Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

26 Days in WCPP
by nctry

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/01/2012
Entry Point: Other
Exit Point: Other  
Number of Days: 26
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Woodland Caribou is a great park with many possibilities for trips. I hope you don't get to bored with the length or writing style...
May 31st 2:45 I woke up and forced myself to sleep til around 3:30AM. I got up and finished loading up and got to Jerry’s in Cook around 5:45AM. Jerry was working on getting Vern up, but Vern had drove 9hrs the day before from Iowa to get to Jerry’s. We finished loading and hit Mc Donalds and was on the road by 6:30AM from Cook MN. At the border Vern learned his passport was expired, and with a little talking to was eventually let into Canada. In Dryden we had donuts and coffee at Tim Hortons. On the stretch up to Red Lake we saw a moose and a large black bear. And later while running between Balmertown and Red Lake I saw a nice moose again. Had a good visit with Doug and Clair at the park office where we got our permits. Then headed over to Harlan’s new venture, his hardware store. He was working on a new gun display at the time, but dropped everything for a good handshake. I bought a nice reel from him and some fishing lures he thought would fill our stringers. Then after securing our hotel room in Balmertown we headed back and took Harlan out for dinner an Antonio’s. We got to bed around 10PM with Bernice secured in the truck for the night.

Day 1… June 1st I was the first to arise and take that last shower. We ate breakfast at the Howey Bay Motel and got to Harlan’s store front ahead of him at 7:30AM. We were finally loaded in his truck for the shuttle just before 9AM when a couple of guys from Minnesota came in looking for maps and info, so it was almost 9:15AM when we left. It took just under an hour for us to arrive at the Onnie Entry parking lot and by 10:30AM we were well on our way portaging down to our first lake. On one of the first portages Jerry and Vern tried to skip a portage and ended up with a hole in their canoe. It was after 12:30PM before we actually made it to Onnie Lake where we had lunch Vern and Jerry got a little turned around on Onnie and I just waited for them to come back in the right direction and continue on toward Telescope Lake. The next portages went fine and I had Bernice get out as I finagled through a “float through” section. Before Bernice got back into the boat a fish excited her and she chased it in the shallow water a bit. Around 5:15PM or so we were on Telescope Lake and headed for an island campsite. We set up our shacks and Jerry (who was in charge of most of the food the first two weeks) made some Lipton Sides with Spam for dinner with vanilla pudding. By 9PM I was listening to Vern snoring away in his shack. ?

Day2… Up at 5AM and Jerry had the coffee going quickly. He then made a huge pot of Oatmeal with Applesauce. Very good! By 8:30AM we were on the water… A boat had passed us while eating and you could hear one guy telling the other how we had to carry everything with us and how hard that must be. We did the three portages into Optic and already seen some nice falls. I fished the base of the falls while Jerry and Vern headed out into the lake to fish. I caught a bunch of small northerns which I released. Jerry on the other hand kept one he’d caught and we had a shore lunch. Then we moved on to Glenn Lake where we settled on a spot to camp Jerry and I stayed at last year. We enjoyed a pot of spaghetti and some chocolate pudding, then we each caught a Walleye for breakfast the next day and we were off to bed after a nice sunny day. We did have a few sprinkles, but didn’t amount to much. Day 3… Got up again at the crack of dawn, but it was a low keyed morning with no rush about it. I made a package of “Ova Easy” eggs which Jerry tossed in some bacon and green peppers. And we ate our three Walleye with some hash browns we whipped up. It was after 9:30AM before we started across Glenn Lake. The first portage was a short hop around some rapids… I had to make sure Jerry and Vern didn’t run them as we only had so much duct tape for canoe repairs. The second portage was a long 70 rod which Jerry and I made longer by taking a wrong turn. Then we shot the chute into Hansen Lake and the fishing poles and rain jackets came out. Looking for a place to have lunch we ended up at a pictograph on a lower arm of Hansen and because I was whining we stopped and ate lunch around 3PM. We looked on for a campsite in the light rain working our way up Hansen. We were heading for a site I had marked on my GPS but stumbled upon another we found on the way across the bay from that site. It was Red Beans and Rice tonight with canned ham and dehydrated cole slaw topped off with a brownie. Cleaned up a bit and by 8:30PM Vern was snoring already. We saw three boats heading for the outpost on Hansen earlier and had gone as far as we did to get away from their noisy generator. I made a note that the MSR Gravity Filter was working out pretty well.

Day 4… Lay over / Fishing day. Pancakes for breakfast! The wind was a factor so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the canoe this day. Kind of hard with Bernice in the front with no load to trim the boat in the back. We did ok on the fishing and had Walleye and beans for supper.

Day 5… Another 5AM rising and another huge pot of Oatmeal with some kind of Apples in it. On the water by 7:40AM and on to the pictographs on the north end of Hansen. Then the portage into Roustol Lake and I fished below the rapids where I’d had good luck last year… More northerns! We met a family in a float plane on their way to fish below the falls. They were from Cloquet, MN. I was straggling behind fishing up Roustol Lake or I’d have seen the Woodland Caribou Jerry and Vern saw. But a motor boat happened by and scared it away. We continued on to the 650 meter portage which took a little time to find. Once on it it was a very tough portage and it was hot. Once on the no named lake we paddled across and looked at the 550 meter portage to Gammon Lake but decided to stay on this little lake for the night. Got our shacks up early and Vern said he had 90 degrees on his thermometer… I believed it! I made my Beef Stroganoff with venison hamburger tonight and we had a pleasant evening.

Day 6… I got up at five with Jerry for coffee, but we took her slow today and had hash browns and eggs which took time. On the water at 8:30 AM and it was warming up fast. The 550 rod portage into Gammon was ok, but it was getting warm fast. Once on Gammon we had an east wind pushing us toward Royd Lake. The portage to royd Lake is one of my favorites. The winds were up on Royd a bit and was tougher for me to hold my coarse as it wanted to whip me around. We took an okay campsite on the northern end of Royd and set up our shacks for the night. Jerry caught a 10# plus northern from the campsite that night. Bernice took to rolling logs down the rocky slope into the water and then got it out and repeated many times. It was carrot salad and fish tonight and in the shacks by 9:30PM

Day7… Woke up early and had biscuits and gravy and on the water by 7:45AM The portage out of the north end of Royd crosses a stream and Jerry and Vern had to try and maneuver the stream instead of taking the rest of the portage. I chose to remain on the portage and slipped in the stream and got pretty banged up and tore my Piragis Pants a little bit. I had both a pack and a canoe on at the time. We then continued on to the portages to Irvine Lake. While coming up to the 375 meter portage I thought I heard a Caribou bugling and there was fresh sign all over the portage. We had to do some portage clearing at the far end to get everything through. I should mention that Bernice had two packs of her own to carry and did a great job throughout the trip. We ate lunch at the beginning of the portage out of what Marten Kehoe refers to as Salamander Lake. Then it was the portage from hell… That was the biggest blow down area I’d ever had to maneuver through. It took us three hours and by the end my pants were torn across the knee where they had a little tear before thanks to my fall. Bernie took a beating too and on the next portage was throwing up, so we found a place to camp and called her a day. It was Mac n cheese and chocolate pudding. The Gravity Filter was working great… My Trekkers were failing miserably. Even Jerry was cramping up in the heat and boy did a dip in the lake feel good. We were already talking about skipping our plans to hit Wanda Lake which would have made things a little tight time wise. I thought of my dad tonight and got a little choked up. I miss my dad!

Day 8… Barely half way into the first half of the trip and we’re running low on stove fuel. I had plenty coming in in a week for the second half, but I wasn’t happy about how we were just burning up so much fuel. So what do we have? Pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Got on the water by 8:30AM and the blowdown I’d seen on the next portage wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. The next two portages went well also and we were on Irvine Lake by 11AM and paddled to what Marten calls a summer camp on the GPS. We got set up just before it started raining, and after a quick lunch took naps during the rain. Then we fished! I got a couple walleye from shore and Jerry and Vern got their fish out in the canoe, so it was fish for supper. Vern took me out in Jerry’s canoe and I caught what looked to be about a fifteen pound Jack… I let her go.

Day 9… Fishing layover day. I washed clothes some today and Jerry helped me sew my pants and boots with dental floss… worked great. Smeared both with sportsman goop and was good to go. We all fished in the evening and had a nice fish meal for supper with Rice and beans. It stormed pretty hard for a good part of the night. Got up around 4AM and things looked ok.

Day 10… Second layover day on Irvine… It was Walleye and potato cakes for breakfast. And just when we were going to fish some more a big storm hit. I put up my rain fly up over the fire pit just in time. Jerry had his up as a cooking and eating area. They napped while I waited out the storm. I casted from shore and a little northern hit and wrapped around a log… bummer. I heard something crash behind our camp and investigated… Moose? Tree? … I don’t know. We ate a little shore lunch and the rains returned. Later Jerry spotted two guys in a canoe paddling to a site across from us in a driving rain. Jerry went out in it himself and caught us supper… He’s crazy! After dinner I paddled over to see our neighbors only to find out he is Howard Holtman (might have his last name wrong) that is mentioned by Marten in We talked about the portage out of Salamander and he mentioned they flagged a better route. He warned me about the portages going out of the north end of Irvine, but I figured they couldn’t be as bad as the ones we’d come through.

Day 11… I noted a very wet morning. We had pancakes and coffee. It didn’t rain to bad until we left all loaded up. Our neighbors were still in the sack. By the time we were on the north end of the lake we were in an all out downpour. Bernice sat so well throughout the rains… I was proud of her. Saw some otters, they didn’t seem to mind the rain. ? We dumped gallons of water from our canoes on the first portage. And Vern lost both his Trekkers in some boot sucking mud on the portage and had to dig them out. We had to wade in thigh deep water to get reloaded on the other side. This was clearly not the “slot” portage Marten spoke about, but what the park had cut for us. We continued on to the second portage which was supposed to be so bad… It was pretty well burned, but not near the blow down as expected. The fire crews of last year had left a hose on the portage. We had to pick our way through a little, but wasn’t too bad. The waters in the burn are was full of silt from all the runoff. The river or normally a stream into “Boot” Lake was like flood stage and Jerry and Vern decided to skip the portage in there and had another adventure. ? I took the portage and while crossing a stream stepped into a hole up to my waist with one leg. I was heavily loaded so it took some maneuvering to get out of the predicament . Then later we had to cross the “river” which was almost waist deep itself. Bernice did well in these crossings. I took her packs off and helped her across. Vern and Jerry made it to a spot in the portage and we all finished it together. We then had lunch and continued on… We were in driving rain on Boot Lake and there was supposed to be a pictograph, and we thought we saw a duck person image, but didn’t take time to look too hard. We were wet and getting cold. We paddled on to Split Rock Lake and grabbed the first campsite we could find. We set up our shacks, also the fly and built a fire place out of the elements. Jerry made Chili and coffee! We warmed up a bit, but the temp was dropping below 40 degrees already Bernie was a little wet yet, but I let her in the tent and we were warm in bed by 9:30PM.

Day 12… Was a little later morning today… Oatmeal with a variety of fruits in it. Didn’t get on the water til 9:35AM as it was hard to remove the warm dry clothes and get back into the wet traveling clothes. The first portage was the last unmarked portage and went well. I managed to slip in the mucky lichen and fall, but I’m getting used to that! We were able to remove our raingear after that portage and had one more shower before Royd. Yes, we’re back on Royd! We headed for the campsite before the 40 meter portage into Royd Creek but there was a guy from Calgary there. We visited then went and found a make shift campsite to get through the night. Tonight I made MY Mac n cheese with Venison Hamburger and a package of pudding. More rain and in the shacks early tonight.

Day 13… Getting tired of reading this? This is only half way! Very wet morning… It was eggs and hashbrowns… Lot’s of them! We were cold and it was still trying to rain so we hit the shacks for a little bit to warm up. Then we got going and it was after 11 when we got going. I was not feeling well today and felt rushed on the portages. We got to Kennedy Lake and met our Calgary friend for lunch. After the lake I dubbed the bar bell lake the current picked up a lot it seemed. The “chute” was to one side and not a real issue. The last portage was short with some dead fall we had to cut a little to get through. We got on Donald around 4:45PM and Jerry and Vern just wanted to find a campsite. I’d have liked to stop and figure it out better, but they wanted to just go and find whatever. We ended up on a little island and we made due.

Day 14 was a layover day… Clean up and get things ready to send back as I had supplies coming in tomorrow with a fresh paddler as Jerry and Vern were flying out. My gravity filter was all but plugged and I was ready to send my stinky neoprene socks away too.

Day 15 Everyone was up at 5AM… Might have been a first for Vern. It was coffee and granola bars and on the water to Walmzerville by 7AM and got there by 7:30AM. We (or I should say Bernice) was greeted by a big male black lab. The maintenance guy was very friendly and Vern found they were almost neighbors down in Iowa. Vern had connections there. Between 8 and 8:30AM the plane arrived with Mark and his brand new scratch less Prism. Jerry and Vern got loaded and we watched the take off as we paddled back to the campsite. The day looked promising, so after I got things organized from what I had flown in I took down my tent, loaded up and off to Kennedy Lake we went. Mark is a solid canoeist and was great to have on the second half of my trip. We got through the portages and things I thought would be more of a challenge. The water had rose even more since I’d come through Royd Creek a couple days before. And we paddled on to Kennedy Lake. Once there we set up our shacks and Mark pulled out the biggest steaks I’d ever seen in the wild. Thick! Juicy! And they cooked up beautifully in an awesome marinade. We ate like kings! I found Harlan sent in a nice steak for me too and we saved it for a steak and egg breakfast a couple days later.

Day 16… I got up early and cleaned up a bit. Beautiful morning aside from the red sky. I made Oatmeal for breakfast and we were a little full from supper yet I think. Bernice ate well! On the water after 8:30AM and already it’s starting to rain. Four portages back to Royd Lake and we visited the old trappers cabin site quick and since we were already wet decided to paddle all the way to Split Rock Lake and then spend a day drying out… if that’s possible... The all day soaker got us plenty wet. The stream (now a river) on the portage out of Royd was even more swollen. I fell again on the portage putting a small hole in my other pants. :( Parts of the portage near the flowing water was eroding away. We were getting colder as we went. We had a 20 meter and then the slippery portage back into Split Rock Lake. Still raining steady and we’re soaked to the skin and cold. We paddled to the campsite Jerry, Vern and I had stayed at and pitch my fly where Jerry had set up his tent. Once our fly was up it eventually quit raining for a bit. We got our shacks up and had Marks version of Rice and Beans. We took 6 ½ hours to get from Kennedy to Split Rock… Not bad!

Day 17… Layover and dry out a bit. Had the Steak and Eggs today! Mark brought the coffee and I had the Breakfasts. (We each brought dinners). We talked about the route we needed to take and decided to for go the Irvine Loop. The sun did break out some and we were able to dry out some. Mark made Pasta with sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and chicken. We had a little fire and we were in the shacks by 8:30PM.

Day 18… It rained steady all night and finally let up around 5 AM. Got up and checked things out and went back in my shack. Mark made it clear from the get go he didn’t want to get going before 7AM so I respected that and so that's when we got going and tore down our camp. For breakfast we had bars under the fly even though it seemed to quit raining. I didn’t realize I’d set my hatchet on top of my pack and it had slipped down in. So I’d packed everything over it. So when I couldn’t find it I sort of panicked and spent precious time looking for it. Mark teased me about it the rest of the trip… Do you know where your hatchet is? He’d say. The portage out of Split rock was wet but didn’t have as much standing water as there was a couple days ago. I managed to fall on it again though… Dumb Lichen! Got to the 350 meter portage ok and although a lot wetter than when Jerry and Vern were with me, it went well. From there it was onto lakes I’d never been before up to Poodle Lake. The last portage before the chute seems to have been changed from where the park map showed it so we did some searching to find it. And the chute was not an issue at all due to water levels. The portage to Poodle was faint, but we had little trouble following it. Marten Kehoe who found the portage probably hasn’t seen this portage so wet as he travels more in July and August. We thought we did well not having any rain during the day while we were traveling… And soon after getting to the Poodle Lake Camp it started to drizzle. Got our shacks, then the rainfly up and we were in business. I made Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Helper which went over well. The pump on my stove seemed to not be pumping up well so I replaced the “cup” and lubed it and I was back in business. I have kept maps I wasn’t using in a spare map case in my pack. It had come open and being on the outside of the pack liner I found the maps wet and some ruined. Luckily the one I needed wasn’t real bad, but I had to dry it out. This evening the wind is howling and I’m hoping it dries things out a bit. In the shacks early

June 19th… After a few showers in the night we woke up to wet tents and fly again. I made blueberry pancakes which went over pretty good. Packing up wet is getting old, but we’re also getting better at it. The portage out of Poodle started out wet, but got better for a while. We had to figure out the best route and did well up to where we’d have to cross the stream. Once everything was to the stream we crossed and then the “fun” began. Nothing resembling a portage was apparent and it seemed like another blowdown event had happened here. We took our packs across making this a three times portage and never came up with a good way. But Mark came up with a way that was doable to get the canoes to the lake and this all made the total portage time about three hours. When I got home I found the tracking feature didn’t work on the SPOT unit which upset me quite a bit. I almost bought a SPOT for myself, but their customer service really stunk, so sorry about that…. Through another wet portage and then what Marten dubbed the Nile section. Mark didn’t seem to believe me you couldn’t just paddle thru and went past the portage. He eventually turned around and portaged with me. Then it was back on the Nile to the final portage out of it into an unnamed lake. There was a lower beaver dam we crossed that did make the first section a little deeper and we had to push farther to dry ground than I remember doing last year. We pushed on to Joey Lake and got there around 5PM…. Long day! I just remember Mark making a dinner using every pan I had… It was worth it and we ate well! Got in the shacks a little after nine as the skeeters were coming out pretty well.

June 20th… Day 20… Stayed on Joey Lake. Bernice had a great rock for diving into the lake and managed many jumps throughout the day. Mark went out and caught Walleye for dinner and I worked on cleaning things up a bit including me. The rains socked in for the afternoon and Mark had to fillet the fish in it. I enjoyed the rest!

Day 21… Three weeks in and you guessed it… it’s raining! Three portages to High Camp Lake… I made pancakes, eggs, and bacon… It cleared off pretty good and we had a pretty good day. The portages each had their challenges but went well. I thought the landing out of Joey was a little tough and yes, the portage was plenty wet in spots. The next portage went up a steep hill right away, but wasn’t bad after that. I’m amazed at how well Bernice picks up on where the portages go. She’s more accurate than the GPS sometimes. ? The portage into High Camp had a section I was worried about due to all the rain we’d had. It really wasn’t any worse than last year. I did manage to step into a mud hole and have to throw my canoe off to get out. But it wasn’t really any worse or wet than last year. We got across to High Camp and the same moose sheds were there from last year at the end. Mark found a spot he wanted to camp and I checked out the site the lake was named for which wasn’t bad either. I made my Chili n Noodles with Banana Cream Pudding. I’d never eat that pudding at home, but day 21 out there it was pretty good.

Day 22… Got up on High Camp Lake to sunshine! I made blueberry oatmeal which Mark had cranberries to add. Nido milk went over very well this morning and throughout the trip. It was after nine when we got on the water and the first portage was kind of short, but at the end we loaded our canoes and had to drag and push through a shallow creek bed. The second portage had some down fall to go around and I was able to find another hole to step into and again had my Pioneer Pack and Canoe on. The end of the portage was wet and we entered a windy stream. The stream took just under an hour of twisting and turning around tight bends and was a challenge in itself. Then on to North Prairie Lake and the 950 meter portage into Indian House Lake. Mark hoofed it over in one big shot… Twice! So I did too and when done I felt my back give out a bit. We headed for a good campsite and made camp. Had some coffee and hung out a bit. Had some Cache Lake Chicken ala King with Italian fry bread and some mashed potatoes… We ate well! Back is sore so I took it easy tonight.

Day 23… Rest day on Indian House Lake… Nice, but windy! Showers in the evening. Eggs, bacon and breakfast frybread for breakfast… Pita bread with pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce for lunch and Mark’s pasta, sundried tomatoes and chicken for supper. A good rest day!

Day 24… Woke up to a beautiful day. I made oatmeal and Mark made coffee. Got on the water around 8:45AM with just a light wind. We quickly got on the river I call the Euphrates and the going was easy. After a bit we came around a bend into a good widening in the river to see a cow moose out near the middle feeding and bathing. We moved closer when she was under water and stayed motionless when she was up. She did not detect us at all until a float plane went over and she scanned the area and spotted us. She worked her way to shore and stumbled out and once gaining good footing trotted off out of site. It was a great encounter and the only chance I had for a picture was to zoom, and as I did it was all the battery I had the camera just shut down. We paddled to the 550 meter portage and it went well… There was still the blow down at the beginning we encountered last year and the wet sections were plenty wet, but not a bad portage. Then it was on to the 450 meter portage… Like last year it was a short distance and there was enough water to float the canoes. We got in and pushed our way through. The mud below seemed bottomless! Once I had to get out to pull over a downed tree. I stayed as close to the base of the small trees as not to sink in the mud. We wondered how people got through there during dryer times. We got through to dry ground to finish the 450 meter portage. We crossed a small lake into a small stream and had a little trouble finding the portage into Crystal Lake. I’d wished I’d have checked out Marten’s fix to the 225 meter as the 225 meter was pretty wet. On Crystal we paddled by the monument of an old prospector/ trapper, then crossed over to the portage to Bell Lake. We took the first campsite we found and had a pleasant evening hanging out. No rain all day today! I made my Mac n cheese and hamburger topped off with chocolate fudge pudding.

Day 25… I had a pretty bad night with abdominal pains and tried several times to go out in the night to feel better. About 4AM I heard a wolf howl a short distance from our camp, but saw nothing of it. With little sleep I got up and made breakfast and we got off a little after nine. There was a couple areas where parts of an old rice boat parts were evident. Then the portage to Page went well and Page was a long paddle to Peterson, than Hatchet lakes. It was all I could muster was the energy to get to Douglas Lake. We took the campsite near the portage out of Hatchet. The sound of fast water was prevalent until we left the next day. Eggs, sausage, cheese and pizza sauce was for supper and Mark got to fish that evening while I still nursed my back. Mark got a walleye he eventually let go and we had a very restful night.

Day26… We didn’t have anything special for breakfast… cereal, breakfast bars and coffee and off early on the water… Well, around nine anyways… Douglas Lake went fast and we paddled through the 30 meter portage easily. And before you know it we were on Johnson Lake and washing up after a good trip in WCPP. Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is a great place to find a good challenge to your skills in canoeing and camping. You know at the end of your trip your capabilities in the toughest conditions. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to experience such a trip. The rain and conditions made this trip a little difficult and we had to work a bit to keep positive attitudes. I learned I need to back off when I’m feeling I’m pushing too hard. I’m now getting treatments and such for my back and hope to find resolve to the failures of my trip. Boot’s, pants, raingear, saw handle, Gravity Filter, dog pack, bucket lid were things I found to fail… I hope to have all these items replaced by my longer trip in mid August. I have good ideas for better organization to implement and will try some of them prior to this upcoming trip. I challenge anybody serious about canoetripping to go to Woodland Caribou to embark on a great opportunity for a great trip. Spring has been wet for me the last couple years. July was warmer and dryer for us a couple years ago. Of course, we’re at the mercy of what we’re dealt at the time of our trip. Good luck on your next adventure!