Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crab Lake April 12 - 15

I got a late start on the 12th.  The plan was to get to Crab Lake, find a good campsite, and take a couple of day trips. Well, I had a bunch of chores to do before I could get into the woods.  One thing led to another and before I knew it, it was 5:00 and I still needed to pack.  I debated delaying my start until the morning, but the early spring had me too exited to get into the wilderness and I couldn’t wait.  Plus, it was a calm evening and would be a great time to paddle across Burntside.  I quickly threw my gear together, grabbed some new items from the catalog to test, made a quick stop at the grocery store, and headed to the landing.

It was a little after 6:00 when I arrived at the boat landing on Van Vac Rd.  I knew I didn’t have enough daylight to make it to Crab, so I thought I would checkout the campsites on the south end of the North Arm of the lake.  Agnes, now a year old, was perched in front of me as I headed north through a maze of beautiful islands and incredible cabins.  It took her a while to get comfortable in the Prism.  It had been over 6 months since her last trip and she is nearly twice as big now as she was then.  I think I may try the Encounter on our next trip to give her a little more room up front.

There was a slight breeze and a small chop on the water.  We made the crossing with ease and plenty of daylight left to setup camp.  Agnes excitedly jumped out of the canoe and did a couple laps around the campsite.  She was just as happy as I was that canoe camping season had begun.  Once I had the tent set up, I got some water boiling for dinner.  Being so late, I was glad I had a Backpacker’s Pantry entrée along with me (Shepard’s Pie with Beef).  They are delicious and quick to prepare.  Perfect for days such as these, when a quick hearty meal is just what you need.  After supper, I cleaned up, watched the day turn into night and got to bed early.

The water was like glass in the morning.  I made myself a Denver omelet that I wrapped in a tortilla with a little cheese and salsa—very tasty.  I slowly cleaned up camp and packed my things, just enjoying the peaceful spring morning.  There was no reason to rush; I had nothing to do and all day to do it.  Eventually, I hit the water and made my way to the Crab Lake portage.

The portage is long, with a couple of hills to climb, but overall I found it to be a very nice walk.  You just need to remember to take your time and move a comfortable pace.  There is no sense in burning yourself out on the first portage. 

Once I made it to the lake, I headed along the east shoreline and stopped at nice campsite on an island.  Quickly, I set up camp and dropped off all nonessential gear.  I decided to head west and a little south to the loop of little lakes for an afternoon day trip.  This is a neat little area and looks like really good wolf habitat, though I didn’t see much sign.  It was a nice little loop and great for a day trip.  I made my way back to camp, cooked a hearty meal and crawled into the tent for the night.

I woke up early to a strong wind coming out of the west.  The campsite I was staying on is great because there is always shelter from the wind, no matter which direction it is coming from.  The day before, the wind was coming out of the south and a little from the east, so I set my tent with that in mind.  When the wind started coming out of the west, my tent was exposed.  Rather than hang out with the wind in my face, I walked to a different part of the island and found a nice little spot to hang out for the day where it was calm as could be.  This is a really nice feature to have at a site.

Anyways, I was planning on heading up to Cummings Lake and puddling around for a bit.  I wasn’t wind-bound by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t feel like fighting it all day—sitting around relaxing and eating all day sounded much better.

Breakfast was Huevos Rancheros and cinnamon fry bread.  I tried the SlatGrill for the first time.  What a neat piece of equipment.  It gives you a really nice cooking area, distributes heat well, and is very sturdy.  It is absolutely a must-have for base camping trips, and is nice for all trips (if you don’t mind carrying a little extra weight).

After breakfast, I took a walk around the island and gathered some firewood.  There was a nice pile of wood at the site when I got there, and I wanted to make sure I left the next campers plenty of wood for their stay.  There was a ton of beaver activity on the island, which made finding firewood a breeze.  While exploring, I saw some fresh scraps that a bird must have carried to the island.

By the time I got back, it was time for lunch—blueberry bagels, with summer sausage and cheese.  It’s not a combination you would normally think of, but something a good friend of mine introduced me to.  Give it a try, you might be surprised.

Full from lunch, it was time for a nap.

After napping a good part of the day away, I decided it was time for a fire.  I brought the Swedish Mora Fire Knife along and wanted to try to start the fire with the FireSteel that comes with the knife.  I gathered some dry paper thin birch bark and built a small teepee of birch on top of heavier piece of bark.  I had some more birch bark, small sticks and pine needles nearby to feed the fire when the time came.  A few strikes later and the birch started to smoke.  A couple more strikes, and I had flames.  The FireSteel worked great, and in just a short time I had a nice campfire going.

After eating a quick dinner, I relaxed by the fire for the rest of the evening.  It was a pretty uneventful day, but incredibly peaceful and relaxing.  It was a much needed escape from my everyday routine.  I stayed up late, feeding my small fire, one stick at a time.  Eventually, I let the fire burn out, doused it with water and headed to the tent.

I was up early.  The water was glass; everything was perfectly still.  I had to cross Burntside again today and debated just heading back to the landing, just so I wouldn’t have to battle the wind when I made the crossing.  I couldn’t bring myself to leave the woods so early, so I decided to do a lap around Crab Lake and check out all of the campsites.  Essentially, I would take the long way to the portage.  It was such a nice paddle—incredible solitude.

I trudged my way back to Burntside, made the crossing, and concluded my first trip of the year.  It was a great warm-up for the rest of the year and really nice to shake the winter rust off and get ready for a busy paddling season.  I can’t wait to get back out there!


AdkSusie said...

Wow! What a nice first trip out, Adam...I envy you and Agnes. Even the bagel, summer sausage, cheese lunch sounded good - everything tastes better outside.

Looking forward to more news of your adventures and what's happening at the BWCA. I hope to get there sometime.

Happy Paddling,

Upstate NY

Adam said...

Thanks Susie. It was a fantastic trip. Get on up here!


Camper_Kyle said...

Awesome info Adam. I am going to be camping in crab lake in the middle of August and it looks amazing! Did you do any fishing while you were on crab lake? Any specific info on the island you camped on and how to notice/get to it? It looks perfect. Thanks again!

Adam said...

Thanks for reading Kyle. I didn't fish on this particular trip into Crab, but it is a decent fishing lake. To the north, Cummings Lake is fantastic for smallmouth bass. As far as finding the campsite, it is in the first bay to the east after the portage; just stay to the south of the islands and you can't miss it. The island is great. There is a lower lever where the fire grate is and a few places to set up a tent. You can access either side of the island from here. You can then climb up the hill to a nice spot overlooking Crab Lake. This is where I set up my tent. There is always a spot on the island that is protected from the wind, which is an awesome feature to have. Hope this helps and let me know if you would like more info. Thanks, Adam

Camper_Kyle said...

Thanks for getting back to me. Any other tid bits you wanna share that might help my trip. Any cool day trips? How was the portage? Any other advice? Thanks so much, it's great to have fellow campers share their stories and insight. Appreciate it!