Day 1 of 9
Day one - Friday afternoon - July 1, 2011 - Joe and Mike leave Indianapolis at 4:30pm with Tomah Wisconsin as their goal for the night. Jerry, Jim, Cameron and Justin are able to get on the road to Tomah at 5:30pm. After stopping for dinner in Champaign IL at Steak n Shake and a couple of gas stops we make it into Tomah at about 1:00am (2:00am Indy time). A long day, but that will help make Saturdays drive more manageable. Checked into the Tomah Hampton Inn and got a good nights rest and a good breakfast before we started out the next morning. Justin really liked the waffles!
Day 2 of 9
Day two - Saturday - July 2 - Up around 6:00 for breakfast of Waffles and eggs and left Tomah at around 7:15am with Grand Marais and Rockwood Outfitters as the Goal. One thing we saw in the area North of Tomah was a lot of blown down trees and debris, it looked like a major storm with front line winds and possible tornadoes had been through the area within the last day or so, lots of destruction. On the way through Minog Wisconsin we saw a Hawk swooping through the air, that got us excited for the wildlife we were hoping to see this next week. Drove up to Duluth and then we could see Lake Superior all the way up to Grand Marais. Interesting drive through Duluth, nice clean suburbs and they have tunnels, Justin loved the tunnels. Well, we were starting to get a bit hungry at this point and decided that Betty's Pies just north of Two Harbors would be the place we would eat. Good choice, the food was awesome and the pies were phenomenal, some of the best pie I've ever had (Second place to our Mom's though!) After eating way to much we jumped in the cars and drove up to Grand Marais. Since Grand Marais is the last place we would be able to get any supplies or have Cell Phone service, we stopped at the local IGA and picked up a few odds and ends along with a 12 pack of Coke for after the trip and made our last calls for the week! Went down to the Beaver House Bait Shop to check it out, definitely worth the visit - an interesting building. Went to the visitors center for fishing regulations booklet and some general information on the area then loaded up and drove on up to Rockwood. I think we arrived at Rockwood around 3:00pm, not bad, we would have all evening to pack for the trip. After we had spent some time packing and repacking and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the Lodge we decided it was time to head down the Gunflint trail to the Trail Center Lodge for our "night before we paddle out" dinner. Before we got out of the drive, Mike showed up with Lynn - she looked great for what she has been through the last several weeks! We had a nice visit then headed on down to the Trail Center to eat. When we arrived there wasn't a table big enough for us available so we made for the back yard with the Aspen wood fire in the pit and the Bar on the porch, what a place, you could sit in a lawn chair next to the fire pit or grab a seat on a picnic table and just enjoy the outdoors - it was probably 72 and about 40% humidity, almost chilly! It wasn't long when they called our name and we made for the dining room. The Trail Center has a huge menu, everything from Burgers to Steaks and Prime Rib. We ate well, like we had been starved for days - our bodies must have known how many calories we'd be burning the next day (That's our story and we're stickin to it!) After dinner we drove back to the lodge to finish packing and get ready for bed. What a day and what a lot of good memories so far.
Day 3 of 9
Day three - Sunday - July 3 - Up early, around 5:30 - 6:00 am (5:00 am Indy time!) hoping to be on the water around 7:00. Got all the gear down to the beach, double checked everything got the canoes and started loading. Decided we were all so excited to get this thing started we skipped breakfast for now - we'll eat at a portage or empty campsite on the way in (Yeah right!). It's beautiful on Poplar lake, smooth as glass, no wind and bright sunny skies. Canoes are Kevlar WeNoNah Guide edition, a Solo, Tandem and triple, interesting combination. Pushed off the beach on Poplar Lake and started the paddle into the first portage at Entry Point 47 and Lizz lake. Well, we missed the portage the first time by and ended up all the way at the end of Poplar, oh well - we needed some time to get the rust out and let the first timers learn a bit about the canoes and paddling. After doubling back we found the first Portage to Lizz, a 50 Rod portage with a rocky landing on the Poplar side. Mike was first across and we all soon had everything across and reloaded so we are on Lizz and entering the BWCAW! Lizz was a quick paddle and then we made the Lizz to Caribou portage, about 73 Rods with a nice rock shelf take out. Mike made it across first and let another group of about three canoes know how many of us were coming through. Well, now we need to hustle so we aren't holding the other group up so breakfast will have to wait at this point. We quickly make the portage and start paddling Caribou, we had decided earlier that we were going to Horeshoe and then the single portage into Gaskin at the far east side - less number of portages but almost the same distance - less time unloading and reloading. Now we are feeling good so it's fairly quick to the next portage and a small 20 rod easy portage into Horseshoe, again folks are waiting so it's hustle on through and keep going. Horseshoe was narrow and fun to paddle, not much wind if any and smooth water. One thing, so far we have seen LOTS of canoes and people, now we are starting to wonder if one of our targeted camp sites on Gaskin will be free when we get there. Horseshoe took a little while because we kinda took in the sites, we didn't hurry like we had coming in so far. Nice lake with some really cool looking campsites, but again, LOTS of people. made it to the Horseshoe to Gaskin portage which is 102 rods and starts out going up fairly steep to a ridge where you enter a burned out area with lots of low shrubs and flowers then it drops down a winding trail into Gaskin. By now the wind is blowing a steady cooling breeze that just makes the water choppy but not so bad it affects the canoes and paddling much, so it's real comfortable and doesn't make you feel like it's that hot at all - you hardly notice how much your sweating. As we come past the island campsite we see it is already taken and start for one of the two sites on the south side of Gaskin just past the island. Mike and Jim bust butt and try to speed out ahead to get one of those sites only to miss one of the sites by a minute - they watched another group get there just as they cleared the bend, oh well there are more sites down the lake and we did want to see the damage from the fire on the peninsula in June. We finally got a nice site (#635), with a small island out in front, down close to the Henson lake portage and almost across from the peninsula fire area. It would do nicely, although there was just enough room for the three tents, we were ready for something to eat and a break. We had everything unloaded, found and become acquainted with the latrine, got started on setting up camp and preparing lunch - which was cheese sandwiches, apples and candy bars. After everything was set up and ready for the night we went out and explored the area, it's nice at this end of the lake - but you don't get the awesome sunsets we wanted to see. The peninsula fire really nailed the campsite area and did a lot of damage - but there are still a lot of green trees and undamaged areas on the peninsula, so it wasn't a devastating fire. We had made up our minds that we would be moving camp as soon as one of the three sites at the other end of Gaskin freed up. Dinner was Steak and baked potatoes with grilled onions and peppers, homemade cookies for desert - dinner was great! Everyone was tired and I think we all slept well.
Day 4 of 9
Day four - Monday - July 4th - Up early for Bacon and Eggs with Coffee and flat bread. Today we spent the morning fishing, I didn't say catching, we beat the water to a froth but didn't catch anything. Spent some time putting up a fly and making the camp a little better. weather was a bit chilly and breezy, so the water had a bit of chop to it - not really whitecaps, but getting close. After lunch, PB&J on flatbread with candy bars. Joe, Jim and Cameron decided to scout the campsites we wanted to move to. It didn't take as long as we thought it would when they hit us on the radio that they had the site (#628) and we were moving! By the time they got back Mike had his gear packed, the food pack ready to go and was heading to the new site in the solo to start setting things up. I had the bear bag ropes down, packed and ready to go, finished getting the tents and other gear ready for the trip so it actually went pretty quick to get things ready to move out. We made the paddle back down the lake and found the new site had three landings, one was a little rocky, the second was small but sandy and the third was the biggest however it was the rockiest and least desirable. This site has a stairway built into the main landing, very nice site with multiple pads, no problem for three tents and a hammock, this site has to be one of the best on Gaskin for a larger group. In the afternoon we started to see a lot more clouds and figured we were going to see some weather move in. we had everything setup and now we were ready to cook dinner, Brats, Hot Dogs, fried onions and peppers on flat bread with Frito's and banana nut muffins baked in a camp made foil reflector oven - "Boundary Waters Good" eats! Did a little fishing and messing around before it got late and we hit the bags for what looked to be a windy night. It got windy, at first I thought an evacuation helicopter was coming into the area - I kept hearing rotor blades in the distance, as the wind got stronger it sounded closer. Only to hear Mike yell over to me that it was my tent's rain-fly making the noise. I have years of camping experience in lots of bad weather and I don't think I have ever been in that much sustained wind for so long, it was amazing! Of course Justin slept right through it all, the wind, noise, lightening and thunder. (the next day Joe and I found out we had the same thought - It's July 4th, are we going to be in the next Blow Down?) turns out everything was ok - we had secured the canoes and most of the gear, we did have to track down items that we had left on the drying line the night before. That will be a memory that won't go away for those of us that were awake!
Day 5 of 9
Day five - Tuesday - July 5 - Started out gathering up all the clothes that had been blown down the night before as we had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. The weather started out pretty breezy and the water was fairly choppy so we figured this would be a good day to stay near this camp and not take any big day trips. We went fishing, again not much catching, but we had fun. Got to enjoy the benefits of this site - we had a nice bay on one side and a large island in front that had a tall tree that had an eagle perched in it most of the week, perfect trees down the latrine trail for the Bear bags and a nice fire pit. Lunch was interesting, we had tuna and crackers, candy bars or PB&J on flat bread. The funny part was, Justin had said through all the planning that he would not eat tuna - yeah right, he ended up eating about half of my tuna, he complained about every bite but he polished off half, so I don't think it was that bad, it was "Boundary Waters Good"! After lunch we did the normal chores, gather water for the filter, firewood, pick up and dry wet clothes, take a dip in the lake, rinse out clothes, just stuff that you normally do in camp. for dinner we had thin crust pizza and pizza burritos that we baked in a foil covered pizza box we had brought just for this meal. Honestly, the pizza was as good as any pizza restaurant could have made, it was awesome - thin and crunchy crust with a great cheesy peperoni top and the burritos were great as well. If that wasn't good enough we had Krispy Kreme cherry pies wrapped in foil and placed on the coals of the fire for desert - yeah one of my two favorite deserts in the world - Hot or Cold! so with the food induced coma some of us took a nap. Had a great sunset with a lot less wind this night. Turned out to be a great day.
Day 6 of 9
Day six - Wednesday - July 6 - Woke up to perfectly smooth water and steam lifting off the water, amazing what nature can show you when you are in the right location. This was a great sign, we had decided that we were doing a day trip loop to Winchell lake on Wed. or Thur. so with the calm we new this was the day! We ended up having Coffee and the left over donuts and pop tarts for breakfast - we didn't want to waste any time getting on the water. We packed up supplies for lunch and what we would need for the trip, loaded the canoes and headed off to the Gaskin to Henson portage down past the first campsite. This portage is uphill from both sides to the ridge in the middle, it's 80 rods, had some standing water and muddy areas that made it slippery and the Henson side has a tricky take out/put in, otherwise it's not that bad. Being on Hensen before the steam had totally lifted had us hoping to see some moose or other wildlife, but we didn't. Henson is about 2&1/2 miles long, but it is really narrow, so it was a nice lake to glide through early in the morning, very peaceful. We didn't see any occupied camp sites on Henson, as crowded as Gaskin was, here, one lake away, was a lot less populated. The Henson to Omega portage was next, about 20 rods, short and sweet. Not too bad - a little muddy from the rains the day before, but not too bad. nice paddle on calm water brought us to the Omega to Winchell portage which is about 50 rods. On the Omega side it was a lot of boulders and rocks - this one will get your feet wet for sure. The trail was rocky in areas and had it's fair share of mud, but it wasn't to difficult and the Winchell put in was not to bad. We paddled into the calm waters of Winchell, we had expected some bigger water as the wind had picked up, it wasn't blowing bad but it was fairly steady. This is were we saw the gathering of 7 Loons. Rarely did we see more than two Loons together at any one time, to see that many together was amazing, we took a lot of pictures. After we had put the cameras up we had a Loon within 20 feet of the canoe take off and fly - amazing how they get up out of the water and literally run across the surface until they get enough lift to launch into the air, it was spectacular to watch and listen to it's feet pounding the water. By now it was getting to be about 10:30 - 11:00 and we were getting hungry so we started looking for a campsite to stop, eat lunch, hydrate and relax before we made our way back to Gaskin. We were starting to see clouds roll in and there had been a pretty constant breeze for the last hour or so - we weren't to concerned since the wind was out off the West and we were going East - we'd have the wind at our backs for the 4 plus miles of Winchell we had left. The first site we came to, on a point right before you hit the big water on Winchell was taken so we went West to the next site which was free. This site was amazing, large areas to fish and swim, nice fire pit area and plenty of tent pads, this would be a nice site for a large group. We ate our PB&J lunch here, drank some water, did a little exploring and took pictures before we headed out to investigate the Cliffs. We tried to find the trail up to the top of the Cliffs, but after an hour of bushwhacking we finally decided it wasn't the safest thing to do - we'll find someone that has been there and find out how they did it before we try again. Again we loaded up and started our paddling exploration of Winchell. It was interesting to just sit in the canoe and look at the scenery, listen to the sounds of nature and enjoy having this experience. As we were heading East we checked out several sites and one had a stone corral on a rock shelf as a live well for fish, Justin really liked that. We mostly floated and enjoyed the relaxed paddle to the portage that would take us back to Gaskin. We found the portage easily, it was 52 Rods with good take out on the Winchell side, the Gaskin side was muddy enough to pull your shoes off, I went in up to my calf and Justin did lose his shoe - Cameron acted quickly and managed to get his hand in the hole before it closed up, luckily he got the shoe back - definitely a put in we won't forget. Nice paddle back to the campsite on Gaskin and a relaxing afternoon of swimming, washing up a little fishing and picture taking. We decided that we still had a bunch of bacon, cheese and bread left so a menu change was in order - Knorrs noodles with foil chicken weighed a lot less than three pounds of bacon, we were not carrying heavy food out! We made a "Boundary Waters Good" meal of hash browns, eggs, peppered gravy and cheese thoroughly mixed up and slathered on bread with bacon on the side, yeeehhaaaawww, I could feel my arteries clogging as I ate! After a fine dinner, we had no bake cheesecake for desert. Cleaned up camp and messed around for the rest of the evening. I think this was the day Mike explained to Justin what the difference between a fairy tell and a lie was - inside joke.
Day 7 of 9
Day 7 - Thursday - July 7- This day started out breezy and cloudy, it would get worse! Started our morning out with oatmeal and coffee, quick and easy. Since it wasn't as nice as the day before, we chose the right day to make the Winchell loop, and we were staying close to camp today. Today we had Justin "walk on water", got lots of Eagle pictures, set up a "swamped" canoe with Justin, had a blast goofing around and kinda getting things ready for heading out on Friday. Lunch was a hodge podge of leftovers and dinner was Knorrs noodles with Foil pouch chicken, we ate good this week! We worked on adding a log seat to the sitting area of the fire pit, Jim sawed and burned a notch into a log so it would be stable, maybe we should rename Jim to Cody? Cody Lundin from dual survivor. Dang it Cody - I told you to have that signal fire ready! (Inside joke) Justin stacked all the leftover firewood neatly under some sitting logs so the next visitor would have dry wood when they arrived. late in the afternoon we had a storm come through, we had already ate lunch when it started so we just went into our tents to wait it out. About 20-30 minutes in the tents and a bright flash of lightening was followed by a roaring crack that shook the ground, Justin looked up from his book with big eyes and said "That was close!" and Jim was just falling asleep waiting the storm out - the thunder made him jump. It was loud! And it rumbled for a long time after the initial boom. That storm ended and we made biscuits with butter and honey for desert. While we were cleaning up from desert the next storm came in and it rained until sunset, stopped for a little while and then rained most of the night. pretty much got an early night in the sack.
Day 8 of 9
Day 8 - Friday - July 10 - Up around 6:00 to start getting ready for the paddle out. We had Coffee and oatmeal, packed GORP, leftover candy bars and anything else that looked like it would be easy to eat on the way out into our day packs. Then we broke camp, loaded the canoes and started the trip out. Kind of bitter sweet knowing the adventure was ending. We made the portage into Horseshoe with no problems. The day started out really foggy and hazy, it had pretty much cleared up by the time we were paddling on Horseshoe - clear, calm, warm with low humidity, awesome. Spoke to a couple of campers on the way out, some reported better fishing results than we had seen, at least someone caught some fish. Also, noticed that there were more people in the camp sites the closer we got to Poplar lake. Horseshoe didn't take to long to paddle and we were at the next portage into Caribou. No delays and no problems, quick portage and into Caribou, seems like we are paddling as a team, the steering is getting better (My nickname was zig all week) we are trimmed out and really enjoying this paddle - it's definitely not work, it's fun. As we round the last bend heading into the portage to Lizz we see a group bringing gear to the portage. They weren't real fast as it turned out, they were really nice and liked to talk! But, so did we! As we were talking I noticed an elderly man coming down the trail carrying his pack with a big old aluminum coffee pot swinging off the back. We learned he was 83 years old and never went camping with out that coffee pot, funny how these small coincidental meetings with other paddlers are some of the best memories, it was a lot of fun talking with that group. There's hope for me to get in a lot more trips to the Bdub and I'll just carry a plastic drip coffee maker - it's lighter! Made the portage and loaded up in Lizz, which was real quick and we were ready for the last portage back into Poplar. Everyone was turning and burning now, ready to get a hot shower and a Coke! We made it into Poplar and started paddling when we came across a Loon momma and her two babies - to much to pass up - out come the cameras and we have a photo shoot! It was amazing, she had the babies on her back and let us take two canoes right past her 15 - 20 feet apart with her in the middle, Joe got some great pictures. Then it was paddle, paddle, paddle and before long we come between the islands and there is Rockwood's beach straight ahead. We slowed down and enjoyed the last few minutes of the trip. It only took a few minutes to get the gear and canoes up on the beach, take pictures of everyone and sort things out for the trip back home. We got towels and our drive clothes and hit the showers, Justin got a Coke and enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed the shower. After getting cleaned up we stuffed everything into the cars for the drive home, some of the gear was wet from the storms the night before. after settling up our bills and visiting with Mike and Lynn we jumped in the cars and started the drive back into Grand Marais for a well earned lunch. Joe took us to My Sisters Place restaurant and we have a burger feast! Double quarter pounders, bacon burger and hot dogs. After fueling up our bodies we headed on down the road knowing we wanted to put miles behind us so the driving on Saturday would be shorter. Ended up in rush hour traffic in Duluth, dead stop for about 20 minutes but we eventually got going and made it to Tomah Wisconsin for dinner at Arbys and Madison Wisconsin at the Days Inn for sleep, it had been a long day.
Day 9 of 9
Day - 9 - Saturday - July 11 - Up early for breakfast of Waffles and coffee and then we hit the road. One of the downsides of this type of trip is when you transport wet gear in a car for any length of time, like overnight, it starts to stink, and I mean stink with a capital PHEW! Once we got going and ran the AC for awhile it wasn't so bad, I felt sorry for anyone doing this laundry (Thanks Honey!). This part of the trip went well, no problems and the miles just ticked off allowing us to get home around 1:30 in the afternoon. We unpacked, set up wet gear to dry and put things away for the next trip - which we hope won't be to long to come. Now we're ready to start planning the next trip! Maybe go out through Ely next time? Maybe go back to the Gunflint Trail? Not sure, guess we get to do some more research and planning!
9 Days 8 Lakes 1 Bushwhack, 12 Portages 698 Rods 11517 Feet 2.18 miles Portaged, About 35 Miles Paddled, 2 Camp sites, 4 days in the car About 1800 Miles driven, 2 nights in Hotels