Day 1 of 5
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Our first morning was a beauty. Clear skies and still. We had bunked at VNO upstairs. Nice rooms with fridge and eating area. I awoke first as usual before 4am. By 4:45 everybody had showered and we were ready to go because we had subs left from night and with that we had coffee from next door. We waited for the guys from VNO to open up so we could get our leeches and hand over our wallets for safekeeping. Next time I will get the leeches the night before and keep them in the fridge so we can just go. As it turned out there was a fully outfitted group going out at the same time and we were delayed even further because of that convergence.
Still, it was just barely light when we set out for EP 14 and we arrived while the day was still being born. We were halfway through the process of offloading our gear when the group from VNO showed up. That was a surprise because I had not known we were going out the same EP. They were very good about letting us get our stuff unloaded and down to the river without getting tangled. Our target for the day was Snow Bay with a plan to move on the next to Takucmich. That was not going to happen.
By 12:00 we were at the Beatty Portage which was an interesting place because it is a monument to the ingenuity and determination of man to make a nickle by filling a need. We had some trouble finding it because I did not trust my map and because it is tucked in around a point at the end of the bay. While we were having lunch a USFS boat came through so we watched the rail system work while we ate lunch. That boat is one impressive hunk of aluminum for sure. I was also interested to note that the USFS seems to prefer the SR17. Hmmm. After checking out the nearby pictographs the paddle to Snow Bay went pretty quickly due to a strong tail wind. Once at the start of the Bay we took a break at the first campsite on the point. While there a barge went past carrying a truck. That was the second hint that we were still in a pretty well traveled area with the first being the portage itself. We considered moving on past the bay but decided we were ready to stop. We were the only campers in the bay itself. After hearing of the “table” site on the island I wanted to see it and we all decided it would make a nice place to camp. Dinner was steak, potatoes, coleslaw, and Cache Lake lemon pudding. All very good. Once we cleaned up after dinner we fished until dark and caught a mishmash of mediocre fish and then we went to bed very tired.
Day 2 of 5
Thursday, June 14, 2012 Day 2 dawned drippy. It was to be a travel day and we had not rigged the tarp because the night before was nice and who wants to pack one more thing? Right? So we ate our oatmeal in the rain and got soaked in the process. The rain was not hard but it was steady. While eating, Allan got out the weather radio he had had brought along and got us a forecast. Rain on and off with storms. Potential for severe storms. Now what? Tomorrow is forecast to be a bluebird day. Right now our entire camp is wet. WE are wet. I am not fond of the idea of multiplying misery with risk. So we opt to stay put for a day and fish between rain events. Even as we make the decision the skies brighten some and we were reinvigorated. Fishing now is always better than fishing later. That is how Allan and I were fated to meet “the fish”. We had fished around the south point guarding the bay simply to stay out of the wind that was picking up. Alan was using a new silver flecked white tube bait. I do not use tube baits and was surprised to note that his floated in spite of the weight. I was told they often do when new. Well, he cast toward shore and landed right where water met rock and BAM! A fish blew up on it but he missed setting the hook so the tube flew back to within twenty feet of the canoe. He reeled in the slack and was hustling it back to recast when a fish of unknown species following with back in view, engulfed it just shy of the boat by a few feet, went airborne across the front of the bow, landed on the other side out of my sight and keep on going. After about thirty yards the line went slack and we sat in silence, stunned by the viciousness of the fish. “I don’t even want to catch that fish,” Allan said quietly. “It scares me.” That one moment made the entire trip memorable.Returning to camp we meet the boys and had lunch. While eating we noticed a motor boat in Snow Bay where no motor boats are allowed. After lunch they were still there and though the sky was brooding we launched to fish around the island. Shortly the boat raced by us to the west. I no sooner wondered aloud what the hurry was than we heard thunder. So we hustled back to camp and no sooner got into the tent than the storm struck. It was an intense downpour with high winds. Allan and I were somewhat protected by a hump but the boys were exposed on the point. Later I learned that they had to brace the tent up with their hands. As I was wondering aloud about their situation we heard an ominous crack and the unmistakable sound of a tree falling…toward us. I was sitting up, looking out the window at the waves and I put my hands over my head and braced for the impact. Instead the tree thudded to the ground about thirty feet from us. At the time we thought it was much closer. Once the storm passed it rained most of the rest of the day. We put up the tarp and you will see the top of downed tree just beyond Alan in the picture. We had Cache Lake chicken and dumplings for dinner. Comforting as well as filling.
Day 3 of 5
Friday, June 15, 2012 Our third morning was another beauty and the entire day would be beautiful. Just as forecast. After breakfast we broke camp and headed north to the shortcut wetcanoedog had posted on this site. We had no trouble finding the trail, though it is rarely used. We were soon across. The area northeast of Snow Bay has a very remote feel in spite of the occasional plane heading to the village. It looks very fishy and I doubt it gets fished much. We found the second short cut heading west though it was much tougher to find. There are two places to cross and we used the northernmost. It would be a great exaggeration to call this a trail. It is short however, and once found went quickly. Kind of fun. The rest of the journey to Takucmich, went smoothly (almost) I did get turned around at one point but we won't discuss that. Entering Tak from LLC is like entering another world. LLC has its own beauty and I love it but Tak. in contrast, feels intimate. It is big but not too big and is surrounded by hills that come to the waters edge with lots of arms. We chose the campsite near the LLC portage and set up. By now it was lunchtime. We spent the afternoon getting settled, hanging around camp, swimming, enjoying the nice day. I loved just sitting atop the rock cliff overlooking the lake. BW lakes are a transcendent experience that fill me with awe and respect for all God has made and continues to do. Who is man that thou are mindful of him? Dinner was made by me and pretty good too. Pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and zucchini. After dishes we went fishing and were surprised to have little luck in such fishy looking waters. Before going to bed the weather radio informed us of another day with rain and…you guessed it!…some storms, possibly severe!
Day 4 of 5
Day 5 of 5
Sunday, June 17, 2012 Day 5 was nice almost all day. We had a really big breakfast, cleaned up, packed and were on the water at 9am. Not early, but we were not in a rush. Strange because it wasn't like we did not have enough rest the day before. I think we all just wanted to enjoy the morning. The portage to Tesaker was short and not a spacious put-in at the end. The least used portages I have encountered were on this trip. Tesaker is a long pond and no more appealing than an industrial waste pond but with better water. The trail to Gun was longer and I was surprised to see signs of recent maintenance. Gun is a very nice lake with a remote feel and it seems little used. I doubt I’ll ever get back there because there are so many others to see but I enjoyed it this day. We moved right through to the trail to Eugene, then Steep and baby, am I glad we were going down. [paragraph break]We had seen no one since we left Snow Bay but on South Lake we had trouble finding the portage out and were surprise when a group came up behind us and sailed right into the portage. I think the high water camouflaged the opening because we were right near it after going back and forth a few times. It is also mis-marked on the map and if the other group had not showed us where it is we might still be there. Well maybe not, sincea group of young men passed us on the trail heading in the other direction. They were heading for Trillium and should make it easily. Good luck with the fishing guys. Wish I was going back with you. [paragraph break]On Section Pond we encountered a couple of canoes heading north in a comical situation that was also sad. One couple had a nice boat but the couple with them had a canoe that must have had a lot of rocker. They could not make that boat go straight and were paddling twice the distance of their friends. Where is Chevy Chase when you need him? They must have borrowed the boat from a friend or family member without any understanding of the difference in boats. [paragraph break]There was a big group of Boy Scouts working on the trail between Slim and Little Loon. I have to confess that I am never happy when I encounter large groups of Boy Scouts or others clogging up the portage trail with their canoeing gear. Now I got to see what a benefit to the BWCA the Scouts are when they work on the trails. I had no idea that they did trail work and they were doing an excellent job with rudimentary tools. Very resourceful and respectful too. Time to change that thinking. I’ll still be irritated, but in a nice way. [paragraph break]Little Loon was very pretty but the guys decided that they were not ready to stop so we didn't. In fact, except for a twenty minute rest and some food we booked all the way to the EP. We arrived just as dark was settling. The first load to the car I did not need a light. On the second I did need a light. We loaded up and as we hit the Echo Trail rain started. [paragraph break]Halfway to town I asked how we were going to get a room since our valuables were locked up in VNO and I only had my license. With lightning flashing and thunder crashing I was suddenly thinking of my comfortably dry tent now packed away. We must have looked too tired and ragged to be a risk because the Paddle Inn took us in. [paragraph break]We slept well and left Ely before breakfast. In the next two days Duluth got ten inches of rain but we were long gone. I wonder now how that couple with the zigzag canoe made out. Before I left the LIS river I stood in waning light and thanked God for the chance to visit this beautiful place with three great friends. I can’t wait to get back again because the lakes owe me now. Right?