Back Into The Outdoors: A Moose loop
This year (2018) I wanted to get back in touch with my outdoorsy self. It has been over a decade since I last went on a canoeing or hiking trip. I was a Boy Scout (could say I still am!) and I went to the BWCA once when I was 14 with a couple dads and sons, but I have not been since. After getting into astronomy and being reminded how rare and beautiful our planet is, I wanted to immerse myself in nature, and enjoy it while I still can (and I’m really glad I did). Thus, I decided to start doing research, buy gear, and plan a trip to the BWCA. I ended up planning two trips for 2018 with two different groups; one trip was 3 guys for 9 days starting June 1, and one trip was 2 guys for 6 days starting Sept 8 (planned to be 8, but thunderstorms cut it short). Both trips went pretty well, with a few hiccups each (to be expected).
In both June and September, we entered through Moose Lake and got outfitted by Williams & Hall (friendly and affordable). This would be my first time using an outfitter on a lake, so the experience was new to me, and I’m glad to say it was very positive.
Having almost all of the gear necessary, all we had to rent was the canoe, paddles, overnight lodging, and a tow in and out. W&H was very accommodating and we had no problems showing up to the bunkhouse a little after midnight on Friday night after work, both times. The bunkhouse beds with the spring suspensions are OK at best, but I sleep better on my inflatable pad. The beds with the hard wooden boards were not good even with doubled-up cushions – I should have brought my pad in with me (even if I might not have been able to sleep well due to excitement anyway). In the mornings, we got up early, sorted our gear, stopped in the dining hall for a quick pancake, bacon, and eggs breakfast with OJ and coffee (perfect way to start the day), and brought our gear down to the dock to catch our tow. On the way back, we were each offered a cold beer or soda and handed a towel to take a much-appreciated shower. Their shower rooms are very nice and I can’t tell you how good it feels to even just rinse off with warm water and put on a clean set of clothes before you drive home. That cold beer sure hits the spot too.
The overall cost of outfitting through W&H was very reasonable when split between multiple people. Combined with the cost of gas up to Ely and back, and all the food we brought with us, it was less than $500/person for both the 2-person and 3-person groups. Pretty affordable for a week-long vacation if you ask me! I would recommend Williams & Hall to anyone who likes the idea of what I just described. They were easy to work with, friendly, had good gear, and seemed affordable or on par with any other outfitter for cost.
* Food *
For food storage, we used a 10 gallon blue barrel acquired on eBay. In June with 3 guys, we put that inside a large 110L MEC dry sack, which had more food in it. About 4 days into the June trip, we were able to fit everything in the barrel, so we didn’t have to hang the MEC pack at night anymore. In September, all food for 8 days fit into the barrel, and we used a LevelSix harness set for 60L which carried the barrel nicely. Those harnesses ain’t cheap though! I was thankful to be able to borrow one. In June we came back with about a third of the barrel full of food; in September we came back with half a barrel left - too many snacks and some high volume stuff like a brick of lard we ended up not using.
* Gear *
For everything else, a CCS Guide and GG Quetico fit all of the gear for both trips, being a little more compact for the 2-person trip. We had most of the amenities, including FlexLite chairs, a Silky folding saw, Fiskars splitting axe, and a group tarp, but we went as light as possible on our gear for both trips and were mostly successful. On both trips, every person had a day pack with personal items like toiletries, gloves, water, tackle, survival gear, camera gear, etc. We also brought 1 fishing rod each for both trips, though next year I think I will buy a second rod as my trip will be fishing-focused. We double-portaged everything and were about average for speed in both portaging and paddling, our travel times coming in roughly 10-20% longer than estimated on PP (which we knew were just rough estimates, of course).