|Boundary Waters Canoe Area- The Ultimate Outdoor Experience|
June Newsletter 2011
First trip of the season! This trip report will be a little different. We will skip all the day to day details and focus on the exciting moments during the trip. Look forward to the stories of high winds, bear sightings, wildlife, wildflowers and fishing!
This trip was with David Tait, who has been to the BWCA a couple of times and has much fishing experience. He wanted to experience a little of everything: a little fishing, a little exploring and he wanted to travel. This first trip of the season encountered obstacles from the first day we woke to the all-night howling high winds. The forecast was for 15- 25 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph. While we were getting coffee and muffins on our way to the entry point, the locals saw the canoe on our van and asked, “You’re not going into the BWCA today are you?” When we said yes, they all looked at us as though we were insane. Soon, as we were driving down the Echo Trail, a 40’ Birch tree fell across the road. We got out of the vehicle and assessed the situation. We decided we couldn’t get around so we took out the tow strap and dragged the tree far enough to drive around.
General Run-Down of Dave’s Trip
Over the 6 days we traveled through two creeks, one river, 13 lakes (some small lakes and some really big lakes), and paddled 50 miles, not including the miles of fishing. We had 18 portages; some were less than a hundred yards to one that was one mile long. We also changed camps 4 times, which gave us a new incredible view to wake up to just about every morning. We saw native pictographs and spectacular waterfalls. We paddled on lakes that were as smooth as glass and some that were like a fierce battle to get across. There were nights that were in the high 30’s and days that were in the mid 80’s.
What?! …a BEAR!
When we approached our final portage of the first day around Lower Basswood Falls on the Canadian side, I could see a white sign on a tree I’d never seen before. I knew it couldn’t be good and when we reached the shore and got a closer look at the sign we could see a drawing of a bear and the phrase “BEWARE: AGGRESSIVE BEAR IN THE AREA!!” I immediately was taken aback. There are bear problems in the BWCA but the bear must be pretty bad to have a warning at a portage. We cautiously crossed the portage then Dave stayed with the food packs as I went back and grabbed the rest of the gear. The campsite that we wanted was just 200 yards away but I wasn’t really worried because in all the years of doing this I have never, ever seen a bear. I keep a VERY clean camp! We set up camp. As I was preparing dinner, Dave came over and asked me to check out a scat. I walked about 20 yards outside of camp and looked down and quickly recognized the bear scat. Upon closer look, I was mystified; this bear had been eating meat it was packed with fur. Bears rarely eat meat. I thought to myself, Great! That’s all we need on the first day! After battling winds all day and finally setting up camp to have a bear come in and steal all our food. We were not going to let this put a damper on the trip. I brushed it off. After all, the scat was older and what do the Canadians know about bear problems? They’re over reacting, right?
We ate dinner, had a campfire and tied the packs to trees near my tent and placed pots, pans and the coffee pot to them. I hoped that I wouldn’t have to prove myself as a boundary waters guide that night. We woke the next morning to nothing but a thick fog in our campsite then moved to another one of our destinations 10 miles away. Whew! I was glad that was over.
Hope Lightening Doesn’t Strike Twice!
The paddle to the bay on Crooked was a great! The water was relatively flat and the sun was out. We set up camp relaxed, but far in the distance I heard a slow moving rumbling. I told Dave we should get out on the water and fish before the storm hits; we were going to be within a mile of camp if it got to bad. We were at the furthest point away when the rain started. We started to make our way to camp, hugging the shore, when out of nowhere …CRACK…BOOM!!! A lightening bolt hit the shoreline 100’ in front of us! It blew rocks and debris into the water right in front of the canoe’s path. It was as if someone had shot an RPG at us. We were not terrified but stunned; sure it was raining but there wasn’t a hint of lightning. We quickly (I mean quickly) made our way back to camp. While we waited out the storm there was talk of how lucky we were and church. I sat and shook my head and told Dave if the first day was the non-bear incident and the second day was the lightening, what would the next 4 days bring? The storm was over within an hour but when I looked over at Dave and asked if he wanted to go out, he said he was done for the day. I guess I was too.
I would like to say that the fishing was fantastic but the truth is it was a little slow because of the weather. Like so many other northern states we are about one to two weeks behind. Plus, we moved a lot and that never makes for good fishing rather great exploration. We did catch some Smallies and decent Northerns but no Walleye.
The wildflowers were just coming out. We saw bunch berries, bluebead lilies, wood anemones, pussytoes, pale corydalis, blueberries and many wild strawberries. Over the next month the wilderness will be filled with wildflowers and by July the berries will be ripe and ready to eat.
The wildlife was abundant we saw an osprey, broad winged hawks, paired-up mergansers, loons (including one that was protecting her nest). White throated sparrows were singing everywhere, pileated woodpeckers were at work throughout every inch of the forest and barred owls were calling for a mate most nights. We saw eagles everywhere, including one sitting in a tree over Dave’s tent and another carrying a fish away. We also saw a few mammals like fox, deer, muskrat, mice, chipmunks and the destructive red squirrel. There were beavers, including one that was in the lake lying on her back eating what looked like weed roots. That’s something I’ve only seen otters do! Otters were everywhere from the random solo encounter to the three otters that Dave was watching when I exited the tent one morning. We saw moose tracks, bear scat, and wolf scat. We did a little wilderness forensics and determined one wolf ate a fawn because there was a hoof and it was very small. As for the bear scat, I have figured that it had eaten a wolf kill because it was packed with fur and bears generally do not eat meat. I HOPE!
A Helping Hand
The wilderness is where people of like minds, interests and a passion for the canoe, camping, and Mother Nature come to enjoy.
Over the 6 days and all the paddling, we did meet a few people. One was a middle aged soloist who had capsized in some very dangerous weather but two young men in their early 20’s saved him and what belongings they could find. After realizing that he had very little equipment and food the boys asked him to come along with them. They shared all their food and equipment. They had a trip that all will never forget and a friendship that they will always remember.
Then there were the boys from Iowa… On the 5th night we had
a group of 6 that was heading towards our campsite. When I glassed them with my binoculars, I
could see the disappointment in their eyes.
It was late, they were tired. I knew that the next few campsites were
taken so I yelled to them to tell them
all the campsites were taken. I didn’t
want to see them stuck in the night without a campsite. As they were turning around,
I looked over to Dave (I really didn’t even have to ask he knew what I was
going to say) Dave said, “Okay, ask them to join us.” After all we were leaving
the next morning anyway. When I yelled to them they paddled over and while they
were on their way Dave said, “You have some points with the main man up there,”
and I laughed. They were very grateful and as it turned out they were a great
bunch of farm boys from Iowa. I would guess they were in their early 20’s to
early 30’s. Their names were Gene, John, Keith, Josh, Brandon and Dale they had
been going to that campsite for years. They shared their fishing spots where we
had our best action of the trip. As we all sat around the campfire that night
we exchanged many boundary waters fishing, camping and hunting stories. They
even shared a few drinks with us. It was a great evening where we all sat
around a campfire, joking and sharing camaraderie that only can be shared in a
setting like the boundary waters. The next morning the boys had coffee ready
for us and even offered us breakfast. I let them know in all the years of doing
this, this was the first time I ever had coffee ready for me in the morning. I
could get used to that! We said our
goodbyes, shook hands they went fishing as we broke our camp down. Never will
we see each other again but we will always remember that evening around the
Now that I think about it, in this day and age of doom and
gloom news, the media makes most people look like they are only looking out for
themselves. How many of you out there ever hear about people from completely
different backgrounds, from completely different age groups in the middle of
nowhere coming together and helping each other out and share stories, equipment,
food and trust each other? Maybe I’m
na´ve but I believe this is the way we are meant to be. We all remember the bad
news but forget the good news, like the people that helped out with all the
wildfires, Mississippi flooding, hurricanes, the Japanese tsunami and all of
the others that are suffering in this small world of ours. I’m sure some of you
that are reading this are some of these people. It might be as simple as
helping someone across the street with their groceries or donating to or even
going to another state or country to help another person you don’t even know.
The other day I found out my niece Emily is going to
This is why I love this area. It is where we get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and get back to our roots and beliefs. This is an infectious type of compassion and by the end of the trip Dave and I were even helping other people portage their equipment over on our way back to our second portage. Dave called me a “do-gooder” but I know he enjoyed helping everyone out.
For a complete list of newsletters click here.
Fishing - A Fishing Trip of Legendary Proportions
Wildlife - The Shatz’s Trip
us to be added to the email list. Wilderness Journey newsletters
are sent the first week of every month! Enjoy:
Share our newsletters with other adventurists and encourage
them to join our EMAIL LIST!.
Marchar Wolverine Lake, Michigan 48390