Heart of Quetico
And now we were four. The trip into the heart of Quetico had been in planning since last December and was to include my Brother-in-law, sixteen year old nephew and me. An open invitation, placed on BWCA.com, eventually landed a serious taker… a Sargent in the Army, who was looking for some serious wilderness experience - evidently firing artillery wasn't exciting enough for him.
My brother-in-law Kurt and my nephew Logan are products of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Carolinas, though both had been plied with my tales and lore of the Northland for years. Active Scouters, they are accustomed to backpacking and fly fishing their mountain streams. Last summer they had a taste of this world via a Boy Scout 50 mile BWCA loop …. now they thought they were ready for the real thing.
My carefully planned loop was to start at Prairie Portage then paddling up thru the Man Chain, up the Falls Chain up to the far reaches of Kawa Bay on Kawnipi and back down Agnes to our starting point. At least 1/3 of this was new territory for me …. all of it was new territory for the rest of the team.
Nephew Logan has the distinction of being a pretty dedicated and skilled flyfisherman - a type of fishing only occasionally seen practiced from canoes up there. His goal? A Northern Pike to be caught on a fly. I promised him that this 'exotic species' existed in abundance in Quetico. We loaded his expensive fly rod into my rod carrier to protect it from the upcoming trip.
Sargent Pete hailed from Kansas and sure seemed well equipped, right down to his brand new 18.5' Souris River Quetico - resplendent in it's unscratched shiny Kevlar glory. After admiring his virgin craft in a picture he sent I suggested that he buy pads for that glistening ash yoke.
You see, Pete had a quite a bit of paddling and camping experience… but none in the Northcountry.
We all met up as planned in Ely at VNO's famous bunkhouse room 5 and immediately started the gear shakedown exercise. Gear and food for four for a nine day trip consumes vast amounts of real estate even after my draconian gear edits. The original three of us had converted from tents to hammocks and Pete opted for a one man tent.
The food required for four men for this trip was significant, even though I had carefully planned the menu and separately bagged each day's food… the weight of the loaded Duluth Pack Camp Kitchen was just too much to be easily packed and handled. I split the food and grudgingly used an additional banana box in a Kondos 3.5 pack. The total number of packs initially was to be five - canoe camping is socialism in my world with shared gear and shared packs - but for this trip we'd start with five packs and eat our way down to four.
I carefully load balanced the gear as best I could and set each pack when completed out in the hall. Exhausted by the long drives, we all slept heavily.