Day 1 of 3
Saturday, May 23, 2015 On day one, after staying at Big Lake Wilderness Lodge, we hit the EP at 6:00 a.m. The folks at Big Lake were very helpful and even upgraded our lodging from bunkhouse to cabin--we wondered if they were overbooked in the bunk but we did not care. They were very nice and took good care of us as usual. The wind was at our backs as we got going early, moving down the Nina Moose without too much trouble. Well, there was the beaver handiwork and this: on one of the portages, Mike and Alex decided to shoot the rapids. Colin and I were more cautious, and as he went to walk along and see how the others were doing, I began to portage the packs. I cracked up as I walked hearing Mike and Alex yell out, "Hey! Watch out! Ahh!! No!! Don't do that! Ahh!! Ahh!" and so on. They made it through, but we had a good laugh at their expense. Near the entry to Nina Moose, Colin and I were out front by a little ways and MIke/Alex got a close up look at two moose. We were bummed that we missed that, but we were happy for them. We tripped along, making good time..the upper part of the river was wide and easy for paddling and Agnes gave us a tailwind (which she does not always do)! Along the way we passed a couple of nice guys who were also headed to Agnes. We were a bit worried that Agnes would be crowded due to the holiday weekend, so we pushed on past them. Our fears were unfounded. As we left one portage, a group came through saying they had just left the center site of the three on points at the north end and they urged us to go get it, which we gladly did, pulling up and astounding ourselves to realize it was on 10 a.m.! Amazing time! The speed was mostly due to the fact that our sons are powerful portage packers, always taking a canoe and pack and leaving us the scraps to carry. I can honestly say I did not left the canoe once. Once at our site, we set up shop and pushed back off to get in some fishing. We had cut this trip from three nights to two (the boys had to be back to wrap up they school year) and we were eager to get out. We immediately got into fish--walleye on jigs and leeches, bass, northern. At one point Mike and Alex again shot a rapids (Boulder River) and when we tried they were shouting instructions of where to paddle. "The middle! The middle!" As we approached, I said, "The one thing we don't want is to turn sideways." And of course no sooner had I said that when WHAP we swung to the side and got stuck. But only for a moment. More laughs. The fishing was so good that we stayed out all day and never made it back to camp until it was almost dark! What a day. We took the mudhole portage (115 rod) back from Boulder River to our Anges site, arriving tired, muddy, happy and hungry. We had our traditional first night meal--no name steaks and mushrooms, and we fell into our tents and passed out cold, the dads snoring and the sons elbowing us in the ribs every so often to shut us up. What an amazing, full first day. It felt like three! We were loving this.....
Day 2 of 3
Sunday, May 24, 2015 Day two began with me up early (as usual) and the others sleeping. I heard Mike groan and say, "I want to get up but my body won't let me." Yes, we had really pushed ourselves hard on the first day but we had little time to rest! Only three days to enjoy the trip. Not long after, all four of us were up and having biscuits, gravy and eggs (another staple of our trips). One of the fun dynamics of our trips is that the sons are disdainful of their dads but extra nice to the uncle. Colin will rip me and tease me the whole time while deferring to Mike's wisdom in all things. Alex will thank me profusely for cooking and say "We eat better here than we do at home." It's all in good fun. So while Alex thanks me for the meals, Colin openly challenges my skills and critiques me. This morning had the same flavor. After breakfast, we took off to fish again and once again stayed out all day. We trolled on LLC and casted jigs here and there, catching fish now and again. After crossing the portage on to LCC around noon, we stopped on the big rock across from the portage for lunch and a swim. As we were sitting in the sun, snacking we suddenly heard a female voice say, "I'm going to swim to that big rock." We looked down the lake about 1/4 mile to see a young lady jump in and begin to swim in our direction. We laughed and asked one another, "Is she really coming this way?" Sure enough after a few minutes up she swam. "Are you a mermaid?" I asked. No she replied. Just a former U of M water polo swimmer with a sense of adventure who did not see us as she jumped in. No matter. We offered her some of our snack, chatted with her a bit and then she swam off to the next spot. It was one of the more amusing social interactions we have had on our trips. The rest of the day we fished and finally went up the river to the 115 and home like the day before. Before we got home, Colin caught one good sized northern that I offered to land for him. I got the fish in the canoe when all hell broke loose--it thrashed free of my grip, spilled the leech bucket, pooped all over my shirt, sent lures scattering from the tackle box and "swam" its way up under my seat so I could not get ahold of it. "Come on, man, it's just a fish" said my loving son. Fish dinner and a game of euchre along with a perfect sunset made for a wonderful end to the day. In two days we had squeezed every possible experience out of this trip. What a great time.
Day 3 of 3
Monday, May 25, 2015 Time to head home. We woke up, had breakfast and pulled down camp. The boys spent time playfully throwing pinecones at us as we packed up and Colin even told me to "step it up a notch". That got a laugh out of us. It was raining lightly as we packed and played one more game of euchre (keeping with tradition. Alex and I were partners). We decided to leave early in the day and fish our way home. At the south end by the river mouth we picked up a few fish and then a few more at the portages north of Nina Moose where the river is wider and the flow conducive to fishing. We even got a few on topwaters, which was fun. The portages were very slick and muddy. As we pulled up to one portage, Colin playfully told me to get up out of the canoe, gave a sharp tug on the canoe and proceeded to wipe out in the mud. We hardly stopped laughing the whole way, even as the rain fell harder and we got more and more soaked. After packing at the entry point and stopping back at the outfitter, we hit Sir G's and ate way too much pizza and pizza fries followed by DQ blizzards. Stuffed with food and fully satisfied, we made the drive home while daydreaming about our next trip. My heart is so full after these trips. My friendship with Mike is great, I love spending time with my godson, Alex, and my son has become a full-on partner in every adventure. Everything about it is special--the planning, the packing, the drive up. I savor every step of the journey, love the cooking, sitting on the rocks overlooking the lake with a cup of coffee in the morning and playing cards all night. When I was young, I always dreamed of going to the bwca but never knew how to get started. Luckily, Mike invited me to go with an experienced group about twelve years ago and not long after that Colin and I started making trips together.
Thanks to everyone on this site who willingly share so much advice and insight. I've gained a lot through these trips and believe that they have been formative for me in many ways. I can't wait for August so I can go again because a few years ago Colin said, "We need to start going twice a year." If only it could be three times.
Nina Moose River, 2015. A perfect trip all the way around.