Father and Son Trip
This summer has been tough. I lost my Grandpa in May, Grandma was in the hospital soon after, daycare problems all on top of work and the rest of life. I really needed to get in my canoe and paddle. I didn't have a trip planned, but a group from our church was heading up and they could only get enough people to fill one of their two permits. I decided that I would jump on the second one. I have a tandem canoe so that meant I would have to find someone to go with me or I would have to rent a solo. Well, my oldest son Evan would go, he's always up for anything outside. So now I have some weight in the front of the boat but that's about it- although he has his own bent shaft paddle that Grandpa made him, he is only three. I asked my wife if she wanted to go- no luck there. My brother's wife was overdue and was supposed to have a baby any day so he was out of the question. Grandpa might be up for it! I called and he sounded interested but had to get a few things done first. Everything for him worked out including the birth of his 3rd grandson on the same day that he left for Ely. The group was set.
I left work around 2pm. I was on the phone all the way home dealing with work stuff. My phone was ringing even when I was carrying the canoe to the car. I had enough and I shut it off. Peace. Evan and I met my Dad on Farm Lake and we packed all of our gear and set out to our cabin to repack food and clothes. It really is nice to have a place to sleep the night before a trip. The last trip I was on, I slept in my car the night before hiking and slept terribly.
Day One: We ate some breakfast, met the other group in town and picked up our permits. Outfitters tend not to show the BWCA/LNT video, which saves time, but I really wish they would. There were a couple people in the other group who had never been to the BWCA and knew nothing about the impact that they can have on the area.
We drove up the Echo Trail and reached EP16 in pretty good time. Lots of cars in the lot, and lots of canoes ready to be taken across the 160rod portage to the Nina Moose River. The race was on...but I didn't want to race. I had to really put on the brakes and tell myself to enjoy the time with my Dad and son and not get wrapped up in the race to get a campsite. As it turned out, the three of us were pretty efficient when portaging. I carried my pack and the canoe while my Dad took his pack and paddles. I had intended to go back for the food pack while Grandpa and Evan waited but Evan would not leave my side. Oh well, Grandpa is in great shape and it wasn't a problem for him to go back and get the third pack. This system allowed us to pass anyone who had been on the the water before us.
We were stopped by a couple of Forest Rangers and they checked our permits which happened to be a little wet at the time. He suggested that we put on our PFD's when we got into Nina Moose Lake. Evan had his on. Things got a little crazy here for a bit. The other group leader from our church mentioned that his permit was for EP8 which I figured meant that he was supposed to head south instead of North on the River. I knew the rangers would stop them too, but I didn't know what they would say. I figured they would make them turn around and go out of EP8. I was wrong, the rangers didn't care at all and all was good. It is still something that I would look into. Maybe the rangers didn't notice the entry point number.
One of the guys from the church group(Adam) was paddling a new kayak and decided that he was going to stick with my little group. (Adam and I have been on five BWCA trips over six years) and he is a real work horse. We sent him up to Agnes to scout out a campsite and he managed to find one on the North Eastern side. We had stayed at that site a few years ago- it isn't the best site on the lake, but it is pretty good. It is often open since it is tough to see from the water. EP16 to Agnes is a pretty easy day. The long first portage is pretty flat with a downhill run to the river. The other portages are short and flat. It can take while though I would guess it took us about 5 hours to get up to Agnes. The river was high this year, higher that during any of my previous trips.
We had T-bones, and potatoes, carrots, onions, green peppers. I also brought up a small box of Cabernet which I knew my dad would enjoy. Those boxes are pretty nice to have. They are the equivalent of 3.5 glasses of wine. Should have had one box per night.
Day Two: We packed up and left Agnes heading to Tiger Bay. When we got into Boulder Bay we had calm water and really enjoyed the morning paddle. I had my eye on an island site that I had used with some college friends 10 or more years ago and it was open. Sometimes the right campsite can make the trip. We actually had our pick of pretty much all the sites in the area although the campsite on the backside of the island that we were on was taken. That site is always taken.
We setup our two tents and I started rigging up a cheap tarp that my dad hauled out. It covered the kitchen area and most of the fire pit. Evan and Grandpa took a nap. I enjoyed some quiet time. I thought of the previous times that I had stayed on the island with some crazy college guys. It was really strange to think about what I was like then and compare it to being a father while camping on the same site ten or twelve years later with my son. One of those trips two of us set out at 10pm, we had a full moon and paddled all night making to the island site just after 11:00 the next morning. I enjoyed remembering those past trips and the people who joined me.
We ate BWCA pizzas for dinner, maybe had a little rain here and there that second day but nothing really worth noting.
Day Three: Now this was a day that I will remember. Grandpa bought Evan a new fishing pole in Ely and Evan was standing on a rock near the shore learning how to cast the Zebco in the rain. I heard Evan start crying and noticed the he dropped his new pole in the water. I saw my dad running toward Evan yelling something. It turns out that a northern had grabbed the rappala and pulled the pole right out of Evan's hands. Fortunately, the tip of the pole stuck in the rocks in three feet of water and we were able to retrieve it. The northern got away, but it left an impression on Evan who is only used to catching small sunnies on the ice. My dad really thought that was great. Later in the day, I caught my personal best walleye on a chartreuse x-rap. It was almost 25" and had a lot of blue coloring on its tail and fins. It really was a beautiful fish. I also caught a 30" northern, both put up a great fight.
We had lunch on a small island and found a lot of blueberries. It took Evan a little while to warm up to the idea of eating things right off of the bush but he eventually started picking his own. After we finished lunch it was nap time again. After Grandpa and Evan woke up we cruised up to Warrior Hill and all three of us made it up to the top. While I was grabbing the camera out of the dry case, my phone "dinged" and I looked at it to find that my sister-in-law had sent a text message with the name of their little boy. That was pretty cool to get that message up there.
The wind had been increasing all day with brief showers off and on. I had purchased a PacLite rain jacket from Cabela's for Evan. Although it was on sale, it was still pretty expensive. I found out though, that you can't put a price on a dry child in a cool rain storm. The jacket worked out very well and was worth the money.
At some point in the afternoon a large fishing boat came out from behind Tiger Bay and flew from campsite to campsite and also visited a couple canoes that were out on the water. We figured the guy was lost since that part of Lac La Croix restricts motors. We found out later that it was a game warden checking boat registration and fishing licenses.
A couple guys from the other group joined us for a fish fry on Friday night, we ate as much fish as we wanted and wasted none. That was a real treat. Storms were rolling in which probably explains why the fishing was so good that day.
The winds blew and the rain fell that night. My REI half dome tent leaked a little from top dripping water right onto my face. My clothes were in a nice dry bag so I took Evan's clothes, and anything else that needed to stay dry and stuffed them in to my sleeping bag. I kept Evan close so that his bag stayed dry. I didn't fall asleep until the rain stopped.
Day Four: The wind increased as morning grew near. We decided to pack up camp just in case the wind and waves calmed. Eventually, it did calm enough for Grandpa and I to feel comfortable paddling Evan across the lake. He cried the across the entire lake. Not because of the wind, waves and rain, but because we wouldn't let him paddle. He had dropped his paddle a couple times already while on the river and there would be no way to turn around and retrieve it on the windy lake. Nina Moose Lake was our destination. I had never stayed on the lake before, actually I have never really given Nina Moose Lake much thought at all. I was surprised when I realized that there are eight campsites on the lake. There was nobody on the lake at when we showed up in the mid afternoon. We had battled a pretty strong wind all day and after looking at three sites on the North East side, we decided to take a site second site on our right (West?) as we entered the lake. It was good site with two tent pads and a great table rock. Nina Moose Lake is a pretty dirty lake and my MSR filter had to be cleaned twice to get 4 liters pumped. The wind died as the sun set and the stars came out. We ate Chili, Evan had Mac and Cheese and fruit roll-ups. I stayed up talking to Adam about previous travels and pasts. It was tough to head back to the tent since it was our last day and we would be leaving in the morning. I slept well that night.
Day Five: I woke up first. That rarely happens. The sun came up from across the lake and lit up my already yellow tent. I wasn't going back to sleep after waking up to that brilliance. I had packed up most of the gear after supper the night before so we didn't have all that much to do. Grandpa had his TL-4 (way too much tent for one person) packed up pretty quick. We were off back to the car. We didn't meet anybody along the way until the last portage and folks were racing in. I was tired and had to drive 5 hours. Evan went to sleep, and I listened to the Angels beat up on the Twins most of the way home.
Whatever bet my dear wife made about the trip and how Evan would behave was won by me. He was a pleasure to have along and it was fun to see the wilderness through his eyes for the first time.
A few side notes on gear: The expensive rain gear was very nice for Evan. We should have brought more kool-aid type drink mixes for him. Mac and Cheese was his favorite meal. Grandpa needs a new Kondos portage pack. My poor canoe has a small leak in the stern. A tarp is very nice to have and I may save up for a new CCS or better yet add it to my Christmas list. We brought too many tortillas.
Three quotes of the trip: Evan: "where you go, I go" he stuck by my side the entire trip.
When asked if he enjoyed his trip to the BWCA Evan said, "yeah, I like the Boundary Waters, but I like your car too" His dvd player was left in the car and he would have liked to bring it with. He doesn't understand electricity yet.
My Mom asked my Dad if he enjoyed the trip and he said "it was a trip that I hope to remember for the rest of my life"
I too hope to remember this trip and many more like it.