“There and back again” 2011 Quetico Trip June 8 – June 17 Fishguts - Patrick Brewer, Panthermartin – Thomas Brewer, Rookies - TenMileFrown - Dustin Hall & Dave Gutierrez Quetico Entry #44 Bottle River exit at #43 Black Robe Portage
Our trip started at 2AM on June 6th 2011, when we left Brookings, Oregon for our 6AM flight out of Medford. Dave drove his Toyota and the trip was smooth with little traffic. Our flight to Seattle on Horizon Air was on time, the seating was tight and the prop engines noisy, but an OK flight. In Seattle we changed to a Delta flight to Minneapolis. This was a good flight and arrived ahead of schedule. Next we got our Dollar Rental Car, a small Chevy Cobalt (to be known as the “Clown Car”). It was a tight fit, but saved us money. Total cost of the car was $359 for 11 days. Pat drove and despite a couple of missed turns we managed to get out of Minneapolis OK. We drove to Ely with one stop for lunch at a Hardees’s.
We made Ely by 7:30 PM and stopped at Piragus. We went to dinner at Sir “G’s”, then on to the Adventure Inn. We had an upstairs room with 4 Queen Size beds. It was warm and humid all night. June 7th Next morning we had a big rain- thunder and lightning storm hit Ely. We went to breakfast at the “Chocolate Moose”- Good! We spent the morning going around Ely visiting the outfitters and picking up odds and ends. We even met “The Great Outdoors” at his store, a pleasant guy. Thomas treated us to a trip to the “Wolf Center” and we were able to see 2 big wolves and sat through a presentation on wolves. We then checked in at Jordan’s Outfitters and un-packed our boxes of gear, fishing poles, and Pat’s new paddle, a Bending Branches “Espresso Straight 58” (a birthday gift from Thomas). We went through our gear and packed our 2 personal packs, charger our batteries, and got organized. Then we met with owner Mark Bland, and went over the maps and paid our bill. We went to Sir G’s again for dinner and had pizza, their salads are wonderful, and the pizza was good too. When we got back to Jordan’s, Zup’s had called and they bumped up our tow time to 8AM, so we set the alarm for 5 AM and had a fitful nights sleep. We had no-see-ums in the bunkhouse, tiny little bugs like pepper…they bite and sting. We continued to run into these pests on the trip.
June 8th Up at 5 AM, breakfast at Jordan’s, pancakes and syrup, sausages and Tang. Then Mark drove us out the Echo Trail to Crane Lake, took about 1 ½ hours, to Scotts Marina. We shared the tow with 2 guys from Missouri, who were staying at Zup’s and brought lots of stuff, including bags of chips and 2 cases of light beer. The jet boat was in for repairs so we had a prop boat. First the tow boat took us to Sand Point Canadian Customs, the customs guy was grumpy, but passed us through as usual. Next the tow took us down the Loon River, across the 2 mechanical portages, and on to Zup’s Lodge on Lac Lacroix. We purchased our fishing licenses, paid our Quetico Fees, and bought a Zup’s T-shirt, also had cookies and our last potty stop. Then it was back on the tow boat with a new driver, we asked him if we could stop at the pictographs on Lac Lacroix and he said sure, wonderful! Then we passed “Warrior Hill and arrived at our entry point “# 44 Bottle Portage”. We unloaded our gear and tipped the driver, lashed our paddles & poles and headed across Bottle Portage to Bottle Lake. This portage features lots of mud & rocks & corduroy logs to slosh over and through. Thomas took the uphill side branch trail on the right and said it was better, so the rest of us went this way the 2nd time across. We then loaded the canoes and started paddling, first across Bottle Lake, then through the narrows into Iron Lake. We kept to the Canadian shore and passed behind Island Four. (We skipped seeing Rebecca Falls) Then we crossed Iron Lake going towards Curtain Falls. We had asked Mark at Zup’s about this area and he had warned us about “the shoot” before this portage. We approached the first fast water with caution. There were 2 guys in aluminum canoe fishing on the U.S. side, and we asked them “where’s the portage?” They pointed and said “you just paddle up that shoot….you have to paddle really hard to make it”. We knew immediately this was the wrong thing to do. Thomas said his GPS showed that the hop-over portage was lower down, and he soon found it. We crossed the hop-over, and then we paddled over to the Curtain Falls Portage of 140 Rds. We took lots of pictures of the falls, and then had a quick lunch of Pilot Biscuits, cheese, snacks and cookies.
We loaded up the canoes for the long paddle across Crooked Lake. Since the wind wasn’t bad, we decided to paddle down the U.S. side a way, and then cross over through some islands. As we continued east on Crooked the wind started to get stronger and the waves bigger. Before we reached the first island it started to “Rock’n and Roll’n”. There was some whining about resting and the waves and continuing….. We continued and made it over to the Canadian shore. After that the wind and waves lessoned. It was a long paddle down Crooked to the area of the “Guide Portage” (not marked on maps). We were looking for a campsite but couldn’t find one. So we looked for the portage….”to the right of a sand beach…a leaning cedar tree with a blaze”…We found it! The Guide Portage was OK except it ended in a beaver swamp on the Gardener Bay side. We all had to get out and heave the canoes through the beaver pooh... Now we were really tired and we looked for a campsite in Gardener Bay of Crooked Lake...we found a marginal one, Dustin and I stayed there while Thomas and Dave searched for something better….they were successful! They found a nice site just down the lake. We had traveled 3 portages & 15 miles on the first day. We set up camp and had steaks for dinner with mashed taters and corn with instant strawberry cheesecake. Mmm! One of the party had a disagreement with the cheesecake in the middle of the night...Urgg! I made miss-step in camp and fell spraining my left knee. It gradually improved during the trip but gave me trouble when carrying a load, especially going downhill.
June 9th We woke up and had bacon and eggs for breakfast then packed up and headed out for Ted Lake. First off were the 3 portages into Elk Lake. These were not pleasant, a beaver dam caused problems, and the last lift-over into Elk was over big slippery boulders. We had lunch on Elk Lake, and then proceeded to the Hurn Lake portage and the final portage into Ted Lake. This last portage had it all, a climb, mud, rocks & brush. We paddled down Ted, hoping that the Message Jar Campsite was open….it was! We were the only ones on the lake. The last people we were to see for 5 days were back on Gardener Bay. We set up camp and stayed 2 nights on Ted. We had Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner and went fishing afterward. We trolled behind the islands then Dustin caught a nice Lake Trout down by the pictographs. I had a big trout on and he snapped my line as I was trying to release him….should have used the net. One less Tail Dancer, Oh! Well! We had Dustin’s Lake Trout for breakfast
June 10th Breakfast of ham, eggs and trout. After breakfast we got ready to go on a fishing expedition to Milt Lake. Before we reached the Milt portage we tried fishing for some walleyes but caught and released more trout. Milt Lake was supposed to have Largemouth Bass, but we only caught Smallmouth Bass, lots of Smallmouth. We had lunch on Milt on a rock covered with Caribou Moss. We caught tons of Smallmouth before tiring and heading back to Ted. Smallmouth on top water plugs are a lot of fun. Returning to Ted we were back catching Lake Trout, Dave even caught one from our campsite on a yellow & red Brass Daredevil Spoon (5 of Diamonds). Our count on Ted was 6 Lake Trout caught, 2 lost with lures in their mouths, a 30” Northern Pike (Dave) and a ton of Smallmouth Bass. Ted Lake was wonderful, and we were headed out the next day.
June 11th Breakfast of bacon, hash browns and oatmeal. We got up early, ate, broke camp and were on the lake by 8AM. The portage to Earl Lake (Fish-hook) is beside the steam flowing into Ted. There are multiple branching trails and blind leads on this portage. A hint, the true path stays on the right hand side of the creek and doesn’t cross the creek, coming from the Ted side. Once on Earl we broke out the trout gear. We caught 14 Lake Trout in 1 ½ hours. They were beautiful and fun to catch trolling shallowly with Tail Dancers. We released them all. Moving on, we crossed a couple of beaver ponds; after the first one is a small narrow lake we named Dave’s Lake. The last 2 portages into Brent were bad. The map shows 50 Rds. & 60 Rds. But they are more like 100 Rds. & 110 Rds. with lots of hills and brush. After these portages we were ready for lunch, so we found a nice rock ledge and had a nice break. We originally had planned to camp on western Bent one night, but the crew wanted to stay 2 nights at our next campsite so Brent was eliminated and we had our minds set on Suzanette. After lunch we paddled up Brent passed the High campsite we had stayed at in 2005 and looked for the route to Suzanette. It was blocked by a large beaver dam, with no visible portages, so we paddled to the eastern end of Brent and the 2 Darky River portages into Suzanette. At the first portage there was a nice fishing hole where we caught some Smallmouth Bass and a couple of large Northerns...After the 2 portages into Suzanette we started looking for a good campsite, the first one we looked at wasn’t too good so we paddled to the site Thomas and I had used in 2008. 7 portages from Ted to Suzanette – quite a day! We set up camp, and then we all took a bath….brrr! Cold! For dinner we had Curry and Rice with Chicken in a pouch we brought from Oregon, we chose meals by heaviest first, to lighten the packs.
June 12th Here we are at our old camp on Suzanette. Our long 7 portage day yesterday allows us to spend 2 nights on Suzanette. Someone moved the Moose skull and antlers over to this site from their old home on the camp on the point where they used to live. The beaver have been busy at our old site, 3 more pines have been cut down and Thomas said they patrolled up and down last night slapping their tails on the water. I didn’t hear a thing Zzzzzz! For breakfast we had 2 kinds of bacon (Canadian & Thick Sliced), pancakes and syrup. We washed dishes and headed to where the Darky River flows into Suzanette. At the first rapids the fish were really biting, Smallmouth & Northerns. At this first rapids & portage the Black Flies really made an appearance. We portaged up the Darky River to the second rapids. The fish were really biting here! Dave caught a couple of big Northerns, Thomas got some big Smallmouth and Dustin caught our 1st Walleye. We fished until they stopped biting, and then headed back down to Suzanette. We fished our way back to camp and Thomas caught a big pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass. When we got back to camp we had a hot lunch of Lasagna & corn with Chocolate Mouse pudding. Mmmm! There were black flies back in camp and it was warm….so we took a nap. We had 3 kinds of fish for dinner this night with chicken stuff over mashed potatoes and corn. Blue Berry Cobbler was the desert….but Dustin & Dave passed on desert. ? We did the dishes then went fishing. The water was smooth as glass, with no breezes and very beautiful. A bunch of fish were hooked and got off. I caught 2 big Lake Trout and a big Northern using a pink & white Reef Runner. We kept one trout for breakfast. When we got back to camp Thomas & Dustin had started a nice campfire. The moon was very bright and we stayed up late.
June 13th Some clouds and blue sky this morning. Seagulls and Bald Eagles had cleaned up most of the fish remains on the point by morning. We had 2 kinds of bacon, peasant omelet and trout for breakfast. Then we packed up and headed west to Conmee and William Lakes. The weather was nice with light breezes; the first portage into Conmee had just a little mud & brush and was easy. Dustin fell here and hit his tail bone on a rock. Conmee was an easy paddle through. Then came the Conmee to William portage of 150 Rds. This portage is not hilly but does have brush and moose mud. It was a warm day and I had a swarm of Black Flies buzzing around my head most of the way. Our life vests were blue and seem to attract the Black Flies. Dave took a fall on this portage and banged his elbow. He had one of the big frame packs on at the time. When we got to William the breezes started to pick up. We made the long paddle down William and saw our first canoe since Gardener Bay of Crooked Lake. The guy was fishing the mid-lake reef and warned us that all the campsites were taken by a group of Boy Scouts. We paddled down and found an empty site, then Dustin and I went down to the 5 Star site and found it still occupied with tarps & tents… Nuts! We settled into our little site, it is smallish, but nice with 2 tent pads and a stone fireplace. The wind picked up and blew hard all afternoon from the south, it kept the bugs off. We took naps and bathed and Dustin caught a nice Walleye from the back side of camp. We hoped that the wind would decrease later so we could fish. We had a beef enchilada dinner with peanut-chocolate pudding. The wind seemed to be lessoning, so we went out to fish. It was still gusty but fishable. Thomas and Dustin caught 3 more Walleye so we’ll have fish for breakfast. Dave and I caught some Smallmouth and Walleye and released them all. We all went back to camp and filleted the fish and had a nice fire. We took some pictures of the group after we had set up the tarp. It rained lightly in the night…
June 14th A beautiful sunrise! Some clear sky, and some clouds. We had a big breakfast of 2 kinds of bacon, pancakes and syrup. Then we headed down to the back bays of William, by the portage to Brent Lake, so we could fish out of the wind. We caught Smallmouth and again Dustin tied into a couple of Walleye. On the way back the wind was picking up. We decided to check out the 5 Star campsite that had been vacated this morning. We voted to move! So we left our life vests, shirts and fishing gear at the site and raced back to our little site, packed up and moved. While moving camp we saw a loon guarding a nest, and on our return saw the 2 loon eggs in the nest. Our old little site was occupied within a couple of hours. We really enjoy the 5 Star site! After setting up camp and having lunch, the wind blew hard, so we all took naps….warm & windy snoozing… After we all woke up it was time for dinner… Turkey Supreme with chicken in a pouch from Brookings, mashed potatoes and rice pudding with raisins. Just as we were sitting down to dinner a turtle came walking into camp. W stopped and took pictures, Dustin held her up….lucky he didn’t lose a finger! Later Dave did the dishes, and we were hoping the wind died down so we could fish, it did and Dave and I went fishing and caught Walleye and Smallmouth. When we returned Thomas and Dustin were catching fish from shore. We had a nice campfire and noticed lights along the shore… Fire Flies! Thomas caught one to look at… catch and release :-)
June15th Up early this morning, we headed down the back way to Darky, through the rivers and Cloverleaf Lake. The middle portage that goes way up then down was a rough one. We ran into a bunch of ticks on these portages. The last portage into Darky was easy. We then paddled down the east shore to a site Stu had marked “Best”…it’s OK, it’s a high camp with a good view, but I think the next site south is better. It was cloudy and warm and humid. We set up camp, had lunch and napped in the warmth. We had traveled 58 miles so far, not counting any side trips or fishing. Later the wind let up and it got cooler and we paddled down to see both of the pictographs on the south end of Darky. Then we trolled for Lake Trout all the way back. We caught 3 Trout, catch & release. When we got back Dustin made a big campfire and we cooked dinner, beef gravy with mashed potatoes, peas and vanilla mouse with raspberries…..we ate everything! We did the dishes then Thomas read the maps and info about tomorrow’s trip down the Darky River to Minn Lake. Cloudy with no moon this night.
June 16th Overcast with clouds, still air on Darky as I cooked a breakfast of hash browns, western omelet, and Canadian bacon before I woke them up with “Breakfast in the Swamps!”. After breakfast we broke camp and headed up to the Darky River. There were 6 portages along this route, mostly short ones, the longest being 44 Rds. We fished in the pools below each rapids and caught Northerns, Smallmouth Bass and Walleye. This is a nice route! When we reached Minn Lake we headed towards the portage into McAree. About ½ way across Minn we stopped for a lunch of tuna and mayo on crackers and tortillas, very good for a change of pace. Then we continued on to the McAree portage. The map shows a large island just before the portage…but it was connected to shore, so we had to paddle all the way around to reach the portage. This was an easy & wide portage into McAree. Next we started looking for a campsite. We found one but it wasn’t too nice, so we went on. The next site was occupied then there was a tiny island…no… We looked at the map… there was a site down by Black Robe Portage that someone had labeled “Nasty” on one of the web sites... We went and checked it out, Not Bad! It wasn’t nasty, it was OK we set up camp. Later we took a nap, but were awakened by 2 motor boats going by – Indian guides from Lac Lacroix. Later we caught a bunch of fish from shore, Walleye, Northern and Smallmouth Bass. Dinner on the last night was Turkey Tetrazzini, peas and our favorite “Spiced Apples” desert MMmm! It was all good; we wrapped our Turkey in tortilla wraps. After dinner the sky cleared and the wind died so the lake turned flat and beautiful. I took lots of pictures in the evening light. We all went to bed just after sunset.
June 17th We got up way after sunrise. It was a beautiful day, sunshine, white puffy clouds, birds chirping. We had pancakes, Canadian bacon and syrup for breakfast… it was discovered that one of the Parkay Bottles in the cool pack had exploded… Urg! A nasty mess… We leisurely packed our stuff, and kept asking Dustin, “What time is it?” We paddled over to Black Robe Portage. We noticed 3 motor boats and gas cans belonging to the Lac Lacroix guides who are allow motors on McAree this year. We crossed the portage, 44 Rds… The last portage of the trip! Completing 59 miles of traveling by Thomas’ GPS. We sat in the shade and had lunch while waiting for our 1 PM pick up by Zup’s. We just finished lunch at 12:30 PM when…. Is that a boat coming? Hooray! They came early! A new driver to us! A tall thin white hair guy… He knew his stuff. He drove us through the maze of islands of Lac Lacroix to Zup’s Resort. We got our wallets and passports out of the safe and sat on the first real furniture in 10 days. We enjoyed the Zup’s couch for about 20 Minutes while waiting for the driver from Crane Lake. When that boat arrived it had a group headed by Stu from the Boundary Waters Journal. It was good to meet him and shake his hand. We told him about our fishing on Lake Earl. We returned to our boat with the Crane Lake driver and headed over the 2 marine portages to the Loon River and back to Crane Lake. When we got back to the dock there was a Blond Lady U.S. Customs Agent waiting to check us back into the U.S.A. She looked at our passports and welcomed us back. Mark Bland from Jordan’s Outfitters pulled up and we loaded our gear in the van and started the drive down the Echo Trail to Ely. While driving Mark called the U.P.S. Office/ Music Store in Ely and asked them to stay open till we got there. When we got to Jordan’s we madly packed stuff in our boxes and taped them up, we also threw out some stuff. Then off we dashed to the U.P.S./Music store in Ely to ship our stuff home. As we came out, up dashed Mark Bland with our old rod tube that we had left behind. We had neglected to tell him we had put our rods in the paddle box and didn’t need to send the old tube. We apologized for not telling him and the confusion we caused when leaving. We thanked Mark for his diligence, and the great job he does, they really do a great job at Jordan’s, and Mark is a great guy. So! It was time to head to the Adventure Inn and hot showers. Later we assembled to go to the Ely Steakhouse. They said it would be a 45 minute wait, so we took a walk. We got back in 20 minutes and our table was ready. I had a Rib eye Steak, Thomas and Dave had the Black & Blue Butt Steak and Dustin had Shrimp Alfredo…Yum! We went back to the motel and I tried to down-load our boarding passes but United had a computer glitch and was out of order.
June 18th We got up at 7:15 AM and tried United again with no luck. We went to breakfast at the Chocolate Moose and did some final shopping at Piragus. Then it was off to Lake Superior by way of Hwy 1. We got in a huge traffic snarl in Duluth. We got to Minneapolis 1½ Hours before our flight and turned in the Clown Car and got our boarding passes…finally! Our flights were on time, the first one to Denver was very bumpy going into Denver. I finished writing this on the flight from Denver to Medford, Oregon, it was less bumpy. Dave’s car waited for us in Medford and he drove us home to Brookings arriving at Midnight. It was a wonderful Trip! fishguts