Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Return to Agnes, Sep. 2018 solo
by OldGreyGoose

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/30/2018
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 11
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
Wind prevented me from seeing pictographs in 2016, but I had a good trip up the S-Chain and out thru East-Jeff-West scenic area. Felt the need to try again in 2018. Spent night before in Virginia, MN and drove to Canoe Country Outfitters early on 8/30. Met with Mark then headed for CCO's base on Moose Lake for an early tow.
Quetico Solo Day 1, Thursday, Aug. 30

Pete drove my towboat from Moose Lake to Prairie Portage. Very chill on the half hour ride with my fleece under the PDF. On the Ranger Station before they opened at 7:45. Headed across Inlet Bay for the Yellow Brick Road portage to Burke a little after 8. Snack at a campsite at the US/CAN pinch point. (Lots of motorboats on the US side!) Crazy tailwind across Burke. Beaver dams and low water in the no-name lake. (Levels may be a foot lower than in 2016.) On North Bay (Basswood Lake) there’s more cross/tailwind. Found a campsite and sent my SPOT message at 12:30. SPAM wrap/fruit snacks lunch. Nice 180 degree view here with plenty of shad, shelter and trails. No one else camped nearby! Clear/cool morning then mostly cloudy then clear again at supper. NOAA: 50% rain tomorrow. Little buggy here. Good first day!


Quetico Solo Day 2, Friday, August 31

Ugly gray sky. Tempted to lay in tent. Hot cereal and coffee. Everything looks better now, lol. Decide to push on. Underway 8AM. Two trumpeter swans and their two young spotted in the back bay. Up the weedy channel to the South Lake portage. Two ducks. Snack at the campsite on South. Good steady pace through South, West, a no-name, to Shade Lake. Bald Eagle greets me on Shade!

Pick the primo point site and send SPOT about noon. Want to get setup for rain most likely coming later. Ramen "plus" lunch. No one else seen today until 4PM when a group of four arrive across the lake. Mountain House beef stew supper then a very light mist starts up. Light steady rain follows and I scurry and hit the tent early and write my notes. (Set a pot to collect rainwater off the tarp.) All in all an ugly day, but progress made and no harm done.

Quetico Solo Day 3, Saturday, September 1

Gray daybreak again. Cool. South breeze. MH scrambled eggs and tea. Feeling good and decide to push on again. Missed the dang portage to Noon Lake again! =( Up and over, to a deserted lake I really love. Paddled back into some "moosey-looking" spots but none are around. (I know they're here though.) Meet a "crowd" portaging to Summer Lake. Bummer. Awful put-in on Summer due to low water soaks me to the knees.

Decide to snack my way forward instead of stopping for lunch. This allows me to get ahead of the group I met going my way. Summer to Sultry portage is no big deal and I enjoy a leisurely paddle to one of my favorite portages--Sultry to Silence. This one has it all: rock garden, mudhole, granite ledge path, stream crossing and a neat bog! (I triple portage this one, for safety's sake.)

Once on Silence, I'm beat and paddle to the first campsite on the East side. By 5:45 I'm fed and watered and ready for bed. Sky almost clear. Hoping to see stars tonight. Tiny fire burning "trash" wood left by others. Nice sunset at 7:30. No bugs! Later when I get out to pee I see stars galore. The Big Dipper looked touchable!

Another day in Paradise.

Quetico solo Day 4, Sunday, September 2

Up early. Gray and ominous sky. Need to get a move on! Tea and oats "plus." Just finished packing up and it starts to drip-drip-drip. Underway at 9:10. (Take the 9:10 to Agnes and I'll meet you at the Gets clammy quick paddling in raingear! Light drizzle now. Distant thunder as I reach the portage. Terrible put-in on the Agnes side because of low water level.

Up the west side of big Agnes. Paddling close to shore I find two "legacy" campsites. Snacks. Decide to paddle straight across to a big island and follow it north. Torrential rain! The sky dumps a load on me and there's a gallon of water in the canoe in minutes. Then it quits. Skies brighten. Phew! Follow the island to the tip then head for a known good campsite.

Even brighter skies. Campsite is open. Thank you Jesus! SPOT message sent at 12:30. 3:30PM... all setup here and mostly dried out. That's the good news; bad news is my Katadyn water filter is barely dripping. WTH? (Brand new filter only used three days.) Oh well, that's why you bring a backup, right? (Sawyer Squeeze)

Supper is a Good-To-Go Pad Thai meal. VVG! Very breezy from NW and mostly sunny now. But just wait, lol... Small SMB caught off the shore. Plain vanilla sundown, but at least it's clear now. Pesky ground squirrel here, where's my shotgun, lol?

Quetico Solo Day 5, Monday, September 3

Up early. Beautiful morning! Went looking for pictographs(Agnes panel #5) after breakfast. Wow! Amazing! Very thankful I finally made it up here. Took a bunch of photos, then paddled clockwise around the island east of mine. Back at camp around 8 and feeling really pumped, decide it's too nice a day not to paddle and start breaking down camp.

Paddle leisurely down towards here panels #3 and #4 should be, stopping once at a "legacy" campsite for a snack and drink. Pictos and etchings here are tucked away near a small island, and a little hard to locate. Wow times two! (Especially the etchings.) Hated to leave, but headed for the nearby portage back to Silence Lake. (Note: retracing my route is not Plan A, but I feel certain the water is too low to exit Agnes through East-Jeff-South lakes this time.)

Paddling down Silence was a little work, into some weird cross breezes, but not really a problem. Decided on staying on an East facing site that would give me lots of afternoon shade. SPOT sent about 1PM. Lunch: cream of broccoli soup, cheese crackers and fruit snacks.

Filtered water with the slow bag, supplemented by the Sawyer. Washed socks. Washed me! MH Chili Mac with beans supper. Beaver swims by. 2-3 mosquitoes. Small fire before sunset. Nice sunset with jet contrail. Awesome day in Quetico!

Quetico Solo Day 6, Tuesday, September 4

Slept awful! (Who makes up this dream material? My God!) Up 6:30. It's going to rain again, for sure. MH biscuits and gravy with coffee, while I think about the pros and cons of moving a sixth straight day. Do it! (Rather paddle in the rain than huddle under a tarp.)

Underway at 9AM. Drizzle starts at the portage to Sultry Lake. Oh great, those rock faces will be slippery. Leisurely paddle and carefully portage through Sultry and Summer to Noon. Tuna wrap lunch by the portage. Drizzle stops, but I'm soaked. Even so, I love this lake! Paddle around Noon looking for moose. Nada. Find and check out a very rough "legacy" campsite. Portage (all downhill!) to Shade Lake.

Looking for a campsite. First good one on the left is open. Thank you Jesus.(again) Get the tent/tarp up quickly, but my bed will be rooty tonight. The camp filter bag is drip-dripping ever so slowly. (But that will be okay if I decide to layover here tomorrow.) Home-dehydrtated PACE microwave bag meal plus dehydrated beef upper. Fine drizzle again after supper. Not many photos today. Backache!

Quetico Solo Day 7, Wednesday, September 5

THINGS GO "BUMP" IN THE NIGHT! Last night as I had just fallen asleep something bumped the tent. I woke up, hackles raised, froze and listened...nothing more...turn on light...listen...Nothing more. (Next morning I find one of the paddles by the tent had been moved, but nothing else to offer a clue as to what the noise was.)

Slept fitfully. Up a 7:30. Cool and breezy. Wool shirt and fleece jacket. Layover day on Shade Lake. Oats with peanut butter and fruit with hot tea. Feeling kind of crummy, but breakfast helps. Hang some stuff to air/dry when the sun gets up. Clean the water bag filter screen, but it still just drips.

Clean out the fireplace using the trowel and a Parks trash bag. Fruit snacks and SPOT message at 9:30AM. Check NOAA: 35-40F. tonight? Find some firewood. Getting breezier. Tandem canoe comes by, heading North. Sit in the Alite chair and read my trip notes...Thru six days I've had rain on three; after seeing 20 people the first three days I saw ZERO the next three; and I've seen stars at night two times so far.

Potato soup plus dehydrated veggies for lunch. By 1:30 the wind has switched from NW to W to S. Cold front moving by and the lake is really rolling now. Spend the afternoon "chasing the sun" and dressed for warmth. (Long afternoon, but glad not to be paddling in the wind!) Good-to-Go Mexican Quinoa supper that tastes good but looks like puke! Fixed(taped) my broken headlamp in case of any more "bumps" tonight. NOAA saying freeze warming for all of NE MN tonight!

Quetico Solo Day 8, Thursday, September 6

Chilly morning! Fine in tent, low 40s outside. (LJs, wool shirt, and beanie on.) Small fire feels good! Coffee and MH scrambled eggs. Packed up and took some pics, then underway about 9:30. Clear w/south breeze. See my "neighbors" are already headed for the no-name portage.

Meet Bob and Steve from Ohio (first ever Quetico trip) on the little up and over portage and we talk for awhile. Steve wants to portage my canoe and I hesitate, then say "okay" thinking it'd be rude to refuse. I noticed they were REALLY LOADED, with the Canadian Waters "Ultimate Package" in a (Bell) Northwind canoe. We say goodbye and I let them get ahead of me a ways.

After portaging/paddling thru the no-name, and West to South Lake, I stop for lunch at the great piney point site on South. Love this site! (SPAM wrap.) Short paddle to the portage, get it done and I'm back in the lovely channel into North Bay(Basswood Lake). Around a bend I go and up ahead I see Bob and Steve sitting in the canoe below the pesky beaver dam.

"What's for lunch," I joke. Bob: "we got 'grounded' up ahead there." (There's more water today than a week ago.) We talk, then I "take the lead," and we bust butt, paddling thru thick water plants (there were two pretty shallow spots) and reach deeper water in a short time. Leisurely paddle out into North Bay, me heading for a nearby campsite, they for Burke. When we part, Bob says "I guess we were kind over overwhelmed back there." About sums it up, I'd say...

SPOT: 2PM from the campsite next to the one I actually stayed at, since a couple was apparently taking a break, then left. Great spot on what I call "Sunset Point" where, considering the forecast I set my tent more exposed than I ever do. Supper: Rice-A-Roni/chicken/veggie concoction. Fishing and firewood from 5:30-7. Saw a pair of Trumpeter Swans with two young back in a hidden bay. A few skeeters here and elsewhere today. Nice sunset from tent! Great day!!!

Quetico Solo Day 9, Friday, September 7

Layover day at "sunset point" camp. Hardly slept. Cloudy, no stars. 50F. when I got up to partly cloudy skies. Dead calm! MH eggs with bacon and tea. Fished from 9-10:30, caught one very small smallmouth on Rebel topwater frog. (Fished awhile right under a Bald Eagle.) Snack back at camp, then out again to fish and find firewood. One miss--probably a small guy, then another miss--definitely huge! Dang! Cast about twenty times in same spot--nada. Double dang!!

Need a wash-up! Found a good spot to sit and washed all of me I could. (Pair of socks, manicure and pedicure too, lol.) Whiled away the afternoon. Supper: Another Pace grocery store meal dehydrated at home. By 5:30 I'd still seen no one all day! (Forget to send SPOT today?)

This afternoon the wind shifted around from NW to SW to SE to E. Jeez! Pair of loons here ranged far and wide today, and the eagle came by a couple times. Fishing so poor I opted for an evening fire instead. Long day, but feeling rested...

Quetico Solo Day 10, Saturday, September 8

Chilly. Cheap thermometer says 52F. Dead calm again and partly cloudy! Small fire. Oats and berries plus PB, with coffee. Need break camp but decide to fish from shore a little first.

Wham!!! (I actually thought it was a huge bass at first, since it came out of the water straight at me, disguising it's shape.) BIG PIKE. Horse it into the shallow rock "live well" where it thrashes around destroying one treble hook, but thankfully self-releasing. My heaviest northern ever and at least 35 inches long.

At 9:50 reluctantly leave this great campsite. Half hour workout into a crosswind. Ugh! Stop at a small (low water) sandy beach, the only one I've seen in this area. Snack. (Accidentally left my old Crocs there because I paddled in them and changed to dry boots for the portage.)

Meet a party of six on the portage. Boo! Then a party of two at the no-name put-in crowds things further and witnesses me fall and get wet putting down the canoe. Another canoe two canoes at a beaver dam. Welcome back to civilization, I guess. BAD HEADWIND on Burke has me giving it all I've got for another half hour paddle to the lee of some islands. (Paddle by Bob and Steve on one island.)

Found the small island camp used in 2016 open and thank the Lord for my safe arrival. SPOT sent at 1:30. First I place my wet socks and boots to dry in what little sun there is here. PB wrap and beef jerky late lunch. PC-clear-PC-cloudy-clear so far. Fair forecast--no tarp.

Mexican rice/veggies/dried beef supper. Small smokey fire at 7:30. No bugs. More PB before bedtime. Bet my shoulders will ache tonite! Plenty of water ready for tomorrow, using just the Sawyer Squeeze. Crummy sunset. Early start tomorrow? (Tow pickup at 1PM.) What a day!

Quetico Solo Day 11, Sunday, September 9

Last day. Cool morning again. Partly cloudy with slight breeze. Leisurely breakfast at my Burke Lake camp. Pack up and head for the Yellow Brick Road portage to Bayley Bay. The local loon pair has a small "loonling." (Too small to be able to fly South when the time comes, I'm afraid.) Daddy loon dives nearby, then surfaces less than a paddle length away and freaks out seeing the canoe! Crazy.

Portaging to Bayley Bay with canoe, I'm shocked to see rolling surf pounding the beach, and white caps further out! Jeez. (Negative thoughts come pouring forth.) Come back with the rest of my stuff and carry all to the far end of the beach next to the point jutting into the bay. (So as to paddle directly into the wind, not crosswind.)

By now maybe the wind is lessening slightly or maybe my first fears were uncalled for, or both. Decide if I paddle close to the shore and make the main point about a half mile away, I should be okay after that. In other words, "man up and go for it!" Over the next 35 minutes I could barely risk missing a paddle switch and was almost kneeling down with my butt against the seat front, but when I cleared the point I could relax a little.

From there to Sunday Island, it was a little dicey paddling crosswind, but I just eased back and let the Encounter "bob" while taking a stroke or two, corrected for the next set of rollers, and made slow but steady progress. Once at Sunday Island I rested at a nice high campsite, almost completely drained. Clif bar and sports drink.

From there to Prairie Portage was uneventful. Met up with Bob and Steve heading in (Steve said they took a slight "detour") and paddled the last half mile or so with them. Hit the gravel beach at PP about 11:30 very thankful! Had a picnic table lunch of PB wraps, hit the Park store and killed time until my tow arrived.(a little early) Very rough ride back to the Moose Lake base!

Another great Quetico trip!