Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Spring Trip Report from Drew Brockett

Spring Trip Report from Drew Brockett:
2015 Spring Solo Canoe Trip - One Night/Two Days

Day One - April 30, 2015

Today's journey: Mudro - Fourtown - Boot - Fairy - Gun - Wagosh - Niki - Chippewa - Papoose - Friday Bay of Crooked Lake

Paddling miles: 12.5

Portage miles: 7 (eleven portages, 750 rods x 3 because of double portaging)

Weather: mostly sunny and warm, slight breeze from the south, almost perfect

It was a beautiful morning as I left my home at about 5:30am.  I got to the #23 Mudro Lake entry point a little after 6am and started paddling by 7am.  My vehicle was the only one in the parking lot.  It was a wonderful site early in the season since this is one of the most popular BWCA starting points throughout the paddling season. 


The day was long as I had a goal to get to Friday Bay.  I just kept paddling and portaging.  It was good to see this area again as it had been a few years since I traveled these lakes.  The highlights for the day included a pine marten that was walking along the bank of a lake, seeing nobody, the many birds either seen or heard (bald eagles, kingfisher, winter wren, loons, and more), and the fact that I was back in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Once I found my campsite on an island in the northeast part of Friday Bay, it was late afternoon.  I had earned an evening of relaxing, that's for sure.  It was a big day for my first trip of the year. 


The quiet evening was spent eating dinner and enjoying the view from the rocks.  Tent-time came early.  I needed to get some sleep as I made the decision to try to paddle out and complete the entire loop in one night.  Usually, we tell our clients to do the loop in about 5 days.  My buddy at work, Adam, is notorious for doing big trips and piling on the miles when he solo trips all summer.  It was my turn to try to do that.

Sleep came easy.  The forest went to bed.

Day Two - May 1, 2015

Today's journey: Crooked Lake (Friday Bay area) - Basswood River - Lower Basswood Falls - Horse River - Horse - Tin Can Mike - Sand Pit - Mudro

Paddling miles: 19.3

Portage miles: 4.8 (10 portages, 513 rods x 3)

Weather: Mostly cloudy, wind picked up a bit in the afternoon from the SW, warm

I knew it was going to be a big day so I got up before 5am, took care of taking down camp and getting some food into me, and was paddling by 6am.  It was a perfect morning to be on the water. 

Crooked Lake is a large lake with many bays and fingers.  I had many miles to go before my first portage around Lower Basswood Falls.  As I paddled, it was amazing knowing I was the only one anywhere near this area.  One man's wilderness, so to speak.  As the canoe glided over the water, I paid attention to the beautiful, rugged shoreline.  When I passed by campsites, I made a mental note about it for future reference.

Sometimes one must get out of the canoe to stretch the legs and reset your body.  I took advantage of the flat rocks at historic Table Rock.  It's an easy place to get in/out of a canoe, plus to know that it's a place of history with the voyageurs and natives, makes it a neat area. 

After a quick break and walk around Table Rock, my next stop would be the first portage of the day.  But, before I got there, I caught a glimpse of the elusive fisher.

Continuing south, there is a set of pictographs and then Lower Basswood Falls.  

Now the day was about more portages and a nice river paddle.  It was such a great day so far and I knew I could just keep going and eventually get to my vehicle.  It's not that I wanted to leave the BWCA, but there are a lot of things I needed to do at my home, plus I thought it would be a good challenge to do this loop in two days.

There are portages marked on the map and then there are little areas that are listed as rapids.  These rapid areas became interesting.  They are small rapids, but rocky.  I was able to paddle up the first one.  Another one, I had to portage around.  The last one I had to get into the water and pull (line) my canoe through the rapids.  I was in the water up to my thighs, but had the Chota Hippie Waders on so didn't get wet at all.  Actually, that was a lot of fun doing that.

Once I got to Horse Lake, I needed to refuel with some lunch.  I found a campsite and enjoyed the food, the view, and the break. 


Now the final push, knowing that there was a brutal portage coming up later in the day.  I got to the bottom of Horse Lake, passing a rock on the side that has a metal ring in it.  That's from the logging days of this area.

Eventually I was on the portage from Tin Can Mike to Sandpit.  The first part of it has a fine wooden walkway so canoeists don't have to walk in a wet area.  As I was walking along the portage, I heard something bigger in the woods and move away from the portage.  I stood still...listening and watching.  I heard it again and it moved a little deeper in the woods.  Then I saw something in a slightly different location from the most recent noise.  All of the sudden, I saw two cute little bear cubs climbing a tree.  Then I knew it was the mama bear that had run away.

Uh oh.  Now what?  I need to do this portage and come back and get my canoe and food pack.  I decided to just get going.  As I passed the tree with the cubs, I couldn't believe how cute they were as they climbed and wondered who I was.  Quickly a decision was made to snap a few shots and get to the end of the portage.  Coming back past that area, I had a stick, just in case, and I had my whistle.  When I passed the bears, I saw the mother at the base of the tree sort of in and out of a hole (could be the den?).  Now the mama was with them.  I kept walking.  They were all more afraid of me. 


My final time walking past them wasn't a big deal as I had a canoe on my shoulders and figured that was "scary" to them.  As I passed, the same thing happened, the cubs were on the tree and the mama was at the base of the tree.  No biggie at all.  What an incredible site!!  Two little cubs with their mother.  Luck was on my side.  Notice one of the pictures has both of the cubs in it. 

The last part of the trip was tough.  The portage with the bears is the easiest one I know.....flat....as it was an old road during the logging days.  Now, it was time for "Heart Attack Hill".  This is a steep uphill climb and it wears you out.  I just took my time, paced myself, and took small steps.  Once I brought my pack to the end, I knew I had to go and get the rest of the gear.  There is nothing like doing a portage like that twice...up that hill.

That portage ends at Mudro Lake where I hear my first voices since the radio in my vehicle.  It's a family coming in late in the day and staying at the one Mudro site.  I didn't want to see anyone, but what are you going to do.

Once back at the parking lot, there are four other vehicles now.  Wait until summertime, this lot will be packed.  For me, off season is the time to experience the busy areas.  I'm lucky I can do that.

The journey was fantastic.  Spring in the wilderness, before the bugs, the heat, and the crowds, is a special time.  Happiness comes from everywhere you look.  Peace is all around you.  Life is great.

Hope you enjoy this little write-up.  Find something good in each day.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Discover the Trezona Trail

Ely’s Trezona trail has a lot to offer.  For some of us it is our regular exercise path during all four seasons.  You’ll see wildlife like whitetail deer and snowshoe hares and plenty of birds.  To walk, ski, run or bike the complete trail is a four mile love affair with nature.  Walking and talking at leisure takes about an hour and a half around, but at a faster pace, focused on the exercise, you’re much closer to 60 - 70 minutes of quick stepping.

On Saturday we walked together as a family and took time to admire the many colorful flowers and greenery along the path.  If you want a lesson in the forest around us, you can’t find a better choice right in town as the trail winds its way through red and white pines, spruce, paper birch, ash and cedar trees.  There are pin cherries, june berries, raspberries, honeysuckle, vetch and many other smaller ground cover type bushes and plants.

The terrain which encircles Ely’s Miners Lake (a former iron ore pit) elevates to granite outcroppings and dips down to the edge of the mine pit and into the cedar swamps lush with moss and wetland flora.  It has beautiful sections in the shade of the forest and bright sunlit sections that wind their way out of the woods and along the edge.  You’ll find yourself walking by Miners Dry, the building where our Miners used to wash and dry their clothes at on Saturdays.  These days the Miners Dry and Shaft House is home to the Ely Arts & Heritage Center.

It is a great walk and one you can have your car waiting for at the end in an easy to access parking lot just 3 blocks from Piragis Northwoods Company.  There are benches along to route if you feel you need to take a rest and at the parking lot there is a portable outhouse :)  Bring along a water bottle and an energy bar and your dog if you promise to keep them on a leash and clean up after them.

We started our walk by spotting some Forget-me-nots and discovering some beautiful and hearty wild roses just down the path.  In the first mile we saw many more flowers including Columbines and Dwarf Dogwood (Bunchberry).  Around the bend, bright and tall in the green grasses, we spotted Orange and Yellow Hawkweeds and in the shade by some additional Dwarf Dogwoods some small fragile Canada Mayflowers held court with their airy blooms.  Along the way we spotted a tree that we think looks like it has a face of its own and what Northwoods hike would be complete without the large fronds of Interrupted Ferns.


Wild Roses

Columbines and Dwarf Dogwood

Can you see the old man's face in this tree?

A pale pink wild rose

Orange and Yellow Hawkweed

Yellow Hawkweed

Canada Mayflower (top) and Dwarf Dogwood (bottom)

Large Interrupted Ferns

Secret Creek ;)

As the path curves around the end of the lake and back towards town, keep your ears open for running water (i.e. a babbling brook).  Off to your right hand side there is a hidden path that leads to a small creek just a few steps off the trail.  It is a cool place but don't stay too long because the mosquitoes will find you quick :)

        There’s plenty to look at if you like walks on well established paths with good company.  There are also other paths and hiking trails around the Ely area, just ask us.  Thanks to Nancy Piragis and Jen Stouffer for helping me identify all the pictures that I snapped along the way.

See you around the bend!  Tim Stouffer