I got to LaTourell's at about 6:30 am on Wednesday, and had just finished a drive from St. Louis. Using the North Shore Highway out of Duluth and then Highway 2 and Highway 1 was quicker - saw 4 fox, a wolf, 6 deer, and lots of fog during the drive through that area. My tow to Splash portage was on a cloudy day, but the weather forecast was promising. I did the small portage and realized that portaging for solos is more involved because you can't share the load as you do with larger groups. Usually I'm there with another leader and 7 teenagers. As I was portaging I noticed a squirrel on the path with a mouse in its mouth. He showed it off 3 times as I passed back and forth. I packed my solo canoe carefully with lots of weight in the front end - Bob LaTourell had told me to do it this way for my first solo paddle, and it worked just fine. As I crossed Splash I did 2 things. I checked the campsite to see if it was open, and I began my day of fishing. I didn't want to miss an opportunity to fish this area which has always been good to me with pike. I caught about 4-5 pike before getting to the rapids. I got out and walked through - usually try to paddle through with a partner, but didn't want to risk a spill this time by myself. My goal was to use the island to the northwest as a campsite, with a few others as backup choices. Paddling was very nice with a calm morning. I turned the corner to the island campsite and found that it was being used, so I decided to head down to the end of the bay. I'd heard on the messageboard that the northwest corner by the creek to Trident Lake was a nice campsite and had been used in June by a group for 4 days. I could see that it was empty, so I paddled over. I found a very nice area with good tent spots, some large trees (one with bear claw marks on it) for hanging food, and a nice firepit. I made camp, which I found out was more time-consuming while solo. However, the process was easier than my usual dealing with young ones that needed lots of help setting things up. When I got everything in order, I got my canoe ready for a long fishing day in the bay right in front of me. It was about noon by now, so I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a bootle of kool-aid, which I had prepared at home. I found some nice rocks to carefully load in the front end of my canoe to create the balance I needed to paddle while fishing solo. Got my fishing gear, some lemonade that I had prepared at home, some snacks, my first aid kit, rain gear, and pushed off. I worked my way over to the island that is right across from this campsite. I had prepared some laminations of Ensign and Splash, telling me the depths around those lakes. Depths of these lakes are pretty easy to find on line. I fished the 10' line on the map around that island, and quickly caught a few nice pikes. As I went through the next 4 or so hours, I caught a total of about 15 pike, and another almost jumped into the canoe! Once as I was pulling my lure out of the water, a small pike jumped at it, and hit the side of the canoe right in front of me. This pike was airborn and almost made it into the canoe. About 4:00 I was beginning to think about eating the 2 fish that I kept, I felt a tug. At the time I was using a 3/4 oz. rattletrap that was orange with dark design. I thought it was a bigger fish, but suddenly the canoe starting moving around, and I realized this WAS a big one. My biggest northern ever was about 23 inches, so I'd never caught a lunker. After about 5 minutes of diving and being my tow, the pike showed himself without jumping. He looked like a small log for a moment, but then dove and fought some more. I had another line in the water with a fish float/depthfinder/fishfinder on it so that I could see how deep I was fishing. This presented a problem to me because I had to work under the rod it was attached to as I was fighting the moving pike. Another 5 minutes or so passed and the monster was tired. He came up to the surface and splashed a bit. I tried to lift him into the boat by pulling up of the rod and using my small net on the head, but it didn't work, and he was back in the water. At this point I was surprised I still had him on the line, but then noticed he was hooked in the mouth on the back treble, and the front treble was hooked into his piece of cartilage on the side of his mouth. That is what saved my fish I think; he was definitely a "beast." He was obviously tired so I reeled in the slack and looked around to see if the 2 canoes in the area were watching - they weren't nearby to see what I was doing. This time I netted the front end of the fish and put my other arm under his belly. I carefully but quickly hoisted him into the canoe. I could not believe how big he was! I pulled my stringer out of the water with 2 nice "little ones" that I wanted for dinner, and I used the stringer to secure the fish in case he decided to try one more time to flop out of the canoe. I turned and yelled as loud as I could to a couple fishing farther down the lake, and they immediately started paddling in my diretion. It was an older couple, and they told me the could hear me yelling. I asked them to take my picture, and they paddled over next to my canoe. When the elderly man saw my fish laying there in the canoe, he said, "Oh my gosh!" He offered me a tape measure so that I could measure it. It was laying flat and easy to measure, and he was exactly 38 inches long. He seemed unusually fat, so I would say his girth was very big. Well, I thanked them and I thought this was a good way to end the day. I returned to my campsite and cleaned those the puppy pikes, and turned on the stove. A chipmunk scurried over to the campfire site and jumped on a rock a few feet away from me. I didn't want him around during my cooking, so I grabbed a small rock and tossed it at him to scare him away. I was a pitcher in college, so I should have known better. To my dismay, I hit him in the head and knocked him off the rock. The spasms forced me to put him out of his misery, so I did, and buried him quickly. I realized how stupid I was to have thrown that rock, and I felt like a "beast." I cooked my fish thinking about the chipmunk. Then it was my turn. I was about to sit down for a pike dinner, and was surprised by a large black bear getting into my food. I had just finished cooking and was going to hang it after I ate my fish. Anyway, this bear had already tasted my sloppy Jo meat that was to be my dinner if I was not lucky fishing. He scooted up the little hill towards the throne, turned and raised up and did his "heavy breathing" thing to try to scare me. I was yelling and making noise with a pot lid. The bear then did the bluff charge thing and pulled up about 10-15 feet in front of me. I continued to scream, this time from fear I think. I stood tall and prayed while I screamed. He stood again. We stood for moment facing each other, and I felt like my days were over. He was taller than I, and I'm thinking on the large side of the scale. He did his big huff once more before he turned and left, turning and looking at me once more. I ate my fish, spent the next hour or so breaking camp and packing the canoe, and did a lovely paddle (except for the mosquitoes) across the lake (almost full moon) by the Splash rapids. Two gentleman offered to let me sleep there, and I was relieved. I slept there on the rock slab with one eye open most of the night. Sleeping bag on the rock with my canoe fully packed meant a pretty disgusting night of sleep, but better than nothing. In the morning when it got light I noticed the gentlemen's tent had some kind of electric fence around it. I took some sunrise pictures, walked back farther behind the campsite to look for berries, and packed up my sleeping bag. The 2 nice gentlemen were still asleep, so I couldn't say thanks or bye, but maybe they will read this and know how much I appreciated their hospitality. I began my paddle back to LaTourell's, a lovely day with an easterly breeze. I did my portage out of Splash to the tow spot - didn't see the the squirrel that ate the mouse. It took me 2 hours to paddle back from there with the breeze at my back, much less than I realized. I guess my first solo was full of beasts and a bust, but I can't remember a more exciting day I've ever had in 6 trips to the Boundary Waters. One thing I guess I learned is not to use a campsite if you see bear claw marks on trees where one might hang food. I also concluded that the "solo" concept is great as long as one does not run into a bear encounter, which changes your mentality greatly. I didn't feel comfortable any more around the lake. My encounter coupled with Bob LaTourell telling me about bear sitings near the Boot Lake portage, and coupled with an elderly couple telling me that afternoon that they saw a bear swimming across the lake towards the long island on the lake, made me uncomfortable by myself. Going home to St Louis was a beautiful drive, but I hadn't slept much the previous 2 nights. I used a rest area near Tomah to sleep for about 45 minutes.
I will include pictures of my fish and such as a second part to this report. Getting them developed today.