Our ultimate destination goal was to reach Snow Bay and we would have made it if not for, right on the first day, enduring a series of storm squalls that forced us to find safe haven in between Loon Lake and East Loon Bay. Plus, we had already mapped out several 3-5 highly rated campsites in that area, which all looked to be accurate recommendations and didn’t want to risk dumping into cold water. The first one we spotted had a sand beach, which was ideal for landing our canoes and was a wonderful site as we turned the point during the fiercest storm squall, which almost dumped us several times and washed water over the sides of our canoes. The famous quote from our front paddler was “It’s just around this point, !$#@%” recited several times.
The trip up to Loon Lake was fairly easy up until the rough weather, very few portages and just a couple beaver dams and minor obstacles along the river journey. We noticed the forecast did include high winds, but really did not encounter any effect until reaching the larger lakes. And we were well aware a large lake may pin us down if the winds remained strong. The surprise was how fast the squalls came upon us and how rough the water can get on the bigger lakes.
Another surprise early in the trip was spotting my first moose. This has always been my goal and have heard them, seen tracks antlers and other evidence, but never a live sighting. Not more than one hour into the trip on Lower Pauness Lake did we spot a large bull on the shore of a campsite! It was from a good distance, but his rack was clearly visible and we quickly paddled to try and get a better look. He, of course, was gone before I captured a better picture, but as I write this, I now appreciate how lucky we were to see such a grand creature.
Along with the storm squalls, we experienced almost every other condition including temperatures in the 30s up to the 50s, rain, sleet, frost, high winds, 45 mph gusts, rain, some sun, clouds, sun peaking through, more clouds and much more clouds. The whole time the winds may have died down to only 20 mph.
Day trips were pretty much limited to hiking, which by all means was not a bad thing. We hiked along the shore and into the woods and marshy areas with moose, deer and wolf track sightings. One day we did venture out into East Loon Bay, away from most wind, and canoed through Little Loon Lake and into Slim Lake. It was a very nice reprieve from our high-perched campsite, which had constant wind and we did see some other paddlers. And for a couple hours one day we were able to venture out further into Loon Lake, do some fishing and cross the Canadian border. We caught one Smallmouth and shared it amongst the four of us — a nice appetizer to the Breakwater Wit, Hudson Bay bread, gorp, turkey jerky and dehydrated camping food.
One other last very upsetting surprise happened as we headed back into town just after “securing” the canoes on the truck. I have a hard time even writing about it now (another reason it’s taken this long to post the trip report), but one of the straps started to unravel (not the secured part) from the darn wind and came loose and went under the front tire. Needless to say, the strap pulled so hard it crumpled the canoe on the top. Fearing the encounter with the outfitter, we all discussed how we were going to pay for a new Wenonah Minnesota II, all the while stopping at least a dozen times to re-secure the mess of Kevlar and aluminum atop. As one surprise leads to another, words can’t even describe how great we were received by our outfitter. One look at the canoe the owner said “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” Even without knowing if the canoe was repairable or could be used for parts we still compensated the outfitter and further chatted about how great the people of Ely can be and learned a bit more about their family business. They were more interested in our story, experiences and encounters and truly wanted us to come back and make another trip.