Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Father & Son 15 year Reunion Trip.
by coachjeff

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/17/2013
Entry & Exit Point: East Bearskin Lake (EP 64)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My father introduced me to the outdoors at a young age. By the time I was 12, I was already a veteran backpacker. 15 years ago, Dad and I did our first BWCA trip. This was our last camping trip of my childhood. Since then, I kept hiking and canoeing with my dog and an assortment of friends and family. The last time I was in the BW, I had a great, peaceful experience with my brother in law and some friends. Lately, most of my trips outside of the experience have ended up with pretty bad results, such as experience disease, a hiking partner needing to be evacuated, ect. I was so discouraged by these outcomes that I was almost ready to sell all of my camping gear. In a final try to renew my love for the outdoors, I started to recruit friends for a BW trip. I couldn't get anybody to go. I was about ready to give up until I asked my Dad. He hadn't been camping, hiking, or canoeing since our last trip 15 years ago. He was in. I was hesitant, but I booked the permits. And away we go...
Day 1. Friday, August 16, 2013 The day started early, as both Dad and I had to be at work on Friday morning. I had made arrangements to get off around 1:00. Dad is a paramedic, so he had to pull a 13 hour shift. I am OCD about planning and coordinating, so all of the meals, routes, and packing had already been taken care of. All I needed to do was pack the car and wait for Dad to arrive. To take a step back a week, dad mentioned that he was only going to bring the bare essentials. I told him that due to the fact that we were primarily traveling by canoe, he could bring a few luxury items, but more on that later... Dad showed up at my house on schedule. Got the Delphi(pooch) in the car, and was on the road from the Chicago suburbs around 9:00pm.

Day 2. Saturday, August 17, 2013 We drove through the night to Grand Marais. Mapquest quoted the trip to be between 9-10 hours. Dad and I took 2-3 hour shifts driving to allow for a little bit of sleep, as both of us had been up since Friday morning. We arrive in Grand Marais at 7:15. The Ranger station didn't open until 8:00, so we decided to go get bait and fishing licenses. Sadly, the Beaver House was closed. A gas station attendant informed us that the owner was dying and the Beaver House was up for sale. We headed back to the Ranger station, watched the video, took the quiz, and we were on our way to East Bearskin Lake.

  Luckily, since this was dad's first trip in 15 years, we had a healthy tail wind which helped push us along. I had a desired campsite on Alder, but a group of boy scouts were moving quicker than we were. I didn't want to push dad too hard, as I wanted him to enjoy the experience. We made it to the portage in just over an hour. the portage to Alder is 48 rods, just short of 800 feet. Dad did his best to help carry stuff, but needed to rest from time to time. LONG story short, the canoe was packed up again and ready for the trek on Alder. 

My optimal campsite was on the point of the peninsula, but I assumed that had been taken by the boy scouts.  We snagged a decent campsite on the north side of Alder and set up shop. While I unloaded the canoe, dad took his first of many naps.

After a cocktail, dad decided to get out water supply ready. He prepared himself with a 5 gallon container, my MSR filter, and sat comfortably in the bow of the canoe pumping water, until he flipped himself in. He later found a safer spot.

One luxury item dad brought that I will definitely invest in was a solar charger for items such as our iphones(music), ipads(games), and nooks(books). It weighs next to nothing, and made the trip a bit more enjoyable.

Now here is a funny story for all of you. I bring my pit bull Delphi with me on all of my trips. She is a great hiking dog and wilderness companion. After a great first meal of grilled NY strips and cheesy hashbrowns, dad asked if he could give his leftovers to Delphi. I never give her people food, but figured it would be ok. Normally, when she and I go camping, she has to suck it up and sleep on the tent floor, but I brought a child size sleeping pad for her to sleep on(luxury item). In the middle of the night, she is nudging my head as if she wants to sleep on my sleeping bag. I grab her collar to pull her back onto her sleeping pad, but, as strong as she is, she refuses. I give up and roll over onto her sleeping pad with my pillow and allow her to slumber on my bag and pad. About an hour later, I awake to the sound of her vomiting all over my sleeping bag. I instantly turn on the lantern only to see that not only did she puke up her steak and potatoes all over my sleeping bag, but all over her sleeping pad which I was currently sleeping on. Good first day...

Day 3 & 4. Sunday and Monday, August 18 & 19, 2013. Needless to say, I was rather awake after cleaning all of the vomit from my sleeping quarters, so I decided to try my hand at fishing that morning. Didn't catch anything, but the lake was peaceful and I watched a good number of folks leave the lake, including the boy scouts that had occupied the point. Dad eventually arose and he knew that I wanted to get to that site. We quickly made breakfast and started to pack up the canoe, but upon doing so, another group was already on their way to the point. 

Regardless, we were already packed up, so we were on our way to another campsite. The next site on the north side of the lake didn't look to great from shore, so we traveled forward. We traversed around the island an found an interesting site with a staircase leading up to it. We decided to take it. Dad took a nap.
After getting camp set up, we both agreed that this was a pretty decent site, and that we would stay here for the duration. That being said, we really didn't do much of anything for the next day and a half other than eat and sleep. It was sunny, and there was a steady breeze to keep the bugs at bay. Fairly perfect. I took the canoe out to try to catch some fish, but came back with nothing. Didn't really care cuz a bad day of fishing is better than a day at work:) We ate well that night with fried chicken and rice, with a breakfast burritos the next morning.

Day 4. Tuesday, August 20, 2013. The plan for the day was to pack up, portage back to East Bearskin Lake and snag the campsite that was just west of the portage. We made it back to the portage in about an hour with a strong headwind. Dad physically exhausted and needed to rest. I did most of the portage solo. Back in the beginning of this trip report, I mentioned that it would be okay if dad brought some additional luxury items. I had to do this portage 8 times. By the time I was finished, 2 hours had gone by. A nice fellow from Missouri was just getting ready to head to Alder as we were packing up and mentioned that it was supposed to get super hot shortly. We got to the unoccupied campsite and dad took a two hour siesta. When he awoke, I expressed my concern about the impending heat and that I didn't want the three of us in the heat(and all of our fresh food was gone). He listened to my arguments and we were on our way back to the car. The sun was high, and the wind was against us. Now i'm starting to doubt my desicions. I keep us close to shore to get shade and avoid the wind. About an hour of nonstop paddling i look up to see my dad's head tilted forward and his arms limp. "I killed my dad" is all i thought! "Dad, Dad, Dad!!!!" i yelled. He instantly replied with "are we there yet?". Relieved i didn't kill my father, I couldn't help but chuckle at his 3 year old remark. We finished the paddle back to the entry point, and it was rather warm at this point. I went to grab the car as Dad unloaded the canoe. I came back with the air conditioning blasting. As dad and Delphi were cooling of, I loaded up all of the gear and the canoe. Now it was time for the drive back to chicago.

I didn't catch any fish. I didn't stay up past sunset. I didn't wake up for sunrise. Dog vomit is not fun to clean up in the middle of the night. Doing several portages by yourself is frustrating and exhausting. But I got to spend 4 days in the BW with my father. He mentioned that this trip made him feel "like a human again". In that regard, i relate to his comment. No phone calls, no emails, no texts, no bills, no bosses, no schedules. Water, tree's, eating, sleeping, conversations, dog vomit, peace...