Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Tried to get to Insula
by papszoo

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/15/2010
Entry & Exit Point: Lake One (EP 30)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
I have renewed my interest in the Boundary Waters after a 25 year absence. I took my daughter last year, so this year I took 2 of my less interested sons on a short trip with the hope that I would trigger an interest in longer excursions down the line.
After cajoling/coercing 2 of my sons into a spring BWCA trip last winter, I completed preparations in February. I "won: the lottery for the Lake One EP, and we made reservations for the Kawashiwi lodge for the night before. I scrutinized the weather reports for the 10 days leading up to the trip, and became increasingly anxious as the forecast worsened for the few days we had to go there. Mark, my 15 year old, then had a change in his basketball practice schedule so we had to cut the trip by a day, and Adam, my 17 year old, started wondering why anyone would actually go to a place that didn't have running water or a wifi connection. Anyway, the day of departure came, and I stuffed them both into the car before they were awake enough to know what was going on. We drove up to Ely from our home in Marquette, Michigan in the upper peninsula. My kids noticed that where we wound up (forest, trees, lakes, rivers) looked exactly like where we left except Adam remembered we had a flush toilet and wifi at home. Adam had forget a few minor things since we only had 4 months to pack-his SHOES! so we stopped in Piragis to get him something he could use on the portages. We grabbed lunch in Ely and drove to the Kawashiwi Lodge.
Mark and I went to test the canoe and cast a little and Adam tried to perfect his firestarting technique. With the greaser firestarter goop, 2 lighters, some premade incendiary arsonist approved kindling, he was able to get a roaring blaze going that lasted all of 2 minutes. Mark and I watched it flicker out as we paddled into Lake One. A few hammerhandles are all we could manage, and we returned for dinner. We planned an early start. Our route was going to be thru the numbered lakes, into Hudson, and into Lake Insula where the perfect campsite was chosen after perusing the BWJ campsite review from a few years ago. I woke up early enough, but I didn't have the dynamite required to get my kids out of bed, so we wound leaving under overcast skies around 8:30.
I had my trusty GPS loaded with waypoints, a we paddled down Lake One. Adam studied the map and recommended frequent course corrections. I told him we could get to the portage we wanted in the direction he pointed at-we would just have to circumnavigate the earth first. I told him the portage over Antarctica might be difficult this time of year. In any event, we reached the first portage without problem, and settled into what I hoped would be an efficient portage routine. We had 2 packs, 1 food barrel, and the canoe. I thought 1 kid could carry the large pack and the canoe, the other kid could carry the small pack and blue barrel, and I, as the foreman, could supervise their progress and critique their technique. Alas, my prudent packing still resulted in packs that weighed slightly more than my kids (combined) so I had to help-which slowed us down considerably.
When we got over the second short portage, we got our first look at Lake 2. The skies were gray, it was raining, the wind was blowing straight at us, and the waves were higher than I thought we could reliably stay upright in. I put on my relaxed, everything will be ok face, and we started paddling. With all 3 of us paddling mightily, we gradually started moving forward, and finally reached a portion of the lake that was a little protected from the wind. Unfortunately, it was a short respite, and as we headed into Lake 3, the wind got stronger, the waves got higher, forward progress became harder to measure. I then made the executive decision to stay on Lake 3 at any campsite that was open. We passed a few occupied sites, and then sighted one that looked pretty good from the water. If it had a landing though, I couldn't find it. I wound up jumping into 3 feet of water, into basketball sized ankle busting rocks, while the loaded canoe was trying to crush me on the shore. We ultimately managed to make it onto land in one piece, and unloaded. I then demonstrated how fast I could set up a tarp so we could start drying out. I tied a tight ridge line, and secured one side of the tarp to it, but the free end kept catching the wind, pulling out of my kids hands, and the flying so high it was hard to reach. We finally managed to corral the misbehaving end and get it tied when I realized I had tied it upside down. My dreams of a center pole dashed, I told the kids to periodically dump any water that collected at a low point. I then set up our tundraline tent and I put the vestibule under one end of the tarp. When it was set up, Adam went in the tent to get some R and R, with his head near the door. Just about the time I could hear him snoring, a puddle of water developed on the tarp that grew ominously, so I told Mark to dump it. When he asked me how, I related the complex physics principle of gravity and simply raised one end of the tarp. We watched in horror and amusement I suppose, as a half gallon of water gathered speed, veered down a small channel, lowered the free end of the tarp, and fell gently through the open tent door unto sleeping Adams head. I had initially anticipated the water would come off at an entirely different direction but it seemed like it had a mind of its own. Thus was Adams introduction to the wilderness.
I had trouble sleeping in the tent last year, so I invested in a hennessey hammock. It set up quickly. Our campsite was complete.
The weather stayed crummy, it was too wet to start a fire, so I cooked some dehydrated stuff on the stove, and we retired early. I slept like a baby in my hammock, listening to the wind and rain. When we woke, the weather was overcast but it wasn't raining. We had a quick breakfast. Mark and I went fishing. Adam who had been eyeing my hammock with lust since I put it up announced he was still tired, climbed inside and disappeared. Mark and I started fishing-we cast topwaters, jigged the points, trolled crankbaits, fished the weeds, fished the rocks, looked for reefs, fished the bays-everything was falling into place for a memorable fishing adventure except for 1 minor detail-WHERE WERE THE FISH? After building up the quality of the fishery in the Bdub (based on last year and 25 years ago), it was difficult to explain 4 hours of fishing WITHOUT A BITE! I am old enough to have a litany of appropriate excuses/explanations-none of which include I don't know what I am doing; so I invoked the old mayfly hatch, changing weather etc-I added that Adam sleeping probably had something to do with it too. We decided to appease the fishing spirits by waking up Adam, so we went back to camp. He was still asleep, so we woke him up. We had a PB&J feast and then decided to head out to fishing again. That's when Adam decided he needed a nap after that big meal and disappeared into the tent again. At that point, I though he might set an unofficial record for the most hours spent sleeping on a BDub trip, so I left him alone with his dreams. Mark and I decided to aimlessly troll around the lake since targetting likely spot wasn't working and we didnt have a depth finder. We set our sites for the northeast islands and paddled quietly. The gentle rhythm of the canoe eventually lulled Mark into a light sleep, as he held his lifeless pole in his hands. Seizing the opportunity, I angled the canoe till his line was in reach. I then did an accurate simulation of a gargantuan strike by a pike that was 6'1 and 220 lbs. After what I thought was an inappropriately long delay, he retaliated with a hook set that almost capsized the boat concomitantly with a scream of surprise and excitement that I am sure people heard in Ely. I tried but was unsuccessful at keeping a straight face as Mark descibed the power of the "fish" he just lost until he gradually realized that the "fish" was in the stern. I told him I pulled that same prank on my brothers decades ago. It just never gets old. We paddled back to camp after a couple of hours, found Adam in the "position."
We had a big meal of dehydrated stuff, and made a nice campfire. It was a beautiful nite. I then got the weather report. The next day was supposed to be nice in the morning, but a violent storm was forecast for the PM and well into the day after, which potentially could make us wind bound. Since Mark had obligations that absolutely required us to get home on time, I decided we would leave in the morning and the kids didnt resist. That nite, I watched the stars from my hammock and listened to the loons lullaby. My reverie was interrupted by Adam at midnite. Hes had type 1 diabete since the age of 3 and though we cut back on his insulin to avoid low sugars, he told me his sugar was 55-not nearly high enough to get him through the nite. I had the food barrell down the lake shore, so I started plotting my exit from my warm cocoon into the mosquito plagued nite when he found some sugar pills. He downed several, got his sugar up to 170, so I figured we would make it thru the nite. (We did)The next day, as predicted, the weather was nice, light breeze, and I started packing up while my Rip van Winkles snored away. I let Mark fish instead of paddle much of the way back, and he caught a few hammer handles. We made it back to the lodge, took care of the bill, and went to Ely where we managed to spend 30 dollars on lunch at the dairy queen. My kids said they enjoyed the trip (sort of) but Adam decided that base camping and fishing was not his cup of tea. I am left to ponder whether he will ever want to go again. Its funny that some things that energize and excite parents don't always filter down to their kids. In any event, we survived and even maybe enjoyed the trip despite the crummy weather. I now look forward to go with my daughter again in September. Maybe we will catch a fish. See you on the water.
This last picture has nothing to do with the trip, but I wanted to include one with me holding an actual fish.