Back Into The Outdoors: A Moose loop
June 1-9, 2018
* Route Overview *
The route we planned to take would bring us on a nice loop around the northeast-central BWCA, the Moose Lake area, I’ll call it. First, a tow to the Birch portage, then down Knife to SAK for 1 night, through Eddy and Kek ponds to Kekekabic for 3-4 nights, then down to Fraser for 1 night, over to Ima for 1 night, then up to Ensign for the last 1-2 nights, and out through Splash. Due to significant wind on the first day (and throughout the trip really) we opted to stop early on Knife, close to the Knife-Bonnie portage, so we ended up not seeing Eddy Falls or the Kek Ponds. Day 2 was Knife to Kek through Bonnie, Spoon, and Pickle. We ended up doing 3 nights on Kekekabic and 2 nights on Ensign. Overall the route was really enjoyable and offered a variety of terrain.
* Route Duration *
PP says 41.2mi; my friend had his Garmin tracking us but I don’t know the actual distance. I think it was around 44mi, which accounts for mistakes and sightseeing on some lakes like Wisini. Getting to Knife took us about 4 hours on the dot. We stopped early on Knife due to a strong 15-20mph headwind about 2 hours later, landing us at our camp at around 3:30pm. We did not see many people this day, especially once on Knife. The travel down to Kekekabic was fairly quick but those portages should not be underestimated, with lots of elevation change, and some steep landings. Pickle-Kek was probably my least favorite if I remember correctly. Kek to Fraser was not bad, with a 5 or 6 hour travel time, and was not much affected by wind due to most of the time being spent on small lakes and portages. This was the most isolated day by far; we saw no one all day including on Kek until we got to Fraser, and I think we saw 2 groups of 2 canoes and that was it. The Kek-Strup portage is also one to remember. Fraser to Ima was a gorgeous day and didn’t take too long at all despite even more wind. Ima to Ensign was pretty easy compared to the area around Kek, with mostly flat, well-worn portages. Even with us stopping for the better part of an hour at Cattyman Falls for lunch and sightseeing, we still got to Ensign in 5 or 6 hours, with a campsite by 3 or 3:30pm. Ensign was very busy and every site from Ashigan to Trident was taken (using binoculars), until we got to the northwest tip and found that site open.
* Route Difficulty *
I think this route is definitely beginner-intermediate; if difficulty was graded 1-10, I’d put this at maybe 4/10. The last portage into and first portage out of Kek are the hardest of the trip and I would rate them a 7/10 for difficulty probably – not awful but the elevation changes can be quite exhausting with 50 extra pounds on you and you do need to watch your footing in some sections. The area around Ensign-Ima-Fraser is pretty easy and I would rate that area maybe a 2.5/10 (not a completely flat walk through the woods, but only very-out-of-shape people will find it challenging). If I had kids, at least 7 or 8 years old, so they can actually carry their own bags and maybe paddles and rods and PFDs, I wouldn’t have too much hesitation about bringing them on this route. The biggest concern is Knife, Kekekabic, Fraser, Thomas, and Ima, as far as big water goes. Ensign is kinda big too I suppose. As long as you play it safe and smart if there are whitecaps, and cut into waves that aren’t as treacherous, there’s not too much to worry about. The headwind on Knife was not worrisome for stability, but on Kekekabic we had to paddle away from the campsite we wanted, just to cut back into the waves, twice. We were actually a little concerned during that 20 minute stretch of paddling but we had a MN3 which is a low, aggressive canoe. Pick a more stable canoe if you’re concerned about instability (caused by nature or by inexperienced paddlers).
* Trip Log *
I will be transcribing and paraphrasing what I wrote in my journal during the trip, but also elaboration/reflection after the fact. I will also add a fun bit at the end – I tracked as many songs that got stuck in my head as possible, to see if there was any correlation. I didn’t notice any correlation other than a 4/4 time signature (easy to walk/march to) and recency of having heard a song, but I think the list is interesting/entertaining anyway so I’ll include it. For reference, the two friends I was with will be called G and E.