From time to time we like to post stories of our staff trips for both general knowledge about the wilderness and how we travel, camp, fish, cook, etc. and just to get you in the mood to paddle (like it takes much!?)
Drew's story from last fall follows in his own words and pictures. I wish I had some of those Atomic Hashbrowns right now!
Drew’s Fall Trip – 2009
As some of you may know, I take a yearly trip with my uncle, Kerth, from Santa Fe. It’s always a highlight of the year for him to come up from the high desert to the forests of northern Minnesota. Here is our latest trip journal in my own “list” form. Enjoy, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and follow along on a map. I hope this gets you excited to set up your own trip and enjoy this precious wilderness that we have.
Very early start as we arrive at entry point #16 Moose River North in total darkness.
We decide to start portaging in the dark with headlamps. Since this portage is pretty smooth, it’s not a problem at all. Once we get all of our stuff to the river, we sit and wait a few minutes for a little more light. We love starting at dawn on our trips and this is no exception.
Moose River to Nina Moose Lake to Nina Moose River to Agnes to Boulder River to La Croix to Bottle Portage to Iron to campsite on far east side.
This was a long day and it was sunny and quite warm.
After setting up camp at a great site, we took a swim in Iron Lake. That felt so good after a tough, hot day.
Heard wolves howling on Iron Lake. Saw an otter, beaver and bald eagles during the day.
Water is a bit low, but expected at the end of the season. Had to get knee-deep in muck getting into the Boulder River, since the water was out from the portage.
Iron Lake to Curtain Falls to Crooked Lake to Gardner Bay to a couple no-name lakes to Elk Lake.
Another good day. It was a warm and cloudy day as well as hardly any wind. Wonderful travelling weather especially since Crooked Lake was like glass. Curtain Falls is beautiful.
Saw two moose in Gardner Bay. We had an otter swim in front of our campsite on Elk as we relaxed in the evening. These are some of the best animals to see in the wilderness if you ask me.
Now that we are in Quetico, we “feel” more remote.
For dinner, my uncle’s famous Atomic Hashbrowns. Mmm mmm!!
Basecamp on Elk Lake. Windbound!!! It was extremely windy and rainy all day. We were able to have breakfast under the tarp and then the weather turned in a hurry. Into the tent we went and we were there all day. The wind howled all day and all night.
Unexpected basecamp on Elk. Very windy again with some off and on rain. No paddling today. Unbelievable. The day is spent in the tent and we make the best of being stranded with naps, chats, games, etc. Our plan was to get to Williams Lake, but I will now adjust the trip a bit due to the weather. Much cooler temperatures with the front.
Finally we can move! The wind speed has lowered, but there is still a good push from the north.
Elk to no-name to Cone to Brent to Darky River to Darky Lake.
Now the plan is to spend a few nights on Darky, one of our favorite lakes. We pick a great spot on the NE side and decide that will be home. My uncle and I enjoy layover days on trips so that’s one reason for the Darky stay.
This particular day was great. The skies cleared and the sun was out, but the temps were cooler and the wind from the north was something we had to paddle against in a few spots. As we paddled through the little no-name lake, we saw a very nice white-tailed buck with a handsome rack.
The fall colors had started along the Darky River and we had a superb view of the lake and sunset from camp.
After setting up camp, we tried fishing a bit and had some luck. Kerth caught a nice northern pike and I caught a few smallies, but dinner was more Atomic Hashbrowns.
Layover on Darky Lake
It was a wonderful day - sunny, cool, slight breeze. We woke up to a beautiful fog over the lake.
Today we paddled northeast and took a few portages in the direction of William Lake. What a wild area that is between Darky and William.
Lunch was at camp, and on the way we had Sandhill Cranes fly overhead. The afternoon was spent relaxing in camp.
Later in the afternoon, we fished Darky and had some good luck. Smallies and northern found Kerth’s line and I was aiming for a walleye and caught a nice one. Finally, a Darky walleye for dinner. It was a perfect evening on the lake with a fine meal and good weather.
Darky to the Darky River to Minn to McAree
It was tough to leave such an awesome lake, but it had to be done. There was a strong wind from the E/SE so we would be ok for most of the day. This part of the Darky River is one of my favorite places to paddle. You are “out there” and it’s just wonderful. Kerth caught a smallmouth at one section. We spotted a very cool deer antler rub on a tree, and very fresh wolf scat on one of the portages. Some of the black spruce areas along the river are spectacular.
Arrived to a campsite on McAree at about 1:30pm and had a lazy afternoon. The wind was strong, but the site we located was tucked into some cedars so that helped. Another fine day in the wilderness.
McAree to Black Robe Portage to La Croix to Bass Lake (wanted to check it out) – back to La Croix to Boulder Bay
The wind was strong from the E/NE. As we paddled near the Hilly Island area, the waves were a little larger that we would have liked coming from behind us. Once we started heading toward the pictographs things got better. It’s always nice to see this incredible wall of Ojibwe drawings.
We wanted to see Bass Lake north of Bottle Portage and add another lake to our travels. We had to paddle hard to get there (directly into the wind) and once we portaged to the lake, it was very difficult to even paddle on that lake. We worked our way along some shoreline, fished a few minutes and turned back. Too bad we couldn’t explore Bass Lake a little more.
Paddling downwind to Boulder Bay was no problem at all. We found a great site for our last evening. One more dinner of Atomic Hashbrowns (hey, when you like a meal this much, you might as well have it more than once), a campfire, and then a full moon lit up the entire forest. Not bad at all.
Boulder Bay to Boulder River to Agnes Lake to Nina Moose River to Nina Moose Lake to Moose River
Light rain all day. Otters along the river. Plenty of beaver dams to pull up and over. Fall colors are beautiful. Light wind from the north helped us today.
Good, solid day, with no breaks until we got to the car.
Echo Trail drive back to Ely was full of Fall colors.
What an incredible trip!! I want to mention some things to go along with what I have “listed” above. We went 6 ½ days without seeing anyone!! It doesn’t get any better than that. It was from the evening of the first day 9/25 until we got back to La Croix on 10/2 that we didn’t see a soul.
I saw some old and new places. That’s what I try to do when I’m out there so I can talk with all you trippers about the different areas.
Some of you might wonder how I could go into Quetico like that. Well, we had done everything the correct way for a time when the La Croix Ranger Station was closed for the season. We had RABC permits, passports, paid overnight camping fees, had a self-issue Quetico permit, fishing licenses, BWCA permit, etc. Bert and I can always help you with off-season trips.
Anytime you want to send us a trip story, we’d love to have it and put it into our e-newsletter for others to read. It’s always fun to follow along with your own BWCA or Quetico adventure.
Let’s get you set for your own journey through this wilderness. Call 1-800-223-6565 or email Bert Heep or me and we can take of anything you need. A trip starts with reserving a permit and you don’t want to wait too long to get the process started. There are so many places to paddle up here so whether this is your first time or tenth time, you will never be disappointed.
The wilderness is calling!