Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Remembering 9/15
by QueticoMike

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/09/2001
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
This is the story about my first solo trip.
Day 1 of 7
Sunday, September 09, 2001

There were only eighteen hours before my next excursion to the Quetico when my phone rang, it was my partner and he didn’t have good news. He told me he wasn’t feeling well and he wouldn’t be able to make the trip. I told him to get some rest and I would call him in the morning to see if his condition had changed. Then I became sick, I literally felt sick to my stomach after hearing our trip was cancelled. I began stewing over the notion of doing a solo outing to the Quetico. I had never been on a solo trip before and would have liked more time to mentally and physically prepare for such an undertaking. After about an hour’s time I made the decision, no matter what I was still going to go. I called him in the morning and his status hadn’t changed. He told me I should cancel the trip and not risk going it alone. I stated I was going with or without him. He could not comprehend my passion for the Quetico. So began my solo adventure to Ely with a thousand mile drive. Day 1 – September 9th Once at William’s and Hall, I sorted through all of the gear and supplies and managed to pack it all into one backpack. Chuck, my tow boat driver, navigated us over to Prairie Portage while a cold mist slapped me in the face. I was the first one to arrive there to go through the ranger station, but I wasn’t the only person there. Quetico Park Superintendent Robin Reilly and his assistant Dave Maynard were there as well. They were on their final leg of a “Cross-Quetico” project which entailed bringing with them a hand-carved Don Meany paddle to be given to the mayor of Ely from the mayor of Atikokan. It was a goodwill\friendship gesture which was handed over to the U.S. Forest Service for delivery. Bob Cary from the Ely Echo was on hand to capture the presentation with photos and prose. There were also two more extra rangers in the station when I was invited in for processing. They were just heading out to Basswood’s North Bay to look at some areas being designated for a prescribed burn. After picking up my permits I loaded the over-sized backpack into the front of the tandem canoe and headed north. The rain had now stopped and there wasn’t much wind, which made for an easy paddle across Bayley Bay. As I neared the first portage out of Bayley Bay an eagle flew across my bow to signal a greeting from the Quetico. There was a sign posted at the portage explaining the camping restrictions in this area after September 17th due to the prescribed burn. I struggled to pick up my behemoth pack before the start of this easy eighty rod portage. When I reached the other side there was an older couple on there way out of the park. I picked up their remaining gear without their knowledge and carried it back across the portage for them. They were grateful for the kind gesture. I slung my canoe to my shoulders and headed back down the trail. Paddling across the calm Burke Lake I started to feel the tensions of everyday life pour out of my skin. All I heard was the stroke of the paddle and water dripping back into the lake. I began to feel good about this whole solo thing I was embarking on. The rain started again when I reached the next portage, a simple up and over and then I was gliding down the stream towards North Bay. One more rocky and muddy portage before arriving at Basswood’s North Bay. A nice island campsite was found and camp was erected. There was nothing left to do but to go fishing at this point. I wasn’t out there long before I started to see some voracious top-water hits. Smallmouth bass were chasing baitfish. I in turn chased the smallmouth. On the first cast with my bull frog colored Lucky 13 a seventeen incher slams it off of the surface. I ended up catching five in the seventeen to nineteen inch range and a fat one over twenty inches; it had to be close to five pounds. The gulls told me where the smallmouth were feeding as they would dive down to the surface when bait fish were being chased to the top. I would paddle over towards where the gulls landed and fling my lure in their direction; most of the time I didn’t even need to move it before it enticed a strike. As I paddled around the island fishing I spotted two moose not more than 200 feet from my campsite. There was a cow and her calf eating twigs. I took some pictures and just bobbed on the lake watching them for awhile. Once back at camp I met my new companion, his name was Rocky. I named him after Rocky the squirrel from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. He would chatter at me and I would talk to him, neither of us knew each other’s communications but we understood each other. My back was starting to hurt from that over- sized pack I was hauling around earlier, so I decided it was time to relax and get a fire going. It was in the 50s and windy as I watched the sunset on another beautiful Quetico day. My final journal entry read the following “The stars tonight are as clear as I’ve ever seen before. The Milky Way splashed across the darken skies. Stars fell threw the Big Dipper as if it were catching tear drops from the heavens”.