Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Quetico: Man Chain, Falls Chains to Louisa +
by gonorth1

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/03/2023
Entry Point: Quetico
Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)  
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
A Tale of Two Suns.
 The first days of September saw temps in the high 80's & low 90's throughout much of Minnesota, including the far northern reaches of the state. A late morning tow brought us to Prairie Portage. We began our paddle on Birch in the early afternoon beneath cloudless skies, and a burning hot sun. We made our way to Carp across calm, still waters. Our largest challenge was to stay adequately hydrated for the day. Sips from the lakes were helpful.

 Night 1 we camped on Emerald, having the lake to ourselves. Beautiful!

 Day 2: The early morning hours did not feel much cooler than the previous day. Like yesterday we saw clear skies, a hot sun, and calm waters. An ever so slight tailwind encouraged us across the Man Lakes. Night two we slept on Bell Lake.

 Day 3: Weather conditions were a repeat of the previous two days. With hot temps and little rain in August all the portages were dry. In my decades of tripping I don't recall ever having three consecutive days were mud and muck were nonexistent on all portages. After a cooling off swim and lunch on Saganagons we headed for the Falls Chain. Here the low water level was clearly visible. As we neared Wet Lake clouds were scattered the sky, offering some respite from the sun. In a short period of time the sky was completely cloud covered. In the far distance low rumbles of thunder were heard. Across Wet to paddled against a stiff headwind. After setting up camp on Wet we relaxed under the tarp, faced the lake, to our east, and watched hundreds of horizontal lightening bolts flash in the distance. A light rain fell. Several hours later while sound asleep strong powerful winds swept through camp. These were by far the strongest I've experienced. Hoping upon hope that none of the tall red pines would topple down on us like the numerous ones scattered on the forest floor around our site we waited out the wind in our tent. Within thirty minutes the winds passed and it was mostly calm. Which later got me to thinking about loons. Surviving rough seas such as that night has be to a significant challenge for them.

 Day 4: With a light rain falling we packed up our wet camp. A short portage brought us into McEwen. Much has been written about the beauty of this lake. In the rain, with low clouds, limited visibility, and eyeglasses covered with water I could only imagine the beauty of the lake one day earlier. Our hopes of seeing a moose on McEwen Creek were not met. We puddle jumped our way across the small lakes with poison ivy growing on most of the portages. Now those portages were filled with mud and muck. Night four we slept at an okay site on Fauquier.

 Day 5: Our second day of not seeing the sun. We slept late and lazed around camp, half hoping the skies would clear but knowing full well that was not going to happen any time soon. With 100% cloud cover hanging low over the tree tops we had no natural way of telling the time of day. Very late in the day for us we made our way to Louisa. Our target site was the well noted island site. Before laying eyes on the site we heard someone there on an electronic device arranging a tow a few days hence. Unbelievable. Needless to say we paddled on to another site, sleeping on Louisa.

 Day 6: More overcast skies. Made our way to the famed Louisa Falls. Yes, it's a steep portage. Fortunately there are many options for where to walk up or down while on the portage to Agnes. Boy did we meet the people on Agnes! Felt like I was on Moose Lake. More than one party was still getting into the canoe camping mode as belongings were strewn all over the end of the Meadows portage. Across Sunday Lake we paddled into Burke our destination for the night. At last for a few hours the sun returned in time for a refreshing swim off our campsite.

 Day 7: Our last day. Burke to Bayley Bay, across Prairie Portage, to the Moose Lake landing. A calm day, with only a few tow boats and fewer fishing boats on Moose. Before noon we were back in civilization.

 All in all a great trip! All camp sites were clean, free of trash and debris. Nearly all sites were open. Only a few folks seen each day. The little fishing that was done was met with success. Most importantly the soul was restored and thoughts of future trips have begun to grow.