Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Moose lake to Sag
by georgelesley

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/17/2012
Entry Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Exit Point: Saganaga Lake (EP 55)  
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
I am 67 and had a stroke 5 years ago, the wife is 62 and two knee surgeries. We have not camped for about 8 years, our last trip to Quetico. Looking at the campong gear hanging in the garage this pst winter we decided to give it a go this summer and depending on the results, keep or sell the gear.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 Off at 7AM with a tow up Moose lake to birch portage near the Canadian border. Paddled off to the Carp lake portage and then several other small lakes following the border route. Met some nice folks portaging into Mellon lake, helped us carry some gear. Thanks! at the end of Mellon we had some confusion where the next portage was and stopped at a point to do a gps and map fix on where we and the portage were. Found the portage after some other nice folks stopped in also looking for the same portage. A bit of lunch and we were all off again. after several more portages, finally Knife lake and no campsites avail. Finally found one and it looked like a five star hotel to us. The sad part was that several large groups passed by up to 7PM still looking for a campsite. We are not "solitude" fanatics, a few other canoes a day is fine, but Knife lake was like an interstate!

Wednesday was a day of rest only after paddling about 9 miles and doing 6 portages the day before. Our senior bones were tired. We finished the day watching a gorgeous sunset develop.

Thursday we were up early and on the water by 7AM, a portage and 10 miles of paddling later we were on Ottertrack, a most beautiful lake indeed. The next day was also a day of rest and fishing, although we were not nearly as tired as after the first day. The thought of moving on occurred to us. I have always noted that the first days of a trip kick my butt, then the mind and body seem to catch a second wind. The strong westerly wind would have made east travel a joy, but rest we did, hoping the wind would not change the next day. It did.

Friday on again at 7AM. Wind not a strong factor, but not at our back either. Monument portage is not one we want to see again, once was enough. We just burned rubber (for two old farts like us) and wound up at the west end of big Sag at 11AM! Hook island was in sight, just past Cache Point, the lake was uncharactistly quiet, so off we went. Cache Bay had rolling white caps coming out of it, so we quartered into them and soon were in the safety of the wind shadow of the Canadian shore. Got to Hook island at 12:30 PM, three days before our scheduled pickup. Confident there would be a pickup or drop off of someone, and to avoid the whitecaps of Cache Bay, we decided no to stop off and have the Canadian ranger radio our outfitter for an early pickup. Best decision at the time, but never saw another soul at Hook island that day. After a forced night of camping on Hook, a party arrived the next AM, and 1/2 hour later we were on our way home.

In reflection back, we accomplished what we wanted to, faster than we expected to. We planned 8 days for a trip that wound up taking 5. Yes we double portaged, Yes we used a 35lb Kevlar, But the wife carried the food barrel every portage except one. She never put a pack down on a portage, nor did I put down the canoe or a pack. She only fell over once, me twice, (since my stroke balance is not my strong suit anymore) all more rollovers that hurtful falls. Near the end of Ottertrack I told her "in my fifty years of canoeing I have never felt more stable in a canoe that I do right now" We are both short, low center of gravity, and we had the weight distribution in the canoe just right by that part of the trip. Mission accomplished. That being said, we have also decided that base camping is more our style now. The wife loves to set up a base camp, and I love to explore a new lake and face the challenge of catching supper on a lake I know nothing of. We found the frequent setting up tearing down tedious for us at this point in our lives. In the future, we will likely do 2-3 maybe 4 portages in and stay a week or so, and return via the same route. We are looking at Quetico possibilities next year. Still go what it takes I guess with some modifications.