Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Quetico Solo
by Gunflinter

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/04/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
I took my first solo to Sylvania Wilderness several years ago and have worked my way up to the Q. I'm glad I got some rodeos under my belt before I made the leap to Quetico.
Before heading north I had other important business to attend to. My Special Olympics golfing buddy, Scott, and I had a 4:45 tee-time. We were playing in the Mid-Missouri district championships. We play alternate shot and both of us played well for our skill level and won our flight and get to compete in the state tournament in October. If you've never been around Special Olympic events before you might want to check one of them out, I think you'd love it. Scotts the one with the purple socks.
I can never sleep the night before a big trip. I find myself thinking about the first loon or eagle, how the fishing will be, will this be my first year to chase a bear out of camp and on and on, so if it’s left up to me I leave when I can and drive until I feel like I need to pull over. On this trip I left at 8pm and made it to the first MN rest area, about 6 hours from home, and pulled in for a nap. Up at 5:30 and stopped at McDonalds at 6:00. While getting out of the car I heard something odd and upon further investigation I figured out that my alarm clock was going off. Of course it was in the bottom of my biggest pack and required almost everything to come out before I could get my hands on it. This little problem was the beginning of an ongoing battle I would have with all things battery powered. I arrived at the end of the Gunflint Trail at 4:00. Deb and her staff had their act together like normal, had my bunkroom ready for me and had me on their tow boat at 7:00 Saturday morning. I was headed to Saganagons and into the Q for the first time. A couple was on the tow with me and they had 9 portages and 18 miles before they hoped to stop for the day; made my 1 portage look pretty puny. From Hook Island I canoed the 1.5 miles or so into a pretty stiff headwind. If you're a golfer I’d say it was windy enough that I would still play but I’d blame every bad shot on the wind. I had decided to stay in Cache Bay the first night and then take the Silver Falls portage the next morning. As it turned out it was windier the 2nd day so I hung around my campsite and fished a little when the wind died down. I got out in the early evening and had a “pod”? of otters entertain me. The next morning was much calmer and I got into Saganagons in mid-morning. I don’t know how most people get up or down this little mountain on the portage but it provided a challenge for me.
I found a very nice campsite about ¼ of the way down the lake and settled in. I commenced to beating the water to death with senkos, power bait, buzz baits, rapalas of many varieties, slimers, and on and on. It wasn't until almost time to call it a day that I finally found something that worked. I started long line trolling a rapala jointed crawdad. It was suppose to dive 6-13 feet but it was bouncing on the bottom at 20+. I proceeded to catch three very nice walleyes. They were all bigger than any I’d caught before. Non were trophies but they all made long hard runs and were a blast to land. I didn’t want to mess with them at night so they all lived to fight another day.

The next morning, Wednesday, I headed east farther down the lake. I caught one nice walleye along the way. About 2 miles from camp a guy landed on an island and walked across it to get close to me. He told me that Janet, the ranger lady, was telling every one on Tuesday morning that if they saw a solo guy in a red canoe that his family wasn’t getting his SPOT message and they were freaking out. Problem #2 with battery powered stuff. I decided that I needed to beat it back to the ranger station and have Janet radio Deb and have Deb call my wife to assure her that I was ok. Seven hours later I pull into the ranger station and Janet tells me that my Tuesday message went thru and that everyone new that I was ok. I’m not turning around and going back so I decide to spend the last two nights in Cache Bay. I’ve used my SPOT before without a problem and on this trip 7 out of 8 transmissions were ok. I called their help number to see if anyone else had a problem that day and they told me no. From now on I’ll send out two messages a day and will think again about buying/renting a satphone.

Janet directs me to another nice Cache Bay site and I spent the last two nights there. On the way back to Hook Island on Friday morning I trolled the same walleye catching rapala and in 158 feet of water I catch my first lake trout. It was only 21” but it completed my first fishing grand slam.

Since I was on my way out I was able to get the trout on ice and it made it home for our Sunday evening meal. Our daughter in law who loathes the smell and taste of fish even had a small bite.

During my trip I ran into two sets of mother, daughter paddlers. Both pairs had been on multiple trips and were having absolutely wonderful times.

I spent some time modifying my Old Town Guide before this trip. I added an additional thwart that functioned as my portage yoke, small tool holder and held my rod very effectively while trolling.

Other problems that I had with battery powered stuff included: breaking my kindle the second day I was out, having a cheap GPS tracking device give me wrong directions on multiple times and loosing my watch.

The weather, other than the wind, was very good and I only had a few brief run ins with flies or mosquitoes.

Overall it was, for me, a challenging and rewarding trip. I hope to return to the Q next year and plan on recruiting someone from Missouri to go with me.