Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Duncan 2021 - Lots of Firsts
by 30Smoke

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/14/2021
Entry & Exit Point: Duncan Lake (EP 60)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
I have known Jack for about ten years through work, and he always commented on my trip reports, so I would always ask if he was ready for an adventure – after years of resistance - he realized resistance is futile – and the trip was on!
May 14 Friday – I came up on May 12 to ascend Eagle Mountain and stayed at the Crescent Lake Campground. After a successful hike on May 13, I got up Friday morning and repacked my bags before heading to Grand Marais to check in with Jack and Brigid at My Sister’s Place – had a great lunch – Mushroom & Swiss Burger with Fries and water! We then headed for Duncan Lake EP 60! I always wanted to check out the campsite on West Bearskin – straight across from the EP but outside the BWCA. It looked like this site gets quite a bit of use, and would be a nice place to stay, but you really can’t count on a free site being open, especially if you have a long trip to get here (there) from where you came!

I should give a little more background, this was the first trip for Jack and his daughter Brigid, so I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I remember my first trip in 2013 when I thought the lakes were really close together and figured I could get by without portage pads. I tried to stress staying close to shore as Duncan is a big lake, and this early in the year, the water can be quite cold. It was interesting as Jack & Brigid learned to paddle a canoe together, and I was slightly concerned, but by the time we hit the portage, they looked like pros! Then we carried our gear across to Duncan. I had only been here one time (the year before with my wife for a paddle around the lake) and was hoping that all the campsites were not taken, thinking that worst case scenario was we would be in the western bay in that small campsite, which would have been fine. Instead, we got campsite 664 on the peninsula, and it would be fantastic for two nights. By the time we got settled in, everyone was tired and hungry, so we got some food going and camp set up. Jack and Brigid were up early, and it was a long day. After eating, Jack and Brigid retreated to their tent for the night and I sat outside watching the stars, as it was a very clear, comfortable night. I planned on taking them to Rose Falls and the stairway to heaven the next day! Really didn’t get any pictures the first day, but I will make up for it on Saturday.

May 15 Saturday – If you have read my trip reports in the past, you will not be surprised that we all slept in until the tents started becoming uncomfortably numb, I mean warm. After making Pancakes for everyone, we cleaned up, tried catching some Lakers from shore (no luck), and then start to the Rose Lake portage. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining bright. We got to the portage and it was fairly busy, but our plan was to check out the stairway, the falls, and hike some of the BRT to the east for the amazing overviews.

Brigid had more energy than Jack and I, as she would work her way ahead of us, sit and rest until we caught up, then jump to her feet and be ready to keep going, just as Jack and I were ready to rest. We went further than Jack and I wanted, but eventually we caught up to Brigid and convinced her to turn around with us. We ended up with good pics, Jack kept telling Brigid she was too close to the edge, and I was happy to get back to the canoes. The goal for the night was a meal of fresh Lakers, quite the goal considering any fish caught would be the first Laker for any of us.
On the way back, Jack the Submariner, showed how to paddle a canoe like they do in the Navy. Kind of strange, as everyone I went on a trip with this year did some stand up paddling, except me.
On the way back to camp, I worked up and down the shoreline at different depths for a long time. It was getting close to dusk when I gave up and started prep for dinner. Jack was working hard that evening trying to catch a Laker for super and I joined him by the lakeshore shortly before dark. He had just given up when I missed a strike. I missed another and hollered for Jack to get back down to the lake. At that very moment I caught my first Lake Trout, and after landing him, I was trying to get the stringer out and Jack hooked his first. Then Brigid got in the action and soon we had each caught our first Laker and the bite stopped in a matter of 5 minutes!
Fortunately, dinner had not been completed, so I proceeded to clean the fish and get dinner going. We all had some fried trout with rice if my memory serves me correctly. Everyone got their fill and said they enjoyed the food. Usually Peter does all the cooking, except on my solo’s when I am stuck with the task. Fortunately, I have been very observant, and this turned out good, so my teacher cousin taught me well. It was a good night and we were in no hurry to get up the next morning.

May 16 Sunday – we packed up – headed out – stopped at Trail Center on Poplar Lake for lunch and then we each headed our separate ways. I stopped at Temperance River State Park and watched some guys fishing superior almost until dark, then headed back to Jay Crosby state park, where I would spend the night before driving to work the next morning. Great trip – got to meet Shug on Eagle Mountain and had a good time with Jack and Brigid on their first BWCA trip.