Saturday, August 04, 2012 This trip was to be my wife's first trip to the BWCA along with our dogs Newman (brown) and LeeRoy (white). The night before (Friday Aug 3rd) we drove 1/2 way up from Iowa to stay with my grandparents in Bayport Mn. Normally a 4.5 hour drive was turned into 7 on account of all the road construction and weekend traffic. We made it in just before 9 and had a quick bite while letting the dogs stretch their legs before heading to bed around 10:30. It wasn't much past midnight when we woke to tornado sirens and wild storm raging and moments later the power cut out. After an hour of rain and wind the weather settled and we were just dozing back off when the sirens start up again, this time its the police pulling over a drunk drive right in front of the house! Naturally our dogs bark at every little noise so the voices and car doors shutting kept everyone awake for another hour and after it all finally quieted the tow truck 15 minutes later got us all back up. At this point it was pushing 3am and we'd been more or less awake all night. We were still without power but we decided to just shower and get on the road, it was another 4.5 hours to Ely and if we stopped for breakfast we'd be pulling into the rangers station shortly after they opened. I loaded up on caffeine and off we went, I think everyone caught a few hours of shut-eye on the road, except for me of course. We reached the rangers station around 9 and were to our EP by 9:30, it would have been a great early start except, it was raining.....misting really when we were gearing up but by the time the hike started it was starting to spit.
As you can see; we packed A LOT! I've learned my lesson over time that 25lbs is plenty to get you thorough a week but this trip we wanted to eat well and relax, sleep comfortably, and have a fire all day. With the last minute addition of a 3L bladder of wine my pack had eclipsed the 50lb mark and my wife's was just under 40. LeeRoy's was 9, he was carrying all the dogs food/gear. Sadly that first picture (taken my a canoe group about to head in as well) was one of our last until we reached our camp that day. Even though it's an all weather camera, when the rain started really coming down and we reached the end of the portage and started the trail (we went counter clockwise) our focus was completely on how not to injure our self and to just keep moving. The first obstacle was the boardwalk (we took some pictures on the way out). It was wet, slick, and LeeRoy not being the brightest walked right off the edge into ~2 feet of water/mud. I had to lay on my stomach with my pack on and lift him out (good thing his pack has a handle!). Once the portage ends and the trail begins the quality of the trail makes a sudden decline. I guess I expected the trails to be similar to the portages, boy was I wrong. It looked much like a animal trail with 12 foot tall boulders and numerous fallen trees to challenge you. The dogs did amazingly well and the biggest concern was falling in the mud or on the slick rock faces we had to cross. As careful as we were we both had our spills. The only damage sustained was a hole rubbed into my wife's pack when she had to slide ~30 feet down a slick rock face. The site we were pushing for was #1896 according to the map on this site, back in a little bay. Knowing there was a canoe group behind us we were nervous that our 1mph pace wouldn't get us there in time to grab it, or that we'd arrive and it would already have campers leaving us another mile to push through the wet brush to the Whiskey Jack Lake site. I'd read about old logging equipment being scattered around the site and was hoping to check it out. Luckily we arrived to a vacant site
The rain was light when we arrived and stopped within a half an hour so we laid our things out to dry and set up camp. My wife and the dogs sun bathed and slept for a few hours while I cut and split wood and did a bit of fishing (one smallie so small it doesn't even count as a catch).
We grilled steaks for dinner and made some potato's to go along with it and started in on the bladder of wine! The site was the biggest and maybe the best of the trip, 2 canoe groups canoed in our direction (likely one was the group we saw at the EP) and had to turn away when they realized the spot was taken. If you make it on to this lake and this spot is open; grab it!
Sunday, August 05, 2012 We slept great that night. It rained for a few hours and Newman hear an animal outside the tent at one point. Likely a mouse but he was intent on getting out to investigate for a while. We we're glad for our smartwool sweaters in the morning, it had to be in the 50's but it felt great. The weather in Iowa had been over 100 ever day for 3 weeks with mid 80's overnight so this was a welcome change! Newman doesn't recall very well so he spent the trip on a tie-out or leash but LeeRoy liked to run around in the morning
My wife made us some oatmeal and coffee while I started to tidy up the site in preparation for our departure later that morning.
After breakfast I wandered around camp snapping pictures of the old logging equipment, there's a couple big tanks on the trail into camp with an old gas pump leaned up on them other than that there are some pipes and random drums along with an old bed frame sporadically placed around the outskirts of camp. It's too bad American Pickers can't get up there, this stuff would be right up their alley!
We packed up and hit the trail be 10:30. Believe it or not we're on the trail in these pictures, good luck finding it :)
There was really only a few places where it got a bit confusing but all in all it was "rougher" than we expected. Like I said I was picturing it in my head like a portage and that wasn't the case. We packed a bit heavy for bushwhacking :) but we got it done.
It took us about an hour before we reached the Whiskey Jack camp site turn off, we didn't go in but I snapped a photo
And Whiskey Jack Lake
From there we continued on towards Home Lake. There are some amazing bluffs you walk across and the pictures just don't do it justice. On one bluff you could see Gull Lake in the distance although I forgot to take a picture.
We saw some moose tracks and plenty of dropping but never caught a glimpse of one or any large game for that matter, but we weren't exactly stealthy which such full packs, plus we had the dogs. Plenty of up and down this hills
We stopped for lunch at the site on the north end of Home Lake. The camp is just off the portage and not near the water so I was glad we were moving on. Plenty of fire wood though.
After a break and a nice meal we loaded back up and continued on. We'd crossed some pretty wet areas and had to jump some small water crossings but just 15 minutes down the trail we hit a relatively major one, for the dogs anyways. It may not look it but the water was over Newman's head.
We didn't really want to wade across or take our shoes off/roll up our pants so we looked for alternatives. First we tried some fallen logs but it was pretty unstable and rotten. Luckily we found a place where the rocks were close enough to cross.
It was around 3 when we made it to the hiking camp site on the west side of Angleworm.
It is up a hill from the water but I really liked the site. Perfect size for a small group. We set up camp and tried to get a picture of the 4 of us; someone was always moving....
My wife had quite the blister from the past 2 days, mostly I think because day 1 was so wet.
But we had just the right thing to take care of a sore foot :)
After dinner I tried fishing, the only bite I got was on my water filter, one big enough I'd like to have caught latched on to the big old pre-filter for our water pump. He wasn't interested in lures though. The dogs were OUT before us that night and we all slept great.
Monday, August 06, 2012 Breakfast and coffee again before we packed up and headed out.
The trail on the west side of Angleworm seemed more defined than on the east. We wondered if most people start up the trail that way (clockwise) and turn back before they make it all the way around?
We planned on stopping for lunch at one of the 3 camps on the southwest end of the lake. We passed the first 2 heading south and went into the 3rd which I wouldn't really call a camp......it was literally right off the portage and almost in a swamp. There was no fire grate either but unless I missed something that was it...we had a short lunch and kept moving.
We met back up with the portage shortly after lunch and crossed the boardwalk without the rain this time
The portage was easy hiking from that point and we spent the next 9 hours in the car talking about next years trip; we're canoeing!