Day 1 of 6
Sunday, June 17, 2007 We wake in the bunkhouse early, at 4:00. We microwave, and eat our breakfast brought in Ely the day before. While my trip partner takes a shower I do the first portage of the day, and move the packs to the waiting SRQ17. The morning is very calm. It feels like it may be a good paddling day. I take some pictures of the great sunrise. However my lack of using he cameras night function just males it a waste of photos. That's OK I have 150 pictures to take. We pack the canoe up and are on the water by 5:45. We are paddling down the channel of lake one. We come across a bald eagle perched in a tree. I snap 3 photo's, however only 2 came out. Then very quickly we come across a loon. I tried to get 2 or 3 pictures, however only got 1. We navigate lake one without even the slightest tid bit of being lost. Here is a real test, the first portage for me with my inured shoulder. However we double trip both of the portages with little problem. Once on lake two we begin to see other groups coming off the numbered lakes. We talk to some of them. As we talk to one the clouds begin to roll in. We joke yhea it's just waiting for you guys to leave. On lake three we run into our first navigation issues. It begins to lightly rain on and off. It takes well over a half hour longer than it should have to find the portage to horseshoe lake. We had originally intended month earlier to stay on Horseshoe lake. There were two groups already on the lake with a third sandy beach site open. We approach the portage to Brewis lake after no problems beelining across horseshoe. I comment as we pull up in the drizzle, how this looks like your nice typical bwca portage. We land, and are attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. The portage has a few windfalls over it. However much worse was that in all of the extra rain recently the portage was severely flooded in some places. You could walk around the flooded areas on this portage without much trouble. By the end of the portage we have no issue with shoving off fast. As we paddle across brewis we know that we will be walking more than paddling soon. The rain begins to pick up as we paddle across Brewis. The wind is also starting to pick up. When we get to this portage we hope for fewer skeeters, and less flooding. The 60 rod portage is just as bad, if not worse than the last. This time in some of the flooded areas, you have to step deep into the mud. Again the same we have no issue with leaving this portage. As we paddle across Harbor the wind begins to pick up even more. By now the rain is pouring. We pull up the the portage to North Wilder it is worse than ever. We also begin to hear thunder in the distance. The skeeters are waiting for us at this portage too. We now decide to paddle in the stiff wind, back to the campsite we had just passed, and set up the tent, put the tarp over the gear, and take cover. When we get to the site we must speed everything up. We realize a problem, there is no good area to put a tent. There is only one tent pad, and we must use it. The issue is that it is surrounded by potential widow makers in this high wind. Not only that, but it is right in a puddling area for water, and below a cliff. I tarp over the gear, while Phil begins to set up the tent. Once I am done I begin to help him. By now it is raining cats and dogs, and the thunder is growing louder. We both quickly take off our shoes, and dive in the tent. I begin to shiver in the tent. The tent is leaking badly, with the bad area to have to set up. We are stuck in the tent, with the day pack. We eat out of the day pack. The floor is soaking, covered in puddles of water, the ground cloth was too covered with water when we set the tent up. I'm too cold to fall asleep. I just huddle up in my poncho, which protects me from the water on the floor, and hold out. We set the tent up at 11:00. The first break in the rain is around 1. Phil goes out to inspect. He knows quickly that it is just a break in the system, and it will begin to rain as hard as ever very soon. The rain does return. The next two hours we are huddled up again. At 2:45 however we decide to go out again, in another break in the rain. Although it still looks like it could rain at any time we defiantly don't want to spend a night in this site. We take about 45 minutes to repack everything. It actually clears up a bit as we approach the portage to North Wilder. This one is still the worst yet It has many windfalls, and even more bogs. This one just like the others has a good dash of mountain goat thrown into it. When we get to North Wilder the better of the two sites is occupied. It looks like we might be going to South Wilder. However it is getting late by the time we finish the portage. We simply decide to take the other site on he lake. The group is not in it's site when we enter the lake. We go up to the other site. The portage gave us quite the wildlife sighting, my partner got 4 ticks, in a very small patch of his leg. The site like many of the portages in the area are side load only. We unload all of the gear quickly in case it clouds up, and rains again. Than my partner take my leatherman pliers, and does a brave and daring open heart like surgery, to remove his ticks, he makes sure to kill them. We collect some wood quickly, and start a fire for dinner. The other group is friendly, when they come back. We set up the tent to dry it out, and prop it up. The problem is that the wind keeps trying to blow it off, so we tie it down, to keep it from blowing off any more. We get a nice fire going for dinner. We have a good fathers day dinner of steak, and peas. We dry everything out quickly. As soon as we get all of the camp chores done for the night we hit the hay quickly. Today was a string of good choices, and we are lucky to be where we are right now.
Day 2 of 6
Monday, June 18, 2007 We wake up to yet another overcast day. While sleeping in felt good it was all negated by the dark skys. That morning the other group on the lake leaves, it is now all ours. We get a fire started quickly. It clears up a bit to raise our spirits. We always have bad luck with our stoves, and this trip was no exception. The stove was only lite once, at home. That morning I do more cleaning up around camp while phil cooks the bacon. We eat all of our food quickly. The wind begins to shift, as soon as we are done washing the dishes. Quickly we pack up, and pull the tarp over our packs. The rain begins to come down, right as we enter the tent. The tent is much more comfortable today than yesterday. I now have my air mattress, sleeping bag, and book to keep my mind off of being rain and wind bound. The rain again takes a few hours to clear up. We enterd the tent around 11, we exited at 2. We spend most of the time gathering firewood, since he stove is now useless, for anything but feeling like lead. I do some exploring of the site. The site has a nice cliff similar to many of the others on North Wilder. The site is also littered with blueberry plants. If we were at this site a month later we wouldn't have needed to bring food, with all the blueberrys. The wind even begins to die down around the time we start the fire for dinner. Tonight we eat mountain house chili mac and beef, and corn. We learn that the chili mac and beef works better with some extra water. After dinner I take the canoe out solo. I only spend a few minutes since the water in nice and calm, and the sun is out, but I know the weather can change fast. I bring the canoe back in. 5 minuets later I decide to go out, this time to take some pictures. With the iffy side loading to the campsite, I have a rough shove off. about 5 feet from shore a gust of wind causes me to capsize. The camera is ruined. Not only that but I get soaked. It is hard to swim with all of the clothes I have on. Not only that but with the quick drop off I would never had made it onshore by myself. Fortunatly my trip partner was nearby watching me, so he comes running. Onshore I quickly undress, and get into dry cloths. We do the dishes, and I go to bed. We plan on getting up to fish in the morning.
Day 3 of 6
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 I wake up at 5 for fishing. It's dead still, for the first time in days. Then about 10 seconds after Phil exits tent, I'm ready to follow but than, I hear the pitter patter of more rain. He jumps in the tent very quickly. Soon the wind grows stiff, and the rain is pouring again. This time I get to fall back asleep. I wake up around 9. The rain has stopped, however the sky is still as nasty looking as ever. We make this mornings breakfast fast. It's simply cache lake pancakes, with blueberries. We also have freeze dried syrup, which is very good. After breakfast we focus on gathering some firewood again. Not too long into the process the wind shifts again, and with it comes more heavy rain. We leap into the tent, to escape once again, by now this is getting miserable. If I was a newbie on this trip, I would never come back again, at this point. Thankfully I have a good book to keep me occupied so that I don't loose my sanity. Once again the rain clears up after about 3 or 4 hours. We decide when we go out, to do some shore fishing, and top off the firewood pile. We shore fish for a few hours both of us being uneventful, in getting a single bite. We cook dinner quickly with the still nasty sky's looming. Tonight is beef stew, green beans, and potatoes. While we make dinner the winds shift again, we fear the worst, that more bad weather will blow in. However we end up seeing clear, and sunny skies, and the wind dies off. Finally we believe the front has past. We eat well that night. Then we can finally fish from the canoe for the first time of the trip, with the calm weather. We troll to a spot in the north western end of the lake. My partners rod bends, however he adamantly believes it is the current, he will not be persuaded. When we reach a shallow zone he reels in. And to his surprise but not mine he has a nice Walleye on his line. We go to where I had wanted to go before. I check out the old portage to lake four. Turns out you can still see the trail, however I do not follow it because the skeeters are waiting. We fish for a while, before heading in near sundown. I say one last cast, and cast into the area I was aiming for all afternoon from shore. Than bam, and dive. I expect a long battle with a northern. It even dives as I get it towards the canoe. However it turns out to be an 18 inch walleye. We let him go, and paddle the short distance to our site. That night we turn out a monstrous bon fire. However in the clear sky's we don't do some rain protection chores. We go into the tent for the night, ready for more fishing the next morning.
Day 4 of 6
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 We wake up to the thoughts, that hopefully today is the morning that we can finally get out fishing. However you guessed it it is only rain and wind again. We simply go back to sleep again. At 9:00 we wake up again. By now the rain has stopped, and it's looking like finaly the bad weather is done with! We fish once again for the most part without luck. Than I get a bit. I think - oh it's just another Waleye acting like a northern. However this time it's a real northern. However it's a juvenile one. Maybe 14 inches being liberal. Than phil the man with the pliers tells me he left them at camp after last nights waleye. He is uneventful, at getting the lure out with out pliers, so we drag him back to camp. By now it's almost 11, and we are ready to eat. By the time we get the hook out he's belly up. We think we'll have to give him to the Gulls, since hes way to small to eat. However while we get ready to put him out as food for the gulls he manages to swim away. A lucky brake for us because while it's still bright out the winds are picking up. We make our breakfast for the morning, of scrambled eggs, and toast. We decide to figure out where the portage to the Wilder creek is, and to finally day hike the Pow Wow trail. As we paddle to the Wilder creek portage the winds are insane. This lake has good sized white caps on it. After we find the portage the paddle back towards the other portage into the lake, where we can hook up with the pow wow threatens another capsize. We make it to the portage, and stash our gear in the bushes, just in case anyone else comes along. We hike towards south wilder first. We are now very glad we didn't go this way, with all of our gear. While we never seem to make it past the wilder creek, and view south wilder we do on the way back, explore the portage trail spur. We bushwhack hard just to gain a few rods. We decide that it's just WAY too overgrown in the summer. Now we hike back north. We eat lunch, at the hiking site on North Wilder. If the camera was working it would have been a great panorama shot. We clean up, and head north some more. We hike a little ways past the tip of the lake before turning around. When we get down by the portage we see another group on the lake. We go and paddle back to our site. This group seems crazy. At first they look as if they are going up the wilder creek towards Hudson. Not smart at this time of day. Than they fish around a bit, before going into the other site on the lake. We have dinner done, by the time they look like they will be making camp. Tonight's beef stroganoff, and corn was a decent last meal in the bwca. Than by the time we clean up camp and have the food bag up, they leave the lake the way they came. Tonight we have another bonfire, to end the trip off.
Day 5 of 6
Thursday, June 21, 2007 Finally a day we wake up, and it's not raining, or windy. We quickly begin making breakfast, and taking down the site. This morning we have oatmeal, and bread. It takes a long time, but we have broken camp by 9:00. We quickly paddle up towards the wilder creek, since it seems it could begin to rain at any time. This portage is a no fool around one since we are greeted by clouds of mosquitoes. The creek is very nice. It is quiet, slow moving and winding. It seems we are farther from civilization than anywhere else in the bwca. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the end of the creek at Hudson lake. There is quickly the shock of seeing people again. We take the Hudson portages quickly. One of them Phil single portages, while I quadruple, not fair! At the final one before lake four had we been weaker paddlers we would have been sucked down the rapids, that maybe If you had a kayak you could have run. The other group at the portage was nice, and talkative, and also helped us from going down the rapids. On four it begins to drizzle. It's still not even noon. The way we take into lake three wasn't the normal one however we got there. We enter lake two around 1. We actually for the most part have the portages to ourselves. At the end of the second one right not more than 100 feet away are two bald eagles, perched on rocks. This is the one moment of the trip that I REALLY wish I had a camera!!!! We paddle up lake one at a snails pace, for us anyway were still ahead of everyone else. It's nice to be ahead of the traffic coming off Lake Insula that day. I will finish day five in the epilogue.
Day 6 of 6
Friday, June 22, 2007 epilogue: We pull up at the Lodges sandy beach. We unload the canoe, and load up the car. we enter the bunkhouse. We each eat a bit, and take well needed showers. We go into Ely for dinner. This day is now much like the day we drove up. We decide that we will eat at the Ely steakhouse. We get to watch ESPN while there, catching up on the sports news. Phil gets the Walleye Parmesan, and I get the 10 oz rib eye. I devour my meal, it is soooooo much better than freeze dried. Once we return to the lodge it's not long, before both of us doze off, for our well needed sleep. The next morning we tell Phil the guy with all the info about North Wilder, which he hadn't been to. We decide, to take hwy 1 to hwy 61. Highway one is not so great, in one area, since there is 4 miles, of flagged construction. However Highway 61 is well hwy 61. It's a great drive into Duluth with many Kodak moments. Than once through Duluth it's down hwy 53 back home. The drive is fine until Chicago. While last year was fine, we know better. Since Phil was originally from Chicago, it's one thing he sure doesn't miss. After 20 mph through Chicago we get back home by 10:00.