Day 1 of 7
Saturday, May 15, 2010 There I was standing in my driveway, with my packs, food pack, canoe, and gear waiting to be loaded onto Mr. Barley's truck. I had just finished mowing the lawn, and chatting with the Census worker,(yes, I didn't send in my form), when he arrived. I was really pumped for this trip! Mr. Barley arrived, and we quickly loaded up my gear. I quickly gave Mrs. Plums some "lip service", said goodbye, and we were off. We arrived at Gunflint Lodge at about 10pm, and we were met by our friend Sheryl, she was waiting for us, standing in front of her house. Sheryl is an old friend (not age wise), we used to ride the school bus together. We hadn't seen each other in 30+ years, so we talked till about 1 am, getting reacquainted. Thanks again Sheryl for putting us up, or should I say putting up with us. We got up at about 6:30 am, and headed down to the Lodge for breakfast, if you've never been to Gunflint Lodge, you have to visit, it's a living piece of history, and the food is awesome too. After breakfast, we loaded ourselves into the truck, and we were off to Tuscarora Lodge, to leave a special gift for LilCowdoc. No doubt she's already enjoyed the "Beer Medley" that Mr. Barley prepared for her. I hope it brought a smile to her face, after a hard days work. A special thanks to Sue at Tuscarora lodge for accepting the "Beer Medley" in LilCowdoc's behalf. Also, for updating us on the low water situation at Gotter Lake. We unloaded out gear at the Round Lake landing, and quickly paddled across the lake to the Missing Lake portage. We crossed the portage without a hitch, and paddled across Missing Link Lake toward the Tuscarora Lake portage, the first test of the day. The weather was sunny, and cool, and not a cloud in the sky. The Tuscarora portage was fairly muddy in spots, and required some fancy footwork. That's when I strained my calf muscle on my right leg. It started out as a tiny little pain, but gradually worsened, and tightened like making a fist. I limped across the portage, and made frequent stops to try to stretch it out, but it was no use. We "leap-frogged" across the portage. I started out carrying the food pack, and my Bell Magic together, but the extra weight on my leg was a bad idea, so I put the canoe down, dropped the pack, and carried the canoe across to the other side. Mr. Barley had to go back quite a ways to get the pack. I was done, my leg was throbbing by now. With the Tuscarora Portage behind us, we decided to give my leg a rest, and change our plans and stay on Tuscarora for the night. We found a good site near the portage into Owl Lake and set up camp. We fixed a nice dinner of giant shrimp, and Alaskan scallops, Yummy. After dinner we headed out to see if we could catch a few Tuscarora lakers, and quickly landed a few. Mr. Barley caught a big sucker, and accidently dropped his landing net in the lake, while dealing with the sucker and it quickly sank to the bottom. So if you are trolling around someday and catch a net, it'll be compliments of Mr. Barley. We headed back to camp about sunset, and built a small fire, and it was off to bed, about 10 pm.
Day 2 of 7
Sunday, May 16, 2010 We woke up about 6:30 am, and headed out to try to catch some fish, but they weren't cooperating, so we headed in for breakfast. Bacon and eggs, were on the menu. There is something special about the smell of bacon in the woods, and it tastes really good too. We broke down camp, and packed up our gear, and headed for Owl Lake. Owl is a pretty little lake, and it was smooth as glass when we crossed it. We were there a couple of years ago, and we remarked on that the last time we crossed it, it was in the driving rain. We portaged into Crooked lake, a 55 rod carry, and pretty easy. The sore leg is still giving me fits, so I triple portaged it. Near the end of the portage there was a spot that must see very little sun, because along the trail there was a huge, thick sheet of ice. Crooked Lake is a nice lake, with lots of evidence of the fire that swept through the area, a few years before. The portage into Tarry was a new experience for us, we never portaged through a burn area before. The Crooked side of the portage was almost free of vegetation, but the Tarry side was all cedars, green and untouched by fire. Tarry lake was much the same as Crooked, burned. The 10 rd portage from Tarry to Mora was a nice break. The Mora side of the portage had a nice sandy landing, with evidence of an old dock, as many in the area have. Mora was a nice lake, lots of cedars, not many rock outcroppings, but there were a few nice ones. The Portage into Little Saganaga was one of the highlight of the trip for me. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, and the trail is easy, and then drops quickly at the other end. Little Saganaga, has been a favorite of mine, since I first saw it 15 years ago on a loop through the area with my son. It was a welcome sight to see it again. We spent a bit of time on the south side of the lake looking for the USFS Ranger cabin, but had no luck, so we headed off to find a site. We found a great site on a long skinny penninsula, there was no one around, and it looked like we were the first ones there this year. This is a great campsite with 5 level tent pads, a great fire area, and a sandy landing. It also has a sweeping view of the lake. It's a 5 star site, if I've ever seen one. Dinner was an onion bagel with summer sausage, and pepper jack cheese. We sat in the twilight and listened to "Loon Magic", by a small fire, the lake was like glass. It sounded as though every loon in the world was singing at once. Surreal
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Day 3 of 7
Monday, May 17, 2010 Got up about 6:30, again, and had bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We decided to fish around our point that morning and picked up a couple of nice lakers within 15 minutes. We worked the area near our campsite, and saved 2 nice eater sized lakers for shore lunch. We set out across the lake to visit the site my son, and I stayed at 15 years ago. it is located on an island just on the edge of the burn area on the north side of the lake. It was nice to see the site was left unscathed by the fire. It's a nice site high above the water, I remember the spectacular view it used to have, before the fire. Shore lunch was fabulous, fried lake trout fillets and a Teriyaki noodle side dish. After dinner, it was time to clean up a bit, I hate dirty hair. After clean up, and a little nap, we headed off to find the ranger cabin located somewhere on the south side of the lake. It was not where we were told it was supposed to be. We separated and conducted our own little searches, and found it about 200 yards from where it was marked to have been. It has an old outhouse made of logs, it is now used to store shovels and a few other tools. When we got there the door was standing wide open, so I closed it. The cabin looks as though they are doing some much needed maintenance, and it's painted a different color from photos I've seen. We took photos, and milled around a bit and then headed back to camp. Supper was mexican rice with beef, and then we sat by the fire and listened again to "Loon Magic". We were back in the tent by 9:30.
Day 4 of 7
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Today we are heading off to Gillis Lake. We broke camp early and were underway by 8:30 am. We paddled across Little Saganaga, and headed to the portage into Virgin Lake. It was strange as we paddled and portaged through the next series of lakes, now after the fire, open country and lots of ticks. Virgin was literally barren of trees, the portages were easy, and short. The longest being the portage from Little Sag to Virgin lake. These lakes must have been gorgeous before the fire, the water was deep and clear. There was a group behind us on Virgin, but they must have gone to Peter Lake, because we didn't see them after the Virgin portage. We would pass through Virgin, West Fern, Powell, French, and Fern lake today on our way to Gillis. We arrived on our Gillis lake campsite at 1:30 in the afternoon. It was quite warm and sunny today...not a fan of warm and sunny. My temperature comfort range is about 65 to 70 degrees, so 80 was pushing it. Our campsite on Gillis was probably the best one on the lake, and big open site, with a nice landing, and a great fire pit. It is well used, and there is little firewood around. It has a sweeping, beautiful view of the lake. After lunch, we of course head out fishing. Mr. Barley caught 5 lakers in short order, and I stayed off the board for awhile, but I eventually managed 4 lakers. The fish were all about the same size, about a pound and a half to 2 pounds. With the mayflies hatching, and the water still very cool, you can see the fish come to the surface and pick them off. Dinner was mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes, what a combination. After clean up we casted from shore till dark. I picked up one laker shore casting. It was a quiet night so we sat up by the fire, listened, and waited for the loons, and then it was off to bed.
Day 5 of 7
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 Breakfast was oatmeal on steroids (with fruits, and nuts), and then off to fish. We really hammered the lakers today, fishing this trip was crazy good. We stopped on a sand beach and gathered firewood, and stretched our legs. We saved out 3 fish, and headed back to camp. We filleted the fish, fed the gulls the spoils, and made bacon wrapped lake trout fillets. We had no tooth picks or skewers so I carved some out of cedar. We had a side of stuffing, along with the fish. It was gourmet eating, for sure. That afternoon we napped, and just chilled in camp. We watched the gulls and an eagle compete for the fish carcasses. The eagle literally dove in the water for one of the carcasses that the gulls had dropped. He used his wings to swim back to the rock. I had never seen that before. It was unusually warm, more like mid to late June, instead of May. So we sat in the shade of a jackpine, and then a late afternoon bath with the sunshower. Of course the day would not have been complete with out more fishing..so that's what we did with the rest of the day. We have been seeing more people today on Gillis, a lot of people traveling through and looking for campsites. We had a nice fire tonight, It really cools off fast.
Day 6 of 7
Thursday, May 20, 2010 Got up, and had breakfast, and then headed out to fish about 8am. It seems like we are sleeping a lot more on this trip, not like the old days when I was up, and in the canoe before the sun came up. Oh well, it feels so good these days to sleep in, and after all I am on vacation. The trouble with that is, you miss the best part of the day. Another warm day, got to be above 80. We headed straight for the shallow bay, but the guys across the lake from us got there first. So we fished other holes today, picking up more fish as we go. Today is all about fishing. We haven't picked up a pike all week and that seems odd, but don't get me wrong I'm not complaining. We have come a long way in 25 years of tripping. Our first trip was really something on the portages, but we have really learned a lot. Our fishing ability has really come a long way too. About 6 pm we headed back out to fish, and it was a great night, we fished till dark tonight, and watched the sun disappear, it was yet another surreal moment. We got back to camp in time for Loon Magic. We both sat in silence, just listening. Tonight would be out last night out, so we sat by the fire till it died out.
Day 7 of 7
Friday, May 21, 2010 Got up early today, and we were in the canoes fishing by 5:30 am. It was a good morning, and fishing was excellent. We quit at 8:30, and headed back to camp to pack up to leave. We'll have 8 portages today. Our first portage was a 20 rd into Bat Lake. 20 rods straight up, that'll get the heart pounding! And it did! We met three groups going in. All headed to Gillis. They will be disappointed when they get there, as the sites were almost full. We portaged from there into Green Lake, and met no one else there. The water was green hence the name. Our next was a portage into Flying Lake, a 70 rod. Today is puddle jumping day, as the lakes are small, and the portages are frequent. From Flying lake is the portage into Gotter 50 rods, at least that's what the map said. The lake level has been famously low this year, so it was more like 70 rods. We almost changed our plans this year and back tracked out of Tuscarora, because we had been told that Gotter was impassable. Both ends of Gotter were interesting to say the least. We met this guy crossing the portage, carrying his canoe barefoot....Hmmmm. Barley and I looked at each other and laughed. It seems that when some folks enter the woods, footwear is optional. Kinda like Mowgli from the Jungle Book. :) Oh well to each his own I guess. Our next portage was a 35 rod into Edith, which we bypassed by paddling up a small creek. There was a short pull over, but no big deal. From Edith, a short 50 rods to West Round and then an 85 rod into Round. We loaded our stuff in the truck, and headed from there, back to Gunflint Lodge. It was an awesome trip, sunny everyday, not a drop of rain. Fishing was the best I've had in years. A special thanks again, and again to Sheryl, for opening her home to us. 25 years seems like a long time, but it goes by so quick. Get all the tripping in you can.