Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

The Best Trip Yet (Well, Mostly)
by TrailZen

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/27/2023
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake to Prairie Portage (EP G)
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Quetico, 2023, August 27-September 5, a 10-day, 100 mile, 54 portage loop through some old favorites and some new sections. Full disclosure: Tia, my bow paddler and wife of 50-plus years, tells friends I always say our most recent trip was the best yet. Shouldn't it be? And our Quetico '23 trip really was the best yet-we never put on rain gear! I may discuss the 'well, mostly' caveat later. Or maybe not.
Part 1 of 11
Day One, August 27, 2023: Missing Breakfast at Britton's. 15.4 miles, 4 portages. Moose, Newfound, Sucker, Basswood (Inlet Bay and Bailey Bay), and Burke Lakes to North Bay of Basswood.

Oh, it's so nice to be out of the car after two-plus days on the road. Travel logistics put us in Superior, WI, for the night, so we missed our planned Britton's pre-trip breakfast, something that's been a tradition for our Ely-based trips since the early '80s. We drove from Superior directly to the public landing on Moose Lake. Spotting a moose cow shortly before getting to the Ely area was taken as a good omen for the trip. We arrived at Moose Lake around 10:30, and were on the water at 11:00.

It's generally a two-hour paddle from Moose to Prairie Portage for us, and today's good weather and mild breezes kept us on that schedule. We arrived just as Luke was returning from his lunch break (Jason was filling in at Cache Bay), and a party of three was ahead of us at the ranger station. We did orientation together, then the other party leader went through their permit paperwork with Luke while Tia and I enjoyed speaking with the other two paddlers in the group. We were all in our 70s and had lots in common, including plans to camp on North Bay for the night.

After leaving Prairie Portage we found a rocky point for a lunch stop, then proceeded to Bailey Bay, where we sometimes encounter wind, but had no problems today. The portage from Bailey Bay to Burke (Tia has called that portage 'The Boulevard' since her first trip in 1979) was as nice as remembered, and made us feel that we'd truly arrived in Quetico. Our late start this morning put us on North Bay around 4:00, and we immediately started looking for a campsite. We've seen no one since leaving Bailey Bay, but as we started looking for a campsite we spotted a party on the site we'd hoped to use. Around 5:00 we finally found a nice site on an island in the north end of the bay. We filled the gravity filter 'dirty' bag while still in the middle of the lake and started filtering as a first step in camp setup. While it always takes us a few portages to get our 'groove' back, our campsite setup generally goes smoothly from the start of the trip, with each of us knowing everything that needs to be done and doing it as a team. We quickly had the tent erected, our dinner in pre-soak mode, our bearbag hang setup, some electrolyte drink mixed, etc. We prepped for a tarp by rigging a ridgeline, but didn't hang the tarp.

Our site is on a high spot of rock, south-facing with east and west views. Tia caught up her journal notes while I wandered around with the camera. After a dinner of baked beans & bacon (home dehydrated) we were treated to a near-full moonrise, played Farkle, read a couple Patrick McManus stories from 'Into the Twilight, Endlessly Grousing', then called it a day around 8:30. I think it took me less than a minute to be sound asleep.

Corydalis is one of the prettier flowers blooming when we visit Quetico in late August. We also see the flower in our NC mountains, and it makes me smile and think of Canoe Country.

Tia makes daily updates to her trip journals, helping us remember details of each trip.

Moonrise, August 27, 2023.