Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Awesome Daytrip

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 11/07/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Fall Lake (EP 24)
Number of Days: 1
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
I had no idea I could do this. As the day unfolded, it became better than I could have planned.
While packing out of Wood Lake on 20 August this year and during the long drive home the next day, I couldn't help but wonder if that may have been my last trip to the BWCA. But I wasn't ready to quit. Dory, my way better half, went with us last year to Little Gabbro & Gabbro but not this year. I really enjoyed the guys on our trip but her absence this year left a void...  And then you all want to do a Wingnight the end of Sept. Maybe she and I could spend the last week of Sept. at Packsack on Fall Lake and then head down for Wingnight? I could even drag my canoe ( a non BWCA Sears fiberglass 16' barge, weighing over 80 lbs) up there and show her some real canoe country for the first time in the 29 + years I've owned her. That would be a fitting reward for Ephie Met ( short for ephemeral metamorphosis, a short lived or fleeting change) for the nomerous memories she has provided for me. Why not go? And the cat scan results after the first week back from my trip; they showed great improvement. Seize the opportunity; GO FOR IT. So we planned a 6 night stay at Packsack during the last week of Sept. and then the trip to Wingnight for the finale at the end of the month. Jumping ahead, to shorten the setup, and get to the daytrip, Dory and Ephie Met and I paddled around on Fall Lake on Monday (the 25th) for 5 1/2-6 hours and had a great time except we couldn't find any fish that wanted to play. The guys staying at one of the cabins at Packsack were having a hard go at it even with the motorboats. Talked to Gene, the owner at Packsack (with his wife Jane) and he suggested make a daytrip into Mud Lake. He said it was a short portage up the four mile portage to the creek that goes into Mud Lake. Mud was a fun pike lake, sure to catch fish. WOW. My mind is going now. Never considered this; CAN I DO THIS? You only live once; GO FOR IT! And there is the setup for my only day use permit and best daytrip ever. Wednesday morning. Up about 5:30 ish. Start a pot of coffee in the kitchen in the bunkhouse (sometimes electric is a nice thing). Go outside and have a smoke and watch the day begin to unfold as the East slowly lightens. Beautiful! Back to the kitchen and fill up Bubba (56 oz coffee mug for me) and start a second pot. Outside again, this time with coffee and another cigarette and watch the day progress. My mind revels as the day proceeds but it also races ahead to the upcomming planned events; can I even drag my beloved Ephie Met into a BWCA lake successfully? Gotta at least try. Back inside. It's still too soon to wake Dory so I let her sleep a little more. To the shower room. Real toilets are sometimes (not always) a good thing and I take care of that business. After that I reckon it's time to think about waking her so I load up her mug with a hot cup of coffee, haul myself upstairs and get dressed for the day that has already begun and then gently wake her. "Time to get up. Take your time. Ain't no hurry. We got all day, Baby." Then I'm back outside waiting for her and embracing the now light day that unknowing to me will turn out to be one of the greatest He has provided me. Here she comes, ready to start the adventure. We're off to Ely to Brittons for breakfast. I'd known about it, but never been there. We're going to see what it's about. Dory ordered the biscuits and gravy (she's country, enough said) with eggs, sausage, and homefries. I could imagine what was coming as I ordered the stuffed hash browns with eggs and rye toast. When the waitress brought the order, I mildly smiled in amusement as Dory's eyes got so big as she looked at all that food on the platter. "You ordered it Baby. Have at it!" I said to her. She made a quite respectable effort to empty the platter, but couldn't get it all done. Nonetheless, I cleaned my platter and a good start to the day. ( Have to begin here with the guys on the start to our trip next year) Next stop is the Kawishawi ranger station between Ely and Winton . Dory had never been in there before and I wanted her to see the facility, and I wanted to deliver my day use permit copy in person to them just to be completely legal on this adventure. And we both used the restrooms there to utilize our taxpayer dollars to the fullest. Back to Packsack. Get all the gear together and staged (we thought) and get Ephie Met up from the lake shore and out to the road. Load up the Suburban with Gene's help and off we go. Not a quarter mile down the road and I and question "Dory. Did you get the tackle bag?" No was the answer so Gene turned around to retrieve it. As we pulled up to the bunkhouse there on one of the picnic tables out front was the daybag with the raingear! Not a good start. I'm going to have to make sure about everything because Dory is too new at this. No biggie. Find the wayward tackle bag and grab the raingear and off we go again. Arrive at the Fall Lake campground boat launch (EP 24). Start unloading the gear and the the canoe and unfortunately Gene was a little bit quicker than I and when we rotated Ephie Met to keel down her bow smacked my hat knocking my glasses to the asphalt where the one lens popped out. Not a good start.  Get the canoe down to the water , unloading all the gear and retrieving my disabled glasses in the process (thank God the screw is still there) Gene wishes us a good trip and departs . As I am trying to process all this and trying to all this for the epic (to me; never done this before) adventure ahead, a nice lady wanders upon the boat launch and strikes up a conversation. I engaged and hopefully not too rudely as my mind was concentrating on the journey ahead, now with broken glasses, And then everything relaxed as she noticed the decal proudly displayed on Ephie Met's bow and she said, "Hi, I'm Serenity Seeker."  Caught totally offguard, I recognize that name from the website. How cool. "Hi. I'm CORIOLIS. Just finally joined the site a couple months ago."  Had a nice conversation with Carrie. She was staying in the campground, we were going into the BWCA into Mud Lake ,  she's at campsite XX, stop by on your way out, thanks might do that if we have the time, going to Wingnight? Yes. See you there this weekend, we are too. As we parted and went about our own business, I felt a tranquility overcome me... I gotta be doing this right. That was so cool, meeting my first member in person when I'm about to engage on this first day permit adventure with Dory and Ephie Met. Carrie will always have a little special place in my heart for that encounter. Back to business. All the gear gets squared away. Glasses get taped together with electrical tape. (the screw is I hope safely stowed in my jacket left breast pocket). Hope I can make the trip without losing it. Rods are rigged with the appropriate lures.Gear is stowed aboard. Dory climbs in the bow and I climb in the stern and shove off and off we go. We paddle leisurely to the end of Fall Lake. Pass the guys staying in the cabin back at the outfitter in their motorboats fishing this end of the lake. Gave them a wide berth and didn't engage in a conversation as we went by.  Passed the piles from the old railway leading to the four mile portage. Mildly surprised when we cast our lures around and in between the structure that no fish wanted to play!  Oh well, no harm no foul, we're just starting. Eased Ephie Met's bow onto the sand on the southern end of the four mile portage and Dory hopped out and I climbed through her , got out and lifted her onto the sand. Took a break.Thinking about the next step. Got the gear out of the canoe and set it up for Dory to portage. Not a lot of weight.... just a little obnoxious to carry. Three small bags; tackle bag, raingear, and the snacks/water for the day and the paddles and fishing rods and net. Too late to worry about now. bundled the paddles and rods in a package and helped her get saddled up. Then went about the business of getting Ephie Met onto the portage. Picked her stern up as gently as possible and started walking under her to the thwart. Damn she's heavy... ain't like them kevlars. Ducked under the thwart and got it on my shoulders. The moment of truth. Slowly lifted her bow to see how she would balance. With modest effort, due to her weight (and my age) I got her to horizontal and was quite surprised to discover she was more than happy to stay horizontal not dipping fore or aft and almost calling out for the portage to begin. I figured out that I could lock my extended arms into the rear of the front bench seat and have control during a portage. The only thing I needed now was the front seat cushion between my shoulder blades and the thwart. Dory hooked me up, and I told her " I'm ready.I'm going. I'll see you when you get there." and I began the portage. I didn't count steps, I didn't time myself, I just went. The first part of the portage is the worst and it's easy. Up to the left then up to the right and the rest is basically level at least to the creek into Mud Lake. It has to be; they haul motorboats on wheels to Basswood Lake this way. We made it to the creek into Mud Lake and laid Ephie Met into the tall grass and went back to find Dory. She wasn't too far behind and I grabbed two of her parcels and we walked to the canoe together and took a break. Wow! I actually did it; a BWCA portage with MY canoe.  As I was finishing my smoke I determined that the best place to put into the creek was actually where I had put her down. So we slid her in the water, loaded in the gear, and Dory hopped in and I followed. The creek was very shallow and obstacle strewn and after several get stucks, back ups, and try a different path, we finally got into a little deeper water and could make our way. As we did this, I heard a commotion behind us and scooted around in the stern of the canoe to see a gentleman with a couple of dogs on the portage from wich we had just departed some 50 yards or so back. Too far to see the dogs well ( I bet they were gorgeous!) or to engage in conversation with the man, I just turned back and continued to paddle up the shallow creek. About halfway in it bent to the left and one could see the beaver dam that Gene had mentioned and Mud Lake at the end of the creek. As we approached the dam I weighed the options; didn't want to drag over and abuse Ephie Met on her maiden voyage to the BWCA and the left side seemed to be the lesser of the evils to go around the dam. Nosed her into the shore there, Dory got out and I climbed thru and got out and dragged her up into the tall grass. Putting back in on the other side didn't look all that inviting. Settled for a spot where we could float the bow with most of the canoe still supported in the tall grass so Dory could get in without wetfooting and I could gently glide Ephie Met into the water while avoiding a couple of submerged branch stubs that could scrape or damage the hull. So we slid her bow in the creek and Dory got in as I positioned myself on the port stern in the tall grass to slide them into the water. As I began that process, paying way more attention to my own footing so I didn't stumble and dump her, I was alarmed to hear Dory yell "John, JOhn, JOHN!" . As I looked up I was shocked to see the canoe listing about 20 degrees to port, Dory leaning right and hanging on to both gunwales, and I instantaniously thought "Oh. That's not good." as I quickly swivled the canoe starboard and righted the craft. "I'm sorry Baby. I'm trying to keep from tripping back here and dunking you than thinking about what I'm doing to you up there." Clamity avoided, I got the craft in the water and my butt aboard and we made our way around numerous obstacles to the mouth of the creek . I think Dory's pulse was perhaps back to normal by then. At the entrance to the lake was a log blocking about the left 3/4 of the creek on the left with junk off the right shore as well. We had to do a left hand u turn thru the slit to get into the lake, but we had finally made it! Started working up the southeast shoreline where the tree shadows were still in the water as Dory picked up her paddle to help. "What are you doing? Put that paddle away and pick up that rod. You're here to catch fish and maybe paddle a little. Get casting!" Not far into the lake was a sparse patch of lily pads coming out from the shore. She worked it with no takers. Gotta be something in there I thought. I couldn't wait any more and picked up my rod and on the third cast the lake erupted violently on my shallow runner. Finally and gently worked the fish away from the lilly pads and to the canoe. The fish wasn't even done however, making 5 or 6 more runs against my lightly set drag before settling down. Dory asked if I wanted the net as she slip it back to me in the bottom of the canoe. Maybe I better; no reason to have something go south on the first fish of the day. So I scooped the pike out of the water and into the canoe, quickly removing the lure and getting a measure on my paddle laying across the gunwales of the canoe. 24", a two footer. Nice. Held it up for Dory to see and not take a picture with the camera we already knew she had forgotten to bring. This is what we're here for I told her as I gently returned the the fish to the water, and it happily swam back to the pads none the worse for wear save probably a sore lip. As we shortly thereafter approached the point to go right into the southern part of the lake, Dory got a hit. After a little bit of fun, she had me land her nice 21" pike. Hooray. She finally caught a real fish in the boundary waters! We floated along the south shore of the lake for the next couple hours. We managed to scare up a couple decent pike each, and a small perch apiece. At the northeast end of the lake as the time was approaching 3:00 p.m. and I figured it was about time to begin the trek back to Packsack's dock. But I didn't want it to end; an almost perfect day He had bestowed upon us thus far. Light wind, bright sun, and the right temperature. As I gazed around the entire lake I could see not another soul. I believe Dory and I were the only two on Mud Lake that day. It was as if, through Gene's suggestion, He had provided Dory and I our own private playground in His creation for this day. I reflected for a moment, thanked Him for this wonderful blessing, and got back to the business of completing this blessed day. Told Dory to make that her final cast, we had to start heading back. She obliged and we paddled across the lake to the creek entrance. I couldn't resist tossing the lure around again in the lilly pads where I caught the first one on the way in. Sure enough, another pike wanted to play. After aquick land, unhook, and release as the pike swam away I imagined it saying back to me, "Thank youall for stoppin' by. Come back again real soon,ya hear?" But it was a NORTHERN Pike of course and they don't talk like that. We made the trip up the creek around the dam and back to the portage without incident. Got the gear bundled up for Dory to carry and I wised up and taped the front seat cushion around the thwart so I wouldn't have to worry about it falling off. Flipped her over, raised her stern, walked under, raised her up, and off we went, Ephie Met and I, Dory already gone and down the trail. After a short while I soon discovered that with the cushion secured to the thwart, I could rotate slightly and support the weight on one shoulder and lock the opposite arm into the back of the seat while still balancing quite nicely. Thus I could switch off every couple minutes to a rested shoulder and arm. This was working really well and I began bouncing along at a merry pace. A little too fast... On one bounce the thwart slipped off my lone shoulder and I had to lay her down. It seemed to me like the Lord was sending me a message; ok. I shouldn't be so full of myself. I'll slow down. Got the canoe back up and proceeded at a slightly merry pace this time. Arrived at Fall Lake, Dory was there resting and having a smoke. I had timed myself this time. Fifteen minutes including the laydown/restart. I figure about 160 rods, half a mile plus or minus. Got Ephie Met into the water, got the gear unbundled and into her, and climbed aboard for the five mile paddle through Fall back to Packsack. It was now 3:30 p.m. We made a leisurely pace down Mile Island and past the Fall Lake campground boat launch where we had begun our journey only a handful of hours before. Dory was wanting to paddle and I told her she really didn't have to; just relax and enjoy. But I also realized her need to pitch in a little so as to not feel completely useless in the bow and I would adjust my strokes accordingly when she helped. The paddle was uneventful except a couple motorboat wakes that were largely diminished by the time they reached our trak.  And the last half hour or so the sinking sun was glaring too brightly off the tranquil lake and I had to tack to see where we were going. Around the last point and there's the docks. Pulled around to the last one leaving the front ones open for the guys in the motorboats to use since they should be arriving soon. Tied Ephie Met to the dock and got half the gear out with myself and made the trip up the hill to the bunkhouse. I'd done it , we'd done it , we'd shared it! Dory was in the showerroom. I don't know how she didn't have to go all day!  I grabbed two beers and went back out on the porch awaiting her return and I enjoyed that first chug after the achievement of the day. Dory appeared and we made short work of the first cans. Just into the second beer Gene wandered by with a big smile and a "How'd it go?" probablly fully knowing what he was going to hear. We highlighted the story of our great adventure and thanked him for the great suggestion he had given. He then told us that about 30-40 forest service fire fighters would be staying that night in the bunkhouse and they would be arriving soon. I told Dory I guess we better get the rest of the gear out of the canoe and get Ephie Met secured ashore for the night. Took care of that business as the fire fighters were already arriving. Nuked our leftover chili from the night before; glad we didn't have to cook anything that late. It was already getting pretty dark. We were not quite halfway through the meal when we noticed a lot of the fire fighters heading down to the dock. Then we heard one say the Northern Lights are out. Dory and I looked at each other, placed our forks on the plates, grabbed our beers and cigarettes and headed down to the dock. How perfect, Lord I thought . Thank You for another blessing ; the perfect finale to the perfect day. It wasn't a spectacular display, no multicolors, but it was the Northern Lights. Dory had never seen them before; now she has. We watched for a half hour maybe 45 minutes and went back to renuke our chili and finish the meal. Cleanup was a snap. Wash two forks, we'd used paper plates for the microwave. Another beer or two, I don't remember and it was time to hit the rack. I prayed a little bit longer that night, thanking Him for the almost overwhelming blessings He had provided Doris and I this day. It don't get much better than this. And if you ever mention Daytrip to me, this is where my mind will immediately be.