paragraph break]Tuesday, June 26, 2012 Day 4 was our travel day. The Eugene campsite served us well. It was a central location to the other lakes that we wanted to see. Today we moved through Little Beartrack (and heard the music again, first time on Fat Lake. I can’t explain it but we heard it on 4 different lakes at different times of the day. 4 to 5 different notes. Read the first stanza to This is my Father’s world, that’s my explanation until someone tells me otherwise). Next came Beartrack and Thumb. While getting ready to portage out of Thumb into Finger one of our party caught a 27.5” walleye. After trying to catch more in that area we made the portage into Finger Lake and later had a shore lunch before proceeding to Pocket lake. We had intended to stop at the island campsite on Finger but a group passed us on Thumb while we were trying to catch fish. This party took the campsite we intended to take …but providentially it led to the accomplishment of my number 1 goal. Our goal at Pocket was to arise early so that we could enter the creeks leading out toward Gebe-on-e-quet in hopes of seeing a moose. We chose the peninsula campsite on the western side of the lake.
Day 5 of 7
[paragraph break]Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Wednesday morning I’m up at 4:30 making some coffee and hopefully ready to see some wildlife. When the sun rises I notice some movement on the water across the lake and anxiously watch to see what it is. Amazingly, the animals turn and swim in our direction. It is a cow moose and two calves. Immediately, I wake up Jake and drag him out of the tent and into the canoe. We were able to watch the moose from the canoe for almost half an hour. We followed them to the island (I was amazed at how well they can swim). Once they landed on the island we could hear them bulldozing their way across the island and sure enough they exited on the other side and we watched them swim to the northeast shore. One of the calves was a bull and I was surprised at how large the calves were. (Is it possible that they remain with the cow over a year or do they grow that fast, I’m asking?) We returned to camp, woke the rest of the crew, ate breakfast and began paddling through the creeks heading to Gebe-on-e-quet. This morning we would see deer, beaver, otter and enjoy the peaceful trip down the narrow streams. One added bonus to this entire trip was the amazing amount of old growth red and white pine. I had read ahead that this area was known for having some of the oldest trees in the BWCA. We were not disappointed and oftentimes these giants were found along some of the portages and though the blue barrel was heavy many of the portages had a magical appearance and made for some great pictures.
The portage into Gebe-on-e-quet was short, steep and beautiful. Well worth dropping the packs on the lake side and going back to explore and take pictures of the waterfalls and trees. We decided to try to locate the campsite with the “chairs” and made it there after misinterpreting the directions to the site. From the north entry it is the second campsite on the western side of the lake. Hug the western shoreline and you will soon pass a nice campsite paddle another ½ mile and cross the western bay and you see the rocky incline leading to the chairs. Someone did an incredible amount of work. Does anyone know the story of how or when this was built?
After grilling some summer sausage for lunch the boys decide they want to continue on to Oyster Lake. I prefer to stay at this campsite but agree to proceed, only if someone portages my blue barrel. Who says wisdom isn't acquired with age. It works! Green and Rocky Lakes are appropriately named. Part of our group had proceeded ahead and secured the campsite on the southwest side of the penisula on Oyster. The 5 star site was available when we passed it so we took the tour, and though very nice, we joined the rest of the group a few hundred yards up the shore. Time for rest, swimming and enjoying the sites of the new lake.
Day 6 of 7
[paragraph break]Thursday, June 28, 2012 Thursday was tournament day. We grouped the four canoes by age. It was sunny and breezy, another beautiful day. Once again the old guys would win the fishing tournament and plenty of fish were caught for a late afternoon meal enjoyed by all. It was a warm day (low 80’s) and perfect to enjoy cooling off with a swim and relaxing while the wind blew the bugs away.
Day 7 of 7
[paragraph break]Friday, June 29, 2012 Friday was exit day. How time flies in this incredible setting. It took about 5 ½ hours to exit after wasting about 45 minutes looking for the portage from Oyster to the Oyster river. The sun does rise in the east, doesn't it? Once again we find another magical portage. The area leading out of the Lake and proceeding down the Oyster River is very beautiful and last portage north of Nina Moose Lake on the Nina Moose river was also very beautiful.
Final review. This trip was very ambitious and aimed at sightseeing as much as anything. We portaged or paddled over 45 miles with a little over 2500 rods of portaging. I estimate that we saw or paddled on 29 different named lakes, creeks & rivers. The scenery was amazing. I wish I had two weeks to enjoy what we saw in one week. So much travel did not allow the amount of fishing that some would have liked ...but we can try to remedy that next year. We accomplished a great deal and were blessed with almost perfect weather. Anyone considering the Slim to Fat Lake portage be ready for some serious work and be patient following the seldom used path. Being able to watch the moose family at close range was amazing. I have a new favorite lake in the BWCA. Can you guess which one?