Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Hot Summer Nights on Crooked Lake
by ScottL

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/07/2021
Entry & Exit Point: Mudro Lake (EP 23)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
An unexpected week of hot weather turned the travel days for this trip into a hydration ordeal, but the overall trip was a great combination of good weather, good fishing, and good friendship as we paddled to the top of Friday Bay on Crooked Lake for several days of early June fishing action.
Day 1 of 7
Monday, June 07, 2021 Today was a day that I had been planning for and anxiously anticipating for nearly a year. In fact the plans for this trip began about as soon as I had gotten off the water from our 2020 trip to Boulder Bay. We had driven eight hours the day before to get from South Dakota to Ely, where we loaded up our canoes, grabbed a quick dinner and got settled in to the outfitters' bunkhouse for the night. Last year we took a 3-man canoe, as my paddling partners had not been to the Boundary Waters before that trip. But this year I opted for a tandem and a solo, to give myself a little more flexibility.

Our alarm was set for 4:30, but I was wide awake by 4:00 and making last-minute checks of our gear and reviewing the route on the map. Because of concerns of low water levels on the Horse River we decided to take the alternative route to Crooked, one with the 320 rod portage. I had traversed that portage two years earlier, but that was at the end of a trip, when the food barrel was mostly empty. This year we would be double portaging that route with gear and food for an entire week, and the temperatures were predicted to be in the low 90s...

With a quick breakfast in the bunkhouse of breakfast burritos we had made in advance, we drove to the entry point and had our canoes in the water shortly after the sun broke over the horizon. It was going to be a glorious day and I felt so at home being back in canoe country. The paddle down Pickett Creek and across Mudro Lake went smoothly as I got used to paddling a solo canoe with a double bladed paddle. As is generally the case, the portages between Mudro and Fourtown were a pain in the you know what but we got through them and had smooth paddling, with little wind, across Fourtown, Boot, Fairy, and Gun lakes. Before we knew it we were ready to tackle the long portage between Gun and Wagosh. By that time the temperatures had climbed into the uncomfortable range and so we rested a bit and had some lunch and chatted for a while with another group of three paddlers who were coming out of Crooked and who had just finished the portage that we were mentally preparing ourselves to undertake. The heat and the weight of the full food barrel made me realize that no amount of off-season conditioning can fully prepare you for the rigors of a wilderness canoe trip. But step-by-step the three of us double portaged two canoes, a food barrel, three portage packs and our fishing gear across this lengthy portage. I think that the hardest part of the portage was the heat and the lack of wind. Thankfully we had all be keeping ourselves hydrated throughout the day, and forcing each other to keep drinking water.

We had hoped to spend the first night on Lake Wagosh, but we quickly found that the only campsite on the lake was occupied, so we continued to the next portage and on to Nikki Lake, where we found the sole campsite to be available. We set up our tents and skipped putting up our Nemo screen shelter since we were planning on breaking camp first thing in the morning. After a quick dinner of brats on tortillas which we grilled over the fire, we retired to our respective tents. It was a clear night and still a hot night, with little wind movement, so we kept the flies off the tents, but kept them stored right inside the tents. I remember waking up around 2:00 in the morning and looking up at a glorious night sky filled with more stars than I had seen in years and thinking to myself how blessed I was to be in a setting where I could witness such a wonderful sight. After enjoying the starlight for a period of time I fell back to sleep, only to be awaken shortly after 3:00 by the sounds of the three resident swans that we had seen earlier in the evening. They were trumpeting something fierce, and flapping their wings against the water in what seemed like unscheduled nighttime flight maneuvers. As I looked up in the sky I noticed that the stars were no longer visible and I soon saw flashes of heat lightning in the sky, illuminating heavy cloud cover. As I started to hear the rumble of thunder I called over to my buddy in his tent and the two of us quickly got up in the dark to put the flies on our tents just in time before the skies let loose with a tremendous thunderstorm. Thankfully we had battened down the hatches in time to keep ourselves and our gear dry and we each rode out the storm in our tents.