Lake Three Adventure - No Regrets
We had a very warm summer in Chicago - the week before our trip we had 90+ temps. On Monday, September 6th we woke up in the VNO bunkhouse to a cold 36° at 6:00 a.m. Ooooh - so cold! We had a quick breakfast of hot oatmeal, yogurt and coffee to get us started. We packed up our gear and went over to the outfitter building and loaded our gear in the van. I picked up an extra paddle....wanted to keep my Whiskey Jill paddle looking good - I used the extra paddle to dodge rocks!
Because of the cold temps I was dressed in lots of layers and I had a warm hat, gloves, and a fleece jacket. Frank, on the other hand, was walking around in a pair of nylon shorts and a t-shirt. He's usually never cold and he wears shorts and t-shirts when everyone else is bundled up. When we were packing for this trip, he refused to bring long pants or a jacket. But on this particular morning, he was looking kind of cold. So, I surprised him by pulling out a hat, a pair of gloves, and a fleece jacket. I think he was grateful!
We headed out on our way to Lake One. The sun was shining so brightly, the driver had to slow down. She had to swerve to avoid a deer coming out of the woods. When we got to the entry point, we discovered the lake was entirely covered in thick fog.
Got wet feet right off the bat - the water was clear and cold. As we paddled we found our way to the correct channel - no mistakes thanks to all the info from board members! Before too long, the fog lifted and we were winding our way through the channel and the maze of islands in Lake One.
We set up camp - we put one tarp over the entrance to our tent - as we were expecting rain almost every day. We put a second tarp up closer to the "kitchen" area. After most everything was set up, we had PBJ sandwiches, chips and a peach. We hit the hammocks for a nap in the warm afternoon sun.
We saw lots of canoes coming in after us - all looking for campsites in our area. Most, if not all, of the good sites were taken. At about 4:00 p.m. it started to cloud up a bit. It was warm during the day - somewhere around 65°. That was as warm as it was going to get. It was a little windy - but not too bad. No mosquitoes yet - but plenty of bees.
Our dinner plans didn't work out exactly as planned. We keep our fresh food in a soft sided cooler, along with four frozen water bottles. Since our steaks were still frozen, dinner was Mountain House Buffalo Chicken Wraps and tortillas which were very good - but a bit spicy. We had red wine - cabernet sauvignon - and chocolate cake for dessert. The wind was blowing and it started to cool off - 55°. Went to bed a little after 8:00 p.m. as it started to rain. It rained all night. We were warm and cozy in our Big Agnes Parkview 3 tent - sleeping on our comfortable Exped Downmats and snuggled in our sleeping bags.
Tuesday, September 7th
The next morning I got up at 6:30 a.m. when nature called and went back in the tent until 9:45 a.m. It was not raining - but it was windy. When we finally got up, we went over to check out the food packs, and we found that "critters" got in one of our food packs (a small, soft-sided cooler, hung in a tree). We lost our fruit (4 apples, grapes and peaches) and our steaks for Tuesday's dinner - not to mention they ruined a very nice NRS cooler. The critters left our steaks on the ground - but everything else was completely gone. I'm not sure what kind of animal got into the cooler - but we found the cooler "unzipped", and the top of the cooler had been "slashed", exposing the foam insulation. I'm thinking about getting a blue barrel to minimize the risk of this ever happening again.
Got water started for coffee and breakfast - egg skillets from Mountain House with tortillas. They were ok - but not great. We saw about four canoes go by looking for campsites between 11 and noon. There were no campsites available around us. Straightened up and went back in the tent at 12:30 because it started to rain. Spent most of the afternoon under a tarp trying to keep dry and warm -- cut some large downed logs to expose dry wood and made a fire in between the sprinkles. It rained lightly on and off all day. We watched the squirrels run around - there were so many of them around this site - more than we've ever seen.
After dinner we fished a little from shore. Although we didn't catch anything, there were fish jumping out of the water right off our campsite -- frustrating.
Somewhere around midnight we woke up to some strange sounds...sounds we have never heard before. It sounded like huge logs were dropping from the trees. We heard it twice and then we went out to investigate. I had a flashlight and I looked around the campsite - all the packs were safely in place - and I didn't see anything at all. So we went back in the tent. Once back in the tent, we heard the same sound - just like a huge log being dropped from high up in a tree. The rest of the night was peaceful.
Wednesday, September 8th
Woke up to calm weather - a light breeze and clouds. Our thermometer said the temperature was 40°. No sun yet - we hoped it would show up soon. I re-organized the tent and added more air to our Exped sleeping pads. Was looking for my gloves - couldn't remember where I put them. Every year there is something I seem to lose track of for a few days - this year it was my gloves.
Around 9:00 a.m., the couple in the campsite next to ours, paddled by and told us that they were leaving because they had a bear visit their campsite during the night. The bear took their entire food pack - left nothing behind - it was a "leave no trace" bear. ?? (They did not hang their food pack - it was left on the ground.) Without food - their trip came to an end.
We then realized that the bear must have visited our campsite as well. The sounds we heard during the night must have been the bear swatting at a tree or stomping the ground with his/her paw. Since our food was contained in plastic containers inside the pack to eliminate odors - and the food pack was hung well - the bear didn't succeed at getting our food. Since Frank is diabetic, our food is very important - we can't be without it - especially when paddling and portaging. We knew the bear would be back again - so we made the decision to leave later in the day. I suppose we could have moved to another site - but we chose to leave instead. In hindsight, we made the right decision. We later learned that the bear activity continued on Lake Three - and Lakes One and Two in the following days (nights).
We had coffee and granola with milk for breakfast. Feeling a bit disappointed, we slowly started to break camp - and we left at some point in the early afternoon. We weren't sure about the exact time, because Frank had taken off his watch to stuff the sleeping bags in their stuff sacks. He didn't want to snag the fabric on the sleeping bags. He forgot to put his watch back on - and it got rolled in the tent and put into the Duluth pack. We found it days later when we unpacked our gear.
It was a calm but cloudy day. We paddled out through the maze of islands in Lakes Two and One -- missed the Lake Two portage - but eventually found our way. The water was cold - my feet were cold and wet. All the while we were paddling, I felt depressed. We had planned on fishing and exploring the surrounding lakes on day trips and hiking a bit of the Pow Wow trail. It just wasn't meant to be. I usually approach my trip with the attitude "no regrets" - which means we keep on with our plans no matter what obstacles may come our way. Well not this trip. In hindsight, I still support our decision to paddle out - I might have had regrets if our food pack disappeared.
We continued to paddle through Lake One to Kawishiwi Lodge and called VNO to come and get us. After paddling away from the Lodge, we paddled through a very pretty stretch to the entry point and unloaded the canoe -- and as we did this -- our driver pulled up.
We went back to the VNO bunkhouse and got a room for the night. Took showers and headed to the Ely Steakhouse. I had a burger and fries and Frank had Walleye and a baked potato. We headed back to the bunkhouse and watched TV - the Discovery channel - Bear Grylis. After we closed the door to our room, two other parties came in - one upstairs and one downstairs. There was lots of noise for quite a while - these guys were really excited about their trip. It took a long time before they went to sleep, and the next morning they got up early - and they were gone by 7:00 a.m.
Although we wished we could have stayed out on Lake Three longer, our vacation wasn't over yet.
Every year after our canoe trip, we spend a couple of days in a cabin in the area. Last year we stayed at Moose Track - this year we were heading up the Echo Trail. We had reservations at a place called Echo Trail Outfitters on Fenske Lake. Fenske Lake is beautiful, small and intimate. We stayed in their White Pine Cabin - a cozy little one bedroom cabin with a full kitchen, living area, a deck, and a private dock (complete with aluminum canoe)!
Over the next four days we really enjoyed our stay on the Echo trail - we took a day trip along the LIS river- another to Hegman Lakes - we hiked the Dry Lake trail near Bass Lake - and we fished.
There were a couple of days when we drove into Ely for shopping and meals. We visited the North American Bear Center which was very interesting. We had breakfast at Brittons twice - lunch and dinner at the Chocolate Moose (on different days) - and another dinner at the Boathouse.
All in all, it was another wonderful trip to canoe country. Even before we left - we were planning our next trip. I'm not sure where it will be, but the chances are good for LIS river - our daytrip there left us wanting more.