Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

A Short Trip on Crab Lake
by Krusty555

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/13/2008
Entry & Exit Point: Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake (EP 4)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
This was our first trip into the BWCA, though we have camped and canoed for many years. I want to first thank the folks on this forum. I picked up a lot of good solid info here that helped with our preparation. We're from Virginia (the state, not the town) so it was a long hard drive up to Ely for my wife and I and our grown son. This trip was basically meant to celebrate his Graduation from Virginia Tech. Voyageurs North set us up with a MN3 canoe and packs, but we brought most everything else. Our paddling goals were modest and we didn't really go as far as we planned, but we enjoyed every minute of the trip. For a canoe guy like me, it was really exciting to see Ely, MN. A whole town mostly centered around self-propelled boating and camping and bustling with canoes is something I never thought I'd see.
Day 1 of 4
Sunday, July 13, 2008

When we woke up in VN's bunk house early on Sunday, the wind was rattling the windows. We stepped outside to temps in the mid 40's, rainy, and windy, not really what we were expecting in mid-July. The folks at the outfitters were as groggy as we were and no one seemed real certain about how we were going to get across Burntside in the wind and rain, (at least, I wasn't).

One really hairy boat ride later, we were standing alongside slow moving Crab Creek, lined by lilypads and tall grasses and plenty o' mud. Still cold, still windy, we started paddling. This is a trip that should take 2 hours in high water, but it was low water and we had a very heavily laden canoe. It took us 3-1/2 hours. We were noobs and we kept debating the route and we crossed at least 10 beaver dams and several other obstacles and one short portage. For me, it was The Real Thing, wilderness adventure-wise. Lotsa heave-ho-ing the boat, paddling in lilypad-clogged swamps that slowed us down, and beaver dam after beaver dam. My wife was stalwart, though stoic, my son was unstoppable, and I was jus' flat lovin' it.

Anyone familiar with this area knows we were barely a stone's throw from civilization, but it felt as wild as anyplace I had ever been on the continent. We pressed on and, eventually, we reached Crab Lake. where the wind got stonger as we got weaker. We started hunting for one of the campsites along this lake. There were maybe 5 sites on this 1 mi.x 2 mi. lake, only two were ever occupied besides the one we chose and none were in sight of the other. We got off the lake around Noon. We had planned to press further into the wilderness, but we were spent and this site looked just fine. So there we set up and there we stayed.

We built a fire, set up a tarp, and tried to get warm and dry. That involved a lot of chopping and sawing and so forth. Dark does not arrive until 11 pm so we had lots of time to cook dinner each night. The first night, I made "Campfire Pizza" in the Dutch Oven (yes, we lugged a cast iron 10" DO into the wild). The pizza was, no kidding, delicious. Cooked the crust up-side down with saute'ed vegs and crisp Pancetta ham and cheese sprinkled on top. Sometimes, Life is good, like the T-shirt says.