Day 1 of 5
Friday, August 10, 2007 We started out by getting into Ely at about 1100 after a thirteen hour overnight trek. We went to Piragi's to pick our permit and get some odds and ends, to include our fishing licenses. We were advised that the computer was down and we should come back in 30-45 minutes. While walking to Pamida to pick up Band-Aids/medical tape, suntan lotion, tooth paste, and disposable cameras; Oscar commented that Ely, MN has the highest concentration of bearded men in the universe and that he felt like he was in the woods when we weren’t even yet in the woods. That comment made me laugh. After returning to Piragi's, they told us that the computers were down and we should probably go to the Wolf Center/Chamber of Commerce to give it a try there. Up there, they didn't know what we could do except wait so we stuck our pins in our cities on the map and headed to another outfitter; Spirit of the Wilderness. Same deal here so we left our drivers licenses at the counter and headed out for a bite to eat and to pick up more forgotten items. When we arrived at Dairy Queen the line was really quite long. To tell you the truth; we weren't even hungry, just anxious, so we left. We decided to do our pre-trip gear check in Ely so that we could get on the water a.s.a.p. We realized that we forgot eggs so I whipped in to the Clark gas station and bought a dozen eggs. I only needed six of them so I gave half of them to the woman working the counter, she offered to pay me 76 cents but I could hardly take money for 6 eggs considering she was nice enough to cut the carton in half and tape it shut for me. After that we went to the bait shop across the street and purchased 6 pounds of dry ice and 1 big block of real ice. This is the first time I have used dry ice and it worked great. It is a little pricy and quite heavy but worked well for us this trip. After that we went back to Spirit of the Wilderness and BEHOLD! We had fishing licenses. We finally reach Angleworm Entry Point Lot at 2:00 in the afternoon and were on the trail by about 02:30. The whole time preparing for this entry point, I was nervous because I knew it was going to be a rough walk in the woods. We had trimmed down our gear to where we could single portage the trail, but double loaded was the price we were to pay. I had the dry food/cook pack and the canoe with paddles and rods strapped to the thwarts. Oscar had the gear/personal belongings pack on and the mid-size cooler strapped to his front side, after we discussed the dangers of obstructing your downward view, but he wanted to try it that way anyway. I can't remember every detail of that forced march but I know I stopped 4 times ready to die. I could feel my heart beating in every inch of my skin, intensely pulsating as if the body was asking the brain "Are you nuts?!" One of those times, Oscar came back to find me and even was gracious enough to carry my pack until we reached where he had stopped. He had stopped at a three-way fork in the trail because he didn't want to take the wrong way. You want to be real careful at this fork because instinct coupled with fatigue tells you to head straight, straight to fastest way off of this crazy trail! If you were to go straight though, you would find yourself on the Angleworm Hiking Trail and in for a long hike. Go left, and a short ways later you will hit a two-way fork: left is Angleworm Hiking Trail and right is a path that drops you right down to a protected slot on the south end of Angleworm Lake. WATER! WE HAVE REACHED WATER! Shouts of joy rang out from the trail. We clasped hands in congratulation and then started loading the canoe because we still had a long way to go. Our intention was to try and make Beartrap Lake by dark, and if not, then after dark. Angleworm Lake is deceiving on the map, skinny little lake. It is actually a very long skinny lake, a few miles by my approximation. The portage to Home Lake is not too bad and only about 60 rods, a breeze after the Angleworm portage. Home lake was a quick paddle and then we mounted the trail to Gull Lake. I sent my maps to T.R.I.P.S. of BWJ and Stu marked this portage as an "Honest Hike". That term was somewhat of a mystery until we got to the end of the trail. "Honest Hike" means lace up yer boots and drink some water before you start; because anything you had left in you is about to be squashed like a little ant. After our "Honest Hike" we started looking for a campsite on Gull Lake because we were "Honest Beat". We took the second site and were very happy with it that night. Oscar met his first loon and was initially scared of the "noise" but quickly came to appreciate being serenaded to sleep after a long day on the trail. Tired, so tired.............
Day 2 of 5
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Sleep did us well, real well. We woke up when we were ready, not on any particular schedule; all that madness was left at the truck with our watches in the glove box. If you have never taken a trip to Boundary Waters without a time telling device, try it. At home I manage minutes and seconds on a regular basis and everything I do becomes this ultimate time managing challenge. How refreshing to live for days at a time on the whim with no watch. We ate some famous fried pancakes and sausage and then went about lazily lounging around camp before we decided to head over and try to get the only site on Beartrap Lake. Had it not been for Stu writing down that Beartrap had good walleye fishing and a five star site, we probably would have been content to not move for days, but my partner hails from Panama and I had been talking up the solitude and fishing here for months to him back home. It was sometime in the afternoon when we finally got camp picked up and headed over to Beartrap. Right before the portage to Mudhole, we decided to cast into some boulders for our first fishing of the trip. In short order we had landed 6 smaller walleye and a smallmouth bass. Lots of fun, but we had to move on. Trolling Thunder Lake, Oscar picked up a nice northern and met some more loons, I could see him changing every minute, all the time quickly gaining a deep respect for this place. Finally we got to Beartrap Lake and the whole time paddling up the south shore I was praying we would find the site open and by late afternoon we were thanking God for answering our prayers in such a timely fashion. The site on Beartrap is by far the nicest site I have ever stayed at in the Boundary Waters. The intricate log seating provides a backrest for fire gazing, two nice tent pads, a notched stump for sawing wood, good canoe landing, food pack hanging tree, and two roman columns (Red Pines) frame the view from fireside. We went fishing right away, trolling the shorelines, and picked up a few good sized northerns but no walleye or smallmouth bass. After dinner, I would guess it was about 10 o’clock; we laid out on the giant granite slab and watched the stars in total wonder. While watching the stars I was explaining to Oscar about the Northern Lights and how it is a rare treat to get to see them. Right as we were getting up from the rock at about midnight, after a long spiritual conversation, Oscar asked me if the Northern Lights looked like the green mist over the horizon on the far north shore of the lake. "Yes, exactly like that as a matter of fact." It felt as if the Heavens were shining down upon us in the middle of a star filled night sky. What a trip this was turning out to be.
Day 3 of 5
Sunday, August 12, 2007 This morning we woke up late again and enjoyed a breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese muffins. Pre-cooked packaged bacon on the shelf is a great item to bring with you and it made this first time menu item a hit. After breakfast we headed out fishing and caught a couple more northerns trolling the shoreline with Rapalas. Northern Pike are fun to catch but they lack the challenge of catching walleye. It was that thought that brought us to the southern point of the smallest island on the lake, another recommendation from the T.R.I.P.S. program. I was working a chartreuse 1/4 ounce jig and a white twister tail grub down the drop off and Oscar was casting his one dollar Rapala look alike as close to the shore as he could get. In the next hour or so we caught about seven walleye ranging from 12"-22". Oscar caught most of them on his cheap stick bait that he had tied on in the beginning of the trip. I had broken off a jig in the rocks and was tying on a new one at the same time Oscar was casting from the front of the boat. In one fluid ninja motion his bait caught the top half of my two-piece light action walleye rod and cut the line with a hook. ¼ of one split second later in the most boat rocking barbaric cast I have ever experienced, the top half of my rod was on its way to Walleye World at the bottom of the lake 40 yards from the boat. At the time neither one of us knew what had just happened, only that something went wrong. Oscar turned around and asked “What was that?” I replied cold as steel “My rod.” If Oscar would have done anything but what he did, I would have been seriously ticked off and it might very well have ruined our trip. However, he busted into the most gut wrenching laughter I have ever heard in my entire life. It sounded like a 4 year old getting tickled to death by his father in the front of that boat. So I could do nothing but laugh with him and grab my casting rod. He will never live it down and was definitely a good sport about all the teasing. He offered to buy me a new rod but I couldn’t take money for an accident from my good friend. After the Rocketing Rod we decided to head in to eat an early dinner and come back out and work the steep points of these islands during the last three hours of light and paddle home after dark. While widdling a wooden spoon (you always forget something at home!) my knife slipped and I suffered a pretty severe cut to the tip of my left thumb. Luckily, I was able to attach a large band-aid and double tape it to keep from heading out for stitches. I cannot stress enough that you are deep within the wilderness here, and foolish accidents such as this could cost you a finger if you are not careful. I was careless for just a moment and ended up with a fishing thumb out of commission for the rest of the trip. After fashioning a reflector oven with a large flat rock balanced over a corner of the fire grate with some other rocks that framed it, I made pizza boats with hamburger buns, sauce, pepperoni, and Colby Jack sliced cheese. Yes, as a matter of fact, the wooden spoon worked great for the sauce! We headed back out for fishing and went back to the hot spot from earlier. Working the west side of that same little bitty island and the north channel yielded a few more walleye and then our action died off. We headed over to the next closest island and worked around a large boulder just under the surface about 15-20 yards out from the north point of the island. We pulled up yet another few walleye from here, one of them I watched take my white grub about seven or eight feet below the surface as I bounced it off of a boulder. We went to work the third island after that and got no luck. Right before dark we returned to the small island and received no hits. Paddling in by moonlight was a treat and Oscar really enjoyed the dome view of the stars. Oscar refused to sleep outside the tent last night for fear of wild animals that snack on campers, but tonight we both slept under the stars forgoing the ironclad protection of our nylon dwelling.
Day 4 of 5
Monday, August 13, 2007 Today was to be the beginning of the end for our adventure. We had decided yesterday to camp on Angleworm tonight so that we could bust out early Tuesday morning and get home to our wives and 13 month old boys as early as possible. We got started packing around 1000 and were on the water headed out at about noon or so. We left that site as clean as we could and with a few site improvements made as well. I made two "log-end tables" as we call them in the couch's log ends closest the fire. You can do this by making a down cut halfway through the log about every four inches. Make four of these cuts and then get your hatchet and a good sized hammer stone. Using your hatchet as a chisel, holding your hatchet at the end of the log parallel to the bottom edge of the saw cut four inches in, you give it a good whack with your hammer stone. Repeat across the end of the log until you knock out the four inch top section of the log. Do this three more times and then smooth the surface of the table with your hatchet, using it as an adze. You will have yourself a 16 inch by 6-8 inch flat surface that comes in mighty handy and that is much cleaner than the dirt ground of camp. You will also find that it keeps hot pots, plates, and coffee cups hot longer because it insulates the bottom instead of sucking out the heat like dirt. We also left my signature "Guitar String Clothesline" and some homemade clothes pins. For the clothesline you attach one end to the first tree and then stretch it to the other target tree. About 3 feet from the second tree, make a loop knot in the rope. You will take the rope around the tree and come back to that loop knot, threading the rope though it. You have effectively just made a pulley out of rope and from here can stretch the heck out of your clothesline. To make clothespins you can just take a 1/2 inch stick about 9 inches long and split it right down the center, halfway down the stick. Remove the hatchet and now you have a clothespin. You DO NOT need nails in the wilderness if you are equipped with the right knot tying skills. Nails kill trees slowly but surely. Also, don’t use green sticks for the clothespins. The last thing that we left was a small cross stuck in the fire grate, to signify that this is God's Living Cathedral here and it was mighty good to us here at Beartrap Lake. While we canoed out of Thunder Lake we ran into a party of seven and they told us they were headed to Beartrap for a couple of nights and hoped the site was open. We assured them it was better than ever and definitely unoccupied. They had told us they were avid BWJ readers and I shared my maps with them, as we would not need them any more and I had them committed to memory. They thanked us for the fishing report and went about their merry way. It feels so good to assist others in achieving a great trip. Moving out of Gull to the "Honest Hike" into Home Lake we ran into 4 young men on a canoe trip. It was a first summer trip to BWCA for 3 of them and the third trip for the leader who was 18 years of age. We gave them as much as we could in site/fishing knowledge for the area and sent them on their way. It is an encouragement to see these youngsters getting hooked into the wilderness for life early on. We stayed at the site they told us they stayed at and my only hope for this party of four is that they gain a little bigger respect for this Holy place before there trip is over. I'm sure they will and we made sure to erase any trace of their presence from that site. We went out for "one last cast" a couple hours before dark and ended up catching a few smaller walleyes in the mouth of a cove tucked back in a bay close to a couple of islands and directly in front of a campsite. On the way into this spot we picked up a 20 inch northern in between the islands and the mainland. We returned to camp and Oscar packed everything up for our early departure the next day while I cooked dinner. It looked like it might rain, so we used the tent this night.
Day 5 of 5
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 We rose before first light and broke down camp while the coffee was cooking. By the time we got the fire doused and the canoe loaded, the light was sufficient for paddling. We paddled/trolled down Angleworm to the portage and prepared ourselves mentally for the battle we were about to fight. We were of course much lighter going out than coming in and we managed to make it out with minimal break stops. After contemplating the difficulty of an “Honest Hike” we dubbed the Angleworm portage the Gospel Trail because by the time you got to the end of it, you were definitely a believer and definitely asking for some type of divine intervention.
When we reached my 1987 Isuzu Trooper with it's homemade roof rack we experienced the great paradox of wilderness tripping in modern days: so happy to be headed to family, showers, and 24 hour pharmacies BUT tremendously somber to be leaving this great wild place and everything it contains to include the beauty of a misty morning, the comaraderie of the hard trail, the great fishing, and the PRIVELAGE to live how our ancestors used to live on the trail. Oscar put it best on the way home; “I don’t know what happened in there, but I will never be the same. I will however, be back many times for more, and with more BWCA virgins".