Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Wind & Rain Magnets in Quetico
by TrailZen

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/25/2019
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake to Prairie Portage (EP G)
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Weather, location, activities, companions, etc, cause random tunes to run through my head (and sometimes escape my head in the form of humming or whistling). While on Sunday Lake on the first day of this Canoe Country trip, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" bounced around in my head some. And I can never paddle Quetico's Sarah Lake without whistling "Sara Smile". This trip's most frequent music reference, however, was the line from "When a Man Loves a Woman": "He'd give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain if she said that's the way it ought to be."
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THE PEOPLE: We're Chuck & Tia Ramsey. Both 68, we've been paddling together for 50 years and have been paddling Quetico together for 40 years. Now retired, we've been able to visit Canoe Country more frequently, and have taken 10-day trips in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

MAJOR GEAR: Northstar Northwind 17, “Larry” (North Star > Polaris > Larry). Wenonah Black Light Straight paddles, 56”. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3, ”the Big AssNest”. SealLine 115 Liter dry bag pack for clothes, sleeping bags/pads, & Crazy Creeks. Slumberjack 25 degree paired sleeping bags. Kelty Super Tioga pack for food, cooking gear, tent, fly, bear bag rig, etc. Optimus Vega cannister stove & Snow Peak titanium cookset. Pocket Farkel & Patrick McManus' “They Shoot Canoes, Don't They?” for entertainment.

PADDLING PHILOSOPHY: Single-walk portages (while we still can). Find new 'named portages' and/or new pictographs each trip. Dry most of our own food. 10-day trips are the perfect length and let us do 100+ miles or so (and justify the long commute). Select time of year and routes for solitude, fewer bugs, and fewer people.

THE 2019 CHALLENGE: Hey, we've never done Bonhomme, Sauvage, or Memory Lane Portages! All we gotta do is zip up Agnes and we're nearly there...

PREP WORK, PACKING, AND PLANNING: After a big canoe trip we evaluate each piece of gear. Our 2018 trip gear review brought two changes: the replacement of heavier paddles with carbon fiber paddles and replacing a stainless steel cookset with a titanium cookset. Our arms and shoulders appreciate the lighter paddles. A nice bonus of the lighter titanium cookset is that our stove now fits in it, protecting the stove and reducing bulk. And after reading a suggestion on a backpacker food site, we made a simple but effective cozy for the cookset's big pot.

We prepped various meals and dried many of their components in our dehydrator. We use four food bags: breakfasts, lunches & snacks, drinks, and dinners. Food planning and packing for our late-August early-September trip was completed in July.

Also in July we started route planning and posed several questions to the forums. We were warned that Memory Lane Portages can be a bogfest, and that wildfire had damaged the area through which Bonhomme and Sauvage Portages pass. The mileage of our proposed route would also require perfect weather and no layover day, making us nervous. Because many experienced Canoe Country paddlers advise keeping a route flexible, we also planned a couple optional loops.

GETTING THERE: Each visit to Canoe Country requires a 2500+ mile round trip from western North Carolina (and it's worth every mile!). We usually do the 1250-mile each way in two days, so our August 25 Quetico entry date put us on the road August 23 and in Ely August 24. As we approached Ely from Two Harbors, we got a text from member mgraber, for whom we were leaving a carbon fiber paddle at his friend's place. He asked when we would be there, and Google Maps told us we were just 15 minutes or so away. We dropped off his paddle, then checked in with Piragis, the outfitter we've used for something like 30 years. Previous trips we rented canoes, paddles, etc, but this year we only needed an inReach, as we've slowly added to our gear. We did a last-minute check of gear, then had dinner at Ely Steakhouse.