Day 1 of 4
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
We slept in the truck on a couple of the kids sleeping pads the night before our entry so that we can get an early start. It's something I like to do since I rarely sleep much the night before a trip, but it was a first for my wife and she seemed to get more sleep than I did, so it worked out well. With that said, a huge storm barreled through in the middle of the night in multiple waves of torrential rainfall, lightning and thunder. I was really happy not to be out in a tent for that one.
The storm from last night left us with a wet morning. We woke, pulled the canoe and gear off/out of the truck and Sara took the truck and drove over to the Moose River EP to drop it off and bike back. While she did that I started the 480 rod portage with the gear hoping to be almost done by the time she got back. Well, the trail was really sloppy from all the rain, but nothing too bad at all until I got down to where you cross the stream that's located just below a beaver pond. In all the trip reports I've read, this stream is supposed to be something you can easily cross when the water's low and one that you can walk across some downed birch trees when the water's high, but today this stream was a raging rapids. I stared at it for a few minutes looking left and right to see if there was another way around because the stream was running so hard that the two small trees laid across were practically under the rushing water. I'm not sure if the pond above this area had a beaver dam that gave way from all of the rain from last night, or if it was just raging from the rainfall and high water levels in general, but I didn't know how we would get across. I looked for spots to maybe float the canoe across with gear, but there was only one possible spot for that and we'd still need someone on the other side to make it happen.
I started back for the last packs and about a 1/4 mile up the trail I ran into my wife, double packing it with the food pack and small backpack. This was the first of many indicators I had on this trip of how much of a badass my wife is in the wilderness. I took that backpack from her and explained the predicament ahead and we hiked to the "raging creek" together. Once we got there, she assessed the situation like I did and came to the same conclusion... someone has to get across. So she threw on her pfd and proceeded to cross the downed trees through the raging rapids. I watched with a degree of nervousness as her boots dipped below the strong current as the trees tried to support her and the current at the same time, but she kept on moving and made it across without incident and said, "it's not bad at all". So I through on the food pack and started across, but with my weight and the weight of the pack the branches sank down deeper in the rapids, I made it across, but going back would be even tougher. Sara decided she'd do it again, but this time the current got her and she fell about halfway in, soaked, but not pinned or anything, she climbed out and we decided to float the canoe across with the resort of the gear a few feet upstream away from the rocks. We angled the Northstar so the bow was pointing at an angle and I stood upstream farther from Sara and she was able to shove the boat across to me and we got everything across. Now Sara had to cross the rapids for the third time and she made it without incident. The rest of the portage was a walk in the park and we were able to put in early at Swamp Creek because the water was so high. This cut out the last 30-40 rods of portaging. The Stuart River is gorgeous. It's wide open immediately and you can see for quite a ways around you, which is much different than the Moose River EP and I appreciated it immensely. We were so excited to be on the river heading towards Stuart Lake. Even though the "raging creek" set us back about an hour, it was still only 8ish by the time were were paddling so I knew we had lots of the day left to enjoy ourselves. The rest of the portages along the way were easy and we only had to carrry down one beaver dam before we got the the last portage into Stuart Lake. The time was only 11:30 and we were almost to our destination for the day. We crossed the portage into Stuart and it is a thing of beauty, paddling a river all day and being greeted by a vast lake, with a majestic waterfall at your side is my idea of a vacation. We hung around the bottom of the falls taking some pics and resting a bit before we headed out to find a campsite. Note: there was a nice looking medium action spinning combo just sitting at the bottom of the portage that someone must have left there, we left it thinking that person would be back. Hopefully they came back for their gear. I had read great stuff about the NW campsite so we started paddling and planned on checking the island site on our way by because I'd heard good stuff about that site too. The island was empty, but we paddled on and the NW site was occupied so we headed back to the island. Sara loved this site and so did I, the bugs weren't bad because we had a strange easterly wind today blowing right into camp. We lounged around and I fished from shore for the rest of the afternoon and we had campfire pizza for dinner. It was awesome. A great end to a great day.
Day 2 of 4
Thursday, June 15, 2017 I slept like a rock, but woke at first light, which I was happy to do as I thought maybe I'd get a little fishing in and get a few pics of the sunrise as well.
I heard Sara stirring so I got some coffee going and that was the perfect start to the morning for us both. We had Starbucks Via instant coffee and I must say, it was awesome. After breakfast of oatmeal, we started to break camp because we wanted to get to Iron Lake today, but also wanted to do a side trip down the western portage to the Dahlgren River as I've heard it's one of the most beautiful portages in the BW ending at a pretty waterfall. The old growth pines along this portage are majestic, it's really quite surreal walking this portage and you really have to stop yourself from staring up at the trees as you hike (I almost took a digger staring up while hiking, lol). We got to the waterfall and took some pics and video and it left me wanting to come back here some day and paddle up the river to try and make it to Batista Lake, but that will have to be a future trip.
We headed across Stuart to the east to find the 320 rod portage into Fox Lake. This portage had a little of everything, hills, swampy lowlands, muskeg, lots of downed trees (at least 8 or 9), and a washout where we had to float the canoe across and find another path over a downed tree to cross. Fox Lake was nothing to write home about, then we did an easy portage over to Rush Lake. The campsite on this lake is on an island, at the top of a hill, gorgeous looking site. I've noted this campsite for future trips as it looks like a gem. The portages into and out of Dark Lake were easily handled and seeing Iron was as awesome as always. We ran into a guy who said he had just left the south island campsite nearest Peterson Bay, which I've stayed at before and liked it, and sure enough it was vacant so we took it. The guy we had run into had told us that someone had cut down a live tree in camp, but what we saw was at least two 5-6 inch diameter trees taken down right in camp, numerous others hacked away at with a hatchet and a couple of other smaller trees cut off as well. I didn't get any pictures, but I took some video which I will show in my video report which I will attach when completed. We decided to stay despite the violation of LNT camping principles and we set up and fished Peterson Bay in the afternoon. Sara caught a nice 20" walleye and I pulled in about an 18" and that was dinner for the night so we headed back to camp where we enjoyed shore lunch, with some Knorr rice with rehydrated carrots. A little crystal light with caffeine to wash it down and a Pearson's Salted Nut Roll for dessert... heaven in the BWCA! We traveled over to another favorite fishing spot of mine and I hauled in two big smallies and Sara hooked a couple of big walleyes, but we had already eaten so they were returned the dark waters of Iron Lake. We headed back around 8 and retired shortly after dark and rolled the rainfly back to watch the stars...sleeping in a thousand star hotel. ~Stuart Lake, Fox Lake, Rush Lake, Dark Lake, Iron Lake
Day 3 of 4
Friday, June 16, 2017 We woke to another nice day on Iron Lake. Today we headed up to Curtain Falls, which Sara has never seen in person before. Along the way, we passed the point campsite just before Curtain on the eastern shoreline and I noticed they moved the fire grate and its well constructed, looked like a great site even though I've never stayed there. Curtain Falls was roaring, not like 2013, but still, impressive. I gave Sara the history about how their used to be a resort on Crooked and motorboats would bring people halfway up Curtain Falls and drop them off where a jeep would be waiting with a trailer to drive them the rest of the way up to the resort. I'm so glad that's not the case today. I can't imagine seeing motors in that pristine area now, thank you former lawmakers that restored the wilderness to its natural state so that my wife and I, our kids, and someday our grandkids can enjoy it the way it was meant to be. We took a break at the top and had a snack before heading back down to fish the bottom. The rest of the day we relaxed around camp and had some foil pack chicken and McCormick gravy over some Stove Top stuffing... pretty darn good. Thanks "Camping Recipe" forum for that one! Amazing day with my wife!
Day 4 of 4
Saturday, June 17, 2017 We orginally planned on staying 5 days until Sunday, but we thought of coming out a day early to have some time away from the kids back in civilization (thinking dinner and a movie, with a hotel stay in Duluth or Cloquet maybe). [paragraph break]Well, we decided to paddle all the way out today from Iron Lake via the 240 rod portage on the west shore of Iron. My dad and I made it out in one day from Iron before so I knew Sara and I could handle it as well. Two reasons I'm glad we chose to come out today,1. The rain came in sheets today, we'd have just been sitting under the tarp in camp, and 2., Sara saw a mama moose and two babies at the end of the 240 rod portage to the pond west of Iron Lake... amazing. I just missed it because I was about 5 minutes behind on the portage trail, but Sara dug out the camera and took a picture.
You can't see the babies in the photo because they're behind the mama, but I must say, I'm envious of my wife. This is the reason I like taking this portage over the Bottle Portage. The three moose swam across the pond and disappeared moments before I came down the trail. What a moment for my wife. We continued on passed the Ranger Cabin on LLC, down the Boulder River (aptly named), into Agnes, then Nina Moose and out at EP 16. Lots of people coming in and out just like us. We made it to the EP at about 2:45, faster than my dad and I did before. Another indication of my wife's awesomeness. I'd go anywhere with that woman. I hope our kids turn out more like her than me because there isn't an adversary she can't overcome. Not that this trip was super tough or anything, but it had its challenges, just like any trip. I'm thankful we had the opportunity. We headed to Ely for some DQ and down to Virginia/Mt. Iron for a movie before getting back to Mounds View around midnight. As usual, I can't wait for my next trip which happens to be my first ever solo up the Little Indian Sioux River North in mid July. Look for that trip report as well. ~Iron Lake, Lac La Croix, Agnes, Lake, Nina Moose Lake
Lac La Croix,
Nina Moose Lake,