BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 17 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1364 feet
June 2006 Solo... (The Foot Trip)
June 23, 2006
Moose/Portage River (north)
Number of Days:
Being my first solo and it is 1100 miles to Ely from where I live and I am driving by myself. I decide to drive during the day light hours instead of my normal night time driving. So I get up at 5:30 and prepare a nice breakfast of biscuits, gravy, sausage and eggs accompanied by a cup or two of good coffee for my wife and I. I then kiss her goodbye, and promise her once again I will be careful and do nothing stupid… she goes to work and I head north. 850 miles later at the Kettle River Rest Area, I pull over for a short nap before I continue my journey to Ely.
I am awakened at 3:00 am by the flashing of lightening, the roll of thunder and the sound of rain drops hitting the cab of my truck. I make a dash for the restroom to freshen up before I continue north. As I leave the rest area, I decide to just take my time, and I get to Ely a little after 6:00 am. I go to Voyager North for a hot shower to really wake up. Then is out to the truck to drive around and look at various RV campgrounds for my possible next year trip. I go to Fall Lake, then Silver Rapids and later to Moosetracks where I meet Jim who post here occasionally. I return to town assured that most of the outfitters are open as I am searching for something specific… An hour or so later I find it at Piragis, a 60 inch Bending Branches Beavertail and I purchase it! Now back to V North to kill time until Satchmoa gets there. He is coming out from the Entry Point I am going into… 16 Moose River North. I kill time on the bench in front of V North, and the pick nick table in the back until I become sleepy and head to the truck to recline and doze… while dozing I hear several vehicles pull into the lot and then shortly I hear “What are you doing that truck, you Arkansas Hillbilly?” Satchmoa has arrived, with him is Paddlefasterpastor… They shower and we visit for 30 minutes or so before they head south. Satch tells me they have heard wolves last night and this morning on Nina Moose… Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to hear them too on my way in! Before Satch leaves I give him one of my homemade Granola bars to try on his way south, I hoped he liked it! I then head to Fenske Lake Campground to spend the afternoon before I come back into town to call the family, have a good dinner, get leeches and head back out to the campground to sleep. Later that evening as I sat on the fishing peer at Fenske I meet a nice young couple with a 2 year old daughter and we have a nice conversation before we all retire to our campsites to sleep.
The alarm goes off at 3:45 am and I have a quick breakfast of a granola bar, a pint of orange juice, a pint of chocolate milk and a couple of 20 oz bottles of water, I want plenty of fluids in me today, as it will be Lake Agnes before I can replenish my supply. I drive to the entry point and take the canoe off, put on my daypack, and a fanny pack and head to the water. About 100 yards into the portage, I come to the realization that this canoe will never again come to the BWCA on a solo with me!! I make the 160 rod portage put the canoe and gear down and head back to the truck for the rest of my gear. I prepare the truck for a weeks absence, put on the main pack and grab the rest of my loose items, depth finder, dip net with water bottles and leeches in a plastic bag, and a tackle pack. Again, about 100 yards into the portage I come to another realization… I have brought too much stuff!! But, I will take my time and go slow… It is 5:45 am when the beaver tail dips into the shallow water of the Moose River. Before long I switch to my spare paddle (foolishly to keep the beavertail beautiful) as the water is very shallow and I am scraping bottom with the canoe and hitting bottom on almost every paddle stroke. The river is alive with Sigurd Olsen’s white horses as they race up and down the narrow waterway… At the two 24 rod portages I triple for ease of lifting and carrying. I make it through the beaver dams although they had tried to repair them over night with only having to get out once. I reach a foggy Nina Moose lake and paddle across, it is 7:40 am as I pass the sandy beach on the north side which marks where the river exits the lake. Several minutes later I come to the 77 rod portage as one group is leaving, and another is carrying their gear across. The trail is blocked by 2 SR 18.5’s with more coming… Portage hogs… I manage to get to one side and start taking my gear out. As I lift the day pack out, my foot slips on a rock and I fall! Seemingly insignificant other than the embarrassment that accompanies such an action. I get all of my gear out and carry the canoe across, again thinking of taking my time and going slow, I make 3 trips…and I am starting to get tired! The slight twinge I feel in my foot is because of the fall and I think nothing of it thinking I will walk it out… Little did I know! As I am making the portage and stepping to the side to allow others to pass by, a limb pokes a hole in the plastic bag where my leeches are. Once across I grab a spare Nalgene bottle and empty the half pound of leeches into it with water. I make the short paddle to the 96 rod portage and decide I will double it no matter what! I make it passing others as they head out. As I reach the Agnes side I notice the wind is picking up, blowing from the north, northwest. Not a good sign solo and heading to Tiger Bay! I paddle the rest of the river though it is weed choked and with little current, much different than a year ago… I am being blown now by the wind, and it is difficult to keep the canoe headed into the wind as I follow the winding river course. When I reach Lake Agnes I see small whitecaps blowing toward me and I tell myself… just keep paddling steadily, stroke after stroke, I will make it! It takes me an hour and a half to paddle the mile and a half to reach the campsite where Satchmoa had base camped. It was empty and I had had enough! I would stop here! While not exhausted I was very tired from the added distances from triple portaging and fighting the wind, and I had no desire to battle Lac La Croix today, as tired as I was! I land the canoe on this beautiful site, the one closest to the 115 rod portage to the Boulder River and unload the gear. First the tent, get it up! Then unroll the Thermarest, loft up the Kelty, put everything else in its place… no tarp yet, I may move tomorrow! As I prepare everything a canoe from across the bay comes close and I take time to ask about the fishing. It is a young couple from Brainerd MN, they would become my friends over the course of the next five days. They ask where I am from and I tell them Arkansas, and they ask, “Are you Arkansas Man?” and I say yes! I have a lunch of summer sausage, cheese and crackers as we talk about the board and other topics before they continue on fishing. When they leave I return to my pack to find the little red furry pest have been after my bagels and have eaten parts of several! I break off the parts they have chewed on and give them to them which immediately starts a fight between them! I take the rest of my food and hang it where they cannot get to it. I then hang the hammock for some much needed rest! The lack of good sleep over the past few days and the physical exertion have wore me out and I feel the need to rest this afternoon. It was after 11:00 when I landed, it is now after 12:00 when I finally climb into the hammock… my plan is to sleep until dinner. Those plans changed when I am awakened at 2:45 by one of the “pest” as he sinks his tiny claws into my shoulder as he jumps onto the hammock where I am laying… oh well might as well get up and try to catch a fish and use some of the leeches which I had plenty of. The young man at V North was generous and I am sure I have more than a pound rather than the half I had ordered. There is nothing near camp wanting a leech floating under a cork. I stop fishing and go to gather firewood of which there is an abundance of dead wood, yet someone had cut two live pine trees! Why, I don’t know… People do strange things! I have a small fire that night as I prepare my dinner of chicken soup with wild rice, dried peas, onions and jalapenos to be eaten with crackers… mighty tasty! I go to bed early, having decided to stay at this site until Tuesday, when I will move to Tiger Bay in preparation of meeting my friends Thursday at Bottle Portage! I make sure the fire is out and retire to the tent. After climbing into my sleeping bag I read the small New Testament I have brought with me for this purpose, say my prayers and go to sleep listening to the sounds of the night.
I awaken late, 7:15 am with a tired body and a somewhat sore foot. Although I slept well I am still tired and glad I made the decision to stay here until Tuesday. After a breakfast of oatmeal with dried berries with butter and honey with coffee to drink I decide it is time to look around Lake Agnes and fish trying for a walleye for dinner! I launch the canoe and fish until the wind starts picking up from the South… Back home that is a general indicator of rain coming! I go back to camp have a quick lunch of summer sausage, cheese and crackers again and then hang the tarp. I take my Crazy Creek canoe chair and relax under the tarp, journaling the events so far when the wind shifts and dark clouds start moving in from the southwest… a storm is coming! I put on my Frogg Toggs and prepare camp making sure the tarp is tied down well as the sky grows darker the wind picks up and I am sure I am in for a blow! Then as if hit with a wall of wind it picks up to 35-40 mph, I hear the rifle like cracks of trees as they snap off and fall on the windward side of a point of land in the distance. Gusts are coming at close to 50 now as I make sure everything is tightened down. I move to the rock face on the windward side of my point campsite and watch the storm as it hits Lake Agnes… White walls of rain are approaching as the wind subsides and I feel it is safe enough now to move under my rain tarp! Once there I am joined by several of the squirrels as they too want out of the rain… ahhh but, no food for them to get into now as it is still hung between the trees. I take my dipnet and place a stick in the handle where I can push up the center of the tarp to help water escape and give me more room to move about. I continue to journal and wonder about my new friends across the bay, if they were okay? I spend the afternoon under the tarp watching the rain, dozing intermittently and just taking it easy. The rain stops early in the evening, I get the food barrel down and prepare dinner, Beef Stroganoff with dehydrated hamburger, very good! The wind has stopped completely now and I go fishing joining my friends from across the bay. They tell me they spent the afternoon under the tarp playing cards, something else I could have brought with me I guess. I finally manage to catch a 3 lb smallie on a spinner, he is full of fight as I release him back into the dark water. The wind starts again and more dark clouds are coming as I head back to camp, drop the tarp for a few minutes and have another small fire. While sitting at the fire I hear a noise and turn to see a fox and a kit have come to camp only to run off when they saw me. A few minutes later, a huge rabbit also appears unconcerned as I replace the rain tarp as the fire dies and the rain returns. I retire to the tent again and follow my procedure of reading the Bible and saying my prayers. I fall asleep listening to the gentle sound of the rain as it falls once more… My last thought is maybe tomorrow will not be a moving day after all…
I awaken this morning at 6:15 am to the sound of wind and rain. I turn over and go back to sleep until 7:30. I put on my rain gear in the tent, and exit to have a breakfast of grilled bagels with butter and strawberry jam and a nice hot cup of coffee. My foot is even more tender today, but a few Aleve and I will be okay! I am resolve today to go fishing! I launch the canoe at 9:00 and paddle into the 10 mph wind coming from the northwest. I reach the west side of Lake Agnes where I start fishing somewhat protected from the wind. I paddle the bank casting spinners, topwater baits, and gitzits and manage to catch a smallmouth or two, hook a couple and lose them, and have a walleye follow a bait right up to the boat before hitting ( wasn’t a northern, I know the difference) I could see the marble eyes clearly before it swam away. I reach the rapids above the 24 rod portage into the boulder river and manage to catch a 30 inch northern out of the rapids on a gitzit, but no walleyes, or smallies. I walk across the portage on a sore foot and see more rain coming. I head back to the canoe and start the paddle back toward camp, dropping a pocket knife in the rapids as I was paddling up stream… A lesson learned, put things up when you are finished with them!! I catch a few more fish before the rain set in heavily and just paddle on back to camp, empty the water out of the canoe, put everything up and head to the tarp. It is 2:45, I have been gone longer than I think! I have lunch and start to journal again. I am again joined under the tarp by the squirrels and a chipmonk looking for food. Under the tarp I notice my coffee cup where I store my sugar and creamer is moved… the squirrels have been at it and have chewed the lid up pretty good!! I grab a wood chip and let fly at the nearest one. It runs off only to return and stand defiantly in front of me… Little Devil!! The afternoon passes into evening and I have resolved to stay here now that my foot is really starting to hurt! Paddle up to Bottle Portage Thursday morning, tell my friends that I will not be going on with them and then come back to camp break it down and head out Thursday. I prepare my dinner of 3 cheese totilleni, my favorite meal so far as my friends from across the bay come over and we talk for a while, they are doing a day trip tomorrow to the Boulder River to fish and want to know if I want to come with them! I tell them I will, as we both paddle off to fish a little before dark, as they leave they tell me they are having a fire tonight if I want to come over and visit. After an hour of fishing the rain starts again and I head to camp, for an early night following my normal procedure, and the rain is falling lightly again as I drift off to sleep!
Wednesday I awaken with a swollen and very sore foot, yet I am determine to see how I will make it today on the day trip! I have my breakfast of grilled bagels, butter, and strawberry jam with coffee then head out into the canoe to fish a little as I wait for my friends. It is after 9:00 when we start fishing as we go with them catching a few northerns on beetle spins, and me catching nothing but having a few hits on a buzz bait! A family passes us with a couple of Boy Scouts with them, we let them portage in front of us. I make it through the 24 rod portage, Amber had asked if she could help by carrying my paddle and fishing rods as she was doing for them, and I let her. Once on the other side we converse with the other group for a minute telling them of several good campsites as they ask questions about Iron Lake. They head out for the 65 rod portage and we continue out paddling, talking more than fishing. We finally formally introduce ourselves and now I know more about Monte and Amber. We reach the narrow part of the Boulder River and start fishing hard… Amber drops a leech under a cork and immediately catches a 3 lb smallie, second cast a 4 lb smallie! Monte catches a smallie or two and a couple of nice walleye, while I manage to get bit off twice and catch a 3 inch long perch… what luck! We move down the river catching fish as we go, I continue to get bit off on Gitzits, and also catch a 2 lb Smallie on a leech. We see a nice buck deer near the last set of rapids we plan to fish. We take our lunches and move out to a nice rock ledge and I immediately start to catch smallmouth, first a 4 lb that get off as I bend down to take out the hook, no picture there. Then a 2 lb, and then more getting bitten off! Monte is also catching fish, Amber has no luck yet! The leech and cork bite dies and I go to a Lindy rigged leech and immediately hook a big fish which I get close to shore before it breaks my line… I never get to see it! I re-tie and cast again, and wham!! A big fish that immediately takes line and doesn’t slow down! About that time a 36 inch plus northern jumps out of the water, twice before it too breaks my line… oh well at least I got to see it! I manage to catch a nice walleye which I release before we head to the 115 rod portage back to camp. At the portage I step off into knee deep mud with my bad foot! It is fun getting out of it, but I do and make the portage okay, just slow and somewhat painful. Monte and Amber are headed out tomorrow so they head to camp to break down everything except their tent. I too head to camp to prepare to leave. I take down the tarp and fold it putting it in it’s bag that my wife had made me. Everything except the tent, Thermarest and sleeping bag is ready to go as I prepare my evening meal of 3 cheese tortilleni again… I told you it was my favorite of the trip!! I retire early, I have a long painful day ahead of me tomorrow!
I awaken at 4:00 although I had my alarm set for 4:45. I stuff the sleeping bag, and fold up the Thermarest and put it in its sack. All that is left is to take down the tent and pack! I have a hurried breakfast of a home made granola bar before I head out to Bottle Portage! As I paddle away from camp I hear Monte and Amber across the way and paddle over to say good bye, wish them a safe trip out and home, and promise to stay in touch! Then it is north to Bottle, a 4.25 mile paddle with a 115 rod and a 65 rod portage that will have to be done twice. I thank God that there is no wind as I reach Boulder Bay and then Lac La Croix. I make it to Bottle Portage by 6:45 and rest until my friends show up via tow boat at 7:45. We talk and take pictures. They are glad I took the time to come and tell them else they would have worried about me for 10 days. But, they understand my predicament and will say a prayer for my safe return home… with a final handshake they head east and I head south. As I reach the Boulder River the wind is starting to blow a little, out of the south, southwest without a doubt! I reach camp at 10:00, break it down and pack, and leave it at 10:45 paddling into the 10 mph wind with ease paddling from the bow seat this time instead of the stern. Much better control of the canoe! It takes me 40 mintues to reach the Moose River. I get to the 96 rod portage switch to dry shoes and socks, barely able to get my foot into the shoe… and double it painfully, my foot is swelling now noticeably. At the end of the portage I switch back to my Keen sandals and take the time to have lunch and drink a quart of Gatorade, fuel for the journey out! I reach the 77 rod portage deciding to do it with the sandals as it hurt too much to wear the shoes, again painfully taking one step at a time carefully placing my feet I manage to double it. Now just paddling for a while… I pass through Nina Moose, and hit the river south, paddling through 3 of the 4 beaver dams having to get out only and pull through only once. Now just the shallow winding river, two 24 rod portages and the 160 to the truck! When I reach the first 24 rod portage another group is coming in, one of the members say, “hey I recognize you… you were coming in the other day as we were coming out”. He is with a group of older youth, something like an outward bound group I believe. I let them pass and make the portage taking my time and tripling it to be careful of a few rocky steps in it. I know now there is not much farther to go… I reach the last 24 and follow the same procedure although it is no rocky, it is just easier. Between this portage and the 160 I pull myself through one narrow rapid with my hands using the rock as leverage, the next one is too shallow and I am forced to get out and pull the canoe through the shallow water. The coolness of the water feels good on my very swollen foot… back into the Red Beast and a few more paddle strokes and I am at the last portage, the 160 rod to the parking lot. This one I will double if it kills me!! I unload the canoe and pull it far onto the sand, grab the main pack and all of the loose items and head out up the hill careful again of foot placement. Halfway up I am forced to rest for a minute and then onward. I reach the truck at 3:45. I put the packs down, rest a moment and prepare the truck to load the canoe, load the packs into the truck. I take the time to switch to dry shoes and socks again and head back down the portage trail. I count my steps to keep my mind occupied at 1000 I hear water and stop counting. I am now at the Red Beast and ready for its last portage. I put on the day pack and hoist the canoe over head, it strangely feels lighter or maybe it is the heat and tiredness I feel along with the pain in my foot. I take my first step and start counting, 1200 steps ought to put me near the truck or at least to where I can see it… 1, 2, 3… 100, 200, 500, 1000 I see the parking lot in the distance, 1100 and at 1200 I set the canoe against the canoe rack. I rest a moment take off the day pack and put it in the truck , I then remove the canoe seat, paddle and lifejacket and lift the canoe onto the rack, tie it down with straps, ropes in the front and back. I check to make sure I have everything… it is all loaded! I get into the truck, start the engine, turn on the A/C and head to Voyager North… it is 4:30 in the afternoon. I get to VNorth for a shower and what a site I am, Lynn is busy at the counter as I motion toward the showers and she nods. Once in the shower room I see my face, somewhere along the way I have cut my ear and dried blood is streaming down the right side of my face and onto my shirt. I get into the shower to cleanse it all away and the hot water feels great although my foot is throbbing. After the shower I dress and look at my foot… it looks like a rubber glove that has been blown up it is so swollen, it is red and feverish. I out the shoe back on painfully and walk out to talk to Lynn for a moment. I tell her of the problem and she tries to get me to go to the clinic to get it checked, but I decline… My wife works at a clinic at home and I will call her and get a doctors appointment for tomorrow when I get home. I head to DQ for a hamburger, Pepsi, and a chocolate malt. I have never known food to taste so good! I finally call home to let my wife know what has happened and ask her to make me an appointment tomorrow when she gets to work. She tells me she had not slept the past couple of nights knowing something was wrong… we finish talking and I drive south stopping at Cloquet for gas and then after 283 miles I pull into the Comfort Inn Parking Lot at Owatonna for a few hours sleep before I continue, it is 11:00.
After a fitful 4 hours of sleep in my truck, I head to the Kwik Trip for coffee and breakfast of a ham, egg, and cheese croissant. I am limping rather badly as I head to the cash register and pay. It is now nothing but 11 hours of driving with a couple of stops for gas… I pass out of Minnesota, stop at Des Moine for gas, then on to Peculiar MO to finish filling up the tank so I will not have to stop again… I pull into home at 2:45 pm. 11 hours and 15 minutes, I go into the house where I am greeted by my youngest son. I then head to the clinic… there is no pain now the foot is swollen so much, top, bottom and sides. I greet my wife with a kiss, and the camera to show her the pictures I have taken. She guides me to the x-ray room where they take several x-rays and then to a small room to await the doctor. He looks at the x-rays and tells me there is no clean break, but the foot is red and feverish with possible infection. He tells me he is going to treat it as a stress fracture and gives me the biggest walking boot I have ever seen to wear until next week when he will check it again… I kiss my wife goodbye and head home to rest! My solo is over…
While this trip was filled with unexpected problems it was an enjoyable time for me. The fear of being alone never came to haunt me although I daily missed my wife and family and wished they were there to share my experience. All of my gear worked great! Although I brought too much… next time no depth finder… fish current!! My meals were great! My biggest pleasure was the Beavertail paddle I bought, it was great and easy to paddle with even in shallow water. There were basically no bugs on this trip or at least I was not bothered by them. The weather was perfect!! Rain is going to happen… you deal with it and go on. Perhaps the best part of the trip was the friendship I made with Monte and Amber from Brainerd, they helped make my trip enjoyable. And finally getting to meet my friends at Bottle Portage, to put a face with a name and shake their hand was priceless… I know that while I may never do another solo, I have done it now! And next year when I head north it will be to share the experiences with my family which I love so much! I also have a feeling that we will all meet again in the place I love, the BWCAW.
I know this has been long and I appreciate those of you who bore through it to the end with me and shared my journey!