BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 22 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
1977 Our First Time in Quetico
June 15, 1977
Number of Days:
My little journal from this trip doesn't say anything at all about "before" and "after", but there are some photos. Since I don't know if these photos were en route to Minnesota, or on the way home, I am choosing to describe them as "before". None of us remember 1977 that accurately in 2021, right? (Some of you weren't even born yet!)
We took the car ferry, SS Spartan (seems appropriately named for us) from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin on what looks like it was a cloudy, windy day. Mary Helen would have been almost eight years old and Edwin was five. We lived in Port Huron, Michigan.
If you look closely, you can see our car waiting to be loaded onto the ferry. Pale blue Mercury, Grumman canoe on top. Front row, far right.
And this is a view of the SS Spartan's sister ship, SS Badger, also in port at Ludington at that time. [It is still doing lake crossings today, but the Spartan was retired in 1979.]
As we had done in 1973, we planned on leaving the children with our friends Merodie and Paul in Minneapolis. By this time they had three children of their own, and they had purchased a home on a hill in the neighborhood called "Prospect Park". It was our first time to see it.
Mary Helen and Edwin knew Heidi, Scott and Heather pretty well. Their family had spent a week with us on the farm at Holly in 1975. It didn't take long for them to be comfortable with the situation, and we were confident that all would go well.
I do not have an exact date for this trip, but I do know it was in mid-June of 1977. We were excited to be exploring some of the Quetico, and we were thankful to have good friends who would provide a safe, fun environment for our children.
After several canoe trips, the journey to Ely is beginning to take on a "traditional" feel. We had our lunch at the Ely A&W, and then headed up to Moose Lake Landing. It was rainy. Saw a deer on the way to the landing.
Left Moose Lake Landing at 2:30 PM. Spotted one heron early on our way.
The weather cleared and we camped at Sucker Lake in a birch forest. The temperature was 68 degrees. (This is the first time we had taken a little thermometer.)
We had rain in the night, thunderstorms. THE RAIN FLY KEPT US DRY!! YEA!! [Our first trip with a rain fly.]
There was a resident turtle at this campsite.
We broke camp at 8:15. Paddled around through a corner of Birch Lake to Basswood. Went through Canadian Customs and Prairie Portage.
Sometime on our way today I snapped this photo of Spartan1 with his maps, planning the route. Still in his canvas Army rain jacket, and with the jungle hat on his head.
Three long portages in the rain. [Bayley Bay of Basswood Lake, North Portage (128 rods) to Sunday Lake, then 193 rods to Meadows, and 140 rods to Agnes.]
Louisa Falls is pretty. Would be more enjoyable if it weren't pouring rain. There was a party of girls at the falls when we were there.
The weather cleared off about 2:30 or 3 PM.
We camped on a little island in Agnes Lake, 4 PM. The flowers are pretty here: columbine, roses, daisies. We had a really enjoyable stay here. The temp at supper was 68 degrees.
As we were enjoying this beautiful afternoon Neil broke out the blackberry brandy and we sat on a rock to have a sip or two. I jokingly said that I should do a sexy portrait of him, since it was early in the trip and he was still clean in his cutoffs and his Camp Easton Staff t-shirt. The two photos below were the result. Notice that in one photo (the one we shared with some of the tee-totaling side of the family) he is not holding the bottle. We took our brandy in a plastic Colgate 100 mouthwash bottle that we had emptied out before the trip. These are my all-time favorite photos of my canoe partner.
We enjoyed a beautiful misty morning. Neil took a photo of me cooking breakfast over the fire.
The sun made for some nice views from our island campsite.
It was a pleasant time paddling on Agnes Lake. We saw a mink on the shore at one point.
Ate our lunch at the portage from Agnes to Reid Lake. Neil had an idea that we could get to Reid and then portage over to Hurlbert, to Trant, and go down Kahshahpiwi. But we had trouble finding a portage out of Reid. We portaged into a little lake that had no outlet (at least none that we could find), then we portaged back into Reid. Found no obvious campsite so we made our own.
It was a gorgeous day all day, but it was obvious that a thunderstorm was brewing, so we were glad to have a camp set up. We endured more flies and mosquitoes than any time so far, and the weather did seem threatening. Temperature: 66 degrees.
I always love to find a wild iris in the spring. Some people call these "blue flags". They always seem more like purple to me.
We had a very noisy, windy, scary thunderstorm in the night. Even though a thunderstorm isn't fun--the whole "tent in the wilderness" setup doesn't feel like much protection--it is interesting to hear the thunder echo off the rocks and reverberate over and over as a storm is coming closer. We survived just fine.
What a wet morning! It was rainy and stormy all of the night before, and still raining in the morning. After breakfast we broke a wet camp and got on the lake at 7:40. Since our proposed route didn't seem to be possible, we backtracked to Agnes Lake.
All day we battled the rain and the wind. But at least the route we were now planning would be smaller lakes. Many short portages, too.
We had our lunch at the portage to Silence Lake at 11 AM. It was a short portage, and then we crossed the lake quickly in heavy chop, with a wind assist.
My notebook now says "bluebirds". I don't ever remember seeing bluebirds in the canoe country, but perhaps??
Made the 40-rod portage to Sultry Lake, a short carry to Summer Lake, and another little hop to Noon Lake. After one more short portage we were at Shade Lake and we decided to camp about 2:30 on a point. It was still rainy and windy. The tent and rainfly were very wet--and it seemed like everything else was damp.
There was a partial clearing at 3:45. Some of the stuff got dried out a bit. Then more rain. More sun. More rain, etc. A very changeable day. The temperature was 66 degrees.
Another group (3 canoes) paddled by. It looked like they had planned on this campsite. Sorry.
Another morning that looked like rain. We broke camp at 7:30 and got on our way.
It was cloudy all day, some sun, a few sprinkles. We portaged to a small pond, saw a bear on the portage. Hard to see in these photos, but the best I could do. We weren't going to try to get closer!
There were cliffs and a rocky shoreline. Tried one place and found no portage, eventually portaged to West Lake. The portage out of West Lake to South Lake had a waterfall.
And the stream between South Lake and the North Bay of Basswood had a large beaver dam.
We encountered some chop on North Bay. This was followed by two portages to Burke Lake, a 48-rod one and a 16-rod one.
It became quite calm. We enjoyed a delightful lunch stop on a point.
The 84-rod portage from Burke to Bayley Bay (Basswood) is sandy and ends at a sand beach. We found a campsite on the southeast corner of Basswood, on a point right on the Canadian border. Can see Prairie Portage from our camp.
It was a beautiful day and this was our last campsite of the trip. The temperature was 64 degrees. The tent was still damp, so getting that set up was the first priority. However, the tent site was cluttered with rocks! Neil spent a good deal of time getting rocks out of the way and piled them up to the side. It was hard work.
While he was clearing out the bedroom spot, I was entertaining myself. I took some pictures, of course. Here is my attempt to capture a dragonfly on a rock, and the resident chipmunk.
And most of this time I wrote in my journal. Reflections on the canoe trip experience in '77.
June is a good time for wildflowers, but too early for berries. Flowers included columbine, wild rose, iris, bunchberry flowers, and something like a snapdragon. [?]
Hot dogs, lots of snacks, 2 SOS per day, keep paper towels in the food pack, Chinese Rice-a-Roni, squeeze Parkay, Dak Salami, wool shirts.
Remember after several days to watch Neil for hunger--eating more and acting hurried. He needs more food as sugar reserve is depleted. [This was our first trip with insulin, and it was a learning experience.]
"CLOSE TO GOD" and other musings:
I have never understood the comments people make about being out in nature and feeling closer to God. To me, I feel closer to God when I am with other people and worshiping together. When I am serving God's people in some way. The wilderness experience makes me feel closer to myself--somehow it is like the last vestige of the pioneer spirit. Humans coping with the elements: rain, sun, wind, cold, mud, drizzle, rain.
When I swim in the wilderness I feel more vulnerable. But I enjoy the cold water, the goose flesh, and the warmth of body and arms when I expend the energy to really stroke and swim. There is an element of trust, too; usually Neil has to help be get back out of the water (slippery rocks.)
There is a risk to this sort of travel, but we can mitigate risk in other ways: wearing our life vests [we always did this 100% of the time in the canoe], no smoking, no climbing, no jumping off cliffs, etc. All risk is something a person has to evaluate and decide if it is worth it.
Lux dish soap, rubber gloves (I hate the way the scrubbing of sooty pots makes my fingernails dirty), better tennis shoes or some boots, clothespins, better air mattresses, pants with pockets. [I was wearing polyester knit pants on this trip and they were better than jeans in wet/damp weather, but pockets badly needed.]
Man has left a mark everywhere. Every portage or campsite: we pick up toilet paper, twist-ties, cigarette butts, fish line, cans, bottles, candy wrappers, etc. Why can't people pick up after themselves?
The first day or so I notice the "big picture": forest, sky, water, overall silence. As time goes on with no worldly distractions, I notice songbirds, small animal noises, tiny sounds more. The wilderness is not silent, but teeming with life. I am interested in plant forms and geology of this area and need to do some reading on the subject. I am also becoming interested in insects. Neil has taught me not to be afraid of dragonflies, and I am even becoming fascinated by other insect life. NOT mosquitoes!
SIGHTINGS on this trip:
Gulls, herons (lots), loons, Canada goose, bluebirds, ducks, chipmunks, squirrels, mink, bear, dragonflies.
It was such a gorgeous day, and we had time in the afternoon to enjoy it. [That is the nice thing about camping near the exit point of the trip the night before.]
We balanced the camera up on a tall tree stump, set the timer function, and tried taking a couple of photos of ourselves. At this time in our lives, Neil's beard was still considered "temporary."
Neil built his usual good cooking fire. And then after supper we roasted marshmallows over the coals, sat and watched the evening happenings:
2 loons courting
2 snowshoe hares
lots and lots of canoeists
The food pack was hung, and we had watched the sun set over a calm Bayley Bay. Then about 10 PM Neil had an insulin reaction, so the pack came down again and we had to treat the problem with food. It ended up OK, but it is always a scary experience when camping.
Tomorrow would be the "wake-up", when we would end our trip and head back to Minneapolis, and finally to Port Huron. We were thankful for nice weather on this last night in camp. It is always better not to have to pack up wet gear for the trip home.
This was a beautiful morning! We were up at 5:30. The duck and the chipmunks were still entertaining us.
Left camp at 7:45, and left Prairie Portage at 8:30. Saw two loons really close on Moose Lake. Arrived at Moose Lake Landing at 10:15 and packed up for the road trip. The nicest weather yet--sunny and breezy.
And another memorable canoe trip comes to an end. [It would be another three years before we returned to the Border Canoe Country. In 1978 we took a short 4-day trip in Algonquin Provincial Park with our eight-year-old daughter, and in 1980 there would be another trip in Quetico, one that included a return to the Namakan River Loop.]