Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

BWCA Border Run 2010 (failed) Moose-Ottertrack-Moose
by holry7778

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/28/2010
Entry Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)  
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
I have run this trip one before with a fellow guide back in the spring of 2000. This time I'm running it as a base alumni with 3 friends that have not done trek canoeing before. Ware are leaving Moose Lake head down through Ensign, Jordan, Ima, Thomas & Fraser. Then join back up to the border via Kekekobic and Eddie. The rest is following the border lakes, down the Pigeon river and Hike out via Grand Portage
Part 1 of 4
We'll were are making sure all equipment is broken in and ready. Tomorrow I hope to get some of the meal planning handled. Also going to check out if taking 1 large tent is going to be better than 2 smaller ones. Also on this trip I think I'm going to try out the JMO (jello mold oven) I'll experiment before we go and report back after the trip.

I have lots of data on our trip and several excel spread sheets if any one is interested.

8.28.2010 Well last night Chris got to the house about 6:15pm so we packed in the Tahoe picked up Charlie and headed up to Sheffield. We spent the night going through all of our equipment and food and “tried” to shake out what we could. We went to bed around midnight. So today we got up at 5am, too damn early for me. We shook down last night on Foreshoe’s ping-pong table. Food, equipment & personal gear. Trying to kill all the dead weight. Well we hauled it up and into the Tahoe. 6am and after the radio check we were off! Well kind of. Apparently Doug changed the oil in his Jeep last weekend and didn’t check the filter before replacing it. So his Jeep did its “Jeep thing” and drained all 5 quarts over the course of about 2 miles from his house to just outside of town. Thank goodness for the radios my dad lent us. “ My oil pressure gauge reads zero.” “Zero?!?” Well we pulled over and popped the hood. Oil was everywhere. So we turned around and noticed the ominous black line that led all the back to the house. (Nice Doug. Way to dump toxic waste all over Shef!) Turns out there were 2 gaskets on the oil filter and the hot pressurized oil just push it self all out. So Doug ran to Casey’s and got more oil.

So Take two… 6:50am (said to the tune of wizard of Oz) Follow the oiled dotted road, follow the oiled dotted road…The drive up was fine. We made good time but not enough to make up our lost time reinacting the Exxon Valdez. We stopped for gas and breakfast north of the cities at a Marathon and McD’s. Then we headed up to Duluth. Duluth’s I-35 is all sorts of torn up. By then end we were detoured around and finally got back along 63 and the north shore. In Grand Marais we had to stop for some lunch around 2pm. We realized there was no way we’d make it to Ely by 5pm . So we relaxed and ate some good puffy tacos. Then headed up to G.P. We filled the cars with gas and left the Jeep all alone in the monument’s extended stay parking lot, or a grass field (call it how you want). We toddled back down the North shore and turn on to Hwy 1, though apparently Doug’s GPS did like the fact I followed the road signs and not its suggested route. So it freaked out and shut down on him. Hopefully they will be on talking terms again someday. From GP I let Chris drive the Tahoe. Now Hwy1 is the curviest road I have ever been on. So Chris got to enjoy it in a nice, high center-of-gravity SUV with bad breaks that stutter. He handled it well. We made Ely around 5:30pm. We stopped in at Piragis to get Chris a trail cup and Doug to look at paddles then head down the road to the Base. Ah the good ol’ Fernburg trail. We arrive just after 6pm and of course the base was scarce of folk. I first checked out the Admin office, no one. So Doug and I walked up through the staff area and to Dining Hall. Ah of course, it was dinner time. All the Alumni crews were here for the rendezvous, eating and touring the trading post. I checked us in and got our cabin assignment, Off-the-Water #3. Then headed back down to get the Tahoe and guys. We quickly set out our gear and headed up to the Trading post for maps. Then we trucked back into town for some garbage bags at Pamida and dinner at the now x-Grandma’s (now the Boathouse). We ate typical pub fair and watch the Vikings game. I drove back down the Fernburg and parked in front of our cabin. That’s when we found out our cabin didn’t have electricity so over to OTW #4. Yeah lights and a fan! Then we broke up to get some of trail gear prepped (mostly folding maps for me). Doug and I hid in the Staff lockers. He strung my dad’s collapsible fishing pole he borrowed while I started folding maps. The head maintenance man (my old job) popped in and we got chatting. Apparently he just got done with the Border run and had some bad news. Not only was the water level down but the Granite and Pigeon rivers were pretty low too. There would be about 5 miles of dragging a canoe total. At first I blew that off. But that wouldn’t last. We then chatted about all the things that I had tried to recall and all the changes that had happened. So after boring Doug to death we headed back to our cabin and to bed.

8.29.2010 Well it is 6am again. The guys with the watches need to learn to set a new much later alarm time. Well everything got going but I think I underestimated how long it would take to cook breakfast and clean up. Doug took care of cooking and making sure he had plenty of bacon grease on his clothes. We then determined if there was a bear we only needed to run faster than Doug AKA “Bacon”. About 8am we had things packed and ready. We hit the trading post for Fishing licenses then down to new Baypost to let them know we needed to run to town to get our BWCA permit. In the Baypost I found out that we really needed to reconsider our choice of 42# Kevlar for canoes. If we were going to GP then we’d destroy them dragging them through the rivers. So on the drive to Ely we elected to take the alumi-tubs (64 lbs dry) We got to the US Forest service office around 9:15 listened to their schpeal and watched their little video. Then I drove like hell back down the Hwy 169 one last time. Go Tahoe Go! We hit parking lot at Base, dawned all of our gear packs and headed to the Baypost. I got the last of food supplies (10 slices of bay bread and 2 MRE’s) then headed over to the Canoe yard to select 2 good “tubs”. Now after using and servicing these puppies for the 3 years when I worked for the base, I have come to appreciate just a couple of things. 1-How are the yoke and pads? 2-Does the thing balance out? And 3-Are the drain holes open in both ends? After that all a canoe has to do is just float. So I thought I found 2 good candidates and Had the yard master check me out. I ran the paperwork back to the Baypost Manager and was off. The gang had already hiked down their stuff to the landing so I gathered up my pack and wielded a canoe on my shoulders. On the way down Chris and Doug passed and I told them to pick up the other canoe. I figured I’d see them headed down the trail with each of them carrying an end. Much to my surprise, Chris came to the dock with a 17’ aluminum hat. We helped him set it at the waters edge and got to repacking the food pack. Once the MRE’s and bay bread were in their appropriate bags (I re- used old grocery bags, 1 for each meal) the pack got cinched. One last check was made with everyone about being ready. We put the canoes down in the water, load them up, and hopped in. Doug, I mean “Bacon”, (bow) and Chris (stern) then there was Charlie (bow) and me (stern) in canoe #2. This was around 10:45am. We had ourselves in such a hurry we didn’t even take a picture of the push off. I think we just wanted to get as far and as deep into the WAC as we could.

Now there is but one true bane in my canoeing existence, and it is wind. Wind makes everything more challenging, more difficult, and more endured…even if it is in your favor. Lucky when we hit Moose, the wind was pushing up it nice. It was perhaps foot swales. We only encountered a handful of motorboats that for once steered well clear of us or slowed down. (Thank you nice motorboats).  Thought even with this ease on the lake it was fun to watch Bacon and Chirs battle to keep the canoe tracking straight. So they were quickly given the ranks of Zig & Zag. Well with the sun to our right we quickly make it through the twins, and around the point and into Newfound. The wind was still behaving thought I could tell it was not always going to be in our favor it was just the lay of the land that shifted it so. We continued across without a single issue and hit the far side and our first portage; a very easy, clean and nice 35 rodder into Splash. Now like most trained canoeists I stopped my metal tub early and let Charlie jump into the water and rocks and steady the canoe while I get out. That was just as Doug and Chris seemed to practice a little bit of new guys rock ramming. My mind shivered and just thought to myself “Well at least they are tubbies and not Kevlar”. I explained to them they need to try harder not to lodge the rocks into the canoe and that wet feet are just a part of the joy of the journey. I also explained how to “properly” portage…Everything goes in 1 trip, absolutely NO DOUBLE PORTAGING and be quick about it. Well my speech worked. We trudged right across into Splash Lake. However, my comments about wet shoes and pants didn’t quite take. I had to threaten Chris and Doug as they bottomed out their canoes as they loaded equipment. I eagerly held their canoe and told them if they don’t take 2-3 steps deeper into the lake the canoe would. Now granted unlike in the past when I had to do this for the lil’grubbers which I had no kinship with, I never hesitated. But Chris and Doug I knew I needed to not totally piss them off, even though the point was just as valid. So after some dirty looks we made our quick jaunt across. This was also the first time my memory starts to lack. I may have taken this lake 20+ times I still didn’t have it all memorized. I even told the guys earlier “I think” was going to be a key phrase for me. Now I hadn’t gotten out the old F-11 yet so I said it just go out and across, I think. As we paddled out 10 strokes the lake opened up and I realized I thought wrong. So I pulled out the map case and things switched around. Yeah I was wrong we need to out, DOWN and across, yeah that is it. That is what I meant to say.

Now the next 5 rod portage isn’t really much of a portage it is more of a rapids or at least when I worked up here it was, but the water is down. Luckily though it wasn’t down enough. Now I prepped the guy as this is the one and only placed I have ever been swamped in a canoe. An inpatient and bumbling adult didn’t want to make a second go up the rapids when the canoe got turned in the current. He tired to reach out and use his paddle to try some B.S. and in turn got the whole boat rocking then it went under. The real sad part of that story was I had just packed 2 dozen fresh cookies from my grandma on the top of my pack. They got soaked. So as evil payment I made the crew eat the soggy ones and I got to keep the dry ones. I conveyed all this to the guys and we ran up to the rapids but the water was low enough we had to get out and pull our canoes across. Then jumped back in and were off on Ensign Lake. Now remember that wind I spoke of earlier. Well now it was a real side wind and seemed to pick a little. I hate wind! Well we passed some encamped crews and made it to the portage into Ashigan. And then the wind was totally in our face. And for such a small lake there were rollers on the tops of the swales, f’ing rollers! I hate wind! Now it was around 1:45pm, so now seemed like a good point to enjoy some lunch. We found a nearby clearing on the shoreline and headed right over. Now Bacon mush have gotten some grease on his shoes as he decided to get as much of himself wet as he could trying to wrestle with the canoe while getting out. Lunch was good but I was still kind of full from breakfast’s grease fest. But 7 grain bread meat & cheese was tasty. So after few bites and carrots, we were off again. Now the portage from Ashigan to Gibson is the first “real” portage we have. At 105 rods, it is a nice reminder of the fun. Its nicer than most as it is well maintained and has nice landings both sides. So it isn’t like it is horrible but it is fun all the same. Now this is also a hard portage for me as my memory is playing with me. I could remember parts as I saw them but I didn’t remember the order or how much further it was. So it seemed to last longer than I thought it would. That or it could be simply the fact I’m 100lbs heavier than I was last time I took it. Well needless to say after that portage I was tired and so was everyone. I think they all looked at me like I should die for talking them into this trip. But we move the 100 yards over the lake and on to the next portage. Well the next portage is one of where my memories still recalls. It is a short 25 rods into Cattyman, right? No, there seemed to be an addition 25+ rods because the water is so low. Thanks Ma’ Nature! Well this was the only time I took the 2 packs and not the canoe. So after the guys looked at me and said, “25 rods huh?” I adopted the phrase “Well the maps says 25 so it is likely twice along.” Well after that we ventured into the falls that separated the two lake and created the portage. Well we climbed down through some trees and …well depression sets in for me. This used to be a pretty strong and raging set of falls. It was never tall, just strong. But now it is, well, a small trickle. So I was very saddened when I took a picture. We climbed up and got back in our canoes and paddled on. Now Cattyman and Jordan Lakes moved quietly and quickly, I could tell we were starting to get tired. Now so far we have seen a number of crews. Heck there was even a crew encamped on Jordan. So we portaged in to Ima. This is where you find I am quite democratic. I rule by simple majority. I looked at the guys and said hey, are you tired yet or do you want to keep going?  Keep going wasn’t the strong vote so we started looking for a campsite as we hit the water. Now I will not go out of my way for a campsite. Luckily after finding 2 encamped crews we found a nice camp on the eastern shore a short distance from our next portage. When we hit land, we did so in good fashion. Bacon and I returned to a canoe and tripped out for 4 gallons of fine lake water to treat for drinking and cooking. After that we all drug out packs, setup the tent. Then Chris and Charlie started making dinner. Bacon and I decided that the rock at the water’s edge look so enticing that I jumped right in and did a little swimming. We even took a rock and a rope and measured how deep it was, 14’. As we swam, the steaks and potatoes cooked. The dinner bell rang and we all enjoyed some awesome food. Well the Steaks were great. The potatoes had burn skins and hadn’t cooked quite long enough so they were kind of bust but it was all ok. 

Now it was time for clean up. Bacon and I took that over and sent Charlie and Chris to handle bear bag ropes and canoes. Well while watching the water come to boil, Charlie popped out of the woods and said he needed me to “give some advise” I walked back with him past the toilet and came to where Chris was and they ask if it was a concern that the trees just seem to fall over. I guess Charlie had leaned a little too hard on a poor sapling and tipped it up on its side. I told him he just lay off the Wheaties. Then explained that the dirt is usually less than an 1” thick most places and so not to worry. We struggled and eventually got the single rope setup rigged. It was a cobble job at best. But I didn’t want to cut the rope, it wasn’t mine. When I returned I helped Bacon rinse and dry the dishes. Then I set off to make the morning milk in my nalgene and set it in the lake. Note in late August the lake water is pretty warm. So the “fridge” is questionable. Well by this time the sun was going down and so we set the bear bag up. Then came back and headed for the tent. In the tent we pulled out the playing cards and chatted about our overall progress. Needless to say we are short of our first day (by about 4 miles) and that will only make our journey to GP hard…er! So with little remorse we changed our trip plan. Then after a few more hands we hit the hay.

08.30.2010 Welcome Day 2!!!

But at 6am, ick! These guys need to learn how to reset their alarms (I am by no means a morning person) It rained during the night. That and the rock s and ruts made for a comfy sleep. So we got up and packed up our tent goods; Sleeping bag, dry clothes, pillow, etc back into our compression sacks. We went off and got the bear bag down and started to cook up the Egg Beaters for our egg McMuffins and enjoyed them with some cool milk and hot cocoa. While we cooked we got more water and started packing up camp. We were by no means in a hurry. I think we got the back on the water around 9 ish. So off we went. I think we were just about 1/8th of a mile from the portage trail (it is just to the north of “Cross rock”) Bacon and Chris missed it but that is ok I had the maps, hehe. Now comes Hatchet Lake. Now I remember hatchet and all of its mosquitoes and lily pads. Last time I brought a lilly home for my girlfriends so I thought I’d bring her another one, now that she is my wife. So Charlie, Chris and I all picked lilies and stuffed them in our hats. We tossed our canoes through the next few portages. We did check out a run through the thickets on one but nothing. Then back on to paddling. We hit Thomas then my favorite thing returned (sarcasm) … wind. Boy I hate wind. Again it is a side wind so we set to tracking along. I saw 2 separate crews heading south on Thomas but that was it. We cut between an island the shore for a short reprieve but then it was back to the wind. Up the straight to Frasier and we came across another bald eagle sitting on the rock. He didn’t like the sight of us so before I could get a camera on him he was skyward. Cut along the lake and by this point I noticed that Bacon and Chris were doing well , not so much ziggin’ and zaggin’ but Bacon was the stern man for a while. I kept asking Charlie if he was cool sitting in front and he said yep he enjoyed it. We stopped on the portage into Gerund Lake and enjoyed some of the peppered jerky my father in-law got from his local meat locker. I made sure to also get some extra sunscreen on my right arm where I now had a burnt in racing stripe. That is right kiddies don’t forget to rub in spray-on sunscreen! We took a quick puddle jump across that led to the portage and UP was the word! Up about 70ft in 35 rods. Grrr. Needless to say this very out of shape bastard was huffin’ and puffin’ by the end! I took a minute and then hopped in the back of silver with Charlie out in front and off we went across Ahmakose. Over the next portage and we made it to one of my favorite places. The rocks of Wisini Lake. These are awesome Cliff jumping that are said to be some 35’ tall. Well you may have to climb up to 35’ but where you jump from is about 20’ (Sorry to ruin the coolness) It is still fun as hell. Charlie and Chris weenied out so it was up to Bacon and I to ventured off the edge While the acrophobics took video. We did it twice then decided to get back to canoeing on. It was fun! We portaged in and out of Strup and we were on Big Kek! (Kekekabic Lake that is) On the portage in I saved Doug from having to go back a long ways as I was kind enough to pick up his hat…without taking off my canoe (can we say extreme lunge) And once again my evil buddy, wind, joined us. We paddled out and found a campsite to enjoy lunch. We got some water to refill our bottles. This is for Charlie’s benefit as I didn’t notice but he only brought one nalgene, 2 are manditory. We had Swiss cheese, Horse dick (summer sausage) and tortillas, along with some chocolate energy bar cubes. The Swiss after just a day and half out of the refridge was getting weird. It was very oily, soft and rubbery. Next time out I’ll avoid it. But it went down the gullet and sat. We regrouped a little before heading out the roller filled lake. We got back in our sardine tins and pushed off. Down big Kek we went. Now the way the map is folded in my map case I have to flip to see the end as it dives off one side for bit then comes back. Well I wasn’t being careful in the flipping back and forth and took us down the south bay instead of the east. This slowed us up about 20 min but when I figured it out I about slapped myself. Then, of course, there was this little short portage. It is listed as 5 rods, but it is maybe 2 at best even with the low water. So I broke my rule and “double” portaged the 2 paddles and Charlie’s fishing pole. I just couldn’t bring myself to f’ with them and move them 3 times just to hand them to Charlie. When I came back I loaded Charlie up and then grabbed the canoe. I was the last to start to cross. My first step into it my feet went bye-bye, right out from under me. So me, my pack and the canoe all dropped straight down on to my ass! Ouch! I gathered myself and hollered at Charlie “Hmmm, Help?!” but he couldn’t help since he had packs front and back. So I pitched the canoe to my side and tired to lean forward to keep my pack dry (to little avail) since I knew I wasn’t going any where. Chris came back and looked at me. I just looked back and said “hey can you come get my bag? Then I’ll need a hand” Wow that kind of took me by surprise and I was more shocked from it than hurt. So after gathering myself I hopped right back into the back of my canoe and pushed of through the Kek ponds. I think these are probably the best place that you can really notice the 1999 blow down. All of the water connections between the ponds are just jammed with downed trees and logs. So portage, portage, portage was the game. One of the ponds was perhaps 2-3 foot deep then silt. When you paddled the silt would stir up. It was interesting to see since the water was clear. So sitting in the back I could see Charlie’s paddle stokse as a murky cyclone go whirling by.

We finally hit Eddie, a nice paddle, by this time the wind had died down a bit and so paddling wasn’t bad heading into the wind. So we made for the portage to South Knife, which also parallels Eddie Falls. So after we hauled the boats and packs across, we totted back up and cut over to check out the falls. The blow down killed the open beauty it once had but it was still impressive. So we set up the camera and took a couple of pictures. With a 10 second fuse it was an interesting run from the camera through the stream and rocks, over a downed tree and sit calmly on the rocks! Then the guys washed their faces in the lower falls. I however wanted to check out the upper portions so I climbed up the wet mossy rocks and enjoyed the water flow. It was like a dream shower or bath. Irish Springs or Kohler need to try and really recreate this! We each carved out a letter in the downed tree as others before us had. And we went on our tired little way.