Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Last Canoe Trip of the Season
by runner

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/03/2010
Entry & Exit Point: Mudro Lake (restricted--no camping on Horse Lake) (EP 22)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
September 3, Day 1: Our alarm clock never went off at the planned time and we overslept until 5:15am. After waking everyone up, we ate a quick breakfast before stepping outside to a blustery, rainy, cold morning. We drove to Ely, MN where Ben picked up our permits while Jenn and Marc watched the BWCA movie. The outfitter told us they were expecting forty mile an hour gusts that day so we knew we needed to get going as soon as possible to avoid the wind.
September 3, Day 1: Our alarm clock never went off at the planned time and we overslept until 5:15am. After waking everyone up, we ate a quick breakfast before stepping outside to a blustery, rainy, cold morning. We drove to Ely, MN where Ben picked up our permits while Jenn and Marc watched the BWCA movie. The outfitter told us they were expecting forty mile an hour gusts that day so we knew we needed to get going as soon as possible to avoid the wind. We arrived at entry point #22 on Mudro Lake around 7:45am. After putting on our rain suits and few extra layers, we started a 30 rod portage from the parking lot to Mudro Lake. Marc carried the gear pack and fishing pack plus the canoe while Jenn carried their pack and four canteens. Ben carried the canoe and food pack while I carried our pack and five paddles. We were able to single portage every time which saved us time. The landing on Mudro Lake was amazing! It was wide enough for several canoes on a level sandy beach, where we were able to load the canoes without getting our boots soaked. Ben and I took the led while the Farmers followed us on the start of a narrow shallow river. While maneuvering our way around rocks and sharp turns, Marc and Jenn quickly figured out how to steer and paddle after a few blunders. We were all paddling well despite the wind and rain on Mudro lake, which was a small lake sheltered from most of the wind. The wind was coming from the north and we didn’t get the full blast of it until later. The next portage we arrived at was not as welcoming as the first landing. There were many sharp rocks; we all had to watch our footing every step of the way. I tried carrying two packs on this portage, but it didn't go well. Marc carried two packs and the canoe for the rest of the portages - at least when Jenn didn't steal the extra pack. Ben hoisted the pack on my back while Marc helped Jenn and we started out together. After loading everything in the canoes we paddled for a few minutes before the next portage. This next portage was 141 rods, with lots of rocks and a small cliff we walked next to. Jenn and Marc did great! They didn’t complain and were ready to hop back in the canoe afterwards. We were all a little annoyed that the next portage was within our sight after finishing the last one though. We paddled a few strokes and arrived at our next portage of 10 rods. The landing at the end of this portage was a steep cliff. Jenn and I had to wait for Ben and Marc to come with the canoes so we could lower the packs down to them. We had to lower the canoes down carefully too. When we got on the water again we started paddling through a river before entering Fourtown Lake. Before reaching the lake we passed several people who told us we should pull into the first campsite we passed and stop. None of us were prepared for white caps, pouring rain, and wind that we were starting to paddle through. Ben and I were doing alright until we looked behind us at Marc and Jenn. Marc was desperately trying to keep the canoe from turning completely sideways while waves were washing in the canoe. They were paddling for all they were worth, as we watched them slowly turn completely around blowing towards the rocks. Once they were touching the rocks they hung onto the cliff while Ben and I paddled backwards to help out. Ben and Marc decided the best thing they could do was pull into a bay and discuss a strategy. Once we pulled into the bay Ben told Marc to rearrange the packs so most of the weight was towards the front. Our next plan was to stay close to the shore and pull into the first campsite. We slowly inched our way forward. Marc and Jenn were doing great! Jenn said she was having fun going up and down on the water as they paddled into the waves. The campsite we arrived at was on an island with two campsites. We looked at the first one and hiked over to the other one to see which one we liked more. After taking a look at the second we quickly decided we wanted to stay at the first which was more protected from the north wind. We let Marc and Jenn choose the first tent pad at the site. They chose a level tent pad enclosed by woods and protected from the wind. Ben and I took the other tent pad closer to the open and wind. Jenn and Marc set up their tent while Ben set up the gear tarp and I set up our tent. We all huddled under the gear tarp and had whole wheat French bread, real cheese, sausage, trail mix, jerky, raisins, and crackers for lunch. After lunch Marc wanted to go fishing so Ben showed him how to reassemble a reel and rod. Marc fished for a while from shore before deciding to go back to their tent. Ben and I stayed in the tent the rest of the afternoon reading and sleeping in our warm sleeping bags while it rained. By 4:40pm. the rain had stopped but not the wind. Ben and I bundled up and went out to get dinner started. We had ham, applesauce, and creamed corn for dinner with hot chocolate for dessert. Jenn and Marc did dishes while Ben and I put the food away in the pack. Ben and I both went out together to get water to purify since it was so windy. I purified enough water to refill our canteens. The sun started to come out some that evening. Ben laid down on a rock basking in all the sun he could. Jenn and Marc went fishing after dinner while Ben and I went swimming. The water was surprisingly warm compared to the fifty degree weather we were having. After our swim Ben started trying to get a fire going. It took him a long time to get it started since everything was soaking wet. After using an entire box of matches he finally got it started just as the Farmers were coming back from their fishing. The Farmers didn’t catch anything that night. We all huddled around the fire and cooked marshmallows for smores. We went to bed after deciding to paddle more the next day.

September 4, Day 2: Ben and I woke up at 7:30am. and started making breakfast. After breakfast we started taking down camp and packing for another traveling day. The weather was windy, cold, and dry. We paddled the rest of Fourtown Lake hugging the shore some of the way. Jenn and Marc led the way this time. They were strong paddlers and we were about 30 seconds behind them. As we neared the first portage we were on calmer water and decided to race. Ben and I beat Jen and Marc to the portage but they were at a disadvantage because they didn’t see where the portage was until they were a little ways up shore of it. We walked a 48 rod portage to Boot Lake. Ben, Marc, and Jenn all huddled around the map and figured out where they were going at the end of the portage. Boot Lake wasn’t that hard until we started going north on it and encountered white caps. We paddled through it taking twice as long as it would on a calmer day. We did a short 15 rod portage to get to Fairy Lake. Fairy Lake was easier to paddle on than Boot Lake since it was smaller. After Fairy Lake we did a 50 rod portage to Gun Lake. At the end of this portage we took a break and snacked on our treats and discussed where we wanted to stay. The plan was to paddle for four hours that day and see where we were at. Marc and Jenn decided they wanted to continue paddling to Moose Lake rather than staying on Gun Lake which was our original goal we wanted to get to the first day. On Gun Lake we paddled underneath a Bald Eagle perched on a tree near the shoreline. After Gun Lake we did a 10 rod portage to Bullet Lake. We paddled Bullet Lake to the next portage which led to a 44 rod portage to Moose Lake. While starting the portage to Moose Lake we met another party, a dad and son, who were traveling to Moose Lake too. We chatted with them a bit and asked them what way they were planning on going on Moose Lake. They were going east; we were planning on going east, too, but after hearing this we decided to go west and let them have the campsite to the east. The Moose Lake portage was full of mud at the end. We all got our boots soaked with mud on this one. We paddled over to the campsite just west of the portage and liked it from the start. It had a beautiful view of the lake from the kitchen area and a great landing for canoes. We looked at the the campsite at the far western end of the lake, but it didn't look inviting at all. We went back to the first campsite and unloaded all our gear. Marc and Jenn let us pick the first tent pad that afternoon. We set up our tents and then had lunch. After lunch we all decided to go fishing together. Marc was really excited to fish especially since Ben was going to show him all his pointers this time. We started trolling the west part of the lake with the Farmers behind us following. Jenn had the first bite that day, a small northern. We continued paddling; I reeled in a dinner size walleye at the beginning of a point. After getting it in the boat, Ben and I tried paddling back, but the wind was still very strong, so it was difficult. However, the Farmers were right behind us, and Marc caught a dinner size walleye and Jenn caught another northern. Ben and I decided to paddle back to camp after seeing that we had enough fish for dinner. Marc and Jenn continued to fish. Back at camp, Ben put the walleye in the cage. We relaxed around camp until Marc and Jenn came back. After they came back it was time to fillet the fish. Marc and I decided to do the filleting. Marc cut up his fish different than the way Ben taught me. Marc cut off the entire head and then started on the sides. Jenn helped Marc finishing cutting up his fish. Marc decided he wanted to learn how we filleted our fish afterwards. Ben and I made dinner which included fish, potatoes, and tropical fruit salad with hot chocolate for dessert. Ben and I did dishes afterwards while Marc fished from the front of our campsite. Marc reeled in a small northern. He was so proud of catching something from shore. We all played a game of hearts that night before going to bed.

September 5, Day 3: Ben woke Marc and Jenn up at 6am. because they wanted to go fishing. It was a beautiful foggy morning when they went. We slept in until 6:30am and woke up to make breakfast. Ben and I ate breakfast and watched to fog burn off of the lake. When Marc and Jenn got back a couple of hours later, we found out that Jenn caught a small walleye and northern that morning which they let go. Ben cooked up some pancakes for Marc and Jenn. While we were eating breakfast we heard a loud splash across the lake. The sun was directly in our faces so it was hard to see what it was. Ben said it was probably a loon, but we later found out from the other campers on the lake that it was a Bull Moose swimming across the lake. Jenn was disappointed that we had missed seeing the moose. After breakfast Marc and Jenn said they would clean up camp so Ben and I could go fish. Ben and I paddled around the whole lake without a single bite until we got a few yards from our campsite and Ben caught a Walleye while I reeled in a northern. Ben kept the walleye since it was dinner size. After we got back to camp we had lunch and started packing for our day trip to a mile long portage that led to Wagosh Lake. We were going to fish the other lakes while on the way to Gun Lake where the start of the mile long portage was. On the way we all caught lots of small northerns on Bullet Lake. At the start of the mile long portage we decided to leave one canoe and bring the other along with the fishing pack, one canteen, one life vest, swim suits and all our fishing polls. We saw wolf tracks on this portage well traveled portage. I decided to time ourselves and it took us 18 minutes to walk across. Once we arrived at Wagosh Lake Jenn and I got to ride in the canoe while Ben and Marc paddled to the one campsite on the small lake. Marc wanted to go swimming in this lake hoping it would be warmer than the larger lakes. The campsite on the McKenzie map was not marked right and we had to paddle further up shore to find it. When we got to the campsite Marc suggested a contest between the couples. Each couple would paddle out to the lake and jump out of the canoe and back in while being timed. We all changed into our suits in the woods. Ben and I decided to go first since Marc said we had the advantage. This was my first time jumping out of a canoe and getting in so Ben gave me some instructions. When we were on the water we jumped in at the same time while holding onto the canoe. After that we grabbed onto the bars near the seats at the same time and hoisted ourselves up into the canoe. It took us two seconds to do all that. Jenn and Marc were pretty impressed. I swam back to shore afterwards, jumping out of the canoe again. Jenn and Marc were hilarious to watch. They are a bit bigger than us so it took them a little more effort to get back in the canoe but they did it in 1 minute and 27 seconds. Marc had missed filming us, so I insisted that Ben and I do it again. It took us a little longer the second time, but not by much - probably less than 10 seconds. After our contest Marc and Jenn kept swimming while Ben and I changed and went and fished the lake. I caught a small northern. After we fished some of the lake we paddled back to the campsite and picked up Marc and Jenn. The guys then paddled us back to the mile long portage. After the portage we decided to keep fishing Gun Lake in hopes of catching another walleye for dinner. We paddled up this narrow channel; Ben and I took one side while Marc and Jenn took the other. While trolling near a fallen tree Ben caught a bass that snapped his line under a branch. I caught a bass shortly afterwards near the same spot Ben caught his. We decided to keep mine even though it was small. Marc had wanted to catch a bass all the trip since he had never caught one before. He was eager to see the one I caught when we met up with them. Jenn caught a northern while Marc caught a dinner size walleye. After fishing a little more we started back to base camp before it got too late. Once we got back to camp we started filleting the fish right away. Ben filleted the small bass, I filleted Ben’s walleye, and Marc filleted his walleye (this time the way Ben and I showed him). At dinner the Farmers tasted the walleye and bass along side each other on their plate. Marc preferred the bass since it tasted more fishy. Jenn, though, liked the walleye more. After dinner Marc and Jenn went out fishing again while Ben started to pack up camp for our traveling day tomorrow. After Marc and Jenn got back we had a campfire and cooked smores. We put the food pack up in the dark and went to bed.

September 6, Day 4: We woke up early and packed up camp. The weather was kind to us that day, calm water, little wind and sunny. It took us four hours to paddle back to our entry point. We cut off one and a half hours from the first two days of paddling. Jenn and Marc had a lot of fun and we enjoyed them as traveling partners. We all want to go again sometime next year;)