Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Fishing on thin ice....Spring 2010
by Beemer01

Trip Type: Hiking
Entry Date: 02/23/2010
Entry & Exit Point: Duncan Lake (EP 60)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 5
Trip Introduction:
Dr. Mark (Vikinfan) had called months in advance. "I'm organizing an ice fishing trip to the BWCA this Spring… interested?" Well….given that my ice fishing experience had, to that point, consisted of a snowmobile fuelled excursion into the Wilds of Canada well West of Quetico - where the primary activities were very high speed runs across very large lakes on very powerful and very fast snow machines …fishing a somewhat secondary activity to smoking cigars and riding these sleds at 90 miles per hour….. I, of course, agreed. Vikinfan had organized a veritable expedition. He had to have spent $3000 on gear for this trip - Cabelas probably saw their quarterly profits spike as a result of Mark's procurement for this expedition. The week leading up to this trip was, however disconcerting. Temps in the BWCA had hovered in the 50s and reports had all the snow in the forests melted. I emailed Mark and he had considered - briefly - cancelling the trip but less sane heads prevailed and we stubbornly stayed the course. The Ice would still be thick enough…. right? And Dr. Mark had all this gear…. And I essentially had nothing other than my summer gear with an extra sleeping bag, my fleece jacket, mittens, long underwear and a fleece vest… and the promise that I could borrow fishing gear and other stuff from the other guys. We're going.
Part 1 of 5
Day One March 23

I left Chicago at 3:00AM and drove to St. Paul to meet Mark.

Holy Crap. His Toyota Sequoia 4X4 had a trailer attached and a fair amount of gear loaded and ready to go. The last time I went winter camping I had a 30 degree summer bag, a pup tent, an external frame backpack and snow shoes. Mark, however, seemed to have enough stuff out outfit the Minnesota National Guard for an invasion of Canada.

We drove a bit North and met up with two other brave folks in a suburb North of St. Paul - loaded their gear into the giant trailer and we headed North.

I personally napped in the far back seat, catching up on the sleep I lost by waking up at 2:00AM and driving 400 miles.

I woke up somewhere South of Duluth and tried to join the conversations already underway. Dr. Luke was in his residency at the University of Madison and Craig - his Brother-in-law - is a banker. A fifth member - Greg - was going to somehow meet us up there. Where ever that was going to be. Dr. Mark fortunately seemed to have a plan - ice or no ice.

I glanced out the windows of the Toyota - no snow - anywhere.

Would there be actual ice in the promised land?

We stopped at a legendary outfitting store in Duluth where I realized how out of my element I was going to be on this trip. Ice grippers for your boots? Ciscos? Walking Poles? Sleds? I had a CCS portage pack and 40 pounds of gear, including my food. Oh boy.

I resisted the siren song of buying more gear and figured I'd depend on the generosity of these strangers.

We reloaded the now near military grade Toyota and trailer (think invading hordes) and hit Highway 61 seeking the promised land. Mark activated his 'in vehicle' movie system and I got to watch a very small screen HD versions of the movies everyone else had already seen as I sat in that far back seat. Eventually we reached Grand Marias in the dark and headed up the Gunflint Trail to the lodge where Dr. Mark has wisely reserved us a heated cabin for that evening.

We pulled into the essentially empty lodge and moved our personal gear to the warm cabin, then quickly adjourning to the lodge for beer, drinks and strangely enough a 'all you can eat' Crab leg feast.

At some point during the evening we were joined by Dr Mark's sister and Brother in law. I think I had a salad as Mark, his brother in law and Luke tried to break the Lodge record for crab legs consumed in a single sitting. His sister may have been involved too - I was quickly losing track.

We settled the bills and I was ready to stagger back to the cabin when Drs. Mark and Luke decided to buy a case of beer to go to bring this rolling party back to the cabin. I think late night poker was involved.

A harbinger of things to come.

At this point Mark unveiled absolute killer beer can cosies customized for each member of the group, made from heavy leather and handtooled with our names - courtesy of Dicecupmaker! Wow!

From my perspective it was 11:30 and I was beat. I drank one beer using my new cosie and quietly retreated to my assigned bunk. Fortunately I can sleep thru almost anything. And did.