Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Quetico July 2011
by billconner

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/16/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
July 15 - I pick up my friend Jim at Midway Airport around 10:00 am. It was easy to spot - only car at the airport with a canoe on top. We drive straight to Ely; last minute shopping at Zups; eat dinner at Rockwood - mosquitos so bad we had to move inside; and head to CCO motel for the night.

July 16 - Up not as early as planned; check out a few things at CCO and plan tows; breakfast at Brittons; head to CCO Moose Lake base camp; tow to Prairie Portage; check in at Ranger station - no one else around; shove of a little after 10:00 am through Sucker and Birch towards Carp. Sunny, humid, very warm, clear skies, light wind.

Lots of Bdubbers along border through Carp portage - 8 to 10 parties. As soon as we head into Quetico towards Sheridan, we’re alone. Lunch stop half way through Carp, and onto Sheridan. Easy portages. Along Sheridan to That Man portage we meet BWCA.COM list member Frankie Paul and partner who suggest we back portage each other’s second load, and chatted for a while. I have for several yeas been in stern and my son in bow. Jim and I switch and it works. I like the freedom of just playing engine and being able to look around and not worry about steering. Jim seems to enjoy the stern man’s functions. I don’t think we ever switched back. 

Anyway, we’re pushing to get to This Man. We are able to paddle through portage to No Man with one lift over.

Meet a group of 6 or so women heading out going into This Man. Finally on This Man and look for a camp site, finding the island site, pcd 1RV, about a third of the way up the lake, around 5:00 pm. Not counting Prairie Portage, we traverse 4 portages (plus lift over) and make about 14 miles. Tired and hot - do tuna salad wraps for dinner.

July 17 - Tang, bacon and eggs, and coffee; clean-up; off after 8:00. Bright, very humid, very hot. Up through Other Man and Bit and lunch on a bluff on Bell. Pass a group from Northern Tier heading out. Head into Fran and then paddle through the portage to Slate with an easy pull over of two beaver dams. Short portage to Saganons; see a few camps with folks fishing. Only site we head to that is occupied whole week but another one on island closest to Dead Man’s Portage, I think it’s 1ZJ. 5 portages plus the pull overs and around 12 miles. A pasta alfredo side with foil chicken and freeze dried peas - very tasty and filling. Looks clear so we don’t prepare for rain - and it does rain in night. I lay fly over gear at 2:00 am, chewed to death by mosquitoes in the 2 or 3 minutes this takes, and we are good but a little slowed in morning.

July 18 - Tang, bacon and eggs, and coffee; clean-up; we’re off. Discover we can’t get to portage from west end of lagoon behind island so paddle around and portage. Pass a group coming into portage, and then get off track, heading too far east. Only time I pull out GPS and double check our location. Jim is an architect and has already figured out which way we should head. Head into Falls Chain. At second of three portages we meet Mountains2Montreal group with their 220 pound voyager canoe - Little Beluga. I think 8 in party. They started in Rockies in April and plan to end in Montreal in September. They need oil for cooking and cold beer. We’re no help. Hopefully they will get re-supplied at Cache Bay Ranger station. Very gregarious group - I’m envious of their time and enthusiasm and energy. 

We finally get going but decide to stop early at Bald Rock Falls camp site, 1XD.

Just 4 portages and 9 miles. Decide on Bear Creek minestrone and Cache Lake Fry Pan bread for dinner. Won’t risk rain tonight so set up dining fly - for last time this trip. I think we made a Cache Lake Lemon Pie for dessert. Great campsite. Unfortunately some previous group had used an obvious and great tent pad in the woods as a crap field.

July 19 - A little low fog but burns off quick. Beautiful sunrise and the mist and song of the falls is a wonderful way to start the day, and not as hot.  

We decide to try the Grape Nuts, walnuts, dried fruit, and Nido and are very surprised how good the Nido is. Get going by 8:00, off to a short portage to Wet, paddle through portage from Wet to McEwen. Wet and McEwen show effects of the big 1995 fire. Long, slow McEwen River paddle but high water so no problems. Pop into Glacier Lake in late afternoon and debate whether to try to get to Farquier, where we think next campsites are. Decide to stay on Glacier. Skip first site by portage and head to island where both Fischer and McKenzie show a campsite. I was so in disbelief that I tramped around entire island and never found a hint of a campfire ring or a place that could be a site. Fortunately just opposite on east shore is a slightly camouflaged site, 1RN. 11 miles and only 3 portages with the high water. Poor landing though which we eventually found out there is one twenty yards north and left from there in morning. Sunk wine in a net bag to cool, fixed the dehydrated meals provided by Ripple. I messed up and instead of two one-person ziti’s had packed a ziti and a jambalaya - so it was a two course meal! Fine site and weather, skipped tarp, and slept.

July 20 -  Good morning, some eggs and bacon I recall, and off on the heaviest portage day. Turn - Edge - Rod - and lunch on Dumas. Onto Fauquier.  

Did not find a site so glad we stopped. Into Star and Arp and then a long, un-maintained, portage down to Louisa. Lot’s of blow-downs. We hit Louisa and there is a strong wind coming up the lake. Consider staying at the sandy beach campsite next to portage - looks real inviting in late afternoon in face of wind - but decide we are a little behind and do have a plane to get to on Sunday so push on. Did not get far in a couple of hours, a couple of sites were not found, and finally settled on a site on north shore, I think 1KT or maybe 1JR or a site not in PCD. If you found a 100 ft of nylon rope, three pulleys, and a purple or green biner here, that was my bear bag gear drying out. 11 miles but 10 portages - ugh! I can’t remember what we ate - must have been too tired to care.

July 21 - Wake up to calm and sunny weather again. I think we cooked last of our eggs and bacon, and headed for Louisa Falls. Hit the Devil’s bathtub about 10:00 am and spent an hour or so splashing and sitting under the falls after getting all the gear down to Agnes.  

As we’re fixing to leave we see the first people we have seen since the Moyuntain2Montreal folk - just about three whole days. We go hunting for the pictographs on island mid way up Agnes and never identify them. We learn later we had looked at them, just no longer visible. Decide to head towards Sunday or Burke for last night to be sure we can get out Friday. Hit the two long and often trod portages Agnes to Meadows and Meadows to Sunday. Sunday was very windy and perhaps I was gun shy since I had dumped - only time - several years earlier in high wind on Sunday. Anyway, pull up at the island campsite not far from portage to Meadows where several years before we came upon a fresh deer kill - wolves I presume - and there are still rib bones, site 1AX on the PCD. Only 9 miles and 4 portages. It’s pizza night!

Put this off until we had a little time. JMO worked perfect. Finished wine. Stuck with ginger snaps and chocolate for dessert but fixed coffee tonight. Still windy so good sleeping. We stay up for stars for once.

July 22 - Cold cereal, pack quickly for the last time, and off on calm water. We quickly hit the ever enjoyable Singing Brook portage into Burke and come around to landing to the Yellow Brick Road into Bayley Bay. There’s a party with what four canoes - I think the experienced grandpa who has drug a couple of sons and a passel of grand sons on a trip - and it kind of looked like it wasn’t all their idea. We learn that they had entered three days earlier at PP but had been wind bound on Inlet or just into Bayley at end of Basswood. We knew there had been wind but didn’t realize how bad everywhere. Hit the Yellow Brick Road and was surprised to see beavers had created a pond in the meadow to west of portage. They had even built a nice little dam right along edge of portage - like the very edge - and portage was definitely below the pond’s water level. Even what is familiar changes.  

Get to end and lo and behold, there were probably 4 or 5 groups, either on the beach or approaching fast. At least two Scout groups and others. One of then reported five foot swells which I seriously doubted but I’m sure it had been very choppy. Three days worth apparently and I’m sure the nine and four rules were overstepped. We simply hustled and got out of every one’s way as fast as possible - not that any of them was waiting. Actually, one Scout group was sitting off shore to ease the congestion. Across a relatively calm Bayley and Inlet Bay, and into the Ranger’s station for some shopping and to tell them we were leaving. We took a look at Moose and decided to call for a tow which Ranger Cathy did graciously. Of course it’s a radio call to Atikokan headquarters who phone Canoe Country in Ely who call Canoe Country on Moose and then it all goes back through the chain and we get a confirmation. We buy some books and items, using my Friends of Quetico discount, and await the tow. It’s only 7 miles and 2 portages today, for That’s a total of 73.4 miles and 33 portages (not including tows). After hitting the Moose Lake CCO base, we pack and head to CCO motel in Ely. We get cell service and learn that no Spot message had been received for two days - subsequently found to be my operator error. US Immigration. Shower. Collect all laundry and head to laundromat.  I grab some cold milk and sweets from Plum Bun and Jim grabs a wrap from Front Porch Café while the cloths wash and dry. Stow clean cloths and hit the stores of Ely. It is a great village. Head to Ely Steakhouse for brew and prime rib that evening, followed by a walk Red Cabin Custard, what use to be Sharry’s, for a quick dessert, and then settle down at the motel.

July 23 - Up reasonably early, breakfast at Brittons, and on the road home with the obligatory stop at Rice Lake for lunch at Norske Nook and pie.