Day 1 - Got up and had a quick breakfast an headed down to the office to pick up our permit and fishing license. Loaded up our canoes and paddled across Poplar to Lizz. It was a beautiful day with a little wind. Two groups went out just ahead of us - one entering at Lizz like us and one entering at Meeds. Husband had our daughter in the front of his canoe (Wenonah - Kevlar) and I had our son in the front of mine. There was some wind, although not that bad, but enough to make it harder to control the Wenonah. Made it over to the portage into Liz. This was our kids first time with portaging. Son did fine with the pack with the sleeping bags. Daughter took paddles, etc. Now that we had to use two canoes this was my first time portaging a canoe - I got to take the Kevlar :). Nice wide portage, a bit up then down. I tried taking the food pack. I made it across - but that was the most challenging time I had on any portage. I think it just didn't fit my quite right.
Had a nice short paddle down Liz. The portage from Liz to Caribou was very muddy. My son is on the autism spectrum and has sensory issues so the mud was very difficult for him and it took a lot of coaxing to get him down that portage. But he made it across and we let him hang out at the end of the portage so he only had to single portage that one. We cleaned some of the mud off before hopping into the canoe and heading down Caribou.
The portage into Horseshoe was nice and short. We were hoping to camp on Horseshoe, but despite getting there by around 12:30 all campsites were full. As we got to the portage to Vista a light rain started and we donned our Frogg Toggs. They worked well. The portage is short but I think the rockiest portage we did. As we were coming back for the second trip across another group paddled up and asked where we were going and I told them we were hoping to camp on Vista since Horseshoe was full. He asked which site on the map and I told him we were hoping for one of the sites at the south end if they were open. As we were finishing loading up a couple fellas from the other group put in their canoe without gear - but they assured us that if one of the sites we wanted was open they wouldn't snatch it from us. Which was nice because we were all tired. As we were paddling down Vista the folks in the other canoe told us that the site on the West side was open. They went to see if the third site was open - I hope it was. If that was any of you fine folks, thanks for leaving the site for us! We got the site and promptly at lunch then set up camp. It is a good size camp site although it was difficult wedging in our family size tent - but we made it work. There is a bit of a climb from the landing up to the site. There is a nice rocky area to sit and enjoy the view of the islands. The kids enjoyed fishing from the rock even though we never had a nibble. Hubby took the kids to explore while I settled in and got first night's dinner started - steak with potatoes, green peppers and onions (YUM). We couldn't find a really good tree for the bear bag - but we did the best we could an luckily it was never bothered. Headed to our somewhat slanted tent and slept even though the group at the south site was kind of loud.
Day 2 Friday - Breakfast of eggs and bacon was delicious! We paddled around Vista and were hoping that the streams to snack lake were passable so we could explore it but they were not. We saw that the third campsite was open and hoped that the other group had been able to stay there the night before. We stopped at the island closest to the campsite and had some lunch and we all took a very quick dip. We saw a few groups - I think mostly daytrippers although one was looking for a site. Headed back to campsite and relaxed. Paddling and fresh air does wonders for an appetite. Both my picky eaters devoured their meals from Mountain House. They were both open to the dehydrated foods. Had some jiffy pop and off to bed. Heard 3 tail slaps tonight.
Day 3 Saturday - Beautiful morning to enjoy the sunrise! Pancake breakfast today. After cleaning up we headed to the northeast corner of Vista and fished near the portage to Jake. Hubby and I each caught a Northern and son had a strike. Still no luck for our daughter. Saw a beaver wander across the front of camp tonight. More freeze dried food. We all enjoyed the apple cobbler from Mountain House.
Day 4 Sunday - Got up and had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and packed up. We had to wait awhile at the portage out of Vista as one group was already floating and waiting as another group came in. We enjoyed the lovely waterfall flowing into horseshoe at the portage more this time since it wasn't raining and we weren't so tired. Paddled through Horseshoe somewhat leisurely fishing here and there. A lot of empty sites today of course. Got into Caribou and headed up to see if the site across from the portage was open, but it was not and the two closest to the portage on the north side of the lake were also full. We ended up getting the site at the point in the southwest part of the lake. It was a bit swampy and thought it would be very buggy. It wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. There is a pretty good canoe landing. It was more level than the site on Vista. We had a beaver swim by to his nearby lodge a few times. Funny, he was making this noise that we thought sounded like he was muttering in a complaining sort of way. After setting up camp we tried fishing in a few different spots without any luck.
Day 5 Monday - woke up to a light rain which ended as we were packing up. We decided on quick breakfast of trail mix as the day was gray and we weren't sure if weather would get worse or improve. Luckily the rain stayed away and it was actually quite nice after a little while. The portage from Caribou to Liz was less muddy and my son did much better on it going out. This is the only portage the whole trip that we had to ourselves. We saw another group paddling up Lizz as we were heading out then another one coming off the portage as we were getting out. While we were portaging from Lizz to Poplar we had one group just start barreling through us. They pretty obviously were not too experienced. The did not have appropriate equipment and their huge sleeping bags were all wet and muddy - they looked miserable. One of the women asked if anyone in our group had any fun. There were a couple groups waiting to enter from Poplar. We had a nice paddle across Poplar, had showers at Rockwood then stopped at Trail Center for lunch. Then we headed to spend a couple nights with family in a cabin that they rented near Ely. The van started acting funny and the check engine light came on several miles out of Ely. But we managed to get the van to the cabin and to repair shop in the morning. The problem ended up not costing too terribly much.
We had to do a fair amount of clean-up of other peoples garbage at both sites we stayed at. One bright spot about that was that we got some fishing leaders, etc. out of the deal. All in all I would say we had a successful first trip for the kids - the both would like to go back. The first day was a bit of a challenge, but it was a good challenge.