Day 1 of 10
Saturday, July 04, 2009[paragraph break] Year two of silent Independence…[paragraph break] We were dropped off at a familiar place by our outfitter. Fall Lake was totally different this trip, which was a welcome sight for both of us. Last year our entry day was pure torture (howling winds and whitecaps). This year it was pure bliss. My head was spinning and I was all giddy with excitement as we posed for our traditional launch photo.[paragraph break]
[paragraph break]Fall Lake was glass smooth. We navigated through with no mishaps. We stopped on the bank in Pipestone Bay for lunch and did a bit of fishing along the way. Not much luck in the fishing area. The wind was actually at our backs and we covered about 13 miles. We settled in at a campsite right above the Horse portage. The campsite wasn’t the best and there were approximately a zillion mosquitoes and black flies. It seemed I would be doomed to wear long clothing, hat and head net while on land. UGHH! I would have to view the beautiful sunsets through netting. Mark took the canoe out to do a little fishing while I sat on the warm rocks to relax and listen to the white throated sparrows and occasional calls of loons.[paragraph break]
[paragraph break] I was reflecting over the day and was amazed at how much wildlife I had already seen. We saw a deer on the bank, two bald eagles, and loons. I forgot how beautiful this place was. Mark returned to camp and we turned in for the evening. [paragraph break] Funny memory: I never mentioned this on my last trip report, but a funny thing happened. At our first campsite last year, we heard the sparrows singing their unique song. I was mesmerized by their easily recognizable tune. Then, at the next campsite, I heard it again. I can’t believe I am going to admit this out loud, but I made the comment that the bird from the last site must have followed us to the one we were at the second night. It happened again on the third night. I don’t remember how many places we heard that bird before I realized that it wasn’t the same bird following us. They are like a cardinal in Kansas. They are everywhere and I would be hearing them from here on out. (hanging my head with embarrassment). No….I am not blonde.
Day 2 of 10
Sunday, July 05, 2009[paragraph break] More wildlife, less fishlife…[paragraph break] We got a late start this morning. We approached the Horse portage knowing what was ahead. It was a bear, but we survived. We stopped at Upper Basswood Falls again, but only caught a few fish.[paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We have seen so many more eagles, beaver and loons this year than last year. We headed up Basswood River to find a campsite. We chose one right before Wheelbarrow Falls. We went out for a quick little row and then came back to hit the hay. We were sore and tired. The weather was warm and we were looking forward to the cool night air that was sure to arrive. Being from Kansas where cool night air doesn’t happen in the summer, we always look forward to that treat in Minnesota. I fell asleep listening to lots of “creepy” animal sounds.
Day 3 of 10
Monday, July 06, 2009[paragraph break] Medic![paragraph break] We got up and out and rowed about a half mile to Wheelbarrow Falls portage. Last year it was full of mud. Not too bad this year though. We enjoyed the double falls, but caught no fish. DANG! [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We then proceeded to one of my favorite places in the BW. The water level on Lower Basswood Falls was a lot lower this year. It wasn’t quite as spectacular, but it didn’t disappoint. This would be our last portage of the day…actually a couple days. We paddled all afternoon and fished along the way. We saw a lot of cool things. We saw some pictographs, a deer, mergansers, and bald eagles. I came up with my own name for the mergansers. I called them “Jesus ducks” because every time we get too close to the mom and babies, they skitter across the water. Of course mama won’t take off and leave the babies. I called them Jesus ducks because they walk on water. Corny, I know. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]As we were fishing for dinner, Mark caught a pike. He was fighting him and that pike actually jumped up and bit Mark’s hand! He landed him and quickly released the beast back into the water. He was about a 7-8 pounder and he left Mark with blood squirting all over the canoe. As I turned to see what all the commotion was, all I saw was my husband bent over holding his hand and blood everywhere! Medic! He bled like a stuck pig! Out came the first aid kit. As we take his tackle box out each year to pack for our trips, we remember this day due to the blood that still decorates his box. We settled in at camp and had fish for dinner and headed to bed. There was no place to hang the food pack, so we stacked pots and pans on top of it. As we were calming down for the evening, they all fell off and scared us to death! I thought we would finally get to see a bear. No such luck…just needed to be stacked better. We fell asleep listening to the drumming of a grouse and loons singing their evening songs.
Day 4 of 10
Tuesday, July 07, 2009[paragraph break] Races, loons, and love…[paragraph break] We slept in this morning, which is typical for us, and got going around 11:00. We started down Crooked Lake.We saw this "interesting" piece of wood coming out of a rock along the way. Creepy![paragraph break]
[paragraph break] The fishing was good, but not like last year. I hooked a really nice smalley along the way. Mark was taking it off the hook for me (such a gentleman) and right as he was about to get him off, the crank bait broke in ½ ahd that big ole gal got away! What a BUMMER! Mark estimated that it was about 4 – 4 ½ pounds. Oh well, there are more where that came from! The temps were mild, the wind was calm and the water was like glass. We stopped along the way to have lunch and were joined by camp jays. Those little guys are carnivores! They loved sausage. This was the same campsite from last year that the deer joined me for the evening. We then traveled around the corner to the spot where Mark caught the big pike last year. We fished a little more with little luck. Due to our habitual late starts in the mornings, we often had a hard time finding open campsites. This was one of those times. I have heard tales of people getting up early in the morning to travel and actually getting their campsite for the evening around the same time we get up and out of our campsite! I can’t imagine! So, here we are in the late afternoon/early evening looking for a spot. We saw an open spot up ahead and started rowing toward it. In the distance we saw a LARGE vessel approaching the same site. We got a little panicky as we increased our speed. It was to be a race! But, DANG! That big “thing” was moving soooo fast! When we arrived at the spot (after they did), we were exhausted and amazed at the sight. It was 9 people in a giant Native American canoe. No wonder they rowed faster than us! They were a group that was celebrating the anniversary of Quetico. They had surveyed the site and decided it just wasn’t big enough for their massive group and turned it over to us. After visiting with them, they went on their way and we lucked out and had our site. After our dinner and solar shower (a new addition to our equipment this year…and so well worth the weight), I was looking through the lens of my camera at a loon on the water. I quickly realized that she had a baby on her back! I got so excited and made Mark get the canoe out so we could go get a closer look and maybe some photos. We edged closer to her and then I got some nice photos of her. I was so thrilled. I then got some great pictures of the dad coming in to feed the baby a little fish he caught for it. Here are a couple of the photos I captured that evening. I also got some interesting dragonfly photos. Love was in the air that evening![paragraph break]
[paragraph break]Back at camp for the evening, we enjoyed a nice campfire and the sunset. I propped my camera on a rock and took a picture of us. This would be our Christmas card photo this year. We finally hit the hay after organizing our gear and looking over maps. The wind was kicking up a little, so who knows what it will be like tomorrow. This wonderful weather can’t last all week…can it?[paragraph break]
Day 5 of 10
Wednesday, July 08, 2009[paragraph break] The Eagle has landed![paragraph break] We awoke early today at about 8:30 to a beautiful morning. The night was cool due to a north wind. The loons had cried late into the evening and we had so much fun listening to the different calls. Last year we hadn’t heard many loons. This year we hear them a lot. We were ahead of schedule and only had five miles to get to Curtain Falls. I was very eager to see them. They didn’t disappoint me. We traveled on toward Iron Lake. We were in the canoe all day with no portages, which was kinda nice for a change. The weather was perfect (What’s going on with that?). We even got a little hot and got some sun on our lily white skin! [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We fished anytime we had a chance and caught quite a few. I actually out fished my guy that day! [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We had some walleye and smalleys for dinner. As Mark was cleaning the fish for dinner, he laid the carcasses out on the huge rock faces at our camp. He figured the seagulls circling above would enjoy them. BUT….they didn’t get a chance, because a bald eagle swooped down and landed on the rocks right in front of us and took the fish away! SHOCKING to say the least! It happened so fast and I was sick that I didn’t have my camera out. It wouldn’t have mattered because he was so fast. He was sitting on our rocks only about 20 feet away! We wished we had more fish to put out and my camera ready. That would have been an awesome picture! We spent the evening star gazing and then hit the sack.
Day 6 of 10
Thursday, July 09, 2009[paragraph break] Laundry day…[paragraph break] We woke up to a windy day on Iron and decided to sit still and get some housekeeping done. I decided that it was a perfect day to do laundry. Mark set up shop in the tent to mend some of our clothes. I thought I had escaped that chore up here. Oh well! The wind would help dry the clothes quickly and we were starting to smell a little funky. The morning started off with clouds, then it cleared off to blue skies, and then back to cloudy with a south wind. At least it is a warm wind and we now we had enough clean clothes to last for the rest of the trip. Our bodies needed the rest. Zero fishing today. [paragraph break]
Day 7 of 10
Friday, July 10, 2009[paragraph break] Grand Central Station…[paragraph break] We listened to the wind all night last night and decided to get up early this morning to beat it. UGH! 4:30 is a time I don’t like to see on my watch in the morning! But…we were up and at it and headed toward Bottle portage. We fished along the way. We hit a honey hole just above the Bottle rapids and we hooked a fish on about 75% of our casts. We saw our fish stealing eagle sitting on a rock along the way. I tried to get some pictures, but the rocking of the canoe made it difficult. We walked muddy Bottle portage with three other groups and emerged on the other side to Lac La Croix and a stiff head wind. UGH! We got across to the lake and started looking for a place to call our own since the wind was so strong. What a strange experience. We arrived at one nice campsite as the previous occupants were just packing up to leave for the day! This has never happened to us lazy bones. We waited for them to vacate and then unpacked. We had a few nice walleye in our cold pack bag and had them cleaned and in the pan for a nice lunch. This lake was very busy. There were lots of motor boats (transporting canoes), planes, and other travelers. It wasn’t my favorite place. We nicknamed this lake Grand Central Station. As we were back in the woods looking for the latrine, we spotted a mama grouse leading her babies around. She wasn’t too upset with us and just went about her business. We set up our tent with the fly off. We took a solar shower and lounged around. The weather was perfect and the tent kept the bugs off and let the breeze flow through. I needed a nap! Getting up that early is definitely not my cup of tea!That evening the wind died down and we went out for a little paddle. We made our way to the back of a cove and checked out the ranger station that was back there. It seemed to be empty at the moment. It reminded me of a scene from a Terry Redlin painting. It was a nice evening. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We headed back to camp to enjoy the last bit of daylight. We dove into the tent to escape the gazillion mosquitoes. Light sprinkles began as we drifted off to sleep.
Day 8 of 10
Saturday, July 11, 2009[paragraph break] Ah ha moment…I am a born nomad![paragraph break] Not much happened today. We woke up and packed up quickly because the wind was already blowing hard. We moved around Boulder Bay to a campsite that was only 2 ½ miles away. The wind was horrendous! Our outfitter had suggested the campsite we got as a “primo site” and he was absolutely right. It had a lot of wooded area to explore with quite a few fallen trees. Not surprising with how the wind howls around here! We explored the area and spent many hours in the tent sleeping. If you haven’t figured it out…I love to sleep! This is one of those campsites I will never forget. It is huge with lots of woods, a nice view, and a huge skull sitting on top of a big rock by the fire pit. However, by the time the day was over, I was kind of sick of the place and wanting to move on. I am a bit nomadic I discovered! I love to move. Base camping probably wouldn’t do it for me. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]Around sunset the wind died down as usual. We planned on getting up early and head over to Agnes. We were prayed for calm weather to see us out the next day and a half. We want to leave with a good taste in our mouths.
Day 9 of 10
Sunday, July 12, 2009[paragraph break] People…yuck![paragraph break] We got up early again today (5 am) to beat the wind. Not cool. When we poked our heads out, we found a dead calm lake…what a change from yesterday. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We ate and packed up to head out of Lac La Croix into Boulder River. We portaged twice with a lot of other people. I didn’t like all the traffic we were around during the last day in here. It kind of ruins that feeling of seclusion. Mark had been talking about possibly going up to Quetico to escape the crowds. This idea is becoming more enticing as the trip goes on. After getting to Agnes, we decided to continue on to Nina Moose via the Nina Moose River. We had to hunt for a decent site and found one right near tomorrow’s exit spot. We laid out the solar shower and took a rest lying out in the sun. I needed to even out my crazy suntan. The fronts of my legs were about five shades darker than the backs due to my canoeing the past week or so. We enjoyed our last dinner of the trip and had a few chipmunks join us. One even got brave enough to climb up and lick my plate clean. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]We retired for the evening with visions of pizza and beer that we would be enjoying tomorrow in Ely.
Day 10 of 10
Monday, July 13, 2009[paragraph break] WE FREAKIN’ FROZE LAST NIGHT![paragraph break] I think the temperature was down in the 40s last night! Now, I know those of you hardcore trippers are snickering under your breath (or “laughing out loud”) right now. But you have to realize…we were not prepared for this! It’s summer for goodness sake! In Kansas, we are lucky if it dips below 80 degrees on summer nights! So, stifle your giggles and feel sorry for us! ? We got up and bundled up for our last morning. That coffee was oh so good and helped warm us up. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]The temperature warmed quickly and it became a beautiful day. We piddled around so long that we soon realized it was 11:00! Holy cow! We threw everything together and hopped in the canoe. We headed down Moose River North. It reminded me of last year’s exit with us following a stream through marsh areas with lots of evidence of muskrats, beavers, and other wildlife. We came upon a deer feeding in the stream and waited for her to move on. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]The deer flies were very annoying and seemed to really think I looked tasty. Thank God for Off. We had to drag over or pull around numerous beaver dams and dodge a lot of rocks. The water level was low and it was challenging to keep clear. As we portaged out, we came across 4-5 college students repairing one of the landings. They were from the MCC (Minnesota Conservation Corps). These portages probably see a lot of traffic and need maintenance. The last portage of the trip took us out to the parking lot. It was a nice gradual uphill path and a nice ending to a beautiful day. We were picked up only minutes after emerging and taken back to Ely. Year two was under our belt. Overall, it had been very pleasant and uneventful. Our love for the BWCA was growing and our curiosity of Quetico was also growing. Maybe we should start thinking about going farther and longer next year. I couldn’t wait!
Thanks for reading![paragraph break]Pixie Paddler[paragraph break]