Day 1 of 9
Sunday, July 31, 2016 This day I took off at 4 pm for a short 3-hour drive to my friends, George and Leslie Gradek. I got there in the evening, and we had a great chance to catch up on our recent experiences. George and I then sat out on his deck and watched 6 deer cropping in the grassy meadow that is adjacent to his lot. The deer didn't seem to mind us talking and watching them with a high-beamed light for a few hours. We had a great time just sitting there and talking, and then we headed in for a bit of sleep.
Day 2 of 9
Monday, August 01, 2016 Slept well in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, and bid farewell to George and Leslie at ~6:00 am for the long drive. I went through Lexington, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Champaign, Bloomington, Rockford, Madison, and Eau Claire, and then I stopped at a Planet Fitness to stretch out and pump up my heart a little. Back on the road and up WI 53. I finally got tired and stopped at a rest area near Cettek, WI - and had it to myself for awhile. It was a beautiful, quiet, cool night to try to stretch out in my Corolla.
Day 3 of 9
Tuesday, August 02, 2016 I got about 5 hours of sleep in my Corolla and headed on up Hwy 53, stopping in Duluth for a bagel. After a nice relaxing chance to sit and breathe, I drove up the Northshore Hwy 61 to Two Harbors, where my quest was to find some beer to take home to George. I stopped at the gas/food station on the corner of Hwy 2 & Hwy 61, and no luck. They recommended the liquor store 2 blocks down the main drag. That was the spot! However, I found out that this particular beer is not pasteurized, so I didn't want to get it until the way out. I priced it and decided to find out if it was any cheaper in Ely when I got there. Almost $11 a six pack seemed kind of expensive to me, but I didn't know for sure. Another beautiful drive up Hwy 2 and Hwy 1 and I arrived in Ely at about 2 pm. I went to Zup's Food Market, and they recommended trying Michael's Liquor Store, where I also had no success. "Let It Ride" and "Let It Roll" were not in Ely. I therefore knew I would get George's beer at the liquor store in Two Harbors as I drove home after my trip. I then stopped at Subway for a 6" sub and sat again for a few minutes. I was now ready to drive up the Fernberg Trail to Moose lake Rd and Latourell's, where I arrived at 4 pm. It was fun seeing Bob again and talking - I hadn't been there for 5 years. I got my fishing license in order, my entry permit squared away, and then tried the 60 lb lightweight aluminum canoe that Bob had for rent - wanted to make sure I could still handle it by myself. The rest of the late afternoon and evening was relaxation and a little casting from the docks. At 8 pm I was ready to head to my bunkhouse and dream about the next 5 days.
Day 4 of 9
Wednesday, August 03, 2016 Got up at 5 am to get going - last shave for awhile and got my gear out near the dock - my tow was at 7 am. My young man doing the towing was Austin, and he was super. When we got over to the Splash portage, he took my picture as I began portaging my canoe and then carried some of my packs across the portage - what a nice surprise! I had a 17' tandem canoe, so plenty of room and needing to trim my canoe mostly in the front. Turning the canoe around and sitting in the front seat, using it as the back, makes things work very nicely. I paddled across Splash and into Ensign - nothing had changed much in 5 years except the area was a little more grown over, still recovering from the 1999 blowdown. As I began my paddle north across Ensign, I saw a very large bird perched on a rock, and I'm pretty sure it was an eagle. I turned through a narrows and headed for the island campsite in the northwest bay. Taken! So my next choice was the northwest corner where I had my bear encounter 7 years ago - I was ready to revisit and stretch my limits there, where I had been bluff-charged. I was at the site by 10:00 and ready to set up camp. First the tarp, then the tent, then the clothesline; everything in its place. I was ready for lunch, which was Mountain House lasagna. I love the simple routine with the Mountain House meals, with virtually no clean up needed. Tasted good, and I was ready for my first fishing day trip. Using a #11 rapala with orange belly, a crawdad 3/4 oz rattletrap, and a green and yellow glass-rap rapala, I tried the bay near the islands for about 3 hours, and had some success quickly with a couple small northerns. A couple hours into my trip I had a good hit and reeled in a 2.5 lb smallie, which I decided to clean out on an island. With my fillets in small sandwich bags, I decided to cast a few times as I headed back to my campsite for a fish dinner. Using my green glass rap, I got another big hit, and in comes a 3 lb walleye. Beached my canoe on a point, and cleaned it for a first night fish feast. Got back to my campsite and fried up a pan full of breaded fillets. Yummy! I had just enough time to make a small campfire and read 2 chapters of "Firewall." I am loving that book with 3 major plots around a fictitious category 5 hurricane. Slept very well that night being serenaded by 2 loons that I saw while fishing.
Day 5 of 9
Thursday, August 04, 2016 My second morning on Ensign was beautiful. I heard a shower on my tent the night before, but it was clear again. My breakfast was Mountain House Breakfast Skillet, and was it good. I toured the area and gathered some branches for firewood, and settled into "Firewall" for awhile. As I sat there reading, I was visited every 5 minutes by my chipmunk buddy, and I talked with him for the rest of my trip - he was very bashful but a good listener. At about 9 am I decided to do a short day trip to Perdu Lake, a very small lake to the west of the northwest bay I was targeting. I had never visited Perdu in all my previous 9 trips to Ensign, but I'd seen it on maps and occasionally seen canoes with trippers stopping and getting out, so I had a pretty good idea where the portage might be. The portage is not marked on maps, so it was an adventure for me. It was an easy paddle over to where I thought the portage was, and I got out of my canoe. Up a short but extremely steep rise to a path, so I knew I was on the right track. After less than a minute of walking, I could see a very small but very pretty lake. When I got up close, I realized why Perdu Lake isn't visited by many - the bog. I got close and took a few steps, almost losing my shoes. The bog also had a smell that wasn't pleasing to say the least. A short walk back to my canoe, where I rinsed the foul odor out of my socks, shoes, and feet. When I took off my socks, I noticed some bloody spots, and then ...... yes ..... leaches! There were 5 of those blood-suckers between my toes. Yuck! Got back in for some fun paddling and fishing and caught a few small smallies and a small pike. While fishing i ate a couple small pouches of Almond Butter and squeeze strawberry jelly. I then stopped on a shallow gravel point to bathe with Mr B's all-natural soap that I've been using for many years. No cleaning fish today - Mountain House Beef Stroganoff would be my dinner. A short but hard shower came up fast and soaked me pretty good - went back to camp, put on some dry clothes, boiled my water for dinner, and started a campfire. Once again it cooled off quickly. My campfire was very nice - I felt dry when I hit the tent for another cool night of sleep, once again serenaded by those loons that must have been waiting for me to close my eyes..
Day 6 of 9
Friday, August 05, 2016 This morning was partly cloudy, but the sky was getting clearer by the minute. I once again had Mountain House's Breakfast Skillet for breakfast, and it once again filled my tummy very nicely and tasted very good. I sat and read some more of "Firewall" and was very glad the weather where I was was not like in the book. I listened to the weather on my weather radio, and this day's weather forecast was very good with 10 mph northwest winds. On this day while I'm reading I was visited by my new buddy, Mr Snowshoe Hare Rabbit. His big ears and big hind legs made him different from rabbits I'm used to seeing farther south. He hopped up very slowly to within ~3 feet of me a few times during the next 2 days. At about 11 am I went fishing, and I decided to cast along the west side of the islands as I worked my way in a south direction. A little back and forth, and an hour later I got a monster hit. My rod tip bent down into the water twice as I fought this fish, and he was a good fighter. As I got him close, he dove down again. I readied my net as I brought him close a second time, and I scooped him into the net, finally realizing I had a lunker largemouth. He filled the net fully. He was almost 22" long and on my little scale he weighed 5.5 lbs. I immediately realized my trip was complete on the fishing side. I decided to clean him and have another monster fish fry. I once again used that first island as a cleaning spot, and the 2 fillets were just awesome. I went back to my campsite, added the fish breading I'd packed, and heated my frying pan with some oil. It was now about 1:30 pm. The 2 fillets filled the pan nicely, and I really had to stretch my tummy to eat the entire fish. Now you just don't leave food (particularly fish) laying around, so I kept filling my gut until it was all gone. Tasted sooooo good! As I cleaned my kitchen, I realized I probably wouldn't need to eat dinner tonight. So now I once again got my book out and just sat back awhile. Later in the afternoon at about 5 pm I decided to paddle out to a good swimming spot and take a bath and swim awhile. The water was cool and just perfect for a refreshing swim, so I floated on my back and just relaxed with my arms behind my head. I'm not a great swimmer, but I can float very well. I went back to camp and changed into dry clothes, hung my wet ones, and cleaned camp some. It was a very cool night with an expected low of 47, so once again, great sleeping weather. Every night I started the night on top of my sleeping bag, but later would find my way inside.
Day 7 of 9
Saturday, August 06, 2016 I woke up and used the Mountain House Granola for breakfast - no hot boiling needed, just cold water. The granola mixed with raisins, blueberries, and milk tasted so good! While I was eating, I listened to the weather forecast. This day's forecast was for a great sunny day with north winds of 10 mph, and the forecast for the next day was not so great. I was feeling pretty good, and made a decision to paddle out and all the way back to Latourell's. I would skip the tow and get a great workout. The winds were not in my favor, but 10 mph wasn't too much. I cleaned my kitchen and clothes line first, then worked on taking down the tarp. Back to my tent to pack all my clothes inside. Eventually everything but my fishing gear made it's way into my dry bags. I then took my tent down and was ready to load my canoe. By 10:30 am I was ready to push off and paddle. The winds were very light, and I got over to the Splash portage by 11 am. there were 2 groups ahead of me, so I rested a bit. When it was my turn I emptied my canoe except for fishing rods, extra paddle, and tarp pole. I had them all tied on with bungee-dealy-bobs. I picked up my canoe and carried it the 35 rods to the other end. When I got there, a very nice family from Minneapolis was waiting for a tow. They were an hour early, and they offered to help me with my gear, so they walked back with me and helped me carry bags and load up my canoe. I pushed off at ~11:30 am for a nice long paddle. The next 3 hours were pretty difficult with the wind gusting against me a little bit, but I made it through Sucker, Newfound, and Moose Lakes to Latourell's by ~2:30 pm. Got my car from parking, packed my gear, showered and then thanked Bob Latourell for his hospitality, which is always just super. He was very good about refunding me a tow fee and a day's canoe rental because I came out a day early. I used some of that refund to buy a nice T-shirt and hat. Byes were said and I shoved off at ~3:30 pm to begin the long drive. This days drive would be as far as I could without getting sleepy tired. I stopped at Two Harbors to get 4 six packs of "Let It Ride" and "Let It Roll" for George, and my beer quest was complete. Since the beer was not pasteurized, I got a cheap foam cooler and a bag of ice to keep it cold on my long drive. My next stop was to take a few pictures of Lake Superior. I then stopped a few hours later at McDonald's for a dinner salad. My chosen rest area was 30 miles south of Rockford, IL. Once again I was very tired and it wasn't too difficult to sleep 4-5 hours. Tylenol PM helps also.
Day 8 of 9
Sunday, August 07, 2016 Got going about 6 am, first to Bloomington, then across Illinois and into Indiana and Ohio. I drove and stopped for some breakfast and a very late lunch, once again getting a big salad. On into Kentucky and finally off the interstates into Tennessee. Up into the mountains again, and I arrived at George and Lesley Gradek's at 7:00 pm. George was very happy to see his favorite beer in my car. We once again sat on his deck, and this time there were 8 deer cropping in the grassy meadow. I shared my week's fishing stories, and we finally went in to sleep at ~ 11:00 pm. I slept good again one last time before heading for home.
Day 9 of 9
Monday, August 08, 2016 This day was a no-brainer. I 26 to Asheville, and I 40 to Winston-Salem. I 26 is really beautiful north of Asheville. I got home about 9:30 am, and Barb was there to greet me. I'm not too sure how much she enjoyed my bearded look, but it was gone that night. It was nice to be back home, and I felt good about stretching my limits this summer!