Quetico Solo Canoe Trip through the "Man Chain" to the "Bathtub"
Lakes: Lake, Newfound Lake, Sucker Lake
Distance: 8 miles
Tuesday, 08-24-99 1931 hours
Camped on Sucker Lake
Again, I was up early today, 0500 hours, so I could get an early start to Ely. I began driving up north at 0700 hours. The trip up to Ely was uneventful, but it’s always a nice feeling to be heading that direction knowing that I’ll be in the BWCA soon. It was cloudy most of the way to Ely. By the time, I pulled into Ely, it was just about lunch time, 1125 hours, so I decided to stop at the Dairy Queen for something to eat.
My next stop was to get my BWCA permit at the Kawishiwi Ranger District. After I secured my permit, I was headed back west bound to Piragis. I needed to get a Therm-a-rest repair kit and a magazine to read for the trip. I eventually had to go to another outfitter just north of Piragis. I believe it was the Wilderness Outfitters. On my way there, I stopped at the nearby coffee shop for a coffee and a muffin.
I was now headed for the Moose Lake Landing. When I got to the landing I prepared the canoe for the trip and in no time I was paddling north toward Prairie Portage. I arrived at Prairie portage at 1615 hours. I was hoping I would be able to pick up my Quetico permit a day early like the BWCA permits but, No! She told me they would be open at 0830 hours in the morning and I could pick it up then. She didn’t want to give it to me early even though I told her I wouldn’t use it until tomorrow. I guess she didn’t believe me that I wouldn’t use it early. Oh, well…I tried.
Any ways, I got a campsite on Sucker Lake about a mile east of Prairie Portage. I didn’t want to go very far since I had to return tomorrow and get my permit. It’s actually a pretty nice campsite, but I think my tent floor is at an angle.
When I started paddling up Moose Lake and Newfoundland Lakes, I began to see the storm damage from July 4th. There were many trees laying down or snapped off pointing in one direction. The track of the storm I knew began to the west a ways and the damage continued along the border to the east and south of the border. In fact, the campsite I was on had a couple large pine trees that were up rooted and had been bucked up with a chainsaw.
There had been a fire ban in place, but now they will allow a fire between 1800 to 0000 hours. When I travel by myself I usually don’t build a fire unless it’s early or late in the season. I really like fires, but when I solo I have enough stuff to do.
I saw some birds today, some loons, mergansers, seagulls and a bald eagle. There was another loon near the campsite about 10 yards from shore. I watched him for a while, he eventually went underwater, but I didn’t see where he came up.
My paddle from the Moose Lake Landing to Prairie Portages was very nice. There was very little wind so the lakes were fairly calm. When the sun was out it was downright hot. Toward late afternoon all the clouds moved out and now there are clear skies.
So far the bugs have been manageable
I had some spaghetti made with dehydrated sauce and venison burger for supper. It turned out pretty good. I also had a tasty nectarine. I made a cup of coffee at the end and before I got the food pack packed for the night.
I had a tough time with my strap that’s used to hang my food pack up earlier. When I was trying to get it up into the tree, I threw it up, it went around a short stub of a branch and it wrapped around the broken off branch several times. Well, it took me a while to get it off, so I could start the process all over again.
If I didn’t need to camp near Prairie Portage to get my Quetico permit early in the morning I would have gone further east to camp to get away from the motor boats. I’m on the lakes where they allow motors and the outfitters use motor boats to ferry people and canoes up to Prairie portage. There have been a few boats going back and forth past my campsite, but nothing like it would be on a July day. It really would be quite if it wasn’t for the occasional sound of the motors.
I brought a bunch of flashlight batteries so I’m planning to read while I’m in my tent these next few nights. That’s the plan at least.
After supper and my ordeal with the food pack strap, I did jump in the water-it felt so good and refreshing.
The time now is 2017 hrs, it’s starting to get dark, there is no wind and the mosquitoes are now after my body.
I’ve planned eight days for this trip, but based upon prior trips I usually finish them one to two days sooner depending on the length of the planned trip. I plan to go counter clockwise starting at Carp Lake, up through the “Man Chain”, some of the “Falls Chain”, McEwen, Louisa and hopefully when I get to Louisa Falls, it will be warm and then head out.
A couple years earlier, a friend of mine and I paddled the Kahshahpiwi, Kawnipi, Agnes loop and stopped at the “bathtub” at Louisa Falls and we actually got to enjoy it without freezing. I believe we were passing through there close to the end of June in 1997.
Lakes: Birch Lake, Carp Lake, That Man Lake, No Man Lake, This Man Lake
Distance: 14.5 miles
Wednesday, 08-25-99 / 1929 hours
I was going to put down the name of the lake I’m on when I started writing but I forgot it. I’m on one of the “Man” lakes. I’ll go and get my map, yep, This Man Lake. Looks like I covered about 14 1/2 miles today.
I woke up several times this morning, but the last time was 0600 hours. It was light out and I told myself I could get out of the tent at 0630 hours. Well, at 0620 hours I began doing my lower back exercises. I was out of the tent about 15 minutes later.
I got injured during some training at work in 1998 and I herniated one of my disk in my lower back. This was my second trip after that injury. Earlier, in June, I took my first BWCA trip after the injury to see how the back would hold up and I had no problems. I planned a fairly easy trip on that first trip, this trip will be more challenging.
Last night it was warm out and there wasn’t any wind. It was dead calm and it stayed calm all day long up until 1700-1800 hours. I’m now sitting on a rock point and there is a slight breeze. The breeze feels really good after paddling all day in the stillness. I really began getting hot when I started paddling on “This Man Lake”. I began soaking my hat in the lake and then placing it on my head to try and cool me off. My body was starting to become affected by the heat. I didn’t drink enough and I’m sure I was dehydrated.
I got to the first decent campsite at 1540 hours and I decided to call it a day. I set up my camp real quick, then the next thing I did was jump in the water to cool off. I took a short swim, boy, was it refreshing. I really needed to do that after getting so hot today. Since the swim, I’ve been walking around in only my underpants. It’s been that warm!
I got on the water this morning at 0830 hours. I had to paddle about one mile back to Prairie Portages to pick up my permit and then I headed back east. I left Prairie Portage at 0930 hours.
I stopped for lunch at about 1300 hours after the first long portage between “That Man” and “No Man”. I’ll have to look at the map later, I think I might be getting my “Man Lakes” mixed up, again. Nope, I have it correct and that’s where I stopped for lunch.
I saw a few people on my travels through Birch and Carp Lakes today, but I’ve only seen one other group since I got into Quetico. I haven’t seen anyone go by my campsite once I stopped today.
I sure have been on some scenic lakes since I got into Quetico. I did see some damage from the storm earlier, but most of the damage is now about one mile south of me along the border lakes.
The portages were fairly short today and there were only five of them. I have about 8 or 9 portages tomorrow and they also appear very short. My short portage today was almost straight up, so I have to see once I get to the portages. I’m planning on getting to the Saganagons Lake tomorrow.
For supper tonight, I had some Pizza Flavored Hamburger Helper. I used some dehydrated venison burger for the protein. To finish off the meal, I had another tasty nectarine, snickers bar and some gorp. Once again, I think I brought too much food or should I say snacks. I eating much more than I should, but I need to lighten up the food pack a little bit. After supper I had a cup of coffee, then it was off to search for a tree to hang the food pack. I searched for about twenty to thirty minutes and finally found one about a one minute walk from the campsite.
I’ve been sitting here writing and there’s been a fish about 30 yards from shore that has jumped out of the water three times.
The light breeze has eased to just about nothing.
I went to my tent last night, rigged up my flashlight to read and I realized I was too tired. Hopefully, I’ll stay awake to read tonight. (I need to remember to bring a cone for my flashlight)
There were three loons that just ran across the water with their wings flapping against the water. I saw another loon last night that did the same thing for a quarter mile or so. Now these loons are beginning to do some calling in the otherwise silence.
I’ve been sitting here not bothered by any mosquitoes. Well. The wind stopped completely again and it’s finally beginning to cool off a bit.
Lakes: Other Man Lake, Unnamed Lake, Bell Lake, Fran Lake, Slate Lake, Saganagons Lake
Distance: 13 miles
Thursday, 08-26-99 / 1910 hours / An Island campsite on Saganagons Lake
I began doing my lower back exercises immediately after I woke up this morning at 0600 hours.
I took several pictures this morning of the sunrise both from inside my tent and outside.
It was another warm night out last night. There continued to be no wind all night long, just as it was when I went to the tent last night.
I started paddling this morning at 0835 hours. Just before, I got on the water a I saw a C-2 go by the campsite. I think they may have been camped on the island campsite to the west of where I was camped. It didn’t appear they were going any where fast as they were meandering back and forth.
I paddled NE toward the 49 rod portage that goes to ”Other Man” Lake. Once I began paddling on “Other Man” after doing the double portage I kept looking back to the portage. I wondered if the other canoeists were coming my way, but it appeared they weren’t. They must have been going to stay on “This Man” and they weren’t planning on doing the portage.
The scenery has been fabulous so far.
I was going to have lunch at end of the portage between the unnamed lake and Fran Lake, but Fran Lake looked very swampy in the stream area. I paddled on a little ways and found a nice campsite on the south shore of Fran Lake. I took about a half hour for lunch.
Yesterday, there was only a little wind, but today the wind has been up and down all day. I didn’t see any other paddlers today until just before Dead Man’s portage on Saganagons Lake. I was wondering if anyone else was out paddling today.
I crossed Dead Man’s portage and started paddling on the north side of it still on Saganagons Lake when I saw two moose to the east of me. There was a bull and a cow moose. I quietly paddled closer to them as I got out my camera and took some pictures of them in the water. They were both eating their aquatic lunch as both were submerging their heads underwater.
I stopped paddling at about 1530 hours. The campsite that I wanted on an island to the north of me was taken and the campsite on the north shore north of that island campsite was burned over. Almost the entire north shore of the Saganagons Lake was burned over in 1995.
I rested under the shade of a large Northern White Cedar along the shore for about 45 minutes before making up my mind which campsite to take. After I relaxed, I then filtered water and set up camp.
The wind started to pick up, the clouds were rolling in, and it appeared it might rain while I was cooking supper. By 1730 hours I was done cooking and camp was prepared for the night.
I sat down by the water for about a half hour before deciding to write in my journal. The sky cleared up and then the wind started to lie down, but I do see a thunderhead rising up to the west.
I’m going to stop writing here for awhile and go take some pictures of the sunset. It looks like it’s going to be a nice sunset tonight.
I’m back. Now, I’ll have to wait and see when the moon shows itself. It almost looked like a full moon last night. The moon last night was so bright out that it made it appear that there weren’t many stars in the sky.
I hope the weather holds out and continues to be warm. I expect to be at Louisa Falls in two days. Tomorrow morning I will be starting the “Falls Chain” as I’m only a mile or two away from it. The plan is to camp on Glacier Lake tomorrow evening.
Today, I figure I paddled 13 to 14 miles with 8 or 9 portages. I did line the canoe through some swallows in one area, also.
There is a nice breeze tonight. I think I should just sit back and enjoy nature for awhile. That reminds me I did see another eagle just after getting on Saganagons Lake. I tried taking a picture of it but it was too far away by the time I got my camera out.
Lakes: Maligne River, Wet Lake, McEwen Lake, McEwen Creek, Glacier Lake
Distance: 13 miles
Friday, 08-27-99 / 1916 hours / Campsite on Glacier Lake
The campsite I’m on is on the east side of the lake, south of the peninsula and directly east of the island in a small bay about a quarter mile south of the portage that I crossed from McEwen Creek. This campsite wasn’t marked on my map.
I didn’t sleep well last night as it seemed I couldn’t get comfortable. I got up at 0600 hours. I found out why I couldn’t get comfortable last night after I took down the tent. There was a rock underneath the tent causing my problem.
When I woke up this morning there were blue skies and no wind. It did sprinkle a little bit last night, but when I got out of the tent in the night there was a bright moon and clear skies.
I did my back exercises and fixed breakfast. I was on the water at 0840 hours.
(I’m finally going to get some relief from the sun, it’s just about to go behind some trees to the west.)
It’s been another hot day with no clouds until late in the afternoon and they were the thin wispy type clouds. I went through about half of the “Falls Chain” today. I took a lot of pictures of the area. Very scenic!!
It seemed to me like it was a long day today as I portaged around some of the falls, the sun was hot and I paddled into a strong SW wind. I’m glad that I wasn’t paddling on any big water today.
As I write in my journal the wind is beginning to diminish.
So far I haven’t seen that many people on this trip. I talked to a group of people who are camped north of me on an island site and they said they have been out for 6 days. I saw one campsite taken before the portage going into Wet Lake, but no one was around. Maybe they were off viewing the Falls!
My map showed that there were two portages into Wet Lake. I tried finding the northern most portage, but I couldn’t locate it. I eventually found the portage and concluded there is only one portage across and the map was marked wrong.
I saw where some people had made camp on McEwen, on one of the islands. I didn’t see a canoe around the site, but I saw two people in a canoe south of that site. They must have been the ones camping there. I couldn’t tell if they were male or female as they were a ways from me and I was also fighting a strong headwind at the time.
I thought McEwen Creek was very scenic, but by that time I wanted to get to Glacier to set up camp. It’s been hot the past four days. I guess I would like for it to be hot one more day, tomorrow, I’ll be at Louisa Falls.
Tomorrow, I have several portages (10 or 11). Most of them appear to be short, but some appear they are going to be steep. That’s seems to be how most of the portages have been so far.
This is a nice campsite, lots of area, nice big Red Pines; but not a lot of places to pitch a tent. I had to pitch it between a large root and a rock.
I’m hoping the winds die down tomorrow especially a SW wind when I get to Louisa Lake.
I will make the decision tomorrow if I’ll paddle out on day six or figure out an additional route for two more days. The area I’m thinking that I might go is to the west of Agnes Lake. I’ll have to check to see if I have any of those maps along with me.
I’ve been doing the forward stroke most of this trip. It sure has made a difference in my paddling especially into strong headwinds. Occasionally, I will do a j-stroke and it now feels so strange to do.
I’ve been thinking of buying one of Peter Puddicomb’s paddles, but besides getting banged up while paddling, I slide my paddle underneath my seat bag when I portage solo so the shaft tends to get scraped up from the grit on the bottom of my canoe. I put an old, thin sock over the handle when I slid it under the seat bag now so at least the handle doesn’t get damaged.
I hope I sleep better tonight than I did last night sleeping on that rock.
Lakes: Twin Lake, Edge Lake, Rod Lake, McEwen Creek, Dumas Lake, Fauquier Lake, Star Lake, Arp Lake, Louisa Lake, Agnes Lake
Distance: 12 miles
Saturday, 08-28-99 / 1946 hours
I’m on a big campsite about one mile north of Louisa Falls on the west side.
I awoke at 0555 hours and did my back exercises before getting out of the tent.
The wind came up briefly during the night, but when I got out of the tent it was calm and there were blue skies. The wind did pick up during the day and it changed to the NW. It was somewhat cooler today with that NW wind.
I started paddling this morning at 0815 hours. I decided to change some of my gear around today, because I had 10 or 11 portages to do. I put my thwart bag, extra map carrier and my extra cup in my #4 Granite gear bag. In doing so, I left my Tilly hat at the beginning of the portage from Glacier Lake stream (??) that goes into Turn Lake. I had crossed the second portage with all my gear before realizing it, so I had to carry my canoe back across the portage, paddle back to where my hat was waiting for me. I lost about ¾ of an hour.
I did 11 portages today and one another area where I lined my canoe. I thought I would see some people at Louisa Falls, but there isn’t anyone around. In fact, I haven’t seen anyone all day. The route I did today was very scenic, but most of the portages would have been very bad if they were wet. Most of the portages went straight up or straight down. The portage between Dumas and Fauquier was very tricky. The portage went right along the edge of a steep edge.
I didn’t realize how big a lake, Louisa Lake was until I got to it. It took me exactly one hour to paddle the length of it. There are two portages between Louisa Lake and Agnes Lake. I got to go downhill along Louisa Falls, which was treacherous enough. It would have taken somewhat longer going up this steep portage. I have a feeling more people are going down this portage than going up it. Again, this would have been a tricky portage if wet.
I stopped at Louisa Falls and took some pictures. I didn’t go in the “bathtub” this time. I debated staying at a campsite right next to the Falls, but I though the Falls might keep me awake all night long. I have a hard time sleeping if there is any noise and I’m also a very light sleeper.
I checked the campsite just north of the portage. It was big site with a big open area. There wasn’t anywhere for me to put up my rain fly and I figured if it rained with strong winds, my little Back Country tent might not take the elements that well.
A friend of mine and I paddled through this area in 1997 and we met a family from Florida earlier on that trip. Afterwards, I remember receiving a letter from them and Leslie told me they stopped at a grassy spot north of the portage on the west side (the site I’m on now) on their way out.. When she told me this, I didn’t remember seeing this campsite when we paddled by on our way out that year. She told me you can’t see the grassy area until you get up into the site because it’s completely blocked by the trees down by the water.
This site faces north and the sun is mostly blocked by all the surrounding trees. This site also has a sand beach, so I decided to go swimming about 1730 hours. The swim was very refreshing, in fact, I was so cold coming out that I had to put on my hat, polypro long sleeve top, wool shirt, windbreaker and heavy socks. I was cold!!! The NW wind was blowing pretty strong into the site and there wasn’t enough of the sun to warm me up. I began to slowly warm up and I began to start shedding some of my clothes.
Now that the sun went down about 15 minutes ago, I put my wool shirt and hat back on. It’s going to be a cool night.
I was sitting here earlier trying to figure what I would do tomorrow. I was thinking of doing the “S” chain, but it appeared it might be 14 to 15 miles and 9 or 10 portages. I just don’t think I want to work that hard tomorrow.
I decided I would just continue the route I planned on and camp on the island campsite on Inlet Bay of Basswood Lake. This is the same island Todd and I camped on a couple years ago. It looks to be about 9 miles and three long portages to the island campsite. Depending on what time I get there I might just continue on to the Moose Lake landing.
It’s now 2022 hours and there’s still a clear sky. The wind is starting to slow some, but it’s cool out.
I spent about 20 minutes looking for a suitable tree to hang my food pack, Most of the trees are jack pines with no suitable branches. Well, I got the food pack up about 7 feet off the ground but it’s only 3 to 4 feet from a balsam tree. I saw someone else had used the same tree before because there was a rope cut off and hanging from the tree.
I think I’m done writing for the night.
Lakes: Sunday Lake, Basswood Lake, Sucker Lake, Newfound Lake and Moose Lake.
Distance: 16 miles
(Written on Tuesday, 08-31-99 for Sunday, 08-29-99)
Well, I decided when I got up that I would try and paddle out today.
It got pretty cold last night. There was that strong NW wind blowing into the site all night long. On my way out I ran into a group from St. Louis who said it got down to 39 degrees. When I got to Moose Lake someone else told me it got to 37 degrees. Anyways, I woke up around 0600 hours and I decided to sleep in a little bit more. I figured the sun wouldn’t rise up over the trees until sometime around 0700 hours.
I ate breakfast and I was on the water at 0845 hours.
I got to the end of Agnes Lake and I was about to begin the first of three long portages. The first one I believe was 141 rods and it goes to Meadow Lake. It wasn’t too bad, then I paddled less than 5 minutes to the next portage, approximately 191 rods. I got there and I saw a pack, a couple fishing rods and other loose gear. I thought to my self that they were probably fairly inexperienced. I began walking the portage and I came across the two guys. One was struggling with a new We-no-nah canoe and the other had his hands full of loose objects.
I began the paddle on Sunday Lake and about 5 minutes from the portage I came across three otters. They were playing and it appeared they were having a good time. I got at least one picture of them playing. They appeared to be very inquisitive about what I was doing there.
Right after that I saw a canoe with a couple guys in it. Then as I rounded the point and looked toward, North Portage, I saw several people with their canoes. I got to the landing and waited a couple minutes for some canoes to leave before I landed. I talked to six to eight guys from St. Louis and they were going in for a week. They are the ones who told me the morning temperature, 39 degrees.
This portage was long and muddy in three different spots, but it wasn’t bad. I had lunch at the end of the portage on Sunday Bay. The lake only had some ripples close to shore, but the wind was from the NW.
I took about a half hour lunch before I began paddling out of Sunday Bay, into Bagley Bay and eventually Inlet Bay. I had no problems crossing any of the water.
After my portage across Prairie Portage, it took me 1 hour and 25 minutes to get to the landing on Moose Lake. I arrived there at 15:25 hours.
I had blue skies the whole way, but now some clouds were rolling in.
Overall, this was a very good trip. I had beautiful weather, very scenic, a challenging route, saw lots of wildlife; and most of all, my back held up!!!!