Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Wandering on Wind
by Kawashaway2

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/21/2006
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
This is a trip we've done a few times before, but by far this was the best we've ever had it. If you're looking for a nice, easy trip for just a few days, this is what you need.
Day 1 of 3
Sunday, May 21, 2006 - Moose Lake to Wind Lake

My family has always had a passion for the Boundary Waters. My parents both grew up canoeing, and my uncles, aunts, and grandparents all have great knowledge if not great experience with the lake country. We have many traditions, some of them a bit arbitrary, others downright strange. But one tradition that I am so thankful for is that annual spring trip to the BWCA.

This year it was my uncle, my cousin, my dad, and myself who would make the pilgrimage. Our loaded minivan rolled into Ely late in the morning, just shy of the noon-hour. After stocking up on a few supplies from Pamida, browsing in Piragis, and filling our stomachs at the Chocolate Moose, we drove to the landing at Moose Lake. Already we were being blessed with the warm May sunshine and the gentle breezes out of the west. Birds sang, the lake laughed softly on the shore. All of creation seemed to smile at us and beckoned us to venture into its wild ambitions.

To be canoeing once more was like waking from a deep slumber in the full radiance of the morning sun. Our muscles ached and creaked from their winter of non-use, and the rhythm of paddling struggled to take hold on our way across Moose. But nothing can defeat the feeling of flight on water. We hooked around the first island, taking note of that dear old friend the sign--Welcome to the BWCA. The west wind rolled lazily across the water, the waves tapped the sides of the canoes. Despite our rusty paddling and some quirks in navigation behind the islands and bays along the north shore, we made quick time across Moose Lake.

Portaging is that other great skill canoeists must learn. The landing on Wind Lake offered a great deal of help. The canoes kissed the sand and pebbles, and the wide stretch of trailhead was ours alone. Within minutes, two canoes, two packs, cj (canoe junk), and four men were making their way down the trail. Portaging is a fight, a struggle between the mind and the body. The first 50 rods or so proved a viable battleground. Within steps from the shore of Moose your calves start to ache and your thighs start to burn, and you realize that the trail is climbing up a steep hill. After 10 rods, you can turn and peer through the birch and undergrowth at the lake which is already a good ways below you. The hill is relentless, and only the focused mind can keep the canoes and packs steady. At last, after fighting up boulders and over treeroots, the trail begins its descent. The apex, a nondescript exposed piece of shield, yields to a trail shaded in denser foliage. If rains had come the night before, the path might better be named a creek or a swamp. But in the dry sunshine of this day, the earth was firm and the trek was light. The smooth, sloping trail gave way at last to a rocky, damp shore and a glassy lake.

Solitude is difficult to come by nowadays, but there are still places to find it. Wind Lake, a gem of a lake, sits between Moose and Basswood, two of the most popular lakes in the entire BWCA. It seems a natural midpoint for a trip originating in Moose heading for the inner parts of the country. Most, however, choose the easier route to Basswood, going up Moose to Newfound to Sucker and portaging once. The occasional trip will paddle through, and avid anglers might seek to drop their line in the lake. But Wind is largely ignored by those with greater ambitions.

We discovered, in our search for a campsite, that we would not be alone on the lake. Our desired site, an island camp we had used a few years earlier to great content, was already occupied. We ventured east to the shore-site. The instant swarming of flies signaled us to search elsewhere. we turned the canoes southwest, paddling for a larger island in the south of the lake. If only that site was open-- and it was! From the north side, it seemed nothing spectacular. Rounding the point, however, we were greeted by a large landing of shield jutting into the lake. The shield climbed upwards to a plateau of flatrock and dirt. The kitchen was large and well-kept, and the site was open and fresh with the smell of late-spring flowers. It was among the best of the campsites I had ever seen. A half hour later and it was home: the large dome tent was staked, the sleeping bags unrolled, the kitchen pack ready to go, and the food pack already missing some of its contents.

The sun fell across the afternoon quickly, and before long the sapphire sky was covered with ribbons of gold and pink. This was the signal to bait the lines and grab the paddles and set out on a hunt for the monsters of the deep--at least for my uncle and cousin. For my father and I, well, fishing can't hold our interest for very long. We prefer something more daring, something with an edge to ride on. So as my uncle and cousin prepared to fish, my father and I grabbed the maps and prepared to explore the lake until nightfall.