Quetico: Last Hurrah's with dad
Day 1 May 23, 2014: Woke up at 5:15am @ Seagull Outfitters off the Gunflint trail. We arrived about 7:30pm the night before after leaving from the Chicago area early that morning, after stopping in Grand Marais for dinner. We eat our breakfast of granola bar and apple and head down to the outfitters main shop by 6. Last night’s sleep was tough to fall into as there was a noisy group in the bunk house with us that were up rather late drinking and talking loudly. It is COLD outside, under 40 degrees and carrying the canoe doesn’t feel good on exposed hands. At 6:45 the outfitter brings out coffee for us and dad and I choke it down as we pay our fees to Debbie and then load up the outfitters trailer with our gear. The truck towing our gear had some engine problems and kept dying on the way to the tow point. Once on the tow boat, it was really cold, and thankfully we both bought some fleece gloves before shipping out. On Saganaga Lake there was skim ice that the tow boat broke through as we made our way to Hook Island. We arrived at Hook Island at about 7:45 and loaded up the boat and made our way for the Cache Bay ranger station. We arrived there about 8:30 and found the door locked. Hanna the ranger answered our knocks and got us checked in. Their computer system was down and had to run our credit cards manually, and good thing we bought our fishing licenses ahead of time! As we were leaving we met another group at the dock who were headed for Saganagons. We pulled away from the dock at the ranger station at 9am. We stopped once at the wrong spot for the portage into Saganagons, but soon found the correct trail. The current is quite strong going down the stream towards Silver Falls and we hit the portage by 10:15. We carried the packs across first to scout the trail. It was 130 rods that was up and down quite a bit with one very steep section on a sheer rock. The portage seems to take forever. When I brought the canoe across, Dad helped me with the sheer rock area while I carried the canoe which was a huge help. Its starting to get warm now and my fleece, long sleeve shirt and fleece gloves all get packed away. We took some pictures and video by Silver Falls and WOW is there a lot of water going over. We completed the portage by 11:45 and put off and start to snack on our lunch of granola bars, cheese, and sausage. We haven’t seen anyone since leaving the ranger station and then see two men making camp near the falls. Crossing the outflow wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We head up Saganagons Lake several miles and saw a person’s camp…who had a cooler suspended in a tree. There was almost no wind and it was a nice sunny day. We could see lots of fish hitting the surface, and we figure they are trout. Dad is starting to get tired and he doesn’t think he’ll be able to do more portages today, let alone another days worth getting to Kawnipi. We decide right then and there that we will base camp on Saganagons instead. We paddled up a ways and stayed at a campsite at the tip of a peninsula. The site is ok, with a nice fire pit and a nice canoe landing, but the tent pads aren’t great, but this would be a great site for hammock camping. It is now very hot and after getting the tent set up, dad is pretty tired. I suggest that he take a nap in the hammock and I’ll finish setting up camp. He readily agrees and I go about setting up the rain fly and organizing our gear, including hanging my own hammock. Dinner that night is venison tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. The asparagus is a new item on our menu and came fresh from dad’s garden, and probably the last asparagus he’ll eat from that garden because as we were in the woods, my mom was closing on the house so my parents could move to South Carolina! Dinner was really good. Dad went to bed early and I decide to stay up and see if I could see any of the meteor shower that was scheduled and of course the stars. It stayed light out, or at least twilight until 10pm! I saw one shooting star, was very tired and I went to bed too.
Day 2 May 24, 2014: I set the alarm for 6:30 and dad was up at 6. I ended up sleeping until 7 while dad took pictures around camp and got coffee going. We made pancakes and sausage for breakfast. After breakfast we cleaned up our dishes and by 9 we were ready to go fishing. We rigged up spoons and rapalas to troll out to an island to our south west, but got no strikes. We started casting at the island and dad hooked a decent lake trout on a daredevil. We lost the fish at the boat when I tried to net it, I was very mad at myself and really let my dad down as it was a pretty decent fish. We returned to camp for lunch of sausage and cheese and crackers. I fished from shore and caught a smallmouth that I put on the stringer for dinner. Fishing was slow and at 3pm I took a nap. I was awoken by my dad who was vigorously warning me it was going to rain at any second. I think a total of 10 rain drops fell, ha ha ha. I did a little more casting from shore and caught a small pike on a spoon that I released. I got hung up a few casts later and just when I freed the spoon from a rock a laker hit the spoon! I don’t think I hooked the fish very well though because I wasn’t able to land it when it turned and got free. We went out fishing again in the boat but caught no fish. We came back in to make dinner of filleted bass in beer batter breading with wild rice, another great meal. After dinner I fished from shore again and ended up loosing the spoon that was working for me earlier. I stayed up again to watch the stars and gave up at 10 since it was still light out and went to bed.
Day 3 May 25, 2014: Dad woke up about 6:30 and I woke up at 7 again. We had the left over sausages and made pancakes again, and had dishes done by 9. We went out fishing after that. We trolled and cast lots of different lures but couldn’t connect on anything. We fished until 12 and came back in to camp. We had cigars and scotch and then a late lunch of sardines, the last of our cheese, and some sausage. Dad and I talked a lot while were in camp, just enjoying eachother’s company and realizing that after the trip, we would no longer live close enough to drop by to say hi. It was really starting to get hot out and I decided, despite the freezing temperatures, I was going in the lake. In I went and oh my god is that water cold. It made me realize that if we were to dump the canoe, even relatively close to shore, we would be in real trouble. I did feel refreshed and cooled off though. The wind has also picked up but isn’t doing anything for the heat. At night at least its cooling down to make it easy to sleep, its no fun when its so hot you can’t cool off at night in a tent. The last forcast we heard said that there would be rain and thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow, but so far the horizon looks good. I went fishing from shore and caught nothing. Dad and I went out again in hopes of catching dinner. We used jigs with gulp minnows. Nothing. I saw a 36” northern by the side of the canoe. Dad dangled his jig by it and the northern struck, but missed the bait and hit the leader instead lol and wasn’t interested in playing any more after that. No fish again. We went back to camp and fo dinner made chili mac that I had dehydrated for this trip. I wasn’t sure how much water to add to rehydrate it so we did it in small amounts and found a consistency that seemed to work. The flavor was good but I packaged it into portions that weren’t enough for 2 people. The weather now looks only so-so with possible rain tonight. We decide that we would head back to Cache Bay in the morning if the weather is still good. So to help ourselves out we packed up camp and prepared to move. We set the alarm for 4:45 in hopes of beating any weather we might face while traveling the next day. It was warm when we went to bed but soon cooled off. Amazingly it has been very warm the whole trip so far and also fairly windy. The water temperature is still really low and the fishing hasn’t been great, and not for a lack of trying.
Day 4 May 26, 2014: I was woken up by dad at 4am because the rain had started to fall. When the alarm went off at 4:45 we checked the weather and found that the rain had stopped, but we were tired (hey we’re on vacation!) and decided to give it another hour before we got up. We left the campsite after a quick breakfast of carnation and power bars, and were on the water by 6:10. We paddled down Saganagons through a heavy mist which was pretty cool to see. We took some pictures of little islands we passed silently in the mist. As we paddled we saw a guy just waking up who said he was out with his wife. When we got near the outflow of Silver Falls, the current was very strong, which made it hard to steer the canoe as we fought through it. We made it to the portage by 7:10, which is a lot better time then on the way in. We stopped to eat another power bar at the portage and I went ahead with the loose gear and then came back and grabbed a pack. I should have taken a pack on my first trip across. The portage was damp and the rocks were slippery. I walked back and grabbed the canoe and went about half way before I rested with it. I started up again and met dad coming back to help me. The sheer rock wall was just ahead and although it was hard, I was able to get over it with minor help, mostly dad giving me directions so I didn’t hit a tree with my Kevlar hat. We were done with the portage by 8:30. We rigged up the rods to troll on our way to our next campsite and took our time loading the canoe as we regained our energy. It was overcast now and threatening rain again, so the rain gear came out. I’m hot from portaging and the the rain gear isn’t helping that much. We paddle down the channel trolling, but catch nothing. We see another father and son tandem who were paddling in, but were having some difficulty steering their canoe, I hope they were ok in the current. We turned into Cache Bay proper and head for the campsite, still trolling. About ¾ of the way across in the middle of the lake, dad’s rod goes off. FISH ON! I had the net packed so I grabbed the fish grips and got ready. It was a laker that was caught on a blue/orange husky jerk. I grab the leader decided it wasn’t going to open its mouth and just pulled it into the boat. I put my foot on the fish and was then able to use the fish grip so I could take the hook out. That didn’t matter though because the hook fell out as I lifted the fish up. I put the fish on the stringer, triple checking to make sure all was secure, and then we start to paddle again, whoo hoo dad has a fish! That fish really lifted our spirits on a now grey day. We got to camp and discovered it was pretty nice, it had a good tent pad, a nice fire pit, and a great view. The only negative side to it was the canoe landing which made loading and unloading difficult. We setup camp and then ate some lunch and dad tok a nap, he was exhausted. I set up the rest of camp, which was basically the fly and then fished from shore with no results. We went out fishing later on with the fly rods using grey ghost flies, again no fish. We went looking for a stream to catch walleye at but couldn’t find one. We then switched to spinning gear and trolled. We found an awesome rock pile but couldn’t get anything to bite off of it. I have a feeling in the summer time this rock pile is a fish magnet. Back at camp we organized a huge pile of firewood that dogsledders or ice fisherman split. We also found 2 ice fishing rods hanging in the trees by the fire pit, so I guess someone wasn’t able to get back in time for them. We had a scotch and snacks on a rock ledge overlooking the lake and then started dinner around 7, eating around 8. That trout made so much fish for us to eat! Dinner was apple crisp and we felt stuffed, but some how managed to drink a cup of hot cocoa as well. We went to bed around 9:30. While we were cleaning up for the night I found a HUGE wolf spider that must have been 3-4” across. I fell asleep listening to the loons call across the lake.
Day 5 May 27, 2014: It was cold last night and Ihad to put my fleece on in my sleeping bag. I think the biggest issue I’m having is my sleeping bag isn’t keeping me warm in as low of temperatures any more. I went to put my socks on, but only found one of those…the other must have gone exploring elsewhere in the tent. I slept until 7:30 and dad was already up making breakfast. The smell of campfire smoke and bacon got me out of my bag quickly, despite the cold. I wore my fleece gloves and hat for a little while as we ate breakfast. After cleaning the dishes we went looking for firewood, mostly smaller branches to start fires with since we had such a huge supply of dry split logs. We found a pine tree that must have blown down last summer and it was huge. We cut up one branch and brought it back to camp. If others find that tree, it will likely provide firewood for an entire summer, it is truly massive. We cut the branches up using the new sven saw I got for this trip. It worked really well, much better than the small hand saw I used to use. After the firewood chore was done we decide to go back out fishing. We went back to the main part of Cache Bay and headed to where dad caught his laker the day before. We trolled the same husky jerk and a gold flatfish. Nothing. I decide to switch to a deep tail dancer in purpedescent. We trolled and found a large hump near a point that looked good, but still no fish. We did a few more passes and still no fish. I got hung up but we manage to free the bait and then we trolled back in. no fish. We had tuna melts and dehydrated apples for lunch. It turns out, dad doesn’t like tuna melts. He never told me when we were doing the planning .Sorry dad!. I fished from shore and then took a nap in the hammock. I slept for almost 2 hours! Woke up and we decided to check out the pictographs off Cache Bay. I trolled on the way there, but still no fish. The pictographs were really neat. It looked like 3 people and a bunch of little lines. Dad thinks that the little lines are fires. I think they are maybe trees or children or people. After the pictographs we went looking for a creek that flowed into the lake to possible get a walleye. We found the creek, but it wasn’t very large and it was rather shallow by the creek entrance. We saw a pretty good sized pike while looking for another creek but he wasn’t interested in our baits. What is the deal with these fish? We went back to camp and had a scotch and cigars again and then started our dinner of chili mac. This time we made an extra package and it was very filling. It looks like were starting run low on gas, we will have to be more careful with it going forward. We had hot chocolate again after dinner and then we decided to try fishing again. Not one strike. I can’t figure out the fishing and its really starting to bother me. I stay up to watch the stars as we get back to camp around 10 pm. Its supposed to get cold tonight, down into the 30s so I decide I am going to wear long underwear and BOTH socks this time. As I was drifting off to sleep I could hear wolves howling which was pretty cool.
Day 6 May 28, 2014: Last night there were thousands of peeper frogs peeping their little hearts out all over the lake, it was actually pretty loud. While I was watching the stars I saw a couple of shooting stars. It took a long time for the light of the sunset to go away, and it was probably close to 11pm. I was cold again last night despite the long underwear. I woke up at 6:30 and dad already had bacon going and the water was warming up for oatmeal. We cut more firewood after breakfast and that really warmed me up. Dad took a short nap in the hammock while I prepared the rods for lindy rigging some rock piles we noted on the depth finder. We were on the water at 9:15 and did several passes, with the end result being no bites, several hang ups, and no lost rigs. We went back to a small pond and saw another northern in shallow water but it wouldn’t bite. While we were there we heard a ruffled grouse drumming and dad hilariously tried to get it on video. What made this so funny was that every time the grouse would start to drum, out came the camera and the drumming would stop, and then this would repeat itself. While we were fishing we found a tiny rock island that had a seagull nesting on it. We trolled back to camp, and once again no fish. Sardines, the last of the sausage, crackers, trail mix, and venison jerky for lunch, all washed down with red Gatorade. Dad napped in the hammock after lunch and I counted out our breakfast supplies and put my mind to figuring out the fishing. I’m doing something wrong, that’s for sure. I got the sun shower out to take a shower in camp later and found that hose broke where it enters the bag. GRR. I fill it up as much as I can anyways and put it in the sun. I was able to rinse my hair face a bit at least which felt good. I hung around camp most of the day, and while doing so watched a seaplane from the ranger service fly in and dock at the ranger station. We figure it must be dropping off Janice and more supplies, as Hannah mentioned that when we first stopped there on day 1. I filmed the plan taxi away from the ranger station and then take off down the lake. I casted from shore again and got hung up so we took the canoe out to retrieve the lure, and then decided to go fish. Once again we were skunked and we returned to have a cigar and some scotch. Dad and I talked a lot as we sat sipping and puffing. We had stir fry for dinner with dehydrated chicken. It was pretty good, except for the chicken, which needed a lot more time to rehydrate. Lesson learned there. We had some mashed potatoes with it too because we were hungry, and why not? With dinner we had some warmed sake I brought in, it was ok. After dinner I decided to fish from shore and BOOM. My first cast got a 27” northern on the blue husky jerk. I slipped when I was landing the fish and soaked my right foot and my right arm but hey, that’s a fish! We had a good laugh at me slipping in the water and then I start casting again. Two more casts and WHAM another pike, this one 28”. I managed to not fall while landing this fish and dad got him with the fish grips right away. I put this fish on the stringer for tomorrow and make a few more casts. I check on the fish again just to be safe and notice he’s off the stringer, but still sitting in the water. I quickly grabbed the fish, put two stringer loops in his mouth and made doubly sure they were locked. Holy cow that was a close one! After such a slow day , what an ending! I dried my shoe and sock by the fire and hung my shirt on our clothes line. My fleece was a little damp as well but I threw it in the tent. I wore long underwear again as I got ready for bed and dad took a movie of all the noise the frogs made. Right after he hit record and said “do you hear all the frogs” he lets rip a massive fart. I was rolling with laughter and I don’t think he ever did get any sounds of the frogs ha ha ha. Its 10pm and I’m signing off for the day.
Day 7 May 29, 2014: I woke up at 6:45 and dad is once again up cooking bacon, but there are only 3 pieces left. The last of the oatmeal is eaten today as well. We mixed some dehydrated apple in with our oatmeal and its pretty good. Last night was cold, but I actually stayed warm. It is cool again this morning and I wore my fleece, hat, and gloves again. After breakfast we cut some more firewood and then dad went and laid in the hammock for a bit. I carved our initials into the stick we’ve been using as a fire poker. After dad got up we went out fishing. We were being really positive talking about how great the weather has been and how this just has to be our day. Well we trolled and we cast, and I even marked fish on the depth finder but nothing wanted to play. We came in and started lunch, which is fish chowder so the dehydrated vegetables need to soak for a while. I filleted the northern and took the extra fillets and put them in a ziplock bag and sunk them with a rock since the lake was still so cold. We had too much water in the soup, and also made too much soup in general. Its way too hot for soup anyway. We listened to the weather radio and it said it was 85 with no wind. We were so hot, I couldn’t believe that on the drive up we saw ice on Lake Superior, snow in the woods, and skim ice on day one and here we were baking like it’s the middle of the summer. I put my feet in the lake and repeated soaked my hat as I sat on a rock and fished. To my surprise a laker followed my spoon in! My dad started throwing a spoon as well but the fish would never commit. Soon after a father and son came by. They were having the same bad fishing as we were and their thought was the water temperature. They were looking for a campsite and are leaving Saturday. Maybe we will see them again. We bummed around camp the rest of the day and it was so hot. Dad got something in his eye so we rigged up the broken shower bag as an eye bath to flush it out. It worked! We had some scotch and then started dinner, fish tacos! I took one of the fillets out of lake sized cooler and cut it up and then breaded it with taco seasoning. I made some black beans and rice as well. While the beans and rice were cooking I fried up the fish, then placed the rice and beans in a tortilla, the fish on top and then had some taco bell sauce packets for a little extra flavor. After dinner I grabbed my rod and threw a spoon across the shallows again. A BIG swirl formed as my spoon went by and I figured there must be a good sized pike there. I cast again and WHAM, my drag is singing. Dad grabbed the camera and took a video of me fighting the fish. I saw him a couple of times as he went back and forth in front of the campsite. He was a monster, and made the 28” fish look small. My guess is the fish was over 50”. Soon the line felt funny, something was wrong. The fish got the line stuck in the rocks! TINK! The line broke. Ugh, what a change of emotions from fighting the fish to just emptiness. I immediately tied on another spoon and I cast. Again, BAM fish on. It was another pike, but no where near as big as the last one. This one I was able to land and it went 40”. I let the fish go after snapping a picture. A few more casts and another pike in the 30” range. I wanted dad to cast and get a fish, and he did but for some reason they weren’t hooking up. I think his mind was on other things. Like dessert. While I was battling the pike, he was working on making pudding. We didn’t have instant pudding and what did have required milk, which we did not bring. He tried to “fix” it by adding syrup. And then a hot chocolate packat. Oh god. It was so bad. It was chocolately, maplely, mess. After that, we called it a night. It is a lot warmer tonight, no long under wear, in bed by about 10:30.
Day 8 May 30, 2014: I woke up at 7:00 to voices. Two people in a canoe were talking to my dad who was lounging in the hammock. We had warm carnation for breakfast with some hot chocolate and coffee. No more solid breakfasts other than a power bar. We visited our morning routine site and cut some more firewood. I think I heard an animal while I was in the tent last night. I popped my head out but didn’t see anything. Dad couldn’t find one of his paddling gloves and at first we thought that the mystery animal had taken it. We had a laugh though when we found it under the rain fly to the tent. After our morning chores I decided to see if I could make a fire bow. It took me a while, but I got it going. My biggest problem was getting it to spin and making the wood hot enough. I think the wood I was using (pine) isn’t well suited to this since it is so sappy it tended to sort of melt instead of making hot dust. Its still early but the day is already getting hot. This morning dad tried to film the wood peckers that filled the surrounding woods, but I’m not sure if he was successful or not. Around 10am we went out fishing and brought the fly rods. As usual no fish, but there was LOTS and I mean LOTS of pollen on the water. It looked like someone had painted the surface yellow there was so much pollen. It was on everything. We went in and made dad’s favorite lunch of tuna melts again. Afterwards we packed up the fly rods and I went back to working on the fire bow. After that We lounged around in the heat. We saw another canoe while I worked on the second fire bow and I wondered how busy Hook Island would be tomorrow for the tow out. Tonight we are going to have a fish fry, with a healthy amount of scotch and even some sake, its our last night, so why not?! I really want dad to get a pike tonight, something big. While we were lounging in camp earlier, the wind was really starting to kick up and a dust devil turned water devil danced around the lake for a while, that was really cool to see. Earlier, around 1pm I caught another 30” pike on a spoon. We packed up camp in the afternoon and the food pack is now pretty empty, too bad we don’t have any more portages to take advantage of this on anymore! We moved some gear to the food pack that we wouldn’t be using to balance the packs out. We talked as we sipped our scotch and decided that despite the fishing, it has been a pretty good trip. We both realize we likely won’t be having another trip like this together any time soon and just soak up the time we spend together. I’m really glad the pike fishing turned on at the end. Dinner was fried pike with mashed potatoes and black beans and rice. It was very filling. I made some casts for pike after dinner with dad, but they shut off or had moved on. Its warmer tonight again, so hopefully another night of good sleep. Our tow tomorrow is at 10am.
Day 8 May 31, 2014: We wake up around 3am because dad hears rain. We hop up in just our underwear running around camp to make sure anything that could get wet, doesn’t. There isn’t a lot to do, other than tuck some shoes under the rain fly and close up a pack. The local wildlife must have gotten a kick out of that. Around 5 dad gets up and asked me if I wanted to hit the water early because it looks like heavy weather is going to be moving in. I say sure, we quickly pack up camp and load the canoe. We’re on the water by about 6:00. Its still, no wind, and barely light out. We creep out of Cache bay while everyone else is sleeping. We have our rain gear on because we see passing showers around us, but so far we stay dry. I cannot give up on the fishing so I troll on our way to Hook Island. I see fish rising around us, but nothing is hitting the spoon I’m trolling. I just cannot figure out these fish. We keep paddling and soon we’re at hook island…about 3 hours early. I guess we’ll just hang out until its our time. Maybe another tow boat can send back word if we can be picked up early. No big deal. As we sit in the little cove on the back side of Hook island, I fish and then I hear something. Its an outboard motor. Tow boats are coming to drop people off. As luck would have it, they’re from Seagull Outfitters and carry a radio with them. They drop off their charges and hear back that they should go ahead and pick us up. We throw the gear in the boat, as the tow boat kid ties on our canoe. We hop in and we’re off! The weather really doesn’t look good, but its still calm with a light rain starting now. By the time we get back to the landing the wind is picking up…and the bugs. Oh my god the mosquitos. They’re thick and everyone is telling us they’re worse back at the outfitter, they’re right. We scramble to throw gear in my Saturn and get the canoe tied down. We stop in the outfitters shack and have someone take our picture quickly. After that we hop in the car, boots still wet from hook island and hit the road. As we do the heavens open up and it is an absolute downpour. Once we’re back in cell phone range, dad calls mom to see how the closing went. She said everything went smoothly and that the movers are almost done unloading the truck in South Carolina! He also gets a call from the credit card company that his card is being issued. After some confusion and talking to mom for a while it turns out their dog ate her card a few days before and had to call them to get a new one. We laughed at that and set our sights for Duluth for lunch and finally Eau Claire to spend the night before driving back the rest of the way the next day. It was a fun trip, but we’re both tired and in need of a shower. The people in the restaurant stared at us when we walked in.