Winter Camping – Take 3

Ah – my last and final winter camping trip!

My co-worker Bre and I decided to head up north again for another addition of Winter camping. This time we were fully outfitted with CCS Pulks, a winter tent and hot stove. Along with additional friends NingA & Canoearoo, we made the most of our cushy winter camping experience.

We ended up choosing the Clearwater entry point for the amazing vistas, high recommendations, and general feasibility. Starting back at the end of September we poured out ideas for various locations which included Wood Lake, Sawbill, Missing Link Lake etc. But in the end we decided a base-camp on Clearwater would be the right choice for us.

A new staple in my wilderness packing is Melatonin. I am/was a horrific wilderness sleeper. I absolutely LOVE my days out in the wild, but at nightfall my imagination runs dangerously free. I imagine wolves, bears, and weirdos surrounding us waiting to kill… and I usually get zero sleep at night, which often causes me to feel sick the next several days after the trip to lack of sleep… so again this time I was armed… with good old fashioned pharmaceuticals.

My trip just two weeks ago proved to me that I could sleep peacefully in the woods.

Thursday March 2, 2017
Thursday afternoon we pulled out of the Twin Cities and embarked on that wonderful four hour car ride up Interstate 35 all the way up to Grand Marais. Once we neared Tettegouche State Park there was no end to the amount of deer we saw crossing, and along side of Hwy 61 all the way to our bunkhouse! This would be the highlight of our wilderness viewing.

Once we arrived in Grand Marais, we swung into Voyageur Brewery for a bite to eat, however with some various dietary concerns, and lack of options we relocated over to the Harbor House Grille. An adorable restaurant built out of an old house. We cozied up next to the fire place, and shared great conversation for the weekend ahead and had burgers 4 ways!

After dinner we shot a bit past Grand Marais to sleep at the The Hungry Hippie Farm & Hostel that is popular with Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) enthusiasts as it is shortly off the trail. In many ways I would have been happy to just set up shop right here for the remaining days.

The drive up CR-14 was long and dark. We passed the SHT and began wondering if there was going to be a sign directing us to the hostel. Eventually, through the trees,  all light up in the dark was the outline of the barn – obviously our turn.  We parked, knocked on the house door, and were greeted enthusiastically by the owners and their children. She showed us around, the downstairs common area, including the individual rooms that go for $50 (they were pretty nice), and brought us to the upstairs of the barn where the -cheaper-  bunks were. They were absolutely adorable, and in chalk had noted our bunks!

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We all snuggled up in our beds, donned our headlamps and read our books, or Skyped our husbands for the last time before our real wilderness adventure began! In the evening the barn got pretty hot. Our one trip-mate stealthily jumped down from the top bunk and turned down the heat. From here on out she earned her trail name ~ NingA.

We dozed off to sleep, thankful that we were sleeping in the bunkhouse tonight since the temperatures dropped down to -6 degrees.

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Friday March 3, 2017
With temperatures hovering barely to zero, we woke up semi-lazily, and headed back in towards Grand Marais for coffee & breakfast at Java Moose. The view back in towards Grand Marais was absolutely spectacular with clear skies you could see for miles and miles down the coast. I am absolutely kicking myself now for not pulling over for a photo opp.

At Java Moose we enjoyed tasty oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches, and then were soon on our way up the Gunflint Trail where we saw more deer on the side of the road. I immediately threw off my fears of wolves since there were so many deer for their picking.

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The drive down Clearwater Road was so pretty. Eventually we came to the Clearwater entry point at the end of the road to a non-parking lot, and ended up driving out onto the ice by accident.

Backed up the trailer, and parked on the side of the boat launch where others instructed us to park.

We unloaded fairly quickly, thought at times it looked like a yard sale in the middle of the parking lot, since two others were going on a winter adventure ahead of us, and then 3 more pulled up behind us.

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As we crossed the ice – the ice was absolutely BOOMING! It sounded like this for the entire day and into the night. At first it was a bit unnerving when a big boom thundered underfoot, but eventually I got used to it, and rather liked the sound.

Eventually we passed from the public areas into the wilderness towards our camp off the BRT (Border Route Trail).  The banks up to the campsite were very steep and ice laden. I wonder how tricky it is in the warmer months…

We found a nice spot for the tent that was protected from the wind by some trees. Unfortunately the snow was kind of crummy for snow anchors, so we had to anchor out to the surrounding trees.  Canoearoo and NinjA went off to gather wood while Bre and I got the tent and stove set up.

Later that night I took my Nils ice auger out and drilled through 2.5 feet of ice for some water. We all spent time cutting wood,and using the axe. After Bre went to town with the axe we gave her trail name to her – “LumberBre“.

Canoearoo and I got our holes drilled for tip-ups hoping for some legendary Lake Trout. We used huge frozen minnows on treble hooks and waited eagerly for the monsters to bite while NinjA and LumberBre gathered some more wood down the shore line far away from camp.

The day was cold, but with the position of the sun, and lack of wind it felt pretty warm. Everyone was in high spirits.

Later that night we pulled in our tip-ups, and set off to make dinner, but not before we took in the breathtaking views of the sunset on Clearwater Lake.

Since one of my trip partners is a vegetarian, and the others have a bit of specific needs of their own we all decided to pack our own meals.

After Basecamp Dad and I’s trip two weeks ago I discovered I HATE doing dishes in the winter, due to frozen hands so I packed in delights that required no dishes to be washed.

Tonight’s meal was a Good – to – Go – meal. I had the Classic Marinara with Penne. They are vegetarian and gluten free, and delicious! They took about 20-minutes to set after we spend a while boiling water.  Bre charged her iPhone off my Biolite stove.

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The Classic Marinara, mixed in with a bit of crushed red pepper, it was pretty darn good. I would definitely have this again. Serving size says 2, and for me, I would say that was right. I had a bunch left over.

After dinner we got our food hung, and Bre got the hot tent – well – getting hot. Once inside we saw the benefit of a hot tent. We all hunkered inside and had some good conversation while contemplating the days activity quietly to ourselves.

That night felt terribly cold. I had a zero degree sleeping bag, and with the forecast calling for a low of 16 degrees it barely felt adequate. During the middle of the night, my head (which was under two hats and a balaclava) became terribly cold, and I clung to my hot packs for dear life.

The hot tent was not hot, though we didn’t keep it prime stoked throughout the night. It was cold. So very cold that night.

Saturday March 4, 2017
To be honest. Last night – was rough. It was SO COLD!

We did wake up to a warm tent however. Bre had gotten the fire going first thing in the morning, and we all woke up pleasantly so after a cold – cold night. We hung out for quite a while in the tent before getting the courage to go out and get our breakfast going. NinjA had brought her food inside the tent, so she got her breakfast taco going/defrosting on the wood stove, and her coffee as well. (Good call).

Eventually we all meandered out of the tent, and re-drilled the hole so we could get some fresh water boiling for everyone’s water/coffee for the day.

Today’s high was supposed to be 36 with a low of 25, but it was absolutely frigid. I definitely packed for the forecast, and not the worst case scenario. I’m not very talented at this winter camping game!

I enjoyed a huge thermos of Starbucks Via – Italian Roast, and some Bailey’s non-alcoholic creamer which I had to warm by the outdoor fire to defrost since it was frozen solid. The Italian Roast is decidedly not my favorite. It is kind of bitter, so you really need the cream to cut it. I also had a Kind breakfast bar. This was about as low maintenance as you can get for breakfast.

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Bre & NinjA packed up a day-pack and hiked up the Border Route Trail towards Rove Lake so they could see Canada, and Canoearoo and myself tried our hand at some more ice fishing, and relaxing.

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We ended up moving down to the lake out of camp for the day since it was sunny on the ice, and warmed us up a bit.

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Later on for lunch I tried my bagel sandwich with turkey, basil and onion. It was the “Bruegers Bagel” of the north woods, but it too froze completely the night before, and it had to be warmed on the fire. After I got it to an edible state it was pretty good.  I have to remember to make these when we go car camping.

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Still cold, and not thoroughly enjoying this whole winter camping thing… I joked to Canoearoo that I bet I could hike out to my SUV, drive to the Trail Center, have a hot meal and be back before the others came back from their hike, but in the end I sucked it up, and enjoyed myself with good company and conversation.

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Eventually the other ladies came back from their hike. While crossing a lake they felt uneasy about it, and heard some uncomforting cracking sounds, so they quickly got off the ice and made their way back. They said the trail was exceptionally groomed as if someone went through with a snowblower making a nice clear path.

We began gathering our stuff up for the hike out tomorrow, and agreed we’d skip breakfast in camp and head straight for Trail Center in the morning for a big hearty meal that we didn’t have to prepare or thaw.

After our evening chores were complete, we got our various dinners going. This time was another addition of Good-To-Go Thai Curry. It was very delicious with peas, broccoli, and green beans, and none of them tasted dehydrated.  Again, there was far too much for me to eat.

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NinjA had the fire going in the hot tent, so when everything was battened down we retreated to the tent which was real warm, and felt good with the wind picking up speed. As the others started fading one by one, I got lost deeply in my William Kent Krueger Book, “Copper Ridge” the sixth in his installment on the Corcoran O’Conner series. To say I’m hooked is an understatement!

I donned six hot packs throughout my body after last night’s uncomfortable sleep, and changed up my clothes which felt much warmer. NinjA kept the fire going throughout the night.

Laying there it sounded like F14 Jets were taking off on the eastern side of Clearwater and roared their way down the runway of the lake. I was surely glad I wasn’t paddling in it as it whipped our tent. I prayed our knots would hold, and they did.

Tonight was much much warmer, and I slept mostly comfortable.

Sunday March 5, 2017
We all arose about 7:30 or so. We laid there not wanting to get out of our sleeping bags with the cool air on our noses, but one by one we sat up. The wood stove was cool to the touch, and looking around I said, “In the words of Basecamp Dad… lets pack this *hit up!”.

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So we did, and in no time we were back down on the ice ready to pull our pulks westbound down Clearwater Lake. We arrived to the car without dramatics, and took off towards Trail Center.

I drank about 6 cups of coffee with creamer, and thee most delicious blueberry french toast with sausage a girl could find on the Gunflint Trail. If you haven’t checked out Trail Center… drop everything you have, and drive straight here. You won’t regret it, or their adorable customer service.

Final Thoughts
Alas, my final thoughts… Firstly- I really really wanted to enjoy this. But… for me it was cold. Maybe my gear was not robust enough, but I found winter camping to me more work than the reward…

We found out once we were back in civilization that Friday > Saturday got down to 10 below zero!!!! No wonder I was so cold!

The silence of the north-woods in the winter is breathtaking, and awe inspiring. It drowns out the sounds in my head… and tunes into the sounds of my soul, making the emotion absolutely deafening.

For this reason, I’m drawn to these spaces, but these feelings I get, I do find during the warmer months as well..

While I probably will not venture out into these snowy months washout the promise of a  sound heated structure, I will venture to these parts again… I long for the defrosting of lakes frozen, into liquid poetry… to chase the silence… to chase the stillness of my soul… 

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Winter Camping – Take 2

After my first successful winter camping trip last year, and pouring over plans with my friend Bre for several months on another trip this year my husband also became highly interested in the idea of winter camping and suggested we go winter camping ourselves this winter as well! Two trips in one year? I’m in!

So – on Wednesday February 15 we schlepped the kiddo off to my moms and the dogs off to Basecamp Dad’s parents, and took off for the north woods – Ely area to be exact on an overcast Wednesday morning.

When we arrived to Ely we stopped by Piragis first to pick up our negative 30 degree sleeping bags and a Nemo Moki tent. We set it up at the store to ensure we knew what we were doing. It was a little clunky, but got it figured out fairly easy.

After we checked everything out  we drove by Whiteside Park where they had these amazing snow sculptures! I walked through, snapped some photos, and marveled at their creators handy work.

Next we checked into the Adventure Inn, a divergence from our usual bunkhouse lodging. It was a basic, but snug hotel with the most delightful (elderly) host Louise.  She was a doll, and was always so excited whenever she saw us. We promptly decided this would be our new go-to place when we stayed in Ely.

FINALLY, we ended the night by having dinner at Insula. I ate here twice with KC back in 2015 and fell head over heels in love with the joint, but hadn’t made it back since. After an a great hamburger (with Ghost pepper cheese) we went back to the hotel, got settled, and snuggled in for a night of RoboCop while I read my (William Kent Krueger) WKK book, Blood Hollow.

Deciding where to go on this trip was quite the challenge. I longed to see any kind of pictographs, so I had been thinking a nice and easy trip to Hegman Lake – with camping over on Little Bass Lake to provide a bit of solitude might be nice. After all – we probably wouldn’t do this trip in the spring/summer/fall months, so this was really interesting.

Another thought was Wood Lake – this was an easy one with the plethora of Northern available in the lake and we hadn’t been there before.

Finally the idea of heading to Snowbank and camping on Parent or Disappointment was also really intriguing. With Snowbank being a popular trout lake and us not having fished for trout before this was really really interesting.

All in all – we decided on Snowbank to Disappointment.

Thursday February 16

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So – our alarms were set for 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at Britons,  and were on the road by 9:00, and crossing Pickerel Bay of Snowbank by 10:00 a.m. The crossing proved mostly uneventful, but more tiresome than we expected. We finally found an ice road which was much easier to walk on since the snow was all packed down. I decided against wearing my life jacket when I saw cars on the lake, but still had my ice awls around my neck as we tromped across with my Frost River Isle Royale Jr pack strapped to me, and Basecamp Dad pulling our sled.

We decided to take the shorter portage from Snowbank to Parent, and give up on Disappointment all together. In the future we agreed we’d both take a sled to spread out the weight a bit more. It was piled high, and heavy.

Crossing over by the portage to Parent we noticed a plethora of houses. Something new that we haven’t experienced before (houses so close to a portage). We got on the portage and immediately took in all of the devastation from last July’s blowdown.

There were trees down everywhere. Some of the pines were only blown over at the top making them look like they were straight out of Whoville and a Dr. Seuss book.

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The portage was a bit up and down, but manageable.

Once we arrived on Parent we were completely alone. No boot, ski, or animal tracks. We were alone.

Basecamp Dad wanted to camp on the ice, but I wanted the bathroom nearby since I was a bit shy to just – go on the ground. (Perhaps Quetico wouldn’t look good on me…) so we settled for a campsite taking care to not disturb it too much.

The site was full of blown down trees, including one that fell over right over the… modified fire-pit/kitchen area.

Someone had gone to great lengths to create a full size bench that could easily accommodate 6, and carved in the back to make it look more… luxurious. We were taken aback quite honestly.

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Then we saw on the tree that had fallen across the fire pit folks etching their initials in the wood. This made us sad, and equally less guilty feeling for camping at this summer site.

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Basecamp Dad went to work drilling some holes nearby to get some tip-ups in and I organized our supplies.

The wind had picked up something fierce, and I started getting very – very cold. I made the very silly mistake of putting on too many tight layers, which is exactly what you DON’T want to do. There was no room between layers to warm me up. Luckily we had a bunch of handwarmers.  Basecamp Dad and I started looking for firewood, and it appeared that down the shoreline there was a good deal of downed deadwood, so we hauled it back over, and started to get a fire going as we got our tent ready to set up.

This tent, while somewhat “easy” in the store to set up, is a total a$$hat in the field. The internal poles would not set up where they were supposed to. We had no trouble in the store, but they kept popping out of place in the field. Eventually we got them to stay after taking a little break, and trying again.

The fire was a bear to keep going. It was starving for oxygen, and the wood would not catch. We got it started enough (or rather threw enough small stuff at it) to boil some water and heat up our food and that was about it. While tending to – said “fire” we heard a mans voice behind us. We turned suddenly to find an old man and a dog in our camp thanking us for blazing a trail. He was on a day-ski to disappointment with his very large black Sheppard.

He was a local guy, and warned us that with the warm up, the whole area could be a nasty slush field. We shot the breeze a bit, and he was on his way.

Dinner was a super easy Prego Ready Meal, and enjoyed some hot cider with it. After the dishes were washed we went to bed around 6:00 p.m. since keeping a fire going was futile and listed to the wind howling as we tried to get warm in our sleeping bags. I definitely need to get different mittens. My hands, and frankly entire body was dangerously cold, and it was thanks to hand warmers that kept me going. I put some down on my femoral arteries, and the others in my armpits, and I was golden!

We both agreed that winter camping wasn’t exactly for us. Perhaps too much effort for the reward… No fish, no fire on day 1.

Friday February 17
After a fairly amazing night sleep in the woods (the best so far) we slept in a bit, and woke up around 8:00 a.m. which is crazy for us since we’re always up early in the field. Perhaps no kid- no dogs really did the trick! I read my WKK book and waited for the sun to come up higher and warm us up.

I noticed some frost on the ceiling of the tent, and it wasn’t until it started dripping on us, that I realized it was inside from condensation.

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Shortly after our little “condensation rain shower”, we got up, loaded the sled, and went to the other side of the lake to do a little day fishing. Thought I heard some wolves howling. It started out as one. A long howl. Then eventually more, and more. Strangely I was not scared. Not even at all. I was curious. They were getting closer. In the end we decided it was most likely a dog sled team.  Out to the middle of the lake we brought our stove, some wood, and our breakfast out with us.

This. Was. Awesome.

I read my WKK book, and we enjoyed some coffee, and a Kind Breakfast bar in the middle of the lake while Basecamp Dad worked the fishing.  Brilliant blue skies, and a silence that was the biggest comfort of the entire trip.

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As the day lagged on – and fishing proving futile, and our stove which was a pistol to boil water (never had such a hard time in our lives).. we decided to actually head back to Ely around 4pm, get a hotel room at the Adventure Inn again, and call this trip good.

So. That’s exactly what we did. We bused everything down, loaded everything up and headed back. The slush was getting pretty significant by now after a 50, or near 50 degree day on the lake, and we were glad we pulled the plug early. Peace out Parent Lake. May you give the spring and summer anglers better luck than us. And folks  – treat your campsites better.

We got back to the car with no trouble, and luckily Adventure Inn had one more room. A last minute cancellation! We took it, and actually got the same room we had two days before. From there we walked up to the Ely Steakhouse, and enjoyed a nice meal with some adult beverages.

We spoke at large about our summer trip, and our keen interest and excitement to get into the world of Hammock camping! This will be a good way to distribute our tent weight which is currently 12#, and will be very helpful for me in the summer as I hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Lots to explore here, but we’re about 97% sure we’re going this route starting this spring!

The service at the restaurant was pretty poor/slow, so we will probably not be back. We were there on our first trip with the same issues. O’well.

After we got back to our room we promptly fell asleep and set no alarm.

Saturday February 18
Woke up leisurely around 8:30 a.m. grabbed the hotel coffee and pastries, and headed up the Echo trail to the Hegman entry point. Pulled in and two other cars were parked. A leisurely day trip out to the pictographs.

We walked along a very packed, very noticeable trail from the parking lot, all the way out to the pictos. It was a gorgeous walk, and I immediately regretted wearing my jacket, and hat. My wool sweater was plenty, so I took off my coat and carried it like a baby.

Finally got to the pictographs on the north end, and it was amazing. I was surprised at how high they were up and marveled at the artists drawing. To me – it was God the creator, or the Gitchi Manitou looking over his creation.

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Finally we turned back, and saw scores of people walking in to see the great pictographs too. We estimated about 20 more people were hiking in after us. Definitely busting the rules and regs in the BWCA. The parking lot was completely full so people were parking on the Echo Trail!

Lastly we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Grilled Cheese Emporium with amazing service, dropped off our gear at Piragis, and headed home.

While winter camping may not be for us, the BWCA and wilderness adventure definitely is.

See ya in the summer Ely! See ya in the summer!

Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ every day!

FINALLY!!!!

I got back to the BWCAW!!! I absolutely can’t believe I only took one trip last year! Two trips per year should be the norm from here out.It was time to do a little…. Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ every day! (minus the hunting part).

This past Labor Day weekend we headed up to the Gunflint Trail (which was a first for us). Destination – EP #47 Lizz/Swamp with hopes to basecamp on Horseshoe!

Unlike prior trips we elected to wait to pack everything until just a few days before we took off! Again we took my CCS pack, Frost River Pack, Basecamp Dad’s pack, and Basecamp Kid’s pack. We re-distributed the weight from our Spring 2016 trip, and things were looking good!

We also took Basecamp JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) and left Basecamp GSP (German Shorthair Pointer) back home with the boarder!

Wednesday evening we left home around 6:30pm and headed up north towards Superior Ridge Inn off Hwy 61 just south of Schroeder, MN. We wanted to get a nice head start so that we didn’t have to leave the Twin Cities at 3:00 a.m. to make it up north by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.

Coming down the big hill to Duluth while it was all light up was quite a site, but it was weird driving on the north shore in the dark! I saw loads of deer in the ditches, so I was a bit cautious of pushing the speed lest they jump out at me.

Superior Ridge Inn was a fine place to stay, though we only stayed about 7 hours (sleeping 6.5 of them). We rolled in around 10:30 p.m. after stopping for Hardies for dinner (husbands request).

We all fell fast asleep since our alarm was set for 5:30 a.m.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I was ready to roll! Basecamp Dad scooped Basecamp Kid out of her slumber, and carried her to the car and we were finally off! It was still mostly dark , but we got to watch the sun rise over Lake Superior which is always a treat.

We did make a pit stop however at Java Moose and Worlds Best Donuts for breakfast in Grand Marais which was great. My co-worker mentioned that the donuts were small, but I thought they were big enough for us to each have one. We’re not huge breakfast eaters though.  We then blazed the trail up the Gunflint to Rockwood outfitters to pick up our permits, and hopefully some leeches since all of the bait shops were closed so early in the morning.

Unlike the Ely side, everything is fast asleep off the Gunflint until 8:00 a.m. In fact Rockwood Outfitters were the only ones we could find that opened at 7:00 a.m. We were used to outfitters (specifically VNO) opening at 5:30 a.m.  and staying open until 10 p.m.in the busy season. Here everything closed down at 6:00 p.m.

We pulled in and the owners greeted us. We unloaded everything right there after they announced we could park with them vs. the public landing down the road for a flat rate of $10. We were in. They also had some leeches, so we grabbed about two dozen of them as well. We unloaded our vehicle as other folks started waking up to put in. We worked quickly after learning they were headed to the very location we were.

They provided us clear, and easy directions to the Lizz portage, and even helped us push off and get Basecamp Kid in her seat. Talk about full service! I’d recommend this helpful bunch if you’re looking for an outfitter on Poplar Lake.

The directions couldn’t have been easier, so we found the portage to Lizz without any problems. Basecamp Kid was happy to see that it was simple land mass that separated the lakes vs. rapids and a water fall requiring a portage. We got everything unloaded and took a look back without any sign of our “same entry permit day” comrades.

The portage to Lizz was easy as could be! Husband and kiddo saw an oversized deer hoof track in the mud (which was pretty solidified) and determined it must be a moose hoof. At the end of the portage we met a group of young canoeists who looked to be about college age. In fact we learned they were entering freshman at St. Scolastica who offers incoming freshmen the opportunity to go on a BWCA trip to meet new friends, and form bonds. I thought that was pretty darn awesome.

Lizz was a super easy paddle, and the other portage to Caribou couldn’t have been easier to find. The muck on this end was a little more legit, but still wasn’t as bad as my recent hike on the SHT after Silver Bay received 6″ of rain… but I digress.

This was a little more of a “hike” but the 65-70 rods (depending on which map you consult) with little log “bridges” on them in the lower areas that looked more prone to being muddy, but everything was hard packed when we walked through. It was very easy, and Basecamp Kid took it like a champ without even a peep. She was very pro-portaging this time, and I didn’t even have to bribe her with candy or Girl Scout Cookies!

Caribou was a beautiful lake. We “parallel parked” the canoe and hopped in. My feet got a bit wet, but I didn’t mind since I had new hiking sandals, so most of the time I just walked into the water up to my knees which was much easier than teeter-tottering on a rock trying not to get wet. This is definitely the way to go!

That first site on Caribou was open, but we decided to head to Hoseshoe instead. That 20 rod portage was the easiest one we’d encounter on our entire trip, and very soon we arrived on Horseshoe. The first two sites were open, but we were really hoping for sites 675, or 674 as it was primo moose viewing areas… but they were both taken, along with 673! We paddled down one of the arms, and that site was open!

We all got out and walked around, but the firepit was secluded from the water, and the path to the toilet was very rocky. It didn’t have that magical feel to it, so we paddled back north to one of the (hopefully still open) sites. On our way back towards site 675 we noticed a flotilla of four canoes (the ones we saw at Rockwood) with loaded gear also looking for a site. The race was on!

We mentioned to them the site we just left was open, and paddled north while they pondered their next move. From this angle site 672 looked awesome. One walk around and it was going to be home sweet home for us for the next few days. We threw everything up on shore, and cracked open some wine (and Koolaid) to celebrate!

Later that evening we tried our hand at fishing (success but small), and had bratz for dinner which were amazing! This is the way to go for meal #1 of the night. Basecamp Dad missed his steak, but I still loved the simplicity of the bratz, and lower risk of blood all over everything else!

After we got camp cleaned up (in the dark) we came back out towards the fire pit, and noticed a gorgeous display of northern lights, stars and the visible milky way! I was so glad to have my good camera with, though I am still a novice at nighttime photography.

We all popped a melatonin and fell fast asleep.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Friday we slept in a tad – well by our wilderness standards of 6:30 a.m. – we all slept in until 8:00 a.m. or later. We had a good rest, but our tent was pitched on a slight slope so we all kind of rolled at night.  Basecamp JRT demanded to sleep in my sleeping bag each night, so we rolled together depending on how she wanted to sleep.

Once emerging from the tent, we lazily walked back to get our food bag, and had an amazing breakfast of oatmeal and coffee! (ha!) (The kiddo got hot cocoa though). In the future we might try to bring our farm fresh eggs with us since they don’t require refrigeration. We’re also planning to invest in a bear vault or hope to get one for Christmas (wink wink).

After breakfast was cleaned up thanks to Basecamp Kid, and promises of extra snickers bars at night, we were off for Vista lake, which Basecamp Kid wanted to visit after seeing this video.

The paddle past site 675 on horseshoe was amazing, and very moosey feeling. Loads of lily pads and vegetation. The paddle was very enjoyable, and the portage to Vista was very easy to find.

The portage itself was a rocky mess though. The take out of horseshoe wasn’t too bad, but lots and lots of rocks to contend with towards Vista. It reminded me of the first portage from Mudro into Fourtown but on a lighter scale.

Soon we arrived to Vista and the entry in was much trickier with all of the rocks.

We paddled down to the 5 star campsite towards Misqua lake to have lunch. That was the cats meow of all sites! The views were awesome, the tent pads close to the pit and level, and the path to the potty closer than at our site. It was very enjoyable to relax and borrow another site for an hour or so. We didn’t see anyone else on Vista until we were nearly finished with lunch when we saw our Rockwood friends fishing nearby.

All, but one of our leeches got out of our leech locker (we’ll need a more sophisticated one in the future), so we fished with fake bait, and lures. We decided to fish the eastern bays and I got an eater smallie on the north-eastern bay on a Fliker Shad lure!

Finally – we were going to eat a bona-fide fish from the BWCA!

We let the wind, which had picked up by now,  blow us back to the portage to horseshoe.

Anchors down, we fished the lower part o Horseshoe, and then made a right hand turn to the far eastern arm of Horseshoe where Basecamp Dad accidentally hooked his other pole and threw it out into the lake!!!!

Luckily for us/him the water was pretty shallow and it was resting about 3 feet on some vegetation. Phew! We paddled down towards that other campsite, but it was taken, so we turned around before we got there.

On our way back to the main section of the lake we noticed two otters grunting at us, and played peak-a-boo as we paddled by.

Once we came back towards camp we realized we had some new neighbors directly across from us. They had three canoes and from what we could surmise, a truck load of kids with them.

We pan fried the fish in some ghee and lemon juice and made mac and cheese to go with it. It was absolutely wonderful!

After we got dinner all cleaned up we were back in the canoe for an evening paddle and fishing until dark. We could hear our new neighbors hooting and hollering, and making all kinds of noise. We thought maybe they were a Boy Scout troop and hoped that they had a curfew.

We made a decent campfire that evening, drank wine, and played Yahtzee.  Our kiddo fell asleep mid-Yahtzee while Basecamp Dad and I stayed up to plan future trips. He challenged me to reserve our days off from work,but NOT reserve a permit until the day before we leave, and leave it up to chance where we go…. At first I thought he was nuts, but then the idea started to really grow on me…So – that is my 2018 goal since I already have two spots in mind for the 2017 season! (Somebody stop me!)

We carried little miss to our tent, and we all fell fast asleep.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

This morning we slept in even further! Even Basecamp JRT wanted to sleep in, which is another reason why she gets to come with us on our trips. Today we hoped to go up to Caribou Lake to fish some spots I learned about on bwca.com.

The portage back over to Caribou was like going to the State Fair. So many people on this portage that we gave each other the: “this is crazy” look. Perhaps in the future we’ll skip the Labor Day weekend trip and plan a mid-October trip instead when Basecamp Kid is out of school again. We crave our solitude that we’ve gotten on our previous pre-Memorial Weekend trips, and loved them!

It probably took us 30 minutes to get through that portage,but finally we made it. We worked our way along the lake, cast, nothing, cast, nothing, cast nothing…..

This continued for the whole day which was overcast, and very very windy. Basecamp Kid fell asleep in the canoe after complaining that her ear hurt. I was worried she was going to have a full blown ear infection and was planning on how we were going to get through the night, or pull out if it turned into such. I encouraged her to nap, so she did for about 2 hours while me and Basecamp Dad fished. That was awesome, because Basecamp Dog was sleeping too, so we got some REAL quiet as we saw nobody on Caribou for the day.

After we had enough of cast, and….. reeling back in empty handed we paddled back towards the Horseshoe portage with whitecaps and wind in our face. That was a workout, but thankfully everyone else was still asleep so nobody rocked the boat.

Upon return to Horseshoe the wind was still whipped up pretty bad, so we decided to gather some firewood, and just relax on the rocks and read, finish our Yahtzee game from the night before and relax.

We noticed our neighbors, which now no longer appeared to be scouts, but rather two dads and about 6 kids between them were in groups of kids in the canoes and fishing. They’d yell across the lake, “Got one….” “What?”, “So and So got a fish”, “What kind?”, “A northern, its huge… probably… 6 inches!”…. It was kind of cute… but mostly annoying.

After listening to these kids reel in fish after fish in front of our campsite we decided to head back out on the lake once our fire had subsided and extinguished. We paddled the northwestern arm of Horseshoe all the way down past the narrows which were really rocky paddling until we were completely secluded. Peace…..

With that came loads of lily pads however,and fishing was no longer feasible, so we turned back for dinner. The thing about Horseshoe is that each little arm of it, and section of it is wildly different from the next. The northwest arm reminded me of Ely Lakes, while the southeastern arm was almost swampy looking.

Dinner was Teriyaki rice and chicken, and some Snickers. We organized everything for our departure the next day and relaxed by the fire to play some cards. The sky was cloudy so we did not see much in the way of stars. It would be an early bedtime for us, as we heard our neighbors STILL shouting across the lake at dark.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

We didn’t set any alarms to set out, but I woke up around 7:00 a.m. to the light of day, and picked up my book to read a bit while I waited for Basecamp Kid and Basecamp Dad to wake up.

Around 8:30 a.m. or so everyone else woke up and we began the process of tearing down camp.

Our neighbors to the east seemed pretty quiet, which is probable since I swear they were making noise past 11:00 p.m.!

The paddle out was pleasant, and we only saw two groups on the portages, which was very nice compared to our day trip to Caribou the day before.  We compared notes with one couple who had paddled through Horseshoe, Gaskin, Winchell, Jump and Allen, and every site they had passed was taken!

Caribou lake was of course windy again, but this time, no white caps to contend with. On our way out of Caribou I looked back to that first site (which was taken now) and was really glad we didn’t stop there. The whole site looks really exposed, and who wants people looking in on you all day? That’s what William O’Brien State Park is for right?

Little miss nearly got whiny on the 65-70 rod portage from Caribou to Lizz, and tried to drop her pack and “quit” mid-portage, but daddy got her re-situated with a canoe on his shoulders, and she was back in business.

We met a group of three older ladies coming out of Lizz who were on their annual girls only trip. They had loads of gear, but looked like professionals! (I guess this was their 20th year or so).

The paddle on Lizz was uneventful. I wonder what the fishing would be like on this lake. I wonder if it ever gets any action with people just passing it through. We did see a couple perched up on an island on the northern end with a cooler, and sunbathing.  Perhaps “cabin-ers” or locals from Poplar.

The kiddo was pro-portage since it was the last one, and fairly easy. Right once we got to Poplar she dropped her pack and announced, “Last portage of the year!”.

For the size of Poplar lake, it was rather calm paddling, which was nice. We looked for the green cabin with the flat roof, took a right, and were headed back for Rockwood Outfitters where our car awaited. Once we got close the owners came out and greeted us, and helped us unload! Talk about full service!

We mentioned to them how busy it was, and they told us about a group that had put in the day prior, couldn’t find anywhere to stay, so they had to camp overnight on a portage, and then paddled back out the next morning since there was “no room at the inn”. I’m starting to think mid-October is sounding better and better!

We got loaded up in a jiffy, and were headed for Trail Center!

I pulled in, and noticed a firm sign on the door that insinuated that pets were not welcome… We’ve had bad experiences leaving Basecamp JRT put, and the deck to eat out back wasn’t accessible from outside like the Chocolate Moose was in Ely. So I walked in to have a look around, and came back out with a hungry belly. We’ll be back in Mid-October – dogless… so we’ll have to check it out more thoroughly then!

Instead we opted for Dairy Queen in downtown Grand Marais, and ate out on the rocks near the breakwater. The kiddo earned a blizzard which she was really pumped about and I earned an iced mocha from Java Moose for the drive home!

We had a blast on this trip, but I don’t think we’ll visit this particular area again at this time of year. Just too busy! I used to think I didn’t mind seeing people, but that’s when we only saw one or two people per day, verses one or ten per hour.

All in all, we liked the Gunflint side, and I’m sure we’ll be back again, but we did miss the nostalgic canoeing town of Ely with all of its shops right there, and their overly pro-BOUNDARY WATERS feel versus outfitters scattered along the Gunflint Trail. They are definitely different, and for now, we are team Ely!

Keep Calm & Paddle On

Truth be told, I kind of hate these, “Keep Calm & _____” fill in the blank posters that were going around Facebook last year, but when looking back on our trip  the sentiment was just about perfect and I couldn’t think of a better title for our trip report!

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Pre-Day Friday May 20:

Technically, this is pre-entry date, so I will call it pre-day.  Basecamp Dad took the day off, we shuttled Basecamp Kid off to school for half a morning, and I did some final work for my employer before “shuffling off to buffalo“.  We blazed out of the Twin Cities around noon on Friday the 20th and began our 3.5 hour journey up to Ely, MN. Saw lots of “Flying Moose” stickers on cars, and swung into Spirit of the Wilderness to talk with Steve! His enthusiasm is always infectious!

Realized we forgot the kennel so my dreams for eating at Insula that night were completely dashed since we didn’t trust our dogs in the Bunkhouse by themselves. To say I was not disappointed would be a lie, but decided to eat on the patio deck at the Chocolate Moose and the dogs could be just off the deck next to us. The food was alright. I had Thai Lettuce Wraps trying to be GF still. Husband had a burger, and Basecamp Kid had a hot dog. The wine was lovely on the deck along with the pleasantly warm weather, which really elevated the place and experience.

The waitress even gave us some water bowls for the dogs! A nice touch indeed.

After dinner I convinced Basecamp Dad to head out to Kawishiwi Falls for a night hike. We brought the fishing stuff with us, but had no luck. The waterfall was bursting with water, and my heart was set in the right spot.

It was very hot out. Unfortunately we packed a lot of long sleeves, and pants, but I did have a tank top on – so I wore that most of the night, and now I think I actually have a sunburn! ha.

Later on I talked with Lynn at VNO. She has to be one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever encountered. She gave us lots of great tips, and recommended the longer 40 rod portage from Upper to Lower Pauness. She also practically assured us we’d hear wolves howling in the area. This terrified me, but I knew they don’t eat humans… 😉

The dogs slept like rocks,and I was kept awake by bunkhouse neighbors who were all excited for what laid ahead of them on their trip. Around 11pm there was a stampeede of people upstairs of us. It was highly annoying, but I knew that VNO was housing several Hot Shots for the Foss/Crab Lake fire – so I tried not to be too mad.

Saturday May 21 – Day 1:
I’m no dummy, I know the Spirit of the Lord is everywhere, but oh how I feel it so much stronger in these pine stands, balsam, granite outcroppings, and tannic waters. A combination of no cell service – so the phone goes instantly into airplane mode to conserve batteries, and Gods amazing creation so immersed in your every being its hard to not recognize the Spirit of the Lord directly in front of you.

We had a quick and easy breakfast in the car this time of cereal bars, coffee from the gas station, and donuts, and blazed up the Echo Trail. We passed by the Mudro access and I remembered fondly our trip last year. This time we had a much longer treck up the Echo Trail to the Little Indian Sioux River – North.

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I thought of my bwca.com friend Kanoes. He died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 57. I thought how weird life is. How we’re here one minute, and just like water flowing over the rocks with rapids – gone the next.  I couldn’t help but think about my dad dying suddenly at 64.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but today I get to witness creation in the flesh.

Told Basecamp Dad about this trip report I head read on bwca.com and how they had forgotten their paddles and life jackets had to drive all the way back to Ely! We both agreed that would be maddening!

Got unloaded quite a bit quicker than last year despite having more things. The morning was a little chilly, and realize I had forgotten a regular coat for Basecamp Kid but had an extra coat myself – so I gave her that, and it wasn’t too too big.

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Saw another van pull in of 3 soloists. Suddenly heard a loud F bomb. Followed quickly by several more F bombs…. Apparently they too had mis-matched solo paddles and had to drive all the way back to Ely!! I would be irate.

Grabbed the Frost River pack and headed down to the river. This FR pack is decidedly not fun to carry. Its heavy, and my pots and stove are gouging my back. The Basecamp GSP (our German Shorthaired Pointer) is pulling me on the leash, despite having the gentle leader, and he keeps stopping to try to shake it off. I’m already annoyed and we’re not even on the river yet.

Paddle up the LIS is a nice, quiet,  meandering river .Saw lots of Red  Wing Blackbirds and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. Settled in and my mood brightened!

Saw the Elm Portage clear across the river. The entry for it was very obvious. Walked the first trek over and Basecamp GSP is constantly pulling on the leash ripping my arm off or stops abruptly as we’re going downhill.

We are double portaging this time, which I wasn’t too excited about, but everyone assured me, the walk back is usually pretty nice.

Saw a man on the portage, and Basecamp GSP stared at him incredulously. I noticed this, but thought the man seemed really nice so I wasn’t sure why in the world he was so freaked out. Suddenly, Basecamp GSP bolted backwards nearly tearing my arm or dislocating my shoulder in the process. Now my mood has been soured again.

Grab my CCS Pioneer Pack, which is decidedly more comfortable, but all that it has in it is clothes, and sleeping bags etc, so its a treat to portage. Basecamp  GSP continues to be a pain on this portage, and I ended up having a bloody nose on the portage. Of course I don’t have a Kleenex on me, and the last thing I’m going to do is wipe my nose on my sleeve.

So I try to tip my face upward and keep it in. The waterfall on Elm portage is gorgeous and stunning. Trying to look on the bright side of things.

At end of Elm portage we were met by couple of guys day-tripping that told us about the shorter portage to LP and some beaver dams ahead that we have to strong arm across.

We decide, even if we have to triple portage, the shorter portage was the way to go. I hadn’t really researched this one, so I didn’t know if the portage was on the right or the left. They both looked plausible, but we chose the left. We hiked up a steep hill and at the top saw a campsite that was unoccupied. The trek back down to the lake was like a billy goat portage! Short, but really steep. I kept Basecamp GSP on a short leash, and we all did okay. We didn’t have Basecamp Kid portage anything on this one, since it was technically difficult.

The paddle through Lower Pauness was pleasant. Saw a husband/wife that were camped at the lower site just north of the short portage. It looked nice, and they gave us a wave.

Began looking for Shell portage on our right. The guys we met on the Elm Portage said it was a sandy landing, but kind of tucked behind some trees. We didn’t see it. Kept consulting the map, but didn’t see anything that resembled the portage.

Someone had a red canoe and we found it! Praise Jesus! Thank you Red Canoe man for helping us spot the portage!

This portage was beastly. The entrance was a total muck field.  Lost of people on it, so we all shared glances of misery and “oh yay – downhill now” commentaries. We passed the Sioux Hustler Trail (SHT) and Basecamp Kid announced how badly she had to go to the bathroom. Her and I hiked down the SHT a bit and took an off trail potty break.

Finally came to the notorious beaver pond; very annoying. Second part was nice but longer than I thought.

Guys from the parking lot (that had to drive all the way back to Ely) caught us. WTF. Made me feel like we are the slowest people in the world, but they don’t have two dogs and a kid with them right? 😉 One of the guys were impressed with Basecamp Kid as she did the 220 rod portage and stoked her up a little bit. He then asked how much longer and I said just over the hill….

Basecamp Dad went back for last pack & I rewarded Basecamp Kid with some Thin Mints.

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Shell is a beautiful lake. Lots of people were paddling around, and we decided to try and make it to Lynx.

Passed between Con Island and the smaller island and made our way East. Consulted the map but didn’t know exactly which way to go. Suddenly this floating rock appeared and I knew after watching all of the SHUG videos that this was the way to go. It was now referred to as the Shug Rock.

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Just to the left of this rock you come to a little bay with a campsite, and the portage is directly at the end of the bay. We saw a group camped there of 6 in Hawaiian shirts, swimming having fun. They paddled out to the glacier rock and were jumping into the lake. They said it was slightly warmer than Lake Superior.

Found the Little shell portage easily. The portage itself is not hard, and probably our favorite. This would be the last portage we’d have to do before arriving at our camp on Lynx.

Passed the Sioux Hustler Trail again on this portage.

Little Shell is beautiful! Very clear water. Would consider camping on this lake in the future. The pathway was  open to paddle to Lynx so we didn’t have to do the 4 rod portage. Took the lower east campsite after knowing it had good reviews. Lots of folks said it was a beach site, but I’m not sure what “beach” they were talking about. Slight sandy bottom so maybe that’s what people were talking about?  Sprawling multi-level site with a grand view of the lake. Fished a bit off shore, while drinking 2 gallons of water.

We made the mistake of not having full water bottles and were practically dying of thirst. It took us approximately 7 hours to reach this campsite with double portaging. We were definitely  dehydrated. Saw a crayfish swimming right by our boat landing so that was really cool.

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Got things set up lazily, and found the toilet. This one had no lid, but there was a nice tree next to it to bungee our toilet paper to.

For the size of this site, there was really not many level root free tent pads available, but it would more than do for our family of three.

Entertainment for kiddos in the northwoods:

Eventually decided to get dinner out. Tonight was supposed to be steak, baby red potatoes, and asparagus. Opened the stuff sack and dinner was an a b s o l u t e  m e s s.  Potatoes and asparagus were dripping in blood, our lemon for fish was burst open, and ruined. The steak bled over everything. I’ll never do this again. I was very paranoid, but we got things cleaned up, and burned some of our food. It was sad. Had just steak for dinner.

I definitely want heliniox chairs, or some kind of chair option.

Compared to last year’s trip, the bugs are horrible! These little black flies are mean. They land on you and bite you!

We are the only ones on Lynx from what we can tell which is odd for the size of the lake.

After we got our steak mess cleaned up, we went to hang the rest of our food. Couldn’t find any good places to hang our bag. Basecamp Kid had an idea so we let her try to help us find a tree. Had to walk 1/4 mile away from camp, but alas, we found a tree that would do. Now I want URSACK bags too with odor proof stuff sacks so we don’t have to worry so much about hanging our food.

Enjoyed our fire and the sunset. Even at dusk it was still hot out.

Basecamp Dad leaned into me…. “What does it do for you…tripping in the BWCA?” One look over the lake said it all. Part of it is the planning which I absolutely love, and part of it is the challenge and learning to overcome. Not having any cell phone service, and relying on what is right in front of you. Plus it is so darn quiet.

After we had enough of the night sky, we retreated to our tent. Basecamp Kid begged us to play yatzhee, so we did. Basecamp Dad won.

Head lamps went off, and the wheels started turning. Suddenly looked around the perimiter of our tent and began worrying about bears and wild life. Irrationally dreamed a pack of Lynx (who are solitary animals) would tear into the tent as well.

Tossed/turned in my 5 degree bag. Definitely too hot for this trip. I was in a full body sweat around midnight/1am as the full moon rose across tent.

A nearby Loon couple was going absolutely berserk in the moonlight for over 20 minutes.  Prayed I wouldn’t hear any howling wolves, and drifted off to sleep.

Sunday May 22 – Day 2:

Woke up to a quiet world. Basecamp JRT snuggling Basecamp Kid in a deep sleep.

Arose to no Basecamp Dad. I climbed out of the tent and looked around. He must be out fishing. Wrote in my journal on the rocks.  Basecamp Kid really sleeping in. About 45 minutes later spotted him by the Little Shell portage/path fishing in peace.

It was a quiet beautiful morning on Lynx.

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I was in much better spirits today.

Didn’t want to leave camp to get the food bag and have Basecamp Kid to awake to nobody in camp, so I waited. She finally woke up, we got bag down from tree to get breakfast. Hot Cocoa/Coffee/Oatmeal. It was good. Instead of the regular Instant Quaker Oats we did last year, I made up these packs from this website.  I even added raw almonds to mine which gave it a nice crunch.

Here is a quick video from the perspective of a child in the BWCA:

Cleaned camp. Went fishing in E. Bay just north of the southern campsite. Forgot our anchor bags, so we paddled back to camp get them as there was a nice breeze on the lake. Thanks Ducks for the tip! Works wonderfully!

Fished nearly the whole bay with all that we had, topwater, spoons, Gulp on bobbers, nothing. Had a snack in canoe, and just sat for a while and enjoyed each others company.

We were going to fish the west side of Lynx but the wind was getting so bad, and the dogs were growing restless, so we decided to head back to camp and make up Mac & Cheese. Relaxed under my CCS tarp & listened to pair of loons romance each other and Basecamp Kid  entertain herself. She was talking to her imaginary friends and pretending she was a singer song writer at a book store.  She announced to everyone said she had to sing about “The Strawberry Patch” because her manager already promoted the song…then said, “alright everyone, will you help me sing this next song?” and proceeded to make up some words to the Strawberry Patch song. Basecamp Dad took our rainfly off the tent and took a nap in there, and the dogs were splattered about camp in a mid-afternoon slumber.

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I studied the map for a bit to see about possible ideas for moving or day trips. Definitely want to eat a little more before we move to lighten the load. Maybe Tuesday…. We will discuss once Basecamp Dad wakes up. The girl and I try fishing off shore and not a bite.

Basecamp Dad wakes up, we discuss going out to Lake Agawato for some SMB fishing. The water is still way too whipped up to go anywhere so we decide to prepare dinner which is Tacos tonight. We get to lighten the load of jalapeños and onions at least. We make the tacos, which was freeze dried chicken & Trader Joes seasoning. One bite & Basecamp Kid’s mouth is on fire! We had never used TJs taco seasoning before and it was hot hot hot.

Luckily I packed extra freeze dried chicken and its  super easy to reconstitute. I could just kick myself for trying something new in the Boundary Waters.

The wind settles down so I go to get some water & check out the portage to Lake Agawato. I sat backwards in the bow seat and paddled to the middle of the bay – but man I got hit by the wind at the front of my canoe and started swinging and came dangerously close to tipping.

I paddled & dug deep with all my might. Finally scooped up some water & abandoned checking out the portage. Kept trying to get to camp, but I could not get back to the landing so I shouted for Basecamp Kid to get Dad… he comes to shore with a puzzled look and says, what do you want me to do and I say I don’t know but I’m getting blown all over the place.

Eventually a small path away from camp before some huge boulders I spot a landing & dig. They run over and got me safe. Basecamp Dad paddled back to the real landing just fine.

We will defnitely want to wait until aflter dinner to go anywhere.

Later after dinner the lake was like glass. A strong contrast to the whipping waters of earlier.

We paddled south from our campsite all along to the western shore of Lynx .We tried wounded minnow, spinners, fishin’ off the bottom & fishing with a bobber and not a single bite! A gorgeous sunset was painted on the night sky!

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The dogs were getting restless which interrupted the peace however. Once we got back we had a roaring fire as the moon rose. Went down to the boat landing and went hunting for crayfish. Saw frogs, toads and a wolf spider. That sucker was HUGE!  Eventually fell asleep. Basecamp JRT (Our Jack Russell Terrier) was snuggled in with Basecamp Kid in her sleeping bag, laying on her back and snoring logs!

Monday May 23 – Day 3:

Arose to the sound of the wind and the sweet elixer of sleep tempted me to rest longer, but once I’m awake I find it tricky to fall back to sleep. Across the lake the sky fell grey and threatened our chance of moving. Basecamp Dad wanted to stay put, but we were giving this lake all that we had without even a nibble. The clouds blew north and Basecamp Dad made the announcement, “Pack this shit up – lets move.”.

We got camp busted down & ready to go in 1.5 hours and we were off. The wind had really picked up and we were paddling directly into the wind. Like my friend Canoearoo said of her biggest pet-peves, no being a fake paddler today! We were digging hard but made it over to Little Shell unscathed. We found the portage and made it over. Shell looked pretty darn wavy but no whitecaps we were hoping and praying one of the Con Island sites were available but nobody else was paddling today so we weren’t too hopeful.

As we rounded the corner near the glacier erratic to the right towards Con Island our hearts sank as we saw the south site was taken. Almost assuredly the north site would be taken as well since that’s often noted the best site on the lake.

The waves really kicked in and soon we were paddling white caps! I prayed so hard to make land safe and thought how dumb it was to move at that moment. Father keep us safe. Do not let us tip and oh Lord let one of the other two island sites be open or we have a strong paddle into the wind and waves.

Phew, the middle site was free – in a pinch we could stay there, but it didn’t look very nice. As we paddled north, I prayed fervently the north site wouldn’t be taken. I kept expecting to see a tarp or tent, but never did. We docked the canoe to get a look & I jumped ashore to ensure it really was free and sure enough, it was ours for the taking! PTL Thank you Jesus! Its free! its ours!

The site was gorgeous and tucked back into a little cove making the lake feel small.

We got set up.

After some searching found the toilet, which the FS really needs to address as it is almost full. At least to ground level!

Lunch, was summer sausage, nuts & cheese, but we were still hungry so I made up some Cous Cous & Vegetables with soy sauce. That hit the spot!

Fished from shore and saw a whole nest of frog eggs in the water!

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The water on Shell is dirty and more tannic, but not as much as I expected.

A lovely bench seat by the fire

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Saw a few wrapapers of tootsie rolls/tea bags by the fire, so that lost a little of its magic. Packed them up in our own garbage bag.

Under the bench we found matches & cigars which Basecamp  Dad helped himself to.

Got our tarp hung beautifully over old an log.

It was much cooler today but still in tank top. I’m noticing that I’m getting sunburned I look like I spent a week in Mexico instead of the Northwoods of Minnesota.

Saw storm clouds rolling in to the west so we decided we better get dinner going. Pad Thai. It was very good!

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Got in a panic trying to find a tree as the storm pushed in Con Island N has zero trees for bags. The rain came in huge drops, just as we finished and darted for the tarp as we watched the rain pour down.

After the storm passes we get out in canoe & fish the ^ shoreline near Heritage. Basecamp GSP lost his balance sitting up in the canoe, and almost tipped us over. Hearts are pumping.

Basecamp Kid is working on casting lures and has a spoon she likes casting.

The lake was like glass. Basecamp Dad gets a huge fat northern,but I can’t figure out the net so it gets away! I did get a video on the GoPro though.

We came back to camp & got a fire roaring. We tell stories about Elanore the man who sells coconuts…. as we grow tired.

We cozied up in the tent and fell fast asleep.

Tuesday May 24 – Day 4:

Felt like we really slept in today. Basecamp Dad woke up with a horrible headache, and burning eyes. Took some advil and slowly felt better.

Basecamp GSP ran off into the woods, and had to hike around looking for him. Trip has been stressful and not too relaxing with him. He is officially uninvited from future trips. His food is heavy, pulls on the leash too much, running off, restless in canoe.

Try to hike the trails on the island with Basecamp JRT, but they all peter out. We have a lazy morning to try and recapture our spirits.

We decide to cut our trip short and leave tomorrow to meet up with our friends and family for dispersed camping in the Chippewa National Forest. (CNF)

I definitely want to hit up Heritage Lake before we leave though and on our way out tomorrow I want to see Devils Cascade.

Portaged into Heritage. Portage was pretty flat, rocky in some spots. Landing kind of tricky. Muddy, but not too bad. 3/10. Heritage lake is beautiful. One of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. Fished like heck with NOTHING. Storm clouds rolled in and we headed back to camp.

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Noted some guys fishing on Peninsula next to our campsite. Said they’ve been skunked on the fishing too.

Read BWJ under the tarp and watched the rain fall. Garbanzo Bean size hail. The CCS tarp held up like champ though.

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Had Mac & Cheese for lunch. Sorted out our dinners/food bags for the CNF.

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Got everything packed for the hike/paddle out. Everything loaded into Frost River Pack much smarter and it is so much more comfortable now without my pots & stove gouging my lower back. Dare I even say I really like this pack now!

Had Tuna Alfredo Parmesan with Frenches Fried Onions. Thought of Kanoes from bwca.com as it was his tip to make this and was one of his favorites.

Head to the tent and play 2 games of yahtzee. I got 222 on the first round, and Basecamp Kid got 307 with a bonus Yahtzee on round 2.

Alarm is set for 5:30 a.m. for an early morning break down since we want to make a quick pitstop to Devils Cascade on the way out.

I’m excited to get to the 220 rod beast portage out of the way right away! After that we’ll do the 40 rod to Upper Pauness, and back down the LIS to the car where I have an entire roll of Thin Mints waiting for us as a reward!

Wednesday May 25 – Day 5:

Alarm goes off and everyone wants to stay asleep. I read the Falls Chain article in the Spring 2016 issue of BWJ while I wait for my family to arise.

After I finish reading I woke them up and we got on the water by 7:30 a.m.

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The paddle to Shell was uneventful. We didn’t have the strong waters, but there was a light breeze.

The portage sucked as bad as ever. Its very very muddy on both ends, and the beaver dam is damn annoying. Basecamp Kid had a positive attitude on it, and carried her pack, and the Thwart Bag/Map Case across.

We swung to the right to check out Devils Cascade. We could hear the rushing water, but the landing was very obvious. The landing was a beautiful sandy beach landing, which was nice. We pulled everything up on shore, and left lots of room for others if they were going to be arriving or taking out.

The hike/portage was very well maintained and had a few ups and downs. Maybe because we weren’t carying anything I thought it was pretty easy. We hiked to the campsite that over looks the cascade and the rest of the LIS to the North. It was a gorgeous campsite, but had a severe drop off which would make me nervous with exploratory dogs and kids.

Back to the canoe we went. The peninsula campsite was occupied but looked very nice on Lower Pauness. It had a great view, and just across was another campsite. It didn’t look too special, but would do if you needed to.

We found the portage over to Upper Pauness and it looked steeper than my notes had made it sound. It really wans’t bad though, and we were across in no time. Rocky on both sides. We were exited to get paddling for a little while instead of portaging.

As we came towards the Little Indian Sioux River though the wind picked up from the south, and the current seemed much stronger than before. We paddled like the dickens, and within 15 minutes I thought my arms were going to fall right off.

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We paddled with all of our might over the beaver dams, and only rubbed the bottom on one once.

The wind picked up and we were digging! The way the sun was shining on the river though we missed a big submerged boulder and before we knew it we were stuck right over the top of it like a teeter totter! I prayed so hard that the dogs, and kiddo would be calm….. keep calm I kept thinking, keep calm. Slow, and calculated movements were key. The river was about 10 feet deep in this location, and we could not push off the rock which as best we could surmise – was right below the bow seat.

We had Basecamp Kid move to the packs behind her seat, and tried to carefully wiggle backwards… nothing. Finally, I too moved on the packs behind me and we gently wiggled backwards, and we were FREE!!!!!!

I was never so thankful in all of my life.

I was actually happy to see the Elm Portage so I could give my sad arms a rest. The portage was met with happy spirits, and we commented that Elm Falls looked like Root Beer bursting over the brink!

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Back into the canoe we went, but I knew there weren’t rocks south of Elm Portage that we had to be concerned about. The wind settled some, but it was still a paddle.  Finally as we came close to the LIS entry portage the wind died, and the river was glass. Figures.

We hauled everything up to the car, and left the Little Indian Siox River behind us.

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Got a shower at VNO which felt like royal spa treatment,and loaded up on some groceries for the CNF.

Post:

Spent the next 5 days over in the CNF with our family and friends. Caught lots of crappie, sunnies, and LMB on topewater lures. It almost wasn’t fair how much fish we were catching.

We enjoyed our time with them, but we were also excited to get home. Sunday we finally crawled into our own beds. I was never so thankful to get off my Exped, and see running water!

Sunday night, I booked our BWCAW trip #2 of this season! We’ll head up to the Lizz | Swamp entry point, and basecamp on Caribou Lake, taking day trips into Horseshoe, and Vista. All of the portages are short, and easy, and it should only take us 2 hours or so to get to our campsite.

Looking on the horizon to the next trip!

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Winter Camping Review

Last Friday my co-worker and I blazed up I-35 to Tettegouche State Park north of Beaver Bay, MN, near Illgen City, MN.

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We wanted to get into cold tenting, lengthier hiking/snowshoeing and adventuring that perhaps our husbands, and children may not be up for, but chose March to ease into the scene.  Well – here was the weekend forecast!

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So as you can see, it was hardly winter camping, and much closer to the temps I experienced on our Spring BWCA trip!

Upon arrival I was instantly impressed with the Tettegouche visitor center as it is pretty fancy boasting  a gift shop as well as coffee cafe for your morning needs! (I did pack in Starbucks VIA, but just in case, it was comforting to know I could get a hot cup of Joe in a pinch!)

The campsite we reserved was approximately 400 feet from where we parked our car  -or 25 rods for you canoeists on my reading list!  My friend Breanne stopped and said, “Oh Lindsey… oh… is this going to be okay….?”

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It was so obviously a wolf print… which I am notoriously terrified of (even though it is my favorite animal… ) but I sucked it up and forged on.

There was quite a bit more snow than I was anticipating, so while the temps cooperated in the high 30’s’s-50’s during sunlight, we still had loads of snow to contend with!

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After we got the basics of camp set up we hiked out to the High Falls of Tettegouche!

It was probably a a 1.0 mile hike or so from camp, but with the ice and slippery conditions, it felt much further. We had left our snowshoes behind, so the going was very very slow and slippery. The falls were amazing though!

Unfortunately my phone had died due to the cold temps and the listening to Spotify on the way up… so I didn’t get a nice shot. Perhaps I’ll add one of Breanne’s photos in the future!

That night we cooked up some macaroni & cheese, and I heated a brat for some protien. I made sure to buy plenty of wood, so we had a nice fire going as we embraced the stars of the Big Dipper and Orions Belt! As always it was so amazing to see Gods creation on full display in the north woods!

That night I had a hard time falling asleep thinking – “Two girls – alone in the woods on the north shore…” – makings of a horror movie, or the wolf print I had seen earlier in the day sent me into qualms of wolf packs surrounding our tent waiting to devour us!

After much tribulation I finally fell asleep and was ready for a full day of hiking on Saturday!

I happily slept in until 7:30 or so with the sun blasting on the tent!

Though it was in the 30’s the sun made all the difference in the world, and it was utterly pleasant and amazing waking up!

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Breanne and I had each pre-made breakfast burritos wrapped in tinfoil that we were able to heat up over the fire for a super amazing breakfast. She had her chilled espresso, and I heated up some hot water to add to my Starbucks Italian Blend coffee! YUM!

After we got everything cleared from breakfast after pouring over maps we headed north on Hwy 61 to the Caribou River wayside rest parking lot which meets up with the SHT and Caribou Falls!

We definitely opted for snowshoes and I was happy to also have my ski-poles.

Hiking on the SHT was a new “bucket list” item for me, so I was super pumped after reading Wild & A Walk in the Woods! We hiked up some fairly icy conditions fully trusting in our crampons on our snowshoes to Caribou Falls and were instantly impressed with the sights!

The photo below doesn’t even slightly do a justice! The elevation on the rocks was impressive, and the water shooting out of the snow/ice was full of strength! I just stared in wonder and awe at God’s creation wondering how on earth I was so lucky to see it first hand!

We snowshoed on for another hour or so north on the SHT until we were blazing our own trail for quite a time, and making little to no forward progress. When we fell through with our snowshoes it was at least knee + deep so we decided to turn back as there was much more hiking right at Tettegouche and we wanted to check out Coho Cafe in Tofte!

After our coffee – etc we headed back to Tettecoughe and headed out to Shovel Point, and down to the confluence of the Baptism River & Lake Superior!

Watching the river hit the lake was absolutely mesmerizing, and if i had a more comfortable chair I could have easily spent hours there.

After some time we decided to head back and hike up to the SHT out of Tettegouch to an overlook. We were very glad we had our snowshoes as hiking was ridiculously difficult, and the hike up to the overlook seemed impossible in the winter conditions. We figured in non-snow conditions it would be a quick jaunt up the hill, but we weren’t able to make it, so we headed north on a Tettegoughe path – but we were narrowing in on 8.5+ miles and I was growing increasingly tired, so we gave up on anymore lookouts and headed back to camp for a fire, wine, and yellow split pea soup over the fire!

Unfortunately due to the very warm temps our campfire was 1/2 flooded with water/snow melt. We had to build up an island of sorts to get a fire going. After some time, we were able to get a fire going to heat up our food, but we lost hope for an evening burn and retired to the tent around 7:30 for reading and camaraderie.

After lamps were turned off I was able to sleep until about midnight or so… then I woke up with a terrible urge to ahem – use the ladies room… but the wind was howling fierce, and I grew ridiculously terrified of the elements.

My campmate was fast asleep so I tried with all my might to rest.

3:50 I woke again  terrified at the sounds around me. The tent was flapping in the wind Blair Witch style, and I could hear branches falling around me. This was not good.

I tried to fall asleep again, but couldn’t so I turned to the Psalms for some comfort.

Psalms 3:3 – But you, O LORD are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.

Psalms 3:5 – I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety for the LORD was watching over me.

Psalm 4:8 – In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD will keep me safe.

And I drifted back to sleep.

5:00 a.m. rolled around and the wind was whipped up again racketeering in our camp, and we were both up now, so we were able to complain and kvetch in solidarity. She gave me a few tips on falling back to sleep such as playing the alphabet game.

So for example… Name activities to do on the north shore that end in ing- A-Z”…

So I tried it and it did work! I named all (except one or two) lakes in the bwca twice and things to pack/bring with/encounter on a BWCA trip. It definitely did help to fall asleep.

We woke up for the finality around 8:00 am (so 7am pre-daylights savings time) busted down camp, and headed for the car.

I loved our winter camping experience during the sunlight hours- but the evenings were a bit of a struggle for me.

We had a 4 man tent for the two of us, which I thought was adequate for co-worker friends. Perhaps if it was my sister I would opt for a smaller tent, but we had quite a bit of stuff between us that it seemed to fit the two of us perfectly!

Pre-cooked meals or maintenance free meals seemed to be key! I loved the breakfast burrito that was fully cooked and only needed re-heating in the fire- same goes for the soup.

I think in the future – I may opt for a more “in-camp” experience so if I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night – I might actually get up and go. There was no way I was going out in the “wilderness” to pee with the howling wind and wolf tracks. No way!

Had zero degree sleeping bags with an extra one to spare if I got too cold, but just used the one. Temps were down to 25 or so… much colder than that  and I would need a more robust system.

Slept on a Thermarest closed cell mat, with my Exped 7 on top of that. I was very cozy.

Would I do it again? Probably!

The sights and sounds during the day were such a blessing though – that they combated any fear I had at night! I would make some tweeks I’m sure – such as perhaps staying “in camp” or in a camper cabin… but all in all it was an amazing experience!

 

Mom + Daughter | Retreat

From the moment I found out I was having a girl – I had wanted to go on a retreat so to speak with her once she got older/old enough for an annual mom/daughter weekend – to grow our bond especially during those tween/teen years.

Because I have become obsessed with Ely – that’s where we were headed off to!

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On the docket of fun:

Because I am a shade of crazy for Ely, and Northern Minnesota that I can’t quite convay to you on this blog – we got out the door by 5:30am {Why yes- I did pack everything into the car the night before!}! I had made a super fun playlist with hits from the Oakee Dokee Brothers, Jose Gonzalez, and Kruger Brothers.

We were off! Except a few miles into our trip I realized that our connection road to I-35 was closed down and I had planned on stopping for gas! Well finally after some twists and turns we found a gas station filled up on coffee, cocoa donuts and gasoline and we’re officially off!

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Took the typical 35 to 33 to 53 to 169/1 that I had taken for the third time now this year! I could drive up to Ely in my sleep I swear!

Little miss slept most of the way up since it was still fully dark out and the miles ticked by. Finally we stopped at Bearhead state park for a bathroom break and to check out the campsites. A few of them are quite nice and I wouldn’t mind staying there. I’ve heard the group site is legendary!

Once up in Ely – we stopped by the Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters to pick up a map of Lake One. Little miss were headed to the end of the road of 169 to the Lake One entry point.

We paddled around for a bit. I had been warned that the Lake One entry point could be confusing, and true to form the twists and turns on the Kawishiwi River left me feeling a bit confused and little miss was freaked out in the Kayak! Oh vey! I made her paddle around with me though for an hour or so since I hauled the Kayak all the way up north.

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After we lived it up on the river – we took out and drove back towards Ely to go hiking out to Kawishiwi Falls. We were the only car in the parking lot. It was sunny out and the leaves were in peak color on both the birch and the tamaraks. The walk was easy but a little errie since we were the only ones out there. I kept imagining a wolf to come by and snack on us like we were breakfast cereal, but all we encountered was a squirrel gathering nuts.

Miss K loved the view of the water falls. She wanted to get closer, but closer meant falling down a ravine – so I make her stay backed up. I was eager to get back to the car, but she was loving the private views of the waterfall.

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Later that day we at lunch at the Grilled Cheese Imporium, shopped at Piragus, and visited the Kawishiwi River Ranger Station!

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Dinner was at Insula which is by and far my new favorite restaurant of Ely. I had the ghost pepper cheeseburger (and a nice glass of Pinot) and little miss had chicken tenders.  Later we headed back to the bunkhouse to watch Big Hero 6 and go to bed.

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The next morning we woke up to pitter-patter rain – and we were headed to the North American Bear Center. We spent quite a bit of time there taking in all of the sights – and then had a spot of lunch and headed back to the bunkhouse for a nap!

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After naps it was still raining but too early for dinner so we headed to the Piragus Bookstore! We spent hours pouring over books until we realized they were closing, and ended up buying a few of them to take with us.

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Dinner was at Sir G’s which was not as good as Insula – but the customer service was very nice. Miss K and I split a plate of spaghetti and salads.

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Friday we spent the day at the International Wolf Center! I had been told not to get too “excited” about seeing the wolves as they are often alusive, but they were right up by the glass for the entire day. They had wolf hunting game, and several seminars which we stuck around for.

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Then we headed off Hwy 1 to hike at Gabro. Again – the eerie feeling came back so we only hiked in a little while. Over my research last year I came to know of a large pack of known wolves in the area – so again I let fear get the better of me and took miss K up the Echo trail to Slim Lake.

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That hike was absolutely GORGEOUS as snow flurries poured down on us. The area suffered a burn a while ago – so the blackness of the chared stumps along with some vivid colors were eye popping. The lake as always was breathtaking! We skipped rocks for quite a while and I had none of that fear that I did on the other hikes.

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We headed back to town eventually and went back to the Wolf Center until they too closed.

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Dinner was at Insula and it was a hit again!

Later that evening I met up with my cousin and her husband and headed to their gorgeous log cabin on Burntside Lake. It was absolutely wonderful and their hospitality was lovely.

The next morning – around 5:30 a.m. we were packed in the car and headed to Grand Marais for Moose Madness!

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Watching the sun rise over Hwy 1 was beyond epic! I was listening to a lot of Hillsong United so it tied in perfectly with the majesty of the moment. The twists and turns of the road were a blast in the dark I can hardly imagine how great they’d be in the light. I hope to take the Harley up on these roads some day!

We arrived in Grand Marais early in the morning and promptly stopped by Java Moose for a BWCA Mocha and Hot Chocolate for the little miss. Actually ran into someone I knew and after some hellos and have a good trips we finished up and drove up the Gunflint Trail for a bit and I determined we will be BACK on the Gunflint next fall for our Fall BWCA trip! It was so beautiful! After some time we went  to the visitor center to hit up Moose Madness.

Miss K earned some moose bucks and got a few fun items.

On our way back home we hit up nearly every State Park along the way including a trip down the Alpine Slide at Lutsen.

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Finally on our way back home we hit up the North Shore favorites of the Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls.

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It was great getting back home to my own bed – but valued each and every moment with my daughter. We had an amazing time and definitely grew closer in our relationship!

Daytrip into the BWCA

This past Labor Day Weekend  we took a trip up to Fenske Lake group site off the Echo Trail just north of Ely – and took a few day trips while we were there!

Our first daytrip was into Mudro last Saturday (9/5) for a bit of fishing.

Since we had already been to Mudro we knew what to expect. We got there around 4pm in the afternoon – filled out our day permit and headed down the portage path to Picket Creek.

The water seemed lower than when we were there in May – so we made extra care around the rocks.

We fished the north side of the lake up towards the outlet up to Fourtown- but did not make that final turn towards that first portage as we didn’t want to have to battle the current/drifting etc. We ended up having quite a bit of luck on that last bend before going to Fourtown.

We fished until 7:45 or so when the sun had gone down. Caught some SMB (Small Mouth Bass) and very nice looking sunnies. We didn’t keep anything though since the only keepers were three sunnies and we didn’t feel like cleaning them.

Dusk across the lake was a bit eerie – and once we got to Picket Creek we were met by two beavers who splashed us as we went by their home. The whole way on the creek felt a bit odd since it was so late at night and we were happy to see the car again.

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The next day (9/6) I was eager to get back to some more EP’s but my husband wanted to relax and try his luck on fishing Fenske – so I threw on my Keen’s, packed up the dogs and decided to go to several EPs to check out their initial portage path in – knowing [sadly] I couldn’t go any further without a canoe and paddle.

My first stop was Angleworm. Filed out another day permit and set off! I saw my co-workers car in the lot – since I knew she was out hiking the entire loop – so that was kind of neat.  I knew this was a 716 rod portage in – but man – after 20 minutes or so of a small – shady buggy path I ended up getting a bit spooked being out there all by myself after running into some fresh bear scat and a print that I was convinced was bear – regardless of the fact that I had dogs with me – I turned around and walked back to the car. I heard something up ahead so I started singing and was relieved that it was just a couple and their own dog! My imagination is out of control sometimes!

Next up was Hegman Lake. Again – another day permit – since you need one for each EP… This was definitely more of my jam with its towering trees and pine needle flooring! I made the pleasant hike down to the lake and enjoyed the beautiful views! I had none of that spooky feeling with me – and I will DEFINITELY be back with my family on our next canoe trip! The lake reminded me of Gun Lake – with its crystal clear water – though the structure definitely looked different. It had a nice large landing for room to get situated with portage packs etc.

I would highly recommend this EP for folks with families! Not only are the portages pretty simple – there are pictographs one lake and a carry over – over! (my daughter is super excited to see them!)

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Last but not least – was Slim Lake EP.

I took a right off the Echo Trail towards the North Arm. I didn’t see a sign for Slim Lake as I had with Angleworm and Hegman – so I drove all the way down to Camp Du Nord and saw a sign that said Superior Forest Hiking Trails and thought – hmm that must be it.

I hopped out of my car when I saw a sign for Slim Lake Hiking – “more difficult”. I thought that seemed odd since everyone said that the portage path into Slim was a piece of cake – AND I didn’t see the brown sign with the day permit box. I figured the sign must be at the lake… so I set off.

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While hiking I thought it seemed rather difficult from what I read over at bwca.com – and wondered if I was on the wrong path. After 30 minutes of hiking with no compass, and more difficulty bushwhacking and questioning if I was going the right way after many twists and turns –   I decided I best turn around before I became lost in the forest. Luckily I had packed plenty of water for my dogs and I.

I made it back to my car [thankful] – and was annoyed that either everyone over exaggerated how easy this was – or that I clearly wasted time on the wrong path. I was driving back to Fenske when I saw a tiny little sign that said Slim Lake on it – so I took a left and went down the dirt road.

WALA – there was the REAL entry point into Slim. I filled out another day permit and headed on in.

This portage was a cake walk in comparison to all other portages I had ever been on and certainly easier than the original path I was on. Met some super nice people at the landing – and they stated the path I was on would have lead me to Slim, but I would have been hiking for a very very long time before I ever reached the lake!

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All in all – I am also interested in trying out Slim Lake. While I’m not shy of doing more arduous portages like those from Mudro to Fourtown – the easy ones will be nice for my daughter as well!

Stay tuned for my “Camptober” trip report! It is TBD on if we do our traditional State Park trip – or if we try Hegman Lake!