Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Taking Dad Back
by fly4trout

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/26/2008
Entry Point: Island River (EP 34)
Exit Point: Little Isabella River (EP 75)  
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
This trip was thought up in the spring by my paddling partner/best friend right after our trip in the May 2008. We decided that we would get my father back to the BWCA, after being absent from it for around 30 years. This trip would include my father and his three boys, (my brother, my best friend, and myself). You see life tends to get in the way sometimes and some things get left behind, mostly due to the lives of those in our families. Sometimes, and I know it is hard to believe, things like trips to the BWCA get set aside until "next year"....then the next thing you know it is 30 years later. Our goal was to get Dad back to the BWCA, spend quality time together, and do ALL the work so Dad at 65 yrs enjoyed himself. The marching orders to Dad were as follows: 1. Sit in the front 2. Paddle whenever you want/don't whenever you don't want 3. When portaging.."Here carry this paddle" 4. You sleep here 5. When the food is ready you sit here and eat off this plate, then put it here and watch us wash it. 6. Relax and Enjoy
Day 1 of 4
Friday, September 26, 2008

Lets just start off by saying Dad was right that the beverages of choice by Jeff and I the night before while going over gear did not help the early rising that was planned for this morning. The difference here is that in my younger years that type of advise from Dad never stopped us either cause we did not think he was right. Now we know he is right when he gives that advice, but I guess we are still too young (in our 30's) to care.

We started the trip from NW Wisconsin at the early AM. We were off to Superior WI to pick up my little (and only) brother. Upon arrival big brother began barking orders like they do and hurried him into the jeep. We were on our way.

Arrival at Ely, only an hour behind what we thought, placed us at the outfitter. A re-pack of some of the gear, drop some money on the counter, load the van, and we were off, following the shuttle van to the Little Isabella River to drop the Jeep.

Once at the Island River we did a quick equipment check, getting our rain gear out due to the on coming storm that was passed on to us from the great state of North Dakota. The trip would start with an unseasonably warm day of 70+ deg.

After a brief discussion, I was proud to captain my watercraft and have my father as my shipmate. We were off, paddling past all the spent wild rice. I remember explaining to Dad that this is a really good place to have moose sightings. We agreed that it looked like moose country and quietly spoke about how great it would be to see one.

At the first portage, we landed and began unpacking the canoes, this was our first chance to explain that we had all the gear and Dad was not to carry anything except the small pack we gave him for his personal gear and water bottle. 

By the third portage we received some small protest from Dad about carrying something, I think it was Jeff that handed Dad a paddle and said "Here carry this!"

We paddled on with hopes of making it to Quadga Lake, where we had planned on base camping. we were looking to to do some fishing and were hoping to set out on foot to see if we could harvest a few grouse for a meal.

As we approached the last campsite before the portage to Quadga, it was time to make a choice that would come to set us up for one of the greatest moments on the whole trip. The storm was approaching with sounds of thunder booming in the distance. We took a vote to press on to Quadga and keep on track with the plan, yet risk getting caught in the rain and setting up a wet camp.....OR....Take the site on the river we knew to be open, set camp as it was still dry, get food in us, and get an early start. Dad was for the dry camp idea and wouldn't you know it we listened.

We landed and began our Set Camp Tasks. The last thing we did was hang the tarp with hopes the storm would miss us. As we began to cook the rain started and we each found a dry place to sit. It rained some more, and some more, and as Dad described it, the rain was something like a "Cow and a Flat Rock" (for those of you who know that saying). As we sat preparing the meal, the lightning moved closer and closer until it created an awesome light show for our enjoyment, that is until we had a strike around 100 yards away on one side and then the other side of our camp.

At around 6:30 PM, as we sat under the tarp enjoying our meal, Jeff looked up (I watched as he tipped his head like a dog listening to a whistle) and calmly said "Moose". As I looked up I observed a large Bull Moose standing on the bank of the river about 60 to 70 yards away. The moose stood there watching us in between each bite of his meal much in the same manner as we were doing to him. He never looked concerned of our being in his backyard but Jeff reminded us that "Ya know more people are killed by moose than bear?". Which when you are sitting in you living room that seems like an interesting piece of information. When you are looking at one of these incredible animals, in the wild, at 60 to 70 yards, that kind of information takes on a new meaning. We were blessed with 20 mins of being able to watch him before he decided to be on his way. We also learned that this moose appeared to rather across the river by walking than swimming. As he reached the middle he just dropped out of sight, large antlers and all, and reappeared on the other side. We estimated he traveled around 20 feet underwater, before coming up on the far side of the river. What an awesome sight.