Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Life is good in the BW - 2011
by OffMyRocker

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/26/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake (EP 4)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
Each trip to the BW, we try to choose a new spot to go to and a different entry point. This year we decided to visit the southwest section - the "island" of wilderness northwest of Ely. With our 8-year-old daughter along, we did not want to select too punishing of a route into this area. Yet, we also wanted some solitude and we were willing to do some work to get it. We felt it would be wise to base camp and spend more time enjoying an area via day trips. Crab Lake entry point seemed to fit our plans the best.
Day 1 of 5
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Note to the reader: one of my jobs in camp is to keep a record of the daily happenings. This report is essentially a reproduction of my handwritten daily journals. I (Jenni) apologize for being long-winded.

We spent the night before our trip at Fall Lake campground. We had a nice lakeside site and a hot shower before entering the wilderness. As we get older, we are changing our hardcore ways. We would typically get up early, have a simple breakfast and get on the water a.s.a.p. This year we took our time breaking camp, then stopped in Ely for lattes, muffins and scones. Gone are the days of simple rations eaten hastily while packing our gear. We've gone all soft! I admit I really enjoyed this kind of start.

We were fortunate that there wasn't much wind to hinder our paddle from the south landing on Burntside. We packed our bags at the landing (another first for us) and started paddling at 9:15 a.m.

Burntside Lake is gorgeous. We had a nice four mile paddle to the portage into Crab. I love all of the islands on Burntside; it seems like most people have made an effort to blend their cottages into the scenery. I must admit I'm jealous of those who have a place on the lake. Ah well...we're blessed in a lot of other ways!

Arriving at the portage, we saw two motor boats belonging to the conservation corps. We decided to piggy back the long portage. Dave had the Alumacraft Quetico Lite, I had all of the food, sleeping pads and misc. gear in a 40+ pound pack. We left "big blue" (clothes, sleeping bags and toiletries) and the fishing rods at the portage. Audrey (my mini-me) had her own small pack with clothes, books/games and her "Lamby". The portage trail was in good condition and well worn, but the loaded down pack was digging into my collar bones something fierce and I was not lovin' it. Dave left the canoe just past the swamp, which a passing group said was about half-way. The portage crew was repairing the trail by putting chipped rocks into some rough spots and covering them with dirt. I offered to trade spots with the supervisor, but he didn't want any part of hauling my pack. I just kept moving and glancing up for signs of water at the end of the portage. Somewhere after the swamp, I experienced a strange "Blair Witch Project" kind of scare. I could hear something crashing through the brush to my left and behind me. Loaded down by my huge pack, I couldn't quite pivot and see the full view behind me. I kept glancing over my left shoulder into the brush, but I could see nothing. Whatever was coming was coming right at me full speed, but I had no idea what it was! Just as this thing was upon me I let out a pitiful half-hearted girly scream (well, I am female!), yet I didn't know what the heck I was screaming about. Aside from that, no one was anywhere around to hear it and I knew that, so the scream kind of died part way. I winced expecting a moose or bear to slam me into the brush. Just as I prepared for the worst, a female grouse flew out of the underbrush, nearly taking my legs out from under me. No wonder I couldn't see anything! I was looking 4 or 5 feet off the ground. This grouse was not too pleased with me...she made some noises at me and I got the heck out of there! I dropped my pack at the end of the portage and felt like I was floating without all of that weight. I quickly walked back to meet Dave and collect "big blue" and the fishing gear/paddles/etc. Not only did I run into mama grouse, but this time her brood was on the trail, too. They all made noises at me and scrambled off in every direction. No wonder she was crabby - she was protecting her young.

Audrey, our princess, did a commendable job crossing the long portage without any sniveling. We were all overheated, so we drank some water and put on our "chill-its" - a scarf with absorbent beads that cools the neck when it's been soaked in water. That provided instant relief.

From our paddle through Crab Lake, we only spotted one campsite taken. The 20 rod portage into Little Crab Lake was a breeze and the one site there was empty from what we could tell. The Korb River gave Audrey her first chance to see pitcher plants up close. The 1 rod portage shown on our Fisher map was avoided. The 70 rod portage into Cummings also seemed fairly easy when compared to the entry portage! As we paddled the southwest section of Cummings Lake, we saw a deer wading in the water. It watched us briefly and trotted into the woods.

We thought we might camp on the first island site, but the second site from the portage trail (on the peninsula) had a shallow sand swimming beach. We stopped and checked it out. I was ready to set-up camp, but Dave wanted to see the island. We paddled over and checked it out. The fire pit area was more open. The landing was a sloped rock - more of the traditional BW campsite. It certainly would do, but I lobbied for the sand beach and the softer tent pad nestled in the pines. I explained the simple principle to Dave that if mom's happy, everyone's happy. He saw the light! Back we went to the sand beach.

We started setting up camp at 3:10 p.m. - a five hour travel day. Dave offered to set up the tent while Audrey and I swam. The brown-stained water was like bath water! Dave later joined us and snorkeled around our camp area. After tidying camp, Dave prepared a dinner of Cache Lake's chili and fryin' pan bread. Audrey had to bow out of the chili due to it being fairly spicy...she had beef jerky instead. Dessert was banana cream pie. We stuffed ourselves! Dave cooks, so I do the dishes. While I cleaned up, the anglers fished the narrow area at the tip of the peninsula. Audrey had a smallmouth on, but lost it. Dave caught a small smallie. The chorus of mosquitoes drove us into the tent - it was 9:30 p.m.