Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 17 2024

Entry Point 24 - Fall Lake

Fall Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 7 miles. "Access is a boat landing at Fall Lake. Several trip options to Newton, Basswood, & Mud Lakes with additionalportages." This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1324 feet
Latitude: 47.9527
Longitude: -91.7213
"This trip will be taking off from Fall Lake up through Newton Falls portage onto Pipestone Bay campsites. 3 day, 2 night trip into the wilderness.

BWCA Border Run 2010 (failed) Moose-Ottertrack-Moose

by holry7778
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 28, 2010
Entry Point: Moose Lake
Exit Point: Moose Lake (25)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
I have run this trip one before with a fellow guide back in the spring of 2000. This time I'm running it as a base alumni with 3 friends that have not done trek canoeing before. Ware are leaving Moose Lake head down through Ensign, Jordan, Ima, Thomas & Fraser. Then join back up to the border via Kekekobic and Eddie. The rest is following the border lakes, down the Pigeon river and Hike out via Grand Portage

Part 1 of 4

We'll were are making sure all equipment is broken in and ready. Tomorrow I hope to get some of the meal planning handled. Also going to check out if taking 1 large tent is going to be better than 2 smaller ones. Also on this trip I think I'm going to try out the JMO (jello mold oven) I'll experiment before we go and report back after the trip.

I have lots of data on our trip and several excel spread sheets if any one is interested.

8.28.2010 Well last night Chris got to the house about 6:15pm so we packed in the Tahoe picked up Charlie and headed up to Sheffield. We spent the night going through all of our equipment and food and “tried” to shake out what we could. We went to bed around midnight. So today we got up at 5am, too damn early for me. We shook down last night on Foreshoe’s ping-pong table. Food, equipment & personal gear. Trying to kill all the dead weight. Well we hauled it up and into the Tahoe. 6am and after the radio check we were off! Well kind of. Apparently Doug changed the oil in his Jeep last weekend and didn’t check the filter before replacing it. So his Jeep did its “Jeep thing” and drained all 5 quarts over the course of about 2 miles from his house to just outside of town. Thank goodness for the radios my dad lent us. “ My oil pressure gauge reads zero.” “Zero?!?” Well we pulled over and popped the hood. Oil was everywhere. So we turned around and noticed the ominous black line that led all the back to the house. (Nice Doug. Way to dump toxic waste all over Shef!) Turns out there were 2 gaskets on the oil filter and the hot pressurized oil just push it self all out. So Doug ran to Casey’s and got more oil.

So Take two… 6:50am (said to the tune of wizard of Oz) Follow the oiled dotted road, follow the oiled dotted road…The drive up was fine. We made good time but not enough to make up our lost time reinacting the Exxon Valdez. We stopped for gas and breakfast north of the cities at a Marathon and McD’s. Then we headed up to Duluth. Duluth’s I-35 is all sorts of torn up. By then end we were detoured around and finally got back along 63 and the north shore. In Grand Marais we had to stop for some lunch around 2pm. We realized there was no way we’d make it to Ely by 5pm . So we relaxed and ate some good puffy tacos. Then headed up to G.P. We filled the cars with gas and left the Jeep all alone in the monument’s extended stay parking lot, or a grass field (call it how you want). We toddled back down the North shore and turn on to Hwy 1, though apparently Doug’s GPS did like the fact I followed the road signs and not its suggested route. So it freaked out and shut down on him. Hopefully they will be on talking terms again someday. From GP I let Chris drive the Tahoe. Now Hwy1 is the curviest road I have ever been on. So Chris got to enjoy it in a nice, high center-of-gravity SUV with bad breaks that stutter. He handled it well. We made Ely around 5:30pm. We stopped in at Piragis to get Chris a trail cup and Doug to look at paddles then head down the road to the Base. Ah the good ol’ Fernburg trail. We arrive just after 6pm and of course the base was scarce of folk. I first checked out the Admin office, no one. So Doug and I walked up through the staff area and to Dining Hall. Ah of course, it was dinner time. All the Alumni crews were here for the rendezvous, eating and touring the trading post. I checked us in and got our cabin assignment, Off-the-Water #3. Then headed back down to get the Tahoe and guys. We quickly set out our gear and headed up to the Trading post for maps. Then we trucked back into town for some garbage bags at Pamida and dinner at the now x-Grandma’s (now the Boathouse). We ate typical pub fair and watch the Vikings game. I drove back down the Fernburg and parked in front of our cabin. That’s when we found out our cabin didn’t have electricity so over to OTW #4. Yeah lights and a fan! Then we broke up to get some of trail gear prepped (mostly folding maps for me). Doug and I hid in the Staff lockers. He strung my dad’s collapsible fishing pole he borrowed while I started folding maps. The head maintenance man (my old job) popped in and we got chatting. Apparently he just got done with the Border run and had some bad news. Not only was the water level down but the Granite and Pigeon rivers were pretty low too. There would be about 5 miles of dragging a canoe total. At first I blew that off. But that wouldn’t last. We then chatted about all the things that I had tried to recall and all the changes that had happened. So after boring Doug to death we headed back to our cabin and to bed.

8.29.2010 Well it is 6am again. The guys with the watches need to learn to set a new much later alarm time. Well everything got going but I think I underestimated how long it would take to cook breakfast and clean up. Doug took care of cooking and making sure he had plenty of bacon grease on his clothes. We then determined if there was a bear we only needed to run faster than Doug AKA “Bacon”. About 8am we had things packed and ready. We hit the trading post for Fishing licenses then down to new Baypost to let them know we needed to run to town to get our BWCA permit. In the Baypost I found out that we really needed to reconsider our choice of 42# Kevlar for canoes. If we were going to GP then we’d destroy them dragging them through the rivers. So on the drive to Ely we elected to take the alumi-tubs (64 lbs dry) We got to the US Forest service office around 9:15 listened to their schpeal and watched their little video. Then I drove like hell back down the Hwy 169 one last time. Go Tahoe Go! We hit parking lot at Base, dawned all of our gear packs and headed to the Baypost. I got the last of food supplies (10 slices of bay bread and 2 MRE’s) then headed over to the Canoe yard to select 2 good “tubs”. Now after using and servicing these puppies for the 3 years when I worked for the base, I have come to appreciate just a couple of things. 1-How are the yoke and pads? 2-Does the thing balance out? And 3-Are the drain holes open in both ends? After that all a canoe has to do is just float. So I thought I found 2 good candidates and Had the yard master check me out. I ran the paperwork back to the Baypost Manager and was off. The gang had already hiked down their stuff to the landing so I gathered up my pack and wielded a canoe on my shoulders. On the way down Chris and Doug passed and I told them to pick up the other canoe. I figured I’d see them headed down the trail with each of them carrying an end. Much to my surprise, Chris came to the dock with a 17’ aluminum hat. We helped him set it at the waters edge and got to repacking the food pack. Once the MRE’s and bay bread were in their appropriate bags (I re- used old grocery bags, 1 for each meal) the pack got cinched. One last check was made with everyone about being ready. We put the canoes down in the water, load them up, and hopped in. Doug, I mean “Bacon”, (bow) and Chris (stern) then there was Charlie (bow) and me (stern) in canoe #2. This was around 10:45am. We had ourselves in such a hurry we didn’t even take a picture of the push off. I think we just wanted to get as far and as deep into the WAC as we could.

Now there is but one true bane in my canoeing existence, and it is wind. Wind makes everything more challenging, more difficult, and more endured…even if it is in your favor. Lucky when we hit Moose, the wind was pushing up it nice. It was perhaps foot swales. We only encountered a handful of motorboats that for once steered well clear of us or slowed down. (Thank you nice motorboats).  Thought even with this ease on the lake it was fun to watch Bacon and Chirs battle to keep the canoe tracking straight. So they were quickly given the ranks of Zig & Zag. Well with the sun to our right we quickly make it through the twins, and around the point and into Newfound. The wind was still behaving thought I could tell it was not always going to be in our favor it was just the lay of the land that shifted it so. We continued across without a single issue and hit the far side and our first portage; a very easy, clean and nice 35 rodder into Splash. Now like most trained canoeists I stopped my metal tub early and let Charlie jump into the water and rocks and steady the canoe while I get out. That was just as Doug and Chris seemed to practice a little bit of new guys rock ramming. My mind shivered and just thought to myself “Well at least they are tubbies and not Kevlar”. I explained to them they need to try harder not to lodge the rocks into the canoe and that wet feet are just a part of the joy of the journey. I also explained how to “properly” portage…Everything goes in 1 trip, absolutely NO DOUBLE PORTAGING and be quick about it. Well my speech worked. We trudged right across into Splash Lake. However, my comments about wet shoes and pants didn’t quite take. I had to threaten Chris and Doug as they bottomed out their canoes as they loaded equipment. I eagerly held their canoe and told them if they don’t take 2-3 steps deeper into the lake the canoe would. Now granted unlike in the past when I had to do this for the lil’grubbers which I had no kinship with, I never hesitated. But Chris and Doug I knew I needed to not totally piss them off, even though the point was just as valid. So after some dirty looks we made our quick jaunt across. This was also the first time my memory starts to lack. I may have taken this lake 20+ times I still didn’t have it all memorized. I even told the guys earlier “I think” was going to be a key phrase for me. Now I hadn’t gotten out the old F-11 yet so I said it just go out and across, I think. As we paddled out 10 strokes the lake opened up and I realized I thought wrong. So I pulled out the map case and things switched around. Yeah I was wrong we need to out, DOWN and across, yeah that is it. That is what I meant to say.

Now the next 5 rod portage isn’t really much of a portage it is more of a rapids or at least when I worked up here it was, but the water is down. Luckily though it wasn’t down enough. Now I prepped the guy as this is the one and only placed I have ever been swamped in a canoe. An inpatient and bumbling adult didn’t want to make a second go up the rapids when the canoe got turned in the current. He tired to reach out and use his paddle to try some B.S. and in turn got the whole boat rocking then it went under. The real sad part of that story was I had just packed 2 dozen fresh cookies from my grandma on the top of my pack. They got soaked. So as evil payment I made the crew eat the soggy ones and I got to keep the dry ones. I conveyed all this to the guys and we ran up to the rapids but the water was low enough we had to get out and pull our canoes across. Then jumped back in and were off on Ensign Lake. Now remember that wind I spoke of earlier. Well now it was a real side wind and seemed to pick a little. I hate wind! Well we passed some encamped crews and made it to the portage into Ashigan. And then the wind was totally in our face. And for such a small lake there were rollers on the tops of the swales, f’ing rollers! I hate wind! Now it was around 1:45pm, so now seemed like a good point to enjoy some lunch. We found a nearby clearing on the shoreline and headed right over. Now Bacon mush have gotten some grease on his shoes as he decided to get as much of himself wet as he could trying to wrestle with the canoe while getting out. Lunch was good but I was still kind of full from breakfast’s grease fest. But 7 grain bread meat & cheese was tasty. So after few bites and carrots, we were off again. Now the portage from Ashigan to Gibson is the first “real” portage we have. At 105 rods, it is a nice reminder of the fun. Its nicer than most as it is well maintained and has nice landings both sides. So it isn’t like it is horrible but it is fun all the same. Now this is also a hard portage for me as my memory is playing with me. I could remember parts as I saw them but I didn’t remember the order or how much further it was. So it seemed to last longer than I thought it would. That or it could be simply the fact I’m 100lbs heavier than I was last time I took it. Well needless to say after that portage I was tired and so was everyone. I think they all looked at me like I should die for talking them into this trip. But we move the 100 yards over the lake and on to the next portage. Well the next portage is one of where my memories still recalls. It is a short 25 rods into Cattyman, right? No, there seemed to be an addition 25+ rods because the water is so low. Thanks Ma’ Nature! Well this was the only time I took the 2 packs and not the canoe. So after the guys looked at me and said, “25 rods huh?” I adopted the phrase “Well the maps says 25 so it is likely twice along.” Well after that we ventured into the falls that separated the two lake and created the portage. Well we climbed down through some trees and …well depression sets in for me. This used to be a pretty strong and raging set of falls. It was never tall, just strong. But now it is, well, a small trickle. So I was very saddened when I took a picture. We climbed up and got back in our canoes and paddled on. Now Cattyman and Jordan Lakes moved quietly and quickly, I could tell we were starting to get tired. Now so far we have seen a number of crews. Heck there was even a crew encamped on Jordan. So we portaged in to Ima. This is where you find I am quite democratic. I rule by simple majority. I looked at the guys and said hey, are you tired yet or do you want to keep going?  Keep going wasn’t the strong vote so we started looking for a campsite as we hit the water. Now I will not go out of my way for a campsite. Luckily after finding 2 encamped crews we found a nice camp on the eastern shore a short distance from our next portage. When we hit land, we did so in good fashion. Bacon and I returned to a canoe and tripped out for 4 gallons of fine lake water to treat for drinking and cooking. After that we all drug out packs, setup the tent. Then Chris and Charlie started making dinner. Bacon and I decided that the rock at the water’s edge look so enticing that I jumped right in and did a little swimming. We even took a rock and a rope and measured how deep it was, 14’. As we swam, the steaks and potatoes cooked. The dinner bell rang and we all enjoyed some awesome food. Well the Steaks were great. The potatoes had burn skins and hadn’t cooked quite long enough so they were kind of bust but it was all ok. 

Now it was time for clean up. Bacon and I took that over and sent Charlie and Chris to handle bear bag ropes and canoes. Well while watching the water come to boil, Charlie popped out of the woods and said he needed me to “give some advise” I walked back with him past the toilet and came to where Chris was and they ask if it was a concern that the trees just seem to fall over. I guess Charlie had leaned a little too hard on a poor sapling and tipped it up on its side. I told him he just lay off the Wheaties. Then explained that the dirt is usually less than an 1” thick most places and so not to worry. We struggled and eventually got the single rope setup rigged. It was a cobble job at best. But I didn’t want to cut the rope, it wasn’t mine. When I returned I helped Bacon rinse and dry the dishes. Then I set off to make the morning milk in my nalgene and set it in the lake. Note in late August the lake water is pretty warm. So the “fridge” is questionable. Well by this time the sun was going down and so we set the bear bag up. Then came back and headed for the tent. In the tent we pulled out the playing cards and chatted about our overall progress. Needless to say we are short of our first day (by about 4 miles) and that will only make our journey to GP hard…er! So with little remorse we changed our trip plan. Then after a few more hands we hit the hay.

08.30.2010 Welcome Day 2!!!

But at 6am, ick! These guys need to learn how to reset their alarms (I am by no means a morning person) It rained during the night. That and the rock s and ruts made for a comfy sleep. So we got up and packed up our tent goods; Sleeping bag, dry clothes, pillow, etc back into our compression sacks. We went off and got the bear bag down and started to cook up the Egg Beaters for our egg McMuffins and enjoyed them with some cool milk and hot cocoa. While we cooked we got more water and started packing up camp. We were by no means in a hurry. I think we got the back on the water around 9 ish. So off we went. I think we were just about 1/8th of a mile from the portage trail (it is just to the north of “Cross rock”) Bacon and Chris missed it but that is ok I had the maps, hehe. Now comes Hatchet Lake. Now I remember hatchet and all of its mosquitoes and lily pads. Last time I brought a lilly home for my girlfriends so I thought I’d bring her another one, now that she is my wife. So Charlie, Chris and I all picked lilies and stuffed them in our hats. We tossed our canoes through the next few portages. We did check out a run through the thickets on one but nothing. Then back on to paddling. We hit Thomas then my favorite thing returned (sarcasm) … wind. Boy I hate wind. Again it is a side wind so we set to tracking along. I saw 2 separate crews heading south on Thomas but that was it. We cut between an island the shore for a short reprieve but then it was back to the wind. Up the straight to Frasier and we came across another bald eagle sitting on the rock. He didn’t like the sight of us so before I could get a camera on him he was skyward. Cut along the lake and by this point I noticed that Bacon and Chris were doing well , not so much ziggin’ and zaggin’ but Bacon was the stern man for a while. I kept asking Charlie if he was cool sitting in front and he said yep he enjoyed it. We stopped on the portage into Gerund Lake and enjoyed some of the peppered jerky my father in-law got from his local meat locker. I made sure to also get some extra sunscreen on my right arm where I now had a burnt in racing stripe. That is right kiddies don’t forget to rub in spray-on sunscreen! We took a quick puddle jump across that led to the portage and UP was the word! Up about 70ft in 35 rods. Grrr. Needless to say this very out of shape bastard was huffin’ and puffin’ by the end! I took a minute and then hopped in the back of silver with Charlie out in front and off we went across Ahmakose. Over the next portage and we made it to one of my favorite places. The rocks of Wisini Lake. These are awesome Cliff jumping that are said to be some 35’ tall. Well you may have to climb up to 35’ but where you jump from is about 20’ (Sorry to ruin the coolness) It is still fun as hell. Charlie and Chris weenied out so it was up to Bacon and I to ventured off the edge While the acrophobics took video. We did it twice then decided to get back to canoeing on. It was fun! We portaged in and out of Strup and we were on Big Kek! (Kekekabic Lake that is) On the portage in I saved Doug from having to go back a long ways as I was kind enough to pick up his hat…without taking off my canoe (can we say extreme lunge) And once again my evil buddy, wind, joined us. We paddled out and found a campsite to enjoy lunch. We got some water to refill our bottles. This is for Charlie’s benefit as I didn’t notice but he only brought one nalgene, 2 are manditory. We had Swiss cheese, Horse dick (summer sausage) and tortillas, along with some chocolate energy bar cubes. The Swiss after just a day and half out of the refridge was getting weird. It was very oily, soft and rubbery. Next time out I’ll avoid it. But it went down the gullet and sat. We regrouped a little before heading out the roller filled lake. We got back in our sardine tins and pushed off. Down big Kek we went. Now the way the map is folded in my map case I have to flip to see the end as it dives off one side for bit then comes back. Well I wasn’t being careful in the flipping back and forth and took us down the south bay instead of the east. This slowed us up about 20 min but when I figured it out I about slapped myself. Then, of course, there was this little short portage. It is listed as 5 rods, but it is maybe 2 at best even with the low water. So I broke my rule and “double” portaged the 2 paddles and Charlie’s fishing pole. I just couldn’t bring myself to f’ with them and move them 3 times just to hand them to Charlie. When I came back I loaded Charlie up and then grabbed the canoe. I was the last to start to cross. My first step into it my feet went bye-bye, right out from under me. So me, my pack and the canoe all dropped straight down on to my ass! Ouch! I gathered myself and hollered at Charlie “Hmmm, Help?!” but he couldn’t help since he had packs front and back. So I pitched the canoe to my side and tired to lean forward to keep my pack dry (to little avail) since I knew I wasn’t going any where. Chris came back and looked at me. I just looked back and said “hey can you come get my bag? Then I’ll need a hand” Wow that kind of took me by surprise and I was more shocked from it than hurt. So after gathering myself I hopped right back into the back of my canoe and pushed of through the Kek ponds. I think these are probably the best place that you can really notice the 1999 blow down. All of the water connections between the ponds are just jammed with downed trees and logs. So portage, portage, portage was the game. One of the ponds was perhaps 2-3 foot deep then silt. When you paddled the silt would stir up. It was interesting to see since the water was clear. So sitting in the back I could see Charlie’s paddle stokse as a murky cyclone go whirling by.

We finally hit Eddie, a nice paddle, by this time the wind had died down a bit and so paddling wasn’t bad heading into the wind. So we made for the portage to South Knife, which also parallels Eddie Falls. So after we hauled the boats and packs across, we totted back up and cut over to check out the falls. The blow down killed the open beauty it once had but it was still impressive. So we set up the camera and took a couple of pictures. With a 10 second fuse it was an interesting run from the camera through the stream and rocks, over a downed tree and sit calmly on the rocks! Then the guys washed their faces in the lower falls. I however wanted to check out the upper portions so I climbed up the wet mossy rocks and enjoyed the water flow. It was like a dream shower or bath. Irish Springs or Kohler need to try and really recreate this! We each carved out a letter in the downed tree as others before us had. And we went on our tired little way.


Part 2 of 4

Well we got in our canoes and came across our 3rd crew for the day. We paddled on in the wind shadow of shore of the South Arm of Knife. Then found a nice sand shored campsite. We hit the shore and got to work. This time a little smoother and better organized. The water got brought in, tent erected, canoe brought up for a table. This is when the phrase “Somebody, not Doug” got patented. As Bacon was moving something to under the canoe, it started to tip to its side and all the things on top started to slide and fall off. But since no one else was around when Bacon claimed “It wasn’t me” we all gave him an odd look. Well Charlie asked what happened and I explained…”Somebody, NOT DOUG, tipped over the canoe.” We all got a good chuckle from that and the phrase suck. After that we went off to set up the bear ropes. Again we had fun tossing the “rope rock” (a swiss seat tired in a tight contractors knot) after several tries we finally nailed the first end up. Then we tired getting the second end up. That went a little better but we still took 5-6 tries. When we got back Chris had almost gotten dinner all cooked. I got to work and made up the cheese cake. We ate and it was delicious. Pasta, peas, tuna and parm cheese, Yum! Then topped off the meal with Jell-o’s Strawberry Cheese cake. It was most excellent. I took the time after the meal to try a little fishing. The sun was almost done setting as I walked along the waters edge and started casting out. After maybe 5-6 casts, I got a hit! It jumped up the first time and I first thought this fella is tiny. Well a little closer in it jumped again and this was no little fella. It was a good sized walleye. Eatable! Just as I got ready to really start fighting him in. he splashed one last time and got free of the hook. Damn!!! But I wanted to at least get even a minnow wheeled in. So I kept casting and yet another 5-6 casts I got a hit again. Man the rattle trap is really working tonight. This time the jumper was small and I thought I set the hook but after just one jump the little guy got free. I casted maybe 30 more times after that and got nothing. Now that it was dark. I packed up my rod and we went to set up the Bear Bag. We were using a single long rope and it just wasn’t paying out. The darn thing pulled like crap and was hard to tie off. But after some fussing and cursing we finally got it up in the air to at least taunt the bear for a while. When we got back to camp the night sky was pretty clear and beautiful. The stars were out in force. For a good 15 minutes we cranked our necks skyward and enjoyed the view. After that we made for the tent and to bed.

Oh yeah I forgot to add the part about Bacon’s throwing knife. For some reason Doug really want to “help along” the wild life at the camp around diner time. There was an awfully fat bunny that kept eating the grass beside our tent. Well swift little Douglas was going to get him with his little slim throwing knife. The bunny seemed oblivious to Bacons ninja like walking skills as he “snuck up” to the bunny. Now I just warned Doug, that if he made a hole in the tent, I’d use the knife on him. Undaunted he threw and just missed the bunny. The bunny now taking the time to acknowledge Doug as small threat just popped up its ears and hopped into a bush to eat. Bacon retrieving his knife slowly gave pursuit. Well now that Bacon was getting closer with his knife and after a couple other misses. The bunny had enough and took to the woods. But a ground squinty was still quite interested in our garbage. Bacon now miffed about the bunny thought he could get the much more wily critter. And with a swift fling of his wrist the knife flew and TWANG!!! Now by this part of the trip I know I had explained at least once that there isn’t a whole lot of dirt here and where there is it is usually only just a dusting over the rocks below. Well Doug’s nice shiny throwing is now a nice shiny crocheting knife. The tip had just bent around a lot 180 degrees. Needless to say we had a good laugh.

08.31.2010 Did I mention I hate 6am! I’m going to petition to have that time remove from all clocks! We got some really early morning rain yet again as well. We packed up our tent goods and crawled out into the morning dawn. We trotted off and lowered the bear bag. After last night’s frustration with the single rope, I talked Doug into cutting it in half. This will hopefully make our bear hanging a lot easier. Well we boiled up some water and enjoyed some breakfast. Now while the rest of us were enjoying our hot cocoa, I finally noticed Charlie had to enjoy his instant coffee. After a little ribbing, the nickname “Coffee” was born. Perhaps if Chris and I can go by Eggs & Toast, we could be the breakfast bunch. Ok perhaps not, yeah no. We continued on and packed up camp.

Now all we needed to do was just run across the bay go behind the island and over a 30 road portage to get in to big Knife. Well we went around what looked like an island, then across a really short 5 rodder and came into another bay. We continued out into some nice wind, turned east and rounded a point. But something wasn’t matching up. The map says that there should be land to the north not another bay…Shit! Okay WTF? Well after some closer examining and a little help from Bacon’s GPS we apparently hit another portage just to the west and are one bay over yet. Ok that debacle is over. Well now that we are on the right course the wind is really starting to kick up. Even though it is at our backs, there are lots of rollers and even a few full on white caps. We stopped for potty break and for a snack as we got into the last large part of Knife. The border markers are oddly phallic. And the guy that did the last paint job should be fired. So after some nice beef stix and a little Kool-Aid we got back in and paddled. We hit Little Knife Portage and I had to ask the guy show they felt b/c there 3-4 campsite right around this area then it is a good 6 miles to the next one on Ottertrack , then another mile or 2 to the next group. They guys said they wanted to check out the first set. And low and behold the first one right on the portage trail was open. Now I’m not sure if I had mentioned this but in the WAC you go with what you first find because more that likely if you pass it up the next 10 are taken! So even though it was only like 2:30 ish we made camp. I know, a little weak, but better than having to paddle another 3+ hours.

So we start setting up camp. Bacon and I went to get drinking water. For some reason Bacon had a spit of energy and paddled like hell to get out into the lake so I spent a lot of my paddling trying to compensate. We returned to shore with four gallons in tow. Coffee and Chris started setting up the table canoe and tent. Chris got a dry line set up. Doug…err Bacon, scoured the area looking for the best tent site. After about 20 minutes and me sliding (falling really) down the ledge rock to go to the biffy, he comes back and says about 80 yards into the bush there is a great rock that has like 4” of moss on top. I just rolled my eyes and told him to take a vote. I voted against hiking back 80 yards through the bush in the dark. Since we had some time I started to completely rebuild the fire place. First I tore down the stack of rocks that were pretending to be a surround. I dug out all the soot and coals. Then I started relaying the rocks into a proper fire grate surround. And While I’m doing that Chris has assembled a lot of wood and started going to town sawing it up. Then he got more. Lot’s more! He just didn’t wanted to sit down and enjoy the view. I was worried he might start going for live trees. Well it as about time for Bacon to do something memorable again and without fail he had found an 8” long hunk of cedar he was bound to split. So out from the hip sheath comes his Bowie knife. He lodges it into the end grain then gets a thick stick and starts beating on the back of the blade to force it through….1 swing , 2…twang!!! The epoxied-on finger guard became un-epoxied and went bouncing off. Bacon is just having the worst luck with his knifes. Well Chris found a wedge shaped rock and attacked the log. Minutes later ( or perhaps 30) he hands over 2 halves. I took some time after that layout on a rock and let my feet dry and dry out. That lasts until I get uncomfortable, so I grabbed my sandals and rod and tried fishing the bay on the other side of the portage. No luck, not even a nibble and luckily no snags either. So I came back to camp and finally sat down and grabbed my journal and started this great tale. I hate writing so I made it only far enough to record the first couple of days. Well now it is time to toss up the bear bag ropes (we have 2 now) so we all strolled into the woods and started spotting trees for good candidates. Well even though we have the rope rock and good rope, baseball- ing the rigging up there is still an art. And apparently we were not artist today. Though finally we did get the setup done. Thankfully (yes thank you Doug for letting us cut the rope) there will be no fancy cobbled up knots to make a single rope work.

About now it is time to start prepping dinner. Tonight is premier of my fancy, patent pending, wonder tail oven. So I start by forgetting to grease the pan and mixed the “just add water” muffins right in Jell-o mold. I just used my fork to whisk and let it set up for a minute or 2 while “Simmer,” my oldest peak1, warmed up. Then I just set up the oven rig on the burner and adjusted the flame to low. I added a thermometer to keep an eye on the temps and 21 minutes later (the long time noted on the packaging) I put out the flame and give it the toothpick test…perfect! Then while the muffins cooled I cooked up the rest of dinner, MRE beef pack and dried potato slices. It wasn’t too bad. But the Muffins at the end, Excellent! The only down fall was that I didn’t grease the pan, but at clean up we found that it really wasn’t a problem. It cleaned up easily with some hot water and scrubby pad. After that Chris started his well made fire and we enjoy an evening fire side. We were enjoying ourselves so much we busted out the alcohol and cigars, as I popped up a late night snack of popcorn. (Which burned a little in the pan and the burn marks do not come off.) But the bourbon and rum along with the nice Cuban “defects” made the evening worth wild. After that was simply watching the night sky for a bit then to bed.

09.01.2010 6am go away. Where’s the damn snooze! Any ways, woke and rolled out of bed. But good news this AM we will be coming back after we paddle up to Monument portage. Also it is clean clothes day. So nice clean socks dawned my feet this AM. Even though my others were dry. We ate breakfast and watched the rabid ground squirrels feast on our loose popcorn and granola. We rehung the bear bag, packed up our water bottles and lunch and headed on up Ottertrack. Kindly the wind had died out and so we enjoyed a nice simple paddle up. We hit the portage and took lots of pictures of the cast obelisk monuments for which the portage is named. At the far end we ran across 2 old coots and decided we’d give them a hand. They only gave up a couple little packs but we were glad to help. Back at the landing we stood and chatted with them for a bit. They told us they come up twice a year, right at the 4th of July and the last week in August like us. They also reminded me that Canadian permits cost a fortune! ($20/person/day….ouch) We exchanged a few stories and headed back to our camp on Knife. On the way we found a plaque to Benny Ambrose randomly along the north cliffs of Ottertrack. It was an odd plaque just applied cliff wall. After some horrid theorizing of what the man could have done, we continued on. Shortly afterwards we stopped and fulfilled Chris’s request of eating on the Canadian side. We enjoyed a placid trail mix and some wonderful smoked Gouda and summer sausage. As we sat on the shore we noticed the old fogies paddle by. We gathered our stuff back into my pack and headed back to our campsite. We passed the old guys on the last little bay on Ottertrack. Then we hit the camp and packed everything up. As we were loading the canoes the fogies leap-frogged us again and stopped to ask where some good sites were on south knife. We chatted for a few minutes more then jump in the aluminums (I wish these were a lighter, woven material…you like Kevlar!) and started our return portion of the trip since we would no longer be going to GP.

We kind of kept up with our elderly friends only because they would follow the shore line while we would b-line it straight across. As we left the upper bay of knife I looked out into the big lake ahead and I about died. 1-2 foot swales and whitecaps galore. Great for some reason the wind was really bad all of the sudden. Luckily it must have just been a freak thing because after 10-15 minutes on the lake the whitecaps disappeared and the swales were subsided. Wind, you are an evil mistress.

Well we decided to press on to the next point on the US side and find a campsite. This one had a bit of an uphill-ness to it. The biffy was an interesting journey through a grove of younger cedars that had no low branches almost like a mangrove forest. The tent site was further up yet and was a little rocky. The blow down had left quite a few trees down here so Chris got right to work. He was a venerable chainsaw I tell you…hmm there’s a good name chainsaw, no, buzzsaw, no better yet Buzz!

I rebuilt the fire place and the benches around. Coffee went off and found a great bear bag setup. The bear would have a hard time getting to it, 30ft up and 15’ from any tree. We continued on and finished setting up camp. Once again there was a good swimming spot right off the shore where we could just jump right in. So after a few canon balls and a good cut on my foot (btw wear shoes min. the rocks are sharp...hence the name Knife Lake) I busted out the trail oven and cooked up another batch of muffins that came out Perfect! Buzz was still deforesting the campsite with Bacon’s help. Coffee was helping me cook the rest of the food. After dinner, Coffee and I ventured down the hill to the waters edge where we tried to persuade the fish to bite our hooks but we didn’t even get a nibble. We fished the shore line until sunset. Bacon even joined in for a bit, but no dice. So we sat by another warming camp fire for a bit then climbed up the hill to the tent and assumed our sleeping order (me, Buzz, Bacon and Coffee) Not sure why we never changed that up. I guess the same is true of the canoe assignments.

09.02.2010 For goodness sake would someone just throw the damn alarm in the lake! Please! We rolled out of the tent be to find a much less sunny morning. In fact, it was a little dreary and cool. Up to now the days have been pretty sunny with a few clouds. But this AM it was not so. We rolled down the hill and fetched the bear bag from its lofty perch and boiled up some water for our breakfast and scarfed it down. Then packed up the camp back into the packs and portaged back down the hill to the shore and loaded up. Now today since we are no longer going to GP we didn’t need to go very far. We could stay anywhere from the western end of Knife west to where ever. So we paddled down the lake. The wind wasn’t too bad. Thank you wind. The Eagles must really like this weather because it sure seemed like they were out in force. Heck we had one fly right over head. I could have hit the fella with my paddle. It was really cool. Then we saw 2 roosting along the shore. They flew up and perched themselves up the trees while we passed by. We made it down to the Isle of Pines in no time.

Now I haven’t been on this Isle in quite some time, but I knew right where Dorithy’s cool rock was. We pulled ashore then ventured over the island to see if we could still find the remains of the backwood icon’s cabin. Apparently the blow was pretty bad here. We went through thick forestation over, under, around all the dead trunks. The only thing we found was some old rusty bottle caps. After venturing to the far side with no sign of her clearing, we turned back. Coffee and I found some really unique rocks along the shore that we packed up.

Back at the canoes we decided to press on and see how far we could go for the day. So through the rapid-caused portages of Big Knife Portage. Now back in 1990 and 1994 we actually shot the rapids and didn’t portage it. But the water was just so low. There was no way we could have even done it even without our gear. So we huffed the canoes and packs across. Now there are a lot of small lakes and short portage/rapids that go for a while. So we repeated the process until we stopped on the rapids leading into Melon Lake. We portaged across first then went back and walk up to the rapids. We walked across below the last rapids then walked up the Canadian side and found an enjoyable spot to rest and had some beef stix and trail mix. We relaxed and took in the simplicity of the falls. We’d tossed in sticks and pine cones to see how long it would take to float down then we threw in Buzz’s nalgene for Doug to collect at the bottom. After a few more antics we walked back across to the good ol’ US of A and pushed on in our fine metal floaties.

Now the next portage the rapids looked pretty promising. After going cross we once we again walked back up to inspect the rapids. Well I guess I had my Wheaties (and a shot of stupid) that morning and told Bacon “Hey I think we can shoot those, what do you say?” He said if I portaged the canoe back up, he was game. So off we went. Buzz and Coffee went and got the cameras. Actually Bacon had already given Buzz his camera which slipped out of his pocket while trying to get to a good spot and landed in the water (ouch). He was smart grabbed it quickly and took out the batteries and memory card. So Coffee went back and got mine (it had a water proof case). All the meanwhile Bacon and I were trying our damnedest to try and shoot the rapids. But the water was just too low. We’d go 4 to 5 feet and get hung up on the rocks. There was a big drop that Bacon and I had to get out and lower the canoe down. He got down and jumped back in but the current got him moving before I could get in so he solo-ed it for 3 feet before the water came in over the sides and over turned him. Luckily I got there before it got totally pinned down. He and I tried and tired and were able to recover it, empty it and get back for another 8-9 feet, then Rock! The whole deal went like that. It was sad really. Buzz and Coffee just sat along the shore and laughed at us as we stuttered by. Finally after a jarring journey down we reached the end. We pulled up to the portage end and got out. We emptied the water out and repack it down. After a good laugh at our sad sorry selves we paddled on. One of our last portages of the day I did something I still wonder about. At the head of was a life vest and water bottle against a tree. We didn’t take it because these are life saety equipment and I didn’t know if it belonged to the crew coming across. As we were departing they asked if it was ours, damn. I know someone just forgot it and normally I’d hike out any garbage I came across, but since this was a life safety issue I really didn’t want to take it. Hopefully it’s owners come back for it.


Part 3 of 4

Any how, we made it into Birch Lake finally. It was now something like 1pm or there abouts. As we rounded the bend we passed 3 very beautiful cedar/fiberglass canoes. The crew all had voyageur style paddles, long and narrow. The canoes looked like they were well babied. I need to build one. 

We started our crusade for a campsite. Since we are pretty close to all the Ely entry points it was no surprise that several of them were already filled. But we did finally find a nice grassy site and called it home for the night. Now so far all day it has been very overcast and cool. But to the West and North, it was starting to look worse. We hit shore and assumed our roles in setting up camp. I tore apart the fire place, cleaned it out, then rebuilt it. Coffee found the toilet then helped Bacon with the Tent. Then I tackled the poor bench set up. There wasn’t any great logs but I made due with what I had. At this point, benches we mandatory for me because my knees wouldn’t allow me to get up from sitting on the ground with out a lot of pain so anything that could get me up a bit was gold. I then strung up the fly. I need to work on remembering to string up the fly low to the ground to help keep out the elements from the stuff it protects. Also to put things under the canoes if I really want them to stay dry. That and also upgrading to a real nylon dining fly would be best, and not a vestibule and some nylon cord. We had a quick lunch and kept on working.

Now Buzz got his eye on a paper birch that was rotting standing up and he just couldn’t resist. Out came the saw and he slowly but surely started cutting thru it from 3 sides about 4 feet above the ground. Bacon grabbed a bear rope and tied it another 2-3 feet higher. I looked this over and shook my head. I grabbed a paddle and pushed the rope up another 4 feet so we could get a better pull on it. All four of us got on the end of the rope. Bacon and I used sticks wrapped around the cord to pull be…kind of. After about 30 seconds of pulling my stick breaks and hit me in the under arm then Bacons does the same and get his tricep. We were both now marked with wonderful red lines. All I can say if ouch, f’ing ouch man. So after some cursing. I walked back to the tree and shook my head a little more and grabbed the saw and spend a minute or two sawing at it a little more. Note the saw has a mouth 12” wide by 4” deep and this is a 9” caliper birch. So after frustrating myself with the saw I go back and Buzz and I just bounce on the rope really quick, before Coffee and Bacon can even get on and the damn thing just falls over. “ Alright, now it is down. What are you gonna do with it?” I asked…silenced loomed. “We could use if for benches.” Bacon finally answers. I looked at Buzz and even he had lost all intentions of sawing it after having to saw through it while it was a standing tree. So we took the 4-5’ end that broke off and added to the already large wood pile.

Well Now that camp was set up, we decided to screw around…a little. Now there is a fine art form in the canoeing world called “Gunwale Humping.” It was developed by some really bored guides the learned you can make a canoe move forward (quickly if done well) by emptying it out and standing up as far back and up on the stern as possible. Now that all sounds easy until you try and get your feet up on the little triangle plate on the top end of the stern. When I worked up here I’d usually try this once a trip to see how many of the grubbers would try it so I could get a good laugh. Well I had suckered Bacon into. I paddled out, solo, into our little bay and up wind. I locked my paddle in the thwarts and yoke. Then proceeded to stand up on the rear seat. Now I’m about as graceful as a blind polar bear fishing, (and likely as fat) so it wasn’t but 1 or 2 bounces in before I fell to the side and into the water. So Coffee and Bacon canoed over and got the tub while I swam to shore. Now it was Bacon’s turn, so let the fun begin. Well he got out there and the first time he just stood in the bottom of the canoe and did. I explained that any idiot could do that. He needed to get his foot work up higher and further back. Well after some resistance, he finally tired it and, of course, drank some lake water. But, and this where the fun viewing pleasure really is, he didn’t want to give up. He could do it, right? Now I was impressed by his ability to hop in the canoe from while swimming aside while we held it for him from our canoe. Well he did a good job making me laugh. The piece du resistance was when he fell off the last time and yelled over to Buzz on the shore to show him how he could ungracefully get back in the canoe. 1…2…3 he went up the canoe rolled over and he took a gunwale to the head. Damn that’s got to hurt. Needless to say that put an end to our little shoreline show. But as usual, it was worth doing.

Well we returned to shore to fart around. The ominous weather was getting closer and the wind getting a little more. We did see a Charlie crew go by so I shouted a cheerful “Holry” to them as they paddled on. Hopefully they find a camp before the weather gets too bad. Now for some reason we were plagued with yet another ground squinty that was by no means scared or threatened by us. He kept coming up under the upturned canoe and snooping around. So being bored we started tossing little rocks at him. He didn’t even flinch. A couple he dodged, I think he was just having a laugh at us for even trying. After a couple more bounce right in front of him and over his head he decided perhaps the woods were a better place. Well Buzz went off and tried casting a few times and came back with a 10” small mouth bass in his hands. I grabbed the camera and took a picture so we had proof that the fish did, in fact, exist up here. I had to sadden him when I told him he was too small to keep and eat. So Buzz tossed him back so we could get him next time we venture up here. Well it was dinner time and so we busted out the camp stoves and prepped us some grub. Being that the evening was turning pretty crappy we setup the bear bag and adjourned indoors for a few hands of cards then it was off to bed.

09.03.2010 Grrr, 6 sucks! Well it rained most of the night. Pulled back the sleeping bag and it was cold. Not cool, cold. I grabbed my clothes and stuck them in my sleeping bag to warm them up. Got dressed, packed up, dawned my sandals and started packing up my pack. Since it rained all night and our Fly didn’t do much. My socks were still wet and cold. So I opted to switch back to my dirty yet dry trail socks from before. It was a nice bonus for a crumby day. I put on nylon pants, life jacket, and rain coat. One would be surprised by how much body heat the life jacket helps keep in. I guess it isn’t shocking as all it is a closed cell foam. We made up some hot water for the hot cocoa and a bottle of instant milk for the granola. Today would have been a good day for oatmeal, but oh well. Looking out at the lake wasn’t promising either, 1’-3’ swells, all white capped. Man today is just shaping up to be a beast. I was originally thinking we’d go up into Basswood to tool around but who knows now. Well we slowly pack up camp and hit the water. I think today was the latest we had all trip 9:20 ish. Well once we cleared the point in our tubs the wind was hell. The rain wasn’t heavy but it was cold and horizontal, so it sung the face a little. Now Bacon, a.k.a. Merc-cruiser, and Buzz, a.k.a. Rudder Paddled like no other and tired to hide in the wind shadow of two small islands. Meanwhile Coffee, a.k.a. Johnson, and myself just B-lined it for the narrows that connect up to Sucker Lake. Once in the narrows the wind was no longer an issue. So we could leisurely paddle again. Our journey was blessed again by a quietly perched bald eagle. We skimmed along the water has he looked over his wing to watch us. As we crossed into Sucker, we ran across a LaTourell’s crew and guide. He asked how long we had been out and asked how the fishing was. He seemed discouraged when we told him in 6 days we had only shored 1 small smallmouth. As we entered Sucker we also rejoin the motor boats. We paddled over to Prairie Portage, the location of the Canadian ranger’s station. We hopped down the portage trail and as we looked out over Jackfish bay Basswood we cringed. 3’+ swells and pretty evil looking whities capping them all. Goo! Well I guess we won’t be paddling over this way to just to jack around. So we venture up to the ranger’s cabin to check things out. It seems like they added a lot of merchandising from what I recall, but seeing as I only came thru here maybe twice my mind my may just be foggy. They did have a nice patch for the portage that I thought was cool enough to buy. So Bacon and I ventured back up to the canoes and got the money stores and returned. We chatted with the ranger for a time. We learned that it was 53°F out and that tonight is to be a low of 40°F. We journeyed back to the dam at the top end and shot some photos. Then it was back to our canoes and on to find a campsite. Now there are two groupings of campsites, the east end of Newfound and the East end of Moose. The boys felt like having a easy day on the last day so we push through the wind to the east of Moose. Now down Sucker the swells were small 1’-2’ and at our back. But when we turned westward it became an evil cross wind. The deep swells and white caps were in full force. Several of the waves broke over the side of the gunwales. After Horseshoe Island it was just misery. Merc-cruiser and Rudder again tried tacking straight into the wind. I just lowered my head while Johnson and I just cut straight across. Now the motorboat wakes weren’t too bad as the waves just ate them up. As we rounded into Moose Lake, I kind of expected to find all the camp sites open. Let’s be honest, who camps 2 miles from their resorts? Well I guess a lot of people do. The first two were taken. We paddled looking for the next one and found a slippery ledge rock landing and a narrow trail going up. Bacon ran up and confirmed it was a camp. They landed on the rock and Coffee and I had circle back and land at a little gravel spot just around the point. While our spot wasn’t slippery, it did have a 6’ vertical mud climb to get up to the trail. We grabbed our stuff and passed in up the climb them helped each other up. The campsite was worst one we had come across. (The weather wasn’t helping that appraisal either) There were 2 small logs on the ground, 2 small rocks pretending to protect the fire pit which had a bad direction/setting given the day’s wind. The tent sight wasn’t too bad. It was back into the woods and below a little ridge so the wind didn’t try to blow it away. Coffee and I went back to our canoe and paddled out for some water. As we got blown back to shore, I noticed one of the other crews was leaving their campsite. I was tempted to say we just move over there but we had already lugged everything up there, so eh. We paddled back to shore and I handed the water up the climb to Coffee and then collected all the large rocks I could for the fire place and passed them up until I could climb up. This fire place was bad because it had quite a drop on the side that we needed to have open. We situated the logs as best we could. Bacon was putting up the fly and at this point I must have been tired because I lost my tactfulness and try and explain that we need to get it low so it protects us from the rain and the wind if possible and not up high so it does little. Sorry Bacon and gang I was a little malcontent at the moment. So after wrestling with it (and tearing the fly) I remove myself from the situation and went off to set up the tent. Now when it is raining you have to change the way you erect your tent so the tent body stays dry. First you set up the poles then put the fly over the frame, then erect the tent body under the protection of the tent’s fly. Coffee came down and gave me a hand about half way through. The tent was up. I went back up to the fire and fiddled with the fly a little more to see if it could protect us a bit better. Did I mention a proper fly would have really paid off here? Using this old vestibule really had its down falls. The center of the thing kept drooping down so I grabbed the Buzz’s base issued paddle and placed that on the edge of the fire grate to hole up the middle. Of course though when the wind picked up the paddle would fall over. Buzz got to work trying to light wet wood. We were having a hell of a time so I pulled out the stoves and we tried using one of them to help get the wood get started.

So it is now around 2pm. While Buzz and I are having fun with that. Bacon was off looking for dry or drier wood. At first he came back with brown cedar sprigs that were wet but burned up quickly one they got started. The he found a good stash of dry tinder. Also by no w we had some good wood burning via the stove that we were able to put into the rest of the fire to really get it going. But once the wood started burning, the smoke was evil and almost intently in our faces. We had placed some of the extra wood on top of the fire place to help dry it out. Coffee started breaking out lunch and as Buzz and I fussed about, now the lit stove decided to slide down and rolls towards his leg inches away. I just simply reacted and tried to grab it before it hit his leg. I didn’t see him grabbing for it as well. As he did, he pulled it down and away while I tried to put it towards myself. My hand got pulled into the bottom of the very hot burner plate. I quickly released my hand. The webbing between my pointer finger and thumb turned white instantly and hurt for just a second. Coffee scrambled and got me the first aid kit and got the Vaseline and I greased my hand up as quick as I could. After that I sat down and tried to enjoy lunch. The Sesame/Flax seed crackers and Tillamook Smoked Cheddar were very tasted and helped take my mind off my hand. It was about then that the paddle fell and I caught it with my freshly burnt hand…Ouch! Which also greased Buzz’s paddle shaft! Wait that just sounds wrong! Also for lunch was one of my favorite, sesame sticks. Then ensued Bacon’s and my argument as to where we were. Now I had paddled Moose chain so much that I only needed the map today to find the campsites. I have never camped this close to base before. But Bacon was hell bent on ensuring me that we weren’t even on Moose yet. I tried to explain it via nav. Points but it just didn’t seem to help any so I dropped it and told him I know where I am. By this point now we all had started getting smoked out and Buzz had to get up and out. So he ventured to the tent. Shortly followed by Coffee. So Bacon and I packed up lunch. I ate the rest of the sesame sticks. We put the fire out, grabbed the left over trail mixes from the trip and hid out in the tent. At least it wasn’t raining and windy in here! So the deck of cards was broken out and we start playing some hearts and munching on food. After a good hour or so we put the cards down and all took naps. Apparently we needed them as we slept until 7:30 when someone woke up and remembered we needed to hang the bear bag. Since we had just eaten no one was hungry so the consensus was to skip dinner and go back to the tent. So we all stumbled out of the tent, packed up the bag and hoisted it into the air for the evening. Then we quietly slipped back into our warm sleeping bags and back to sleep for the night.

09.04.2010 Hey guess what time we woke up this morning? Ah come on guess! Yep 6am, surprise, surprise, surprise. Eh at least this morning I was well rested. It was super cold this morning and we just wanted to get into base. We got some water on the stoves and made up some hot cocoa and oatmeal to help warm ourselves up then got to tearing down camp and packing up. We must have had our shit together as we hit the water by 7:30. The earliest yet! Now I reminded kindly (and jokingly) reminded Bacon we were on Moose Lake and only had about 2 miles to paddle this morning. Oh good news the wind had died out over night. Yea! So with a couple of quick strokes of the paddle we made the landing by 8am. We treated it just like a portage and hauled the canoes up to the yard, returned our paddle and PFD’s to the tent drying house to air dry. We were so ready to come off, we again for got to photo our return and looked for the Bay Post Manager but to no avail. So we walked out to the Tahoe at the edge of where the voyageur re- enactors were. We dug out our dry shoes and got things packed up. We had found out that they had shoot a nuisance black bear last night and were cleaning him and smoked some of the meat. After checking that out we turned our attention to getting our refund for having to switch to alumi-tubs. So we checked the Admin office, nope, so then it was on to the Trading Post and Dining hall. Yep. We apparently needed to talk to “Carl” who didn’t seem to be on top of his game this AM. My guess is that he was just trying to keep up with all the Alumni who were up here for the Rendezvous. Any how, He went to Admin. to look for our bill. Mean while we waited at the TP for him. We bought a couple patches and then sat and waited…and waited. Finally Coffee and I ventured down to see if we could “help?” And Carl was just lost to say it best. He finally thumbed back past our card but couldn’t figure out how to do the math and just simply said he’d have Joe take care of it when he got back in on Monday. Not wanting to cause a hassle and knowing Joe would take care of me, I said “fine.” We went back and got the others and paraded down to the truck. And so we took off to go get the Jeep. As soon as we reached cell service on the Fernburg, we all called our wives to let them know we survived. I had to leave a message with Nedra on the CCU floor for Darci. We stopped in town for gas and then pushed the truck through the curves of Highway 1. Now I really noticed how bad my brakes were getting. When I get home I should take car of those. We had to stop in Isabella for a piss break. Otherwise we made good time all the way to Grand Marias, where we stopped again for puffy tacos at Hughie’s. On the way in I was able to call my friend, Lion, to let him know that he can take off from Minneapolis. Then it was back up to Grand Portage. We took some time to enjoy the Welcome Center and the Fort. It would be a lot of fun to come up and visit when they are doing the full reenactment. It also would have been fun to have set down a canoe after 8.9 miles of hiking in Lake Superior. Oh well, next time right! After that Doug and Chris went to get the Jeep and Charlie and I went for the Tahoe and drove over to them. We loaded them up with their gear and stuff. Then we turned around and headed back to Ely. I let Charlie drive as I was getting a little tired. The others all got naps on the drive over. About 20 minutes outside of town Lion called and let me know he landed. So Charlie and I turned in at the airport to pick him and Geppy up. He gave us a tour of his little puddle jumper. Then we all poured into the Tahoe and went off to the Grand Ely Lodge, the only hotel to stay at when visiting the Ely area. We stopped at Mike’s Liquor on the way in (an important store from my time working up here) and got some indulgence…Moose Drool beer, and some of Dorothy’s root beer.


Part 4 of 4

We finally ventured to the Hotel and carried in all of our trippin’ clothes. Lion and Geppy borrowed the Tahoe and ran into Base to check the place out. The rest of us showered and got into some fresh clean clothes. The 4 of us then pooled over to the main drag of Ely to check out the stores and look for some gifts for our families. I have a hard time finding something for Darci and really hard time finding anything for Wes. I guess babies just don’t come up to Ely. We perused as many of the open stores and outfitter as we could. Then we got a seat around 7:30 at The Chocolate Moose. As that was about when Lion and Gep said they’d be back. We’ll we got tired of just waiting and order some walleye cakes and beer. Now the Moose had their specials and their pies up on a black board beside our table. And the sock eyed salmon looked really good, not that the rest didn’t. So we were enjoying our Walleye cakes (yummy yum!!) and waiting for the boys to join in with us. I got a call that they were close and soon they came through the door and sat down. Now just before we went to order a waitress came over and wipe the salmon off the boar...Wait WHAT?!? I think 4 of us were sadden and scrambled to pick something else. Well luckily they still had the Prime Rib. I had the wild rice Walleye (to make up for the fact we didn’t get to catch any fish on the trail) We spent most of the time retelling our trip to Lion and Geppy while they interjected great memories we had gathered on their various ventures through the woods. As the night went on the waitress started wiping off more specials and now some pies off their list while we wait and ate or meals. And each time we let out a big sigh. Finally it was time to order our desserts. Which we thought went ok until the waitress came back and said she only had 1 slice of the pie Doug and Chris had ordered. So they decided to split it but I think they were still a little miffed about it. Now needless to say we were the loudest bunch in the place but we were having lots of fun. I think Lion, Geppy & I started boring the boys a little and they wanted to go back to the Lodge and enjoy the hot tub, pool and sauna. So we all drove back. While the 3 of us x-Chuckie’s reminisced about our past crews and crazy adventures in the north woods. We all drank beer, Mmm Moose Drool. Well it was now about 10 and Lion and Gep needed to fly back. So the 3 of us piled in Tahoe and I drove out to the airfield. On the way back I saw three deer in the ditch waiting for some poor sole’s bumper but luck would be in my favor tonight as they didn’t decide to cross in front of me. When I got back to the Lodge, Doug was the only one that meandered up to the hot tub. I joined him for the last 10 minutes before they shut the place down. We got back to our room and Chris and Charlie were already lying in bed watching TV. They found the comfy beds and just couldn’t bring themselves to leave them. I guess after a week of sleeping on rock, roots, and uneven ground those comforts become treasures. So I changed into my bed clothes and enjoyed the same comforts. They might be on to something…you think one could portage a Serta into the backwoods with them?

09.05.2010 Ah, a goods night’s sleep…and better yet, no alarm clock! Yea!!! Well we took our sweet time this AM and took showers and got packed up. On the way out of the hotel I got Emilia her stuffed moose and a stuffed black bear for Gabby. I still haven’t seen anything great or grand for Wes or D. So we drove into the main drag. Northern Grounds was open so we stopped in to see what the morning fair was. The scones (muffins gone horribly wrong) weren’t looking all too hot. So I had a plate of simple eggs and hash. Afterwards we wondered through Piragis one last time. I ventured upstairs looking for something for Wes but had no luck. I did buy some jewelry for D. We checked out the outlet store (they had an awesome looking 32# carbon fiber Wenonah that would look grat on my shoulders but I resisted) then we meandered around a bit and stopped in Brandenburg’s galley. I should have stopped by his Studio/House on Moose road. After that there was only a couple other stores that were open @10:30am on a Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Well we did go into a nice little corner shop that had some really cool looking stuffed fish, so I settled and got one for Wes. They had some nice “Man cave” décor; tin signs, shelf décor, etc. Well after than I think we had shopped enough and the boys were ready to get on the road and head back home. So after a stop at the gas station, in which I also found “Iron Horse Root beer” that I’ll add to Wes’s train décor in his room, we were off! (11am) We made good time down Hwy 169. Just outside of Tower, MN, we about plowed down 3 deer that decided to run across. We made it down to Cloquet , MN but it was just as we past the last fast food place that someone mentioned about starting to look for food. So we jumped on I-35 and I set Charlie to start looking for food and gas. Well there isn’t a lot along this stretch but finally, 60 miles later, we saw the food signs for Hinckley, MN boasting a Hardees so we pulled off and as we were crossing over the interstate, Charlie told me that once we pulled in I needed to look back. He was right…behold there would happen to a gas station with a White Castle inside. What luck!!! So we of course had to go. We made our bathroom pit stops then went to order. Now you had to give your name for the order. Everyone else went first and when it was my turn I got 4 sliders, fries and a drink under the name of …”Not Doug” The lady looked at me weird as Doug had just order, but going along with it, she entered it in. Now when I turned around I could see the others just grin a little. But when my order came up and they called out “Not Doug, order for Not Doug.” We all had a hard time trying not laughing out loud. Well at least I did. We sat outside and enjoyed our grease treat with a smile. I gassed up the Tahoe at $2.72/gal (the most we had paid yet) and we tried to navigate our way out around traffic. Finally I got out and back on the Interstate. I had lead footed it and caught up with the Jeep. Sowe then just keep the foot down and pushed straight down through the Cities. Just after I noticed a state patrolman and made the foolish statement “ I think that might be the first patrol car I have seen today.” It was kind of funny as all the info boards in the state said there was extra enforcement for the holiday weekend. Doug said he had seen 3 others so far. But after I release my little kernel of knowledge we got smacked by Murphy’s Law. I think we saw 8 more before even getting to Sheffield. Because of this Doug slowed the Jeep down and when I hadn’t seen him in my rear view for a good while I called over the radio and asked what was up? He just said he didn’t need the ticket. Which is fine by me but I kept it just under 80mph and kept truckin’.

After we had passed the turn off for the Avenue of the Saints heading down I-35, Doug calls over the radio telling me that I just added 10+mins. to the trip for taking it. I didn’t quite understand as I was on I-35. I just played along said yep, blah, blah, blah. Then he radioed that I need to turn on 65 south genesis. Well I guess there was another late 90’s model blue Suburban that he had mistaken for mine. Since Chris was sleeping he followed it and took the Avenue to 65. Chris awoke and noted to Doug that wasn’t my truck. Doug called over the radio explained. I about drove off the road laughing at him because Charlie and I at that point had figured that out but assumed he had kept going south on I-35 but alas no. So I took exit 176 to Sheffield and followed the “Jeep-Thing” oil line that led us into town and directly to casa del Foreshoe. When we got there Jess and Lilly were waiting in the grass. Lilly cam running up to Charlie shouting “daddy” but before Jess could say something. Charlie turned around and that really scared her. Well Charlie and I torn everything out of the Tahoe and started emptying all the packs. We took out and separated everyone’s equipment out on the lawn. About 6mins. after our arrival, Doug and Chris came creeping down the road. Once he parked we did the same to the Jeep. I made sure to get my dad’s radio off.

Now Doug had asked earlier in the day if we wanted to eat roast at his house and Chalrie and I had said no since we wanted to go the extra 1.5 hours and eat with our families. Then a little later he had radioed over that Jess was cooking the roast anyways and that we were still welcome. We radio’ed back that if we were making good time (which we were) and Chris was good with it, we were going to drive on to DSM. I guess he didn’t inform Jess of this. So when we arrived she had asked if we were hungry as the roast was ready. I told her we had planned to get moving on and sorry for the inconvenience. Part of me felt bad since Doug pointed out he now had 2 large roasts in the refrigerator. The other part of me just said you did what you could. I guess Doug, I hope you enjoyed roast all week, sorry man.

We gathered all of our stuff back up. Hauled up all the stuffed from Doug’s basement that we had left from our shack down at the beginning of our trip. And repacked the Tahoe. Now Chris, Charlie and I made our last bathroom break and packed ourselves in after shaking hands with Doug “Bacon” Foreshoe one last time. I puttered out of Sheffield and then laid my foot into it. Down I-35 we cooked. Traffic was easy so we made good time. On the drive I called D to let her know and she informed me that Amy (Charlie’s wife) was coming over in a little bit to eat chili at our house with her and the kids. Ok so I asked Charlie if He wanted me to drop him at his house or if he wanted to meet up with Amy at our house and have chili. I also invited Chris to have chili to before he jumped in his sweet ride an booked it home.

So We got to my house just after a really cool thunderstorm had moved through and the sun was peaking out between the clouds and horizon. (right at 7pm) We were greeted with a fun banner Darci and the girls made and hung on the garage door. Amy was there and they had been kind enough and waited to eat with us. We quickly emptied the Tahoe to the appropriate locations; the garage, Amy’s new G6 and Chris’s ride The chili was excellent. We regaled the girls with all of the highlights of our trip. Chris “Buzz” Kitzmann ate and said his goodbyes so he could get back to his wife at a realistic hour. Charlie was playing with Wes in the front room when I saw him raise his hand silently. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Darci and Amy wanted to know what was going on but I just couldn’t tell them that I had taught the guys the Reis tradition of raising your hand and not saying anything when you pass gas. It was just something they couldn’t appreciate. Shortly after that is was time for Charlie “Coffee” Larsen and Amy to depart and once again I was home.

In the days that followed I washed up and packed away all my camping gear so it would be ready for next adventure. Returned the couple of borrowed items back to my parents. Wrote reviews of our trip gear and food so that next time I could recall what worked and what failed. I shared photos with family and friends and wrote this long journal of our travels. Hopefully it will not be another 10 years before I return to the great wilderness of the North woods. It is too much of my being to ignore for that long.


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