Day 1 of 9
Thursday, June 21, 2018 I drove up to Fenske Lake Campground, site 010, after work to get a relaxing start for the trip and test the Wenonah Encounter Solo Canoe, while checking out the North Hegman Pictographs. I was setting up in the dark, but I made it. In the past, I would get done with work and usually take a short nap at the rest area in Duluth, before continuing. This led to me running out of gas prior to the trip. Hopefully this will give me more energy.
Day 2 of 9
Friday, June 22, 2018 Had a good nights sleep and relaxed most of the morning, just getting my stuff together. Headed into Ely to pick up a rental canoe for the day Piragis and headed up the Echo Trail to EP 77 – South Hegman Lake for a day permit and trip to Tease lake and back. Got to the EP sometime after 2 and carried the canoe over the portage down to the lake. Took a bit to get used to the solo canoe, seemed a bit tipsy, but after a while, not too bad. The portage to North Hegman was a quick carryover and I was headed to the Picto’s. Took about 3 passes to find them, but was pleased with them after discovery! Took some pictures and paddled around Tease Lake, before heading back to the EP. As I was getting close to the EP, I had my first encounter with Loons swimming up to my canoe to investigate. Got several nice pictures before heading to back to Ely. Dropped of the Canoe, grabbed a DQ burger, and headed over to the Kawishiwi Falls trail to check out the Falls. Got back to Fenske Lake shortly after dark.
Day 3 of 9
Saturday, June 23, 2018 Peter meets me at Fenske Lake Campground. Fenske is a nice quiet campground and a good staging area for BWCA trips. We headed to EP 16 and spoke with a group that stayed on Agnes the night before. They warned us that a bear was moving around the campsites and they had gotten a picture. We were on the trail about 12:30 and worked our way down the river. As we reached Nina Moose Lake, there was a thunderstorm moving through and we headed to the campsite to the right of the river entry. When we reached the campsite it was being guarded by hen Mallard. Since the storm was moving out of our way, we decided to proceed without risking an encounter with said Mallard. It was cool being able to see the sand beech on the north end of the lake as I had read about in trip reports on BWCA.com. Just after entering the river again, we saw a Moose & calf, but they were gone before I could even start reaching for the camera. We reached the first portage (75 rods) and the end of the trail brought us in sight of a nice boulder falls. A little further down the river brought the 105 rod portage that was next to the river most of the way. Pretty walk & then a short paddle to Agnes. It was a pretty paddle through the trees into Agnes.
It was about 6:00pm and we decided to push on to Oyster for the night. I mistook the Agnes to Oyster river portage as the beautiful one that many have written about from Stuart to the Dahlgren river falls. The portage was a gradual up and steep down, seemed tough at the time (or maybe I am soft), but in hindsight just a challenging BW portage. The challenging part was getting into Oyster, as the path was a mud bog or floating grass bog. Peter made me nervous saying you don’t want to fall through this, then after we were safely in the canoe he commented “that wasn’t so bad!” These are the words one hears after narrowly escaping death by falling through the bog into the mud and sinking to the bottom. No risk, no adventure!
We completed the portage into Oyster at 8:20. Checked out campsite 1774, looked okay, but thought we would check the other sites, as it was only 8:30, and how many idiots could be looking for a place to stay on a popular lake this late at night. Turned out, it was only us, as the other sites were full, and we returned about 9:30 to claim this nice site for the next two nights. Maybe I will learn the lesson of departing the EP earlier in the day at some point in life, but probably not. It was a good day, long and hard, but we finished it off with Mac & Cheese with rehydrated hamburger. Hit the spot and slept well.
Day 4 of 9
Sunday, June 24, 2018 When I woke up, Peter had returned to camp with breakfast (a 19” Lake Trout) and we had pancakes and trout. We spent the day fishing, eating, napping, and more fishing. Peter did hook a nice Smallmouth, but the Trout did not cooperate with our efforts to have another for dinner. We planned on moving to Ge-be-on-e-quet, and the famous stone chairs, while checking out the picto’s on Rocky.
Day 5 of 9
Monday, June 25, 2018 We got up about 7ish and Peter made breakfast, we cleaned up & broke down camp and hit the water about 9am. At the end of the Rocky portage, we visited with Sam (a former guide) about the pictos, which he referred to as “plus and minus signs”. When we saw the picto’s, we agreed Sam had nailed the description. We got to Ge-be-on-e-quet about 2pm and started looking for the “chairs”, finding them about 2pm, then staying on site 119 for the night. After getting camp set up, we and having dinner, we fished past dark, and had two loons land next to the canoe in the dark. The mosquitos were interested in our return, and we quickly turned in for the night to escape their assault.
Day 6 of 9
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 We had Blueberry pancakes and eggs for breakfast, broke camp and were on the water for LLC by 9am. We got out short of the real portage and followed a trail for a short while before deciding we had been tricked. Back on the water, we paddled farther North and found the correct portage, which was very steep going down! Good news is that gravity helped us get to the bottom. Once on Ge-be creek, we enjoyed the short paddle to pocket creek and then the short portage before getting to LLC. On the portage, I met the BWCA.com member Brennan (aka Kegger70), my first encounter with a fellow member of the group.
We explored several campsites on LLC before picking a good site to stay at. Within minutes of landing, Peter threw out a leech and caught a nice bass, actually 3! We set up camp, had dinner, and got on the water by 7pm. We caught Walleyes, Smallies, and Pike. LLC is definitely a productive lake to fish, with good size and numbers. We got back about dark and immediately took shelter, in our insect secure facility, from the flying bloodsuckers. Interestingly, about 3am that night (technically we could call this June 27th) I thought I heard growling. Peter had told me he would be in charge of protection, so I woke him up and told him of my concerns about the noise outside the tent. He thought for a moment and then said, “Go away bear, you are not welcome here!” Now go back to sleep. Based on that effort, I am now in charge of camp security on all future trips.
Day 7 of 9
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 Great day on the lake. We had a good breakfast to start the day, then went fishing, exploring around camp (blueberries, flowers, and insects), fishing some more, exploring other campsites in our area, and catching fish. We caught random fish throughout the area and then Peter discovered the rockpile. This was good for all species and we caught good fish. We decided that Peter would fish in the morning and we would head out the next day, as the forecast was for some big storms coming through Thursday night / Friday morning.
Day 8 of 9
Thursday, June 28, 2018 Peter caught seven walleyes, several Smallies, and a Huge Pike grabbed one of the Walleyes as he reeled it in. He got back to camp and said I would have to call him Stumpy after that encounter! This is the same person that landed a 40” plus Pike on Jordan a couple years earlier by hand! I can’t even imagine how big this Pike was to scare him! Anyway, we had pike with cranberries and hot cakes for breakfast, packed up camp and hit the water about 10:30am. We were soon on the Canadian Border and stopped at the first “international boundary marker” that I had ever seen in person. Then we paddled by Warrior Hill and went into Boulder Bay, taking the two portages into Lake Agnes. Once we got onto Agnes, the wind began picking up from the SW – lengthwise of the lake. It took a hard hour of paddling to get across the lake. Felt bad for some of the people that were heading the way we came, as the waves were growing in size, but we pushed on and made it to Nina Moose lake, and after another tough paddle across that lake, we relaxed and took pictures of dragonflies, trying to catch one in flight. Then the red winged blackbirds captured my attention before we moved on. The last item on my bucket list for this trip was to climb the Nina Moose lake overlook along the river. Peter agreed, but insisted he lead the way and carry my camera – apparently I am not the athlete I remember being. We made it to the top and took some pictures before heading out. We ended up in the parking lot about 9pm, with some daylight to spare. Being that we had a long day, we headed to Fenske Lake Campground and got a site for the night. The excitement was to come the next morning.
Day 9 of 9
Friday, June 29, 2018 Last day in the Ely area. We got up early and had breakfast, packing up camp and hitting the road before the storms came through. I was on the Echo trail and had to pull over because of the strong downpour. When I got to Ely, I was planning on doing a test paddle of the Northwind Solo, and the power was out at Piragis. I did a short test paddle and liked the boat. I ended up taking this to Stuart in October and up to Lower Pauness in 2019 before purchasing one in 2020 for future adventures. It was a good trip and I worked my way home the rest of the day.