Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Ruby's First Trip
by adludwig

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/04/2015
Entry & Exit Point: Crocodile River (EP 66)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 2
Day 2 of 3
Saturday, September 05, 2015

I had set the alarm clock for 4:45am to get an early start on our trip up to Grand Marais. We rolled into town at around 7:00, and stopped in at South of the Border Cafe for a hearty breakfast. Ruby gobbled up her pancakes, bacon, and eggs in anticipation of the work ahead of us today.

We finished up breakfast and headed up the Gunflint Trail. The drive went quickly and was familiar, since my Dad and I had just been this way a few weeks earlier for a day trip. We pulled into the East Bearskin Lake access and began to unload our gear into the canoe. There was a group of 4 getting ready to leave and they were heading towards Caribou Lake. After we finished loading up the canoe, we parked the car and made one last potty stop. The group of 4 was already on the lake as we prepared to push off. Just before we did, we were greeted by 2 guys rolling into the access. I asked them where they were coming from and they said "Crocodile". My follow-up question was which site they had stayed on. They were on the second site on the south shore. I told them that they had just made my day! I was really hoping that site would be open, since it looked like a spot I could shore fish with Ruby. Before we pushed off, they were gracious enough to take a picture of us in the canoe.

We quickly made our way across East Bearskin Lake. The morning was just beautiful! I had been a little worried on the drive up from Duluth this morning, as I saw plenty of rain and lightning. We found the portage and unloaded the canoe once. I had packed 2 bigger packs and Ruby had a small backpack. I knew we would be taking 2 trips, so I grabbed the big pack, the paddles, and the fishing poles on the first trip.

Ruby was a trooper on the portage! The portage was very slick this morning and she delicately took her time past the rocks and hills to get up the portage. It took a lot longer than I had remembered from a few weeks ago, but I should have known Ruby and her short legs would be slower. We made it to the lake after only having her ask "Are we there yet?" a half dozen times. I then asked her if she was ready to head back for the rest of the gear. She shrugged her shoulders and headed back. After the second trip we loaded up the canoe and I introduced her to Crocodile Lake. She was afraid we were going to have miles more paddling to do, but I pointed out where we were headed. We pulled up and found the site empty. The ground was still dry from where the previous tenants had their tent, so we got to work setting up camp. Ruby helped put things in various piles and was a great help with the tent.

After camp was set, we did a little exploring around the site. We found the latrine, of which Ruby was just fascinated with. She was very curious how it was going to work if she had to go potty in the middle of the night. We went down all the trails around the site and found about 4 different ways to get down to the water. It was already getting near lunch when I heard activity near the water. I looked down to see a canoe right off shore on the eastern side of our site. I greeted them from the hill and they asked if we were staying the night, I replied that we had just arrived this morning and setup camp. I was a little confused on another group entering today, since we had the only permit for the day. They went back to the first southern site, because I had told them I knew there was a large group of 4 canoes on one of the eastern sites (information I had picked up from the guys coming off Crocodile earlier today). We had a wonderful lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on flatbread with some beef jerky and granola bars. Ruby was full, content, and happy!

After lunch, we decided to do a little paddling, exploring, and fishing. We went down the lake a ways, heading east. We found a nice little batch of rocks to pull the canoe up and do some fishing. Ruby played near the water and I contently fished.

After a couple minutes of daydreaming, I realized my bobber was no where in sight! I set the hook and reeled in our first fish of the trip, a small walleye we snapped a picture of a released.

Ruby then got a little energy to fish. I was sure hoping she could catch her first walleye ever on this trip. After a bit longer, she decided we should head back to camp. So, we made our way back and fished for a while right on the rocks. I caught a few more small walleyes and perch. Ruby explored more than she fished. At one point she decided to put her feet in the water, and before I could warn her of how slippery the rocks were going to be be "sploosh" in she went! She looked at me with bewilderment and for just a brief second thought she was going to drown! I scooped her out of the lake, and after a few tears, we got her into drier clothes.

After hanging out down by the lake for a while, Ruby started getting quiet again. She was missing her mom a little bit. I pulled her close and gave her a hug. Then I declared it was dinner time! We had been gathering fire wood all day, so we would have enough for cooking hotdogs over a fire tonight. I got a good blaze going, then we cooked up some hotdogs. She nearly ate 2 all by herself, and along with some chips, it was quite a feast!

We cleaned up dishes, packed away the food, and prepared camp for the rain we were supposed to get overnight. Then, we headed back down to the lake to snap some pictures of the sunset and do some more fishing.

I asked Ruby if she wanted to fish with lighted bobbers as it got dark and she thought that sounded like a pretty cool idea. During this time I started catching a few more fish. All you have to do is be distracted tying another fishing line and you are bound to get bites!

I let Ruby take my phone and snap some pictures of her own. It was during this time that she took my favorite picture of the trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

We started getting a lot of bites, but Ruby had been unsuccessful at getting a fish in yet. I caught a couple of really big perch during this time.[paragraph break]

As I was letting one of the perch go, I looked up and Ruby's bobber was no where to be found. I told her to reel up the slack and jerk! She had a pretty good fighting fish on and soon I landed her first ever walleye! Then the real test came! I coached her on how to hold it so I could get a picture of it. She was very unwilling and soon it wriggled free of her grip and swam back to its home. Oh well! We will always have the memories. We fished for a while longer before Ruby told me she was ready to go to bed.

We went to the bathroom one last time and snuggled into the tent. Ruby was very aware of all the sounds of the forest and asked "What was that noise?" dozens of times. The camp had a very large population of red squirrels and chipmunks, which both sound like elephants moving through the forest after dark. We also heard plenty of loon calls, that she was convinced had to be wolves. She finally dozed off and I just sat enjoying this day in the wilderness with her. It was very hot, so I slept on top of my sleeping bag for more than half of the night. When I finally cooled down enough to climb into my sleeping bag, I noticed it had just started to rain. Then the rain, wind and lightning started. I figured Ruby would awake any minute to climb in my sleeping bag, but she slept right through it. The wind got fierce for a few minutes and a branch fell on the tent. Then the rain intensified and I knew my mediocre tent would soon be harboring plenty of rain water. Ruby did wake up around 4:00am to go to the bathroom. We made our way through the rainy woods and she didn't get too concerned about the process. She went back to her sleeping bag and went right to sleep.