Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Trip Recall -- Bear got the food we got carrot sticks & Jolly Ranchers
by Rob Johnson

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/20/1990
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
The reason for the trip was taking one last shot at the BWCA in that small gap between college and the real world. Convinced my then girlfriend to go on her first ever camping trip. This trip had enough misfortune for 20 trips. If you want to hear about rain every day, clouds of mosquitoes, pudgy pies gone bad, a night with the bears (yes, that is bears not bear), swamping the canoe, and scars on shins then read on...
Day 1 of 5
Wednesday, June 20, 1990


I am writing this report so that I can document the most ill-fated trip I have taken anywhere (and that includes having the eye of a hurricane pass over us on a sailing trip).

In that gap between college and the real world I wanted one last shot at the BW. The only one I could convince to go with me was my girlfriend of a couple years, Justine. She had never been camping before let alone on a demanding trip like the Bdub.

I remember thinking it was odd that a mere couple of weeks prior to leaving I was able to get a permit. I was always under the impression that permits were hard to get. We would later discover why mid June is not a favorite amongst BWCA veterans.

ON TO THE TRIP I remember leaving the Twin Cities early in the morning. Our trip north included the traditional stop at Tobie's in Hinckley and introducing Justine to the biggest best cinnamon rolls ever. I also remember she spent quite a while in the gift shop, only to come out with a coffee mug. Yup, this trip was going to be different from the all guys type of trips I was used to.

We arrived at the Canadian Border Outfitters about midday (later than I had hoped). This was my first time leaving through Ely = my previous trips had been through the Gunflint trail. The folks at the outfitter were great and helped us pick out a nice route. We wanted a 2 day paddle in, a day of layover at a nice location, and a 2 day paddle out.

The outfitter I had used in the past always sent us out with an aluminum food pack. Canadian Border used a Duluth pack with a cardboard sleeve and assured us it would be fine if we hung the pack at night. I had actually brought a pulley along for hanging so figured it would be OK.

We started out with a tow on Moose Lake. We then paddled through Newfound Lake, and through Sucker Lake to the 5 rod portage into Birch. Having a novice in the bow, the tow was a great decision to help us get the big water behind us.

Right from the start Justine proved to be a trooper. This may have been her first trip but she wasn't afraid to jump right in. Much to my surprise she wanted to take the canoe across that first portage. I know it was only 5 rods but I was impressed none-the-less. Remember, this was before the days of Kevlar.

After that first portage Justine was amazed by the beauty and solitude of the Bdub. She was thrilled to be there and I was confident that this was going to be a great trip.

On our way to the Birch into Carp portage it started to sprinkle. The rain would be on again-off again the entire five days we were there.

As we approached the portage we learned why most experienced Bdubers avoid mid June. The clouds of mosquitoes came out to greet us. We had bug repellent but no screens. Nothing hurries a portage along like a swarm of blood thirsty insects. I decided to take the food pack and the canoe while Justine took the main pack. We single portaged in good time and got back out on the water where the bugs weren't as bad.

Repeat twice more as we make our way into Knife.

I was hoping to get further but our late start dictated that we camp on Knife that first night. We got camp set up just in time for heavy rain. In a small break in the weather we managed to squeeze in our first meal of steaks, corn on the cob, and potatoes fried in tinfoil (which didn't cook through very well).

Moose Lake, Newfound Lake, Sucker Lake, Birch Lake, Carp Lake, Melon Lake, Seed Lake, Knife Lake