Day 1 of 8
Friday, July 31st, 2009 We drove from Kansas City to Banning State Park near Sandstone Minnesota. A total 525 miles plus a detour. Minnesota Department of Transportation brought I-35 to a halt around 5 P.M. (idiots!) I wondered why the radio talk show hosts were bad mouthing them while we were driving through Minneapolis/St. Paul. After sitting on the road for almost an hour, Joe suggested a detour at the next exit. That worked out real well. After reaching our campsite, we fried steaks and potatoes on Ed’s Coleman stove. We then started a campfire with illegal wood from Ed’s truck and roasted some fresh ears of corn from Susan’s Cousin. They were really good. The rain began around 9:30 along with the wind just as we were turning in. It rained off and on all night, along with wind in the tree tops. Everyone stayed mostly dry thanks to the rain fly on our tents.
Day 2 of 8
Saturday, August 1st, 2009 Checked out the Kettle River inside the park and found no kayaker’s. Cloudy and cool drive the remainder of the way to Buyck. Strong NW wind as well. We arrived and checked in with the outfitter by 4 in the afternoon. He got us situated in the bunkhouse and later (7 ish) he talked with us about our route and we asked some specific questions about canoes and gear.
Day 3 of 8
Day 4 of 8
Monday, August 3rd, 2009 We enjoyed toasted bagels again with juice and coffee. Our outfitter’s assistant, Annie, at Lacroix Outfitter, got us to EP 16 in fine fashion by 8 a.m. While driving down the Echo Trail roadway we saw two young (black) wolves with two adult grey wolves just before getting to the parking area. Once we were unloaded we tried to make it the full 177 rods to the water entry in one trip but quickly found out that we would need to double our portages. Found an error on the map apparently because the posting on the trail head says the portage is 177 rod and the map says it’s 160. Water level was good enough to get us to the first short portage. We started to encounter other paddlers coming back to EP 16 at the second portage along the Nina Moose River. Along the way we had to push over several beaver dams. We could usually paddle right over them. We took a break on the far shore of Nina Moose Lake around 11 a.m. We encountered more paddlers coming back Nina Moose Lake. I had to ask one group where they had camped the night before. He told me Tiger Bay. After finishing the 70 and 96 rod portages it was time for lunch. Our outfitter had played a joke on us on our first lunch. All the meals were packed in a large clear plastic bag that included everything for that meal. This bag was very small, clearly not enough for 5 men to eat. Ed was standing there looking it over before he turned the bag over. Inside was a note explaining the joke at the suggestion of Gary Harden. (Thanks Gary!) There was another bag further down in the food pack. During the 96 rod portage we encountered two groups of women. A group of three ladies headed the same direction were eating lunch at the exit of the second portage with us. A previous group of maybe 9 younger ladies were coming against us on the portage trail. They didn’t look to be older than about 14 or 15 with one being about 20. It was a sight seeing them carrying the heavy packs and canoes. We entered Agnes Lake about 2 p.m. and took a compass heading of 40 to make it to the other end. Ed and Joe presented the question of staying here on Agnes since we still had about 5 miles to make it where we wanted to stay on Lac Lacroix. We had a light tail wind for the two miles across Agnes and only two short portages to our destination. I was able to talk them into continuing somehow. Agnes is a beautiful lake with plenty of campsites. It is also fairly shallow according to the map, only 25 feet. A person could portage over to Oyster Lake to the West if they wanted a really deep lake. The map says it reaches 130 feet at its deepest point, maybe next time. Anyway, back to this trip report. The last portage of 65 Rod was either all up or all down. The terrain was anything but flat and smooth. Paddling through Boulder Bay was scenic and we were looking forward to our campsite at this point. We rounded the point into, none other than, Tiger Bay about 4 p.m. and found the campsite the outfitter had suggested was occupied. We moved a little further South to the campsite in, again, Tiger Bay, that the group leaving must have used because it was empty. It checked out to be very clean. I would give this campsite a very good rating, a great place to base camp. After setting up camp and cooking steaks for dinner, a storm blew in and out from the West. It maybe lasted 10 minutes at the most. After the storm there were some loons really tearing up the water across the bay. One was clearly chasing the other. Man, they were moving out across the water for an extended period of time. I’m thinking that these birds never get tired with their powerful legs. We watched as an Eagle flew over and they went into an alarm state and put on a different kind of show of “decoy by pretending to be injured and distract the Eagle” game so as to not expose the young one to the eagle’s wrath. It must have worked because the Eagle kept on going. The wind switched from the West to the North West after the rain and it gusted all night. I’m sure it got down in the upper 30’s because I had to get up and put on a fleece jacket and get back inside the sleeping bag in the middle of the night. It was quite cool for August 3rd to say the least.
Day 5 of 8
Day 6 of 8
Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 This morning was calm for a change but still cool. I was the first up to put water on to boil for the coffee and hot chocolate. Every other morning it had been Ed. It was beautiful seeing the loon school their offspring at a distance out on the lake. We had a West facing campsite which made watching the sunsets nice. It blocked our sunrise and moonrise, although seeing the light of day reflect on the far shore of the lake was glorious. Since we had a double meat breakfast yesterday, we opted to use yesterday’s lunch meat for today’s breakfast. We had wild rice brats for breakfast. I’m not kidding, they were really good! Hardly any fat and tender. They were delicious. This was Joe’s idea by the way. Besides, they were going to spoil if we didn’t use them soon. We had buns to go with them along with mustard and ketchup. We had a feathery friend join us for breakfast. A Canada jay came in on a branch above our fire grate and looked upon us for a free meal. I think it had came the morning before and cleaned up our bacon after we left camp. It would come right down to us for a piece of bread. Not bashful at all. After breakfast, we packed our camera’s and fishing gear and headed North towards Warrior Hill. It was better than a mile of smooth paddling. We could see some motor boats in the distance on the Canadian side of the border. After figuring where to pull up at, we hiked the quarter mile or so to the summit. I had remembered that the Ojibway Indian Braves were known to race this hill, or so the story goes. We did not run it though. It was full of brush and blue berry bushes all the way up. About half way up I realized I had forgotten my camera, so I encouraged the group to go ahead and I would catch up with them at the top. I got a little disoriented going back up after getting my camera. When I got near the top I started calling out to anyone who was near. I finally got a response and rejoined the group. After catching our breath (speaking for myself) we all were silently amazed by the view we had from this hill top. Everything was worth it at this point. It was the pinnacle of our geographic location and more importantly, it was what this trip was all about. This is the height of our trip by far. As Ed handed me his camera, I began to record a moment that Joe will never forget, and neither will the rest of us. It clearly surprised Joe. Ed presented Joe with a gift marking a changing point in Joe’s life. He’ll soon be turning 16 which will give Joe more responsibility than he’s ever had before since he will soon be driving on his own. Ed challenged and encouraged Joe to meet this responsibility like a man and he expressed his concern for him to make the right choices as he proceeds’ into this all important and exciting part of his young life. Joe was presented with a metal tag, much like a dog tag made from fine metal with inlaid diamonds in the shape of a cross. It had six words engraved on it as well. Six words in Latin, “For God, for Country, For Family”. Now it was my turn. As I handed Ed our camera, he recorded our short ceremony where I presented a letter I had written the month before, and a similar gift of fine metal with a cross and a chain that had some directives engraved on the back encouraging them to “reject passivity, take responsibility, lead courageously and expect a greater reward from our Father in Heaven”. On our decent down the hill, we found an abundance of blue berries that we somehow missed going up. Sweet! We then headed further North to the pictographs and then to the beach for lunch. The air and water was warm enough for a swim so I could not resist. Nobody else would join me for some reason. Hmmm! From there we headed West and North across Lacroix to Fish Stake Narrows to do some fishing. There were two canoes tied together and anchored with their back to the wind (West) so we went a little North of them to try it out. We watched them catch some amazing Walleye and Northerns in the 45 minutes that I held our canoe in place while the boy’s fished. Jacob got one good strike but nothing to reel in. Ed and Joe decided to head back to camp so we exchanged sign language to that effect. The wind was ripping down through this narrow passage between the lakes making it really hard to talk across the Narrows. I got tired of the wind so we paddled back through the narrows and didn’t have any luck fishing there either. Ed and Joe had disappeared from sight so I figured they indeed went back. The boys and I came up with another game plan to fish the windy area again and went back at it. The anchored boats decided to call it quits so we moved into position right where they were. Wham! Wham! Jacob caught two back to back. A really nice Walleye and a nice Northern while I kept the boat with the stern to the wind. An hour went by without any more bites so we decided to begin our trip back South and fish along the way. A big thunderstorm went south of us but we could hear the thunder but missed the rain. A close call even though we had put on our rain gear just in case. We had another shower come over us on the way back as Jacob caught a smaller Northern. We let it go. By the time we got back to camp it was 6 pm. Ed and Joe stood on the shore and couldn’t wait to tell us the story of their afternoon. On their way back they had approached a shore to get out for a while and got caught off guard by some rocks just below the surface. The boat got tipped and Ed went in and under. Joe reached in to help Ed out successfully without any further damage or loss, although Ed had the camera in his pocket with all their pictures in its memory. They also had gotten lost on the way back, circling an island three times before going back I can’t understand that considering Lac LaCroix has about 100 plus islands. They finally went back to Warrior Hill and made a line straight south to find our camp. I still can’t help but feel responsible because we should have stayed together, and that may not have happened if we had. The moral of the story is always take your map and compass on day trips. We proceeded to clean the fish for a second night of fish dinners along with some dehydrated beef stroganoff before it got dark. Everyone was plenty tired and full again.
Day 7 of 8
Thursday, August 6th, 2009 We got up early to eat a quick breakfast and to break camp for our paddle back to Agnes Lake. A half way point between us and our take out at Entry Point 16 as we encountered other groups (2) at the first portage. About 5 canoes in all with three canoes coming from our same outfitter that turned out to be a church group that put in and was taken out the say day as us. These folks had a dog and as the canoe was unloaded, it was fitted with a dog sized pack that it had no trouble carrying. We presumed it to be its own food. What a novel concept. After the second portage we came into Agnes. We spotted an open camp site there as we entered the lake but pursued other sites closer to where we wanted to fish. No Luck! We went all the way down the south side of the lake and found no open site. We then continued part of the way back the north side before coming to a stop on shore trying to decide, should we go up the north side further or continue on into Nina Moose Lake and hope for an opening there? Since this lake (Agnes) is better than two miles long, some (2) waited there while we went back up the north side and finally found an open site. Unloaded some gear and one long faced passenger (Jason) to hold our spot so we could let the rest of our crew know. This site was rather small but had a nice cooking area with two small tent sites. Agnes was really populated with people compared to LaCroix and Tiger Bay. Ed made chicken and dumplings for dinner. By far the best dehydrated dinner we had on the trip in my humble opinion. We went as far as to have desert as well. Apple Crisp I think it was. It was good too! Hats off to the chef for the whole trip since he did all of the cooking. One of the campers down the lake had a loon calling device that sounded more like a wolf than a loon. I did hear a real loon respond to it once. During the night I heard them go from one end of the lake to the other. Whatever! It got really cool again (upper 30’s) and I found myself up again in the middle of the night to put on my fleece. Ed and Joe got up at some point in the night and heard something walking towards our campsite. They never did see what it was but said there were sticks breaking underneath its feet as it approached. It left without incident although Ed had his pepper spray ready.
Day 8 of 8
Friday, August 7th, 2009 We got another early start with coffee and hot chocolate as usual, ate breakfast and broke camp for our last day’s paddle. We ran into two Park Rangers at one of the last portages. One wanted to know if we had seen any of their counterparts. We must have missed them at Agnes since that is where he said they would have been. We were an hour early (2 pm) for our pick up so we all just relaxed and snoozed during the wait. Our outfitter arrived and loaded up our gear and pulled out a cooler with soda and beer for the drive back to the bunkhouse. It was a welcoming sight and really tasted good during the drive.
Many thanks to the outfitter Ron and Annie at LaCroix and the members of this crew (Ed and Joe Fedrizzi, Jacob and Jason Stanley) of this trip for working hard at making it a success, but more importantly to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us this opportunity to go and for being with us in spirit before, during and after.
Sincerely and with pleasure, JB Stanley