Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

My Wifes First Trip
by Grumpy

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/30/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
This trip came about when I started planning for a youth trip the first of August. My wife was seeing how excited I was getting just during the planning stages. She came to me and said that she would like to take a family trip up there. We spent many long hours together looking through BWCA website for trip possibilities. I wanted to make this trip extra special. I wanted my wife to enjoy herself so that maybe just she and I could possibly make a trip together. A little about the group we are going to go in with. My daughter RaeJean (14), my son Dustin (16), Dustin’s friend Shane (16), my son Dalton (20), my wife Carleen and myself. RaeJean does not want to go at all. My wife cannot swim, has never been in a canoe and has slept in a tent maybe a dozen times. As our trip was approaching, my daughter seemed to be getting a little bit more excited. My wife on the other hand, was getting more and more nervous. She had no clue what to expect. She was afraid of dumping the canoe. She was worried about bears. With every passing day, her stomach grew more quezey. I am very anal when it comes to planning. Our trip had changed a number of times. I wanted an easy route for the three first timers (RaeJean, Shane & Carleen).We finally decided on EP #14. We heard from friends about the portages we were looking at taking. Having never gone into this area, we decided on base camping on Lower Pauness.

Day 1

We left the house around 12:40 on Thursday morning. We arrived in Ely around 5:15 and went to Britton’s Cafe for breakfast. Its amazing how as soon as you get to Ely, your body seems to come alive with anticipation. After breakfast, we stopped over and talked with Jim from The Great Outdoors. We picked up a lb of leeches and one of his leech totes.

We were the first ones through the door at the Ranger Station. Sarah helped us with our permit and we were on our way. The excitement kind of took over as we headed up the Echo Trail. We got to the 12 miles of curvy road sign, when I looked at my gas gauge. I was below a ¼ of a tank. We turned around and went for gas. Along with gas, we picked up some Advil.

33 miles later we are finally there. There was a group of 9 that was already unloaded and ready for the portage. But they insisted on us going ahead of them. We got everything down to the river. All I had to do is park the truck. I had my camera out so that I could get some pictures of my wife’s first ever portage. We loaded RaeJean, Dustin and Shane into their canoe and sent them off. We got all of our gear loaded into my canoe set my wife into her seat. Then I got into the stern seat. All we had to do was have Dalton get into the bow. This is where it gets a little tricky. He did not want to get his feet wet. So he was balancing on a rock. There was no chance of him getting up to his place in the canoe. So he climbed in front of Carleen and decided to climb over the packs. Bad idea! I hollered NO! That is when the canoe took a turn for the worse, literally. The first thing I did was grab my wife. Remember capsizing was her biggest fear! Now, with that behind her, she could enjoy the rest of her trip. I have to say; the group that let us go ahead of them was a GOD send. They jumped right in and helped us right our canoe.

Dalton was visibly upset at tipping the canoe. Carleen and I thought that it just added to the adventure. Besides Dalton, I think that RaeJean took our spill the hardest. It sent a fear of what could happen to her. She never did get over it.

We made it Upper Pauness with no more incidents. We took the 40R portage from Upper to Lower. We made our way across to campsite 12 on the point. It was open as we had hoped for. This would be home for the next 4 days. We started to set up camp. My wife was impressed that everything that was in our gear packs was dry.

My wife decided to go off and find some firewood. She came back with a huge scrape and a bruise on her right hip. All she could do was laugh. Boy did I feel bad for her. All I could think of was so much for her enjoying this trip. Yes, I was feeling a little selfish.

Day 2

We awoke to a slight wind shift. When we went to bed, the wind was from the east. Campsite 12 faces west. And that is the direction the wind would come from the rest of the trip. We did allot of swimming out in front of the campsite. Carleen and I went for a paddle around the lake. She really enjoyed herself. She did not know what to do, but she learned quickly.

We went over to Devils Cascade and hiked to the other end of the portage. This portage did take its toll on my wife. Her lymphodemia started to act up. Her left ankle swelled up, making the trip back a little slow. We left the 3 boys there to walk the falls.]

We put RaeJean up front and started out for camp. Carleen started to teach RaeJean how to paddle. This, coming from someone who had just learned how earlier that day. RaeJean did very well. She wanted to know what she should do if she gets tired. We just said to stop paddling.

The 4 kids put their life jackets on like diapers (putting their legs through the arm holes). This allowed them to stay buoyant without having the collar around their neck. They floated way out in the lake. This was RaeJean's favorite time up there.

Dustin’s allergies were really acting up today. He was constantly using the TP to blow his nose. Guess what was going through my head? I hope we don’t run out of butt wipe!

We did fish allot from right in front of our campsite. We caught walleyes and small mouths all day. RaeJean caught her first ever walleye.

Dalton landed 2 really nice (19” & a 20”+) small mouth.

Shane landed a decent 17-18” eater walleye. Put it on the stringer for later. You are welcome Mr. Snapper.

We started to hear some rumbling off in the distance. But we lucked out and the severe stuff went west and east of us. It started to rain around 9:00 pm. But it was only a light rain. Everyone but me headed for the tent. Oh yeah Mr. Snapper was working on finishing of our walleye dinner.

Day 3

The wind was really strong today. But it kept the bugs away. We decided to make our way to shell lake. RaeJean, Dustin and Shane wanted to stay back at camp. We told them to stay out of the water until we returned. The wind made it a little difficult to paddle but we made it.

When we got to the portage, I picked up the canoe and headed down the trail. After a short walk, I saw water in sight. Wow, there was a bridge made from logs. I stepped out from the trees and the wind caught the canoe. I almost lost it. The bridge was dry, but half way across the bridge went under water. One of the cross members that support the bridge had broken away. My wife was on her way. So I put the canoe down and waited for her. When she finally got there, her right pant leg was rolled up. She had tried to stay dry earlier in the portage and ended up stepping into a deep mud hole. Having the bridge under water at this point allowed her to rinse her foot off. Once across, she sat down and took her sock off. It was full of mud. Now rinsed and back together, we make it to shell.

We get loaded up and headed out. We came to this lake for the fish. In order to get to the deeper water, we would have to fight the wind. The wind swirled around the islands, it made it hard to fish. We ended up on the east side of shell. We had to into the wind all the way back. My wife got a little scared out there. Paddling into whitecaps in a canoe is not that much fun.

Finally back at the portage, our arms and shoulders are sore. My wife needed to go to the bathroom. She headed up the hill to take care of business. When she gets back, her pants are all soaked. I guess she was trying to pee while standing on a hill. She lost her balance while squatting and fell foreword, thus peeing on her pants. Dalton decided to take the canoe this time. As Carleen and I near the bridge, I took everything (2 paddles, 2 life jackets, 2 fishing rods and the leech tote). One of the bridge sections has floated out of line. I get it back in line and proceed to cross it. Holding the bridge down so Carleen doesn’t lose her balance is taking its toll. Finally I get to the stable portion and my wife loses her balance. She ends up sinking into the muck and she gets a 2” sliver in her right leg. My arms are full, so I really cannot pull her up. She finally works the suction from her right foot and grabs my arm. I heard her laughing, but to me it sounded like she was crying. Try to picture this, my wife is wearing a light weight grey sweat pants soaked to her waist. Her left leg is mud to her crotch. She has on a heavy sweat shirt with her life jacket over the top. She is wearing sunglasses and has Dalton’s sunglasses hanging below her nose (like a mask). She has a pink Vexilar hat that covers her head. In her right hand she has the map and in her left is her water bottle. We finally make it back to camp where she pulls out her sliver.

We fished off the rocks again this afternoon. Carleen is on the north end, which is a little shallower. Her bobber takes a slight bump and her leech is gone. This happens quite a few times. She is finally putting on her own leech. Pretty soon, everyone is fishing by her. Shane hooks into the prettiest jumbo perch that I have ever seen. Where the white stripes are along the sides, they were actually tea stained. As he was trying to get the hook out, 3 leeches fell on the rocks. He needed a forceps to get to the hook. After he got it out, 4 more leeches fell out. Carleen wasn’t too happy, having someone else catches the fish that she had been trying to fatten up.

As we make it to bed, my wife says that she wishes that we could stay longer.

Day 4

My wife wakes up around 4:15. She has to go to the bathroom. As she leaves the tent, Dalton is out fishing. They chat for a few minutes and then my wife returns to her sleeping bag, Dalton decides to start a fire. He proceeds to split wood. I guess that he wanted us to get up. Shortly thereafter, Dustin and Shane are up. We finally roll out of the sack and break camp.

We decided to take the 17R portage. It was a little steep on the Lower Pauness side. Anyway, we make it back to the EP without a problem.

I carry the canoe up to the road. I go to get the truck. There by their van is the group that had helped us out when we dumped our canoe. They had a flat tire. They seemed to have everything under control, so we got everything loaded. The spare they had did not have any air in it. Then the jack they were using folded over in the loose soil. It ended up burying the rotors into the parking lot. They asked if we had a jack and we gave it to them. It was a piston style jack and the frame was resting on the ground. So my jack was of no use. After some thinking, I suggested that we just lift the front end up enough to get the jack under it. It worked! They had another spare from their second vehicle. But it came from a Chevy minivan and the flat was on a ford minivan. Therefore the hole spacing was a little different. 33 miles back to Ely to fix the flat, 33 miles back and then another 33 miles back to Ely. We tried to help. We even tried a trailer spare that we had.

Our trip home was uneventful. It took us a little over 4 ½ hours to get to Ely on Thursday. We left Ely at 3:42 and arrived home at 7:44. That is only 4 hours and 2 minutes. I guess that it was all downhill on the way home.

Everyday since we got home, my wife has asked “when are we going to go again?” My mission is accomplished. I now have a paddling partner for life. And I could not ask for a better partner!