Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Angleworm to Crooked Lake to Mudro
by slowthump

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/13/2020
Entry Point: Angleworm Lake (EP 20)
Exit Point: Mudro Lake (EP 23)  
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
The Angleworm entry point and long portages are not new to my family. Our first family trip to the BWCA was 3 years ago and since it was fairly last minute the only permit we could find was Angleworm. We joke that our first BWCA canoeing trip was really a backpacking trip with canoes as we camped about 200 meters from the end of the portage for two nights and then went out the Trease portage to South Hegman. Our second trip was via the Stuart River entry with its 1.5 mile opening portage. Once again procrastination and trouble coordinating schedules left us with Angleworm being the only option. No problem though, we were excited to tackle the long portage again. But this time we would go much farther and much faster. Our plan was to go at least as far as Gun Lake and if all were feeling good and time allowed, carry on to Friday Bay on Crooked Lake the first day. Lower Basswood Falls would be the second night followed by an easy day to Tin Can Mike and then a quick exit on day 4 out Mudro.

Day 1. Thursday 8/13/2020 My wife and I along with our college age boys and high school daughter plus a girlfriend left our house in Bemidji, MN at 3 AM for the three hour drive to Ely. I would have liked to have left the night before but son number 1 had to work his internship job in Fargo and could not get home until 8 PM. The six of us squeezed into my extended cab Silverado with a 17’ Grumman on top and hit the road. I drove one of my favorite roads Hwy 1 but nothing much to see in the dark. We arrived at Piragis Outdoors shortly after 6 AM and picked up a 3 person Wenonah Minnesota 3. We could have used our 17” Old Town Penobscot but I wanted the extra seat and gear storage. We ate my wife’s chicken salad croissant sandwiches on the drive to Mudro Entry where I stashed my mountain bike for the ride back to Angleworm and the truck on our last day. We arrived at the Angleworm Lake entry at about 7:45 AM and started down the portage at 8:20. I carried the Grumman with 3 fishing poles, paddles and life jackets strapped in along with a 10 pound fanny pack. I made it to the end of the 2.2 mile portage in less than an hour in one push with no stops. My goal was to get it over with as quickly as possible. The boys switched off twice carrying the Wenonah and canoe pack and the girls each had backpacking packs. They arrived 5 minutes behind me. We then paddled the length of Angleworm Lake and portaged .8 miles into Home Lake, portaged .8 miles into Gull Lake and then the short trail into Gun Lake. Here we stopped for lunch of roast beef and pork sandwiches and huddled up to assess our next move. We could stay on Gun or make the push for Friday Bay. My wife and I could have gone either way but the young folk wanted more. The next portage was 1 mile long into Wogosh Lake and a couple of short portages on the Papoose creek through Niki, Chippewa and Papoose Lake. The last portage of the day was .75 miles to Friday Bay. We paddled to the first campsite and thankfully it was open so we took it. It was 3:45 PM and my 54 year old body was shot. After water was filtered and tent set up I took a nap on a moss covered rock in the shade. We ate our evening meal of freeze dried lasagna, took a swim and were all in our 6 person tent by 9 pm. All in all it was a very long day. The eight portages totaled 5.75 miles and we paddled another 7.25 miles for a daily total of 13 miles.

Day 2 We were awakened at about 3:30 am by a major thunderstorm with strong winds, thunder, lightning and driving rain. Our tent was pretty exposed to the wind and we were concerned the poles would break. Quite a bit of water got around the rain fly and since we had 6 full grown bodies in a Coleman 6 person tent we were pretty squished and those on the edges of the tent got pretty wet and cold. The storm lasted about 30 minutes and we did manage to get back to sleep. We awoke about 7 am and preceded to mop out the tent and pack up all our wet gear. As my wife was heading to the lake to wash her breakfast dishes she slipped on wet moss covered rock steps going down to the lake. She took a face first dive about 5 feet down and landed on a big tree root and rocks. She had a deep puncture wound above her eye and her wrist and chest hurt. Luckily, my younger son is an EMT and he patched up the bleeding with butterflies and gauze, wrapped her wrist and assessed her for head trauma. I suggested we split up with my daughter and I taking her out to get to medical care. My wife said no way and we then proceeded on our way. She had a headache and was pretty sore but continued to paddle as best she could. We headed to the north end of Friday Bay of Crooked Lake and continued eastward and then southward along the Canadian border to Wednesday Bay. We stopped at Table Rock and had a lunch of summer sausage, meat sticks, and dried fruit. It began to rain lightly as we headed south. We stopped and marveled at the fantastic cliff with pictographs. The best pictograph display that I have seen so far. Our goal was to camp some were close to lower Basswood Falls but all the campsites were occupied. While portaging around the falls on the Canadian side, we met another canoe group and they said there were open sites past Wheelbarrow Falls. We headed that way but noticed that on the first site past lower Basswood Falls, there was a large group of scouts huddled up with no tents in sight. We paddled over and found they had just stopped to check there maps and were heading out. We gladly took the campsite as it was about 5:00 pm and this would give us a quick paddle to the Horse River in the morning. We dined on freeze dried beef stroganoff and I also fried up a rock bass that my son had caught. It tasted pretty good but definitely not Walleye! At about 8:30 PM we had to make a quick dash to our tent as it started to rain and shortly after another full on thunderstorm was upon us. Lots of wind, lightning, thunder and very heavy rain. The whole tent site sloped towards the lake and there was pretty much a river flowing around and under our tent. Fortunately were able to keep mostly dry as our Big Agnes air beds kept us above the water. We paddled a total of 13 miles for the day with only one very short portage.

Day 3 We woke up at 7 AM and were on the water heading down the Horse River by 9. Since we could very easily reach our exit point at Mudro we considered heading out a day early. Since the weather looked good we decided to stop at Tin Can Mike Lake and take it easy and do some fishing. We arrived before lunch and took the site on the south west end of the lake and it was great. We did have to clear a 12” thick jack pine that had fallen across the tent site but my boys made quick work of it with a hatchet. We relaxed, swam and enjoyed the beautiful view. My oldest son and I tried our luck fishing and were rewarded with three beautiful walleyes that supplemented a meal of noodles and evaporated hamburger that my daughter made. We were in the tent at about 10 PM and it was perfectly calm with clear skies all night long!

Day 4 We got up at 6 AM, packed up and ate a quick Cliff bar breakfast. We were paddling by 7:30. We portaged the .75 miles from Tin Can Mike Lake into Sandpit Lake then a .3 mile portage into Mudro Lake. We then paddled and pushed our way up the small crick leading to the Mudro entry parking lot. I rode my previously stashed bike the 10 miles back to Angleworm Entry and then drove the truck back to Mudro and picked everyone up. After returning the Wenonah to Piragis, we stopped in at the Junction near Tower for ice cream and were back home in Bemidji about 3:30 PM. We all enjoyed the trip even with the rough weather, long portages and mishap. We are already looking forward to next year and maybe adding another day and doing a big loop starting at the Little Indian Sioux and out at Moose. We will enjoy the memories knowing that getting the whole family together only gets harder as the years progress.