We started our first Boundary Water trip by leaving the Detroit area after work on Friday, August 12 and driving to St. Ignace, just past the Mackinac Bridge. We got up early Saturday and drove to Ely, taking the scenic route of highway 1. First stop was at Voyageur North to pickup our permit, a spare map and fishing licenses. We stayed in the new building at the Adventure Inn and had a nice room. The owners are very nice with a good sense of humor. They were full so I was glad we reserved in advance. We went to the Chocolate Moose for dinner and had a great meal and a better dessert. Sunday morning, Aug 14, we were up at 5 and went to Brittons for breakfast which was full with a combination of locals and canoeists. We then drove to the Mudro Lake put-in. The permit reservation website said that parking lot construction was going to start on Monday, Aug 15 and we would need to park about a 1/5th of a mile from the parking lot. There was no indication of this at the lot, and one of the outfitters that went driving by said he knew nothing of it, so we just parked in the normal lot along with 50 other vehicles. He said he couldn’t believe they would do parking lot construction at the busiest time of the year, but I reminded him we were talking about the federal government. We were in the water and on our way about 8:45. There were a couple of small beaver dams and tight, shallow rock passages and shallow areas that required us to get out of the canoe and pull it along.
We made quick canoeing across Mudro and started the first of three portages. The first portage after leaving Mudro was no problem and headed for the 125 rod passage we had heard was a bad one. We took more gear and food than we needed and I will reduce that in the future. In the past, we have canoe camped with another couple and we do a good job of distributing equipment and planning how much to take. This was our first time alone and we were prepared for anything. I typically will triple portage while my wife will double portage. The triple portage usually does not cost us much more time because I can usually do it in a little more time than she does the double. Since we have a cedar strip canoe that weighs 60 lbs. empty, I can’t take another pack with me while carrying the canoe. It usually is not too bad as I recharge on the return trips when I am not carrying any gear. This time it was a little different however. Just as I was getting towards the end of my first trip, there was a couple my age (old enough to join AARP, but too young for Social Security) carrying their canoe in the opposite direction. I could not figure out why both of them were carrying the canoe until I saw the guy in the back. He had a broken arm. He had broken it during their trip and obviously had to cut the trip short. I offered to carry one of their packs on my return trip, but they replied it was the canoe portaging that was killing them. I told them to set the canoe down and I would get it on my return trip. They did, and my wife carried some of their gear while I carried their canoe to the other end of the portage. Basically, I quadruple portaged and my wife triple portaged that passage and that wore us out. We then did the third portage with the famous smooth rock. It was not an issue because I just went down into the creek and wetfooted it which made it easy. That rock would be a nightmare in the wet or if you were doing a solo. Paddling into Fourtown was nice as there was not a lot of wind.
We stopped for a lunch break on a rock in Fourtown about 1:30PM. There had been a fire on one of the islands on Fourtown just before you get to the portage to Boot. There was not a lot of fire damage and the rains had put it out. We had been running into a lot of people on the portages that were leaving the BW and that continued on the portage between Boot and Fourtown. The map says this is a 43 rod portage, but is sure seems shorter.
We got into Boot and started paddling for Fairy, and then we heard someone blowing a whistle behind us. We turned around and a couple in a canoe was waving at us. They were saying something about a camera. We turned the canoe around and it turns out we left our camera behind at the portage into Boot. Our good deed of portaging the canoe and gear for the couple with the broken arm was rewarded by another Good Samaritan returning our camera. We talked to them briefly, they were from Babbitt, about 40 miles away and they told us that all the campsites on Fourtown and Boot were full over the weekend. We headed on towards Fairy where we wanted to spend our first night. We noticed all of the sites on Boot were vacant, so we were hoping the same would be true on Fairy. When we got to the Boot – Fairy portage, we took our binoculars and could see that both of the sites on Fairy were occupied. Now it is decision time – do we go onto Gun or return to Boot? Since we had no idea what Gun was like, we went back to the most northern site on Boot and set up camp at 4PM. “You go with what you know” is one of my favorite sayings at work, and I knew there were sites available on Boot.
The site was quite nice and as it turned out, we were the only people camping on Boot for our first three nights. The site had a nice stone windbreak around the fire pit, lots of dry firewood and had trees for hanging food, a good tent pad, logs set up as camp furniture around the fire, trees for setting up a clothes line and the hammock. And the thunder box was in great shape. We fixed dinner and took a swim to clean up. We were tired but it felt great to be cool and clean.
Monday we got up and had a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash browns. We had ordered the egg dishes from Packitgourmet and the hash browns were the Hungry Jack ones that many people on the forum have recommended. Everything was very good. Originally we were planning on doing a loop up into Gun, Moosecamp Lake and come down the Moosecamp River. We decided we were definitely spending another day or two on Boot as it was a nice site and we had the lake to ourselves, having seen about 6 canoes go by all day. We hung the tarp, set up the hammock and just relaxed and read and swam a couple of times. It was warm in the sun, and the brisk wind would dry you off in no time at all. The site had a flat rock surface where you could lay down and sun yourself if you wanted. We just lounged around all day and did not even take the canoe out on the lake since it was rather windy and we were still tired from Sunday. Monday’s sunset was nice, but not as nice as Sunday’s. There were a lot of dragonflies flying around the site and no mosquitoes until it got dark.
On Tuesday morning we had oatmeal and yogurt (the Gerber baby pieces chopped up and mixed in water) and we had quesadillas for lunch. We saw a canoe go by on its way to Fairy and they said they had only caught one smallmouth. They came back a little later and then two more canoes were headed towards Fourtown. After lunch, we went out and did some trolling with the Mepps spinners. I caught two smallmouth in the heel area of the boot, but released them since I really wanted walleye. We knew from the weather reports that rain was in the future and it was obvious something was coming. We stopped for lunch and came back in after the whitecaps were building up on the lake.
We moved our awning back into the woods, because with the wind we had, the awning was not going to keep us dry. A 12” diameter tree had fallen in the area where we set up the tarp, so I cut it into a couple of pieces so I could roll it out of the way and we would have a dry area to set up dinner. The rain started at 4PM along with lightening which kept us out of the lake. I did shower in the rain and was able to clean up. It stopped raining about 6PM so we had some wine (now you are beginning to see why I have to triple portage) and fixed dinner and went to bed about 9PM expecting more rain. We did not get any, but you could see a storm to the north. We could see lightening all around us. Another nice thing about this site, I was able to get a cell phone signal (Verizon) so we texted our kids to let them know where we were. After listening to the weather report, we decided we would stay put on Boot and head out on Friday. So, I also called the Adventure Inn and reserved room.
On Wednesday, after breakfast, we went out in the canoe for some more fishing and were going to head into Fairly Lake. As we got up towards the portage, it got really windy. The whitecaps came up again and we decided to call it a day. The weather forecast was for winds 25 – 35 mph and that is what we got. We went back to camp and ate lunch. After lunch, since we had way more fuel than we needed, we heated up some water and threw it into the shower bag and took hot showers. It was cool drying off because of the wind, but we were clean. After a dinner of wine and chili, we made a big fire, ate Biscotti biscuits and finished with Drambuie, a ritual for us on canoe trips. There were some people that set up camp to the south of us and they went out fishing by the wall on the west side of the lake after the sun went down. We talked to them the next day and they caught some walleye using leeches for bait. It was a clear night so there were lots of stars, but the horizon did not get dark enough to see as many stars as we had hoped for.
Thursday, the lake was smooth and beautiful. We were not hungry, so we went out fishing.
My wife, who had never fished before in her life, snagged a few times but then brought in a walleye. Thursday’s dinner was caught and we could fulfill our mission of eating walleye on the trip. She does not like to eat fish, so I was hoping for a walleye so there would not be much of a fish taste. She liked the walleye, breaded and deep fried, so now we can do it again. Anyway, after fishing, we came back and had a brunch of eggs and potatoes on tortillas, another Packitgourmet item. We read for a bit and then went over to Fairy Lake. We paddled around Fairy trolling with a Mepps spinner, but did not get any hits while in Fairy. Both lakes are fairly dark with about 3 feet of visibility. After the walleye with mashed potatoes and peas dinner, we had another fire and finished off the Biscotti and Drambuie. The campsites on the lake have filled up and we now look out and see about 5 or 6 canoes whereas we had become accustomed to about zero.
Friday it started raining with thunder and lightning about 4:30AM. I hate packing up in the rain, but it is what it is. It stops about 6:15, so we get up, have oatmeal, hot chocolate and instant coffee. The Starbucks Via is not too bad, but not as good as the percolated coffee we have had all week. We are on the water at 9AM and headed to the parking lot at Mudro. We have not seen much wildlife all week, except for some loons and a couple of beavers. Finally on Fourtown, we see a bald eagle. We snack for lunch after the long portage between Fourtown and Mudro and make it to the parking lot at 2:30PM, an hour faster than we did the portages on Sunday. The first stop in Ely is at the beer store for a 6 pack of Leinenkugel beer and then we checked in at the Adventure Inn. We showered and went T-shirt shopping. We then went to the Ely steakhouse and had the prime rib and NY strip steak. It was a delicious meal. We then walked back to the Adventure Inn and had our best night’s sleep in a week.
Saturday, we had breakfast at the Adventure Inn. The Blue Heron scones are outstanding. We left about 9AM and took routes 169 and 53 for the fast way to Duluth. I don’t know what it is about Wisconsin drivers, but if you have a canoe on your cartop, it must make you invisible. Both, coming and going from the BW, people in Wisconsin just seem to pull out in front of you. We spent the night in St. Ignace again and drove home on Sunday. Saturday afternoon, a storm had gone through the Detroit area, so when we arrived home, our neighborhood was without power. Our son had our generator going, so we had electricity. It was restored about 5AM on Monday. We had already demonstrated we could spend a week without electricity, so it was not too big a deal to us. It was a great trip and relaxing other than getting to and from the campsite. We will probably try something to the east of Mudro on our next BW trip, or maybe Quetico.