Day 1 of 6
Sunday, June 05, 2011 - Pack Day.[paragraph break]This day was the wrap-up of my packing. I am really bad about packing too much gear, so I decided this time to weigh everything and then my future trips can be tweaked so that I can reduce how much I pack. I finished with a total of 147 lbs in my canoe. 6 lbs of tarp pole, rods, and paddle 21 lbs of blue barrel with food 25 lbs of personal pack 11 lbs of tackle box 45 lbs of gear crate 39 lbs of gear pack
My goal this solo trip is to triple portage instead of my normal quadruple portaging solo trips. [paragraph break]New gear for this trip includes a beautiful paddle my school gave me after my 40th year of teaching (10 at The College School), a canoe Crazy Creek, a few new fishing lures, and a tarp pole that I rigged up from a painter's roller pole and tennis ball. [paragraph break]I got my food packed, trying to keep the meals simpler this time. I'm trying the Mountain House freeze-dried for dinners when I don't catch fish. Simple peanut butter & jelly with tortillas, lots of oatmeal, some pancake mix with dried blueberries and syrup, Tang, fish breading from a recipe I got off this site, lots of trail mix, some hot chocolate mix, and some oranges.
Day 2 of 6
Monday, June 06, 2011 - My Drive to LaTourell's. [paragraph break]I went to sleep early evening so that I could wake up and leave in the weeee hours of the morning. I started driving at 1:10 am, driving from St Louis through Rockford, Madison, Eau Claire, Duluth and Two Harbors before reaching Ely and then on to LaTourell's. I was a little early getting there, so at 3:30 pm I was doing a litle "scouting" up the Echo Trail for my next trip to EP 23. I found the Fenske area, and then headed on to LaTourell's to check in and take care of things. Bob greeted me and was doing his usual busy chores with groups. He sold me a fishing license and took care of my paper work for my permit, then introduced me to my new canoe, which I promptly took out for a short paddle. With a 30 liter dry bag of water BDB'd to the front end (really the back end), I could paddle very nicely sitting in the front seat facing backwards. When I returned, I had time to sit out on the boat ramp and start reading "Follow the River."
An hour later it was getting dark and chilly, so I checked my gear one last time and hit the sack in their bunkhouse.
Day 3 of 6
Tuesday, June 07, 2011 - My Tow and Start. [paragraph break]I woke at 5:00 am; actually it was the second time I woke because I am worried about not getting up on time. Took care of myself then carried all my things down to the boat ramp. Parked my car up in their lot, and Mindy, my tow person, was ready to load and crank up the motor. She towed me to American Portage, and said good-by at 6:50. We talked a bit about what I packed, and she re-assured me that I didn't have too much gear. I did the quick portage and started paddling up Birch Lake. For the moment it was nice with clouds behind me gathering. Soon it was thundering and I began to wonder how far I would get. I got out my rain gear and tried to make it to the Frog Lake portage. By 8:30 I was there, and there was lightning all around me. I was glad I was portaging during this first thundershower and not on the water. The day was by now very warm and becoming muggy. I tried to triple portage but just had too much gear so needed a 4th trip. During the next 5 and a half hours I completed the 3 portages from Birch through Frog and Trident to Ensign. Actually 12 portages for me in these 3 very thunder-booming rain showers. I stopped at the final portage as the rain stopped and had a lunch of the last half of a foot-long Subway from the previous day that I'd kept cold with my ice water. It was now 2:00 and the wind was blowing out of the west. I decided to find a camp site near the northwest end of the lake, so I was now paddling against the wind. For 2 hours I looked for open sites and as I got through the narrows, I was hoping things would change as I turned north. A couple camp sites later I was very relieved to set up for the night. It took me an hour or so to put up my tent and tarp, get my new canoe up and in a safe place out of the strong wind.
I boiled some water and had the Mountain House beef stew for dinner. First time - so easy and tasted great. A bag is a huge dinner for one, but I had a good appetite that night. At about 9:00 the wind died down. I watched a turtle move in with me, a beaver swim by, and a few people out for a late paddle.
Read my book during the last 30 minutes of daylight. Into my tent and slept the first half the night on top of my bag, but eventually got cool and crawled in for the rest of the night.
Day 4 of 6
Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - Move and Fish Day. [paragraph break]I had spoken to a canoer late last night, and he mentioned that the west end small island camp site was open because a group had moved at that afternoon. That's my favorite on Ensign, so I hoped to get to it before and early starters could. Woke at 5:00 and it was an absolutely gorgeous morning. I broke down camp and was packed and in my canoe by 6:00. 15 minutes later I paddled around the corner of the island and found out that someone had moved in the night before. Turned around and paddled back around the island and headed to a site across from the small island down the side of the other larger island. I moved in quickly and an hour later had an oatmeal breakfast with an orange. I was ready for some fishing. I paddled towards the north end of the bay, and quickly caught a nice smallmouth bass. So just as I get excited, here comes the wind again! I worked hard to get back to my campsite and filleted my brunch. Tasted great! Cleaned up, pumped some water, and as the weather was cooling quite a bit, I decided to go hunting to make a wood pile. First I walk and waded the banks for beaver scraps and drift wood. Then I went back into the woods and looked for downed trees. Had a nice saw and did quite a bit of sawing. Couple hours later I was spent with a huge pile for my labors, so I grabbed my book and started reading. I realized how tired I was after 3 early rises, and took a nap. When I woke the wind was still blowing hard, so I fished the banks on both sides of my site. I was using a little torpedo, and the top water lure enticed a few more smallies to become my dinner.
Fried those fish and cleaned up with a nice campfire to keep me warm. By now it was in the upper 40s and the camfire was great.
It started misting, so I tucked myself in for the night, and sleeping tonight was really nice!
Day 5 of 6
Thursday, June 09, 2011 - Decisions! [paragraph break]Listened to my weather radio when I awoke at 5:00, and it sounded great with a day of really nice weather and then more rain to come. I did my oatmeal and orange breakfast, packed some trail mix and Tang with my fishing gear, and paddled over to the north bay. I have always caught pike in that bay (my best an 18 pounder 4 years ago). This morning was no different - about 15 pike in an hour and a half. No whoppers, but a few good ones. Went back and had another fish meal. I use the 5 fillet method I learned off this website for filleting my northern pikes. I decided at this point to enjoy a long paddle with the easterly wind and skip the next 2 days of predicted rain. Packed up and ready to paddle out by 11:30 am. I left a huge pile of wood for some lucky group. Soloing is fun but also very tiring if you try to do too much. I was so tired during the next few hours of paddling, but it was so relaxing to just paddle and let the 5 mph easterly wind push me to the west off of Ensign, then off of Splash, then after a portage off of Sucker, then off of Newfound, then off of Moose into LaTourell's. I arrived at 2:50. This 3 day trip was packed full of warm and cool, rain and sun, calm and windy, good fishing, good camp fire, plenty of good wholesome food, some nice conversations, and I was ready to head for home. Packed my car and then Bob and 2 lovely young college girls working there for the summer helped me set up my new canoe on top of my Toyota Corolla. I had front and rear tie downs, straps for the front and back seats, and foam blocks. Bob offered to return my tow back charge that I didn't use, but I told him to keep it for a tip. That made him happy. We said our "see ya next trip" thing and I took off at 4:00 after shaving and washing up in their bathroom. A very uneventful ride for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Stopped at Subway, gas and ended the day still driving............
Day 6 of 6
Friday, June 10, 2011 - Finish drive and Hang Canoe.[paragraph break]Driving through the night until about 1:00 am, then I stopped at a rest area south of Rockford for a nap. It turned out to be 4 hours. Can you guess what time I woke up? Yes, 5:00 am! The rest of the drive was simple after a check of tie downs and foam blocks. I did need one tie tightened and 2 blocks adjusted. Got home and had one more thing to do. I installed wall-mounted brackets for hanging my canoe.
Really pretty simple, and now my canoe can be cozy and hibernate the early summer until my August trip to Fourtown and a route TBD!