Day 1 of 8
Friday, July 13, 2007 Our Dad's 77th birthday. Two of my brothers and 2 nephews stop in to see him on their way from the Milwaukee area to Wausau where they will meet up with me. Our dad, probably more than any other person, is the one who introduced us to camping, fishing, and the outdoors. Even though he can't cross the room without a walker, he says he wishes he could be going with us. I wish he could too. Once they get to Wausau, we meet up with Matt and his family at a Friday night fish fry (we thought it might be our only chance to eat fish for a week if the fishing was bad). Matt is a friend who I talked into joining us (his first BW trip) only about a week ago. He was able to get off work and really fit in well with our group. I hope he is able to join us again, maybe next time with his 2 sons. That night, we packed all of our personal packs and loaded them on the trailer.
Day 2 of 8
Saturday, July 14, 2007 We got up early and got the food packs, including the freezer pack loaded, and then all the knoos strapped down. We were on the road for Duluth by about 7:30am. Not too bad. The six of us all fit into Matt's van. He had one knoo on top, and pulled the trailer with all of the gear, plus two more knoos on the trailer. Pretty big load, but it was nice not having to take another vehicle. We got to Duluth around noon, stopped for lunch at a Burger King, where we met up with brother #4, Greg, and nephew Wylie. From there, we head up the north shore to our night before put in, spending the night at a friend of Greg's cabin on Deer Yard Lake outside of Tofte. After dropping off the trailer, we head into Tofte to pick up our permits, then to Grand Marais for supper at Sven n Oles, fishing licenses, check out a geocache, and some last minute grocery shopping. Then back to Deer Yard to bunk down.
Day 3 of 8
Sunday, July 15, 2007 We get up at dawn, do a breakfast at the cabin, and then head up the mostly gravel road to the put in at Brule. Thankfully, the light rain from the night before kept the dust from kicking up along the way. At the landing, we meet some foreign speaking canoers who seem to be waiting for someone to show up with some packs or help, but with their gear strewn all over, we couldn't tell if they were coming out or putting in. One agrees to do a group picture for us and then we are off.
Our goal is to make it to Winchell today. The crossing of Brule goes better than we expected. We heard the winds could be nasty. Paddled into Cone Bay, checked out some of the campsites for our return at the end of the week, and then did the quick little portages through the Cone Lakes, getting ready for the big portage into Cliff Lake. This one turned into a pretty gnarly trek, about 200 rods, a twisty, rocky, narrow trail that was mostly uphill. Because we pack comfortably, we got to make the trip twice. Not to mention the fact we will have this same portage again at the end of the week. From there the trip through Wanihigan and into Winchell was pretty, but uneventful. We found a great campsite just north of our entry into Winchell open, and quickly claimed it. All in all, we made pretty good time our first day. Ate a late lunch, finished setting up camp, and then just kicked back.
This site had some huge rock outcroppings that made it a great swimming site, yet there was also a sandy bay around the point. Plus it had a great view of the lake and the high hills on the south side of the lake.
Day 4 of 8
Monday, July 16: We get up, fix breakfast, break camp, and get ready for a long paddle east across Winchell. Fortunately, the slight wind is at our backs. Winchell is not a particularly good lake for a variety of fishing, lake trout and northerns almost exclusively. We tried to catch some of the trout the night before but came up with skunks. It really is a pretty lake, albeit a long one. The south shore has the impressive hills, remember Minnesota's highest peak is only a few miles to the south, and the north shore offers some really nice looking campsites. As we get to the east end of the lake, it appears that either the leaves on the trees are changing, or the trees appear to be dying. As we get closer, we notice that it appears the trees had caught on fire near the bases and burned over a wide area. The portage into Gaskin confirmed the presence of a recent fire. Did the Ham Lake fire spread this far to the south? Once we got into Gaskin we found some more area of the fire, but it seemed OK on the eastern half. We found a number of open sites, but eventually settled on the site that is the second one from the east end of the lake. This turns out to be the best site I have stayed at in 5 years of BW travel, a most accommodating site for our large group of 8. It has log steps built up from the edge of the water to the elevated site, a large area around the firepit, yet plenty of trees to hang hammocks and a tarp from. There is water on three sides of the site, and a path through a birch forest leads to the latrine. Another interesting feature of this site is a mushroom shaped rock on the water's edge. While swimming in the early afternoon, we spotted a moose grazing along the shore of an island about 200 yards off from our site.
Supper that evening was steaks, baked potatoes, and for dessert cake, that my nephew Brian has perfected with the Outback Oven.
Here you see nephew Josh, our "keeper of the fire" guarding the steaks and spuds. Later that evening at dusk, my brother Tom, Matt, and I were fishing off the island where we spotted the moose when we heard it come off the island and graze in the shallows about 50 feet away from us, and then swim back to the mainland, coming within 20 feet of our knoo. The picture shows the silhouette of the moose's head poking out of the water with the sunset behind it.
We didn't catch much for fish, a couple little smallies, but what a sight that moose was.
Day 5 of 8
Tuesday, July 17: I got up early to find the lake still blanketed in a mist. I decided to take a knoo out with my camera and a fishing pole. I catch a nice, eating sized walleye, but some even nicer pictures of the sun coming up with the mist still covering parts of the lake.
No moose sightings though. What I didn't realize was that Matt also caught a couple of pictures of me in the knoo.
That day most of us just decided to kick back at camp, doing a little fishing, some swimming, and lots of napping and/or reading.
Tom, Matt, and my nephew Brian decided to take a day trip to Horseshoe and Caribou Lakes for some fishing. They were some of our destination lakes if we would have been with the other groups we usually travel with and had done a one way trip instead of a loop. My brother Tom was on a quest to catch some walleyes or big smallies (Oxymoron?) and he thought Caribou was his best chance. While on this day trip, they ran into a couple of groups on a portage that turned out to be the only time we encountered any people on a portage the entire week. They also had another close encounter of the moose kind. Another cow, that allowed the guys to get very close to it in the knoo, close enough that Matt said Brian could have jumped out of the knoo onto the moose's back.
After diving underwater a few times, it eventually scampered up on the shore and trotted into the woods.
One thing they did not encounter on their trip was much fish. A couple of dinkers, but none even photo worthy. That night, after another huge supper, and some great sunset pics,
we tried our luck at fishing again, and again, Tom came up empty handed. To make matters worse, my brother Rick, the one who has the least interest in fishing, using a cheap, maybe two pound test, telescopic pole, fishing with me, manages to land a 22" walleye.
Somehow, the landing net happened to be in our knoo. Another one to add to the Wednesday morning breakfast appetizers. And then, off to sleep after another gorgeous day.
Day 6 of 8
Wednesday, July 18: I could have stayed at Gaskin another day, but we wanted to check out the lakes north of Winchell, going through Henson into Omega, figuring that if we went through Winchell, we would be going against a stronger wind, plus we knew the fishing wouldn't be that good. But first things first. Walleye filets for breakfast,
it does a body good. If you saw the food we pack, breakfast is about the only time we can squeeze in a fish meal. Our suppers included chicken breasts the first night, steaks the next, then pork chops, Wednesday was brats, and pepperoni pizza on tortillas the last night. Not to mention fresh carrots, baked potatoes for two meals, plenty of noodle, potato, or rice pouch side dishes, and at least one dessert, muffin mix, or corn bread. Lunches were grab and eat on the run type of foods like salamis, cheese sticks, GORP, granola or snack bars, jerky or sausage sticks, peanut butter and jelly, and plenty of juice to wash it all down. Breakfast included streusel cakes made the night before, breakfast tortillas with EggBeaters, precooked bacon, Canadian bacon, individual boxed cereals, and pancakes. Extra stuff includes instant oatmeal, Tang, tea, coffee, soup packets, hot cider and cocoa. When we got back to Wausau, I realized I forgot to pack the waffles. But, we wouldn't have had room in the packs, and I don't know when we would have eaten them if they would have come along. Anyway, after breaking camp, we headed west across Gaskin, into Henson, and then into Omega. Fortunately, the wind was slight as we paddled into it.
Once we got into Omega, we started looking for an open site big enough for our group, but they were all taken, or too small, so we did a quick lunch and continued south into Winchell. The nice site we stayed our first night was occupied, as were some other bigger ones we had seen earlier, but we eventually found one, a little small,
but we made do as there were no other options within a mile and it was late in the day. Above you can see Greg in front and yours truly behin at our second site on Winchell.
Below you see Josh in his element and Brian doing what we brought him along for, the dishes.
Day 7 of 8
Thursday, July 19: Because we traveled further yesterday then we expected, today will be a rather short paddle.
But we also have the long portage back into North Cone. Fortunately, what had been the heaviest packs to carry the first time, the food, now have become the lightest. Also, this is more of a downhill hike, and it goes much better than the first time. Going through the Cone Lakes, we found some nice sites open, but we passed on them hoping to find one of the real nice sites we had seen in Cone Bay on Brule our first day in. We found a pretty good sized site, that someone on this board had rated 5 stars, open, and quickly claimed it.
Don't get me wrong, it was a very good site, but I still like the one on Winchell and definitely the one on Gaskin better. we set up camp for what would be our last night in the B-dub. Being to cool to go swimming, we spent most of the afternoon kicking back.
One item left undone though. Tom still had not caught his fish worth showing anyone. You have to know my brother Tom. At our cabin in northern Wisconsin, he always catches the biggest and most fish. He has a great knack for smallies, but in three trips to the B-dub, he has caught one small walleye, one not real small lake trout, and the rest have ben mostly bait fish sized. That night, the world became a much better place to live in, or at least our drive home, when Tom finally landed a smallie that was worthy (barely) to be photoed.
You can see the expression of joy in his son Josh's face, proud of his father and the lunker he somehow managed to fit in the knoo without capsizing. That evening, we would be given one more chance to see a spectacular evening sky before our departure tomorrow.
Day 8 of 8
Friday, July 20: Our last day. We sleep in a little, kind of reluctant to get our of bed, knowing that our vacation is over, with only the drive back to Wausau, and then Milwaukee for the rest, left. Breakfast is whatever we wanted to eat that was still left, and there was plenty, break camp, and then the paddle across Brule. Again, the winds were friendly for us and the last paddle goes by too quick. And then it is load up the cars, and head into Grand Marais for some showers. This time the roads are pretty dusty, more gunk to wash down the shower drains. That is taken care of by the municipal pool, and then we stop for a chat with the folks at the Northhouse Folk School. My brother Greg knows them through project they have done at St. Olaf, where Greg works. We drive down the north shore to Betty's Pies for our "return to civilization meal" and then to Duluth where we stop to do one more geocache. We then say goodbye to Greg and Wylie as they head back to Northfield, and the rest of us make the drive back to Wausau. We get back around 9:00, unload the gear, and then Tom, Rick, and their boys have another three hour trip before they are home. By then, I'm already asleep, dreaming about next year's trip. I must say, and the brothers all concurred, this trip was our best ever. The weather was warm, but not too hot. We had only one little incident with rain. Fishing was OK,saw noone at portages, and few on the wather, even for the middle of July, and saw some incredible sights. And then there's the group factor, the four brothers have had a lifetime of picking on the youngest, and making fun of the oldest when he would try to be the leader. Now that we are in our late 40's and early 50's, it still hasn't changed. We can still argue, but this time it's without having to tell mom. Yet, there is still an incredible bond between us. It's something that our parents gave us along with the faith that carries us too. These are things God is now letting us share with our sons as our father did with us. Matt, while often observing this unique camaraderie, could have easily fit in as brother #5. He will be welcome on any other trip. There are still some of the nephews who have not made this trip, but they all want to, as well as our two brothers-in-law. They would equally be welcome, but the limit of nine per group, albeit justified, will not make this all possible on one trip. My prayer is that 2008 will be trip #4 for the 4 bros, and whoever else dares to tag along, you'll have a blast. See ya'!