Day 1 of 9
Sunday to Tuesday, June 27- 29, 2021 Left Houston on Sunday June 27th. 9am. Driving to Ely over 3 days. We decided to go through east Texas and Arkansas 1438 miles, 21 to 22 hours. We stayed in Homewood Suites in Rogers, Arkansas and New Brighton, Mn on the way up. They have full size refrigerator freezer to keep stuff frozen and the separate bedrooms are much quieter than most hotels. The only issue on the way up was north of Henderson, Tx the phone map indicated it was 20 minutes faster to take Hwy 322, bypassing Kilgore and going up through Longview to the Oklahoma border, and it looked straighter. How much worse can the road be? Huh. We took off on 322 and it went to a 2 lane road with a 75mph speed limit. That's a little scary on a winding road through the forest. Then the repaving part started with no lane paint, only small yellow reflectors in the center. Still 75mph. then it started to rain. I did my best to keep up speed to at least 65, but it was nervewracking. After several miles the new pavement ended and we caught up with the cars in front of us because there were 1 to 2 foot water filled potholes all over the road for about a mile we were all winding all over the road to avoid. The speed limit still recommended 75mph through here. Someone has a lot to answer for on this stretch. Back roads are more interesting than the Interstates, but I have a better appreciation for the Interstate system now. There was a fatality accident on the freeway about 10 miles from Rogers that closed the freeway for a while. People on the side of the road crying. Always upsetting to see. We pulled into the hotel about 7:30 after picking up our last Whataburger for a while.
[paragraph break] June 28. Left Rogers at 7am. Got donuts at Loves donuts after the 1st 2 we went to were closed. Excellent donuts if you go through here, and a nice couple running it with a cute little boy. Got to New Brighton North of Minneapolis about 5:30 and went to Chili Thai Cuisine for dinner. The 2nd of 5 levels (medium) is HOT. [paragraph break] June 29 The next morning we relaxed a bit and went to the Rusty Cow in Circle Pines, Mn. It used to be Matthews Family restaurant that closed suddenly. The new restaurant has a similar menu and has a really good omelette and hash browns. Drove to Ely, checked into Canadian Border Outfitters and finalized plans and got permit for Moose Lake EP 25. They are having a hard time due to a lack of available workers to hire. It seemed to be the case in many of the places on the way up. Also, many cancellations due to Quetico being closed. We went to SirG's for a pizza and Ace and came back to finish packing. [paragraph break][paragraph break]
Day 2 of 9
Wednesday, June 30, 2021 Up at 5:30 am for a 7am start. Got underway with a tow to Splash lake. We wanted to get in early due to all 27 permits for this entry point being taken. It is busy through these portages as many of the scouts from Sommers seem to be going through here. Many we talked to were going through to Kekekabic and out Knife or coming from Snowbank and back out through Ensign. I'm not a fan of combat portaging. Everyone was very nice and the scouts stayed on the water if we were there first until we came back for the 2nd load on the shorter portages, but it is exhausting to be humping it through as fast as possible to get out of the way and trying to get a site on one of your chosen stopping point lakes. The paddle through Ensign was long but pleasant with light winds. We were part way along when a seagull flew down about 15 feet in front of us trying to pick up a dead fish in the water. I guess we spooked it because it flew up without the fish. It was probably a little big for it anyway. Then 2 bald eagles swooped down. One hovered while the other took a couple of passes and picked up the fish. The seagull flew after them obviously ticked off. Of course my camera was in my bag. It all happened too fast for me to react anyway. Still, pretty cool. . [paragraph break] We worked our way through the portages to Jordan lake. There was one group portaging back to Ensign from a day trip. They left some paddles and a bag at the end and we carried it back to them for our 2nd carry. They didn't even know it was missing. There was another group with 4 canoes coming through behind us. It was a pretty tight trail so not comfortable. They asked if we had left some worm lockers at the other end and we told them they weren't ours, probably more stuff from the other group. They obviously were trying to get ahead of us, but we pushed off into Jordan ahead of them and paddled down to the end of Jordan looking for a site. There were canoes going different directions all over the lake. A group of scouts were asking if we knew if there were sites on Disappointment for their last night. Hopefully there was. All the sites we could see were taken on Jordan, so we went down around the point and saw the last site was taken also. We turned and went down through the Jordan narrows to the Ima portage. The group that was behind us had gotten ahead and were paddling that way. We floated off the portage to Ima and pulled out our turkey sandwiches to wait for them to clear the portage. I was too exhausted and dehydrated to eat and managed to choke down half a sandwich and drank as much as possible. Dan was worried, since it's rare that I can't eat. [paragraph break] Went south on Ima. The 1st 3 sites were taken. I remembered the site on Alworth was right on the portage and had pretty good reviews. We went up the portage and saw it was empty and it looked fairly pleasant. We were able to unload and carry everything up to the site from the start of the portage. The portage is only about 10 rods. The campsite is uphill from the portage and has good screening in between. The only access to water though is through the portage, but you can get to Alworth or Ima easily. Very pretty pine needle covered site. We landed about 2:30 and got camp set up. [paragraph break] A group of scouts came through about 6 while we were frying the sausages for gumbo. They were the only group we saw. They were sad the site was taken, but happy no one else had portaged into Alworth. We made instant rice and cooked the cornbread in the skillet. We should have pulled out the jello mold oven, but the skillet was already dirty and opted for johnny cakes. The Zatarain's gumbo mix was ok, but would have been better if we had brought less and thinned it out more. Worchestershire and sherry from vacuum seal bags helped. Still needed work, but the sausage was good. We had banana cake in honor of my birthday the next day. If I had a complaint about this site other than people potentially portaging through it would be a very loud frog that I started hearing about 3am until 5am that sounded like someone hitting a metal canoe with a hammer. I tried to google frog sounds, but can't place it. Frog videos are interesting though. Newfound 40R Splash 11R Ensign 54R Ashigan 111R Gibson 27R Cattyman 44R Jordan 13R Ima 5R Alworth. 11.6 miles total, 8.7 canoeing, 2.9 miles w double portaging
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Day 3 of 9
Thursday, July 01, 2021 Up at 6am. Had cereal with Nido milk, coffee/tea. The scouts that had camped on Alworth came back through. One man worked very hard to climb up the hill into our site with a big pack on. He didn't realize the trail went the other way and was much easier. He said they liked the site on Alworth and they were headed to Eddy Falls if possible. I'd think they would stop on Kekekabic as it is a destination lake, but the scouts really run through. We packed up and headed out to portage to Hatchet. I had read the portage was hard to see and basically a hole in the rock. It was close to the campsite on the east side of Ima. We paddled to midway between the 2 visible campsites and worked along the shore. It is a really tight landing. We got through ok, once on the trail it isn't bad, but the start is very rocky and uphill. [paragraph break] Started up the river to Thomas. It is very pretty narrow waterway filled with waterlilies. There are 3 potential portages to Thomas pond. The first is a pullover that we portaged over. The older Fisher map I had made it look like the 3rd portage was to the left of end of the previous portage and Dan's new map made it look like 1 trail. We went left and went over what looked like a beaver dam and a small drop. We couldn't find the portage but felt committed at this point. we started down the stream and found it too narrow, so we took out the big packs put them on rocks on the side and double carried down the stream. We got everything through and took off. I didn't think it looked big enough to be Thomas pond, but Dan said what else can it be? Huh. We passed a canoe going the other way with 2 adults, 2 small children and 2 large dogs. Canoes are amazing watercraft. We got to what looked like a pullover. Dan got out and said it was just a beat down area, like people had stopped there a lot, so we paddled through. I probably would have recognized it since I scouted it the 1st time when we carried over it, but didn't get out this time. We kept paddling and got to a lake. I argued it didn't look right but Dan said it should open up ahead. We paddled to the end, still thinking it could be Thomas. I told Dan we were heading north it shouldn't look like this. We finally stopped on the shore and got out the InReach and the phone and it placed us on Hatchet Lake. I should add it was sunny and about 85 degrees, in other words, hot. We still didn't want to believe it, but it was the only place we could be. Dan thought the InReach was wrong until I said " look you can see the blade of the hatchet right there". [paragraph break] We pulled out the sliced homemade BBQ brisket and made sandwiches before taking off again. I don't care for steaks, but sliced brisket was well worth the weight. (We vaccum sealed enough for 2 sandwiches and kept it frozen with the sausages, butter and 2 frozen water bottles in the small insulated lunch pack to eat on 2nd day.) You would think we would have noticed we had been heading upstream and shouldn't have taken the stream downstream, but we claim fatigue and stupidity and unwillingness to recognize we could be lost. Bad traits in the wilderness, but at least we got back on track. We went back thru the last portage we had done and went to the right. Upstream this time. It didn't feel like the right way, but we found the correct portage a little way along and got to Thomas pond and through the next pullover. There's a pretty waterfall there and the Kekekabic trail crosses it at right angles. [paragraph break] We had planned to got to Kiana to get off the bigger more crowded lake, but we were beat and it was late. We passed several taken campsites and could see the island site was taken. We stopped on the 1st open site we came to. I thought it might be a little too closed in. We checked the next site along, and decided the 1st one looked a lot better and the next one was taken also. Went back and claimed the site about 4:30 pm. We set up camp and rehydrated the dried beef and spaghetti sauce. Cooked spaghetti. Had with toast and salad. Tea. Not bad for such a long day. The next to last picture is the Kekakabic Trail crossing the stream. [paragraph break] Alworth 5 R Ima 28 R Hatchet lake, Hatchet river 5 R, 20R, 20R downstream,Hatchet lake, 20R again. 24R Thomas pond. 7R Thomas. I think, the maps are not very clear in this area. Paddle planner makes it look like a continuous trail. Fisher map is unmarked for lengths. 8.2 miles total. 6.5 miles paddling, 1.7 miles portaging.
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Day 4 of 9
Friday, July 02, 2021 The Spider and Bird site. The birds woke us up early, about 4:30. A series of different kinds of birds came through with different songs the last were crows. Dan got out of the tent and a bald eagle took off from the tree next to the tent. We started noticing there were an assortment of different spiders everywhere. One even formed an egg case on our water filter. There was a lot of evidence of borers and it looked like someone had been through taking out diseased trees. That may have attracted both the birds and the spiders. There's also what looks like a lot of old ice fishing equipment hanging in trees around camp. An auger, spoon, bait bucket. It looks like it has been used as an ice fishing winter camp. There's a winter trail that comes into Thomas nearby. [paragraph break] We got up and made pancakes and lil smokies, Coffee/ tea then cleaned up and decided to take a day trip to Kiana to see if it was worth moving there. We took hung up the food bags, packed our personal bags and fishing gear and took the 25 R portage to Kiana. We couldn't find the closest campsite. We paddled across to the find the other site. We were fishing along the shore and finally saw the opening to the site. We got out and looked around. It barely has an opening to the lake and there are no sitting logs. It's very enclosed by bushes and only has one potential tent pad a little way from the firegrate. I can see it being ok if it is cold and windy and you have chairs. Otherwise, I'd pass. We fished back to the portage and we think we saw the opening to the other site but decided not to try to paddle back to it since it didn't have good lake access either. Our little misfortune the day before may have saved us a lot of grief. We went back to Thomas and fished near the portage and on the way back to camp. No luck. It was still hot and sunny. It's a really pretty little lake and is supposed to have a lot of big pike, but no walleye. It would have been a good lake if we felt more crowded. We got back and had PB& J sandwiches. Did camp chores and took showers to cool off. Had chicken tacos with FD chicken, rehydrated charro beans and spanish rice for dinner. The chicken was ok, not the best application. Biscotti for dessert. Too hot for cocoa or to enjoy a fire. Got bear bags up. and went to bed after dark. Some mosquitoes, but not too bad. [paragraph break] Thomas 31 R Kiana 31R Thomas. 1.7 miles total 1.4 miles paddling, .3 miles portaging.
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Day 5 of 9
Saturday, July 03, 2021 The birds and major squirrel battle in the middle of camp woke us up the next morning. I got up and cast from shore a few times till I got caught in a tree. The sun came up a dark orange ball. I tried to take a picture, but my camera wouldn't capture the color even with manual focus. Dan got up and got it a little late with his camera. We decided to stay 3 nights and then work back toward Ensign since we weren't seeing many people. I think a lot of people leave for the 4th and it picks back up afterward. Mid 60s early in am. Made taquitos with Ova Easy eggs, flour tortillas, picante sauce and cheese. The cheese has become an amorphous mass. It's real american cheese. I doesn't taste or look too bad, but it's hard to separate. We made them with 3 eggs and decided we should use 4 next time. Note to self. Cleaned dishes, refilled sunshower for handwashing and later showers, hung bear bags and went fishing around the island across from the site. [paragraph break] The cliffs are pretty neat and there are spaces between the rocks with some shade where we found a rock for an anchor. Kind of neat area to poke around in. We never found the campsite that is supposed to be on the back side. We did check out site 1178 behind the island. It's very scenic but very enclosed, no sitting rocks by water or view from the grate. poor sitting logs. The latrine is very unused, but you'd need to cut back the rose bushes encroaching it. Came back started lunch. Primus stove was acting up and we found the hose connection had a leak. Changed to MSR stove. Had Gouda cheese, crackers Cup O soup and Fritoes. It was hot so we tried swimming for the 1st time. We didn't last long. Too cold for people from Texas I guess. There were lots of little fish that swam around checking us out. It helped with the heat though. We showered off and were glad we had bathing suits as groups of people started coming by to see if the sight was taken. We had Tuna noodle Casserole, corn and pecan sandies. We decided we only needed 1 tuna packet, so had one to spare. We used freeze dried celery from North Bay Trading co. CupOSoup, milk powder and spices and the Frankencheese. It was edible. We went fishing after cleaning up and I hooked a nice size Walleye a little way out in the cove in front of the site. It was about 8pm, so I wasn't upset when it shook the hook while I was grabbing the fish gripper. There were a few biting flies at this site and a large fly or small bee that kept orbiting our head that was a little annoying. We would whack it off course with our hat a few times and then it would go do the same thing to the other person. Not sure what that was about as it never tried to land, just went round and round. The other complaint we had about the site was some jerk had thrown a bunch of fish skins in the water in front of the camp. We tried to fish them out, but couldn't get them. Pictures are of site 1178 [paragraph break] 1 mile paddling.
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Day 6 of 9
Sunday, July 04, 2021 Got up at 5:30 Had oatmeal. Packed up camp and headed to Ima. We got across the portage to Thomas pond and were starting the next 25 rod portage when people started coming up. We thought the next group would start across while we were taking our first load across, but they were waiting when we got back as well as a group of 4 canoes behind them. We finished the portage and told the 2 brothers in 1 canoe to go ahead of us since they were single portaging. We made it to the the Ima portage and were dropping our 2nd load when the other group caught up to us. Dan had told me to get across the rocks and drop my pack in the canoe and hold it to keep it from floating out. This portage is really tight and rocky. I inhaled a bug on the way down, slipped and sat down on a partially submerged rock with the pack on. I was busy hacking up the bug while he went back for packs, paddles, poles etc. Not our most efficient exit. I should have moved the painter to the back and tied off the canoe. Sorry guys from Atlanta. I hope you finally caught some fish. They'd been skunked so far. I think the heat and sun was not good for the fishing. [paragraph break] We looked at the sites nearest the portage to the east on Ima. They seemed really exposed and the wind had picked up so we turned and went to the site west of the portage. (2207) We got out to look at it and it seemed pretty nice. There was a long point of rock to the water, decent logs. I looked at the map and figured out it was the site that was rated a 1 - 2 star site, I hadn't written down why, and it seemed ok so we decided to stay. It was very scenic and had shade in the back. Marginal tent pads but we found one that was ok. It took a while to get up bear bag ropes, but not bad. We put up the tarp back in the trees since it was 90 degrees and the fire pit area was really exposed with no trees. We started noticing a lot of frogs and toads everywhere. It was fun watching them hop across the site. Had PB&J for lunch. We did laundry, and showered to cool off and sat in the shade under the tarp. Omelettes with salsa and cheese, hash browns and lil smokies for dinner. When we were cleaning up we could see clouds and rain across the far side of the lake, then lightning. The setting sun made the sky look like it was on fire. and the lightning was getting worse. it started to rain so we moved back under the tarp to finish packing up the food bags to hang as it started to get dark. This was when we found out why the site was rated 1 to 2 stars. I have never seen that many mosquitoes. It was like some of the films of Alaska where the caribou are driven crazy by mosquitoes. There was still a lot of thunder and lightning. The rain stopped and we got the bear bags up. We used the bug head nets to go to the latrine, but it's hard to see at night with it on. We used Slappy to clear the tent of mosquitos before calling it a night. We called this the Frog and Mosquito site. [paragraph break] Thomas 7 R Thomas pond 24R 20R Hatchet 28R Ima. looking for site 5.1 Miles total 4.2 paddling .9 miles portaging
Day 7 of 9
Monday, July 05, 2021 We woke up and noticed a haze on the west end of Ima. It looked like smoke. We texted our son on the InReach and asked him to check if there were any fires in the area. He said there was one contained on Rock lake and a bigger fire in Manitoba. Then we heard someone paddling by yell to another group that there was a fire in Manitoba. It was probably more visible due to the steam from the rain mixing with the smoke. Pancakes and Bacon for breakfast. Cleaned up and went fishing. We stayed behind the island near the site as a NW wind was picking up. No bites. Came back, did camp chores. Had mini corn tortillas with cheese and salsa for lunch. The cheese is still with us. We've been filling the small water bottles that were frozen on the way in with lake water to keep it a little cooler. It's a little cooler today, about 85 and a pretty strong wind. We lowered the front of the tarp to give a wind break. We showered again and washed our hair since it is supposed to get cool the next day and it will probably be the last time we feel like it. Spent the rest of the day resting and hiding from the wind. A few people were braving the wind to get to the Ima portage. Many would paddle up to our site and even back in the inlet to see if it was the portage. We directed them to go about 1/3 mile to the east. One group of scouts came up and stopped to eat lunch on the point across from our camp. It didn't bother me too much until I saw them all paddle out to the front of the site and dip their nalgenes in to get water and start drinking. There's a beaver lodge right next to our camp and even if there wasn't I don't think that is regulation for scouts. If you want to take the chance, that's on you. Other people's kids not so much. [paragraph break] Made chicken and rice and broccoli behind the rock at the front of the site with wind blowing dirt devils up around it. Used the celery, and dried mushrooms and dried green pepper in it. Pretty good. Will probably take again. Also jello mold oven peach cobbler with FD peaches. Always a hit. Used plenty of liquid with the peaches along with brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch premixed at home. The extra water seemed to help keep it from sticking to the mold as bad. I put it on the stove and let it start to set before adding the topping so the topping would stay on top. And cooked with the pie pan lid on and the diffuser under it for about 30 mins. We ate it out of the pan after it cooled a bit with the rest with the rest of our "iced" tea and watched the sun set. The mosquitoes came out again and of course the wind finally died, but we were able to stay out on the point this time of and were more ready to pack up for the night.
Day 8 of 9
Tuesday, July 06, 2021 Got up before 5 am and packed up to move to Ashigan or Ensign. Much cooler today. 45 - 65. Made tea/coffee and had breakfast bars. Paddled across Ima with a fairly strong NE wind. No whitecaps like the day before, but a little rough. Went back through Jordan narrows and slowed down to take pictures and look for the pictographs this time. We only saw what looked like rust on the rocks. There were a lot of groups mostly coming in as we were going the other way. Dan met a guy that went to his high school in Dallas a few years after he was there. Small world. There was a group of scouts coming through on the 110R portage coming from Ashigan to Gibson. The lady with them said she was carrying the 90 lb food pack. She made it, but looked like her legs were a little rubbery at the end. I had caught her near the end and offered her my hiking pole to get through the rocks, but she said she could make it. She did a good job getting through. I've started using a hiking pole with the packs after a nearly disabling bruise from a fall on my shin. It adds stability so i can move faster and I didn't fall once this time. We got to Ashigan and scoped out the far campsite it looked closed in. The middle one was taken and the one by the Gibson portage is fully visible from the portage. The campsite near the Ensign portage had good reviews and has an open rock face. After the mosquito problem at the last site we decided that was a good feature. For being that close to a portage we didn't see many people. I guess most people come through early. There is a big hill on 2 sides that gives a lot of protection from anything but a SW or W wind. It's very well worn. Someone has managed to break the firegrate, and the sitting logs are pretty bad, but the rocks in front make up for it. We did all the cooking on the large flat rock there. The latrine is a long 160 steps down a winding trail in the woods and the latrine itself seems to be deteriorating, but it was usable. [paragraph break] Set up camp and had egg, cheese, bacon sandwiches for lunch and went fishing. There is a grass bed under the water between the site and the island. We were getting nibbles, but the kept getting off my line. One was a beautiful smallie with bright green and black stripes and a red splotch on it's cheek. Breeding colors? I finally noticed my hook was bent outward, probably due to getting hung up on a tree. Dan was having problems with his line twisting up, then his line getting caught on stuff, the anchor getting stuck when he was trying to pull over to his line, and finally pulling up a big stinky mass of old fishing line that got stuck on the anchor. Another fun day of fishing. We got some firewood from the shore and fished back to camp. Dan finally caught a small 6 inch pike and I caught a 4 inch smallie. We let them go and decided to make tuna cakes with the last packet of tuna. They were really good. I'll put the recipe on the food forum. They were pretty fast to put together too. Had with instant mashed potatoes and FD green beans. it had finally cooled off enough to enjoy hot chocolate that night. We drank it while we watched the sunset sitting on the point watching a beaver swim by several times. It was a good last evening. [paragraph break] Ima 13R Jordan 44R Cattyman 27R Gibson 111R Ashigan 6.8 miles total 5 miles paddling 1.8 miles portaging
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Day 9 of 9
Wednesday, July 07, 2021 Had oatmeal tea/coffee and packed up for the trip out. Loaded canoe and paddled the 10 rods to the portage. That was the other reason I liked this campsite, it was a quick exit. We loaded up in Ensign and paddled the 4 miles to the Splash portage. THe NE wind helped push us to the end. Glad we weren't going the other way. We got to the Splash to Newfound portage checked to see if we could wait for the tow at the other end. Scouts were starting to arrive, so we got our gear to the other end and staged it off to the side of the trail up above the landing to allow them to get through. We knew it would take us a while to get all our gear past the rocks to where the canoe would float and didn't want to risk falling on the rocks by hurrying. Two groups went by. It was their last day and were pretty stoked to be headed back to base. We carried the canoe out and went back for the gear. We floated the canoe off the landing and sat on a log that looked like it was secured there by others waiting for tows. [paragraph break] CBO picked us up a little early and we got back to base for showers and packed up the car. We had eaten a PB&J sandwich while waiting, and made it to Gordy's HiHat for a shake about 3pm. It was the day after Mr Lundquist had passed away, so it may have been busier than normal. We went to the Gordy's warming house next door and saved some time. Red Cabin Custard had limited hours, or we would have stopped there. We drove back to Houston stopping in Minneapolis, and Rogers again. No drama, but really tiring and hard to sit that long with tired muscles and lack of sleep. I think we are going to fly next time. Ashigan 54R Ensign 11R Splash 40R Newfound 5.8 miles total 4.8 paddling 1 mile portaging [paragraph break] I had originally planned to go to Sagus and Kianna and back out, but we were more worn out getting to a less crowded area than we expected and Sagus looked like it had more swampy areas around it. The heat made mosquitoes more concerning, so we went south towards Kianna. It's a neat little lake and would be good for people that want their own lake to be on even though it can be accessed from Insula. It seemed a little spooky to me. Not sure why, I guess just the absence of people finally. Alworth looked was pretty and didn't seem to get many people either. We really need to work on streamling our meals a bit. We enjoy cooking, but it cuts down on relaxation time in the evening and getting to bed earlier for early wake ups. The sleep deprivation was probably our biggest problem. Also, we definitely need to edit to reduce the bulk of the gear. With just 2 people I don't think we will ever get down to single portaging, but we had some duplication we could do without, even though we did use the spare reel. We could probably make do, though. Thomas felt pretty empty most of the time, and surprisingly we didn't see many people go by the campsite near the portage on Ashigan. The evening was very quiet, but we left before the morning parade started. Ima and Jordan were the busiest.
The tow to Splash made a big difference, though I felt a little guilty. Going out there was a mass of canoes working their way up Moose lake towards Ensign. Dan said they looked like traffic cones due to all the orange life vests. We left about 11:15 and most were still about 30 minutes or more away from Ensign. I probably wouldn't do this route again due to the number of crews going through, but it was a nice enough area with some interesting areas. The falls near Thomas were a surprise since Cattyman overshadows them.