This was my first true canoe trip into the B-dub in quite some time. I had
been there as a Boy Scout at Sommers canoe base for some winter
camping in the early 80's. Did a few trips in with family as a kid and I have
been to Basswood via Moose and Prairie Portage in my fishing boat con 25
HP 4 stroke Yamaha. Fun trip, but not quite what I was looking for. That
was last year. A couple years ago, I did some canoeing on Seagull when I
stayed at the end of Gunflint (Way of the Wilderness I believe). I was there
for the Gunflint Green-up the year after the big 2006 fire. I planted 350 red
and white pines that day. Exhausting. I'm sure that in this point of my life I
would have made it to the B-dub many, many times, but I was in the Navy
for 20 years (86-06) paddling around the world. Good times. I grew up
mainly in northern Minnesota and have always wanted to go back. I was
getting close the last few years, but not close enough! Luckily for me, a
friend of mine has been in several times over the last thirty years or so. He
went in from the south last year with his three kids. After he got back from
his trip and I from mine to Basswood, we began planning this years trip.
Much went into it. Books were bought and read. Magazines as well -
except for Canoe and Kayak (Boundary Waters Journal). I used to get
Canoe and Kayak all the time when I lived in Norfolk, VA 10 -15 years ago.
Hadn't bought an issue for a decade. I started looking at them last fall - it's
all kayaks now! I wish I would have kept my five years worth of 'zines I had.
I have a kayak, but that's just for cruising the Mpls. lakes. Anyway, Gary
and I began planning. After the books were bought and read, and websites
like this visited studied, I began buying some of the gear I would need. I
have plenty from my backpacking years, but just not enough. I bought a
used canoe at the Midwest Mountaineering Spring expo auction.
Alumacraft. It's funny. I read about how great the kevlars and carbons are
but I bet 90% o the canoes we saw up there were all aluminum. I much
prefer the rigidity and durability of one. The extra 20 pounds is cake
compared to what our forefathers portaged so no biggie there. I looked at
packs for months and finally settled on Granite Gear. I was in dire need of
a pad - picked up a 2.5 Camp Bed from REI. I tried to find another fuel
bottle for my old Coleman Peak 1 Apex stove. No can do. MSR has a
similar one but I don't think it will work. Turned out that the two old bottles I
have were plenty as we were able to cook a lot on the fire. We studied the
maps and both agreed on going in in the Ely area. Gary read a lot of
reports on this website and Disappointment via Snowbank and Parent was
picked. We attended a BWCA class at REI. Didn't get much info that we
didn't already know, but there were a few good pointers and the guy had
some good stories. I hit every outdoor store in the Twin Cities looking for
anything I might need. Bought a few small odds and ends here and there.
We did some food shopping and we were set to go. I apologize that this
intro is probably going to be longer than the report itself.
June 15, 2011
Wow! I started this a year ago and didn't finish it. I'll try to later but right
now I'm packing for the next trip. Leaving in a couple days.
Day 1 of 6
Monday, August 09, 2010 Our trip began by leaving a day earlier and staying at an 80 year old log cabin on Round Lake north of Grand Rapids. We had to stop there to pick up Gary's oldest son. The owner of the cabin has about 300 acres with trails. We walked some of them. It was great being back in a northern MN forest. That night the boys tried for a very long time to make a fire in the lakeside fire pit. They were using tinder and matches. It was hard as the wind was blowing out their fire as soon as they got it going. Finally after 45 minutes or more, a raging fire was in the pit and the sun was setting. Oh yeah, and the clouds were moving in. We had a fire for about an hour before the rain began to pour. Inside the old cabin we went. Beautiful inside and out. The owner was there. I believe he was in his late 70's as he was in the military in the late 40's. He told many stories of the old days when he was young of running around the northern woods. The roadless area (BWCA), the north shore and other parts of Minnesota. He and his friends hunted, fished and camped. I loved his line about five of them getting a cabin for two-fifty for the weekend up by Isabella. I thought that was kind of high back then. Then he said, "That was 50 cents a piece for the cabin" he said. We woke up early and left the cabin at 7:20 en route for Vermillion Lake. We traveled east to Hwy 65 and then north. We found a lot of construction on Hwy 65 as the road was being re-done for many miles. Arriving at Tower-Soudan we drove up to the south shore of Vermillion where we picked up Gary's Grumman canoe. We strapped it on the roof next to mine and we were off. At 40 miles an hour the loudest, crazy vibrating hum started. We stopped and checked the straps and tightened them up. Continuing on, the noise started again. A second time we stopped and re-did the straps. Success! The noise was gone. We arrived in Ely and stopped at Zup's. I ran in and grabbed enough ham and Swiss for a couple meals of sandwiches. A stop at the Ranger station to check in proved to be valuable as we learned about the Disappointment bears. I had read about the bear on this web site, however, we did not know that there were cubs involved. Off to LaTourells on Moose lake to rent a couple more packs and two bed pads. Bought a couple pounds of leeches as well. Originally we were going to rent three as I did not have one yet (untill a week or two before the trip). Gary got three and we drove away. A couple miles down the road he said "You bought a pad didn't you?" Yes I did I told him. Crap! Back to LaTourells to turn one back in. They were kind enough to cancel the charge right away. A quick side-note here...While there I spoke with Missy for a while. She knows my brother as he worked Prairie Portage while he was attending Vermillion College back in the 90's. On the road again. We arrived at EP 27 about 12:30 and started loading. We were the only people putting in so we had a lot of room to lay stuff out and get ready. Loaded boats, 87 degrees and no wind, we started out for Parent Lake. I should add, we also picked up a pound of leeches at LaTourells. They all fit (barely) in the leech container. We arrived at the 85(?) rod portage to Parent. Parent was calm as could be. We spied the two north side campsites and continued on. The boys thought we should stop there and camp. They didn't want to do another portage. The portage into Parent had a few steep spots and was pretty rocky. I think they felt that was enough for one day. Now these boys are mid and late teens so Gary and I knew they could handle another. As we arrived at the portage to Disappointment we met two guys coming into Parent. We talked to them for a while. They stated they had been going all day and were going to take a site on Parent. They asked if we could please tell the rest of their group behind them they would be on Parent. We portaged to Disappointment. At the shore, we met the rest of the group. They were very unhappy portagers from Iowa. They were burned out. Looked like a guy in his 20's, a girl around 20 and two kids - very early teens. They told us the first two guys were pushing them all hard. They were about to make their 14th portage for the day. Many were short, however, there was a long one after they left Alice Lake. Our portaging consisted of two trips a person. We decided to go a little heavy on the gear and food as we would be basing out of Disappointment and not moving camp everyday. We found a great site on the west tip of a peninsula at the south end of the lake. Best one on the lake that we could figure after seeing the others. We made camp and relaxed. Took a bath in the lake and was still sweating afterward. Still hot out! Way too hot! That evening as the sun was going down we had a baby otter run across the rocky beach in front of us. The boys caught a northern off the shore. The sky was beautiful as the sun went down. A clear sky allowed us to see every star in the universe. Just beautiful. The loons were calling all over the lake. We had a baby loon and its parents by the site all week. Still hot as we all went to bed. We complained back and forth through tent walls about the heat. I found it hard to fall asleep in the heat. I was really hoping to have some cool northern MN nights. They would come later in the week. Too be continued...on Day 2.
Day 2 of 6
Tuesday, August 10, 2010.....OOPS, I kind of rewrote the above on this day.. I'll leave it as is. Left Jim's cabin @ 7:20 am en route to Lake Vermillion to pick up his canoe at his bro-in-law's. Nice cabin on the south shore of the lake. Then a quick stop at Zup's in Ely for some sandwich stuff. I had been in there before but never used the bathroom. I was surprised to find I had to go down to the basement storage areas around some corners and walla - the bathroom. A quick stop at the ranger station and then for some gear rentals and leeches at LaTourells on Moose Lake and we were finally on our way to the EP. Good thing it wasn't too far to the EP on Snowbank as we realized we had one to many sleeping pads. So, back to LaTourells to return a pad and again, we were finally off to the EP. Five hours after leaving the cabin we arrived at Snowbank, about 12:30. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining. Couldn't have asked for a better day. It was 86 degrees and the big lake was calm - flat as glass. In fact, with the exception of a couple small rains, the whole week was beautiful. No rush on this day as we weren't headed in to far. Pack the boats and were off at 1:30. Took the 80 rod portage into Parent Lake. Parent was quiet. Not a soul until we arrived at the portage to Disapointment. We met a couple guys who just got on the water from the portage. They asked us to let the rest of their party know they would be at the other end of the lake. The group was from NW Iowa. We did our double portage and then met the rest of the Iowa group. They were pissed. They had pushed hard all day doing 14 portages. The group was about 8 people and the remaining 6 were not happy about the first two pushing ahead and leaving them a lake behind all day. I wasn't too happy about it either as they had two kids about 12 years old. They were looking half past dead. One of those kids carried a #4 pack loaded though. I guess he wanted to get back to the corn fields! On Disapointment we paddled around and found many open sites all the way to the north end of the lake. We opted for one on the south end on a west pointing penninsula looking at an island. Very nice and open site. We made camp, bathed in the lake and had some dinner. We saw an otter swim for a moment and then he was gone. Mike and Adam (Gary's son's) went out fishing and caught a few northerns. It was a hot day. Bugs were minimal the whole week. The first night was beautiful with millions of stars.
Day 3 of 6
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 Up at 6:15. Saw a 4 boat crew heading out about 6:45. 3 boats broke camp across the lake and went deeper into the bush. Breakfast was hardy with sirloin, eggs and swiss cheese. Had a south wind that turned north around 10 am. Was kind of bummed out that we could hear the outboard motors on Snowbank. Didn't notice it the rest of the week though. One squirrel in our site. Went fishing. Caught a lot of smallies and investigate some of the other campsites. About half way north on the lake there is an island on the east side. We checked out the campsite and found a map stuck to a tree. On it someone wrote "Ran out by a pack of bears on Aug 8/9". The previous day the ranger had told us there was a mama and two cubs roaming the north end of the lake. The note made us wonder and laugh about "Is our food high enough?" I did a quick solo around the island while Gary checked out the island. Peaceful and serene. Even if this was the scene of a pack of rabid bears two nights before! ha. Very quiet except for all of the loons. Juveniles were all grouped up. All week long we were among them as they Hooo Hoooted away talking to each other and asking us to back off. Still hot out. Sweating like, well someone in 85 degree heat in an aluminum canoe. Twins on the radio. Beat the White Sox 12 - 5. Enjoyed dinner and a tasty beverage of water, crystal light and vodka on the shore and watched the sun go down.
Day 4 of 6
Thursday, August 12, 2010 Woke up to a small rain shower. My tent was like a water bed! Water stayed under, but I had a lot of bubbles under the floor. Fishing all day. Didn't write anything else down for this day other than I remembered to brush my teeth today! Did some great jumping off a rock into the lake today. Lots of fun.
Day 5 of 6
Friday, August 13, 2010 Fished all over the south 1/2 of the lake. Had a moma and baby loon by us for a long while and then the dad came back and switched places with the mom (or vice versa). It was another beautiful day and a better sunset.
Day 6 of 6
Saturday, August 14, 2010 Did a little tripping today. Went out of Disapointment north to Ahsub and then east to Jitterbug. Next was Adventure Lake and a quick portage to Catyman to see the falls on the north end of the lake. Cattyman was like Grand Central Station. Non stop groups in and out from all three portages. Sat at the falls and waited for a Scout troop to leave so we could get some pictures. It was a small hike to Gibson lake and then back up to Cattyman. We hiked the portage to Jordan Lake and climbed some big pines along the way. Enjoyed some lunch and then it was back to Disapointment. All in all a very nice leisurely day with several nice portages. Been listening to WELY all week. I love that station. Nothing like hearing Charles Curalts voice saying "Your'e listening to WELY, the radio at the end of the road". In case you didn't know it, he was an owner of the station and spent a lot of time in the Ely area. Somewhere here I messed up... again Day six of my log... Beat! Worn out! Tired! We fished a couple hours in Ahsub on the way back from Cattyman lake. 8 very loud women were on the high campsite on the west end. A couple swimming and the rest in the site partying. Heard them the whole time from one end of the lake to the other. Gary caught a couple nice northerns on Disapointment. We became part of a raft of about 12 loons for an hour. That was really fun and special. Had a few drinks that night after dinner and listened to the Twins win again. Day 7.... Woke up early at 4 for a meteor shower. Saw many meteors. Very cool. Glad I had heard about it before we left. Had a mouse join us for breakfast. Watched the loon feed her baby again. Mike and Adam were out in the canoe and got too close to a beaver. It swatted at them with a big splash from his tail. I finally caught a nice northern and Mike caught a 15 inch smallie. Day 8.... Time to pack up and head out. Just got the tents down and someone paddled up to commandeer the site. He left his cooler and went looking for his wife in another canoe. Took the long portage to Snowbank from Disapointment. Snowbank was very windy with high waves. Had to hug the shoreline tight. We finally had to cut across on the south end. Waves over the bow! Good times. Glad we made it to the calm side in a hurry. Was a bit scarry for a while. After a long week in the bush...CrustBusters! Made the EP and loaded up. Dropped off the rented gear at Latourells and showered there. Had a good meal in Ely and then it was back to the cities. See you next year!