Just like any big trip, the planning began almost a year before the trip itself. I am an avid backpacker, and my usual summer vacation is a week of hiking with my pit bull Delphi. I was looking for a change of pace, and I recalled taking a trip to the BW with my Dad when I was a kid. My friend Ron had been on a couple hiking trips with me, and he also had been up to the BW in years past. When I asked him about taking a trip, he didn't need any convincing. Ron said his friend Dan was also willing to go and he had knowledge of a great part of the BW. So now I need one more person. I immedietly thought of my brother in law Geoffrey. He grew up in Seattle, and has been to the summit of several 14'ers. After asking him about it, he was in. Now that I had my crew, it was time for the actual planning. I contacted an outfitter near Grand Marais to help secure our permits in December. The lottery was in January. Now it was time to wait and hope we got the day we were hoping for. Once I got the email confirming our desired date and entry point, I let the others know and we proceeded to start looking at what gear we had or needed. Luckily, both Ron and Dan each owned a canoe, and we all had our own camping gear, so we didn't need to rent a single thing. Next up, food. On hiking trips, I usually rely on dehydrated meals, as they save weight. On this trip, I figured we could bring REAL food. Dan had an ingenius method of insulating a cooler and keeping food frozen for days. After I calculated costs for fuel, permits, and food, I think each of us had to contribute about $120 for a 5 day vacation. Not bad. Now it was time to simply wait for the big day...
Saturday, August 13, 2011. We actually started out on Friday night. The four of us(Ron, Dan, Geoffrey, and myself), assembled at Ron's house to make any last minute gear checks and load up. Dan was an hour late. Good start. Around 9:00pm we got the canoes loaded on top and all of the gear packed inside(Geoffrey and I are minimalist campers and we were a little concerned about the amount of extra stuff that was being brought), it was time to get Delphi in the van and venture through night from Chicago to Grand Marais on what we thought was going to be a 12 hour drive. Dan and Ron were going to take the first two shifts driving, allowing Geoffrey and I some time to sleep. Sleeping in car is difficult to begin with, but with the amount of gear crammed in the van, i don't think either of us got more than an hour of sleep that night. Since Dan had been up to our entry point a few years back, he was familiar with the route, and a few locations he felt were very important to stop by en route. the first was a gas station near Minong(Dan spoke about Minong so much that Geoffrey and I nicknamed him "Minong") that made the best beef jerky ever. Minong insisted on this. We finally got there around 2 in the morning. It was a normal gas station with mediocre jerky. Starting to question Minong's ability as our trip leader. At the gas station, it was time for Geoffrey and I's turn to drive. At that point, we couldn't help but notice that just about every single service light on the dashboard was starting to light up. The van seemed to be driving just fine, so we figured it to be just an electrical error. Around 5:00am, we stopped at a Perkins just outside of Duluth. $40 for food, but we were all in need of a break from the road. Minong was rather concerned about the van, but we all voted on pushing onward as there was nothing we could do about it. Back in the car, i was able to take a nap. I wake up to the sound of the tires rolling over the rumble strips on the highway. The van had died. Minong called a tow truck who said he could only fit two people and the dog in his truck. Geoffrey and I start walking.
About a mile into the walk, Geoffrey and I get picked up by a very nice elderly couple on their way to their B&B. They drop us off at the nearest town about 5 miles from the van. Once we get out and thank our good samaritins, i get a call from Minong saying the van is getting towed to a ford dealership about two miles back. Time to start walking, again. We get to the dealership just before 8:00. They tell us they can fix the van and all of us including the dog can go to the waiting room. finally get to sleep. About two hours later, the tech told us he replaced the alternater and we could leave. phew... The next step was picking up our permits and then the "Beaver House". Minong had been raving about this place as the best tackle shop ever. Once we arrive in Grand Marais, we park near the beaver house and head in to get bait and fishing licenses.
The big seller was this home made fishing jig this place is known for. We each pick up several of them as well as a ton of leeches and worms. We get our licenses and we are up the Gunflint Trail to East bearskin Lake!!! We finally arrive at the entry point. We were all very relieved at this point. Time to get in the water!!!
Minong and Geoffrey were in one canoe, as Juice and I took control of the boat with the dog in it. We had taken her on a test ride about a month earlier, so we knew that she was going to be a little skittish. East Bearskin is about 3 miles long, and we make it to the portage to Alder in about 3 hours. Now Geoffrey and I are a little frustrated about the amount of gear the other two brought. This portage required way too much time going back and forth transporting stuff and reloading it. Once back in the water, we head to our desired camp site, "The Point". Once we get there, we see it is taken, along with every other camp site. It's now about 4:00pm and we are all tired and a little tense(if you didn't pick up on this already!) We finally find a lousy campsite, which is the furthest one from the portage back to Bearskin. We decide to take it, and look for a better one tomorrow. Now it's time for a cocktail!!!
After an amazing steak dinner, we clean up and get ready to go to bed. Hopefully the trip starts to get a little better tomorrow... East Bearskin Lake, Alder Lake