Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

The scariest plane ride ever
by cjrn

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/21/2011
Entry Point: Quetico
Exit Point: Mudro Lake (EP 23)  
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
I do a trip every year...why would this one be so different? Instead of traveling with friends who have canoed before, I took two people who have never canoed before.... We stopped at every casino on the drive up there collecting dollar chips.
We arrived at a decent hour in Ely and spent the night before our entry in a bunkhouse. Bright and early we reported eagerly to check on our flight into Lac Le Croix. We were told that the winds were too high to sit tight and wait. While waiting, I meet Cindy Miller who is a summer resident in Ely and who celebrated her 60 year on this earth by doing a month long solo trip into BWCA. WOW..... We get the word that the plane has taken off from Canada however, we cannot fly into Canada with the canoes strapped to the side (due to high winds). A few phone calls later and they have located a canoe for us....but only one. All gear and three people will have to fit in this canoe....we agree and head out to the Seaplane Base. The winds are picking up by then, white caps cover the lake and the waves are splashing over the dock...Now Im getting a little concerned. The plane arrives and we take off without incident, go through customs without incident. Even landing on Lac Le Croix seemed to go seamlessly but we had to land on the backside of the island because of the high winds which have now grown into a storm. We land and walk back to the other side of the island and hear that we just landed at 212mph! The storm keeps us stuck at the island and they are unable to locate a tow for us to continue on. Nobody felt that it was safe to head out in such high winds.... They finally locate someone willing and I ask him if he thinks it is safe to travel in the weather to which he replies flatly,"Probably not". We make it to a small island just across from the Bottle Portage and decide to camp there to wait out the storm which is now pelting us with ice cold rain (the weather forcasts were WAY off). The waves are high the next morning and I am afaid that the weight of our gear plus our combined weights will put the canoe too low and that we will swamp...we paddle against high winds and waves through Bottle and Iron lakes which takes us 4 hours. Exhausted we set up camp in a cove on Iron and collapse in our tents, the rain continuing its assault on the tarps I set up over the tents. We spend the next day again in battle with the weather...Crooked Lake offered no forgiveness and we again collapsed in exhaustion in Friday Bay. Hope lifted everybody's spirit as we caught a glimpse of sun when we woke the next day. Looking forward to being in smaller lakes with the sun as our companion, we headed out toward the 300r portage. The portages were rough. Twice I pulled my foot up to find my shoe had been claimed and swallowed by the mud...Our rain gear is beginning to fail and we are all cold to the bone. I continue to offer instant heat packs to my son to place in "special" places for comfort but he refuses, telling me to use them instead. My feet are painfully numb, my stomach a hollow knot, and my teeth chatter with impressive committment, but I place the heat packs back in my pack in case my son needs one. Thinking that the weather has robbed us of a day, we tackle the next lakes with a determination like no other. The sun makes a spectacular appearance before returning to its roost and my son takes advantage and snaps a few pictures. The lake is now placcid, looking down the canoe to the reflection of the sky gives the appearance that we are canoeing in the clouds. At Boot Lake we find a great campsite and eat our first "hot" meal. The fishing hasn't been great but the scenery is more than making up for it. We head out early the next day to make sure we meet our pickup at Mudro. Arriving at the pickup site we sit and wait...and wait...and...wait. After awhile....we begin to wonder where our pickup is. Then we realize....we are a day early! None of us have a phone or any way of calling to arrange for pickup....and no one else is around. Plus, we dont have the number....until I remember that I habitually write phone numbers on maps...I had taken a map I had used the year before and found that as I had expected...I had written half a dozen phone numbers on the map of these had to be the right number. We walk a ways around the adjacent lake and find a cabin with a car and ask to use their phone. A few hours later...we are picked up and taken back to our cars. And no...the story doesn't end here... After spending the night at the Lodge in Ely, we head home only to find ourselves back in the grips of some terrible storms. My vehicle is being rocked from side to side. I turn on the radio to find out that we are travelling in a storm front which has already produced 3 tornadoes. We drive through the night and at daylight we are passing town afer town of uprooted trees and houses completely flattened.... We make it home after 18 hours driving. I am sure at this point that my son will never want to be go on a trip with me again. Its been a little over week since we a call yesterday from my son asking when we could go again...