As the intro states, we will be taking newbies on this trip. My cousin Dave and his boys Alex and Eric. Dave and I canoed alot back in high school and college. Time, jobs, families and distance have kept us from sharing a paddle together for many years. Dave is a strong canoer, good camper and a hard, hard worker. I fully expect a great trip with him and we are looking forward to it. I, cowdoc, will be the fearless leader and of course will take all my directions from Lilcowdoc(19). Her brothers Caleb(17) and Levi(13) will also be along. Alex and Eric are 16 and 13. Dave and boys arrive at our house on Sunday afternoon. Final prep and inspections are completed and the canoe trailor is loaded. There are some minor trailor light problems to overcome...like, they don't work! We have chosen to take Dave's suburban and he has not used it's lights for a while. Being seasoned outdoorsman, we are well versed in the curse of the "trailor light"and we get the system up and running. We depart at 6:00 AM from Brodhead. It is a 9 hour ride. We stick to the plan. Breakfast at the Dells, lunch at Superior. We arrive in Ely at about 3:00 PM and check in at Canoe Country Outfitters. I lay the route out for Mark. Moose river north to Agnes and on into LLC, hopefully spending first two nights in Tiger bay area. Then up to Pocket lake for a day and night and then down through Gebe, Green, and Rocky to Oyster for last night. Then down Oyster river to Moose (or Nina Moose) river and back out. Mark says water levels are high and we should have no problems. This is a mix of lakes for us. Some we have favorite spots on, some are new and some we have simply traveled through but not stayed on. I show Dave some of Ely and we all eat at Subway. Some brewed beverages are purchased and we kick back on the porch and discuss how awesome the next 5 days will be. We are off fairly early on Tuesday. I know ep16 can get busy. I offer to drive so Dave can take in the sites of the Echo Trail but he says he's OK. Hardly a soul at ep 16. We unload and and start off the portage all by our lonesomes. It's supposed to get to 85 today with some SW wind so that first big portage is good to get done in the cool morning. The newbies have learned quickly and the portage is "flown" through. We are paddling by 7:30 ish.
Mark is right, the water levels are sweet and we cruise. I fly over places I usually "curse and drag". We see a cow moose and calf just after the 25 rod portage. She crosses the river so close in front of us that I whisper to Alex and Caleb in the lead canoe to back up a little or expect a grumpy, large duffer. The calf has to doggie paddle a little but makes it fine. We all realize that we were absorbed in the moment and nobody gets a photo. It exists on my brain disk and off we go. We take a snack break at the north beach on Nina Moose and we have a light lunch on an Agnes point. Agnes looks very crowded. We take the two portage route to Boulder Bay and start looking for campsites. We split up and talk on hand helds. All eleven sites in the area are full! I've never seen that before. We continue north and find a site on the island across from pictographs. It turns out to be a great site. Tons of room, a breeze, good tent space and a sand beach on the backside.
A swim is the first order of business. It DID get to 85 today. Camp is set and the boys start exploring and fishing from shore. Dave looks tired and I ask him if getting to here is about what he thought it would be like. He says it was a little tougher than he expected but he's ready for more. Lilcowdoc starts digging through the food pack and we have a good supper of steak, fried taters and salad. I think we all sleep well. I chose Wed. as a layover day so the newbies can get their feet back under themselves. We plan to fish, relax and then refish. The SW wind starts early. It will hamper our fishing. The mornings outing only has one nice northern to show. We take a break as the whitecaps grow. Levi, Eric and Lilcowdoc find a path up the hill behind camp with a nice view of Canada.
Lilcowdoc also finds a friend who hangs around til his wings dry out and she finds some "perdy flowers".
The wind is quite strong into the afternoon. We are planning on fish for supper and we need to decide to let the wind die and then go fishing, or eat the backup meal of mac and cheese and go fishing much later. We decide to wait it out and the wind dies. Dave and Caleb go with me in the SR18.5 and we vow to bring back fish for supper. Lilcowdoc will entertain the other boys. We pick up some more northerns and some nice smallmouth. The walleyes are scarce and I don't have time to go searching. We have enough for a good fish fry and the hungry teenage boys also devour the mac and cheese. Lilcowdoc makes blueberry cheese cake for desert(the stuff from the foil pouch). We eat like kings and have a nice breeze across our point all night. Life is very good!
Thursday morning arrives with much less wind. We eat a quick breakfast of oatmeal and bars and head for the pictographs on our way to Pocket lake. Dave and his boys are impressed with the pictos. I leave a tobacco offering and explain the story to them. A boat arrives to view just as we are leaving. Probably on their way to Bottle Portage. We head north and then West through Fishstakes Narrows. I am suprised at the number of people there. It is new country for me now and it is a beautiful area. The water is calm and it's a great morning to travel west. We stop for lunch at a site right across from the mouth of Pocket Creek. Dave, Caleb and I will scout out Pocket quick while the others eat and relax. I hate to get in there and have it as busy as LLC has been and have to come back out. We cross the beaver dam and find moose tracks at the first small portage. We meet two men with southern accents. They have been fishing in the creek and are headed back to Ladyboot Bay. We shoot across the rock bar and into Pocket. We are all alone. We drop Caleb and some gear off at the West campsite and head back for the others. I radio Lilcowdoc and she readies the boys. We meet at the beaver dam and Dave and I hop out and get on either side of the chute. We grab the canoes and pull the kids through with ease. Man, we are good! On the way into Pocket, we see football sized shapes darting through the creek...nice sized Smallies. The site in Pocket has a large rock for a front yard. It looks like a wide boat launch. We have the south breeze in our face and some nice swimming points down the shore. It is a very open site and we have to get creative to rig the tarp. Weather radio is in one of the "terdy percent chance of tunderstorms" moods every night. Supper is tortillas, pepperoni pizzas. The kids inhale them as fast as we can make them. The heat of the stove drives a local dweller from his hide around the fire pit. Caleb loves snakes and they get aquainted before he says bye. Dave, Caleb and Alex head back to the creek to fish. I drift in front of camp with my jig and leech to see if I can find a walleye. They have great fun with Mr. Smallmouth, some 16 to 18 inch fish explode on their topwater offerings. I should have gone. The wind dies some and it becomes a hot sticky night in the tents.
I am up very early on Friday. The wind is brewing early and the east sunrise, although beautiful, says today may get interesting. We break camp and go back down Pocket creek to find Ge-be-on-e-quet creek. We saw it on the way in yesterday. It's in a long valley, looks almost prehistoric. There are some early beaver dams to cross and we are on our way to Gebe.
At the end of Gebe creek you portage up the hill into Gebe. Oh boy! The wind we had not felt in the valley is pushing large whitecaps across Gebe right into our faces. I rearrange loads and tell all to not stop to chat or risk loosing ground. It will be a hard dig but we complete it and get a windless break in the southeast bay on Gebe. Gebe looks like a great lake to come back and visit. Sorry I had to bull my way through it. We portage to Green, paddle through and portage to Rocky. We take a lunch break and watch the skies darken and listen to thunder rumble. We realize we have seen no one since the two men in Pocket creek. It looks like we are going to get wet today but I want to see if I can find the pictos on Rocky. Sure enough, someone had them marked just south of the point on the west bank. Not a big display but still inspiring. I leave another offering and we miss the storm. It goes just below us. Cousin Dave is now a believer.
We portage into Oyster and I hope to get the site that looks both ways on the penninsula. Wrong! it's full. I've never stayed there but I looked it over a few years ago...nice site. But we are still in luck. The site on the SW tip of penninsula is open. It is also a very nice roomy site with fire pit overlooking the water. We set up camp quickly as it looks like rain again. We get 10 drops as it skirts us to the north. We have enjoyed a storm sandwhich! The skies clear and the wind picks up. We pretty much just relax this afternoon. Uno is played on the rocks, the island is explored and Lilcowdoc plays with some camera shots.
Supper is rice and foil pouch chicken. We relax and talk about the trip as we sit around the last night's fire. As I drift off to sleep I hear wolves howling to the west. I bump Lilcowdoc, she hears them. I wake the boys to hear them also. Tomorrow we head out. It has been a good trip. Saturday is a nice day. We pack camp and head east to go out Oyster river. It is a little further north than I remember. Mark at CCO says I should be able to take it all the way to Nina Moose river and skip the portage into Agnes. Let's Do It! It is a fun trip with big and small beaver dams and a section we hand line and rock hop through. Toward the end it is a beaver cut maze we fear will never end and then POP...we hit the Nina Moose. We encounter a slight head wind on Nina Moose lake. I remind the kids to look to the Southwest for the old rampike the marks the Moose River. After winding through the Moose River. We scramble up to the "Top of the World" for lunch and look back at Nina Moose. Nice view. We finally get back to ep 16 and a nice man takes our picture. His little girl has seen Lilcowdoc doublepacking on the portage and she is inspired to "be like that girl". He thanks Lilcowdoc and we thank him.
We pack the burby and trailor and head for Dairy Queen where we eat like savages! Back to CCO for that beloved shower. We relax, buy some stuff downtown and of course hit the Ely Steakhouse. Some hometown friends stay with us that night. They are on their way back from Wabikimi and will travel home with us. In the morning we pack and thank our good hosts at Canoe Country Outfitters. They have always been great people. We then start our 9 hour ride home and our 9 hour discussion on where to go next year. Looks like the Knife up to Ottertrack. My thanks to Lilcowdoc for her pictures.
Trip route: Day 1: ep16,Moose River, Nina Moose Lake, Nina Moose River, Lake Agnes, Lac Lacroix. 14 miles, 7 portages-460 rods Day 2: Layover on LLC. Day 3: Lac Lacroix, Pocket Creek, Pocket Lake. 8 miles, 1 portage-25 rods Day 4: Pocket Lake, Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek, Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, Green Lake, Rocky Lake, Oyster Lake. 7 miles, 4 portages-305 rods Day 5: Oyster Lake, Oyster River, Nina Moose River, Nina Moose Lake, Moose River. 10 miles, 6 portages-431 rods Trip total: 39-40 miles, 18 portages, 1221 rods