Mudro to Bear Trap and return
Laurie and I had driven from Duluth to Ely and stayed overnight with my brother who was renting a cabin in the area. It was a nice evening of fishing on White Iron lake - five walleye and 1 smallmouth, followed by a good nights sleep before the Wednesday am. trip to the outfitter. We had also picked up our permit in Duluth Tuesday before heading North.
The two of us awoke about 6:30 and loaded the car, said goodbye to my brother, and headed in to Canoe Country Outfitters in downtown Ely. These guys are excellent to do business with, know the BWCA in and out, have all the gear you need, and the knowledge of routes, campsites, etc. We were loaded with 2 granite gear packs (#4 and #3) and an 18' WeNoNah Champlain in less than half an hour. A good breakfast at Vertins in Ely followed, and then we were on our way North.
The put-in at Mudro was crowded, lots of people unloading canoes and sorting out gear. We filled our packs and walked our gear in to the landing area, and were ready to depart within twenty minutes or so, leaving the crowds behind still sorting their food.
The river into Mudro was low, we had to drag the canoe for the first fifty yards or so downstream before jumping in. Lots of rocks along the route into Mudro lake, with a couple of scrapes and some near-misses. We finally gained Mudro lake proper and enjoyed a nice paddle to the far end outlet, with the stress of daily life slowly melting off and being replaced by the serenity that only the BWCAW can provide.
The first portage was rocky as usual, but we were careful to twist no ankles and single-carried the gear into the next landing. Off again across the pond, we were soon at the foot of the notorious second portage. I had experience with this brute last summer and had no preconceived notions of doing a single carry. I packed the #4 on Laurie, picked up the boat, and off we went, working our way up and down and over the rocks to the other end. I left Laurie there to relax and cool her feet in the water while I went back for the other pack. The double carry slowed us a bit, but we weren't racing anyone anyway.
A quick hop over the final portage and we were on our way into Fourtown lake. The winds were light and variable which resulted in mostly flat water and a very enjoyable paddle through to the Boot lake portage. We saw just one group camping on Fourtown, inhabiting the site just up the shore from this portage landing. Water levels here were up, as the creek between Boot and Fourtown was actually a flowing river, making nice white noise as it rushed through the rocks near the landing. Last year I had landed a canoe at the creek outlet and never even known there was water coming through there in anything more than a mere trickling brook. The portage to Boot lake went quick as we single carried, though there was some pretty good muck to deal with on this trail. I gave in to having muddy feet and just waded right through the muck, while Laurie picked a more or less dry route around the edges. Like Fourtown lake, Boot was calm water and enjoyable to paddle making for a quick trip through. All the sites in Boot lake were empty, so all paddlers had either moved on, or headed back into the Mudro landing earlier in the day.
We reached the portage landing into Fairy lake and carried across, finding the lake serene, calm, and void of other travelers. Realizing that, we made haste to the campsite on the East side of the lake and made landing just as some dark clouds came rolling in from the Northwest. We hoisted a tarp, popped up the tent, and settled in for a 5pm nap to recoup some of the energy it took us late-forties folks to get out here. The nap was welcome, and at 6pm we crawled out again to don our rain gear as some light rain began to fall. Then I pumped some water, casted a few lines from the shore, and started in on dinner. Freeze-dried "Mountain Home" beef stroganoff hit the spot, eaten in light rain right next to the fire grate there on Fairy lake. We spent some time poking about the campsite, which is lovely...I'd rate it 4 or 4.5 stars, though I strongly recommend against the temptation to park your tent next to the lake just North of the fire grate. At first glance this looks like a dandy pad, until you look uphill and notice that every thunderstorm will send a fresh torrent gushing into your tent. Park the tents further up the hill, and whoever gets the top has the best site, in my opinion. Close to the latrine and a soft bed of needles to lie upon make this a great location. A good "hanging tree" is nearby, and just left of that is a blueberry thicket that is second to none I've seen in a BWCA campsite. Those who camp here in the next two weeks (or in any late July trip) will have an enjoyable time picking dozens of berries. The view of Fairy lake from the rock just beyond is absolutely fantastic, just don't slip on the rock and tumble down into the lake from here. ;-)
The previous tenant(s) had left a sizable cache of firewood (they must have had huge wrists!) next to the grate, but rather than tend fire in the rain we, being Wet and tired, crawled into the tent at about 8:30 as the sun had hidden behind the clouds and it seemed like twilight time. We chatted about the day, complained of the ankle biting flies and abundant mosquitoes back in the trees, and started dozing off for the night. Dozing well too, until 10 pm when the local siren went off.
At first we thought it was a tornado warning, then we realized where we were and thought it was a VERY CLOSE wolf pack...for a few seconds, but then we realized it was a single voice and it just kept going and going...for almost a full minute. And by then I knew it could only be one animal...a moose (cow?) was letting loose her lonesome bale to whoever would listen on Fairy lake. It was unbelievably cool, and she had my full attention as she started in again on her second of three loud and long bellers. She was easily within 200 yards, perhaps in the marsh just SE of the firegrate, or perhaps on the granite bluff across the small bay. It was a transcendent moment, one that I'll remember for a long, long time, and easily our best memory of the trip.