Day 1 of 5
Day 1 I left Cedar Rapids @ 5 am to pick up my brother in Ames IA. We leave his apartment in Ames around 7 AM and head up I-35 towards Ely. We stop north of the Minneapolis for lunch @ a KFC, big mistake. This is the last time I will ever eat KFC. We hit Ely around 4’ish and meet up with my dad who has been in town for a full day. He can never wait to get there when he is supposed to. He has made all the arrangements for this adventure which include our overnight accommodations @ CCO. We break down the packs and get fathers approval on our cloths and get all of our crap into one big heavy pack. My brother Rob and I wanted to single portage. We flip the hitch around on my minivan to tow dad’s trailer. He towed it up from Madison with his 63 corvette. The corvette can’t sit in the parking lot @ the EP so my van will have to haul everything. We hang out a bit and catch up. Dinner was across the street @ Sir G’s for some yummy lasagna and beer for me and my bro. Rob and I hang out with some more beer and conversation on the porch of our rental house and decide to wait for my brother Ben and his wife to get into town from Des Moines. They ended up getting into town after 2am and we passed the time with many beers. We will pay for this later that day with hang overs and a very tippy canoe.
Day 2 of 5
Day 2 Dad wakes us just before 6 bells and it’s off to Britton’s Cafe. I think I had the best blue berry pancakes I have ever had. We head out of town towards lake #1. Not sure what time we hit the water but it was a beautiful day. Rob and I were teamed up in my dad’s mad river tippy canoe. He insisted on trolling right away. I gave him a bunch of crap and wanted to get down the lake before we started fishing and told him it was a waste of time with us being on the one of the most popular EP in the BWCA. The words were still floating in the air when he got a bite. I did not believe him, mostly from a childhood of being teased. I said he had a snag and that there was no way he had a fish that fast. He had a fish, a small northern. After fighting the little guy he got it in the boat and released. We just start to get caught up with the rest of the group when he gets another small northern. I’m starting to think he is some kind of fishing god. We have not even made it out of the narrows yet. I’m still a little unhappy that he is paying more attention to fishing than getting the boat stabilized. I have been canoeing since I was in diapers and have never been so un-comfortable in a boat. Could have been from the previous night’s consumption, nahhh. It is the boats fault. We finally make our way over and through the first and second short portages towards the balance of the numbered lakes. Water was very low and made the landings difficult. At first I was trying to dry foot it then decided life would be easier if I just walked into the lake. We still ended up double portaging so that my dad did not have to work as hard. I decided to throw my line out and troll and got a hit as we made our way around the shallow rocky islands just paste the portage. Got the hit just as the wind and tippy canoe almost dump us in the drink. After that we decide to have lunch on a rocky peninsula. This is when we make a newbe mistake and get out of the boat without securing it on the shore and the wind grabbed it. Luckily someone gets there hand on it and the day is saved. We enjoy cheese and summer sausage with powdered lemonade. The group discusses that it may be a good idea to grab the next empty site. Lack of sleep is what we will say is the reason for this. Two sites later we are in luck. We set up our tents and decide to try fishing. After about 10 minutes I thought I felt a pretty good hit, then nothing. So Ben decides to try and see if his luck will be better over by me. Two cast later he found my fish and dinner. A nice size northern. Always steeling my thunder. I’m still happy for him. We decide it is a good time to break out the thermal rest and nap on the big flat rocks that make up our shoreline. Turns out I picked what at first glance looked like a good shady breezy spot to nap. I missed the fact that the tree that was providing the shade also provided sap all of my thermal rest. Crap!!! We eat dinner then early bedtime. As Rob and I crawl into my 2 person rated tent it is clear that my idea to conserve wait and pack space would have been better served if my wife (my normal tent partner) was in there. I am all for family togetherness as much as the next guy but sleeping shoulder to shoulder with my older brother was not clearly thought out. On top of which it is unseasonably hot and humid out as well. Two sweaty hung over brothers shoulder to shoulder. That’s love.
Day 3 of 5
Day 3 The next morning I am up with the sun, actually most of the night. Did not sleep for crap. I was the first one up and got the food pact down. A much easier task than getting the dam thing up in the air. We eat breakfast and break camp. Back into the tippy canoe. As if on que someone flipped the wind switch. As soon as Rob and I push off from shore we are tippier than yesterday. This time I am the captain. With every paddle stroke it felt like we are on the edge of going for an unplanned swim. With the white caps breaking all around us we could not even turn in the direction the rest of the fleet was headed as we were stuck in the middle of the lake cursing non- aluminum canoe we were in. This was our first time in a fake boat. (This is what my dad always called any canoe that was not aluminum) We finally got behind some islands and was able to make the turn towards were we should have been heading. In bicycle touring we call this a stupid lap. We work our way through some very shallow narrows to get over to the portage that would get us to Hudson. The first campsite off the portage looked like a good spot to grab lunch. Same as yesterday. We fished from shore a bit with a few strikes but could not get them to fully commit to be our lunch. As we shove off and get on our way we decide to troll down Hudson. This when Rob finds out we have performed yet another newbe mistake. His fishing pole is back at our lunch spot. Back we go. It was right were we (because we are a team) had left it when we helped the others load up from the shallow rocky shore. We were told the lakes were a good two feet down. We quickly get on our way and decide it would all be worth going ½ way back up the lake if we nailed a nice big part of our dinner. No such luck. Rob’s main goal on this trip was to get a big walleye. So as I bring us along a nice big drop off Rob says this is where his walleye is. He was 1/2 right. He did indeed get a walleye as the words were still floating across the water he gets a hit. I can’t believe it. He is some kind of fishing god I thought. It was just a wee little baby, barley bigger than the lure. I laugh every time I look at the picture. The rest of the group is way down the lake. I’m worried my dad is getting frustrated with our slow pace. We were in no particular hurry but my dad likes to keep moving. As we approach the portage that will get us to Ensign we catch up to Ben. He has landed a northern and a sunfish. The sunfish was too small to keep but the hooks did more damage than he would live to tell about. I believe that Ben’s wife Kim also had caught a nice bass. So we double portage over to Ensign fish in tow and rest a bit before we head off. We discuss our next campsite location. We will take the first site that is open. Next we find out that navigating with low water is difficult. It is amazing how much the landscape shapes change with low water. Solid land shows up where there should be islands. This can really turn a person around. We miss the site we were looking for which we end up finding a couple of days later while fishing. We head down a monster island while trolling and pick up another bass. He is too small to keep and we deicide that we have figured out where we were and double back to find a different campsite since the one we had originally wanted still eluded us. As we approach I bring us by a nice big cliff face hoping to get some more dinner. No luck there. Just as I bring us around what would become known as fishgut island I get snagged and before I could get my hands on my line it snaps. Just lost a 12 dollar lure and steel leader. Onto our new home. The wind took us in at a pretty good clip. We set up camp. Then the wind really picked up. We had to put Bens aluminum canoe up as a wind break for the fire pit to cook up the fish. It would stay there for the next 4 nights. Ben and Rob headed out to fishgut island to prep our dinner. The rest of us gathered fire wood and made preparations for dinner. After a nice windy dinner we spent the next hour or so trying to get the food barrel up high enough. Not the best trees for getting the food up high. This is when I decided that I would research other methods to deal with the food at night if I ever made a trip up here without my dad. He is dead set on hanging. I hid some vodka in the pack so that I could have a night cap. The first night I was not feeling it so I had mixed up a nice vodka lemonade before the hour long or better attempt to get our food secured above yogys reach. It was hard not to laugh as I know my dad hates it when he is frustrated but I find you have to laugh at 5 people pulling on ropes and pushing with paddles. The photos do not do it justice. There was a nice little outcropping on our site that we would become our nightly ritual of watching the sunset with my not so secret beverage. Kim had along 2 bags of wine as well. I also had my Ipod with a little speaker. All of this was things I know my dad might have a problem with. He has never had music or alcohol into the BWCA. I decided it was my vacation as well. To my surprise dad enjoyed both very much. We sat out as a group each night with the music playing some 60/70’s music very low. I know what most will think. It was only loud enough to be heard for about 5ft away from the speaker. This was my favorite part of the day, sitting watching the sunset beverage in hand with my brothers and dad in the BWCA. Only thing missing was my wife. I wish it could have lasted longer into the night but the Minnesota state bird forced us into our tents. This is also the time of the day when the breeze would disappear and it would get hot and sticky. The weather forecast for the first and second days was supposed to be warm and humid then a big cool down with some storms then the cool weather after that. It ended up doing the exact same thing every night. At sunset the breeze would completely disappear then the state bird would show up, then we would lay in the hot tent with no breeze until about 11 or midnight when the breeze would pick up only to bring just enough rain to force us to put the rain fly on and to make it extremely muggy.
Day 4 of 5
Day 4 I was first up which would also turn into the routine. Again I bring our food down and greet the sunrise. After b-fast Rob and I would head out in my dad’s MNIII and fish. Ben and Kim would use the Souris river tippy boat from hell to fish from. My dad and his wife would end up hanging out at camp and pump water and relax. Rob and I headed out by some small islands with big drop offs which turned out to yield fish with each pass. Just then I look down to the end of the lake that would have normally been full of H2O and I see a moose. Yeah. I can’t believe how excited I was to be able to see this. I try to get my camera out of my pack that is tied to the thwart. Dam the tractor seats. Can’t hardly turn around in these things. I manage to get a couple of photos just has it hears us. One of my hopes was to see a moose. I get excited just thinking about it. All the years that my dad forced me as kid to go up to the BWCA ( I hated it when I was a kid,) I had never got to see a moose. I did see a bears butt as we rounded a corner of island when I was a child. Man those things can move, was gone in the blink of an eye. The next few days was all routine. We went out to fish after b-fast caught enough fish to feed the group for lunch then back out after lunch to catch enough fish for dinner. Fight to get the food up high. Then hang out on social rock with some good music, beverage and companionship. Then back into the smoldering tent to learn how to be close to my brother. The day that we going to head out of the woods was different depending on who you spoke to. (this would become an issue later that day) We left our nearly week long camp cleaner than we found it. Side note I had forgotten that one of the themes for this trip was we found some sort of eye wear at every lunch and or campsite we stopped at. Weird. Rob, Ben, Kim and I were ready to get back to the real world. I was missing my wife of 20 years, Rob was missing his new girlfriend (who is now his wife) and kids and Ben and Kim were missing their two young children. Dad was not ready to take out. Deep down I believe this was more to do with the fact that this may end up being the last time he would be up here with his boys. He always comes out of the woods at least a day earlier than planned. As we worked our way back to the numbered lakes Rob and I were dialed in and the boat was not as tippy as the way in. We hit the portage back to Hudson with fury. We somehow figured out how to single portage even taking extra stuff. I grabbed the misc. gear pack and canoe and Rob snagged the big pack with all the sleeping/cloths in it. We hammered the portage that day like it was our job. Not sure what we changed but we were a machine. Rob would go back to help others since we got our crap over in one shot while I loaded it up and helped others unload packs and get all the boats secure and ready. As we made our way into #3 lake dad was noticing that the sites were starting to be full (Thursday before labor day) and he wanted to stay in one more night. Rob turned into Switzerland and then the battle started in the middle of the lake #4. I think this the emotions took over the conflict. We ended up making our way over to our EP on lake #1. Dad was the one out paddling us on the way in but now was so far behind that we often lost sight of him. We ended up making one more stupid lap just before the EP which allowed dad to catch up. We all loaded up on a very busy landing. We made our way back to CCO and I made a b- line for the showers. We all got cleaned up and settled in to our bunk house and then headed back Sir G’s for a nice meal. We had just sat down in front of the windows when one hell of a storm front rolled in and it was raining cats and dogs sideways down main street. I could not resist saying to my dad “good thing we got out of the woods when we did” he agreed with a slight smile that only I saw. He knew it was the right decision. As a father I know how he felt as I always get a little grumpy when I know the time spent with my boys is coming to an end even if they do drive you crazy the whole time we are together. It continued to pour all night. Ben, Kim, Rob and I decided to visit the local beverage establishment to chat. Dad and his wife headed back to the bunk house to continue to sort gear out.
Day 5 of 5
Day 5 The morning finally arrived and I was the first one up again. Man I wish I could sleep longer. The four of us ended up opening the bakery on main street. We enjoyed some coffee, tea and pastries. We headed back to regroup and say our good bye’s to dad. Since me and the brothers were headed the same direction we decided to drive together until the cities. I pawned Rob off on Ben after we had lunch together and headed south back to Cedar Rapids and they headed towards Ames and Des Moines. Lesson learned: 1. Lots of ways of seeing things with different generations, well I already knew it but experienced it more extreme 2. I want to lead a trip and get my wife up here. 3. Got a nickname of two bass Tom. Every time we went out I came back with two huge bass. Caught a bunch more but only kept two which fed the group. 4. Rob is used to catching more fish and does not like it when I out fish him at every turn. 5. Hanging a food pack is a waste of time and energy. Must find alternative method. 6. I have fallen in love with the BWCA all over again.