BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 17 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1235 feet
Little Gabbro Lake - 33
Taking Dad Back
September 26, 2008
Little Isabella River (75)
Number of Days:
Lets just start off by saying Dad was right that the beverages of choice by Jeff and I the night before while going over gear did not help the early rising that was planned for this morning. The difference here is that in my younger years that type of advise from Dad never stopped us either cause we did not think he was right. Now we know he is right when he gives that advice, but I guess we are still too young (in our 30's) to care.
We started the trip from NW Wisconsin at the early AM. We were off to Superior WI to pick up my little (and only) brother. Upon arrival big brother began barking orders like they do and hurried him into the jeep. We were on our way.
Arrival at Ely, only an hour behind what we thought, placed us at the outfitter. A re-pack of some of the gear, drop some money on the counter, load the van, and we were off, following the shuttle van to the Little Isabella River to drop the Jeep.
Once at the Island River we did a quick equipment check, getting our rain gear out due to the on coming storm that was passed on to us from the great state of North Dakota. The trip would start with an unseasonably warm day of 70+ deg.
After a brief discussion, I was proud to captain my watercraft and have my father as my shipmate. We were off, paddling past all the spent wild rice. I remember explaining to Dad that this is a really good place to have moose sightings. We agreed that it looked like moose country and quietly spoke about how great it would be to see one.
At the first portage, we landed and began unpacking the canoes, this was our first chance to explain that we had all the gear and Dad was not to carry anything except the small pack we gave him for his personal gear and water bottle.
By the third portage we received some small protest from Dad about carrying something, I think it was Jeff that handed Dad a paddle and said "Here carry this!"
We paddled on with hopes of making it to Quadga Lake, where we had planned on base camping. we were looking to to do some fishing and were hoping to set out on foot to see if we could harvest a few grouse for a meal.
As we approached the last campsite before the portage to Quadga, it was time to make a choice that would come to set us up for one of the greatest moments on the whole trip. The storm was approaching with sounds of thunder booming in the distance. We took a vote to press on to Quadga and keep on track with the plan, yet risk getting caught in the rain and setting up a wet camp.....OR....Take the site on the river we knew to be open, set camp as it was still dry, get food in us, and get an early start. Dad was for the dry camp idea and wouldn't you know it we listened.
We landed and began our Set Camp Tasks. The last thing we did was hang the tarp with hopes the storm would miss us. As we began to cook the rain started and we each found a dry place to sit. It rained some more, and some more, and as Dad described it, the rain was something like a "Cow and a Flat Rock" (for those of you who know that saying). As we sat preparing the meal, the lightning moved closer and closer until it created an awesome light show for our enjoyment, that is until we had a strike around 100 yards away on one side and then the other side of our camp.
At around 6:30 PM, as we sat under the tarp enjoying our meal, Jeff looked up (I watched as he tipped his head like a dog listening to a whistle) and calmly said "Moose". As I looked up I observed a large Bull Moose standing on the bank of the river about 60 to 70 yards away. The moose stood there watching us in between each bite of his meal much in the same manner as we were doing to him. He never looked concerned of our being in his backyard but Jeff reminded us that "Ya know more people are killed by moose than bear?". Which when you are sitting in you living room that seems like an interesting piece of information. When you are looking at one of these incredible animals, in the wild, at 60 to 70 yards, that kind of information takes on a new meaning. We were blessed with 20 mins of being able to watch him before he decided to be on his way. We also learned that this moose appeared to rather across the river by walking than swimming. As he reached the middle he just dropped out of sight, large antlers and all, and reappeared on the other side. We estimated he traveled around 20 feet underwater, before coming up on the far side of the river. What an awesome sight.
We all slept very well, if you count the small drip in my tent (on Jeff's side - not mine) and the small pond in the other tent (on Keith's side - not Dad's)and set off in the morning after breakfast for Quadga Lake.
Once across the portage we found that two of the four sites were taken. Being unable to see the 3rd & 4th site from where we were at, Dad and I set off. Not long after we launched, we found the 3rd also occupide and hoped for an opening on the 4th.
Once at the final site we found our temperary home. Jeff and Keith followed and met us. It was not the site that we had hoped to have, but we soon found it to be very cozy in the trees. there was a nice rock by the water that allowed us to dry our gear with the sunshine that had just broke the cloud cover.
Jeff and I set out fishing in hopes to find a meal. Lets just say it was a great day for fishing,but not a very good day for "Catching". Back to camp we head to check our drying gear and prepare the meal. Keith had the same luck fishing from camp as we.
As night fell we sat around the fire telling stories and catching up. Long about the time we should have been in bed, the rain began again and broke up the party.
We awoke to a little cooler temps and engaged in a meal of bacon and eggs in a soft shell. We decided to head across the lake and explore the west side of the lake. We watched as the occupants exited the lake, being Sunday we figured everyone would be going home.
We reached the Pow Wow Trail and decided to explore the area looking for a grouse or two for dinner. Jeff and Dad headed out together and Keith and I headed north. I was able to harvest one grouse and heard three others. Dad and Jeff were not that lucky, but they did hear a few of them. I was happy to have bagged my first Spruce Grouse and do it on a trip with my Dad who has coached me in hunting as I grew up.
As we returned to camp we continued fishing. Once again, good day for fishing, but a bad day for catching. The spruce grouse was wonderful as a mid-day snack, and we spent the rest of the day reading on the shore and mildly snoring in the sunlight. I learned that Keith can answer your question, then be snoring 10 secs later.
Early to rise, long before the sun, at least for Jeff and I. We began to break camp and get the oatmeal breakfast started. As usual Dad beat little brother out of bed, we all enjoyed our breakfast and got on the water as the sun broke. It was a great time to be on the water with the fog coming off the glass like surface and not a sound louder that our paddle strokes. As much as I hate to leave, this is a beautiful way to depart.
As we paddled up the Little Isabella River, I noticed a grouse sitting in on the shoreline ahead. I pointed it out to Jeff and Keith. Jeff was able to retrieve his side by side 20g and load it as Keith maintained their position in the river. For those of you upland hunters, Jeff made a beautiful shot from that canoe and was able to harvest his first BWCA grouse. Dad and I had a great view from our canoe and I could see my Dad smile as he complimented the shot. Then we all had a good laugh as Keith went to retrieve the game like a good bird dog, only to step on it (well that's what Jeff claimed when he found it pushed into the mud).
After taking out and getting back to the outfitter for a hot shower, it was off to the Ely Steak House for a big steak and a beer.
It ended sooner than I would have liked, and I am glad we decided at the last minute to make the trip a day longer than we had first planned. All in all it was a great trip and will always be one of my best memories of the BWCA. Getting to spend a trip with my father, brother, and my best freind, and the fact it was my first BWCA trip with my father will always live on in my mind when I think of Quadga Lake.