BWCA Canoe Trip 2009
Saturday September 12th
Left the house about 7:20 AM.† There was some construction on I-35, but we were early enough where the traffic moved along well; even where it was single lane.
The plan was to stop at the McDonaldís in Two Harbors and get an angus burgers for our first dinner on Brule Lake.† However we got there so early that they were serving breakfast so no angus burgers for us.
Got up to the Tofte Ranger Station without much trouble, had to watch their 10 minute Boundary Waters video, answer some test questions, pay $16 each for a permit to enter the BWCA;† they gave us a nice garbage bag to pack out all of our trash and we were on our way.
Enroute to Brule Lake, our entry point, we tried to find something for dinner.† We looked at Lutsen but their prices were astronomical, so we kept going.† Luckily we passed a coffee shop that had sandwiches that was right before our turnoff on the Caribou Trail (Hwy 4).†
We made great time getting to Brule and there were quite a few cars in the parking lot, but we didnít see any people.† We got all three Duluth packs in the canoe, the day pack, the fishing pole, life jackets and it started to rain.† The canoe was sitting at the take off point and John hadnít even gotten the ropes in the car; the car still sitting at the edge of the lake.† It started raining harder.† We sat in the car.† It literally started pouring.† It was most disconcerting.† And then it stopped.† John parked the car.† I bailed out the canoe, and we were on our way.
There were many campsites on Brule, but we werenít able to find an open site until about the 8th site we passed.† It was a nice site.† However the weather was so humid that most all of our stuff remained wet or at least very damp.
John went fishing, I paddled along and he caught 5 northern and 1 teeny little muskie Ė about 5 inches long; about the size of the lure.† We saw 1 beaver and a beautiful sunset and my favorite part - we got to listen to the loons.
Sunday September 13th
Got up and portaged 40 rods into Lily Lake, then 40 rods into Mulligan, then we were supposed to do 40 rods into Grassy Lake followed by 200 rods into Wannigan.† However, Grassy Lake was like almost nonexistent so we got to portage 340 rods to get to Wannigan Lake.† According to the map we should have been able to paddle from Wannigan right into Winchell Lake, but such was not the case.† We had a short, but tricky portage of about 20 rods to get into Winchell.
NOTE:† 1 rod =16.5 feet:† so 40 rods = 660 feet
200 rods = 3300 feet†† †††††††††††340 rods= 5610 feet†††††††††††††† 1 mile = 5280 feet
The way we do our portaging is that John carries the canoe and I carry one of the packs to the end.† Then we both walk back to the beginning and get the remaining packs.† Therefore with all the portaging (on our first day out no less) we covered over 4 miles.† It was a tiring day.
We are camped on Winchell Lake at a beautiful, huge, site with many large boulders going right into the lake.† We dried everything out since the day was sunny and the wind picked up after we got here.
John caught only 1 northern.† To do the fishing, we like to go back into the bays to try to find those fish.
Monday September 14th
Tried fishing as we left Winchell Ė no luck.† Winchell is a long skinny lake and we had to paddle east about 4 miles to our portage into Gaskin Lake.† Enroute, John noticed a ďmountainĒ without any trees on it.† It turned out that there had been a fire there.† We know because we got out of the canoe and climbed it.† Although there were no trees, there was a lot of brush and new trees about 4 feet high.† It was pretty tough going.† When we got to the top, we could look out and see Winchell below us plus we could look over and see Gaskin and the portage that we would be doing.
So here we are camped now on Gaskin Lake and this is the best site ever!† It is on an island and the site is unusually huge.† Plus itís up on a hill and you can look out and see way down the lake.† Itís also a nice open site and our tent will be up on the hill.† There are 2 big flat boulders up there that are about 3 feet high that we can lay on at night to look at the stars.† John likes to look at the satellites go zooming by.† And we have the deluxe version of a latrine at this site.† Itís pretty snazzy.
John caught 1 small mouth bass and 2 northern.† We generally go out to fish around 6 pm because that is usually when they seem to bite the most.
There was a beautiful sunset tonight.† It was windy during the day.† Frequently at night and early in the morning the lake is as clear as glass.† The temperature has been very warm and the sun is hot.† Yet when you are in the shade itís almost cool.† Nights are great for sleeping, not too hot, not freezing cold, just comfortable in a sleeping bag.† Sunrise is around 6:45, sunset about 7:15.† Unfortunately we are heading toward a new moon so we havenít seen the moon, but the amount of stars in overwhelming.
Tuesday September 15th
Left our site on Gaskin, there was lots of dew last night.† The tent was very wet. We paddled a short distance to our 40 rod portage.† Except for the first 15 feet which was almost straight up, the portage was ok.† Sometimes it is almost impossible to do these portages.† But we figured that was the reason that everyone else who came into Gaskin Lake was using the other portage.
John caught a northern on Jump Lake, that first little lake that we first portaged into. We did another easy portage of 24 rods into Allen Lake.† Allen Lake was a really skinny lake, the last half mile being about 30 feet across.† Luckily there was water in it and no rocks (on which to bang our canoe). John caught 2 small mouth bass in Allen Lake, one of them was probably 2-3 pounds.
We portage 95 rods into Pillsbury Lake where we found a campsite.† It was small, but very nice.† The cooking grate is right on the water and weíll put the tent up on a little hill.† Should be good star viewing up there.
Did I mention our canoe has a leak?† In fact 2 leaks, and both arenít that bad.† John always brings a canoe repair kit and is in the process of fixing the problem now. -----------
Repair report: The hardner didnít harden, but there was enough of the goop that got put in the holes, and then John put duct tape on it and it seems to be working.
We went out in the evening to fish and saw a beaver.† He slapped his tail at us as if to say ďyouíre too near my houseĒ.† We went on and John caught probably 5 fish Ė most of them northern, and at least 1 small mouth bass.†
It got really windy at night and quite chilly, and cloudy Ė no stars.
Wednesday September 16th
We left Pillsbury Lake and portaged 58 rods into Henson Lake.† Henson is kind of a long lake, but in the middle of the lake it opens up to a wider more circular area.† As we were paddling toward that area, John spotted a moose in the water.† It turned out that there were 3 of them, apparently eating the vegetation along the shore.† We have never seen moose before in the middle of the morning on a lake.† Usually they are way back in the smaller rivers and are quite a ways back. †They took off quickly and John was not able to get a picture of them.† We havenít seen any people for 2 days and maybe the moose thought that canoe season was over.† We could hear them stomping and snorting in the woods, after we chased them off, but could not see them.
We paddled on and portaged 34 rods into Omega Lake where John almost immediately caught a fish.† As we went on, he found a regular ďfishing holeĒ and caught 2-3 northern† and 1 small mouth bass all in the same area in about 5 minutes.
We had to wait to portage back into into Winchell as there were 2 people coming from Winchell into Omega. And as it happened, we are back in our same big beautiful site on Winchell that we were camped in before.
Thursday September 17th
We portaged from Winchell into Wannigan.† And we thought we heard people behind us, but didnít see anyone.† Then we portaged a very short distance into Cliff Lake, a small lake, and John fished on most of the way to the next portage.† As we were removing everything from the canoe for the long portage (152 rods into North Cone Lake), we saw that there were people behind us.† It turned out to be the people (4 of them) that were camped 2 sites down from us on Winchell.† We had talked to them when we were first on Winchell and they had said that they were leaving on Thursday.
So we started first and as we were going back to get the rest of the packs, we would pass one another as they had to also make 2 trips. Even though† it was a long portage it was relatively flat , to slightly downhill and not bad.†††††††††
North Cone Lake had no campsite and to get to Middle Cone, we just had to lift everything out of the canoe and carry the packs and canoe about 10 feet (and over a big fallen log).
We stopped at the campsite on Middle Cone and had lunch and let everybody pass us (those other people that were behind us on the portage and one other group of 4).† While we were eating a weasel ran thru the site, down near the water.† And a butterfly came and landed on my leg.
So after lunch we left and portaged 25 fairly easy rods into South Cone Lake and paddled over to the campsite and here we are.
The weather changes from windy to quiet, from dark clouds to intense sun.† It must be at least 70 degrees; the sun being extremely hot..
John has caught 2 northern.† He really had to fish long and hard to get the first one.† Then he was sitting in the canoe at our campsite and the lure was like barely dangling in the water and a really small northern bit the lure.† We thought it was extremely ironic.
John saw 3 lake otters as he was out fishing.† They stopped and like stood up tall in the water and scolded him.
Friday September 18th
We spent this day at the same campsite as yesterday, in South Cone Lake.† Itís practically our own lake since this is the only campsite.† And from our point of view, we canít even see the people who are portaging between Middle and South Cone.† So itís like weíre here alone.† Itís great.
The weather has been incredible.† Itís been very warm, and no rain.† Itís also strange in that it gets quite windy from the south, many dark clouds appear and then the wind stops and the clouds are gone.† Then half an hour later it get really windy from the west, there are many clouds, and a little while later there is only blue sky.† We had that happen about 4 times yesterday and today.
Today we did a practice portage into Cone Bay, which will take us back into Brule Lake. We went in to check out the fishing and just see what the portage looked like.† The portage was short and easy but it was hard to land the canoe because of so many rocks.
We canoed and fished for a couple hours, checked out all the empty campsites (our site on South Cone is by far the best), and we had lunch.† Cone Bay is actually a part of Brule Lake. Weíll have to paddle through some wideopen water tomorrow.† Weíre hoping for wind out of the north and west.
As we were canoeing today on Cone Lake we saw 2 bald eagles!† After not catching any fish, we portaged back to South Cone Lake where our tent is and John immediately started catching fish again Ė a small mouth bass that we had for dinner.† We fished after dinner, but were unable to catch any fish.
Saturday September 19th
Last night while doing our evening fishing, John did catch a fish; sort of.† It was a northern and the fish was not cooperating and while John had the jaw spreader in itís mouth the fish fell into the lake, with the jaw spreader in itís mouth.
There was also an owl that we heard, but were not able to see it.
We portaged into Cone Bay, and as we were beginning to make our way across the big lake (Brule), the eagle came back, right to a big tree where we were canoeing.† He made all kinds of noise.† Yesterday when we had seen the eagles, we tried paddling after them, but werenít able to get very close as they would keep flying further away.† So today, it was like he stopped over to say goodbye to us.† And then as we were continuing on, we saw some more big birds, that didnít have the markings of a bald eagle.† We were able to get fairly close.† Also the 2 bald eagles were flying around in the same area.† We determined that the unmarked birds were probably young bald eagles.
On the way back to where our van was parked, John fished a lot, but with no success.† They were not biting.
Right after we landed and were taking the canoe out, another canoe group of 3, in one canoe, came up to take their canoe out. They had spent 5 days, but the whole time they stayed on Brule. It was pretty funny because they had so much stuff in that canoe.† And they said they had been on Lake Brule last year and had caught a lot of fish.† But this year they didnít get any.
We packed up and left in beautiful weather.† We stopped at McDonalds, again, in Two Harbors and we each had an angus burger.† They are very good.† We got home without a problem.† Canít wait to go back next year.